- Personal History
- Uranium Boom
- Park Service
- Early Moab
- Oil and Gas Drilling
- Early Cowboy Life
- Rotary Club
- Jeep Safari
- Newspaper Publishing
- Moab Museum
- Green River
Arthur Lee Holloway was the twelfth child in a family of thirteen. When he was just three or four years old, following church services the family would gather with others at someone’s house where they would play music and socialize. Arthur Lee loved the banjo music and would copy the sound. Folks were soon calling him “Little Banjo.” When he started his first day of school, his mother wrote his real name, Arthur Lee, on a paper and put it in his pocket. Along the way he lost the piece of paper . Since everybody already knew him as Banjo, he was called Banjo from then on. The “Little” was dropped when he started school.
Sure, there were a lot of people who wanted someone to guide them to things like the Mastodon, to guide them to Park Avenue. The entrance road did not switchback up behind the rock house in those days and it was quite a hike to Park Avenue. So I was often hired to carry their water, or their cameras to Double O or to Delicate or elsewhere as well as guide the clients. In those days it was quite primitive and the Moab area was very different compared to what visitors had experienced elsewhere. Also the visitors were probably 50+ . During these outings I perfected the ability to walk backwards on the trails and talk to the visitors I was guiding.
Well, at first they were going to build a Mill Creek Dam and they were going to build it over here at the head of the left and the right hand of Mill Creek. That’s where the dam was first proposed. But then there was a dam failure somewhere in Idaho and it was a very devastating flood, so the committee decided no, they could not build the dam where it could flood a great number of people. So they planned to build the dam up in the valley where it is today.
The superintendency is extremely time consuming. I spent a lot of time at evening meetings, on the telephone at my home, those kinds of things. I did belong to Rotary. I belonged to Elks for a while and said that’s one more than I can keep up with. The nature of the job says to you, “Stay out of politics.” You have to be someone in a neutral enough position that you can meet with and relate to whomever. In a small town also, your social life is very restricted. It was easier for Lyn and me to stay home than to go and listen to someone complain about Mrs. Brown’s history class. And so, it was just a lot easier to get a good book.
I was just a member, but Lloyd Pierson was the first curator. When he was assigned to another area and left Moab, Ross Musselman came to visit me. He said the board was wondering if I would take over as curator of the museum. I told Ross, “I’m flattered but there is no way I can consider taking that now. I have three apartments coming up vacant and I’m going to have to paint. The kids have got some things to do and Harold’s Dad and Mother were gone on a three-month trip. I was taking care of their mail. See if you can’t find somebody else. I just don’t see how I could possibly do anything before two or three months from now when things calm down a little.” Well, when we got the Times Independent the next week, Ross Musselman had announced that the board of directors had decided that Billie Provonsha was the new curator. That’s how I became curator of the museum.
My dad gave this piece of ground right here where this motel is, he gave that to his friend Mellenthin. I guess you have the history of Mellenthin being killed up on the mountain? He was dad’s good friend and he gave him that piece of ground right there where the motel is…
It went to Park City with empty oar cars and usually came back with full ore cars or sometimes coal because, as I said, it was a coal mining town for a while. There is still coal in Coalville but it is too expensive to mine it. It’s not worth it. It’s a good grade of coal but there is a lot of water seepage into the mines and they would have to pump so much and stabilize the mines and it is not worth while. The cars coming back from Park City were loaded with silver from the silver mines. I think they were being taken to the smelter as I don’t remember a smelter in Park City.
He was a great teacher. We lived out past the hospital at the time. Every kid down there that could not ride the bus, got together and we all walked to school. H. B. Evans lived down there, too. There were about 10 or 15 of us trailing along behind him, singing, “March, March, March!” In school, he was the best science teacher. He would give you an assignment to do, but someone would say something, or ask a question and we never heard about the assignment again. He would go off on another subject; same thing the next day. When it came time for a test, he’d say “You are going to have a test today”. But guess what he tested on? What we had talked about (not the assignments).
I did everything, ranching, farming and a lot of cowboying. That’s one reason he hired me. The first year I worked for him, he got 450 of those Mexican steers, longhorns. It was quite interesting; twelve carloads of them came into the stockyards at DeBeque on the train. We branded them before we took them out of the yard, so he got my dad and my half-brother to help us – there were about 4 or 5 of us. We were going to run them through the chutes at the stockyards to brand them. They were so skinny and thin we couldn’t hold them in the chutes so we had to down every one of them and brand them. It was a 3 or 4 day job getting that many branded.
