Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West

b.1916

Jack West

The station worked out real well. Having had all that station experience I had in Provo, there was no problem there. It really worked good and was very successful. In fact, we practically closed the office at the bulk plant and left a sign there that when people came in and no one was there to come up to the service station. The sign explained where to go, how far south, four blocks south to the Standard Oil Station. So that was how I got into there and kept that. I checked out of there in 1984. But in the meantime, we had real good downtown contacts, made a lot of friends and it was just real good.

Although I retired from the Station in ‘84, I have covered a lot of country. Actually, in about ‘76 the bulk plant became unprofitable and impractical to keep open both for me and the company because, as I mentioned, big accounts had big deliveries. They eliminated this tank wagon delivery. And, in the meantime, prior to that, the gas company had come into Moab and stove oil deliveries were gone, which was a blessing. They were a pain in the neck and a big money loser. So I ended up out of the bulk plant completely about ‘76. When they did, they moved in and moved all of the big tanks, just obliterated everything except the building which is still there.

But the service station was so much more interesting. A lot of people don’t think service station is much of a deal, but I really enjoyed it. If I had it to do over again, I would go through the same process because there you meet people. Every customer is a new one. The financial problems were nothing like that in the bulk plant. People had credit cards, and I was able to control completely the type of customer I had, eliminated credit losses. But it was just fun for me personally to be in the service station. As a result too, I made friends with so many people. They are still the ones that I meet downtown and talk to today, the old customers. I really, really enjoyed it.

Well, I have gotten clear to the retirement point, but now I’ve got to go back to when we first got here because that was just a sort of history. When we first came, the road north of Moab, up the canyon, had not been completed. We still had to come in on the old road that had that so-called “Dead Man’s Curve” in it, just a little narrow two-lane highway on the east side of the canyon. And it came into town and had not been extended beyond Center Street. There was no road south across Mill Creek. You had to turn east because of Mill Creek at Center Street, and then it came up through town and went up through Spanish Valley. We came in the middle of the boom and with no housing. The town was just a mass of trailer houses. Of course, that was one reason we had all the stove oil deliveries. There was plenty to take care of people but it was rather a congested thing. We had the Arches Cafe, the Swiss Cafe and Fern’s Cafe, and they were, all of them practically, open 24 hours a day and just swamped. Of course, we had the Westerner Grill right next to the bulk plant. It was a little cafe, another 24-hour place, just packed all of the time. It was real handy, of course, for us right next there. The spuds and steaks were absolutely fabulous and the hamburgers too. That made it pretty handy when the kids worked down there and they had to have lunch. There was nothing better than to get a hamburger next door at the Westerner Grill.

The grocery store situation was almost funny because Miller’s had their grocery store on Center and Main, on the Northwest corner. They had a good stock of canned goods and everything, some fresh vegetables, but they didn’t stay fresh very long. Luckily, the power company had come in and set up a good system so they had some refrigeration going. But very shortly after we came, McCormick’s built their Supermarket on Center Street. That took the pressure off the situation on grocery stores. Then, within a short time after that, after we arrived, they extended the highway south of town. Millers put their big Supermarket out where it is now, where the Supersaver is. So that finally eased up.

Madge Ward had a nice dress store that she and her daughter ran on Main Street. But at the very first when we very first came, I am talking about Main Street, there was still board sidewalks on the side of the road. Within the time they extended the highway and expanded, all that went out, but they had over-the-board sidewalks. There were some wooden canopies, so at that particular time it was still just a western town, an isolated western town. But, within a year or two of our arrival, it all changed rapidly. One thing I remember was the phone service. Of course, I had to phone my delivery orders into the plant but mail, in most cases was quicker, because you could place a phone call but if you got a long distance phone call through within fifteen or twenty hours, you were lucky. They had the list, of course, but a lot of the guys that were here that had the money would get into their plane and fly to Grand Junction if they wanted to call out of the area and use the phones over there. That was really one of slowest things to recover, the phone system. Boy, it was just hard to get in contact with the rest of the world.

While we were in Provo we purchased a nice cabinet-style television set, black and white. There was absolutely nothing like that in Moab, but Mother insisted that we keep it and we brought it down. Within three or four or five years, we did have a have a little closed-circuit television here in Moab. They broadcast all recorded stuff, but we were glad we kept the set because we finally got some good out of it. There was sure nothing to begin with.

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