Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

We hitched rides with the Army and Navy to Manila where there was a HUGE, well-organized camp for USA-bound people; the streets even had names and numbers. We went to a Chinese theater in Manila and we couldn’t understand what they were talking about, but it was interesting.

It took 3 weeks to get to San Francisco Harbor in a troop ship. We ended up back at Camp Stoneman, the same base we processed out from. I walked past a guy and he asked, “Didja get yer steak?” He said that every guy at the mess hall was getting T -bone steaks! It tasted so good after eating Spam out of a can for so many meals!

I went to El Paso by train, back to Mary and then out of the service. I wouldn’t have missed this war for the world, but I wouldn’t want to go through it again!

When I got back, Mary met me at Biggs Field in El Paso, TX. We went to Wickett, Texas to visit Mary’s folks. We loaded up the car and drove to my home in Moab. We stayed in Moab a few weeks and then drove out to California. I got a job at the gas company, which was a tough transition from being a pilot. I stuck it out for a while there then I went back into the Army Air Corps (which became the U.S. Air Force in 1947), but things were different and I didn’t like it too well. I should have stayed in my oId fighter unit!

I stayed in the Air Force for a few years. When I got out of the military, I brought Mary and our new son, John, back to Moab. It seems like I’d never been satisfied with anyplace we had lived before. When we got back to Moab I knew I was home and I never wanted to live anywhere else.

My last station while in the Air Force was at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, TX. I got leave, so my wife and our new son, John, and I came back to Moab for a short visit. When it was time for us to go back to Austin, Mary was walking around the house putting our things together so she could pack them. Dad was sitting in a chair and Mary was going back and forth in front of his chair.

Mary said, “Well, Dad, I think you should come back to Texas with us.” After a couple more trips past his chair, to Mary’s surprise, Dad said, “I haven’t been to Texas for a long time and I think I’d like to go.” So Mom and Dad came back with us.

John was a little kid (fussy), but that didn’t bother my dad at all. He knew kids and understood them like no one I every saw! Dad didn’t care how early we started or how hard we drove as long as he could stop for dinner at 6:00 p.m. and then go to bed. He was always up before us in the morning.

We were living in a house trailer that was big enough for all of us. Dad was looking at his shoes and told me he needed a new pair of Army shoes. Dad had old Army garrison shoes that were 42 years old and cost him $1. I went to the clothing store on the base. The enlisted got their clothes issued, but the officers bought their own. A PFC said, “Sir, what can I do for you?” I said, “I need a size 12 pair of G.I. shoes for my dad who is 100 years old.” The kid looked at me and looked like someone had hit him with a board! He said, “Talk about an optimist -a 100 year old guy buying a new pair of G.I. shoes!”

Dad would not let people help him. He carried a cane, but only because it was the style, not to lean on. Mom and Dad flew back to Grand Junction, which was a big deal. It even made the newspapers -“100 year old man flies”. I got out of the service shortly after that.

I bought a little jeep and luggage trailer where everything was packed up. The car pulled the house trailer and the jeep pulled the luggage trailer. I was going to use the jeep for prospecting.

Dad and I built the Williams Trailer Village trailer court next to his house, which was the first trailer court in Moab. We hired plumbers and electricians, but there wasn’t any machinery to dig ditches, so the plumbers and I did it. A whole bunch of guys were digging, even little 7 year old John with his little shovel. My parents loved having people to visit with them in the trailer court. People always came in to talk to Dad and one day a little boy gave Dad a quarter because he wanted to make sure “Grandpa” had some money. Dad got a big kick out of it and he kept the quarter separately so he could show it to people.

Prospecting trips were rough with no roads. I had a pack horse and pack saddle. I loaded the horse and pickup and the rest of us followed in cars and trucks; there were 7 of us. We had to go a long way around the airport then west and then south. We ended up way down river from Moab. We had to go down a steep and dangerous trail called the Lathrop Trail to get on the “White Rim” level below. We set up camp there because it had a good spring. We prospected and staked about 35 claims, all of which had uranium. Some of the claims weren’t too good, but one was very good. Many other people had claims down there, too. There were no roads, so we had to build one. It wasn’t easy to build a road on the steep trails, but there was a cattle trail called Schaffer Trail with a nice spring. The cattle watered there and then spread out over the Rim. We worked out a way to build a road.

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