Carol Wattis Casey
Interviewed by Richard Sadler and Gene Sessions
31 May 2006
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Carol Wattis Casey
Richard Sadler and Gene Sessions
31 May 2006
Copyright © 2011 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
The Oral History Program of the Stewart Library was created to preserve the institutional history of Weber
State University and the Davis, Ogden and Weber County communities. By conducting carefully
researched, recorded, and transcribed interviews, the Oral History Program creates archival oral histories
intended for the widest possible use.
Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of
events. The interviews are transcribed, edited for accuracy and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewees
(as available), who are encouraged to augment or correct their spoken words. The reviewed and
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recording so researchers can gain a sense of the interviewee's voice and intonations.
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.
Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with
the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. Because it is primary material, oral
history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a spoken
account. It reflects personal opinion offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it
is partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Carol Wattis Casey, an oral history by
Richard Sadler and Gene Sessions, 31 May
2006, WSU Stewart Library Oral History
Program, Special Collections, Stewart
Library, Weber State University, Ogden, UT.
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Carol Wattis Casey (born
1939). It was conducted by Dr. Richard Sadler and Dr. Gene Sessions on May
31, 2006. In the interview, Ms. Casey shares her recollections of her family and
the Utah Construction Company, which was founded by Ms. Casey‟s
grandfather, Edmund Orson Wattis. Lisa Largent was also present during the
RS: Carol, tell us a little about your early life. Where were you born and where did
you grow up?
CC: I was born here in San Francisco right at the beginning of World War II. I lived
here all my life. I went to school here.
RS: Where did you go to college?
CC: I went to the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated in 1961. I went to
school right here in the city day school. I did not go away to boarding school. We
used to go to Salt Lake and Ogden on an annual basis—just after Christmas—to
RS: What did you do there when you went? Who did you visit?
CC: Well, we rotated between driving across the Nevada and Utah deserts the day
after Christmas, sometimes spending the night out in Winnemucca or Elko,
depending on what time we got off. That was in the days when it was two lanes,
long before the freeway, and we would go into Salt Lake City. Other times, we
would take the overnight train from Oakland and come into Ogden. We usually
stayed a week. So we would spend a little time in Ogden with relatives there and
go down to Salt Lake and spend a little bit of time with my mother‟s family.
RS: What did you do for fun while you were on those trips? Did you ski?
CC: No, we just hung out. It was in winter. I wasn‟t much of a skier. I think we went to
Elko one time when I was about seven. I didn‟t really like skiing that much. I had
one cousin on my mother‟s side who was my contemporary and I spent a lot of
time with her. My cousins on my father‟s side were much older. As I say, I was
the youngest of those cousins by quite a bit. My brother was the next youngest.
RS: Tell us about your father and your mother and their families.
CC: My father was the youngest of numerous siblings. I never knew my grandfather,
E.O. Wattis. He died just before my parents were married in 1934. I never knew
my paternal grandmother; I‟m not even sure when she died. He was the
youngest. My father was born in 1899 and he was the baby of the family. I knew
all of his older sisters. There was Edna; Marguerite, who was Littlefield‟s mother;
Ruth; Ethel; and then Mattie, who was considerably older. I didn‟t know Mattie
very well. I only remember meeting her several times. I knew Ruth, Marguerite,
and Edna the best. Ruth and Marguerite both lived down in Southern California
then, so we saw a lot more of them, and Edna was kind of all over the place.
RS: What did your father do for a living? Did he grow up in Ogden?
CC: He grew up in Ogden and he went, I believe, to the University of Utah before he
ended up at Stanford. He graduated from Stanford; I‟m not sure of the year. He
was born in 1899, so he must have graduated around 1922 or 1923. Then he
went to work for Utah. From the stories I have heard, he worked in Mexico on
some construction jobs down there. Then he came back, and, for whatever
reason, left Utah Construction and established an insurance company called
General Insurance. He had one major client and an office in the Mills Building.
He established that office in 1938 or 1939. He and my mother moved to San
Francisco from Ogden in 1938, I believe. I was born in 1939.
