Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

I took prominent group to a special place called Chesler Park. Chesler Park was named after a man named Chesler by the cowboys. It was circular with an island. (An open area was called a park in those days.) We cooked a special meal for them. Dr. Mayberry loved to cook and go on trips, so he was my cook on that trip. It was the National Park Advisory Board -very prominent citizens from all over the country. The publisher of the National Geographic, Mr. Grosvenor, was there. I got to know many of those people. Senator Ted Moss from Utah was there, as well.

All of these people were very much in favor of making the area a National Park (now Canyonlands) and this trip helped push it over. I took some travel agents down to camp there. Someone flew down and dropped a note from his plane that we were now camping in a National Park. That was his way of letting us know that the bill had passed!

My father was called “Father of the Arches” because of his promotion of the area. The Lions Club helped him get Arches declared a national monument. They asked Dad to join, but he declined. A couple of months later, he told them he would join if they would help get Arches declared a national monument. That happened long before Canyonlands.

At every meeting, no matter what they talked about, Dr. Williams would bring up the subject of Arches. Dad was a huge promoter and often guided people through Arches and he wouldn’t let them pay him.

The editor of the paper, Mr. Taylor, called Dad “Moab’s Grand Old Man”. Mr. Taylor took over the job of writing all the letters to promote Arches. He was very inspired and supportive of Arches himself and he was also a member of the Lions Club. They were representing the Lions Club’s views to show that a lot of people were behind it, but my dad was “the man”.

Dad took up rock hunting when he was my age (87) and he would bring them back, cut them with a rock saw and polish them. It gave him something to do when I was out driving truck. He’d stay out all day and walked all the way from the highway to Arches, and then he carried rocks back. He never wanted me to pick him up. All he had was a lunch and some water .

Dad had a walking stick and he’d use it to stop people to get a ride back to town. People were so proud that they gave Dad a lift and they’d tell me stories. They said it was like they were the first people to fly to the moon! They were proud of that –and I was, too!

When I was operating my tour business, it was slim pickins. We had a trailer court and I was doing some flying and got some clients to take on jeep trips, so we did ok. Mary went into the dress business with another woman and they called it Mary & Lucille’s.

I wasn’t good at marketing, but I got some good ideas from Harry Goulding. Harry was an old-timer in Monument Valley and friend of my father and me. His age was between ours and he was a good friend to both of us. Harry said, ” A good way to get business is to get writers to come in and write about what you’re doing and take pictures.” I followed Harry’s advice and it worked.

Mary started a travel agency and we got acquainted with other travel agents through the American Society of Travel Agents -Rocky Mountain Division. We invited them to come on river trips and jeep trips and they would advertise to their customers for us, which really helped our business. Mary went on long “fam trips” ( familiarization trips). Everyone there marketed themselves and their businesses to other travel agents. We brought them in here so they could see what they were selling. Mary found that many of them went to Europe to sell, so Mary went there, too. I went on some of the trips, but most of the time Mary went by herself or with other travel agents. We have been to Africa 5 times, to Argentina, Chile, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Japan and many other places around the world.

We got lots of Frenchies, Germans and Belgians, but very few from England. We never understood why we didn’t get many English. The Spanish didn’t have money to travel because they were re-building their country after their dictator . There was a girl from France named Sophie who came to visit with her father, Jean Pierre Pecon. They came to see our area and they called to make trip reservations. They ran an office in Paris and were scouting the area as a place to send their own customers. When we found that out, we didn’t charge them for the trips. They were the first big group to come and Sophie stayed with us at our home for one summer. We had a group that came on a regular basis that her dad sent and Sophie went out on tours with them. Sophie interpreted for the guide and tourists. We became so close to Sophie and Jean Pierre that they became our French family. Jean Pierre would visit interesting places at his own expense then go home and print brochures in his own language describing the trip. Then he distributed the brochures to other retail travel agencies to get people to go on expeditions. They charged a commission of 15 -25% for the trips they booked. Sophie got married and had children. She came to visit last spring with her husband and children. We had visited them in France at their home, too and they cooked French food for us, which is great. We had escargot one night, but I didn’t care for it too much.

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