Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West

b.1916

Jack West

At that time we did have bus service. Continental Bus Line came through, which has been eliminated, but we did have pretty good contact with them. And there has always been a railroad stop at Thompson, a flag stop, and a lot of people used it, going and coming. That was about the highlights.

Well, of course, there were the social activities which I have mentioned and which we were involved in. They had the Town and Country Club which was in back of what is now Ed’s Barber Shop, and that Center Cafe. They had the Arches Cafe there that was on First East and Center and that was the highlight of the town. Oh, there were three or four beer joints, but this Town and Country Club was a real nice place. And, of course, we had a lot of parties there. It was the party area of the town; it was high classed. That was the area where the movie people hung out. While the movies were here, in the evening if you wanted to go hobnob with the stars and the director, various others, that’s where they would be, at the Town and Country Club. We had a lot of good times there and Mother still loved to dance, and she did a lot of dancing there. But the community took care of the needs as time went on.

Even while living in Provo I was interested in community affairs. As a result, I was in the JC’s and then the Rotary Club. So when I came to Moab, I still naturally felt like I should be involved. The deal into Rotary was natural because Les and me had been Rotarians and it was natural that they would come to us. Bud Lincoln controlled or owned the Prospector Lodge, he and Jane, where Mother had all of her fun contacts, and I was in touch with them. He was the head of the Employment Service down here. So he knew practically everybody, all the employers. At that particular time, they were trying to get the Chamber of Commerce going in Moab and to take the lead in that. A group of us started to get together, acquaintances from Rotary and all over, and we got the Chamber going. Well, it wasn’t too hard to do because there were a lot of new merchants in town and they all needed some kind of leadership to get the promotion going. We started having weekly meetings. At that time they were in the Arches Cafe which was in front of the Town and Country Club. The main offshoot of the initial Chamber activity was to push the area tourist-wise because the country was so beautiful and that was the place that we felt we could do the most good. So, part of the Chamber, or a separate group that we appointed or joined (I don’t recall how it was organized) was the beginning of the Travel Council, and we would have separate weekly meetings like the Chamber met on Tuesday. Once a week this group of the Travel Council would meet one day a week. I remember Les Erbs, Ed Claus and myself, two or three others, and we had this weekly meeting. Ed Claus was interested in photography; he had a lot of slides and took a lot of pictures. Sam Taylor was involved, and we decided there should be something for the tourists to do in the evening. In our estimation, rather than worrying about a commercial deal for them, shopping, and there were a lot of little tourist shops at that time, we decided to have an evening slide show. Russ Musselman had the Rock Shop on North Main and had some benches available where people would meet and he would lecture to them because he had been an old time guide here. In the evening, if people wanted to go there and listen to his stories, they would. So, in addition to these benches, we decided to put up a screen where we could show our slides. We did that, put in some posts and strung some canvas between the posts. And, boy, within a short time we’d have fifteen or twenty people there in the evening. I recall we had at least one guy to show things for every night in the week. There was myself, and Forest Simpson, Sam Taylor, Ross would show, and we would narrate our own slides.

That got going so good that we decided this screen wasn’t adequate. It was just a piece of white canvas. So we had a local shop fix us up one better, put grommets all the way around and the post went up the side and across the top. Sam and I went up one day and placed the screen so that it would fit tight, looked good and then we had obtained some glass. It was like glass beads, but they weren’t punched through. I don’t know why we would have been able to get that, but it would definitely be more reflective. So we went up there one day and just smeared some paint on the screen and stood back and threw this glass at the screen. When it dried up there was a streak or two you could see in the daytime but it turned out pretty good. It was really reflective and was a good screen; it was like a beaded screen that you have in your home.

That worked out real good and that went on for quite awhile. Then one of the rock shops in town, I guess it was Ottinger’s, started having shows there, and at Canyonlands, or the shop next to the service station, they started putting on evening slide shows. So we eventually dropped this. In the meantime, I had gotten well acquainted with Ross Musselman who, as I said, was an old time guide. He moved here from Monticello and he had an fabulous shop and had dinosaur bbones and all kinds of rocks from the area there. He built the shop himself, just out of the sandstone. It was real coarse on the inside and outside but it was well equipped. So I got really acquainted with Ross and one night…..gosh, what year was that? In the sixties, in any event, late sixties, Mrs. Musselman called the house here and she said “Ross is out of town. Why don’t you come down and have a cup of coffee?” She says, “I’ve got some other couples coming.” So we went down, Helen and I, and Harold Jacobs and his wife were there, and Mary Williams (Mitch was out of town). So that was the group. Just the two couples and Mrs. Musselman and Mary. We got talking about what we could do to promote the jeep and the four-wheel driving in this area in the rough, rough back country. We discussed all the good places to go. There were a few trails that we knew that people could go if they had a leader. Mary Williams came up with the idea that they were trying. They had thought about starting guiding jeep tours, hence the name, Tag-Along-Tours. That’s how it came up.

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