Oral Histories

Alan D. “Tug” Wilson


Q: Oh yeah? Marian even took one of me. You saw it. They put in that article didn’t they? I’m pushing and you’re driving and she’s taking pictures.

AW: That’s right. Think the photo is of the Jeep going up Elephant Hill just past Soda Springs. Lots of rock ledges, loose rock, etc.

Q: You said I didn’t do anything.

AW: Aw, you did the work. I think it was fun.

Q: All I could do was that and eat. It was fantastic. Then your dad was smart in getting us involved. He knew where he was going, I think, already by then. He didn’t know how he was going to do it but he knew where he was going.

AW: He was very interested in, I would say, the horseback trip in 1950 because he was talking to Bob Deckert at that time “this ought to be a Park”. There was a guy named Les Arnberger.

Q: Yeah, we called him Arnberge’.

AW: Arnberge’. He was a regional planner. Every time he had a chance he would talk to him about getting someone in the region seriously interested but nothing happened until maybe it was ‘58 or so, somewhere around there. Something like that. They made a film with a guy from Poughkeepsie, Elger? Arbor? ( I cannot recall his name but the park folks surely know…they paid for the film. ) He made the Canyonlands film. The commission, the Park Service Commission, I’ll remember his name. (You said he went to live in Poughkeepsie NY. ?) The film that was used to promote Canyonlands Park idea.

Q: This is after my time. It’s been ‘62 or ‘63.

AW: Maybe it was ‘62. I thought maybe it was a little earlier than that.

Q: No. We left here in the summer of ‘61.

AW: That’s probably true because I went and visited him from Endicott NY where I worked for IBM in probably ‘62.

Q: What was your feeling? You kept coming back. I got the feeling that, even though we were back in Virginia, they were going along pretty rapidly, the Park proposal.

AW: I think they moved quickly sometime after ‘58.

Q: That’s when the first study was, ‘60. Then we got Arnberger and the record from the regional office and that was their job, a new Park Service.

AW: I believe it was probably the Kennedy Administration and Stew Udall in particular. It certainly got catalyzed when Udall came on the trip in 1962.

Q: What about the local people? You probably have more feeling for that.

AW: The fact is, I think it was ‘57 or ’58, we took Robert Moore of the National Geographic Society in and his article wasn’t published immediately after that trip. Do not know why. That tells you something about people’s interest in this area in the late ‘50s. Uranium/oil interest and things were dominant and, in fact, Moore’s article sat, which was unusual because those things tend to become dated very quickly. Then Udall wanted to go on vacation and was told there was some ranger in Southern Utah who wanted to make the whole State a National Park. He sent an advance team out and Dad showed the advance team the kind of route, the things to see and experience and then he came. Then Moore came on that trip and took a second set of pictures and then combined those two trips into one article.

Q: So he did get the article?

AW: He did get the article so with the title “City of Stone” or something like that. It’s in the May issue of National Geographic Magazine, 1962. I don’t believe I know much about the ranchers. I never heard my father say the ranchers were terribly upset, although I’m sure Scorup-Somerville, were running cattle in what is now Canyonlands, Needles in particular, at that time were not very happy. But there wasn’t very much land that was particularly good for grazing that was being included in the park. Yeah, not much grazing and there’s no water to speak of. The canyons and the rocks don’t really provide much feed. The people who were really upset were the mining interests. The mining/oil interests became very nasty against my father and anyone else who supported it because they felt that it was their land to do whatever they wanted. During that time the Atomic Energy Commission gave the license to essentially go wherever you wanted with a bulldozer and drill a hole in the ground and if you go out today and look from an airplane you will see thousands of roads that are just crisscrossed. And some guy says “I want a drill hole out there” and they’d just lower the blade on a D8 Caterpillar and plow up whatever was in the way. It was very destructive.

Q: The good old days.

AW: The good old days. So the mining people were very upset. Now my father had a good relationship with Charlie. Charlie had visited the office at the Arches HQ as well as used the maps, etc. on deposit there. .

Q: Charlie Steen?

AW: Charlie Steen. In fact, he had a little red Jeep and my father was the only one who had a set of geological maps. He poured over those. Dad was well liked by the executives of Atlas and other people. He got along well with all those people.

Q: He got to go to Charlie Steen’s parties, right?

AW: That’s right. Go to Charlie’s house. Drink and eat green grasshoppers which got him sicker than a dog. It was probably the tequila. But politically they were different. Dad felt somehow the land should be preserved and the mining interests wanted no rules and regulations whatsoever. So, the local paper was very much against him. Bish and then later his son, Sam. Yet Dad remained good friends with Sam and Adrien.

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