Jane Brown Dunaway
Interviewed by John Sillito
19 October 2007
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Jane Brown Dunaway
19 October 2007
Copyright © 2011 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
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The Utah Construction Company/Utah International Inc. Oral History Project was created to capture the
memories of individuals associated with the company. Several of the interviewees are family and
relatives, others are personalities involved with Utah Construction Company/Utah International Inc. and
some of the company’s prominent figures.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Jane Brown Dunaway, an oral history by
John Sillito, 19 October 2007, WSU Stewart
Library Oral History Program, Special
Collections, Stewart Library, Weber State
University, Ogden, UT.
Jane Brown Dunaway with Tera Farr
in the Weber State University,
Jane Brown Dunaway with Tera Farr
in the Weber State University,
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Jane Brown Dunaway (born
1928). The interview was conducted by John Sillito on October 19, 2007, in the
Waterstradt Room of the Stewart Library at Weber State University and concerns
her experiences with Utah Construction Company; her grandfather, William
Henry Wattis; her grandmother, Marie Stander Wattis; and her memories of
growing up in Ogden, Utah. Lisa Largent was also present during the interview.
JS: Jane, let‟s start by telling me who your grandfather and grandmother were, and
what you remember about them.
JD: Alright, my grandfather was William Henry Wattis, but he went by W.H. because
it was easier to say. And my grandmother was Marie Stander. I guess
Scandinavian people have lots of names, but I knew her as Marie Wattis. When
my grandfather was sick with cancer I got to visit him in the St. Francis Hospital
in San Francisco. He had cancer and he was in bed all the time, but I got to sit at
the edge of his bed, and he was glad. He liked children, I guess.
JS: How old were you at that time?
JD: I must have been between three and two and a half. It felt like such a privilege to
be sitting at the edge of his bed and he didn't seem like a big construction man.
And do I dare tell a poem that he taught me?
JS: Yes, please.
JD: Okay, this is for a two or three year old:
Ask your mother for fifty cents
To see the elephant jump the fence
He jumped so high
He reached the sky
And didn‟t come back till the Fourth of July.
That is my memory of when he was well and could talk. At that point,
grandmother was looking after him a lot, but in between she would take me to the
Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco. And that was sheer delight, because
they didn‟t have any fences and you could sit on the lawn. So she took me to see
the penguins, which she liked. She was such a lady and always cared for herself,
her hair always looked nice.
JS: She lived several years after your grandfather, so I guess you got to know her as
an older child.
JD: Yes, I also remember the funeral for grandfather. It was huge.
JS: Was it in San Francisco?
JD: No, the funeral was in Ogden. We went around to different places that he
belonged to, like the Lions Club. My grandmother lived up Ogden Canyon at that
point. She had a little house and my mother and sister were taking art classes at
an art colony near Salt Lake. I lived with my grandmother all summer and it was
a delightful time to be living near the Ogden River. Every morning we would go
get some sand and bring it back. It was our project. And she would tell me about
their trip to Europe and the little bit she saw before World War I started. For many
years I lived with her in the summer. Or, it seems like many years when you‟re
little. In the fall, we collected leaves and pressed them. Grandmother was always
interested in doing artwork. Not great artwork, but things like pressing autumn
leaves. Our family didn‟t have very much money at that time. My mother took in
JS: And this was in Ogden?
JD: In Ogden. On 24th Street; I think it‟s 853, but I don‟t recall the exact number.
JS: Near Monroe?
JD: Yes, right near Monroe. I went to school at Madison. And my brother and sisters
had also gone to the same school. Helen got to go to the private Catholic school
because she wasn‟t well. I remember that at one point, my mother packed us all
in the car and we drove to Las Vegas. My mother was really sleepy because she
had been driving the whole way from Utah and I wanted to keep her awake. Then
we got to where the guests of W.H. could stay and it seemed extremely elegant.
JS: So the dam was under construction.
JD: Just the very beginning I think.
