Oral Histories

Sam Taylor

b.1933

Sam Taylor

Q: Tell me about the school. Which one did you go to?

A: I went to the University of Utah with my first year on a fairly liberal academic scholarship. I had been an All-State football player in high school. So I got numerous bids for athletic scholarships from a number of colleges but not one from the University of Utah and that’s where I wanted to go to school. So I took the academic scholarship which was for full tuition and went for a year there. The fall and summer after my freshman year, toward the end of summer, my father had a massive stroke and wasn’t able to speak. He was hardly able to walk. He was in the hospital for quite a while, and so in August of that year, 1952, I chose not to go back to college. I took the newspaper over and ran it for 9 months until we could find someone to lease it to. Dad didn’t want to sell it. He just wanted to lease it. He always had the idea that he could come home. By that time, he’d been appointed to a state commission post, which was a full time commission job, so he and mother lived in Salt Lake for 6 years. When I dropped out, I lost my academic scholarship and so, thinking I had to have a scholarship of some sort to continue in college, I took an athletic scholarship at Westminster College. In other words, they hired me to play football. I found out that’s a terrible way to get an education. What had been a fun sport for me became not fun at college level. It was all business. It was kill or be killed. The traveling and the practice time was disastrous on my academics. The first semester at Westminster, I had a C average, second semester after football season had ended I got straight A average, 4.0. At that time I was deeply involved in studying geology, and Westminster had a great geology department. But I knew I had the military facing me. I came home that summer after a year in Westminster, took a job on a drill rig core drilling in a uranium field out near where the Rio Algom is now. We had good properties, but we weren’t drilling deep enough. We were only drilling 1,000-foot holes and Rio Algom strike was hit at about 2,000 feet down. So we drilled all that country out there. Of course, the town had exploded by then and the company that I went to work for, called Apex Exploration, had two rigs. The one I worked on the first two weeks on the job was run by an old Texas driller from the big oil rigs, and he hated the small rigs, but it was a good job and he liked living here. So he taught me a lot in two weeks. There was so much business that Apex bought 5 or 6 more rigs. But they didn’t have drillers for them so two weeks after I started as a driller’s helper, I had my own rig. But I’d got tired of working and waiting around. The Korean War was still going on. So one day when I was in town, (we used to work from 5 in the morning until 10 or 11 at night) we had to drill the full thousand feet; we couldn’t leave the pipe in the ground. I went to the secretary of the draft board here in town and I said that I’m tired of waiting and I know I’ve got this obligation ahead of me so put me at the top of the list. He said, “okay.” And I went back to work. One day while working on the rig not long after that, we had a part break and it needed to be welded and machined in a machine shop. At that time we had 3 or 4 marvelous machine shops here in town. I got in the pickup, threw that broken part in the back, drove to town, dropped the part off to be fixed, said I’d pick it up early the next morning or late afternoon. I hadn’t been in town long enough to go to the post office for a long time. So I went to the post office to get my mail, my accumulated mail, and one of the letters was from Dwight D Eisenhower. “Greetings. Your friends and neighbors have decided…” And I only had 4 days to report to Fort Douglas, Utah, for induction. So I took a quick 4-day scenic tour of Grand Canyon and Salt Lake and became a soldier for two years.

Q: So when you left to go to college, the boom hadn’t really started?

A: No.

Q: Then you came back in the short interim and things had really started to change and then you took off again?

A: And I took off again. And I was gone for two years. I requested overseas duty; I didn’t want to be stationed in the United States because I knew I’d be fighting to get back home on 3-day passes. I didn’t want to face that. Thought the time would go faster if I was overseas. So I got sent to the Far East and by that time the peace talks had concluded in Korea.

Q: Were you actually stationed in Korea?

A: No, I was there on infrequent occasions, but I was stationed in northern Japan and that’s where I spent nearly two years.

Q: And what was your job in the service?

A: Well, I was trained as a radar operator, because of my induction test scores. But when I was assigned to the small field artillery battalion in northern Honshu, I was put into a battalion that had an average education level of 6th grade. And I had two years of college and I could type. So they moved me right into battalion headquarters where I was made personnel sergeant as a pfc. And in six months had been waivered up to sergeant. I was personnel sergeant of a field artillery battalion and, as such, I did a lot of courier work. Some of those courier trips take either passengers or papers over to Korea. So I did get a taste of Korea; just enough of a taste to know I didn’t ever want to go back. But I decided when I got over there that I was going to make the best of it. I wrote my parents from basic training and said, “You know, this is miserable.” But the most miserable thing about it, even though I’ve been in miserable situations in my life, in my growing up years, I’ve never been in one before where I couldn’t say, “To Hell with it”, and walk away from it because I knew somebody would be right behind me. I continued that attitude and decided I’d get as much out of military service as I could. I did a tremendous amount of traveling in the Far East. At that time, you could hop a ride on a military air transport plane if they had room for you, to almost anyplace. I went to Manila, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, It was just marvelous. And since I was personnel sergeant and had supervision over my own leave records, I could take these trips and they would never be counted against my 30-days a year leave time. That’s kind of dishonest, I guess. We did it. The first 6 months in Japan I tried to cope with it, the second 6 months I was there I learned to enjoy. The last 6 months there, I loved it. In fact, I even looked for a job over there. By that time the newspaper back home was in trouble lease-wise. It had been run down badly. I talked with my Dad on the phone. He still had 3 years left on his state appointment and he didn’t want to leave. And he physically, after the stroke, wasn’t able to do much anymore. I said, “Well, I’ll come home then and run the paper for a few months until we decide what we want to do with it.” So I did. I was released from the army and retained in inactive reserve for 6 years in Fort Ord, California, which is not far from San Francisco. I flew home. Two days later, I drove my car, which my father had kept for me, to Moab and took over the paper. I couldn’t believe the size of the staff. The secretary came into my office the day after I came home and said, “We’ve got a little problem.” I said, “What’s that?” She said,” We’ve got to make the payroll tomorrow.” I said, “Well, do it.” She said, “I’m short six hundred dollars of having enough to cover the payroll.” I said, “ How much money do we have in the bank anyway?” She said, “Eighteen dollars.” Where had all the money gone?

Read the other Oral Histories