Oral Histories

John E. & Mary Keogh


John & Mary Keogh

Q: What are you doing since you retired from surveying?

John: We’re catching up on finishing our place here, making it neat and orderly and I never have accomplished it yet.

Q: You raise chickens too?

John: I’ve got a few chickens and I had horses up until a year ago. I got rid of my horses.

Q: So what do you think of Moab these days since you’ve seen it over the years?

John: Of course, it’s a different town than it was, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a real nice place, the tempo is a little different than it was. The real attractive part of Moab when we first came here, to me, was that everybody had unlimited enthusiasm and high hopes.

Q: During the uranium boom?

John: Yes and the attitude was really “up” so much that you can’t hardly believe it or visualize it, because everybody was going to cut a fat hog. I went into the mining game one time but instead of getting rich I got even broker and so that’s when I took off to Alaska. But that’s a different story. I’ve thought of different places a guy might go but you couldn’t go somewhere when you’re past middle age where you wouldn’t know anybody. Even if it’s the nicest place in the world, if you don’t know anybody, it’s nothing as far as I’m concerned.

Q: Well, people are important.

John: Oh sure and I don’t have a whole lot of real close friends but I’ve got a lot of acquaintances.

Q: For a while you were active in a land group?

John: That was the Western Association of Land Users and that was an organization which was primarily to prevent the environmentalists from closing everything down. We thought that was their motive and I guess it was, and so the Land User Association was pretty active in the 80s. Then I stayed on and was the Vice President for about ten years. We kept having meetings but it kind of petered out. We were just trying to sponsor the multiple use concept to the public land and that was the whole motive, I think.

Q: Mary, now you’ve got John at home instead of the kids?

Mary: That’s right and I was a member of the Dan O’Laurie Museum.

Q: You were there during the construction of the new building?

Mary: Yes, I was there through that and after the building was finished.

Q: How did you happen to get involved in the Museum?

Mary: Someone on the Board called and asked me if I would be on the Board and I accepted.

Q: Was this when the Museum was just starting?

Mary: No, we were beginning to make plans to build the room on the back of the Museum at that time, I think, or shortly after I joined anyway.

Q: So you knew Dan O’Laurie?

Mary: Yes, I did. He was the benefactor of the Moab Museum and what is there.

Q: I gather he was the benefactor even of the old building before they built the new building.

Mary: Yes, he was. He hired Virginia, I think, to be the receptionist for just that one little old building and she’s still there, isn’t she?

Q: Oh yes.

Mary: I thought so.

Q: I think it’s forty years now.

John: Forty Years? Is it that long?

Mary: I would think so. And he paid for her salary up until the new building was finished.

Q: And that’s when the County took over the payment because the County pays for the utilities and pays for Virginia and my salaries, and now Rusty’s, but it just sort of happened. Various people went to the Commissioners and said “Hey, could you pay for the lights” or whatever.

Mary: Lloyd Pierson, I think, was the mainstay for the Museum Board and for organizing it.

Q: Maybe so, even when the women tried to get the Sears prize for community contribution or something. What do you see as Moab’s problems now? Cloudrock? The tailings or anything like that?

John: Well, true, maybe eventually the tailings will be moved. I think possibly as much because of the political influence and the concern of the people who arrived after the uranium boom. Until they came in and decided it needed to be moved there wasn’t much concern about it. We just took it for granted. But now, people downstream are concerned. We went to several meetings about the concern of the contamination going downstream and I asked them several times if they’d checked the water down at Potash and then at Grand Canyon and so forth and they told me that they hadn’t but it was a cumulative thing and so the tailings pile had to be taken out. Of course the people in California were made aware of the apparent problem and so the political activity created enough interest that they decided to move the tails. But I’ll never see them get moved. I’m satisfied about that.

Q: At the rate they’re moving?

John: That’s right. I was just reading that they have to have another additional study.

Q: I seem to see your picture in the paper or on television every now and then attending some meeting or another.

John: Well, I’ve about finished going to meetings, I think. Because I’m out of phase I think with Moab now. I used to be somewhat active in civic matters. I enjoyed it. I was pleased and honored when, in ’79, I was named Citizen of the Year. I served as Chairman of the County Planning Commission for about 25 years and on various boards and committees – the Rodeo committee, the Airport Board, and County Economic Development.

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