Buddy Cowger was checking some rocks that his kids had brought in. Charlie says “I got some that good” and so he went out and got these cores out of his old red Jeep. He brought them in there and Buddy put the counter on them and nobody had ever seen anything that hot before. When Charlie saw it he took off running, screaming to his wife, who was about 100 yards away, “We’re rich, we’re rich” and he ran right through a clothesline full of clothes and broke it down.
They don’t know whether he had a heart attack and fell and broke his neck or whether he had a heart attack in the tree and … they didn’t know which came first, you know. Anyway, these two little boys, I believe one of them was Tom Stocks came running in our back door to the telephone. Mother didn’t know what these kids were doing in her house.
I worked at the Westerner Grill. When Moab got their little sewing factory, Fritzie, It was Moab Sportswear to start with. I worked there for 7 years. I worked at the Westerner for 11 years. And I worked at the Atlas Mill. I was a ten-day mill hand. That was hard work. I shoveled the ore onto the conveyer belt that spilled off. Eight hours of that, I could not do. So I was only a ten day mill hand. Then I went back to waiting tables. You’ve heard of ten-day miners. They only work long enough to get one payday and then they are gone.
We got homesick for the ranch at La Sal, and moved back. About 1928, he sold Ford cars with Charley Redd and did well. Then the Depression came, and we really saw hard times. Edd built a wood saw outfit. All the family worked on it, and once in a while a neighbor would help. There was very little money involved. A neighbor needed some dental work done. He had a cow and calf to trade, so Edd took the cow and calf. The dentist got a load of sawed wood, and the neighbor got his teeth fixed.
So then I started working there. And we were so busy. They were building the mill and the mines were going. They had this building thing on. Building a railroad. Building houses and a grocery store. There was only one little grocery store run by a local, let’s see, Miller’s little grocery store. Down on the corner where that restaurant is now (northwest corner of Main and Center Streets). And, it had one street and it turned up past the Court House and wandered out toward Spanish Valley. They were building roads.
That’s one of the customers that Bud Walter Inc, was an _______distributor and we sold explosives to Charlie Steen, Bill McCormick, all the individual mines from 60 to63. In 1963 things started slowing down. They started backing off on some of the mines and Bud Walter wanted me to move back to Farmington. And I didn’t want to move back to Farmington, so another company, W H Burt Explosives, the company that we eventually bought, offered me a job. He wanted to send me to Riverton WY to run the location up there and I accepted that job. Went to Riverton for a year and then I went back to Farmington for four years, and then back to Moab in spring of 68, we bought W H Burt Explosives.
My mother’s name was Isabella Beggs McCollum Provonsha. She was born in Moab on December 25, 1897 in a log cabin located where the Wells Fargo Bank is today. Her father was Daniel McCollum who came to Paradox, Colorado about 1878. The exact date he started to operate the first sawmill on the LaSal mountain is not known but his last ledger showed it was in operation in 1889. He sawed lumber in LaSal Pass, Old LaSal, Buckeye and Pine Flats areas. He furnished lumber for the old water flume on the San Miguel River below Uravan, Colorado, hauling it (lumber) down through Roc Creek with oxen to the San Miguel River. The lumber he delivered to his Moab customers was hauled through LaSal Pass and down Pack Creek. He married Helen Grimes on December 13, 1893. He said the sawmill was no place for a woman, so he sold it to a man who had worked for him, Tom Branson. He started working for Pittsburgh Cattle Company at LaSal as the ranch foreman. Helen Grimes family included some of the first settlers in Paradox, Colorado.
That was after I had graduated. I was working at the Arches Café, which is where the old Center Café was, right across from the telephone company. There was a big ball room and the café was on the side where Center Café was. While I was working there, the girl that was doing the doubling for Joanne Dru – her boyfriend was killed- so she didn’t want to work and so they asked me if I would. I was just there in the café, so I went.
From Moab, I went to Fruita and stayed a couple of weeks. When we would go back to Fisher Valley from the winter range, the trail made a crooked crossing down into the wash, a very sharp right, and out the other side. If we had either horses and a pack mule, they would hit it on a high lope. The horse I rode, Cactus, really liked to do that, and before I thought much about it, Jim said, “Lets race.” The first time I lost my hat and he had to go back and get it. It did take some holding back to keep Cactus reined in. They just felt good. We never raced there again.
