Oral Histories

John E. & Mary Keogh


John & Mary Keogh

Q: Did you go to Korea?

John: No, they had a deal that you could sign up for a year and so I signed up for that year and by the time that year was over they sent me home. I got hurt when I was in the Army anyway and that was in ’51. I came back to Colorado to go to school but it was too late to sign up that year at the School of Mines so I went down to Colorado Springs to what they called Colorado College.

Q: Oh, Colorado College at Colorado Springs?

John: Yeah, so I went to school there until I graduated in ’53.

Q: So were you taking civil engineering?

John: No I was majoring in Geology and that’s the only time I really got serious about school. When we went down there, I worked at it pretty hard. I had good luck though, I didn’t get all A’s but that didn’t mean that I didn’t work pretty hard. I graduated cum laude and was phi beta kappa.

Q: So were you also working a job along with school?

John: I was working with a surveyor there.

Q: That’s how you started surveying?

John: Yes, it just so happened that our landlord had a surveying business. I worked for him, not steady, but while I was going to school.

Q: And your father had been a surveyor too?

John: Yes, my father was a surveyor.

Mary: Jack came to Moab for a job but he quit the job within a few months after he was here because he was going to make this big discovery on his own.

Q: This was uranium?

Mary: Yes, uranium. And I remember I was still living back in Manitou Springs and he called me one day and said he had quit his job because if he made some big discovery while he was working for this mining company while he was their engineer then it would be theirs and not his and so he decided to quit and go into the surveying business so that he could prospect on his own. So he was a prospector at heart.

Q: So the surveying business lasted for 50 years or so?

John: It lasted from ’53 when I first came to Moab to ’88, 35 years.

Q: You were the County Surveyor?

John: Yes, I was the County Surveyor and City Engineer. I was a City Engineer until I retired in ’87 or ’88 and then I think it was about a year or so after that when I was still a County Surveyor until I quit. Over the years, I held Land Surveyor’s licenses in five Western states. County Surveyor is an elected office. In the early ‘60s I was elected to the School Board where I served as a member and as President. I enjoyed that.

Q: And now your son Tim is a surveyor?

John: He took all of my work and then I have two other boys working surveying in Nevada.

Q: So how many children did you have?

John: I have eleven, four girls and seven boys, and all the boys are working at something to do with construction or surveying. The girls…..

Q: (to Mary) I can see why you didn’t have much time for a job outside the home.

John: Well, if she’d have hurried she probably could have.

Q: What was that event you were about to tell me about going down on the icy river?

John: Oh that was when I was going to school in Michigan after the War. When I was a kid in that country when there’s a big thaw, the ice breaks up. The ice, you know, is a foot and a half thick on those creeks. And then it always jams up as it breaks up. Behind my house was a river and there was a big flat. It was about a half mile wide. Water would come way up over that and upstream the water would flood onto the floodplain all around the creek. Anyway my pal and I took his canoe up the river four or five or six miles and put it in the creek and came down to where we got off the main channel into the woods where the canoe got hung up in the top of a tree and it tipped us over there. Boy, it was cold, I’ll tell you! And I can remember tying that canoe up to the tree with my belt. Then we made our way over to the shore. It was cold. I pulled from tree to tree, wading. My pardner was a big husky guy and had lots of fat on him and it didn’t even bother him but boy! It nearly froze me to death. And then when we got off of the creek, we were only about a half mile upstream from my house but we were over on the other side of the creek so we had to walk all the way around to a bridge to get to the house. When we got there, my Pa had been out with some other guys and they were searching for some kids who had been playing out on the river. He was kind of out of sorts with me for doing that stupid thing when he’d been out looking for those kids. I remember him saying, “Well, you better have a drink of whiskey to get warmed up,” because I was blue. And then he found out he didn’t have anything to drink so he went to get the car out of the garage and the garage door was frozen closed as there was a lot of ice in there. That was the upshot of it and that was one of the more brilliant things I did.

Q: So you stayed in Moab all these years because you liked surveying and had a good job, or did you like Moab?

John: I always liked the work I was doing. I really enjoyed it and it wasn’t really unpleasant work although there were some disagreeable parts of it. But I liked Moab too. I always liked the people here. I still enjoy going downtown because I can always see people I know.

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