JS: Let me clarify a couple of things. By this time your father had passed away?
JD: Yes, he passed away just months after my grandfather passed away. So, my
mother raised the four children herself. And we had a wonderful house.
JS: Here in Ogden?
JD: In Ogden, and it had been built by Mormons, so it had different doors for different
wives. My grandfather helped to pay for the renovation, because all the windows
were broken when they bought it. And we had a bedroom for each person, each
of the four children. And there were maids‟ quarters that I‟d sneak in to.
JS: Did you have a maid and help that way?
JD: For a while after my father died, but my mother had to let all the help go. I
remember different cooks and people that worked for us.
JS: Let‟s back up just a little bit. For the record, tell me your dad‟s name and your
mom‟s name. And I know this is not a very nice question to ask, but I need to
know when you were born.
JD: Oh, February 21, 1928. My mother‟s name was Mary Jane Wattis, and she
married this elegant man named Dr. Richard Brown.
JS: What was his specialty as a physician?
JD: At that time, they didn‟t have specialties, they were general doctors. He wanted
to go into a specialty. He had a grant to go back to Columbia to study radiology.
He couldn‟t afford to go with four children.
JS: So you had three siblings.
JD: I had two sisters, Helen Hope and Patricia. Patricia was eight years older than I
was, Helen was five years older, and my brother was four years older and that
seemed a huge gap.
JS: What was your brother‟s name?
JD: His name was Richard, too.
JS: So you were the youngest of the four?
JD: Yes, the baby.
JS: Well, I interrupted you a little bit to get that on the record, but you were talking
about remembering the help and growing up in that area.
JD: Yes. The yard was absolutely beautiful because the people who lived there
before had planted a tree every year. We had enough space, so we had to do
irrigation, which is a Utah way of watering. Once a week, my brother and I were
in charge of irrigation. It was fun to lift up these bars and water would come
flooding in and water the lawn. Little by little, my mother remodeled the house so
it looked nice. It was really beautiful.
We did have several visits to visit the Hoover Dam while they were
building it, and that was exciting. And then finally they paid a dividend. That was
really exciting because my mother‟s income was just from the school teachers
who paid rent.
JS: You said she had boarders.
JD: I was telling Tina about one of the teachers who taught in Pingree School which
was below Washington. And they all stayed friends, especially my mother and
Mary Belle who taught P.E. at Madison school. I do remember, early on, that
they‟d read articles from the New Yorker out loud and that they‟d meet every
afternoon for coffee, and my mother took courses at Weber. It was down near
Jefferson at that time. She got an “A” in alfalfa. She studied farming, so we
teased her about having an “A” in alfalfa. Time went on, and my mother and I
packed up everything and moved to San Francisco.
JS: About how old were you?
JD: I was probably about twelve or eleven, and I was really homesick at first for the
JS: Before we talk about your move to San Francisco, let me ask you a couple more
questions about growing up in Ogden. You seemed to have been lucky, I mean
there were other grandkids, but you seemed to have spent a lot of time with your
grandmother, which is still fresh in your mind. What were your interactions with
the other Wattis children, both the children from W.H., but perhaps E.O. or even
JD: I didn‟t know Warren. I saw [at the symposium] yesterday that he was an
intellectual and he wrote. With the other children, I had a friend named Eddie
Dumke. Eddie and I were ski friends because his mom took us skiing.
JS: Out here in the Ogden area?
JD: She would take us to Alta. She also took us out of school. I was not a terribly
good student; skiing was my choice. So Eddie and I were pretty young and we
kept in contact after I moved away and he went to boarding school, and
sometimes we‟d see each other at Sun Valley.
JS: What about some of the other Wattis kids?
