Tuesday, October 17, 2017

50 Ways To Leave Your (Drug Addled) Lover

Ogden, Utah's Union Station has it's share of problems with the homeless.

This is inevitable. It is an old railroad station, which means it is right by the railroad tracks used by some transients to enter and leave town. Plus, being a city-owned museum, it's public space, which means it attracts folks looking for somewhere they can sit down.

Or camp out. Union Station houses the Utah Railroad Museum, which means we've got empty railroad cars sitting around. Transients like to crawl into them and sleep, or worse. One set up housekeeping in an old caboose, even ran in electricity, and was quite put out when told her to skedaddle.

Part of my duties as a volunteer here is to walk around and pick up litter, and I find refuse from transients quite often.

One day I was doing that when I met a roughly dressed fellow out back, standing near some railroad work cars -- a crane and a snowplow. He told me that his girlfriend and he had been sleeping in the snowplow car and said would I please not throw away her stuff -- crafting goods she apparently used to make jewelry to sell. I told him to tell her to get it out, and that was that.

A couple days later I went back, her stuff was still there, so I tossed it all out, but I also found, scattered around on the ground, evidence that the relationship those two had was rather rocky: scattered notebook sheet listing no fewer than 50 accusations he had made to her about her behavior.

It shows they shared a very rough and traumatic life. The amazing thing is they still shared it, or did until this, anyway. It's easy to say someone should just leave a weird relationship, but if it's the only one you have, you may hang on.

It all seems to have boiled up for him, however, because the intensity of this list is scary. It hints at a long night spent waiting for her to return and him growing more angry as he wrote reason after reason why.

What happened to him, or her, I have no clue. They are probably both transients, living in a mobile world full of drugs and other bad things you and I probably cannot imagine. If you've ever read the book "Ironweed" by William Kennedy, or watch the film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, you can probably get a hint, a tiny bit.

The sheet with numbers 1 through 6 was missing, but the remaining sheets are telling enough:

7. Every time we argue you jump strait to "OK, I'm leaving you."

8. You hit/hurt (threaten to) me phisically.

9. When we make plans you never stick to them and then have some reason why you had the worst night.

10. 15 mins=3 hrs. An hour = 12 hours.

11. You disappear for hours with no warning and any explanation and a lot of times get angry or tell me it isn't my business when I ask you about where and what you were into.

12. I cant have fun or be happy if you don't have any drugs.

13. You refuse to introduce me to "your friends."

14. Right now its dark and I haven't heard from you in a few hours as all you said was I'm going to look for my phone.

15. It's a problem if I spend my money that I make alone on what I want.

16. H.R.E.A.M.G. Heroin Rules Everything Around My Girl. I will never come first to you unless you stop doing heroin.

17. You do FAT shots that make you act like you have mental retardation.

18. You are most likely going to overdose. It's scary.

19. If you take off in a car with three douceh bags that are all crushing on you and don't come back until the next day (with new clothes, a lot of dope) it's all groovy. But if I give a female one cigarette I'm fucking her.

20. you have 0 percent trust in me and expect me to have 100 percent for you.

21. In front of people you will call me a nigger, disrespect me and be condescending then when I get angry I'm the asshole nobody likes.

22. The phone I gave to you is off limits to me and you are selective with.

23. You don't notice or appreciate anything I do for you.

24. You always leave me behind with a GIANT mess to clean.

25. You tell me you cheat on me then say you were lying.

26. You don't value our relationship or me half as much as I do you.

27.You guilt trip me into paying you.

28. Your always mad or in a bad mood and only smile/have fun and be happy when not with me.

29. You sound unsure when you say "I love you" and almost never do.

30. You take out your anger/frustration for a situation or person on me when I have no involvement.

31. You call me stupid/dummy/idiot.

32. You call me a NIGGER (if my grand father were alive he would backhand you for disrespecting me, then beat my ass for not hitting you.)

33. You have no sense of humor and can't take a joke.

34. Whats mine is yours, whats yours is too and your stuff is off limits.

35. I found you in a hotel with Jake and think you might have lied about what happened in there because you know I WILL KILL HIM.

36. You dont understand that when I say something I mean it and you test that when we are fighting.

37. We fight more than we love each other.

38. You yell and argue when we could just talke and debate.

39. You treat 100 percent of people better than me and treat me subhuman.

40. You NEVER go out of your way to make sure I know you love or care for me.

41. If I were to say "quit heroin or I'm done" there's a problem, but you have said that to me.

42. You act like you are hot shit and I'm lucky to be with you and you are beautiful but have a lot of "baggage" and I'm beautiful too but have very little "baggage."

