Frank “Pancho” Tabberer
Interview by Jean McDowell in Moab April 24, 2003
Q: When you grew up and so forth. Where were you in the beginning?
A: Where did I start? Rossville, Texas. Rossville was my great-grandfather’s town. His name was John Ross. And that’s where I started was in Rossville. I was the fourth of seven kids. My father was a farmer. And I went to school in Rossville for grade school and Poteet High School, graduated in 1947 at the age of 16. I went to Business College in San Antonio; took a business course in Drawn’s business college. I tried to get in the Army. Uncle Sam wouldn’t have me because I was 4F. I had a finger missing. My trigger finger was missing.
Q: How did you miss it?
A: I lost that in a farm accident when I was 11 years old.
A: It was a peanut thrasher that I was helping my dad on and got it caught on.
Q: It thought it was a peanut?
A; It sure did saw it anyway. And the old doctor, TP Ware, I remember him, was a family friend as well as a doctor and he said “Twenty years from now, we’ll be able to sew that back on and save it, but now we don’t know how to do that so they just took it off and sewed it up.
Q: So it saved you from the Army?
A: No it didn’t. I went to work in the oil field after I left college. Well, I was going to be a bookkeeper and that didn’t work out for me at all. Well, anyway, after I worked in the oil field in a seismograph company, oil exploration company, and went to work in the summer of 1948, and summer of 1949 I went to Canada working for Geophysical Associates. Spent 2 ½ years in Canada.
Q: Your wife is Canadian, isn’t she.
A: That’s where I met my wife. That was a good thing for me to go to Canada. Then I came back out of Canada, my father got sick. I asked for a transfer back to Houston, that was in 1952, December of 1952 and worked there to be close to my father in San Antonio and then a year later, not quite a year later, my wife and I were married in 1953. I went back to Canada and she came back with me. I worked in the oil field until 1955 and early December of 1954, Uncle Sam sent me a message and said “Your friends and neighbors would like your presence..” They drafted me at age 24. So I was okay then. I couldn’t join but then they drafted me and I was okay with my no trigger finger.
Q: So what did you do for the Army then?
A: I was a Military Policeman. I took my basic training in Colorado Springs (Camp Carson) and took my MP training in Fort Garden in Augusta, Georgia, for my advance training and that’s when I became an MP. And then back to Fort Hood , Texas for two years. I didn’t stay in the army, I just did my two years and a month and came back out and went back to my old job. Working in the oil field.
Q: And that was the seismograph. And did that lead you into the blasting business?
A: Came back to Farmington, NM, and then that would have been the first day of January 1957. A year and a half later, in July of 1958, the oil exploration slowed down and a guy offered me a job as an explosive- well, it was supposed to be salesman, but it was a lot of truck driving and hauling explosives and I finally became a salesman for him.
Q: So you were mainly a salesperson as far an explosives person when you had your business degree?
A: I was trying to sell to the seismograph people. That’s why he hired me. It worked out really good. I worked for this company, Bud Walter Incorporated, who had a location here in Moab. I worked for him in 58 and then in 59 he decided to open a location here in Moab to sell explosives to the mines. In the spring of 60, we came to Moab for the first time, to sell explosives to the mines and to the seismic people.
Q: So both the oil and the mining people. And in the 60s had the Charlie Steen…?
A: That’s one of the customers that Bud Walter Inc, was an _______distributor and we sold explosives to Charlie Steen, Bill McCormick, all the individual mines from 60 to63. In 1963 things started slowing down. They started backing off on some of the mines and Bud Walter wanted me to move back to Farmington. And I didn’t want to move back to Farmington, so another company, W H Burt Explosives, the company that we eventually bought, offered me a job. He wanted to send me to Riverton WY to run the location up there and I accepted that job. Went to Riverton for a year and then I went back to Farmington for four years, and then back to Moab in spring of 68, we bought W H Burt Explosives.
Q: So were you here at the time Rio Algom got developed?
A: When we bought Burt then Moab was the center of all Burt operations, so we set up the home office here. And Rio Algom was sinking shaft back at that time. They had their shaft just going in at the time we came back. Atlas started their mines up again. Union Carbide, Cotter, and then all the individuals that were mining at the time.
Q: So you provided for everybody?
A: We got into it, Jean, when we got into the business in 1968, things were really slow. When we moved back into Moab that fall, there was seismic work here, the mines were reopened. We couldn’t have got into business at a better time.