- Written by Richard E. Marriott
After her trek across the plains, Elizabeth lived with her brother in Kaysville, Utah. Shortly after she arrived there, she was standing in the doorway of his home, looking out across a field, and saw a giant of a man on horseback coming toward her. She said he was not very handsome, but the Spirit whispered to her, “This is going to be your husband.” I don’t think she was especially happy to hear that. His name was John Marriott, and about three days later he approached her and said, “I’ve got the feeling you and I are to be married,” and so they were wed shortly thereafter. One of the products of that marriage was Hyrum Willard Marriott, my grandfather.
Developing Good Habits
My father, J. Willard, grew up on his father’s farm, just west of Ogden, in the small town of Marriott, Utah, which was founded by his grandfather, John Marriott. As a young boy, he quickly learned how to work hard and take responsibility. He and his seven brothers and sisters had to take care of the crops and the livestock. As the eldest son, my dad had primary responsibility for the sheep and cattle. He spent so much of his time during his teen years tending them on the farm and herding them on the ranges of Nevada and Utah that he never graduated from high school. He was called on a mission at age nineteen, and that provided him the welcome opportunity to leave the farm and spend two years on the East Coast, preaching the gospel from Washington, D.C., to Maine.
When my dad returned to Utah, he was able to talk his way into being accepted at Weber College without having a high school diploma. His second year of college is exemplary of the kind of worker he was. He was the salesman and writer for the newspaper, the manager and stock boy for the bookstore, an English teacher, and senior class president.
After graduating from Weber, my father transferred to the University of Utah and worked in a food-catering business with Franklin D. Richards, who was to be one of his lifelong friends. During summers at the University of Utah, he earned his living selling black wool long underwear produced by a Utah woolen mill. Dad would go to the Northwest logging camps and sell this underwear for $20 a pair. That was a lot of money back then, so he developed a special selling strategy. He would find two mean looking lumberjacks and challenge them saying: “Each of you take a leg of this pair of underwear. If you can pull this underwear apart, I’ll give you a free pair. If you can’t, you’ve got to buy it.” The loggers would then have a tug-of-war but could never tear the underwear apart. Dad earned more than $2,000 in commissions during a single summer and was the most productive salesman in the company.
In addition to succeeding as a salesman, my father also succeeded in finding the right woman to marry. At the University of Utah, he met a young lady named Alice Sheets. She was eighteen years old and in her junior year. On one of their first dates, he took her to a little restaurant in the center of Salt Lake City. It was a small orange and black box building selling one item—A&W root beer. My father was extremely impressed—not because he liked root beer, but because they had a line of people a block long waiting to buy this product. He was so excited that he jumped on a train for Sacramento, California to talk to Roy Allen, the “A” in A&W. Roy sold him a license to sell A&W root beer in the Washington, D.C., area. Dad chose this area because he’d been there on his mission and knew how hot and miserable it was in the summer. He proposed to Alice and told her he would be back to marry her when she graduated. He left for Washington to make all the root beer stand arrangements and returned to Utah in May 1927 for the wedding.