43. You never apologize.

44. You never say thank you.

45. You have given the things I do for fun a try.

46. You are unable to accept me as I am.

47. You think its OK to steal from people.

48. Its been hours since I wrote #14 still ... nothing and nobody has seen you.

49. You project your insecurities on me and tell me how awful I am for them because its looking in a mirror and not seeing what you want, so you break it.

50. You never help pick up our camp.

And that's where it ended. And, yeah, where they were camped -- in the cab of our snowplow -- was a mess. When nothing changed there for a couple days I assumed they'd moved on and cleaned it all out.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Big Camera, Bigger Scanner, Biggest Fun

The divide between film and digital is pretty wide if you don't have the technology, which is one of the benefits of volunteering in a museum.

Union Station Foundation recently sprang -- via grant money -- a new photo scanner capable of scanning, whole, an 11 by 14 inch print or even a negative or transparency, also that size.

For some years I've been playing with a variety of cameras that use 4-by-5 inch film because that size of film gives detail nothing else does, it forces one to slow down and ponder what one is shooting, it makes folks as "can you still get film for that?" and it's just fun.

I mean, can you honestly say you go hunting "for the meat" after you spend how much for the  truck to haul it home in?  Same thing.

So every now and then I haul out the Speed Graphic, the Burke & James Orbitar (with that amazing 65mm lens) or the Busch Pressman (which, like the Speed, has a 135mm Ektar lens) and go hide under a dark cloth while exposing film that costs somewhere near $1 every time I click the shutter.

Which isn't as expensive as it sounds. Six shots is a good afternoon's work. You take time to find the shot, locate the best view, situate the camera, calculate the exposure and finally take the image. It works out to be almost a zen thing.

Anyway, I took a bunch of these negatives down to the archive library this morning and spent a couple of hours scanning some in on our spiffy new scanner. I think I'm a long way from Ansel Adams quality, and certainly not tearing up the pea patch for content or inspiration, but the results please me and I'm learning the craft. Film is either Ilford or Arista (Foma).

SALTAIR EXCURSION CARS





BEGINNING IN 1893, the SALTAIR resort on Great Salt Lake was a favorite recreation spot for residents of Utah. The only problem was that it was located 20 miles west of Salt Lake City and few people had cars.

So, in 1922, the Salt Lake And Garfield Western Railway took ownership of the resort and built special excursion cars to take folks out. The open cars had ramps of wooden steps on each side and wrought iron framed benches inside. Folks would pay their fare and hop aboard.

The resort is long gone and the SL&GWR now just hauls freight, but two of its excursion cars are in the collection of the Utah State Railroad Museum housed at Union Station. The cars themselves are stored off site, awaiting funds for restoration, but I go out every now and then and take pictures because they're just cool.

These were shot with the Busch Pressman except for the third one down, which was with the Burke & James.  Here's a couple color shots to show what they look like today -- they're able to be restored since most of the damage is to the wood, which is relatively easy to replace.

UNION STATION







One of my favorite places to shoot is Union Station. It has light to die for and many fun architectural details that lend themselves to photographic effects.

The top shot shows a drinking fountain. Next down shows a lighting technician repairing the giant neon sign on top of he building. The third shows the Edward Laning mural on the north wall of the station's grand lobby (a parallel mural is on the south wall.)

Next is a friend, Mark Lowther, trying to hold still for a long exposure, and finally a wide-angle shot with the Burke & James of the whole lobby. This lobby is essentially unchanged since the station was built in 1924, one of the few interior parts of the building to make that claim.

OLD TRANSPORTATION

Hey, a theme!





The top photo is an old Hudson automobile, date unknown, that I found in rural Weber County. The rust is photogenic, yes?

Next is the top of an old steam engine sitting in front of Union Station here in Ogden. The engine has been on static display for decades.

Next, decked out in graffiti for "Kyle Kayla" is an old Bamberger railroad car. This is one of many interurban cars that used to ply the tracks between Ogden and Salt Lake City.

