BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
At 80 years old, Max Staker has been married to his wife, Connie Rawson Staker, for 60 years. If you ask him, though, he’ll tell you: “At this point, we’ve been married forever.”
As far as Max can remember, the Stakers have lived in northern Utah for two generations before him. Weber County started a kindergarten when he was of kindergarten age, but his family opted to wait until first grade to enroll him in school. He hauled hay with a team of horses from the time he was a young child. At the time, his family used the same old hay wagon that came over with the pioneers. Today, he still has a couple of the 200-year-old wagon wheels in his backyard.
In his free time, Max did not go into town much. “Our time was spent on the farm doing farm work,” he said. Connie was an elevator operator at Pennys, now called JC Pennys, in Ogden. Back in her day, elevators were driven much like trains; one was never alone when riding an elevator because the operator was there to drive it to where they wanted to go. It was light work, and Connie was likely paid something like $35 a month. This job went away right around the same time minimum wage laws were established. In the 1920s, a case against the minimum wage came before the U.S. Supreme Court. A woman who was also an elevator operator just about Connie’s age testified to the court that her work could not afford to pay her minimum wage, but she’d rather keep the job at a lower pay than find a new one. Her testimony helped win the case against minimum wage then, but eventually, state after state adopted them anyway. Now, it has become significantly cheaper to automate elevators than to hire operators to be there all hours of the day.
Luckily for Connie, she worked just before the minimum wage affected her job, and it was a great job. It was in this elevator that she met her husband. When they met, Max was still a student at Weber High School. Before going to high school, he had little reason to ever go into town other than the occasional grocery store run. Now, as a high school student, he got to know the city better. He would walk eight or 10 blocks to visit Pennys. Connie was just a year older and at her first job out of high school. On Halloween, he walked to the store for some fishing gear, hoping to see his neighbor who also worked as an elevator operator, so that he could hitch a ride back home. Instead, he saw Connie, who he thought was beautiful as soon as he saw her. His neighbor still gave him a ride home with Connie also in the car. They started dating soon after.
“I didn’t really work there that long,” Connie said. “So, if he had come another year, I would have never met him.”
Together, they always lived in the same house. Max built the house the year before they got married. Throughout their marriage, they’ve never had a rent or mortgage payment. In 1960, a house around 1,500 square feet cost about $30,000, according to the U.S. Census.
The two participated in many fundraisers to build various buildings in the area. They remember donating to see church chapels built, and even the Ogden temple. Those of the LDS faith in the Ogden area could only be married in the Salt Lake Temple until that point.
“We never thought we’d see the day that we’d get a temple in Ogden,” Max said.
In 1956, a tabernacle was built in downtown Ogden, and there were only 13 temples worldwide. Max remembers that, in order to graduate primary, he had to memorize all 13. Finally, over 10 years after the tabernacle was built, a temple was announced in Ogden. It was built on a nine-acre plot alongside the tabernacle and was finished in 1969. Although the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum and the Miles Goodyear Cabin were also on the same plot of land, they were both transported to new permanent locations. The Stakers got to see the finished temple, but David O. McKay, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did not live to see the day.
Max and Connie were able to be ordinance workers in the temple as well. While they were married in the Salt Lake Temple themselves, they were able to perpetuate the marriages of many more North Ogden locals.