Oral Histories

Melvin S. Dalton

b.1923

Mel & Ida Dalton

A: More of them are in Blanding. There is a distinct Palmer group in Monticello that is no relation to those in Blanding.

Q: Did you have to go down there to see her, or was she up here?

A: I had to hitchhike down there to go see her. I didn’t have a car or anything. We’ve had a good life though. I had to go borrow money to get married on and my uncle was ramrodding the bank. I always got the funny feeling that he was asking “What in the world is he asking anyone to marry him when he has to come borrow money to go on a trip?”

Q: Your uncle was the banker here?

A: Russell McConkie. Yes, he’s Faun McConkie’s father. Faun would be my first cousin. My mother was the only girl in the family.

Q: After you and Ida got married, you started the dry cleaning and where was it located?

A: Yes, It was located right out here on 300 East, the building is still there. My son uses it as a workshop and garage now. This corner house right here, the log house, and then it’s the next one.

Q: On 300 East, just off 100 North towards Center Street.

A: Yes, right.

Q: You built the building?

A: Yes, I built it.

Q: And started the dry cleaning?

A: Built it and went to school in Salt Lake for 8 months on dry cleaning and then started up. It was quite a lot of hard work, but it wasn’t a bad business. It got where the chemicals affected me internally and made me bleed internally and I had to quit. That’s when I went to work down at Atlas Minerals.

Q: I ‘m not sure if that’s one to the better. I don’t think any of them are any good. You live dangerously.

A: At least I quit the bleeding.

Q: I’m sure it was far more toxic chemicals at that time. Was there enough business in Moab for your dry cleaning business?

A: At that time, when I was in the dry cleaning business was when the boom was really on here in Moab. People were really coming. During those years that I was there, I had a good business.

Q: So that was in the fifties when you got into that business?

A: Actually in the late forties, I got into it. Probably got into it in late 1947.

Q: Where did you and Ida live at that time?

A: We lived in two or three places. We rented some apartment in Christenson’s down town and then I rented a little while from my cousin and then this little house next door, I bought it while I built this house.

Q: Just east of your current location?

A: I bought it and then when we had this house pretty much built, we sold it so we could put some furniture and few things in here.

Q: What year did you build this one?

A: I started building this in basically 1950. I built it out of ‘dobes. There hadn’t been a ‘dobe house built here in umpteen years. I just built the big style of Mexican ‘dobes. We liked it, it’s very cool, easy to keep cool, easy to keep warm.

Q: Was there someone around here to show you how to make them correctly?

A: No. I just did it myself, trial and error. There was a guy here name of Bill Tibbetts, that had made some ‘dobes in Old Mexico. He told me, and took me out and showed me some areas where the dirt was real good for making ‘dobes. One of these areas was on a ranch where Hecla subdivision is today. I got the ‘dobe mud just almost where Millers, where that big supermarket is, Boomer’s. That’s where I got the mud from. And I made a form and he let us use some of his irrigating water and we’d go spade some up; we’d run some water in it; and that night, we’d go over and put straw in it and get in there and stomp it all up with our feet and put it in forms. As soon as it would stand alone, we’d take them out of the form and tip them up on their edge so they can dry. That’s what this house is made of.

Q: That’s neat. What were the proportions?

A: They were 18 inches long and 12 inches wide and 4 inches thick. Kind of like a big, flat brick. They weighed 50 pounds apiece. I took and weighed one of them. When you look at the walls when you come in, you can see how thick my walls are.

Q: You mixed straw in with it; what were your proportions?

A: I just threw some in; the straw just helped to bind it together.

Q: I’ve never talked to anyone who’s made those, that is fascinating.

A: That’s a long ago past thing. We made them the old fashioned hard way, but that is what kind of binds people together, their doing things together.

Q: Did you have other help building the house?

A: Basically, just Ida and I built this house. I was scoutmaster at that time, too and ever once in a while some of my scouts would come over and help me a little bit. I can remember her eight months pregnant up shingling. Some of our neighbors hollering at me, but she wanted to do it.

Q: If you were in the dry cleaning business when the boom started, lots of people coming in, how did you see that as impacting and changing the town? What was the first thing you noticed?

A: The first thing that you basically noticed was that there was a real increase in business. Plus everywhere you’d go there were people you didn’t know and never seen before. I don’t really know how many people were here during that time, but I do know this, they slept in cars. I saw the two or three little cafés we had, I saw lines basically clear around the block, waiting to get something to eat. I had a tent parked out in back, drying. We’d been on a scout trip and got caught in the rain. In one day we had 2 or 3 people come in off the street and want to rent that tent. Wanted to know if it was for rent. It just kind of a sleepy little town and I think Moab handled it pretty good for not being prepared for such a thing. All of a sudden there were thousands of people here. Everywhere you went. Man! A lot of them had money and a lot of them had made money in mining things and a lot of them were just looking to make money from nothing. It was good for business in Moab, there’s no question about that. Moab went from what it was then to what it is today, that’s a big change, still going.

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