Mentioning the places we have camped makes me think that I can just sit and think of over 50 separate places that I have camped around the area, from the Book Cliffs to the Bridges, the Maze, and up in the mountains… at least fifty places. We went into the Needles when it was still open. You could get in there with a vehicle, over the Elephant Hill, into the Needles. From that point, we hiked up to Druid Arch and then, of course, all the main points up Horse Canyon, up Salt Creek, all that area into Angel Arch. We pretty well covered the Canyonlands National Park long before it was designated as a Park, and we had some fun experiences.
And then after that we did run a lot of our commercial trips to the Standing Rock country. And in our tour business we generally had 6-day camping trips scheduled and we’d generally take a circle route – take in a big part of the country around on a 6 day trip. And we did get a lot of good people. And at that time the only ones who’d think about going on that kind of a trip were the ones who were interested in getting out and seeing new country. And they were able to explore places where there hadn’t been lots of people going before also. And so we did start up a business and we enjoyed it and we run that Kent Frost Canyonland tours for 25 years before we retired.
Yes, they were gung-ho days because Moab was full of people who wanted to get things done. They were fairly well educated and the locals had always wanted a museum. They recognized the fact that their history was kind of important and different than the rest of Utah. One of the schoolteachers was head of a committee called Bootstraps that initiated the museum by setting up another committee. Charlie Steen had just built his mill out there in 1956. I did a lot of work myself. I remember crawling under the floor, propping up the weak spots. The Rotary Club – well, it’s in the Legacy. How Marian worked sponsoring the museum. She got the gals going cataloguing and accessions.
… And the helicopter pilot had come in from the north and he saw some activity down below so he dipped down and this man was down there waving to him. So they set down and picked up the injured hiker who had made himself a crutch and had a broken leg and they brought him in and sat him right at the back door before the posse had a chance to go out. Well, that was a celebration. We all ate ham sandwiches for breakfast. I might add that a helicopter landing strip had been improvised and when the copter ignored it and landed at the Visitors’ Center, I said, “How do we expect him to find a lost hiker when he can’t even find the landing strip?” My face is still red.
Then I was moved from northern Saskatchewan down to Moab. And that was like coming around in a circle. We found the same plants, the same kind of birds as we had in South Africa. House sparrows, for example, ravens, eagles. Different models of eagles, you know different model of the raven. We had more crows actually than ravens.
Dad was a cowboy, so travelling on horseback didn’t bother him. When he would go to Paradox from Moab to visit patients, he went right up through South Pass in the La Sal Mountains, which is very steep. He travelled to see patients in Paradox Valley , Monticello, Hanksville, Thompson and Cisco and many ranches, cow camps, mines, etc. Papa had special saddlebags made to go on the saddle to hold the medicine bottles on each side. They are now in the Moab museum.
…Dan the oldest with his first wife; then he had 2 boys with his second wife and that was Warren and Roland, my dad. So then he and his wife went down and took over the Ruby Ranch. At the Ruby Ranch they had a boat and the Wild Bunch had a bunch of horses on both sides of the river. Grandma would feed them and row them back and forth across the river. When they came in or leave, why, they left money under the plate. And that put them back in the cow business…
Dad filed on a desert claim south of Price, and he made a cellar, then he built a log cabin. It was so hot. I think it was two years after that they were married in the Salt Lake Temple. It was so hot in the summer and the midwife said, “Well, Susie, why don’t you put your bed down in the cellar where it’s cooler. It’s so hot up here.” That’s what she did and I was born in the dugout. Then the dam went out and the irrigation project failed, so Dad gave up the homestead and went to work in the mine.
Switched my major because I found out in the three years time that I loved this job and I loved this town. That was 47 years ago. By getting the 14 credit hours and taking 22 hours a quarter for 3 quarters, which is kind of load, I could get the minimum requirements for a degree. So I did it. And during that 3 quarters, that 9 months, I made 29 round trips to Moab in 31 weeks. And in a way it was a blessing because we had two trains a day out of Thompson, morning and evening, and I bought an old car and I left it out at the depot at Thompson. I commuted back and forth on the train.
After two years working with Atomic Energy Commission over in Grand Junction uranium, they were the ones that had hired me, the AEC, they hired me after the University and I came back to work for them in an administration job for a couple of years. That was our schooling in those days for uranium was out of Grand Junction, you know. I was with USAEC for 2 years.