Oral Histories

Sam Taylor


Sam Taylor

A: Adrien’s father came here as the first professional city manager that this town ever had. And they desperately needed him because there was water shortage on top of water shortage. I think we had 3 or 4 different water systems in 4 or 5 years because we were constantly running out of water. The school system was terribly impacted. They were in double sessions and still had 50 and 60 kids in a classroom. My aunt, Helen M Knight, was superintendent of the school system at that time and was able to get special funding to build the two elementary schools. That took a lot of pressure off. In about 1960, we had a very forward-looking city council and mayor come into office. The mayor was K E McDougald, on the city council were people like Dick Allen (David Allen), a guy who ran the lumberyard, Dr Paul Mayberry. They were all community leaders and willing to take the time to serve on the city council. It became very clear to them that the future of this community depended upon the availability of water. So they bought the Sommerville farm out in the valley which is now known as the White Ranch, and they bought with that about 600 acres of ground which contains almost all the springs in the valley. That secured Moab’s future in terms of water. I hear people talking now about water shortages and we need to conserve and we need to do this, we don’t want any lawns. I’ve got 1100 square feet of lawn. It’s easier to take care of with a well, a sprinkler system and a riding lawnmower than to keep the weeds down. I love lawns. I think this is an oasis. We don’t have a shortage of water in this valley. We have enough water in this valley to support 20,000 people and we also have 10 cubic second feet of water rights in the Colorado River that we’ve never used any of.

Q: And what about all of these, I would guess the majority were miners or miners’ families coming in?

A: And then mill workers. Of course, it took an awful lot of truck drivers to get that ore from the mine to the mill.

Q: Did they all have trailers?

A: To start with they had trailers and tents under a tree and things like that. Charlie Steen built the first subdivision. And then his milling company, Uranium Reduction Company, built Palisades Subdivision around my first home. And then private developers started building subdivisions. So Moab became kind of a spoke and wheel town with the old part of town remaining about like it was and totally surrounded by subdivisions. As they developed the subdivisions they got better. Because the city council saw to it, they made sure that the proper water and sewer lines went in. They kept revising the subdivision ordinances so that proper setbacks were maintained, and proper lot sizes were maintained. Every time they revised these subdivision ordinances they made it a little tougher to build or sell homes. The builders said, “ Oh, we’ll never build another house in Moab.” But they kept building them. The last time it was revised, the major revision was to require sidewalks. Anywhere around this town you had to walk in the street. When we said, “Now you have to put in sidewalks in your subdivisions,” they said, “Oh, we’ll never build another house in this town.” But they kept building.

Q: How about restaurants and retail stores? You (referring to the T-I newspaper office) weren’t even located here, were you?

A: No, we built this building (it’s now the Map Store) in 1948.

Q: So you had moved to this location?

A: Yes, and this building here that we’re in now (the larger part) was built by my father as a rental. He built it under a ten-year lease to a jeweler from Colorado, who ran a jewelry and gift shop here. After his lease was up, I rented it, and then I’d need more space so I’d redo the lease and steal a little bit more of their space until it finally got to the point that I told the lady that ran the dress shop here, “ I’ve got to have the whole damn building.” That happened when electronics took over. We got into our first computers and I had tons and tons of old iron printing equipment in the back of that other building there. I didn’t see anyplace clean and neat that I could put the computer systems. We moved over here and pretty much abandoned that building on the other side, except for storage and gradually got rid of all that old iron junk.

Q: Another thing that we are particularly interested in is how the newcomers impacted the social structures of the town, everything from politics, which you have mentioned, to social clubs, church gatherings, entertainment?

A: One of the things I’ve always liked about Moab, even back in the 40s, was that it was very open and welcoming to new people. We even had a number of Japanese families relocated here during World War II and they were accepted into the main stream. I had one of the boys in my class at school, fine people. Hard working people. Instead of shunning the newcomers, we kind of made them welcome. We had a saying in those old days, during the boom years, “When you first move to Moab, we’re going to put you on probation for six months, the second six months we’re going to let you get involved a little bit. If you can make it through that first year, you can run for office, you can serve on the councils and boards, you can do anything you want to. If you can survive five years here, we’ll call you a native.”

Read the other Oral Histories