JD: I was just about that much younger that I didn‟t have contact with them, mostly
with Eddie. But my sister Helen lived in Salt Lake and I know they had a neighbor
named Zeke Dumke. They were very close to that family, and other than that I
get all the genealogy mixed up. Tina asks me all the time for information. Eddie
married a young woman, younger than I was, and I knew her a little bit, and she
was very pretty. She was a Browning. And that marriage turned out pretty well,
quite well in fact. I haven‟t kept in touch. Tina saw Eddie at the last meeting, and
he phoned me and said, “What a delightful daughter you have.”
I also knew Edna Dumke. I really liked her, but as for the others there was
kind of a wall, especially after the other side of the company wanted to go into
mining and was finished with the ranches.
JS: Well, you mentioned that you moved to San Francisco. Let‟s talk about that for a
few minutes. I get the impression that was not a popular decision for you.
JD: At first, I really wanted to go, because my mother had been quite sick and in the
hospital there—at St. Francis. I was there with one of the boarders, the
babysitter, and I was lonesome. In September, October, and November I wrote to
the doctor and said I would like to be with my mother. But in that time, I learned
to ski and I was having such a good time that I got chosen for the ski team for
Utah. It was difficult to go to a very academic school in San Francisco. I missed
the mountains. For the next couple of years I went to boarding school.
JS: What boarding school was that, do you know?
JD: It was called Castilleja. It was near Stanford and it was a good school.
JS: If I remember, you told me you kind of took off.
JD: Oh, yeah, senior year I was afraid my grades weren‟t any good, so I climbed
down the fire escape, went to San Francisco and got my skis and a ticket and
rode the train to Salt Lake. When my parents found out, they sent a detective
after me. The detective couldn‟t get up to Alta because we were snowbound. It
was during the war and they didn‟t plow the road. So I worked as a waitress and
it was a wonderful learning experience. At first, I was supposed to help clean
rooms, but the Japanese help were much better than I was so I waited tables and
skied and it was a delightful time.
JS: Sure. How long were you up there at Alta?
JD: Until June or the end of May. I thought I should finish high school so I went back
to San Francisco and finished.
JS: Where did you graduate?
JD: It was called Drews. It was a school for people preparing to go to West Point and
JS: Alta was built in the 1930‟s so you were there at a pretty early period. What do
you remember of that?
JD: Well I remember way back in time that we would take buses from Ogden to go to
Alta. There were businessmen from Salt Lake using the chair lift which was still
mining equipment. I didn‟t ride on it then. I used the rope tow. All of the Ogden
people were part of our own club. We also skied in the area around Huntsville.
We would meet after skiing at my mother‟s home and she would have hot food
for us. And I said that our club had been named “Snow Basin,” now I don‟t know
if that‟s true or not.
JS: So that was before Snow Basin was Snow Basin.
JD: Yes, that was maybe „36 or „37.
JS: So, you feel like maybe you named the place?
JD: Oh definitely. So, it was delightful. At one point, this was quite early, we had a
traveling German group who came to my mother‟s home. They were asked if
they were Nazis and they said they were.
JD: So, this man instructed me in skiing and I thought he was next to God because
he was a ski instructor. In retrospect that‟s totally weird, isn‟t it? To think that they
could travel freely and then go back to fight during the war. One of the Brownings
married a count from Italy. During the war, they were worried about people
learning the secrets of our side. The husband of the Browning girl got picked up
and put in jail for going on an afternoon walk.
JS: Here in Ogden?
JS: Oh my. It sounds like there was a great deal of interest in skiing even in those
early days. Was there a lot of support for it here?
JD: There wasn‟t that much support. Not at first. I wasn‟t a Mormon so I didn‟t go to
church and skiing kept people away from church.
JS: You told me an interesting story about the difference between the Egyptian
Theater and the other theater. Let‟s get that on tape.
JD: Oh yes. My brother and I would go to the movie house that was below
Washington. I think it was owned by the Glassmans, but I‟m not sure. They would
give you a popsicle if you bought a ticket, or sometimes they would give you a
hamburger. After the movie, I‟d take my brother‟s hand and we‟d walk to
Grandmother Smith‟s home. She was married to someone who worked for the
railroad. Her last name was Smith but my father‟s last name was Brown. She
was very Irish.
