Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

They had electrified all the Lisbon Valley and they had taken electricity into all the mining areas, and that eliminated all the big diesel engine problems. So, it had slacked off to where I didn’t need the second truck with the 1,500 gallon tank. I got rid of that. I was doing all the deliveries with this and a flat bed with a portable tank on for stove oil deliveries. But, as a result of the fire, boy, I was out of luck. So I got in touch with a with a wholesale distributor in Green River. It wasn’t for Standard. I have forgotten who he was…. well, he was working for some smaller company. This was Gene Hunt and he had leased me a truck, and it was an old model International. We got that down here and it was doing the job. Chevron was drilling an oil well out south of town, at Muleshoe and I had been delivering to them with the big truck and with this one. One night Jim and I went out there to deliver. They called late and it was almost midnight by the time we got out there. They were getting low on diesel and those drillers had no sympathy with suppliers, you just had to come. We made our delivery and were coming back down the Nipples Hill, this side of La Sal Junction down that big long hill. All of a sudden, the lights on the truck went out. Pitch black, no moonlight. Boy, I tell you! But for some reason, there was enough reflection from the sky that I could see the intermittent center line. When they put those in, they had used the kind of paint that was reflective. And, boy, for a few seconds, I thought there was no way I could stay on the highway. But that was enough that I could see and the brakes were okay. The engine was still running, and we had our brakes. So, we got stopped and pulled off the side of the road as much as we could. Right in that area there is very little bar pit. I got out with the flashlight and lifted the hood. The thing that had happened is that the horn was located under there and, even before we got out, I guess, the lights came back on. We looked at it after we were stopped. This horn had vibrated, the metal had fatigued and vibrated off, and the hot wire to the horn had grounded on the frame and then burned in two. When the wire burned in two, it cut out the short, and then the vehicle was back in business. That’s what it boiled down to. Luckily, that’s all it was. But, boy, we were really concerned. Well, that didn’t happen that quick because we talked about driving even with using the flashlight, hadn’t we? Anyway, within a short time, (maybe it was after we raised the hood and moved the horn) the lights came back on and we were back in business. I was as scared as I have ever been in my life, because there was just no way, no control. Luckily, no cars. But we got that straightened out and came back.

I went up to Salt Lake after that and ordered and got a 1960 International with a brand new tank on. In fact, I reduced it to1,500 gallons. It was a much handier outfit than the old 2,000. So in the long run, I came out okay, but there was some scary things happen before it was all over.

One of the main things I got complimented for when I had that service station back in Provo, was that a lot of the adults, the fathers of the guys that worked for me came in, and complimented me on the fact that I had taught their kids how to work. And this did happen. The manager of J.C. Penney’s is a good example, Clyde Crockett. Whenever he would see me, he would always say I taught his son, Eddie, how to work. So I thought, “Well, if that worked for those people, it should work for my own kids.” I thought here’s a chance to teach them to work, by helping me in the bulk plant. As a result, they did help me a lot. There were times when my regular guy, the two of us had to be gone, and, of course, Ann came in and she would answer the phone, take orders. In recent years, she has told me that all the time she was sitting there that she would pray that nobody would come in and need anything. But it boiled down to the few that did come in were able to wait on themselves. The case of oil, getting a barrel of diesel or something like that. But she did help me a lot and then, when she left, I used Jim when he was around 14 or 15 years, no, 13.

Q: Ten or eleven?

Even before that, to answer the phone and keep things going. Yeah, I guess you were only ten or eleven. But it was a real experience for him too because he had to help load the trucks. I would park the trucks under on the dock, and he would load them with gasoline and diesel. And, of course, answer the phone and take the orders. We had a flat bed that we delivered our oil on, and he could handle those 48 pound cases and load that. So he did quite a bit of work there at the bulk plant, not only during school time in the afternoons. It was just a chance for me to teach them how to work.

One of the things I can remember that was the most miserable, especially for Jim and Ann, but Jim got involved more deeply, was how cold that warehouse was. It was a big tin shack, and it is colder inside that it is outside in those. When you were working there in the main office, there was a little oil stove and it was even cold in there. It never got really warm. So, it was a cold miserable job. There is no question about it. One of our major operations at the bulk plant was delivering stove oil to trailers. They would have a 55 gallon drum sitting on its side and that made the average delivery about 40 gallons. We always waited until evening for that because people would turn on their stove in the evening and they were out of fuel. If we went out early during the day, we would get back and there would be one or two we would have to go follow up. I had Jim help me on that. We would go out. I would drive, of course, and pull the hose, usually behind the trailers a long ways around. And get the pump going and then he’d sit there and he could tell by the sound of the motor when I turned the valve off and he would shut the engine off. Then I’d come around. In the meantime, he had the invoice made out (all but the amount). We would finish that up and get the signature or the money from the customer. In fact, both he and Ann did all of this invoice work at the plant. Anything that went out, they would write up the tickets. So they were involved in all the bookkeeping of it. And he would help me inventory. Periodically the company auditor would come in and we would have to take inventory, count every item, every gallon. He did a lot of that, so he was in on the entire operation of the thing.

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