Last is "Daddy" which graces the Moonglow, one of the more tragic possessions of the Utah State Railroad Museum. The Moonglow as the original dome car of "The Train of Tomorrow," which was built after World War II and was supposed to attract the public back onto train transport with a host of modern conveniences including air conditioning, telephones and other luxury amenities.

Sadly, World War II's end also saw the decline of passenger rail. President Dwight D. Eisenhower came back from winning the war impressed with the system of autobahn highways criss-crossing Germany and decided to promote the same thing here. The Interstate Highway System -- yes, it was originally a defense program -- was born and car-happy Americans said good-bye to the train. The "Train of Tomorrow" fizzled. Its last remnant, the Moonglow, sits here in Ogden, victim to vandals and the elements, the museum lacking money to even properly preserve it.





Monday, August 7, 2017

The Standard-Examiner's Morgue Lives On At WSU

I know it's not nice to speak ill of the dead, but I'd really like a chance to smack Randy Hatch, and whoever else is responsible for this mess, upside the head.

And I really liked Randy. Still do.

A microfilm cassette
I doubt Randy, who died not long ago, made the decision by himself, and no doubt money was involved. Plus everyone shared an unfounded faith in technology that too many of us still suffer from.

Because when Randy, the then-publisher and editor of the Standard-Examiner, decided, in the mid-1980s, to do away with the company's "antiquated" clip file system of old news stories, he unwittingly condemned several decades of my town's news history to death.

Or, to be more accurate, inaccessibility, which may be worse.

I mean, the stories are sitting right there, in glittering black and white. On 16mm microfilm, in a special weird square proprietary cassette nobody else makes, the special reader for which is probably gracing the shelf of some thrift store, somewhere. Maybe. Landfill, more likely.

And those stories are indexed, of course, on computer files created in long-dead software, migrated from three or four different types of storage disc and finally stored on a single computer at the S-E newsroom which, I am betting, got tossed out years ago.
We've got scores of these things

Which sucks. The microfilm was used from the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, when a computer database was created. About three years ago the S-E changed computers databases again, tried to migrate the archive, failed, so that disappeared as well.  Reporters I talk to, now, grumble a lot about this, but the computer gods are evil and implacable gods, and here we are. I suppose someone can scan the film in, and make it searchable, but that takes money and who has that?

Meanwhile, that old system lives on. Good as ever.

At this point, may I say: God Bless Donna Bingham.

Donna was the S-E's librarian from about 1945  until 2000 when she retired. Every day on the job Donna would take half a dozen copies of the days paper, carefully snip out each of the local stories (being careful to match jumps), as well as any national stories with local import, and stick them all in equally carefully indexed file folders, stamping each story with that day's date.

She was building what newspaper folk used to fondly called the morgue. Thousands of dead stories,
A photo of Donna in the 1950s.
all preserved.

Stories about what? Everything that was in the paper, which means everything. Crime, illness, politics, businesses, the odd and the mundane. Over the years, Donna filed away hundreds of thousands of stories about thousands of subjects in a LOT of file folders.

I did some back-of-the-napkin math today. One banker's box of those file folders contains, roughly 175 file folders.

Just the news stories from 1933, when the S-E apparently started collecting these files, until 1980, fill 36 banker's storage boxes. That means 6,300 file folders. If you guess each one contains 40 clipped stories, that's a quarter million stories, each one clipped, read, dated, indexed and attached to a little paper glued tab.

They don't make people like Donna any more. She was always quiet, always dedicated. She married a fly-boy during World War II, he got shot down, and she spent the rest of her life building that library at the S-E.

She knew those files, too. If you asked for one she'd get a thoughtful look, go dig, and produce it. It might take her five minutes, it might take her two days, but she'd find it.

Time marches on. While I worked at the paper the management decided, first, to do away with Donna's tedious clip work and replace it, instead, with a slick new microfilm system keyed to a computer. This was in the 1980s when computers were hot stuff, the wave of the future.

The pages of the newspaper were filmed, then Donna and a helper would go through the film and type the story information into a computer file, which created a database of index numbers. Clap the film cassette into a special reader, type in the index
number, push the button, and your story magically appeared on the screen.

Very slick, for the 1980s. Donna's clip files, filling huge racks, were pushed aside. As the years passed, they fell into disuse. When the newspaper moved to BDO they were boxed up haphazardly, re-racked haphazardly, re-boxed haphazardly and finally stored in a dungeon-like room.