JS: Do you remember your grandma‟s first name?
JD: No, I knew she was Grandmother Smith. And she was very Irish. She had
Cambrook Tea, and I guess Cambrook Tea was something they have in Ireland.
It was milk and hot water. With lots of sugar.
JS: And when you went to the Egyptian Theater?
JD: Oh, I lost track. With age you lose track, you know! When we went to the
Egyptian Theater, it was more “up town.” They had movies about flying airplanes,
but also they charged for the candy bars. It seemed like a very elegant theater
compared to the other. They had a sign saying, “Babes in arms free.” So all
three of my siblings carried me in. Every time the usher—we used to have
ushers—would come by I‟d hide. So, it was a small town.
Another good remembrance I had was going to the library. It was very
impressive. There was a lady who would read out of a book and we could get
books and bring them back and forth. I was told afterwards that they had
paintings on the wall by the Mexican artists. At that time, they were starting the
WPA [Works Progress Administration] projects of supporting artists, like they had
in San Francisco, where the Coit Tower was painted. Going to the library was a
real treat, but it was a long way to walk. At that time, we didn‟t ask for our mother
to drive us around very much.
JS: You walked or rode your bike?
JD: Yes, and went sleigh riding when it snowed.
JS: Did you? Where?
JD: Well, I was looking for the steep hills you know. We used to block up the streets,
and it was just delightful. I had a Flexible Flyer and it was totally fun.
JS: You moved to San Fransisco and lived there for a while. Did you come back and
live in Ogden at any time?
JD: Well, not really. I did come back once because it was war time and my sister
Helen, I think she was either at Berkeley or Stanford, and I came back to be at
home. Since it was war and there was a housing shortage, they had all these
soldiers staying at the house. I felt like it wasn‟t my home. Before Pearl Harbor,
we went and visited my oldest sister who was married and lived in Provo. Then
we went to Alta and spent Christmas there. That was a wonderful time. There
were young men from Cal Tech—a whole group of them. The lift broke down,
such as it was. They fixed the lift because they were engineers. Years later, I got
in touch with one of the Cal Tech men and he worked on the atomic bomb. I last
heard he was living in Switzerland. But that was a nice holiday from boarding
LL: What about your roommate when you worked at Alta?
JD: Oh, Mrs. Howard! Well, Mrs. Howard had worked at Brighton. She had a
restaurant and she looked after these young people who weren‟t Mormons. She
ran that place at Brighton for years before Alta was opened. When I ran away
from school, I shared a room with Mrs. Howard, and she was a wonderful lady.
She‟d been married to a miner and he had passed away.
LL: How old were you when you went to Hoover Dam?
JD: I don‟t think I was in school yet, but I‟m not sure. I might have been. I think we
made several visits. They probably arranged which families went at which time. It
always seemed so terribly elegant. Now I get vertigo, but we did go on those
elevators at the dam. I went to visit the dam about ten years ago and I didn‟t
even want to go across it.
LL: Where did you stay when you went?
JD: There was a special guesthouse when we went to visit the Hoover Dam. It was
for families. I don‟t remember if we had roommates or not. Oh, and then to go
back, it was a huge production to get all those men to work and we visited where
they made the sandwiches.
JS: In Boulder City?
JD: In Boulder City, and you would see all these—it must have been Wonder
Bread—it was all lined up and people were doing lunches for the men. I heard
that they wanted to work at night.
JS: Because it was so hot?
JD: Well, so hot and also they wanted to finish it. I don‟t know if they cared if it was
hot or not, they wanted the work done. And they invented the dishpans to go over
their heads for light. They had to have salt because their bodies would become
so dehydrated. One day we went down to where the four corners are, and they
said that when the lake was filled up, that spot won‟t be there; I put my feet on all
four corners. I had no idea about the construction and the building and the
cement. I learned later that they had to cool the cement, which was a technology
that they had to learn afterwards. And they had labor problems. I remember the
name Hank Lawler. He‟d been with the company for a long time and I think he
settled some of that.
