Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

That was from June and then, of course, in December Pearl Harbor happened and, just a sidelight, I remember I’d been down to the station on that Sunday just checking things. On the way home (we had a ‘37 Chev at that time) I was listening to the radio driving home and was within about two blocks of the house and heard this announcement on the radio and, boy, I just stopped and listened for a few minutes and then drove on and told Helen. We were just totally shocked.

But we continued that training station operation until, oh, I can’t remember exactly, sometime in late 1942. During ‘42, they sent me to Des Moines, Iowa, for a special course in training station management. They had the national training school there in Des Moines, and I went back there for a week. That was interesting, going back on the train, traveling deluxe, and it was really nice. But, by the fall of ‘42, they had made up their mind to close the training station; lack of trainees, in other words, all the young people who would normally come through the station were being drafted and the lifestyle changed. Everything just …. So they decided to stop having the training station. They offered me a promotion to go to Fort Worth, Texas with Dean Hadfield and two or three of the other Salt Lake division guys. They were opening a new district in Texas. Or I could lease the station and stay in Provo. Well, it didn’t take us long to decide what to do because we had got sick of traveling when I was merchandising. So they financed me into the station. I paid for it when I would buy gas. I would pay an extra cent a gallon until I got things paid off. So we had the operation of the station from then until March of ‘45 when I finally got drafted.

In the meantime, we really enjoyed life in Provo. When we first went there, we didn’t have any connections. I knew a gal who had gone to Weber with me, this Phyllis Barker, and we were real, just friendly, up there, ‘cause I was going with Helen all this time. So, when we first hit Provo, why, Phyllis and her husband, Frank VanWaganon (who was one of the owners of the KOVO radio station there and his brother Harold), invited us to a party. Boy, it was too religious for us. That’s the only one we went to with that group.

But, in the meantime, I had made some more acquaintances and we got in with the J.C.’s. That was the going group in Provo. It was really a gang. It involved middle class, upper …oh, the whole category as far as the town was concerned. Some of the Firmages and all the main families were in it along with the rest of us operators, you know, small town dealers and businessmen. So we got in with that gang, and, boy, we really had a ball. For years we had a dance every week which was what Helen loved. I mean it was just her life and we had a real good social activity during that time. It was, oh, a moderate amount of drinking. We would meet at someone’s place before the dance, then generally, after the dance, after midnight, we would go to someone else’s place and have breakfast: three or four, five couples of us. So it was real good social activity. We had a lot of fun and, as I mentioned, Mother really loved it.

During that same time, we were on gas rationing. We had coupons and we just had three gallons a week for the average person was all they could get. That created a lot of problems for me, keeping track of the stamps and making sure the guys got ‘em. But we would eventually. I remember one old gal especially that just never went anywhere. She would bring her stamps in and eventually we would accumulate enough stamps that a group of the guys and myself (that is, adults in Provo) made two or three fishing trips out to the Uintahs when we could accumulate enough stamps to get the gas to do it. Then we backpacked, or not backpacked, but we horsepacked in 25 miles. It was two different sets of lakes back there. The headquarters was north of Roosevelt, a ranch up there and it was really a neat deal. They had good horses and we would pack in all of our own supplies. At the lakes they had built cabins and they had beds with just no box springs or anything, just a mattress on the metal springs. But it was real convenient and, boy, we had some real good fishing and some real good trips up in there. I went in with…. oh, I was thinking, one trip there was a dentist, a Dr. Tueller, along and the superintendent of schools, and Ernie Solerno made a couple of trips with me. Ron Jones (he was an old time friend there) and Ash Marshall, who was the Conoco distributor and who was making a bundle of money because of the construction at Geneva. He really lucked out; he had it just right. But anyway, it was a really nice group of guys such as Hank Heisch, the manager of Sears. We would go in and stay a week and both places we went to, Kidney Lakes and Atwood Lake, were 25 miles and we would leave in the morning and go that day that far on horseback.

You may want to delete this part, but I’m going to tell you about the one trip. Ernie Solerno and I got the only two horses with saddle bags on. Of course, we had packhorses, we had two or three packhorses depending on the number of guys there were and that had all the food and everything like that. But we decided we would stay to the end of the string and every time we’d cross a creek we would have a drink. Oh, incidentally, with the pack saddles, the saddle bags, we carried all the booze. You could put two or three fifths in each one of those saddle bags, and it was the only way you could carry them and pack them and not have them break. Ernie and I got towards the end and we decided that every time we come to a creek where there was something to drink, we would stop and have a nip and use water chaser. And, God, in that country, you was crossing a creek about every block. We had gone about ten miles, and, oh boy, we knew we couldn’t keep that up. In the meantime, the other guys had wised up and they just dropped back and joined us. Boy we really had a time! Not drunk enough to fall off our horses by any means but drunk enough that we had some horse races and all kinds of things going on. I was racing with one guy and it was clear the horse was going to come awful close to this pine tree. I raised my left arm and pulled the reins to the right to get him to miss it and my arm scraped the tree and scarfed it up, made a big cut. That really sobered me up. We stopped and this Doctor Tueller was real religious and he was frowning on all this that we were doing. He said, “Well, I’ve got some bandages here with sulfa in them. Let’s put on three or four of those, just spread them along.” And he did. We went on up, and about two days later, I said, “Doc, do you think we ought to look at this?” He says, “Does it hurt?” I says, “Nope.” He says, “Well, just leave ‘em on then, there’s no problem.” That’s what we did…stayed on. When we finally took them off, it had started to heal up. He was really still disgusted with us, but those were real fun days. Boy, we would go up there in August.

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