You know, of course, what happened to the 1980s computers and their software. As I said above, the indexes were migrated, but that only goes so far. Did anyone have time to re-enter all the data to new software?

Of course not. The reader for all that microfilm got old, then got replaced with something simpler that needed an adaptor, and God only knows where even that is now.

The S-E is hardly alone. NASA has had to dig through junk yards for machines that can read stored magnetic tape from early Voyager satellites. Even original tapes of moon landings are hard to read.

Time marches on, as they say, but those clip files Donna created had one good quality: They didn't go away. As any museum curator will tell you, paper lasts. Good paper lasts longer, and these are just newsprint, but they were still there, still readable. Whenever a new editor or publisher came to the S-E I'd be first in line at the reception, talking about those files' value for research, their place in history.

I also talked with Sarah Singh, curator of the Weber State University Special Collections, who started talking to S-E executives about donating those files, now moldering away, to WSU.

It took a bunch of time -- corporations never move quickly -- but last December the S-E finally found a way to donate all the files, now stored safely in WSU's archive.

Sarah took everything: clip files, negative files, picture files. All of it.

The clip files start about 1933 and go until about 1987. This is treasure beyond worth, but of course there are problems. As I said above, the files were moved several times, boxed and unboxed, then boxed again, by people who didn't pay close attention to the alphabet. Sometimes if feels as if the files have been shuffled, no rhyme or reason.

So the first job is just to get them in order, but this, in a way, is fun. I'm spending a day a week just sorting the boxes, then sorting the files, getting them in order again so researches can access Donna's handiwork. Donna's system was simple -- pre-1980, then post-1980, and there was some overlap during the microfilm period.

Why do these files matter, when it is possible to create a computer database? After all, some sites -- the Utah Digital Newspapers site run by the University of Utah is one -- scan whole pages and make them word-searchable. Who needs paper files?

Because it costs a lot of money to create that database. Plus, when you search that database for, let's say, Ogden Mayor Harm Peery, you will get a whole list of links to the stories. Each link must be clicked on, loaded, then looked at to see if it is the item you want.

Over. And over. And over. From 1933 until he died in the early 1960s, The S-E ran more than 900 stories on Ogden's cowboy mayor. Yes, I counted them.

That's a lot of clicking, and reading, and saying "no, not that one," and doing it again.

Or you can open one of Donna's folders on Harm, of which there are about 15.  You can scan dozens of headlines at once.

And you have dozens of subject headings in front of you at once. If you can't find the one you want,  you find one you like.

Today I was working on the "T" section and found "Tabernacle," which covers the LDS Church's


tabernacle in Ogden.

Stories I had never seen before included four about the history, and demolition, of the "Pioneer" tabernacle, built in the 19th Century and torn down in 1971. Interestingly, in May of that year, the S-E ran a story about the building's history and construction. Then, in September, are three images showing its demolition.

Sad, but that's history in Ogden, and it's all preserved in rows and rows of boxes containing rows and rows of musty news clips.

Thank you, Donna. And thank you Randy, and your successors, for at least having the good sense to preserve these. In an era when other papers are dumping their legacies in the shredder, that was a gift worth noting.

For me, it means hours buried in many, many stories of Ogden's past, all of them fascinating, if disorganized. But that will take only time to repair.

I like to think of it as job security. Plus plenty of material for this blog, eh?










Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How A Reporter And A State Senator Killed The MX Missile In Utah

The headline is clickbait, I admit it.

Nothing is ever simple. Many parts go into everything. National and international considerations were part of the MX "Peacekeeper" missile's life, and death.

Still, at one point in time our government DID want to base the thing in Utah, building thousands of miles of massively expensive concrete highways to nowhere for it. It might have happened, too, except that the silliness of that idea -- thousands of miles of highway nowhere -- did finally get pointed out. Politicians finally had to admit it was silly. The LDS church even had to admit, finally, that it was silly.

So the part played by that reporter, and that state senator, are easy to overlook, but were critical. Sometimes the tiny pebble that overturns the cart remains unseen, but still that cart is tipped.

The MX missile was a 1970s attempt to prevent nuclear war by building more and better missiles. If you are unclear on why that was a thing, go rent "Dr. Strangelove" and have a look. Missiles and mine shaft gaps: All play their part.

The idea was that the US would base those missiles above ground, in Utah and Nevada. They'd be put on trailers and hauled around on from one shelter to the next, playing hide-and-seek with Russian spy satellites. A vastly more full description of the thing can be found here (click.)

