Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


Q: I know that the whole system had problems. We had radio at Tonto and, I think, I don’t remember if we had one at the Castle (Montezuma’s Castle) but we had one at Chaco and some places, like Saguaro, they couldn’t get to Santa Fe. When the headquarters was in Santa Fe they couldn’t get to Santa Fe and there was always a relay. I felt like I knew some of these guys, like the guy down at Saguaro. I used to relay quite a bit for him and then Ida Boatright, who was the secretary in Santa Fe to the General Superintendent. Although I never met these people, I felt like they were my buddies, you know, because they were helping me and helping one another on the radio. Sam King was the guy down at Saguaro. That was a great, great setup with a little radio.

AW: Yeah, it was. Going back to the tours and of the guides, I think in some ways my father had a strange sense of humor. Some older gentleman came and wanted a guide to Natural Bridges. I remember he had a big beautiful shiny car so Father said, well, his son does trip guides. So we drove to Blanding and he put me up in a motel room and this guy had a room next door. Today you wouldn’t, of course, do this with children. Then I guided him and afterwards we came back. That was 50 cents an hour during all of the time I was guiding. I know you asked me if I made money. That was probably one of the best trips for making money. We hiked to all the bridges and, in 1949-50, the trails were not so hot.

Q: Is this how you saved all your money so you could either go to college or buy a Jeep? Which?

AW: Well, as you well know being in the Park Service, and Marian knows, you are forever poor and one of the things that I found in our family was there was never any money. My mother was a very good manager of money but there was basically no money. So I became independent very early. The first thing I bought after the second summer here was a car. I bought a car from Sam Taylor, a ‘38 Plymouth with a ‘46 engine in it. That was my original vehicle for the electrical work. After doing the guide work for a summer and on and off after that, then I learned the electrical business to become really independent. I think it was fall of ‘52 that I bought my first Jeep.

Q: Yeah, you were a rich kid.

AW: But I worked for free for one summer for Mr. Foote as a true apprentice He lived upstairs in the building which is now the Poplar Place. I wired that building and I’ve often wondered if it was my wiring that caused it to burn down!

The first summer, 1949, besides doing guiding and learning more and more about the Moab area I went to Mr. Foote and asked him if I could learn electrical wiring, radio repair, etc. Sort of an apprentice. I had made radios and other electrical things when we lived at El Morro but wanted to learn more.

Q: No, no I found out it was a stove. They had a wood stove that was too close to the wall and they didn’t have it insulated.

AW: Well, then it wasn’t my wiring.

Q: No, it wasn’t your wiring. Thank goodness.

AW: Actually I’ve wondered if any of the things that I wired burned down but so far I don’t think so. I wired what was Riley’s Drug. I wired apartments over Butch Christensen’s Ford which is now a bunch of little shops. I did all of the wiring at the Apache Motel for Winford Bunce. I wired the bishop’s house and I don’t know how many others, tons of the little houses out here. I worked every day after school and weekends.

Q: You were working for A&E when they had the first building boom up here in the early ‘50s, that uranium boom, weren’t you?

AW: Well, first I worked for Mr. Foote.

Q: Was this Adrien’s father?

AW: No. Adrien’s father was Ellis Foote. This was Janet’s father, Uzel. He was the city manager for awhile. He came here, must have come here in ‘49 or ‘50, maybe ‘49. He taught me the electrical business. I worked for him first for free and then 50 cents an hour. We were doing appliance work, radio repair and house wiring. Eventually he got copper poisoning when I was a sophomore in high school, so I formed my own company, first one to last one week with Max Irish and he had a different view of working. I like to get up early in the morning and work all day and Max liked to get up late, work part of the day and drink beer and we separated after the first week. On my forms it was called Wilson Electric.. The phone number on the work sheet (tally’s of materials and labor) is in fact the phone number at Arches HQ!. If someone need to contact me for work they called Arches!

Mr Foote and his wife Nora were very kind to me. They let me use the garage in the back of their store which was the old bank building as a work shop. Moab folks would bring in electrical appliances for repair and I would fix them in the shop in back. Nora would collect payment.

Q: I didn’t know you had a company.

AW: Yeah, I still have the books actually. It was called Wilson Electric. I was in business from spring or summer of 1952 to fall of 1954. I had a city electrician’s license. When I was getting ready to go off to college, University of Utah, at the end of the summer in 1954, Ray Alger and his partner came to Moab and took over my business. The deal was to buy my inventory of supplies, take over my jobs and that I would work for them as a journeyman electrician at college breaks and summers if they had work. Moab was booming with the U days so there was lots of work.

Read the other Oral Histories