LL: Did you ever meet him?
JD: Probably, because I did go there. They kept the office in San Francisco and I
remember that they had a spittoon in the office. Years later, I went to visit Ed
Littlefield and he had a really beautiful office but it had certainly changed from
JS: But you had some contact with the company even after you were an adult and
that sort of thing?
JD: Not really because I got married. After I was divorced, I had a boyfriend who
passed away from cancer. I phoned Ed and said, “I am going to Chile and ski,
just to get away for a time.” So I went to Chile and, of course, I got snowbound
and had adventures. I knew that Utah had mines, but Hoover Dam was long
past. I knew they had an office in Peru. I went to the office in Lima and they were
very secretive and wouldn‟t let me talk to anybody.
LL: What about in Australia?
JD: I was treated really well in Australia.
JS: By Utah Construction?
JD: By Utah; Ed Littlefield arranged for me to go.
JS: Oh, I see. Tell us about that.
JD: Okay. Well, we were late getting there, but they still had an office in Brisbane. So
all my mail had been sent. Because we‟d been traveling all through India and
Mali, my mail had been sent to the office there in Brisbane. They arranged for me
to fly to the area where they were mining. Utah had built the whole town, with a
school and everything. I didn‟t realize they were on strike. This man who took us
around looked like Gary Cooper. We had a nice lunch and he showed us this
great huge monstrous machine that did the mining. It was high tech for that time.
Well, he took us around and I just thought they were on holiday, but it was a
definite strike and Australia wasn‟t very happy about that. But in between, Utah, I
guess, had built dams in New Zealand and all over the world. When I watched
the news, I saw this wonderful lake outside of Geneva that Utah had built. So it
was worldwide. Astounding.
JS: You spent most of your life in California.
JD: Most of it. I spent about ten years in Europe while I was married because my
husband loved to ski. And he had been in the mountain troops.
JS: What was your husband‟s name?
JD: His name was William Dunaway. That was a dream that he had when he was in
the Army—to come and be a ski racer. So we did ski races early after the war.
There were hardships. We didn‟t starve or anything like that, but there was no
heat and it was cold in Europe.
LL: And when you came across the English Channel in the fog—that‟s an incredible
JD: Well, when we were first married we were still adventuresome and we bicycled.
And you remember that last year they talked about it being the rainiest year that
England had had in fifty. We decided to buy a boat and sail to France. Because
the Germans had sunk all the boats in France, we could sail the boat and this
was entrepreneurship, so to speak. Well, we bought this twenty-three foot boat
called the Siskin—it‟s named after a bird—and we were not qualified to do that.
We were really not qualified. So we met up with a couple of British people.
They‟d bought a sturdy fishing boat and they were architects so they had rebuilt
it. They couldn‟t get gas, but we could because we were tourists. At that point,
we‟d had all kinds of adventures. And I was happy to go along and they‟d sailed
before to Holland.
JS: Sure, and they knew what they were doing.
JD: They said the weather was really good and so we decided to cross. We pulled
them because we had gas and their fishing boat went by sails. The wind started
to come up and it started to come up more and more and more. Our mast broke
and I would work the bilge pump because of these huge waves. We fought the
waves for hours. They said, “We can‟t do this any more; it‟s wrecking our boat.” I
jumped onto their boat and they pulled Bill off and we landed in Holland with no
JS: Oh my. So you lost your boat?
JD: About a year later I got something from the FBI and I thought, “Oh, what‟s
happened?” Bill was off ski racing and I was in Geneva. A trawler had picked up
the boat. They found Bill‟s I.D.—his discharge from the Army that had lasted
throughout all that time.
JS: How long have you lived in Carmel?
JD: It‟s been twelve years now since I‟ve been back. I lived in Hawaii for quite awhile.
