Clyde Maurice Robbins

I am posting this old note to honor my  college roommate of 1959, Clyde  Maurice Robbins. I was sorry to hear of Clyde's moving on to the next life (20 March 2021). I read his obituary with tears and love. I recognize that he has done many wonderful things since I moved away, and I am sure that he is making things better where he is now.  I have long considered Clyde a hero for saving my life during the winter of 1959. We graduated from Payson High in the class of 1958 and attended the University of Utah together.  He was a trusted friend.  We regularly went to basketball games together. We both attended the great game when Utah defeated Ohio State in 1959. 

Off to college in 1958 – Saving Money?

In the fall of 1958 I started school at the University of Utah. It was a neat day Mom, Dad, Kate and I headed out for Salt Lake City and a new life. This was special because my parents and my best girl friend were there to drop me off. I had been late or cheap in applying for room and ended up in Wasatch Hall instead of Ballif Hall. Wasatch Hall was an old world war II barrack. The rooms were much larger than Ballif Hall but they were way up the hill behind Fort Douglas. There was a bus that ran down to Ballif Hall for meals and to the library every evening. Dick Smartt, my roommate, was the driver, which meant that I went to the library Monday through Thursday evening. Friday evening I thumbed home to see my special girl friend on weekends. I usually road the bus to the end of the line on State Street. Some where near Murray. I would then start thumbing and get home late that night. I had some really interesting rides. Thumbing was holding out your hand with the thumb raised with the hope of someone giving you a ride. You looked straight into the drivers face in a pleading manner while walking backwards. Almost always some one would stop and help a poor student out. One Saturday morning, some one picked me up and then let me out by the prison at the point of the mountain and no one would pick me up. I walked for what seemed like hours packing my suit case full of dirty laundry. Finally a delivery truck driver stopped and picked me up so I helped deliver wood all of the way home. Oh if I had a car!!

I was lucky because I had an honor scholarship worth $180 per year or $60 per quarter. The reason I was lucky is that made my tuition was only $10 per quarter. You see school cost $70 per quarter. My books were about the same as my tuition. I lived in Wasatch Hall fall quarter and then Winter Quarter I moved into a trailer house with Clyde Robbins. Clyde's family had this small camp trailer that had two narrow single beds and a cooking area, but no bathroom facilities. We had to go to a central area of the Heath Cliff Motel and Trailer Court to shower and use other facilities. Thus we spent the winter of 1959 at 900 South State. Clyde had a car that was very reliable. It was a 1947 Hudson and in pretty good shape. It would be worth a fortune now. Each morning we would get up around 6:30 am and go to school before 8:00 am. To get there on time we had to leave around 7:15 or be late for class. As freshman we had to park in the football parking lot and walk a good couple of cold blocks to class.

One week when it was really cold I got very sick and even asked my parents to come and pick me up. I soon got better and returned to school after being such a boob. Things had improved radically having a roommate from Payson that had a car. No more Thumbing! We went home on the weekend and came back late Sunday evening. The next morning the alarm made this horrible sound. It was wowing. After every sound I could hear a wow wow as my ears were ringing. The noise was painful. Clyde was also hearing this wowing. I could hardly move in bed. I had thrown up on my pillow. I was very sick. I struggled to remove the plastic seal from the window next to my bed. I needed fresh, air. Clyde got up and tried to open the door but soon fell down next to the door burning his arm on the floor heater. We couldn't seem to get enough energy to move. Was this some nightmare, we were fighting for our very lives. I have never been as sick as I was at this time. It even hurt to talk and more to listen. With super human effort we got ourselves cleaned up, dressed and headed to the school health center to get help. We arrived at the Health Center in much pain at 3:30 pm.

We had taken a good eight hours to get school. We met with the Dr. and he said that we had food poisoning that is all he could see. We told him that we had not eaten the same food. I had eaten at my home and Clyde at his. The Dr. was no use. He was in my mind clueless. What was this mystery disease that had put us in such distress. I was not certain for another year.

I took human physiology the next winter from James R. King, one of if not the best instructor that I have ever had. He told of an experience that he had when working in a ski lodge when he was in college. He was living in the lodge near the motors that drive the cables that move the ski tows. He then explained in detail the symptoms of my mysterious disease. He said that during the coldest part of the winter they experienced Carbon Monoxide poisoning. The culprit was carbon monoxide we were thinking carbon dioxide, but this was much more sinister. It is a miracle that we lived through this experience.

Hind Sight is twenty twenty. The problem arose when Clyde and his father installed new skirts or siding enclosing the area underneath the trailer. This would save money by preserving heat. The exhaust from the heater was now coming into the trailer causing the near lethal conditions. As Dr. King taught carbon monoxide is a sinister chemical because it binds to hemoglobin and reduces the ability of the blood to transport oxygen. Thus our cells were starved for oxygen. The symptoms are identical to food poisoning because the body has no mechanisms to get rid of the gaseous poison. Significant to our survival was our continual communication and team work. Clyde would push me to do things and I would in turn push him. The significant events were removing the plastic from the windows and opening the door, which Clyde was able to finally complete. We were saved from future illness by keeping the plastic sealing from the windows and removing some of the skirting around the trailer. There is no doubt that someone was looking out for us.

I don't think that the heat saving was worth the pain.

I chose to relate this story at this time for two reasons the first is that Marissa and Matt are off to college and second that there was a terrible carbon monoxide poisoning at Virginia Tech the past week. Nineteen students were ill with two in critical condition due to a water heater failure. ( I had extreme sympathy with these students as I know of their pains. Va Tech is have some tough times with the shootings last year and then this. Carbon monoxide detectors are essential.