The Allens


I think I was in 7th grade when a new family moved into the house down the street: The Allens. Remember the “One of these things is not like the other ones” song on Sesame Street? That’s what comes to mind when I think of the Allens. The immediate distinction was their obvious un-Mormonness, but we had a few non-Mormon families in the neighborhood, so that didn’t quite explain it. And I still can’t quite explain it.

I don’t know where they had lived before, but it must have been someplace like Southern California or Italy or Hawaii. I don’t say this merely because of their permanent tans, but because they were possessed of a type of cool not indigenous to Utah. And it wasn’t an establishment cool, but a very independent, working class cool.

I think the dad had a little masonry business, or something in construction. He was bald and bearded and very friendly, and he wore Magnum P.I. shorts and his birthday top. I’m sure he was aware that his hairy beer-belly, huge German Sheppard, front yard drinking, and basically everything else about them was foreign to the fair-haired LDS kids biking around, so he went out of his way to smile and wave. I appreciated that. I liked Mr. Allen. He and Mrs. Allen had an aura about them that said “I’m slaving away this summer to be able to spend the fall in Cabo/Havasupai/Key West with our laidback, leathery friends and Budweisers on our boat Monkey Business/Endless Summer/Sailor’s Delight.”

I knew things were going to get wild when their youngest son, Brian, introduced himself to everyone at school as “Bra.” That was what he insisted being called. There were a few crazy things about this. 1. Bra was obviously a potty word and this was Farmington Jr. High. 2. A bra was a girl thing and if anyone else would have asked to be called Bra he would have been labeled as a homo and picked on for the next 5 years.

Brian even insisted to the teachers that they call him Bra. That was a big deal. I clearly remember getting the fourth-hand scoop on how old Mrs. so-and-so refused to call him Bra and how he had argued that that was the name he went by and she relented! But Bra was the one guy who could pull it off. He was very big for his age (a year older than me), although not a jock, and he had this swagger that the brown brick halls of Farmington Jr. High could hardly contain. I’ve never seen that swagger since. It was in the same family as the magic James Dean had.

Bra had an instant crew of flunkies right when he showed up. It was like 6 or 7 guys from the stoner and skater orbits saw him walk through the door and thought “Yep, there’s the one I’ve been waiting for. That’s my new leader,” and then walked over to him to see what was next. I tried not to be too in awe of Bra, because I thought I was sort of cool too, and this was my home turf. But looking back now, I see that he was Johnny Depp and I was Don from Napoleon Dynamite.

And if you were impressed with Bra, you were in for a ride, because he was really the radness-runt of the family. The oldest of the three kids was Jake. Jake was about the most handsome, friendly, confident, curly-haired Greek god you ever met as a kid. He was probably 6 years older than me. One of the nicest things that has ever happened to me was when Jake asked me to play on the competition roller hockey team he coached (I wasn’t always 7’3’’). He had seen my moves around the neighborhood. I refused. That seems so weird to me now. I could have spent all this quality time with my hero, and the league was in Ogden so we would have all that driving time together. But I turned him down, I think because I was intimidated and nervous. To top it all off, Jake had taken an old Chevy Bronco, spent countless hours customizing and fixing it up, and ended up with the most boss 4×4 south of Layton. It had a gorgeous yellow body, huge 36 or 37 inch tires (your family suburban probably has 30 inch tires), wench, roll cage, the works. Jake was the man.

Jake’s sister of similar age (maybe they were twins) was his equal in every respect. Except she wasn’t nice, which added to her allure. She was beautiful, very tan, had rich, long dark hair, and looked like something of a hippie queen. I assume there were at least a few exchanges between Compton Bench moms about this new immodest, car-washing threat to the neighborhood. From the 3-second glances I caught of her while whooshing by their house on two, four, or eight wheels, I could tell that she thought she was way too good for this Podunk Pleasantville she was stuck in. And she was right. She belonged in Hollywood or Paris or touring with the Grateful Dead as head groupie. I never exchanged a word with her.

I can’t remember when or where they moved, but my later memories of the neighborhood find them not living there anymore. To me the Allens represent my curiosity throughout my life about what it would be like to be someone else. I didn’t necessarily want to be an Allen. But I wondered what it would be like to live a totally different life. I still wonder that.

This entry was posted in Farmington, Growing Up, Jr. High, Nicknames. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Allens

  1. Braden says:

    Oh Kook, I am laughing too hard to even know where to start. I’ll settle for saying your ability to communicate volumes with small details is amazing.

