|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
THE WAY ITT WAS 1920-1020 A SHORT HISTORY & AN ENCORE RECOLLECTION FROM THE JOURNALS OF VERONA STOCUS DY JIM STILES Editor’s Note: The following story contains excerpts from the journals of Verona Stocks. Shortly after Verona's death in 1993, her daughter Lynda showed me a collection of stories and journals that Verona maintained throughout her life; she called it "My Personal History." For more than a year, The Zephyr printed almost all of her journals, along with a wonderful collection of old photographs. The following entries capture the spirit and feeling of those two decades as well as any historian could ever hope to....JS friends talk about the First World War, they had all been in it. They were all Irishmen and they advised me not to marry him, they said he was a hard man to get along with and he liked to travel. We were married May 16, 1926 at Aunt Mame’s home in Moab by Bishop W.D. Hammond. At the wedding was Dad, Mother, Grandma Murphy, Aunt Mame, and Uncle Felix. We left for Sego right after the wedding. Bob had rented a house for us, all it needed for me to start housekeeping was the things we brought from Moab. If you squint hard enough, if you block out part of the foreground and tilt your head a certain way, and wait for the late afternoon light to cast a mellow glow, you can still find a bit of old Moab...Moab, the way it was. A part of the 1920s and 1930s survives to this very day; you just have to search for it. The Slick Rock Building was already a Moab landmark in 1920. So was Star Hall. And the Poplar Place. Our beloved Big Cottonwood Tree on First South that just recently came down was firmly rooted by 1920. But they are really just the ghosts, the relics of a time gone by and a time that could not possibly return, except If you squint hard enough, if you block out part of the foreground and tilt your head a certain way, and wait for the late afternoon light to cast a mellow glow, you can still find a bit of old Moab... Moab the way it was. perhaps in the form of a wishful reminiscence. And that too might be a foolish gesture. Living in the American outback of southern Utah in the early part of this century was a harsh and brutal struggle at times. Reading the history of those days can be somewhat bewildering—-while some dreamed of riches and always saw boom times around the corner, so many others endured poverty and the elements to simply survive. In that respect, how little has changed. And yet...what a simpler time it must have been. As isolated as Moab was from the rest of the world, by 1920 it was beginning to embrace the 20th Century. The first silent film came to town in 1912 and a library was established ‘in 1915. That same year, Moab Light and Power Company built a small hydroelectric generating plant on Mill Creek and lights flickered on (and often back off again) in Moab homes and businesses. Still Moab was about as far from "civilization" as one could hope to be and little of the Roaring Twenties was finding its wicked way to Grand Verona Stocks, circa 1920s County. As the new decade came in, what had many Moab citizens in revolt was a plan to change the name of their river. Until the early 1920s, the Colorado River was called the Grand River; thus Grand County. But politicians in Colorado started petitioning the Congress to change the name to reflect the river's point of origin, and on July 21, 1921, over the objections of Utah’s own pols, Congress approved the name change. Grand County was left high and dry by the new Colorado River. But for many other southern Utahns, changing the name of a river was not nearly as important as matters of the heart. In the summer of 1925, Verona Murphy prepared for a name change herself... T was a senior at Grand County High School when I met Robert Muir. It was the middle of April 1925. The way that happened was unusual to me then and thinking back I still think so. I took my younger sisters and brothers to a movie one evening, they all liked the cartoons. Quite a crowd I must admit, all seven of us there. It was silent movies then and you had to read what was going on. Some of the kids went to sleep. By the time I got them awake, except Nick, he was only six, and all their coats on the movie house was empty except for a small crowd of people just standing and watching me get the kids ready for the short walk to Aunt Pearl's home which we had rented. I knew some of those people and one of the women spoke to me she said, "wait a bit." I shook my head no and picked Nick up and we all walked out. It was rather embarrassing. The kids went to the ranch Friday after school and I went to a party. Uncle Felix and I played for the dancing. I got home about 3am and that lady woke me at 8am. We never locked the door. She said someone wanted to meet me and she was so persistent I finally dressed and went to meet this man. Robert Muir. She interduced us. I asked what the big rush was? He laughed and said he wanted a date for the dance Friday night. He was well dressed and had a nice car and not many people had cars then. After