In December 1928, the U.S. Navy was finishing construction of the U.S.S. Salt Lake City, a new navy cruiser, at the New York Shipbuilding Company at Camden, New Jersey. Miss Helen Budge, a 22 year-old Julliard trained musician of 1002 Douglas Street, was selected by U.S. Utah Senator Reed Smoot and Salt Lake City Mayor John F. Bowman to be the sponsor for the new ship and to perform the honor of christening her at her launching ceremony. Gaylie Rich, age 18, of 1400 Yale Avenue, was selected to assist as Helen’s maid-of-honor.
Helen, Gaylie, and a coalition of others from Utah traveled to New Jersey for the January 23, 1929 launching, which was ninety years ago today.
U.S.S. Salt Lake City before launching, January 23, 1929
Six thousand onlookers cheered as Helen, bedecked in flowers, smashed a bottle of champagne on the bow of the U.S.S. Salt Lake City, sending her off on a remarkable journey.
U.S.S. Salt Lake City right after launch
During her first twelve years before World War II began, the U.S.S. Salt Lake City sailed extensively in the Atlantic, passed through the Panama Canal, and even sailed to Australia. On December 7, 1941, she was accompanying the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier delivering airplanes to Wake Island and avoided disaster at Pearl Harbor by one day. In 1942 she was part of the raid of the Marshall Islands and escorted other ships in the Doolittle raid to bomb Tokyo. She was in the thick of things at the Solomon Islands and at Guadalcanal. She took a beating but survived the Battle of Esperance.
In 1943, she departed for the Aleutian Islands and at the Komandorski Islands was again badly damaged. After a remarkable comeback, she was part of the 1944 operations in the Gilberts and the Philippines, and in 1945, assisting at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In 1946, after the war had formally ended, the U.S.S. Salt Lake City was used near Bikini Atoll in the Pacific for atomic bomb testing and remarkably survived that. Considered radioactive after that, she was sunk as a test target ship on May 25, 1948.
Meanwhile back in Salt Lake, Miss Helen Budge joined the faculty at the McCune School of Music in the fall of 1929 where she remained for eight years. She moved to New York in 1937 to get a Ph.D. in music education at Columbia University and eventually joined the faculty there and at Queens College. She also performed in many concerts and radio programs while there.
Helen Budge, about 1929
Helen returned to Salt Lake in 1946 and married Harold Folland, who was a professor of English and Theater at the University of Utah. He grew up at 1471 Michigan Avenue and served in the U.S. Army between 1942 and 1945. Helen joined Harold at the University initially as a professor of English and ultimately taught in the Music Department. They had a son who was born in 1947.
The Follands moved into their bungalow at 1571 Harvard Avenue in 1948 where they remained the next fifty years. They were simply the neighbors who lived five doors down the street from me all of my growing up years. I didn’t have a lot of interaction with them, but they were always very friendly, greeting me with a smile if they were outside when I walked by.
Dr. Helen Folland, University of Utah, 1966
Harold died in 1992 at age 85 and Helen died in 1999 at age 92. I knew that they were both professors at the University of Utah, but that’s about all I knew about them…until recently, that is, when I learned that Mrs. Folland actually once christened a U.S. Navy warship!