Not Able to Buy a Beer Anywhere in Utah

[Letter excerpt, 1952]

I am afraid I am becoming something of an institution in some parts. When we got as far as Logan I discovered that I had forgotten my pocketbook with all identification, drivers license, money etc. Left it home on the dresser (strangely unlike me). So here we were going to a foreign country without a scrap of identification. The first alarm was at Yellowstone: at the entrance of the park is a formidable sign which says: “Identify yourself” unquote. I broke out into a cold sweat as we drew up to the station. No need for it: the ranger rushed out and greeted us with noisy glee – “Why brother Nibley, of all people, fancy meeting you here!”I had thought I was pretty well known in the four corners country and down into Arizona, but this was a new experience. Still remained the big hurdle: the International Border. I started to tell the man I had no identification when he rudely interrupted: “Are you here on business?”

Foolishly I said yes, since I was going to give speeches. “What kind of business? Oh,” he said,  “you are going up to Lethbridge for those lectures, you don’t get paid for that do you?”

Me: (indignant) “Of course not!”

“Well, then it isn’t business.”

So on we went: apparently the guard noted a family resemblance with certain relatives that live along the border (some of the boys are notorious border – jumpers). We got to Cardston, where I had never been, drove into a garage and asked if we could buy a jack. “I’m sorry Brother Nibley,” said the attendant, “we’re all out of them.” This floored me. I have not been able to buy a beer anywhere in Utah for over a year, because every storekeeper in the state spots me halfway down the block, but to be called by name less than an hour after breathing the free air of a foreign land was too much. And I was wearing two pair of dark glasses! (I find this very restful for the eyes). If Hollywood celebrities and international jewel-thieves can travel incognito, why can’t I? I pause for a reply.


About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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2 Responses to Not Able to Buy a Beer Anywhere in Utah

  1. Pingback: Crossing the U.S.-Canada Border Without ID–A 1950s Mormon Example « Borderlands History

  2. Joy Bischoff says:

    What a great sense of humor Nibley had. I have friends who have stopped him in public to chat and said he was always a little shy and uncomfortable about this. When at BYU, everyone in my major (it seemed) occasionally sought him out to talk. I never did that because I had the feeling from what I heard, that he did not like adoration. I did enjoy hearing him speak. The very last speech he gave, I took my 11 year-old son with me. There were no chairs left so they had us sit on the edge of the low platform right next to Brother Nibley. I told my son to never forget that he heard the great man speak. That son is now at BYU on his way to studying for a PhD in archaeology and holds Nibley in high esteem.

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