Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West

b.1916

Jack West

The night when the folks needed the car, we would take the streetcar down to the show and then take the streetcar home, walk up to her house, and then I’d walk over to Twelfth Street. It wasn’t very far. But we got along real good. Then, I mentioned earlier, in ‘35 I checked out of the station and started school that fall.

Q: That was at Weber?

Yeah, two years of college, and by that time I had gotten socially involved to where I really enjoyed going out and going to dances. Finally we ended up going to White City. They had a lot of name bands come in, top bands. We would go with other couples and have a real good time. But by the time I got into Weber College and got those jobs that I got (running the employment service and keeping time for the school) we got really involved in social activities. In fact, the second year I was at Weber I was Chairman of the Entertainment Committee. I really changed my attitude. But as a result of that, we, Helen and I, were involved in everything that went on, all the dances, except the sports activities. We didn’t worry about them. But we attended all the plays, while I was in one (a very minor part). But we really had a ball and Mother was really popular. In fact, some of the kids that graduated when she did in ‘35 went on to college. I was a couple years ahead of them in graduating. But, anyway, some of her acquaintances (high school acquaintances) were in Weber. So we really had a good time. And we had all this social activity going, and then, well, it just couldn’t have been any better. I mean it was just perfect. We got along so good, had a lot of good friends. Let’s see, that was in ‘35. I decided to go back to Weber for two years and, well, I hit the high spots there.

Then in ‘37, when I graduated, there was still no normal jobs for kids, even then. Oh, hell, you just ended up working in a service station or helping the farmers or something. It was still the depth of the Depression and during that time I did get a job (or at the very beginning of that). I got a job with the Power Company (Utah Power) for about a week or ten days or two weeks for a water boy. They turned the water out of the pipeline and then they had a big crew inside repairing all this mess from the inside. And I (I guess it was at the beginning of that when I first met Helen) worked there a couple of weeks and probably just before I went into the station. But, anyway, I earned 50 bucks (50 cents an hour) and bought me a fancy bicycle. So part of the time when I was courting her, I would ride the bicycle over.

That worked out good. At any event, things were going my way. But in ‘37 when I got out …. Well, I mentioned, though, that I liked math. I really enjoyed school and was not involved in athletics at all. When they finally had the awards dinner, or awards ceremony, at the end of ’37 (this is kinda egotistical), but me and a couple of other people got a block “W” and a sweater for scholastic ability. All the rest of them had to be football or basketball heroes. But we didn’t. I was totally surprised. I had absolutely no idea. I went to that assembly and they presented that to me. So I felt real good. Proud of the school for doing it.

But when I got out in ‘37 as I mentioned, there was just no jobs. When I say no, you could find some minimal thing. But I had become acquainted with Leland Monson. He was the professor of English and a real nice guy. Every summer (he had been doing this three or four summers) he would get a group of so-called graduates (he called two years a graduate…. you got an associate of arts degree). But he would line the kids up for (we weren’t kids by then, we were 20) and take us out to sell knit dresses for Intermountain Knitting Mills (knit dresses and blankets, woolen underwear, any of that type of stuff). I decided that was as good as anything. I could tackle it. I felt pretty confident by then.

One of my old friends who lived nearby and I had still associated with some was Joe Witten. He had been working part-time on the railroad. His dad was a railroader. And, boy, then the railroading went to heck. But in the meantime he had bought a new ‘37 Chev coupe. It was really swanky and he was looking for work. He wasn’t even on the extra board, the railroad. So I talked to him about this and he says, “Yeah, I’ll go along and come, and we’ll go together. We’ll see how it works out.” So he furnished the car and we took off with this Leland Monson, to get us started. We had made a couple calls to some of the towns around Ogden, Joe and I, to get an idea what we were doing. But we took a big sample case, had twelve or fifteen dress samples in this case that you unfolded, and then a rack came out and you could hang them there so that women could see them.

And we went up and settled. My first main job was up around Yakima, Washington. I immediately started doing good. God, if you sold a dress a day, you’d make ten bucks. If you sold a dress for twenty-five bucks, ten dollars was your share and you would collect that ….

Q: Mom wasn’t with you?

No, she wasn’t with me. See, that was the first part of June, I was just out of college. So I was doing real good and Joe wasn’t doing worth a damn. I was supporting him but that’s neither here nor there. He furnished the car. But Mom wrote me a letter and she says “I’m tired of waiting. If you don’t come and get me and get married, I am going to go marry somebody else.” But we were both so lonesome, it was sad. I felt good about getting the letter. And this Lee Monson had a brother-in-law who was working out there and his wife had recently had a baby about three or four months previous. He was coming down to Ogden to get her, so I arranged to come to Ogden with him. We were going to try to arrange it so that we could get married in Ogden. I would go back with him and Joe would meet us, and all this with no money. Hell, I don’t think I ever had over twenty, maybe once in a while I would get up to fifty, bucks in my pocket. But the weekend he picked, the Fourth of July came on the a Sunday so they celebrated it on a Monday. Everything was closed, all the courthouses and everything. So we couldn’t get married there because he had to head back Monday. We just left Ogden with he and his wife and this baby and his sample case in a two seat Chevrolet. I don’t remember what year it was. But you talk about being crowded, oh, jeese….

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