RS: He was probably pretty comfortable coming here after having graduated from
CC: My mother started out at the University of Utah and then ended up at Berkeley as
an economics major. Then she moved back to Salt Lake where she met my
father. They were married in 1934.
RS: What was her maiden name?
CC: Cannon. Her grandfather was George Quayle Cannon. He was a polygamist
family and she was down through wife number…I‟ve forgotten.
RS: How many children did your folks have?
CC: Just my brother and myself.
RS: How much older is your brother?
CC: He is four and a half years older than I am. He was born in 1935. He was born in
Ogden, I believe.
RS: What do you remember of growing up in San Francisco in the „40s and „50s?
CC: I grew up during the war but I don‟t remember anything about it. I was five when
the war ended. I remember lots of things when I was growing up, but nothing
particularly related to the war except one time when my mother was taking me
into nursery school. She must have been planning on going to the market
because she had rationing coupons in her hands. I looked up at her and said,
“What‟s rationing?” She gave me some response which I don‟t remember. That
was it. That is all I remember.
RS: Do you remember seeing a lot of sailors and soldiers?
CC: I remember one cousin, Ed Dumke. He was in the Navy. I remember him coming
up in his blue uniform, pulling his duffle bag. I must have been about four at the
RS: You have lived in San Francisco for six decades. What changes do you notice
CC: It is more crowded. Everybody has cars now. The pace is faster. There are a lot
more commuters and people coming in. The city is very crowded during the day.
You didn‟t have that. Well, you had it to some extent. I mean, the amount of
traffic coming over both bridges and up from the peninsula is just unbelievable. It
is harder to get around. The neighborhoods have changed. I was talking to
somebody about it today. We happened to be over on Polk Street having lunch
and there are many more restaurants than there were back then. It is a food city
RS: A lot of tourists are coming in.
CC: There have always been tourists, but there are many more tourists now. The
Fisherman‟s Wharf is much more developed than what I remember.
RS: You mentioned that everyone has a car. When you were younger, a lot of folks
didn‟t have cars.
CC: Well, if they had a car, the family had one car with which they would get by. I
remember friends of ours around the corner—she would get up and drive her
husband to work so she would have the car for the day. He would take the bus
RS: Now, everybody has got to have a car.
CC: I do still know people who take the bus home because it is convenient for them
and they live on a route. It is easy for them, I guess.
RS: Did you meet Marriner Eccles?
CC: I knew Marriner and Sallie.
RS: How would you describe Marriner and his relationship with Utah Construction?
CC: I can‟t shed a lot of light on that. I knew Marriner. I knew he was very involved
with Utah. I never saw him in action. I knew him more on kind of a social level
than seeing him interact in Utah.
RS: What were your impressions of him?
CC: I liked him. I mean, I was young and they were adults. He was very gracious, as I
remember. I remember when he married Sallie, which, I think, was in the mid-fifties.
I am not quite sure whether there was a previous Mrs. Marriner. I became
aware of him after he married her. She had a daughter who was about my age
and we went to the same school.
RS: I think he had children from an earlier marriage.
CC: I am not sure I have ever met them.
RS: David‟s brother is Marriner Val. He was named after his grandfather and Val
CC: I remember my father and Val were good friends.
RS: Did you meet Ed Littlefield?
CC: I loved Ed. I first became aware of Ed and Jeannik when I was ten or eleven. I
don‟t know when he moved back.
RS: He came to Utah in 1951.
CC: That is about when I remember meeting him. He and Jeannik were married. The
kids were little. To me, they always lived in Burlingame. We would go down there
every once in a while. I remember seeing the kids growing up. Jacques was
always down in the basement constructing his little war games with his toy tanks.
They were just kind of always around. We went to their house and they came to
our house. I think my dad thought very highly of them. They were good people.
RS: How would you describe Ed?
CC: Well, he was very vigorous. He had a great business mind. Remember, I was a
lot younger. He always seemed to be kind of in charge, but in a nice way. I mean,
he was obviously a go-getter executive, but he was always accessible. He was
accessible to me, which was nice, and he didn‟t necessarily have to be. Family, I
think, meant a lot to him.
