John William (Jack) West
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.
They had come up with this much of the idea, that they were going to go out. They had a couple of old jeep utility wagons, like the Black and White one we had, that model, only older. And they were going to have people come and follow them, and they would charge people to do this. The way it turned out, that didn’t work because people could lag back a half a mile and theycouldn’t get anything out of them. So they immediately switched over to having the equipment. They bought a big old International Travel-all and had these two outfits and they started taking tourists themselves and charging the tourists so it would be profitable.
As a result of our conversation that night, we all decided “Well, when are we going to start this?” I’m sure this was about February, this meeting. It was in the winter. And Jake really spearheaded the idea. He says, “Well, why should we stall? Let’s start it this spring in April.” That was about two months away and that was the birth of the jeep safari. We did and we had some publicity out and staked out a couple of trails, the one up to Prichett Arch, up behind the rocks. I don’t recall at the moment …it ended up with so many trails. The next year, I pioneered the Poison Spider Trail with some BLM guys. But that Spring we had our first jeep safari with, I don’t recall, fifteen or twenty jeeps, and we guided them on those two trails. Then the following year we got more publicity out on it and you know what happened. It has gone crazy, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, up to as many as five hundred units registered. But that was the beginning of the Jeep Safari, that meeting there at Musselman’s.
As a result of my activities, I mentioned that I was president of Rotary in my third year which was ‘59 and ‘60 and that was from July until July. That was the Rotary year. That fall, the Chamber of Commerce Directors (of which I was a member) had our fall meeting to elect the next year’s president. Those guys had already ganged up can me. So, in December of ’60, I was elected President of the Chamber for ’61. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed being President of the organization. It was a lot of fun. Betty Jacobs was the Secretary of the Chamber by then, and we had hired Mel Pimpell as a full-time director. He was still here at that time that I was President, but he was overdoing it. He got control of the money and he just went crazy. We had to can him and then, for a long time, we operated without a paid director with the Chamber and Betty. Well, we paid Betty as a secretary and she actually did all that work. But it worked out real good.
Then in early ‘70’s, the State of Utah passed a (the legislature) law that you could charge extra tax on your motels and tourist facilities (hotels/motels) and the money had to be used to promote tourism. When that became effective, we figured that we needed a building, we needed a separate building. We had been meeting uptown in various office buildings and just didn’t have room to do it. So, between the group of us, the directors, we decided that we would build the present information building that’s north of town and pay for it with this tax money that was going to be collected.
So we went to the bank, the First Security Bank which was the bank here and talked to them. They were willing, under the circumstances, to loan to the Chamber (the offshoot, or the branch, which was the Tourist Council, $40,000) to put up that building. But to close the loan they had to have some signatures. They had to have four people, or at least one, two, three, four. But, anyway, we decided it should be four. So myself and Winfred Bunce and Harold Gathifer and Les Erbs signed this note. We weren’t concerned at all because we knew we’d have that much more money coming in. And that’s how the tourist information center north of town got started. Of course, it was paid off rapidly. We had no problems there. But, that was the beginning of that deal and you know what has happened to tourism in Moab.