John William (Jack) West
Interviewed by: Jim West in 3 separate interviews during 1993 at Moab, Utah
First interview: 8/21/93
I guess the place to start is at the very beginning when I was born in Bluffdale, which was really an isolated area back in 1916. I was born on a cold winter night January 3, 1916. Of course, I got this information later from the family, but Dad had a horse and buggy and went to Riverton and got the doctor. The doctor came up to the house in a horse and buggy and, as I said, I was born on January 3rd. It was a cold night according to an uncle that lived in the other part of the house. The farm was the first one north of Jordan narrows on the west side, an area where the wind seems to be always blowing. Anybody, nowadays, thinks about the Point of the Mountain where the wind blows; we were just below the Point of the Mountain, right down on the Jordan River. It seems like the wind was always blowing. there either from the north or the south, hardly ever still.
Of course, my first recollection was of the good times in the summertime. Just a short distance from the house was the canal and, for a lot of years, that’s where we got our drinking water (out of the canal) except in the winter. The canal, they turned it off, and we had to walk down to the river where there was a spring and carry the water, that would have been a block and a half to carry our water from there. We did carry our drinking water from the spring, although sometimes we drank the water out of the canal which is out of the Jordan River out of Utah Lake and, boy, I’ll tell you…I guess that’s where we developed our immunities to a lot of diseases. It was just like being inoculated with the germs that came in that water. But we eventually drilled a well in the back yard (the family did) and had a pump outside. The water didn’t taste good, ever, but it made it handier for drinking and mother’s washing. And, it was tough living.
The first recreation I can remember was down on this canal bank. They cleaned it every three or four years and they would drag out a lot of fine gravel; it was very small. We would take sardine cans. When I say we, it was my sister Mill and I. Dad would punch holes in the end, take a piece of bailing wire and hook them together. Those were our trains. We would make little dents in this gravel. We would pull and push those around. That was one of our main recreations that I can remember.
My earliest remembrance I have of the actual farming was when I guess I was four or five years old. Boy, it was a tough deal. Dad’s brothers by then had left the farm and gotten jobs at various places, Uncle Al at Utah Power and Uncle Jess with the Utah Copper Company. Dad and Gene, boy, it was a job, they had 80 acres of irrigated land and one water turn starting at noon Sunday and went until midnight Thursday (24 hours a day). Then, the lower canal was a 12-hour shift about every 5 days. Dad just at that point started working himself to death. They had some super equipment for a farm of that size.
Apparently, when my Granddad West moved down there, they had a bunch of money because they had all the latest horse-drawn equipment. They had binders, potato diggers, big hay bailers. So they had got off to the good start; but, by the 1920s the Depression had really set in and there was really no market for the farm products. About all we raised is what you needed for yourself and we had milk cows and sheep, about 20 sheep and ten milk cows. We had two teams of horses, a bay team that weighed about a ton apiece, some white ones (Bess and Daiz), and the red ones were Ted and Tops. They were really nice animals. But, it was just a matter of surviving. Dad was working himself to death.
I went in 1923 to my first year of school down in Bluffdale before we moved to Ogden. We had to walk about a mile to Bluffdale School. And I started the first grade and, within two weeks, my teacher put me in the second grade because my parents had given me a good background. The folks, that was amazing. But, anyway, I spent one year there.
Most of the time I had to walk to school, although there was a horse-drawn school bus that was down across the Jordan River. I had to walk a couple blocks to get to it and cross. There was a diversion dam that I had to walk across. And I walked across that and up onto the road on the other side. But some of the time, when the weather was really good, they weren’t running. It was spring, winter and fall that the weather was bad. But in the winter, it was a one-horse sleigh with a cover over it, a canvas cover, and it had a wood stove in it. And that was always kept warm. They kept a fire in the wood stove all the way to school and back. Not to mention that the wind was always blowing, that came in pretty handy. I remember there was one gal my age whose name was Bass, I can’t think of her first name, but her last name was Bass. And all we did was argue. The school bus horse driver with all these kids raised heck with us to shut up and behave. I can remember that pretty well. That was a good year. There were six or eight grades in two rooms, but it worked out fine.