Oral Histories

Harold Provonsha

b.1924

Harold Provonsha

Q: Did you have luck this time?

A: I got together with Fred Frazier and I’d stake the claims and he’d peddle them. We’d get a down payment on them, but that’s all we’d ever get. We did make some little money on them.

Q: During this time, you were living in Moab?

A: Yes, I bought the ground that I built the houses and apartments on later.

Q: What was the address of those apartments?

A: The apartments were 450 and 460 East and 200 South. The house we lived in was 440 E 200 S. The first house, that little old house we moved into from the ranch didn’t have a number on it. Right now they are building all that stuff ahead of that. (Billie: it’s right over there behind the Mason Lodge but it never did have a number.) Later, when I made a little money in uranium, we had that log house down on the corner and we built the houses at 420 and 430 East and ours was 440. We contracted those to be built.

Q: Who was your contractor?

A: The guy’s name was Charlie Smith that built those. Then I bought Fred Frazier’s house that was across the street that he had bought from Ace Turner. So I wound up with 5 houses and then we built the apartments.

Q: This was during the boom?

A: Yes, then I borrowed some money from Dan O’Laurie and built the apartments. We were able to keep them full for awhile, until the boom kind of busted. So I went to work for the Uranium Reduction Company when they first started the mill up. Before they got the thing started, they sent me to Grand Junction to school to learn how to operate what they called the R.I.P. section. Resin In Pulp is what it meant, to take the uranium out of the ore. Then later they sold out to Atlas, I worked for them for ten years and nine months.

Q: What were you doing?

A: I was just an operator in the mill. Then I took training in instrumentation and they sent me back to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to school. Then I learned to be an instrument repairman.

Q: When you were working there did they furnish protective gear and safety training for you?

A: Before I left they started getting a little of that. We were supposed to wear hard-toed shoes and stuff. At the very last I had one of those badges that I wore for awhile that was supposed to tell how much radiation exposure I had. When I quit there, I went to work for a movie that summer; that was “Blue”. After that I went to work down at the Potash Mill. I worked there for a couple of years and then saw an ad in the paper about a job down in Arizona in a paper mill for an instrument technician job which I was trained to do.

Q: Who owned the Potash Mill when you were there?

A: Texas Gulf Sulfur owned it then. I worked on Instrument repair. Then when I went down to Arizona to check on that job I found it paid twice as much as the job here. So we moved to Arizona. I was an instrument repairman in the paper mill for eighteen years until I retired in 1987. I retired when I was 63 ½, didn’t wait until I was 65. We lived in Taylor, Az. while I was working at the paper mill in Snowflake. While down there, we lived in Snowflake, Show Low, Taylor and eventually, Vernon; kind of moved around all close to Show Low. Every place we moved we bought a house and then sold it. We moved back to Moab in October, 2004.

Q: Did you sell the apartments in Moab?

A: I sold the apartments and the houses. (Billie: I think Steele did have them, I don’t know if he still has them) We sold the apartments to Reed Lance, an old timer in town.

Q: You were here in Moab during the Boom and the Bust. Before you had the houses and apartments, where did people stay?

A: They were sleeping on our front lawns. The rentals were all filled for awhile then when the bust came we had a lot of vacancies.

Q: Did you have families?

A: Yes, all the apartments had 2 bedrooms. (Billie: a lot of people would move to town and into the apartments when they first moved to town, until they found a house or built a house. They would live there 6 months to a year.) There are several business people here now that rented from us: Pete Peterson, the barber, for one; Don and JoAnn Knowles, Tony and Carolyn Lema, a lot of people started there.

Q: What else did you do? 

A: I always liked to hunt. We hunted deer and in Arizona we hunted elk. We took up archery down there when I was old enough to know better, but I got 3 elk with my bow, several deer, javelina, turkeys. Billie took up archery and she got several javelina. They look like a pig.

Q: When you were living on the ranches, did you go hunting?

A: We hunted deer; there weren’t any elk in those days. I think I saw about the first elk there. In 1950 they came on the LaSal Mountains and I saw them in LaSal Pass. I told people that I’d seen elk up there and Chet Smith laughed at me, and said all I’d seen were deer, those were just Provonsha Elk. He wouldn’t believe it. I just saw them that once, but we had seen their tracks up above Pack Creek Ranch when we didn’t have any cattle up there at that time of year. They had to be elk tracks. You’d see bear tracks once in a while

Q: Mountain lions?

A: I’ve never seen a mountain lion, but I have seen their tracks. (Billie: I saw one out in the desert, in the Valley City area in those hills back in there. It surprised me, kind of scary.) I’ve hunted rocks all my life. We had seven crystal claims that we staked in Arizona. We mined crystals and took them over to the museum in Springerville. They would sell them on consignment. We sold quite a few clear quartz, few amethyst crystals.

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