Since memories are short, and stuff that happened last year is ancient history, not a lot of folks remember this. I found a file on the MX missile while working at Weber State University's Special Collections library recently.

The library has acquired the Standard-Examiner's complete clip files, the paper files cut out and pasted carefully into file folders. I have the job of doing the initial sort on them--putting them back into alphabetical order after decades of bad storage and neglectful filing by careless reporters (myself included.)

Handling the thousands of file folders full of clips, it is impossible not to look inside and be fascinated. Newspapers are history in the making, and their morgue files were repositories of decades of fascinating stories, day by day, as they happened. When I checked out the file folder for the MX, a lot of memories came flooding back.

In many ways, the news coverage paralleled any major defense  program: Environmental impact is pondered, economic impact is cheered, people say it will be good or bad based, mostly, on whether it will be good or bad for them. Tiny towns in the middle of nowhere cheered the idea of massive construction crew coming to town.

And the military did its best to make it look good. It weighed heavily on the idea that the basing system would only cover 25 square miles. This is where Sen. Frances Farley, a democrat from Salt Lake City, comes into the story. And a reporter.

Sen. Farley was an amazing woman who had that very uncommon thing called "common sense." She also had a calculator, and when she was at one of the public hearings about the MX missile basing system she took that calculator out.

The idea was that the missiles would be in shelters dotted all over the Great Basin between Nevada and Utah. When the Air Force talked about 25 square miles, it was only talking about the 2.5 acres around each of the shelters, not the 4000-plus shelters it would build on 200 loops in the middle of the desert, nor the 5,000 miles of concrete highways connecting those loops.

What would it look like? The S-E did publish a map:

But when the Air Force is going on and on about a mere 25 square miles, well, who cares about 25 square miles.

Peter Gillins who was, back them Associated Press Bureau Chief, said he was sitting in a hearing on all this and happened to be sitting next to Sen. Farley, who had her calculator. He said Farley took our her calculator, punched in some numbers on roads and shelters and so forth, and showed the result to Gillins.

"This is insane," she said to him, or something similar.

"Stand up and tell them that," Pete said he told her. So she did. And she did again, and again.
In Nov. of 1979 she spoke to the Sierra Club in Ogden, and reporter Bob Anderson, at the S-E, did a great job of reporting her outrage at how idiotic the proposal was.

While there were "only" 200 loops for the missiles to be driven around, she said, there would be 4,600 shelters for them, each on its own 2.5 acres of fenced land.

There would be 5000 miles of road connecting them -- that's enough highway to go from New York to California and back again. While that might mean some temporary jobs during construction, she said, it would be a boom-and-bust deal, with maybe a few thousand permanent jobs.

Speaking of booms: One of the calculations in building this was that, if the Soviet Union ever tried to attack the MX system, it would be forced to attack ALL those 4,500 shelters in hopes of getting all of them. Ponder 4,600 nuclear bombs, all going off, within 500 miles of Salt Lake City.


At what cost? Estimates were $30 billion, in 1979, or more than $100 billion in today's money. I remember seeing promotional pictures of those highways out in the desert, showing a cyclist pedaling along one, the alleged civilian benefit of the things, but what cyclist is going to drive 100 miles to nowhere to nowhere on circles of highway in the middle of nowhere?

"When the Air Force tells you about 25 square miles being fenced, they're not telling you of 20,000 or 25,000 square miles to be fenced," she told the Sierra Club. "Those highways go to no place. What are they going to do, put a Holiday Inn at every loop for the tourist business?"

Utah politicians, upon studying the thing, started grumbling and asking more questions. Congress balked at the cost, and eventually the whole thing was put in missile silos instead.

There are those who say the LDS Church, in a statement issued in June of 1981, killed the racetrack system as far as Utah and Nevada are concerned. The statement (here: CLICK)  discusses environmental and cost concerns, but it also gave Utah's lawmakers much-needed backing to oppose the thing.

But hard facts help. A thinking state senator and her calculator helped put them into play.




