Oral Histories

Dennis E. “Pete” Byrd, Sr.


Pete Byrd

Q: And what year was this?

Pete: This was ‘53. From May of ‘53 to the first of ‘54.

Q: You hardly saw your family at all.

Pete: I didn’t see them at all. Finally, along near the end of the year, Mary said “I’m not going to live like this.” So it was decided that I would operate, and would set up an airport operation. You haven’t got enough tape to hear all this.

Q: We can come back.

Pete: No. Anyway, I said “I’m not going to stay here. I’m going to go get me a motel where it’s cooler and where I can get some rest.” After a couple of days we were ready to come home. We left the rest of them down there and we took off. The clouds were low and I flew them up there in under the clouds for awhile and we finally got back. We landed then. Eventually we got home. But that was kind of typical. I’d go to Las Vegas with a load of people and come back and there’d be another load to go. Go out there and sit for days. Well, I never liked to sit too many days. Toward the end of the year we decided to go into the airport business. In the beginning we

were going to call it UTEX Aviation Company and Charlie wanted to… we were going to be partners in it. I got an old guy that taught me to fly back in Texas to come up here and operate it. He’d spent most of his life working in the ( ?) type atmosphere and he turned out to be one of the biggest crooks I ever run into. Although I’m probably alive because of what he taught me. He taught me to fly. The county had built a hangar out there at the old airport and they built a lean-to on it. We moved in the lean-to before the plumbing was there. We had to build an outhouse to move out there. We hauled water. We had to generate our own power. There were two electric lights. There wasn’t an electric light between the airport and the one at Holyoak’s house on Holyoak Lane. We had to generate our own power out there. We had to haul water. We started the airport operation.

Q: And you had the four girls?

Pete: I had the four girls. The thing in Moab was boomin’ this year. When we moved here, it was at 1271 [the population]. When we went to the Post Office we would walk down the street you would see people, clusters of people pointing at you and talking to you because nobody ever moved to Moab. They couldn’t figure out why and they didn’t trust the Gentiles anyway. They didn’t trust people from Texas because so many outlaws come up here during the outlaw days and they couldn’t figure out why in the world we came to Moab. It took a long time. My son was born here and he’s still not a native to some people. This airport operation I started to tell you about Moab. I gave you that copy of the (Cool?) Magazine article I was in. When that was published everybody in America was (?). See, after the war we were all young guys in our 30s. We had gone home and we were disappointed. We weren’t satisfied. We were restless, we had families. We were looking for something else to do. We read that article and then all the publicity that followed that. You name it, Fortune Magazine, Time Magazine, Life Magazine, Look Magazine, all had write-ups on this uranium boom and Charlie Steen’s discovery and Vernon Pick’s discovery. Everybody decided if he can do it, we’re going to Moab and we’re going to get rich, too. Well, in a year’s time I think the population was more than double. By 1954, if I’m not mistaken, there was about 7500 people here. The water system consisted of some pipes coming down from the spring above Center Street there. There were no meters. There was always a shortage of water. There were irrigation ditches that went to almost all the houses in town. There wasn’t a block in town that had, I don’t think, that didn’t have a corral, milk cow, chickens, and outhouses on them. The blocks were 10 acres. The way they were originally set up was that there would be four 2-1/2 acre homesteads on a block. Moab was the headquarters, had always been the headquarters for operations that were conducted on the Federal Land surrounding the town and Moab was settled, we soon discovered primarily from Sog Shafer, that the reason it was here was because of Mill Creek and the water that was available for irrigation so that they could raise something. There was a siren on top the Midland Telephone Building that blew at noon and it blew whenever there was a fire. Whenever that siren went off and it wasn’t noon, everybody turned off their water so there’d be more water to fight a fire. The sewage, Howard Shields told me that in 1946 or ‘47 he installed 256 toilets in Moab. There hadn’t hardly been any toilets up until after World War II. The sewer pipes they had, if they didn’t go into a septic tank or something, they went down and went through Holiday Haven. I think there’s still a little concrete sector out behind in that direction, southwest of Holiday Haven. And that was the sewer treatment plant. All the sewer drainage went through there and Cataract Canyon was Moab’s sewer treatment plant until way after the ‘60s. I was trying to tell you this airport thing took off because of all these prospectors and promoters coming out of Salt Lake and from all over the world. They’d fly in and we had the DC3’s, we had a converted B26…..

Read the other Oral Histories