  2. Davis says:

    Ohhhh do I ever remember Suzy Allen. You’ve described her perfectly, as well as her family. It must have been kind of crazy to move into a Mormon enclave like Compton Bench in Farmington, Utah as a non-Mormon family. Honestly one step above moving to Amish country.

  3. Ryan says:

    Wow, I never considered it from their perspective before. And frankly, they were so far removed from my social dimension that I was barely even conscious of them. Your memories of this family are ten times more vivid than mine. But I had never heard the Bra story before. Where that guy got that idea must be a really interesting story. Just goes to show though, that a cool kid can pull off anything in Junior High.

  4. Andrea W. says:

    I only knew Jake and he really was the nicest guy. I second Braden and Ryan in being so amazed by your ability to recall things so vividly. You have an amazing ability to zero in on random details that make it so familiar. Great read.

  5. Leslie says:

    Might I add my two bits here? I was delighted when someone brought this link to my attention, as the Allen’s spoken of here are my first cousins. Brian, aka BRA, got that name from his initials. Brian R Allen. He insisted, because it was fully legit. And Uncle Von? The life of the party in every way. Front and center, slinging beers like it was going out of style. I have to say, reading this memory of the Allen’s was hugely entertaining and spot on. I know them better than nearly anyone else on the planet and every bit of your perceptions were perfect, dead on. They are the epitomy of cool. I consider myself a cool gal, but pale in comparison. Maybe I owe my thanks for the status I have in this world to my associations with them.

  6. stan says:

    I went to high school with Bra’s father (Von) and mother. They were Jr. High and High School sweethearts. One night when Von and Beth (Bra’s mom)were leaving the local pool hall hang out, (on foot because they were still under 16) a group of older, maybe 19-20ish guys sitting in a hot car saw Beth walk by and asked “hey, why don’t you flip your little brother a quarter and come ride with us?”

    Von, always posessing the same kind of cool that Bra has, stopped and asked them what they had said and asked the one in the passenger seat to step out of the car. He did, and towered over Von, but Von kicked him square in the groin before you knew it and beat the sh!!! out of this guy before you could even catch your breath.

    Then Von grabbed Beth by the hand and laughing about the whole affair continued to walk his young girl all the way home.

    True Story.

  7. Rachel says:

    word to your mother.

    coolest cats f-town ever saw.

    and it turns out that susan is very, very nice – just (as you perfectly stated) too cool for compton bench.

    epic essay. thanks so much.

  8. Christian says:

    If all of us had taken a vote on the first day of this blog as to which brother would be the first one to have to make a public apology,around 97% of you would have voted for me. For good reason…

    Leslie, Stan, and Rachel, I am so glad you guys all commented and hope you’ll come back on non-Allen posts too. Part of what makes blogging so much fun is making unpredictable, funny connections with people you don’t otherwise know about some shared experience or interest. And hearing all these anecdotes from you was so funny and interesting to me. I mean, whoever thought I would meet someone who could tell me that great story of a young Von pummeling that big dude? Awesome. But on the other hand I am feeling a bit sorry about using their real names, even though most of the memories I shared were positive. I considered using an alias but ended up assuming no one knowing them could possibly read our dinky little blog. So I hope I haven’t offended anyone out there and apologize if I have. And for those who do know them, thanks for sharing and being gracious with me.

  9. Rachel says:

    No worries Christian. Who knows what the path was that ultimately led us here, but man I’m happy it did and I’m glad you used names so I could get stoked on it. I’ve been vibing all day and smiling ear to ear remembering the scene EXACTLY as you laid it out. I mean a more accurate anecdote was never written (barring the mean faced wife 🙂 – she’s really sweet, though I can appreciate how as a kid she may have seemed that way because she is quiet.)

    Thanks for placing the visual of the hairy beer belly back in my mind. So much has changed for this family, but your portrayal of them as full-on hipsters is spot on and remains so to this day.

    Rock on. And keep on blogging in the free world. You guys write good blog!

    Oh, and just so you know, someone (a friend of theirs from -you guessed it correctly- SoCal) posted a link to your essay on my Facebook page. I think he got it from an F-town friend.

