The rooms of Carl Hatfield's West Jordan, Utah, home are filled with more treasures than some museums.
The artifacts represent the achievements of early scientists, musicians and Utah settlers - and of the man who collected them.For the past 35 years, Brother Hatfield has taken floating rocks, Civil War shoes and century-old phonograph players to schools and retirement homes in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado to educate the youth and entertain the elderly. He uses his treasures to teach children about the olden days in a history show. For the elderly, he plays records to help them remember when they were young.
Now the 80-year-old, whose health has forced him to slow down, looks back on his life of service to others, which he has rendered at his own expense full time since he retired in 1974 and part time before that. Without that service, he said, his life would have been drab.
"We need to become involved. We need to be concerned with other people and their needs," he explained. "We need to enrich their lives. Often times when people become old they become dormant. That is when we should be the most active."
The retired Kennecott Copper worker said the elderly need entertainment because they are lonesome. Children, he added, need help connecting the past with the present.
"It has been so rewarding for me to mingle with these groups - children and the elderly," Brother Hatfield expressed.
And he does not stop loving or serving them after he packs up his treasures and goes home, he said. When he isn't performing his traveling show he is busy grandfathering eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and watching over seven widowed neighbors. Through the years he has also served in a bishopric, stake high council and in Scouting.
The children in his ward (West Jordan Mountain Shadows 7th Ward, West Jordan Utah Mountain Shadows Stake), know him as Grandpa - a title of which Brother Hatfield is proud. "That's right!" Brother Hatfield declared. "I am known as the grandpa of the ward."
Sometimes, he said, he tells the children of finding his first phonograph machine in 1936 in an old attic in Sanpete County, Utah, while working for the Civilian Conservation Corps. (Sanpete County is where he met and later he married his late wife, Eleanor Hansen Hatfield.)
In 1945 he took the phonograph to West Jordan Elementary School and played a few songs for his children's classes. "That's what got me started," he related. "Since then I have just been busy."
He estimates during the last 35 years he has made more than 1,500 visits to schools and countless visits to retirement centers and nursing homes. And he said he "never ever, not ever," got tired of the program, music or people.
"I love to go. I have never been uncomfortable and I have never walked away feeling bad. Never ever."
He said he enjoys sharing his treasures with others. In fact, not long into a Church News interview, he insisted on playing records on two of his nine phonographs. "Isn't it pretty," he said, as he listened to the garbled but melodic tunes.
Older people love these songs, he said. "That's why I play them. It is the music they grew up with."
He then read dozens of record titles such as "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," "Onward Christian Soldiers," and "You Are My Sunshine." Don't forget Al Jolson's "Sonny Boy," he added, flipping through more original record albums.
"I have 4,000 records. Four thousand!" he emphasized. "I can't even begin to tell you what I have got."
Brother Hatfield played those records at Sandy Regional Rehabilitaion & Sub Acute Care in Sandy, Utah, June 30. The patients sang along and clapped their hands. When Brother Hatfield asked them if he should stop, they said no.
Brother Hatfield said young people also do not want the show to end. On a table in his home, he displays piles of letters from elementary school students thanking him for his visits. He saves only a handful of the armloads of notes he receives. "When I get above 100 pounds or so, I have to let them go, I get too many of them," he said.
Older people, Brother Hatfield said, write him letters too. "They need entertainment. They are desperately in need of it," he said. "It will take a record or two to wake them up, but I have them up and dancing before it is through."
Even though Brother Hatfield no longer visits elementary schools, he said he is not yet ready to give up his visits to the elderly.
He struggles to walk, and talks of aches in his hips and knees, but is optimistic about the future. "I just keep buying and collecting and repairing my old machines," he said. "I am doing just fine."