Oral Histories

Billie Provonsha


Billie Provonsha

A: Yes, it was really good until the boom started hitting and then everything had to be increased. When I moved here in 1942, there were only about 1,200 people in Moab. Everybody knew everybody. Even when we moved down from the ranch there were probably not more than 1,300 – 1,400 in town.

Q: You were in town a year or two before it really hit? How did that change your life?

A: It changed everyone’s life. It was quite an experience to live through that boom. I would wake up in the morning and I’d pull the curtain and look out the window at the front lawn. It was nothing to have a car or two parked at the curb and bedrolls thrown out on the lawn and people sleeping on the lawn. When they woke up they would ask if they could wash with water from the hydrant outside. There was no place for them to rent. I felt sorry for them.

Q: How long did that go on?

A: Ann started to kindergarten in the old school. Originally I went to school in the building with the City offices now and all the way from kindergarten through high school was in that building. It stayed that way until our oldest daughter went to kindergarten in that building. Then, maybe she went in first grade to Helen M Knight, the first elementary school that was built. Then they built Southeast, which they call Red Rock now. That was closer to where we lived so she switched up to there. And then back to the old high school for her junior high and then they built the new high school which is the junior high now, and she graduated from it. So she hit all the schools.

Q: You had Ann and two more? Where are they now?

A: Ginger is our second daughter and then Susan, the youngest. Ann lives here in Moab. Ginger lives in Keams Canyon in Arizona; her husband is a lab technician in the big Hopi Indian hospital there in Keams. Susan is a registered nurse and lives in Hawaii. She has been there several years and she keeps wanting us to move there. She lives on the island of Kauai, but it is only 35 miles across. It doesn’t take very many minutes to hit the ocean anyway you drive. It’s a beautiful island. You drive around and you see bananas growing beside the road and orchids in the trees. But I feel too enclosed. When we lived in Arizona, we would drive 35 miles just to the grocery store.

Q: What schools did Ginger and Susan attend?

A: Ginger started at Helen M Knight; then when Susan came along she started at HMK also. Then they all switched up to the other one after it was built.

Q: When Ann started school, was that during the boom?

A: She started school before the boom or about the time it started.

Q: Do you remember the double sessions?

A: Yes, they experienced that. Susan was supposed to start kindergarten one fall. The year before she would cry and want to go to school with her sisters. I would say no, but next year you can go to kindergarten, but next year there was no kindergarten. No place for it. That’s when I learned to not promise anything I couldn’t guarantee.

Q: What was Harold doing while the kids were going through school? 

A: When we moved down from the ranch, he started working on the movies that came in and prospecting on the side. He did some mining. During the uranium boom, he kept prospecting with some partners. When they were building the uranium mill out here on the river, he took training in Grand Junction. He worked at the mill when it started operating and worked there about eleven years.

Q: How long did you live in Moab?

 A: From 1949 until we moved to Arizona in 1969, we were here about 20 years.

Q: Did you live then in the house on 4th East?

A: We built a new house then and moved out of the old one. We built three houses and our house. During the boom, we built eight apartments on the other side of our house and rented those. At one time we had eight apartments and four houses that we rented. I did the work on most of those while Harold had his job and the kids in school. It was quite a busy time. When they decided to start the museum we were in on that.

Q: What did you do to help start the museum?

A: Not much on the start-up. 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. I kept the job until I resigned when we moved to Arizona in 1969.

Q: What did you do as curator?

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