  10. Christian says:

    On the other hand, how many people get a tribute to their entire family from some random neighborhood kid from 20 years ago that they likely don’t even remember? That’s quite an honor…

  11. Christian says:

    Rachel, I like you. You’re funny. “keep blogging in the free world.” You need to become a regular around here. I was wondering whatever happened to them, but didn’t want to ask, since I’ve violated there privacy enough for one day. And I believe you that Beth is a really nice lady. I didn’t know her one bit and anyone would look serious in comparison to the big, happy, jovial Von. You know how you just form quick opinion as a kid based on practically nothing–and you can’t even remember the nothing it was based on–but the opinion stays with you for years?

    And I’m glad I was right about them coming from SoCal. Nailed it (that’s an expression I made up).

    Anyway, what a small world it is. Even smaller online.

  12. Leslie says:

    No apologies…best thing I have had the pleasure to read in years! And I second Rachel’s motion that Suzy is probably the nicest creature ever put on the map, albeit hot as all get out….

  13. Suzy AKA Suzan says:

    ohhh where to begin… this was such a pleasure to read. I can’t stop laughing!!! Although I can’t figure out exactly which house you lived in, I totally remember you rolling by on your four wheelers and motorcycles. You were pretty cool yourself 🙂 And don’t worry, I’m not offended, other than the hippie part 😉 it’s all perspective right? Thanks for reminding me of some of the best times in my life!! It is such a trip to hear it all from someone else’s perspective. Thanks for the laugh! I loved this!!!

  14. Christian says:

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    Ladies and Genlemen, I give you Suzy Allen.

    This is out of control. I am so embarrassed. And laughing uncontrollably. I am really sorry. This is where my family has a secret meeting and decides it’s best that I be taken off the dddt roster.

    Suzy, I can’t tell you how happy (and stupid) it makes me that you found this post and actually commented.

    Thanks for being such a good sport. I was trying to remember why I thought of you as sort of granola and it boils down to one thing: I remember you having really long, straight, pretty hair (that might be a figment of my imagination because I also remember myself being buff as a little kid-please refer to my legs in the About page tennis picture). So of course, to a 7 yr old Compton Bench boy who had seen so much of the world, and whose sisters had humongous bangs, that meant you were straight out of Woodstock. And you didn’t invite me to be on any roller hockey teams you might have been coaching, like Jake, so you obviously weren’t very nice.

    Wow, seriously, thanks for making this the funniest day I have had in a long time. I just can’t even tell you what a freak show I feel like right now.

  15. Rachel says:

    Watching this unfold all day brought me gut wrenching laughter and the greatest energy. Don’t feel an ounce bad Christian. This was so wonderful.

  16. Rachel says:

    Actually if you do feel bad – don’t do dumb things! 😉

  17. Christian says:

    Trust me, “don’t do dumb things” was running through my mind all day yesterday.

  18. Jelina says:

    I just have to chime in on this! I can’t help it. Amazing how things spread here on the internet. I was the good Kaysville mormon girl gone bad (other people’s perspective, of course) when I started dating the “greek god” Jake. We met at Oktoberfest at the U when he offered me Bubble Tape. Remember that stuff? That hot, cool guy was carrying around bubble tape and using it to hit on girls. Nothing cooler. This brought back lots of good memories. Thanks. You described it all so well! The Allens were (still are) great people, so kind, accepting and loving–more so than a lot of those mormons they lived among. 🙂 Oh…and I was scared of Suzy, too, (–or maybe just intimidated because she was beautiful AND she didn’t really like her bro’s girlfriend at the time), but now, 17 yrs later–thanks to being reconnected through blogging–we’ve gotten to be great friends and I love her! It was a great post, Christian.

  19. Christian says:

    Jelina, I just realized I never responded to your comment forever ago (I’m sure you’re long gone by now).

    It brought a smile to my face to hear about my childhood hero picking up girls with the ol Bubble Tape move. Well played, Jake. Well played.

  20. Jenny says:

    Great blog!

    I wish I could recall last week in the same detail that you recall your childhood.

  21. Christian says:

    Thanks, Jenny. Good to have you.

    My memory isn’t that great either. Only a few random things, and most of those are probably largely embellished.