we talked awhile of course I said yes. He worked night shift in Sego so he had to leave. He did not wait until Friday, he came on Wednesday and took me to a movie. From the time I met Bob Muir I had a steady date, he came from Sego mid week and weekends. The roads those days were gravel and of yet very difficult. One time I was not expecting him and there he was. Dad had not brought us any wood or even worse no food. The kids were hungry and kept telling me so. It was too cold to sit in the house without a fire so Bob soon left. but he said he had no smaller change. When he came back for the weekend he brought a sack of coal, and as long as we lived in Aunt Pearl's house he brought a sack of coal. It had been a very cold winter and it was a wet cold spring. We went on picnics most times with friends and one time alone, usually out toward Kane Springs. When Bob asked me to marry him, I told him he would have to meet my folks. I wanted him to see the Old Rock house which had a dirt floor and a section had broken and Dad did not have it all fixed yet. It needed a ceiling. Mother had chicken and hot biscuits for dinner. We were eating when dirt started sifting in through the cracks in the boards. That experience did not change Bob's mind, he still thought I should marry him and move to Sego so he would not have so far to drive to see me. I would not go along with that. I had spent too many years working towards my graduating. Uncle Felix was going to give me the money for a dress for my graduation. Mary and Jack were there when we were talking. Bob wanted to buy the dress and Bob did it. I got a very nice dress Bob was there and took me to the dance. and oil---above all else, OIL--was almost an for decades that their gusher would come someday-—it was just a question of when. 84 LATE DEVELOPMENTS | in the MOAB OIL FIELDS Finally one did. Publisher Bish Taylor proclaimed it the "Greatest Oil Strike in State’s History," and it did look promising at first. The Shafer No. 1 well was located along the Colorado River on the Kane Creek anticline and it was a real gusher, shooting crude two or three hundred feet into the air. Before it could be brought under control the oil caught fire and destroyed the rigging and equipment. Once the fire was extinguished, water from geological formations above the well seeped into it. The environmental damage must have been staggering but it’s not even mentioned in news accounts. Speculation about the oil field potential died much more slowly than the Shafer No. 1 fire, but eventually oil faded from the front page. What was being discovered in southern Utah, in commercially viable quantities, was coal. And that’s how Verona’s new husband made his living... But first he gave me $10 to buy lunch for a picnic which he had just thought up. I told him that was too much from the Junction. T graduated May 8, 1925. In the 1920s, the search for minerals obsession with some Moabites. One bold headline in the Moab weekly Times-Independent after another predicted oil riches in the little town’s future. It maintained a regular front page update on recent successes (there were few, if any). But oil boosters in Moab insisted We had a lovely time. He was a worldly man, he had been in nearly every state in the Union and most of Europe. I was glad I had that diploma. The world I knew and lived in was so small. We did enjoy talking together, being together and as I liked history I understood so much he told me. I listened to him and his 1926. The sheep are looking good and a few lambs are big enough to ship. Bob is going around them and once again showing them to the baby. She too is growing and feeling good. Mary and Jack had lost their baby in 1924 so my baby was special to them and Mary had helped to make all her baby clothes. People seeing us all together would say she looked more like Mary than she did me. We all spoiled her because she was a good baby and seldom cried. She did have that hernia, and I did watch her carefully. Bob was a coal miner, one of the best. He cut coal, loaded mine cars and was a mule skinner. Mules or horses were used to haul the mine cars out of the mine. He made very good money, kept a little, and turned the rest over to me, telling me not to give him any if he got drunk. I bought the Sroceries and did not know what to do with the rest of the money, so I put it in the bank. We could have used some more clothes but we could not get along without, so I did not buy any. I sure missed my garden, house work was so easy for me, and I got pregnant right away and Bob did not want me to mop a floor. He said he would mop when the floor got dirty. It never got dirty because I mopped it every morning just for the exercise that summer. Aunt Pearl and Uncle Nate lived in Sego, so we visited them some, then Mary and Jack, Vick and Ethel came to work at Sego that fall. It was not so boring then. I should not say it was boring because usually there was a dance at the coffee house on a Saturday night. Some time girls I had known in school came and stayed with us for a few days, most uninvited but always welcome.