Oral Histories

William D. McDougald

b.1927

Bill McDougald

Q: But the railroad liked it?

A: Yes, for their fire boxes. They cross through all kinds of coal fields. They rail from Denver to Salt Lake going through all kinds of coal. Once they got their mining set up they were locked in there more or less because of their expenditures. The spur accessed the coal field of Rio Grande coal, that Sego was.

Q: So then you got talking about the Hilltop Drive In?

A: Oh, I don’t know how this came about but the Hilltop Drive-In was built during the uranium boom.

Q: It’s up above the Gravel Pit Bowling Lane.

A: The gravel pit is Grand County Road Departments. Yes, the Hilltop Drive-In and later on we had the one built down on the Howard Lance farm. People reside in this building. People came in from all over for the uranium boom and part of them were business people, including those who operated the Drive-In Theatre.

Q: So was that during the uranium boom?

A: Right, the group that built the Hilltop to the best of my recollection came in from Cortez. Max Day at one time ended up with it, and operated it till closure. Dee Tranter at one time had something to do with those theaters, he lives right nearby, and operated one of them for a few years. A family came in from Carbon County, Joyce Ossana’s folks and family and Tom Ossana. Their folks, Tom’s folks, had something to do with the theaters, I remember that.

Q: Two drive-ins at the same time?

A: At one time they were both operated. The one up on the hill top closed first. The lower theater only opened at mixed times per week and finally closed. Television had taken over.

Q: Shirley Lance lives nearby?

A: Yes, she’s a daughter-in-law of Howard Lance.

Q: What’s Shirley husband’s name?

A: I think it’s DeLoy. I’ve known them forever.

Q: The valley had the two drive-ins plus the one in town?

A: Theaters, yes. The one on Howard Lance’s lasted longer and the little theater downtown, the old Ides Theater. That goes back to the Clark family that lived and has the famous tree up on the corner of 3rd East and 1st South that they finally took down that they took sections from. Mrs. Clark operated the theater. She came from the Uintah Basin, Neva Kirk, daughter and family raised in Moab. Husband had a Brown’s Hole Ranch and later on located in the La Sal Mountains. The Ides was our entertainment.

Q: Did the little theater in front of the second drive-in come later?

A: Yes, it was the last constructed and the last to operate in the valley. Well, you realize that our little town was pulled from 1200-1500 people to up into the thousands. In the early sixties they built the Holiday Haven for this purpose, 100 plus spaces, this was all part of the latest boom. This town expanded in a very short time to 6000 or 7000 people. I’ve heard 8(000) and I’ve heard 9(000) for the valley but the whole county is just around 9(000) now. Moab expanded by leaps and bounds and the highest population that I can recollect for Moab was probably in the early sixties during construction of the Cane Creek Potash complex.

Q: Were you in on that?

A: No, except as an elected official.

Q: So it was sort of at the same time the uranium was going strong?

A: A second main uranium boom came in the late sixties. It came along at the end there and it came along in the early seventies. They attempted mining for years. When they tunneled into the center of the anticline it intercepted distorted and overturned beds. So your continuous miners used in the coal fields couldn’t stay on grade of beds. The whole center of the anticline was taboo and lost mining. They abandoned the mine, and lost $60 million. They went to solution wells in the old workings and then they’ve been harvesting potash ever since that way. They have recouped a lot of their losses. They pump the river water down the wells, it loads with brine and they pump the brine out, piping to the evaporative ponds. They add a beautiful color down there and it makes it look pretty but it’s supposed to expedite the evaporation. But you look off of Dead Horse Point down there and see the beautiful blue ponds and it’s created by chemical additives to increase precipitation into beds to be harvested.

Q: I guess you know we have the condensed version of the potash operation they used to have up on Dead Horse Point down at the Museum. And we have pictures from Hellmut Doelling.

A: Hellmut is very capable in salts and a real fine associate. He’s another Lee Stokes to me, Hellmut is. Lee was one of my professors at the University of Utah and I’ve had an opportunity to work with Hellmut and he’s another Lee Stokes as far as I’m concerned. Lee Stokes is one of the greatest professors I ever met. Lee was a Jurassic Morrison dinosaur expert. He also was a real well-equipped stratigrapher and Morrison salt wash uranium deposit expert. We have reviewed a number of Stokes’ publications. Dr. Stokes has to be one of the top three geologic authorities and teacher of Utah Geology. He consulted for the USAEC on Morrison deposits. My first college classes relating to uranium-vanadium deposits of southeastern Utah were offered by Dr. Stokes.

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My professional life covered some 36 years as an Exploration Geologist – USAEC 2 years, Consulting Geologist 34 years. I was a uranium scientist. This experience ended with the uranium industry in the Four Corners region in 1988.

My political life covered some 40 years – 4 years Moab City Planning Commission, 32 years as Moab City Councilman, and 4 years as Mayor of Moab City.

My public boards and commissions included Moab Planning Commission, County-City Consolidation, Higher Education Council. Grand County Conservancy District and Agency, Department of Workforce Services Council, Association of Governments: Grand, Emery, San Juan, and Carbon County, and the Utah League for Cities and Towns.

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