Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

The Air Force pay didn’t allow me to put much into it, but I did what I could until we got the road built –$100 here and $200 there. The bulldozers kept going even when we couldn’t pay them. It was a scary thing to drive down one switchback and back down the next one. The County was interested in what we were doing. We spent $7,000 and put in free labor. The County put in $200,000 improving the road so people could turn at the end of the switchbacks.

The uranium days were exciting, but I liked the jeep part as much as anything. When the uranium business fell off, Mary and I were taking care of the trailer court and my folks, too.

The fellow who owned the airport wanted me to fly for him, but I wanted to find the big uranium claim and get rich, of course. He told me to come back when I was done. I went back a year later and flew chartered flights for him. I like to fly and jeep (1 was never good with paperwork). Mary did the tax returns and took care of that end of things.

Some people owned Pack Creek Ranch and had a jeep permit from the Public Service Commission of Utah. They wanted me to run some jeep trips for Them and Dad instilled the idea of a good tourist business in Moab. Major Mikesell, from the Pack Creek Ranch showed me where they took the tourists and what we showed them and talked about. Mikesell was a retired Major from the Army and was the nicest guy you ever met! I went out on jeep trips with him and learned the ropes.

I flew part of the time and took tours out part of the time for Pack Creek Ranch and I also took care of our trailer court. I liked jeeping around Moab so well that when I realized I wasn’t going to get rich with uranium, I decided to go into the tourism business.

The owner of the Pack Creek Ranch decided to sell out and go back to California. I thought maybe he would sell his Public Service Commission permit and he agreed. He was leaving and figured he might as well get something out of it. He said he wanted $500 for it. Mary asked if we could buy it “on time”. He said, “No, ma’ am, you can not.” We had a couple thousand dollars in the bank, so we bought it for $500. We had to go to Salt Lake and have a hearing before the Public Service Commission in order to change the permit from his name to ours. We had a hearing in the mezzanine of the Capitol Building in a kind of storage area. We re-arranged that old furniture and that was our hearing room.

We didn’t know what we were doing, so the officers of the PSC very graciously told us what to say and we would say it and that went into the record. We got the name changed on the permit which allowed us to haul people who hired us. Mr .Young told me I should hire a lawyer to help with things that came along. I pushed him to give me the name of a good attorney and he told me, “There’s a young man looking for clients and his name is William “Bill” Richards.” Mr. Young was a nice old gentleman (one of Brigham’s descendants). I’ll always remember what a nice man he was.

We were some of Bill Richards’ very first clients. He was about to starve to death and was tickled to have us as clients, even though we didn’t have any money, either. Bill was our lawyer until the day he died ( about 40 years ). He would still be going strong if it hadn’t been for his incurable illness. Bill liked to come to Moab and we found that we had to have several PSC meetings to keep other people from encroaching on what we had going.

Our permit covered parts of Grand and San Juan Counties, but not The Needles country. Bill arranged a hearing in Moab where we were given rights to that area, too.We went to battle before the Commission on several occasions. One time Bill came down and we added Emery, Wayne, Garfield and Kane Counties ( on the west side of Green and Colorado ). This made us legal to go into the Land of Standing Rocks across the river from The Needles. They are so intricate, people can easily get lost out there.

The Union Pacific Railroad had a spur line that ran into Cedar City and they operated busses from there north to the rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zions National Parks. They applied to the PSC for a permit for the whole state. I contested that because UP was huge and I couldn’t compete with their resources. They had a hearing over in Cedar City that I attended and I took a friend with me, Cal Black from Blanding. Cal had a plane and flew us over there to Cedar City.

UP had a hot shot lawyer and they were going to wipe us up real quick. But they had never come up against as tough a nut as me before. Everything they came up with, I made fools out of them –we won. Cal said, “You are one tough S.O.B.!” I was fighting for my life! Bill was there and we went out and had a great dinner, patted each other on the back and had a good time.

There were many of these kinds of confrontations in front of the PSC. That’s where I learned for the first time that permits were everything! We had to have them to operate our business.

I had a jeep station wagon I used on tours. People liked to go and I loved to take them out to see this beautiful country! Before the war, there were no roads or jeeps. The war gave us jeeps and uranium prospecting gave us the roads. The two things made a jeep tour company possible, along with Dad’s interest in and promotion of the tourist business. Dad was a real booster of this country. The plains of Colorado and cow country of Missouri gave him an appreciation of Moab ‘ s scenery.

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