Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

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.

In addition to pioneering some of the trails …….the Poison Spider was one, and, boy, that was a rough one, and it is still rough. Ann doesn’t like it. But, in addition to that, and Behind the Rocks, let’s see what else? The Kane Creek Trail, instead of going over Hoorah Pass, went back and came back on up; I helped pioneer that. But, in addition to that, I led the Jeep Safari for three or four years, led at least one trail. And those were real fun deals. You had to take care of all of the needs of the people following you and figure out when to stop, and lunch, but it was fun.

Another activity that involved this back country was before the Jeep Safari started, because it was not too long after I came here, that we got acquainted with Bates Wilson and Lloyd Pierson, out at the Arches. Bates was Superintendent and Lloyd was the Chief Ranger. They were the two main honchos out there (incidentally, Bates and Lloyd turned out to be real good friends) and we were concerned, amongst ourselves about people not knowing where to go when they got in the back country. This was kind of tied in with the Jeep Safari deal. So Lloyd would grout out the signs and then paint the letters white, like the ones I have in the yard that you guys have seen, the Looking Glass Rock. But he did them for Dead Horse Point and Grandview Point, Looking Glass Rock, up the river to Fisher Towers. Those were the main ones. We had the one on the highway at the turn-off. I would take Andersen with me and we would take the flatbed truck which was a ‘55 GMC ¾ ton with a flatbed on; we would take that and haul the signs out, take shovels and picks and bars, and we would put them down right where they were visible. Ray and I put up the first sign pointing towards Dead Horse Point before the highway department ever put anything up. Then, on the way out to Dead Horse, we had some arrows pointing up, to let them know they were on the right lane, right road. Then at the juncture between there and Grandview Point and Dead Horse Point, we had signs in there.

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