Oral Histories

Dorothy R. Rossignol


Dorothy Rossignol

Q: How often did you get mail?

A: Three times a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Q: Looking at the average work week, the 10 and 4, how did you get supplies?

A: Fry Canyon had a store about like Dave’s Corner Market, very small, where you could get milk and just a few things. Not much meat, but anything that wasn’t frozen. You could survive. Beer, of course; you had to go twelve miles to get that. Your big shopping was either in Monticello, Cortez, or Moab. Some of them, but nobody lived in Moab. Most everybody lived from Monticello, Dove Creek, that way, because that is where the boss came from, and he had his following.

Q: That’s where you got your meat and stuff, was in Monticello?

A: No, we got most of ours from Monticello. In the wintertime, you didn’t travel a lot because sometimes – we lived 71 miles from Blanding and all dirt roads. When you go by the Natural Bridges and some of those places, you are kind of high. You are desert, but you are still high and lots of snow back then and plowing was not very steady. We didn’t come out; we would stay in three months at a time. Some of those die-hard guys that had four-wheel drive and big vehicles we’d send our grocery list and a check with them and they’d bring our groceries back.

Q: How many hours a day did your husband work?

A: He would put in an eight-hour day and they would work ten days and then have four days off. It was 5 days a week but 10 on and 4 off. That way, you had plenty of time to go into town when banks were open to do your business and stuff.

Q: What was his specific job at the mine?

A: He was most of the time a motorman. He drove the train in and out of the mine to bring the ore out and dump it over the place where the trucks could run over it under this big bin. They’d open it and fill it up. Then when everything got full up there we had our million dollar backstop where we played ball in the summer. They said each one of the uranium piles was worth a million dollars. We probably were getting contaminated but didn’t hurt us, I guess. It was outside and it wasn’t milled, it was raw ore.

Q: That was your backstop for your baseball?

A: Yes, because there wasn’t enough of us to have two teams most of the time. You played work-up, you know.

Q: What else did you do for fun in your community?

A: The company made us a recreation hall. It was just a building and we used to have movies once a week. The plane would bring in a movie once a week on Wednesdays. Some of them were “Silent” and some were pretty old. Every movie night usually two families or two women would make popcorn so we could have popcorn with our movie. We’d trade off. And then we’d have suppers, kind of potluck, especially holiday time, if the guys couldn’t get off to go home. Sometimes the families would come down for holidays and then we’d have a potluck.

Q: And this was in the community recreation hall?

A: Yes, and it was always BYOC, bring your own chair. You had to bring your own chair because they didn’t have any furniture. We had several fellows who played banjo, accordion, different instruments and we’d have music and dancing. When there weren’t many women in camp, the men used to have to dance together, but women dance together when there are not enough men. We were just one big happy family. Everybody got along in camp. You have to. But you learn to talk to each other, because we had no radio, no telephone, no TV. Sometimes there would just a couple of families especially at the end of the 10 days: “Well, I’ve got a little salad.” “Well, I’ve got a few potatoes.” “Well, I’ve got an extra piece of meat,” or something. And so we’d get together and have pot luck. Everybody would bring what they had. It was fun.

Q: And so it was mostly the same people, the same neighbors while you were there? There wasn’t a turnover in personnel?

A: Oh No. It was just like in a restaurant here in Moab. If your employer was good to their employees, nobody quit; you know things are going smoothly. We were very fortunate that nobody was seriously injured. I don’t know how we would have got them out unless somebody just took them. These radios in the vehicles; they had to drive way up on top of a hill to get a signal out and then maybe you could get an airplane to come in. They did have a little landing strip at Fry which is twelve miles. You’d have to get them down there to get on the plane. I don’t remember helicopters; this was way back in the 60s.

Q: So you couldn’t get radio because you were down in a hole and you couldn’t get reception?

A: But we did have electricity and we did have running water in the trailers.

Q: This is the water that had to be hauled in so you had to be careful with it?

A: Very careful; and then we had a maintenance man that took care of all the air conditioning and things like that at that time of year. It cost us $25 a month to rent those trailers.

Q: That covered utilities and everything?

A: Everything; you couldn’t beat that.

Q: Do you have any idea of the wages your husband made or other prices for that time?

Read the other Oral Histories