My Grandfather Papa Wil's Academic Career

As the 2021 academic year comes to end it may cause us all to reflect upon our time in school. For most, the years spent in class or on campus are to learn, reflect, and grow. The time in the classroom is perhaps some of the most influential because those years are undoubtedly when most are exceptionally malleable.


During this time of reflection, I have decided to look back at some of my ancestor’s educational experiences and have found many fun and interesting stories! Some of the most entertaining accounts have been about my paternal grandfather Wilford Crandall. I was only ten years old when Papa Wil passed away, but I have many warmhearted memories about his large personality and character. Still, I love hearing more stories from my dad and others about his life, and in keeping with the topic of education, I along with my dad will tell a few great stories about Papa Wil’s time in school.


Wil's senior picture (1949)

The following is an adapted version of the podcast (audio) episode:


"Well hello so I'm Dennis Crandall and I am the son of Wilford M. Crandall. Wil was the second son and third child of his father. He was born in 1931 and he grew up in what was essentially a farm atmosphere and community in the rural suburbs of Phoenix (Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler, Arizona). I would say Mesa at that point had probably a population of about 10,000 people. He was very social by nature, loved people, loved talking to people, loved introducing himself, and he had no social fear whatsoever.

When he was in school, it was a reflection on what he enjoyed most out of life which was meeting new people, talking to them, and making friends. He was highly social and he decided that he would play football because a lot of his friends played football, eventually joining the Mesa High School football team.

Wil is #57 (left side on the back row)

He also thought that playing in the marching band would be a great thing to do because he loved music. He also thought it would be a good way to meet girls so Wil played in the band and it turned out that the band teacher had a baritone and he needed someone to play the baritone so Wil was recruited to play the baritone and he loved doing it. The problem though was that he never learned to read music. Now how can you play in a band and not know how to read music?! Well for Wil, it was simple: he had a wonderful talent of being able to hear music, hear the notes, and he had excellent pitch and singing voice and so he would always sit next to someone who knew how to read music and he would just play what they played and he actually got along just fine. His ability to memorize was also very good and so he he would memorize the songs for when the band was marching in high school football games and parade activities. Wil could play the song because he had memorized it from the rehearsals.

Wil in a yearbook picture. Notice he is the only one looking at the camera! He knew the moment when to look!

In the summer in between his junior and senior year, and probably even before that, he was able to get a job as a lifeguard at Rendezvous Pool and the job as a lifeguard was a coveted one. He liked it because it gave him a high seat above the pool where he could survey all of the possible dates that he would be asking out. It also made him a sort of the center of attention and he really liked that too.

Wil (center, back) at a school dance (1949)

When he was a junior in high school I think that he recognized, or at least his friends told me he recognizes, that his picture was not in the yearbook as much as he would have liked. And so, Wil being highly strategic, ended up applying and was brought on by the yearbook staff during his senior year and his job was to acquire sponsors who would donate to support the yearbook. Now because he was on the yearbook staff, he knew where the yearbook photographer was going to be at any given time. He ended up being there at the same time whether it was this or that women's or men's club, whether he belonged to it or not, he got himself in several pictures in the yearbook because of that.

Wil and the Ad Staff for the yearbook (1949)

When he graduated from Mesa High School, he started looking around at where he might go for college. He was interested in business and was admitted to Arizona State College which is the forerunner of Arizona State University. He applied and he thought, "you know, I'm I wonder if I could get a music scholarship". He applied as a person who played the baritone and so was accepted to Arizona State College on a music scholarship and he still didn't know how to read music! At Arizona State he did the same thing that he did at Mesa High: he marched around and played whatever the guy next to him was playing.

Wil playing the baritone for Arizona State College

He met my mother while he was there at Arizona State. He was an accounting major and he liked numbers and he liked the idea of business; he was always a big idea guy. Accounting never really suited him in the long run and he was more in advertising and financial development and those types of things and so accounting got left by the wayside. Because he met my mother there he was completely distracted; she on the other hand, finished her degree at Arizona State and became a teacher but Wil never graduated from college. He always regretted that later on in life but knowing his personality and seeing his very diverse career in many different fields including advertising and photography and so forth, I think he did pretty well with the education that he had.


Wil's college transcript

Those are just a few things about Wilford Myron Crandall; he was a bigger than life personality, a person you love to know, a person you could talk to at anytime about anything and he would be very interested in you and what you had to say and and you would think he was your dear friend after talking to him for 5 minutes he was just that sort of person."


end of podcast (audio) transcript


Wil's academic track and experiences during school are fascinating and fun to hear. You can hear and see his personality in everything he did. I'm grateful for his example and legacy he left for me and the opportunities allowed to me through many of the things he did. May we all reflect on some of the experiences we had in school, as well as our ancestors, and share them with others! You may be surprised!