A suicide story's snapshot of a life in Ogden

Newspapers don’t publish stores about suicides any more, the thinking being that it is a private affair and the family has enough trouble. When I worked at the Standard-Examiner, starting in 1978, the policy was to ignore them unless they were public.
Even obituaries, which at that time were staff-written, did not mention them unless you knew the
code: Obituaries for suicides said they died “of injuries,” and nothing more.
But it was not always so. As I was sorting out the old files of news clips from the Standard-Examiner now stored at Weber State University, I came across four full file folders, from 1933 to the late 60s, with dozens of stories of suicides.
It’s a tragic collection — people found hanged, shot, suffocated, sitting in cars, all the various ways. When a man named “W. I. Isherwood” decided to let a Southern Pacific cut his head off, the event got 5 inches of copy, complete with details.
So, tragedy aplenty in this collection, but one story went a bit farther, giving us a look into one of the characters of Ogden, those random folks who make a public contribution to the city being interesting, more human.
The story goes beyond mere details. Perhaps the reporter, feeling a big guilty about not doing a story the guy deserved when he was alive, felt it would be a nice tribute after he was gone, no matter what the circumstances.
John Thomas Vaughan was 54 in 1936. He was born in England, but lived in Ogden for 47 years. The story reporting his death, which ran Dec. 4, 1936, says he was one of the oldest taxi drivers in Ogden. He hung around Union Station, making his living during the summer by taking tourists for tours.
“Ride around the city, up Ogden Canyon and back to your train” was his pitch as he greeted tourists  who were wondering how to kill time between trains.
He like to tell stories of those tourists, like the ones who asked him to take them to the airport, then go on an airplane ride with them. “A keen judge of human nature, he was reported recently to have refused a ride to Luther Jones, now under death sentence in Nevada for murder.”
Lucky for him. Jones, according to a web site called “Murderpedia” was a bad sort: A resident of the Montana state prison, he was released, traveled to Utah in October of 1936,  forced a tax driver to take him to Montello, Nev., stole the cab,  held up three other men and ended up killing one. He was executed in January of 1937.
The S-E story says Vaughan’s normal custom was to work during the summer tourist season in Ogden, then take his cab for a vacation during the winter. The previous winter he had toured the southern states and Mexico.
But things got hard. The story doesn’t say what the specific problem was, but it says he was “despondent over ill health.” Police said he had crawled into bed, put a shotgun against his chest and pulled the trigger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Boring" history? Not when you dig in.

Quincy Koons does some research
My niece, Quincy Koons, spent a day recently with me in the Union Station archive, and we had fun digging through old city directories, old maps, old newspapers and so on.

"We'll hunt treasure," was how I put it, and we did, and had a great time.

One thing she said surprised me. "History is boring," she said, but she meant the history classes she takes at school.

She's right, though. I remember my history classes. We studied kings and Roman emperors, explorers and soldiers, inventors and warriors. I know who invented the cotton gin (Eli Whitney), the date of the battle of Hastings (1066) and the Roman emperor who converted his entire country to Christianity (Constantine.)

And I also remember, too, being bored.

Bored by the Crusades?  Well, yeah. I went to Catholic school where, amid the usual flurry of dates and names droned out by nuns, the Crusades were presented as some sort of grand noble march to "free" the Holy Land.

The nuns forgot to mention all the pillage and rape, the endless looting, the intrigue and double dealing, the conquest and defeat and suffering that is the part of any huge cultural clash.

Heck, did you know that the real-life model for Dracula was involved in the clash between Islam and Christianity that we still see today?  Talk to me about a guy who impales whole towns full of people, lengthwise, on wooden stakes just to prove he's bad, you will have my interest.

A 1942 map of the war teaches real-life geography
And that's the point. History has all the cool stories, but you have to get away from leaders, from politics and famous people to tell them. Sadly, far too many history books today don't do that. But it is the stories of the ordinary people, the people who did the suffering and fighting and bleeding and dying, where the real fun is.

Here at Union Station we have piles of boxes of stuff that was donated by ordinary people. When I told Quincy we'd spend the day treasure hunting, even I didn't know what we'd find in some random box.

A scary news story
First I showed her a Polk City Directory of Ogden in 1942. I explained how those directories showed not just names and addresses, but who was employed where, the names of people's spouses, where they lived and even a bit about how well they were doing economically.

It can also show who lived at every address in that year, I said, and Quincy immediately wanted to know who lived where she lives now. Easy to do -- just look up the street number, there was the name. We found out that the guy worked as a gardener at the old Dee Hospital, which used to be at Harrison and 24th, right down the street from her house.

Quincy was fascinated -- a connection to the past living right where she does!

