Which religious leader was 'Swivel Hips' in his college yearbook?

Jan 14 2014 - 10:14am


Courtesy photo
Courtesy Photo
Courtesy photo
Courtesy Photo

Few things are as fascinating as an old yearbook. And the older, the better.

I love seeing the young, eager faces; love comparing the outdated fashions and hairstyles; love reading about the fortunes of sports teams and school clubs of yore.

Really, I don't even need a connection to the school -- or anyone enrolled there -- to get a kick out of browsing the pages of a yearbook. It's a universal experience.

But on those rare occasions when I do happen to recognize someone? Nothing short of comedic gold.

Take, for example, the 1947 Acorn. In the wake of the recent celebration of the 125th anniversary of Weber State University, a veteran employee here at the newspaper brought in an old yearbook from the school. The Acorn, as the school's yearbook was called, was published annually between 1905 and 1982.

The '47 book, published by the Associated Students of Weber College in Ogden, offered this in its foreword: "College days are the happiest days of an individual's life, and the precious moments spent during these carefree years are too soon lost. We, who have created the 1947 Acorn, believe that it is the purpose of a yearbook to preserve these memories. Time passes rapidly, but friends once known, experiences once enjoyed are ever ready to be relived in memory ..."

Well, thank heaven these memories were preserved.

Page after page of that yearbook reveals all sorts of interesting tidbits:

* Weber College crowned no less than eight queens that year, including the Snowball Queen, Calico Queen, and -- my particular favorite -- Milkmaid Queen.

* Plays presented that year included "My Sister Eileen" and "State of the Union."

* The football team posted, in the words of the yearbook staff, "the greatest grid season in Weber college history."

* In basketball, the outlook was equally rosy: "Some sports writers' 'quips' rated Weber 'the nation's best' since they beat Utah State Agricultural, who defeated the nation's top team, the University of Utah, in an early season game."

* And a photo taken at a school assembly featured an odd backdrop with a large caricature in blackface.

But my favorite discovery, hands down, from the 1947 Acorn? Leafing through the yearbook, I came across a section titled "G.I. photos." It features several pages of various black-and-white photographs from World War II.

And there, in the center of Page 151, is a small photo of a shirtless man in a grass skirt and flower leis. His hands are raised at odd angles, as if in the middle of a hula dance. Aside from the grass skirt and leis, the only other thing he appears to be wearing is a smile.

The caption beneath the photo reads: "Boyd Packer, 'Swivel Hips'."

Boyd Packer? Boyd Packer? Why does that name sound so familiar? Could it be? Is it? I flipped back through the book, and there, on Page 53, was the mugshot of a freshman student named "Packer, Boyd K." Same eyes, same nose, same mouth.

"Swivel Hips" is indeed Boyd K. Packer, the man who -- as current head of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- is just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

I spoke with Weber State University archivist Jamie Weeks about the '47 Acorn. As I began to explain my interest in a photo from that yearbook, it suddenly hit her.

"Oh, I know where you're going with this," she said, laughing. 

Weeks had come across the photo last year, after being asked by WSU public relations to track down photos of the man for the upcoming naming of the Boyd K. and Donna S. Packer Center for Family and Community Education.

"They obviously didn't use that photo," said Weeks.

And what does Weeks, who is Mormon, think of the photo?

"I did the same thing you did. It really was, 'Wow!' " she said. "I grew up listening to him in (LDS) seminary as a kid. I really thought it was a great photo."

As for me? I will say this:

Ol' Swivel Hips had better legs than the Milkmaid Queen.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.saal.

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