Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West


Jack West

Q: He meant he thought you were okay?

Yeah, the company guy, the old district superintendent. Oh hell, I can’t think of his name, Joe something. But anyway, my Granddad Miller consented to loan me $500 bucks and take the station over. And after we got the papers signed, this old guy (I can’t think of his name, Joe, anyway:) says, “How old are you?” I said, “I’m seventeen.” “Oh, my God,” he says, “if anybody asks you, tell them you are eighteen.” That was probably in the middle of the summer, and by January I was eighteen.

Q: What was the name of the station?

It was a Conoco on Twelfth Street there. I think there is still one -there, a big one. They finally replaced it, there is still one there, a big one. They finally replaced it. There is still a big station on the corner, on the northwest corner. That’s how I got into the service station business and that was the first steady job that I had. But I was in there, let’s see, a couple of years (no, not that long), maybe, almost a couple of years. And, one of the guys that worked for me (the Menning guy) came in one night and said, “Why don’t you go back to school, Jack?”

I skipped way ahead of the story. I had got out of high school in 1932. And I said, “Well, boy, there’s no way I can afford it.” He said they got a NYA deal going now which was part of the government pull out of the Depression National Youth Act. If you worked at the school, you would get paid enough to cover your tuition and part of your books and part of your expenses. So I went up (that was in ‘35). I went up to Weber College and investigated that and, within two days, I had made up my mind that I was going to check out of the station and go back to school. In the meantime, I had paid Grandpa off. I had finished paying him off. I didn’t end up with much money. But in any event, I quit the station and started at Weber in the Fall of ‘35.

And that’s several different stories. But, well no, that ain’t. See, that was my main starting job, but while I was going to school I also did a lot of work with the power-line people (Utah Power and Light). Of course, I still had the connections up there. Dad was still up there and, when they’d have an emergency at night, the big high lines out in the boonies, if the lightning had hit or something, the power line would go out. They would come and get me and I would go to Power and Light and go to school the next day. But I always had something to do, making a buck. And then, this job at the school, when I got back up there at Weber. Let’s see, I was nineteen. Hell, I was older than the average kid, and had a lot more experience. I was a year older than the average kid coming out of high school. But anyway I had enough experience that I got a job time keeping. And then they doubled my pay and gave me some more work around the school: record keeping. So I came out in pretty good shape up there. I was getting paid. It wasn’t just all going for books and expenses or, yeah, costs. I was getting some extra dough.

Then I was also supervising. Requests for jobs would come into the school for part-time help for school kids. I was in on the ground floor of that because I would be the one that would recommend the student that should get the job. So a couple of jobs came along for Saturdays. The Sego Milk Company wanted a guy to go around town and then what you would do is just (you had the permission of the store manager) go back in the storeroom and come out and keep the shelves stocked with Sego Milk. Our big competitor was Morning Milk and they had a Saturday morning milk-guy and we would see who could keep the stock the highest and biggest. Then there was another job come in for a Sunday job at a service station that was in connection with a coal yard and lumberyard. But they did keep the station open on Sunday, just the gas pumps. So I took that. I had the school job, the Sego, Milk job. I had more money then than I have ever had since for spending. But I kept busy. And then I would get these calls from Utah Power to get on these high line jobs at night sometimes in the winter, summer, anytime, lightning storms.

Q: What did you do with your money?

Oh hell, all that amounted to just about enough to keep me in clothes and some gas for the car. Yeah, there was never any surplus. To take Ma out, after I met her … but that’s about when I met her.

Well, I met her in ’33. But that’s a different story. But, yeah, we had money. Gas, food and clothes, and yeah, we would go to shows. Well, for a buck and a half you could go down to see a show and get a half order of chow mein (that was 35 cents apiece); that was 70 cents. Well, it would take about two bucks to have a full evening. See a movie and have a half order of chow mein at the Chinese restaurant and make it back and have enough for your gas to go home. But I am getting way ahead of this story. After I met Mother and started going with her, that’s another (story). But it didn’t take much dough to get along. I really enjoyed it.

Read the other Oral Histories