Cover of the scrapbook
We pulled down a storage box I've never looked at labeled "World War II scrapbook." Inside was a treasure indeed, and one that Quincy, who is 12, could certainly relate to.

When World War II started in 1941, Reed LeRoy Roberts was a 13-year-old student in Grant Ward, Idaho. He was learning geography in the one-room school house, so the teacher told him to clip out stories about the war from the Ogden Standard-Examiner, following the war as it progressed.

Grant Roberts --  Reed's son? -- donated the scrapbook to us for safe keeping and it is a treasure. Reed clipped out stories, maps, cartoons and pictures. He wrote commentary on what he was learning.

Sure, you could find exactly the same stuff by going through microfilm of the paper, but the scrapbook personalizes it. You see what a 13-year-old Idaho kid saw, through his eyes. You learn what he learned. You are inside his head.


Quincy loved it. She paged through, picking out headlines, pictures, cartoons. She shot about 100 pictures with my digital camera. She compiled enough stuff to do a special report on her visit to her history teacher.

But she left still thinking history is boring. Which -- the way it is too often taught and written -- it is. But not when you dig in and find the fun stuff.

The allies rally against Japan

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Racism on the Rails? That Era's Zion Curtain.

Union Station Red Caps.
We all know that legally enforced apartheid -- separation of the races -- was common in the United States, including Utah, until the 60s, at least.

OK, longer.  We still have racism today. Ask any black person.

Ogden sees many remnants of this racism. Much of the city's black population, in the 1950s, lived west of Washington Boulevard. You can say "well, they worked for the railroads so they lived close to work," and you might be right, except in the 1950s the city was "red-lined." That line went right down Washington Boulevard. How do I know this? In 1978, when I was looking for a place to live in Ogden, a real estate person told me so in so many words.

They city's central business district was the same way. The south side of 25th Street was where the black businesses were, the north side was for the white. Never the twain met. The Porters and Waiters Club on 25th Street (south side) hosted world-famous black jazz performers in the 1940s because it was the only place in Utah where they were allowed to find a good room to sleep in.

But that was then. This is now and I have to admit, I am like most folks, I find it easy to let the mind drift and pretend that things weren't really so bad "here," where I am, that folks "here" were kinder and more intelligent and so on and so forth that the folks "there," wherever that is.

And then BAM!, it hits you in the face.

So I'm looking through railroad cookbooks. Why?

The railroads used to run really well-appointed dining cars on their passenger trains. How well-appointed? Real silverware, real tablecloths, real china plates and elegant glassware.

There are some amazing recipes in these things. If you could order it at a 5-star restaurant in New York, you could order it on the train. Oysters Rockefeller, prime rib, three kinds of clam chowder, whatever. The variety of foods on the menu boggles the mind.

Union Station Red Caps in 1946. Their "place" was set down
in rules and regulations.
We have a couple of these cookbooks, which are really manuals for the operation of the entire dining car, so they go beyond just preparing food. They also have detailed rules for operating the dining car, including personnel management.

And right here on page 10 of the 1927 "Regulations and Instructions, Dining Car Service" put out by the Office of the manager, Dining Car and Hotel Department, Ogden, UT., of the Union Pacific Railroad System, is this little nugget on where and when staff could eat:

"Train Employees (colored employes excepted) ... may be served at any time after the start of the meal when there are vacant chairs, and they can be served without inconveniencing or delaying service to passengers.

"Colored Employes will ordinarily be served coffee and rolls at 6:30 a.m. and supper at 5:00 p.m., they to finish and be out of diner by 7:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. respectively, when regular calls are made for passengers. Breakfast and luncheon will be served them after passengers have been taken care of for those meals.

"Colored employees will be served at tables next to pantry, which sections have draw curtains for separating those tables from balance of dining room when in judgement of steward it is desirable to do so from standpoint of passengers observation, etc., and which applies particularly to breakfast and dinner service to colored employes in advance of regular call for passengers."

So, got that?  White employees can eat during regular meal times, with the passengers, as long as the passengers can find a seat first.  White employees may be seen by the passengers. White employees are just fine to have around.

"Colored" employees, on the other hand, must eat quickly, quietly, and as much as possible out of sight of the passengers, especially during breakfast and dinner, when their appetites might be upset by the mere sight, the reminder of existence of, black folk.

DRAW THOSE CURTAINS.

A "Zion Curtain" for race instead of booze.

That's how it was folks.