Q: At that time Main Street actually turned and went east before it got that far south, didn’t it? You were not living on Main Street per se?
A: No, in fact, there was a large arroyo where Eddie McStiff’s is. That was a large washed-out arroyo. You went down into that arroyo and came out of that and then down into the Mill Creek. It was a wide creek that washed out two or three times every summer; huge floods, with very little growth in the bottom of the creek, mostly cobble rocks. During a lot of the year, you’d place some stones across the creek so you could get back and forth because the bridge would be washed out. It would take the county or city a while to get the bridge back in. They had it tied on a cable so when the flood came it would wash it up on the side. Then they would come and get it and put it back in place. A lot of time you just hopped, skipped and jumped across the creek. It was way out of town for a little kid. I’d go to the Ides Theater and get out of the movie and run as hard as I could to get home because it was about half scary in all those dark places through the creek and so on. The highway turned at the Wells Fargo Bank corner and came up Center Street and out past Milt’s and across Mill Creek up by the cemetery and out that way to get south out of town.
Q: So everyplace you went as a child you walked or did you have horses or bicycles?
A: We had horses. We didn’t keep our horses here much because we kept them most of the time at either the Mill Creek Ranch or on the mountain. I had one bicycle growing up. It was a 24-inch bike. It constantly had a flat tire because Moab had all of the puncture weeds in the world. You could ride it for a few minutes and then the tire would be flat. During World War II, you didn’t run down town and buy a new inner tube, so you had to have a repair kit. It was easier to walk than try to keep that bicycle running in most cases. I didn’t ride in the car very often. My dad had learned to drive later in life and it was easier to walk to school than have him drive me because we would go ten miles an hour in the same gear; it was just easier to walk. That didn’t happen very often anyway because our schedules didn’t often meet.
Q: I read somewhere that they theorized that the puncture weed and goat heads were brought in by the early circuses.
A: I’ve always heard that and it sounds reasonable. The early circuses had large animals that they brought with them. I remember one time they had an elephant. Of course, I was mesmerized by the elephant. They had large amounts of hay and I assume that’s where they are talking about that the puncture weed seeds came in. Old timers claim that there were not any puncture weeds in Moab. There have always been sand burrs in this valley. I don’t know that anyone claims that sand burrs came here carried by somebody. This valley has always had a great number of sand burrs. But the puncture weed I don’t think was a native species. That is the explanation; that it did come in with the circus feed.
Q: So you were fascinated by the elephants. Did they have a parade?
A: No, no, I don’t remember a parade. They set up the circus on the property across from the old middle school on Center Street in the ball field area. I remember them having an elephant there. I don’t have any idea what year that was, but I was a small kid. Having read about elephants and seen pictures of them, they are enormous when you are three feet tall and the elephant is 23 feet tall. He is enormous. And that is the way I remember the elephant.
Q: The circus came in by truck?
A: Oh, yes. It was an old rattletrap. You can imagine the kind of circus that got to Moab in those days over partially dirt roads. In this country until after World War II, Moab was not that accessible to the outside world. You’d go to Salt Lake and say you were from Moab and they had no idea in the world where you were from. They didn’t know that Moab existed in those days. On the other hand, you can see this circus trying to make a buck out of Moab. It was difficult because there wasn’t anybody in town that had any money in their pocket. This was the end of the Depression and nothing had improved. It was a pretty seedy outfit that came in here.
Q: Was Moab still well noted for its orchards, its fruit growing?
A: The fruit was well known. They grew beautiful peaches. We had lots of peach orchards. For many, the only employment for teenagers at the end of the growing season was to pick peaches. They had built a packing plant over by the high school in that creek bed there.
Q: The current high school?
A: No, the current middle school on Second East. It was down in the creek bed, and they would pack peaches there and ship them to all parts of the world. Beautiful peaches. It was one of the few things that paid a salary to the kids, a part time job.
Q: Did you do that?
A: Yes, I picked peaches. I spent most of my growing up time on the mountain with the cows until I quit one day. Then I came to town and got a job with a seismograph company. I was fifteen years old. I got a job with the seismograph company and worked for them for the rest of the summer. I made so much money that I was just rolling in it. Made seventy-three cents an hour and we worked ten-hour days. In 1947 that was a lot of money. I told my dad that I was going to go ahead and go to Wyoming with that company and quit school. He said, “No. You’re not going to do that.”