Oral Histories

Melvin S. Dalton

b.1923

Mel & Ida Dalton

Q: Now the people who came in, would you say they were generally as friendly or as sociable as the people who had lived here?

A: I liked them. I did, I never had any run-in with basically any of them. I’m sure there were problems that I didn’t know about, but me personally the ones that I dealt with and was around, I liked.

Q: Did they impact the infrastructure in any way so that it impacted you: water, sewer, and all those things. Were you on a central system at that time? Did it cause problems?

A: Well, I think the only problem that it caused was overloading the system. I do think it overloaded the sewer system, no question about that. Another problem, too, was so many people camped around that some of the areas got pretty messy from so many people and so few facilities to handle them. It wasn’t the cleanest place in the world for a while until they got kind of on top of things. Moab’s always been quite a progressive town, I think, and, as I remember, they pitched right in and did the things that needed to be done.

Q: Did most of them feel that they were going to stay in Moab?

A: I’m not sure but what most of them were just coming here to get rich. There was the biggest, wildest talk about getting rich. Well, and a lot of them did. A lot of them got rich overnight. Man, you bet. By the same token, a lot of them lost a lot of money, too. I kept so busy with the dry cleaning plant that I hardly ever had a time to get out in the hills to stake any claims, but what few I did stake, I made good money on.

Q: Did you have to work those mines?

A: No, we just went out and staked them so we would have a claim on them and then people would come and offer to buy them. We never had to do a thing except put some stakes out and record them down. My mother was the recorder at the court house and it was just a nightmare down there trying to keep all those claims recorded that they had to do. But it changed Moab forever in the 1950s. It just changed Moab forever.

Q: How do you see the influx as affecting the social structure, the groups, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and such, as well as the church populations?

A: I’m LDS and I know that it really affected our church. At that time, we had one ward here that consisted of a couple or three hundred people, I don’t remember just how many. During that boom, we went clear up to six wards. That’s a big influx of one church in one valley. I think that the same thing was true in the other churches that were here.

Q: Were you involved in any of the groups, the Lions club, the Elks Club and such?

A: No, I wasn’t. I never belonged to any of them. I guess the church kept me so busy. Well, I was young and put in the bishopric and then bishop and then all this other going on. Time is limited. I’ve always those backed those type of clubs and I’ve seen the good they’ve done in this valley.

Q: When did you move over to Atlas, was this out at the mill where you worked?

A: Right. I went out there sometime in the late 50s I went to the mill.

Q: What did you do out there?

A: Mainly, I worked in their lab, their control lab. We ran assays on the ore that they were running through the mill all the time. We had a steady stream of samples coming in. So they would know what to do in the mill, how high a grade of uranium and vanadium it was. That was basically what I did the years I was there, just assay samples.

Q: If you were there eleven years, was that when it started to drop off the first time?

A: It stayed pretty steady as far as I remember during those times. The numbers of people dropped off coming, the number of trucks hauling ore didn’t drop off any. Those were good, prosperous years as far as money wise in this area.

Q: Do you have a guess as to how many people were employed out at the mill at that time?

A: At one time, they had over 500 employees. That was counting their miners and their mill workers.

Q: That was a big paycheck for Moab.

A: That was a big paycheck. If you worked for them your paycheck was a little better than most jobs around. Standard of living went up. No question about that.

Q: And during all of this time your family was coming along; you were having kids. Did you have farming area here at all?

A: No, during that time, I’ve lived here in this same place.

Q: What got you from Atlas to running for Chief of Police?

A: I didn’t run. The Chief of Police is an appointed job. They were having quite a lot of trouble here; I don’t know just what all of it was. But there was a lot of trouble. At one time, Atlas had a big fire down there that shut the whole mill down for six or seven months. During that six or seven months while the mill was shut down and they were repairing it, I worked as a deputy sheriff here in Grand County. As soon as the mill started back up, I kind of liked the deputy’s job, but my job down there paid a lot more money. You’ve got one thing to sell, and that’s yourself. So I went back to work at Atlas. I hadn’t worked there very long when the mayor called me and asked me if I’d consider taking the Chief of Police job here in Moab. I told him, I would take the chief’s job for the same salary that I got down here, but nothing less. He said he didn’t know whether the city council would go for that or not. The next morning they announced on the news that I was going to be the new chief. Well, I’d told him if he’d meet that salary, I’d take it.

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