Melvin S. Dalton
Interviewed 25 Sept 2003 by Rusty Salmon in Moab, Utah
Q (Rusty): What were your occupations during your working years?
A (Melvin): Basically, I ran a dry cleaning plant for 11 years. I worked at Atlas minerals, the uranium plant, for 11 years. I was chief of police for 11 years. I like that eleven stuff, I guess. Then I was over Atlas Security for 5 years.
Q: You are retired now?
A: Oh yes,
Q: Lets start with your earliest memories. How many children in your family and where are you in the birth order?
A: I was the fourth in the family of nine.
Q: Who were your brothers and sisters?
A: My brother was Bertram, then Grant, Naomi, Mel, Emma Jean, George, Ellen, Merle, and Anne. Now is that enough?
Q: Tell me about growing up in Moab.
A: Well, my dad was a cowboy and a rancher and gone a lot of the time. We’d lived on an old dry farm up at La Sal. The school only went to the eighth grade up there. Just had a one-room schoolhouse. When my older brothers and sisters got to that age, then they sold the ranch and moved to Moab. I’ve been in Moab ever since except for the three years I was in the service. I’ve lived here and my life was just kind of a farm life; we had chickens, pigs, cows, and horses and things like that. That’s pretty much what everybody had here in the valley. No oiled roads. Everything was all graveled roads then and actually very, very few cars in Moab when I was very young.
Q: How did your family get around?
A: My family never owned a car. We traveled back and forth but I’ve never known my father and mother having a car, never. I was a kid in high school before I ever got to drive a car. Shows you how much different things are nowadays. Kids can’t even walk around a block.
Q: Did you use tractors?
A: We basically just used teams. When we went over to La Sal and back, when we moved over there for the summer and back here for school, we went with a team and a wagon. We did that up until I was about 14 or 15 when we finally sold out over there. Our life was just like everybody else’s life; we ran around barefoot and sunburned. School was the main thing; school activities, school dances, that type of thing. I can remember when they got the theater here. That was really something to go downtown and see a movie. Used to be one of the highlights of our life: getting enough money for a movie ticket.
Q: What was downtown like at that time? How big was it compared to now?
A: It was real small compared to now but there are some of the old buildings that are still down there. They’ve all been remodeled. You can recognize basically any of them. Moab was probably around 900 to 1000 people at that time in my early life. I know that in our graduating class there were 23 people and we thought that was a big graduating class. Now they have maybe a couple of hundred in the graduating class.
Q: Which high school and schools did you go to?
A: I went Grand County High School.
Q: Where was it located at that time?
A: Mainly the old building right down here that the school no longer uses was the high school. The Central School was in some old buildings that has long been burned and torn down. We went to Central School.
Q: This is all before the Middle School building on Center Street?
A: Right, we played our football games over here. We played on dirt; we didn’t play on grass like they do today. Probably we had one of the last dirt football fields of any school, as I remember it.
Q: Where did you play in relation to the Goodman house and some of those?
A: The old Goodman house was right over here but we played ball just across where the softball fields are now. Sand burrs and goat heads. We were just right across the street from the old Goodman house.
Q: Did you know the Goodmans?
A: You bet. Used to do little chores for them. Well, cleaning up, weeding and spading; little garden spots and stuff for them.
Q: Then you joined the service after high school?
A: Yes, I joined the service in January 1942. I went into the Marine Corps.
Q: Right after Pearl Harbor?
A: Yeah, the war had been going about a year when I went in. I was overseas about 2 and ½ years out of the 3 years in the South Pacific. I spent most of my time on a ship – anti-aircraft gunner. All the big Navy ships always had a few Marines on them. I think that on the ship I was on there were 58 Marines aboard that ship. I spent all the time in the South Pacific.
Q: Then you came right back to Moab?
A: Yes, that’s what I wanted to do. I came back to Moab, met Ida, and built a building out here to go in business with the dry cleaning and got married. Been in the hole ever since.
Q: Tell me about meeting Ida.
A: I first met Ida the year I was 16 or 17. Her dad was cattle foreman at the Indian Creek Cattle Ranch. Her mother was working there, feeding the ranch hands at the ranch. I’d hired out to work as a ranch hand that summer. Ida was there helping her mother. She was just a skinny little broomstick of a thing then. I didn’t see her basically until after I got home from the service. She’d changed quite a bit and looked pretty good.