I was on the island of Kauai. It‟s a nice place. When the hurricane came last time,
I moved back. My excuse was to be near my grandkids.
JS: Well, that‟s a good excuse. And I gather you are fairly active in civic things there
JD: Well, more with the hospital in San Francisco. That one has been my project.
JS: Which hospital?
JD: The University of California at San Francisco. They helped save my youngest
grandson. He had infant botulism and the hospital in Carmel didn‟t diagnose it.
He got flown up and he stayed about six weeks in the hospital there. It was
during the Gulf War. They were saving the vaccine for the men from the Gulf War
if they got gassed. So I love that hospital. I‟ve been interested in the hospital and
the school, because lots of the children are stuck there because they‟re getting
JS: There‟s a school at the hospital?
JD: That was innovative at that time. The last time I talked to the teacher, she had
gotten a young man enrolled into college through the computer.
JD: Online, yes. So, I‟ve been interested in that, and some things locally. But I look at
Carmel and I think they have enough money. I‟m really pleased what the Dees
and Dumkes and the Eccles have done in this area. Unbelievable.
LL: It‟s changed in the last four years.
JD: Oh, definitely. I went by where my home used to be and I was heart broken when
I saw they‟d torn the house down.
JS: Is there was anything you thought you‟d like to put on the tape that you haven‟t
JD: Well, I just felt that Marie and W.H. had a wonderful marriage. And I felt as
though she loved me so much.
JS: Your grandmother lived quite a few years after him.
JD: Quite a few, yes. Oh, one thing I can say, she did keep in contact with her friends
from the northern part of Utah. A young man who was in the Navy Air Corps
came to visit here when she was at the ranch at Walnut Creek. That was where I
would visit her from San Francisco. He got leave to go back to Utah to bring in
the hay for two weeks. He was very handsome.
LL: And when he passed away?
JD: He lost his life in an airplane.
LL: Were you with your grandmother when she read the letter?
JD: Yes, she was really sad about that because he was such a nice lift in her life
when he‟d come to visit. It‟s hard for me to talk about death.
LL: And what about the homes when you would go to Idaho?
JD: Well, this is what I heard, because I don‟t think that I was born yet. Grandmother
would pick up the three children—my mother‟s children—and go up to Idaho.
This place was a homestead to give proof that she was there, so that they could
still keep the land. She loved the land.
JS: Well, one of the things we learned yesterday was W.H. was always out in the
JD: The extrovert.
JS: He was the extrovert. Was your grandmother an extrovert or was she more of an
JD: She was more of an introvert. She liked to do crafts and was quieter. So when
she was in that little house up in Ogden canyon it wasn‟t elaborate or anything it
was basic, and she loved it. She did like to garden.
JS: So they maintained a house in the city as well as the one in canyon?
JD: Yes, they lived on Jefferson. Later, the family had a big ranch which is now part
of the suburbs of Berkeley. She lived on that, because it was warm and nice. And
they built a house for her. I was with her when she had one of her last strokes.
Things were still primitive then; the only thing I knew, at that point, was that if
some one was sick then to give them a shot of whiskey, which is the last thing
you‟re supposed to do. I tried to get her on the bed and she told me she loved
me and I told her I loved her. And then I was afraid to tell my mom, at first,
because she liked to be independent.
JS: Your grandma?
JD: Yes, and then I did tell her that she‟d been sick and they went and it was a
massive stroke. She was in a wheelchair for a long time.
LL: How old was she at that point?
JD: I think in her middle sixties. She was quite a bit younger than grandfather. And I
think she was a good patient too, even though she didn‟t like being in a
wheelchair. I don‟t know if this story is true, but she went to work as a nanny for
these people and they were in Frying Pan Gulch, which is near Aspen. That‟s
where W.H. was working and that‟s where they met. It‟s kind of romantic that she
was a maid for these people at that time. So, I have said I should have a tape
recorder on me because sometimes you don‟t know what I‟ll remember!
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