Oral Histories

Melvin S. Dalton

b.1923

Mel & Ida Dalton

A: Yeah, I was in charge of the security out at Atlas Mill. I was in charge of their security of their buildings in Grand Junction and then they sent me to Reno. They were buying a lab and some other equipment down there and they sent me down to set up a deal so it could all be protected until they took it over. So I was just kind of basically in charge. My duties; I probably worked 2 days at the mill and the rest of the time out to the mines. I mean they had millions of dollars in equipment out to all their mines. We needed to take a look at it once in awhile to see if it was all still there. I really enjoyed that job.

Q: Did you have a force of men that worked for you, and how big a force?

A: I did have security guards at the mill, 24 hours each day, but not at the mines. About half of the guards were women. I just pretty much had the mines to myself. It gave me a chance to get acquainted with all the mine people and I’d get acquainted with a lot of country where all their mines were. It was just a good experience for me.

Q: When you were police chief you probably served under a number of mayors and that was probably a certain amount of political pushing and pulling?

A: There’s always that. If you are going to be a police chief, you’re going to be pushed and pulled around by the political process. That’s just part of it. Mainly I worked with Winford Bunce and Harold Jacobs.

Q: And then when you went to Atlas you were in a more stable position?

A: No politics there.

Q: And then you retired from Atlas?

A: Uh huh.

Q: Have you ever had any government positions or worked on boards?

A: While I was working for Atlas, I was in the Utah Legislature for two terms.

Q: Representing Grand County?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you just travel up there while they were in session?

A: Yes, right.

Q: Anything dramatic during your representation of Grand County?

A: Well, there was still quite a lot going on in the mining up there. Atlas had 2 or 3 bills in up there that they wanted you to work on and try to get passed.

Q: What years did you serve in the legislature?

A: I believe it was1959 and the second term in 1961.

Q: Right during the prime time.

A: Right. Charlie Steen who kind of started all of this with his discovery, he was in the state senate at the same time. I was in the legislative side and he was a senator.

Q: Did you like being in politics?

A: Well, yes and no. It was a good experience for me and I enjoyed it. I didn’t like being away from home all that time. I don’t know, when it gets down to working out and trading votes and you do this and I’ll do that, some of that gets a little ha ha ha. But that’s part of the game. In general, I looked at it this way; laws got passed basically that people wanted. Every year they pass so many new laws and I know they hurt somebody. But as I look at the legislature year in and year out, generally, most of the laws are for the benefit of the big share of the people, I think.

Q: During your time with Atlas or as police chief, when talking about interaction with neighbor communities, possibly as police chief, did you interact a lot with other chiefs, for instance in Monticello or Green River?

A: Mainly Monticello and Blanding and quite a lot in Emery County, which would sort of be natural. And when we worked drug undercover things, it was usually 2 or 3 counties working together on that. You know, if you don’t have some rapport with the San Juan people and stuff here; San Juan County sits up here just a couple of miles you know. I always felt like I worked real good with law enforcement in the other counties.

Q: How about interaction with other government agencies like the BLM and Forest Service and the Parks?

A: Usually that all came under the sheriff. My jurisdiction stopped at the city limits unless basically you were in hot pursuit or something where somebody was going to get away from you. The sheriff’s department was tied up with search and rescue and trails and roads and all that stuff and not the city with the federal part.

Q: Were the city limits the same as they are now?

A: Oh, they’ve changed some. Not all that much.

Q: Since retirement, what are you doing that is interesting, fun and exciting now?

A: Well, I still do some camping and hunting and fishing. I have some daughters that bought houses that had unfinished basements and I finished four basements.

Q: How about scouting? I remember people telling me that you were their scoutmaster.

A: I was scoutmaster for 23 years. I’ve been in the scout program for 50 in some form or another. I love scouting, a lot of great experiences in scouting.

Q: Have you stayed active as a scoutmaster?

A: I’ve stayed active in scouting until about 2 years ago. My hearing has got so bad I could not understand little voices. I finally told them they just had to get somebody else. It wasn’t fair that the kids would ask me questions and I’d have to run get my wife. It just got to where it was better that they did. So the last couple of years I’ve been clear out of it, but up until that time I was active.

Q: What do you consider the best things about Moab, either now or during the boom years?

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