  22. Beth Allen says:

    So……after the rest of the world has read about my family, I’ve finally found my way to your post. WEEELLLL…..YOUR observations and impressions of a family that’s “one of these is not like the others” is actually rather flattering in an odd sense. To have my kids referred to as “a greek god’, “a … QUEEN or someone who belongs in Hollywood”, and “the raddest of runts(however he is far from being a runt) with the James Dean swagger” is quite impressive. I never thought that we were making an impression, let alone the one you describe, however, I am flattered. I must say that those 3 kids turned out to be very successful, law abiding and responsible adults who are all married with kids of there own. I know who you are, I knew your mom well. Everyone should have an opportunity to see how they have been perceived by others even if it’s the neighborhood kid who just wondered what it might be like to be “different”. It’s been a pleasure reading your blog and I loved the comments from the people who were/are a part of that world. By the way…I still live in that house just down the street from where you grew up. If you’re ever in the neighborhood stop by and say HI, I’d love to see the man you’ve grown up to be.

  23. Christian says:

    Mrs. Allen, having you comment on this post is the high point of this blogs life so far. Thanks for being such an incredibly great sport (what a lesson this has been for me. Even if the Allen post was 95% worshipful, there are certain things you don’t want people to know. Like for Suzy to know what a babe we thought she was. Embarrassing!) The response you guys have given in your comments confirms what I always suspected; that the Allens were deinitely the coolest, most laid back family to hit Amish Compton Bench.

    And I need to clarify: I didn’t say Bra was the “raddest of the runts” but the “radness runt” compared with the older Suzy and Jake. That you couldn’t imagine anyone cooler than Bra, then you met his older siblings. Trust me, I would never call Bra a runt in the real sense. Bra was a big dude. I’m sure he still is. I make a point of not calling big dudes “runts.”

    After I posted this post, my Mom called me up to tell me that she knew you quite well and that you were the sweetest lady around. And that she was quite sure you still lived in that house! Why was I so sure you guys moved? Maybe because you didn’t answer the door when I came around to ask for donations for my “Put Sharks In Farmington Pond” project. Or simply because 70% of our memories here at dddt are wrong. But most people have no way of knowing it, luckily.

    Anyway, I would love to stop by when I’m in town. I’m serious. This whole thing has been so fun and funny to me that I think it’s only fitting I finally officially meet Mrs. Allen. Until then, thanks again for being so great about this, and feel free to comment on non-Allen posts too.

  24. Skewshouldn't have says:

    Ohhhhh Chris. You got so busted! Ha ha. This is too funny. My Chris empathy sensors were going to full scale squirmy embarrassed reading these comments. Its like you are in high school going on about some girl you think is so hot, and turns out she’s behind you and listening the whole time.

  25. Pam says:

    My family and the Allens have been friends for 26 yrs, and you are right that they moved to your neighborhood from Southern Cal, but they moved there from Farmington, Utah. They were one of the families that lost their home (and everything in it) in the Rudd Canyon mudslide the Memorial weekend of 1983. They built the house that you remember and moved to California when the building industry slowed down. They lived in California for about 3 or 4 yrs. and then moved back when you met them.
    Some things have changed and some things are still the same. They are all very nice people and I’m really glad that we are such good frineds.

  26. Megan says:

    Dang, Christian, that whole thing just exploded in your face. That was truly awesome. If it helps you feel better, I got busted by my second job because I had mentioned the place on my blog.

    Don’t worry, I completely understand the whole feeling invincible and anonymous behind your blog, and then suddenly you get a call/comment, and next thing you know, you’re unemployed and threatened with a $50,0000 fine.

    It’s so obviously a “dumb thing” once you get caught, but it never feels that way when you’re writing it … In my case anyway.

  27. Ryan says:

    Yeeikes, Megan. That’s awful. Hope that one has a happy ending. (If not, we’ll try and pass the plate for you around here).

  28. Danica says:

    I love that this is the post that just keeps giving…in so many ways. I’m dying here.

  29. Christian says:

    Skew, very funny name on your comment. Very pertinent.

    Brandon, Farmington Pond would be world famous and bringing all sorts of commerce to the city right now if the city council and a certain Mayor Bell had heeded my council all those years ago. And, yes, as luck has it we will be up for memorial day. Maybe this year one of you squares will actually swim in that freezing, dirty river with me.

    Pam, welcome to dddt. Take your coat off and stick around a while.

    Megan, lol. That really sucks. Kind of funny to me that companies are so, so sensitive about their workers writing anything work related on their little family blogs read by 25 family and friends. I understand if their blog shows them to be a bad or lazy or hypercritical person. If they are bagging on the company all the time or revealing trade secrets, then ya, that’s obviously a problem. But if the company finds you “Someone in my office looks like a chipmunk” or “I wish my company had toga friday’s” what do they care. Get a life and stop taking yourself so serious all the time, companies of Earth.

    Danica, you’re telling me.

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