Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

Of course, there was a lot of things happened, little things, during this time that I could talk about. One was we went up into Ritzville, Washington. It sounded liked it would be a good place, a farming, grain community. We got up there with Carlisle Savage whose dad was doctor in Ogden and got really stuck, didn’t sell a thing. Boy, we had checked into a hotel and it was tough. We were ready to leave and we owed the hotel bill. We didn’t know what we were going to do; we were just that desperate. So Carlisle had sold a sample. He had 25 bucks coming. And I’ll be darned if that didn’t show up at the Pitzville Post Office: $25. He had an old Nash, an old Nash coupe. Boy, it was an old car. So that $25 bailed us out of the hotel and got gas for our car. Then we scrounged around and found some bailing wire. Oh not, bailing wire, barbed wire off a fence that had fallen down and tied the front bumper of his car to the rear bumper of mine and they were solid. There was no space between. We didn’t have a tow chain. We didn’t have anything to depend on that way. But I pulled him from Ritzville to Walla Walla, and I guess that was probably the first time we ever hit Walla Walla. Actually we had gone from Yakima up there and pulled him overnight. This was an overnight trip. And we got into Walla Walla on Easter Sunday with no money. This had to have been the second year. It’s part of our experiences because we went out early the second year and we got in there and had no money, not a nickel, and nothing to eat that day. We checked into the Pollyanna Hotel in Walla Walla. Two old sisters ran it. They didn’t check us for any money or anything. We had nothing to eat that day, but the next morning I got up and headed out and went down the street and there was car dealership. I went in and checked with the secretaries there and they ust must have been waiting for me because I sold two dresses right in that care dealership. So I had 20 bucks in my pocket and we were on easy street again; everything went well. But I did interject this was the second year. I was still talking about the first year with the Monsons, but I thought about this deal.

Anyway, after we got back to Ogden with the Monsons, they had to stay there. There was another couple coming out that had a young kid. Roy Lances (?) and he had an old boxy type Buick. That had to have been back in the ‘26s or 27s. That was the last year they built that big old ugly (Buick). We headed back to Williston with them, went up through Wyoming and into Montana, through Eastern Montana, Glendive and that area. We sold enough on the way to make it. Got back to Williston and picked up our car an then we were on our own again. But that was the first year ….

Oh, I’ve gone ahead, way ahead, of my story actually with our selling experience. We had been going together for four years at the time that I came down to get her and everybody was in favor of it and we were pretty well running our own lives by then. I was 21 and she was going on 20. They were all glad. Of course, I think at times until we showed Grandma Berglund the marriage license. I think she just wondered if we had actually gone up there and got married or not. But it worked out real good and the folks were all in favor of it, of course. Hell, like I say, Ma threatened if I didn’t come and get her she would marry somebody else. But I don’t think I had over 20 bucks in my pocket, I probably mentioned that. That wasn’t important. You could get an overnight cabin for $5.

Anyway, we ended up that first season, came back to Ogden in probably October, I don’t remember, September or October. That would have been the fall of ‘37. I didn’t know what I was gonna do that winter but I got in touch with Conoco about leasing a station because I hadn’t made any other plans and was out of work. They were immediately agreeable. They had a station in Salt Lake they wanted to lease to me and they discussed at that time me going to work for Conoco. It was their idea that I may be hired as a merchandiser, which was a job out checking stations. There wasn’t an opening then, but they had the station in Salt Lake and they financed me. So we moved to Salt Lake and leased the station on what is now 3rd West and 7th North. It’s long gone. We lived there that winter and did okay in the station. Joe went in partnership with me. He furnished some of the money (he was out of a job again) but the company financed the balance for me. He didn’t put in much, I don’t know. And still with the idea that when a merchandising job showed up they would hire me. By April, nothing had shown up so I said, “Well, I’m going back on the road. There’s not enough in this station for me and Joe to really make a living.”

So I went back and, as I mentioned, went back up in the same area, Yakima and Walla Walla. This is when we ended up in Ritzville, and we came back to Walla Walla broke. But I left the station to Joe and had made friends with some neighborhood people. One of the guys, Brisco, was working for me and pretty soon (yeah, that was the second summer, of course, ‘38 then) I got a letter from this Brisco. He said things weren’t going good at the station. This was towards the end of the season. Joe had bought himself a new car, really stepping out, and things were terrible by the end of that summer. I had a good summer up in Montana and Idaho, and part of the time in Washington. That second year we went up in through Washington as far as Everett which is north of Seattle and cut across Wenatchee and back down to Walla Walla and on up into Montana. But when that word came (this was in late summer) we came back to Salt Lake to take the station back from Joe.

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