Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West

b.1916

Jack West

So, as far as the family was concerned, Helen had adapted real fast into the social activities. Then Jim got into it. In the short time that Ann was here and involved in high school, she really became involved in the community activities. And after she got here and got involved in school, she was Homecoming Queen and then Uranium Queen, two of the biggest awards you could get in this town. She had a number of real good interesting jobs too that were important to her and to us. She was a busy gal and really did well.

Well, one of the important traditions in my life was the daily coffee break or coffee breaks. I started that in Provo. The service station in Provo, the Conoco Station, was across the street from the Provo Bakery and they had a coffee counter and, of course, we would go over there, take our break in the morning, having a doughnut and a cup of coffee. Once in a while, Jim would be around. I would take him with me. That was really a thrill for me to have him along. When I got to Moab, this same tradition continued. The service station, as I mentioned before I’m sure, was right next to Butch Christensen’s Ford Garage which eventually closed and Bob Nelson moved in with a Montgomery Ward’s sales deal. Bob and I immediately became very friendly and I would go to coffee with him, started out there. And, in fact, some mornings in the winter I would open up at 7, Bob would show up at maybe 7:15, and he would say, “Let’s go get a cup of coffee.” By then I wouldn’t have moved anything out, so I’d lock the door (this was, of course, in the winter, when it wasn’t busy) and we would go have coffee over at the Greenwell for fifteen minutes or so. So that’s how important it was compared with business.

But, shortly after I took the station over, Don Knowles built the Gambels Store across the street and we immediately became real friends. That was in 1960 and we had started coffee breaks then and here it is, 1993, and we are still enjoying our coffee breaks. I still go downtown, practically every day, and have coffee with Don. Immediately after we started that, Sam Taylor of the Times-Independent started joining us, and he still comes a big part of the time. But this has been a real tradition and a chance to keep up on the town activities. It is kind of like a Relief Society session, but it is something that is really important, and I have been in a position in town, both Provo and Moab, where it has been easy to do. Had some nice cafes close to us and kept it going.

One of the main people that I got acquainted with for coffee break, and this was a result of my activities in the station, was Babe Foy. In the station I did do a lot of business with the Federal Government, both the Park Service and the BLM. I got acquainted with those people, and they were thrilled with the service I gave them. A lot of the stations in town didn’t want to do all the bookwork that was involved with Federal activities. But I did and, as a result, I had a lot of that business. This is how I got acquainted with Babe. He and I had an afternoon break for years until he retired. Then we continued that a little while for two or three years after he retired. But he started going out of town so much that we finally quit. I am still doing it with the rest of the guys, and I love to do it.

Well., one of the main reasons we started coming to Moab, of course, and kept coming was the beautiful scenery. We came down in our passenger cars, and there were a lot of places to go even that way. But shortly after Ray arrived, he bought a CJ-5 Jeep. That gave us access to some of the backcountry. Frank, who started coming and visiting Ray, as soon as Ray moved here because they were buddies in Provo, got a Jeep Utility Wagon. Claude Holmes had a Scout. Claude had been coming down here a lot as he painted for the station (that was his profession, painting), and he knew that there was some beautiful scenery. So with those guys, with my flatbed available to haul stuff out to the destination point, we immediately started being able to go into the real backcountry. And our association with Bates Wilson and Lloyd Pierson really paid off. We were really friendly with them. Bates and I got along real good, so did Lloyd. In fact, we visited Lloyd and Marion socially with Jim. We’d take Jim out to visit their kids.

Lloyd offered to guide us into some of this country because there were no signs, no nothing in those days. The Canyonlands National Park hadn’t been established. The new road into the Arches from this end hadn’t been built. That was built very shortly after. So Lloyd consented to guide us and the first trip he took us on, which included Ray and Frank and two or three different outfits, we went up Lavender Canyon. We went up and camped up by Cleft Arch and had a fantastic trip. Lloyd cooked us steaks over an oak fire and it was really good. But he showed us where to go up there.

Then, the next one I recall that he took us on was down to the Bridges, the National Monument. That was before there was anything in there, just a road that was practically four-wheel drive, it was a truck road into the head of the canyon, the top of the canyon where the bridges were. There had been a camp, I guess it was a geological survey camp, and they had a couple of trailers down there (good sized camp trailers that the crews slept in). That was an interesting deal because the guys decided to sleep in those trailers, four or five of them, whoever was there besides myself and Claude Holmes. But we talked together, Claude and I, and decided that was just going to be a pain in the neck to get in there with those guys. So we went down on the slickrock about a block away and put out our sacks. Even that far away, we could hear those guys moaning all night long, “Quit snoring.” Oh, it was a disaster, but we were far enough away that we got a good night’s rest. But they sure had a heck of a time. We hiked down into White Canyon which is where the actual bridges are located. It was a real steep hike. We got to Awatchamoh, the first bridge, at the head of the canyon. It’s out on the upper level where we were camped, we didn’t have to go down in to see that. But after we got down in the canyon there was Kachini. and Seapapu and a lot of ruins. Gosh, it was interesting, and then you went on down the canyon quite a little ways and there were some ladders to climb out that had been put in years before by some government agency. The Park Service hadn’t even taken any interest and done anything to it. By then it had been declared a National Monument, but there had been no development.

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