In 1966, I was a young kid from a different part of rural Utah. My little town was a hardscrabble coal mining town in Carbon County. I like to tell people now that finally being “from” Carbon County is the second best thing that ever happened to me. When the chance came to travel to Zion Park and work at washing dishes for 74 cents an hour, six days a week, I didn’t have to think twice. I jumped at the chance.
As luck had it, a couple of people from the same burnt corner of Utah where I grew up were also there for the summer. One was a graduate student “working” on a research paper about the local geology. He lived in a motel that has been reduced to a remnant of a stone wall next to the Cable Mountain Hotel parking lot today. And he had a car! So, after I had enjoyed the scenery at Zion Lodge for about a month, I was ready for something else and my friend was ready for some company in Springdale. Financial resources being what they were, Springdale was the intersection of his willingness to drive his car and my desire to go somewhere beyond Zion Lodge. It took several more decades before I actually visited the fabled Hurricane that was then somewhere beyond the horizon. But that time in Zion planted the seed which has yielded the harvest that is my life here now.
I can still remember those few trips to the big city. In Fay Cope’s beautiful remembrance, she writes about the Zion Rest Motel, now completely renovated as Flannigans. Back then, you could also get a meal in the tiny area that is now the office for Flannigans. I can’t remember the name of the nice, older lady who ran the place, but she served her guests in a formal English style that I didn’t see again until I traveled to Europe. Dinner was served on doubled china plates. She used a lace tablecloth, real silver and crystal glasses. It made a lasting impression.
On another occasion, we enjoyed the hospitality of The Driftwood. That was the premier dining spot in all of Springdale back then and it had the sweeping view from the rear windows that it still has today. There was nothing in my little coal town anything like it.
Before I left Zion after only a few months (to work in construction where you could get a real wage), I had been promoted to janitor. In that job, I worked at night and my lunch hour started at about one in the morning. I can remember walking out to the footbridge across the Virgin in the still, warm night; looking up at the stone towers of Zion; and wondering, “What would it be like to actually have a home in a place like this?”
(Originally published in the Town of Springdale News February 2013 as part of the Coming Home to Springdale series. See An Invitation to Share your Story.)