RS: You are his cousin, but you are twenty-six years younger. Did that affect the
CC: To me, he was an entire generation older. He was more like an uncle than a
cousin, but we talked as equals. I obviously had a lot less experience than he
did. He took that into account.
RS: You were at Berkeley just as things were warming up in the early sixties. What
was life like on campus there?
CC: There was a Bohemian side and then there was the fraternity side. I joined a
sorority almost by default because the housing crunch was…Let me step back. If
I had gone to another type of college, I would never have joined a sorority. It just
wasn‟t my tendency to do that. But we did it because there was a housing
RS: What did you study?
CC: I studied French and journalism, neither one of which I have used. Berkeley was
great, don‟t misunderstand me, but if I could go back, I think I would have done
better in a small liberal arts college someplace.
RS: When it is big and each class has 500 students, it‟s difficult.
CC: I was overwhelmed and I was ill-prepared for the bureaucracy, having been
nurtured in a small, private school. So when I got over there, I didn‟t know how to
deal with it, so I just really didn‟t live up to my potential.
RS: Do you remember people in your family talking about Utah Construction and
what the company was like?
CC: Well, we would hear wonderful stories and anecdotes about Boulder Dam. My
parents went on their honeymoon to Las Vegas. Somewhere, we have an old
sixteen millimeter film that we found and had the raw footage converted to video.
RS: What year was that?
CC: It was 1934, while the dam was being built. Mom talks about riding up the face of
the dam in whatever the open box was that they took the workers up in. I
remember seeing photographs of that.
RS: Did your parents talk much about E.O. Wattis‟ role?
CC: No, actually. Most of what I know I got from books. There was a really good
passage in a book that was put out by the Copley Press called The Grand
Colorado that had pictures of them in it. I picked that one up when I was in my
twenties. I guess it was about a railroad…or they did something up Feather River
RS: Yes, Feather River Project. They built a railroad.
CC: Yes. By the time I became aware of it, they were doing things in Peru. My
parents traveled down to Marcona, which was nationalized later. I never went
with them, but they talked. They took several trips down there and became
acquainted with some local Peruvians. They were in Buenos Aires when Eva
Perón died; I remember that story. They went to Australia. I kind of remember
moving away from it after I graduated college. I married and moved down to
Southern California and I became less involved except that we started going out
to Palm Valley Country Club. That had been developed by them, too. Because
we lived in that area, our connections were continued in that vein. I never went to
shareholders‟ meetings—except the last one.
RS: The famous one in 1975?
CC: I guess. That is the only one I ever went to. My mother invited me. She said, “It
will probably be the last one, so why don‟t you come with us?” I had never gone
to any of the others.
RS: Do you remember anything about being there?
CC: I remember Ed getting up to speak. I remember there were some cousins there
and I don‟t remember much else.
RS: Do you remember when the person from the W.H. Wattis side got up and said,
“We‟d have a moment of silence for the founder of the company, W.H. Wattis?”
CC: I don‟t remember.
GS: There was a moment of silence as everyone looked around. This is a tough
question and you are free not to answer it, but one of the questions that
bedeviled me when I was working on this book was: You have these two
brothers, E.O. and W.H., and they are like the same person. Then, as time
passes into the forties and fifties, you see the two families become very
estranged. Do you have any sense of that at all? Sometimes you ask people and
they say “Well, I won‟t talk about it.”
CC: I don‟t know anything about the W.H. side. I know he died before the dam was
finished. And then E.O. died right in the middle of the project.
GS: So, you were not aware of the W.H. people feeling estranged from the E.O.
people or anything?
CC: No, I was unaware of them completely. Other cousins may know more. What was
the source of it?
RS: Well, there were some disagreements over leadership, and then the W.H. people
sold their stock in the „40s, just before it began to go up.
CC: Who did they sell it to?
RS: I probably could have told you once, but I don‟t remember now. There was
always tension among the children, who had been cousins, over who founded
the company and who was the real powerhouse in it. It is so silly because these
two men were the same man. They had a joint checking account until they were
forty. That is how close they were.
CC: So what led to the estrangement?
RS: Disagreements about leadership.
CC: They themselves disagreed or the family members disagreed?
RS: Well, Marriner was involved in it. It is all in the book. When the two brothers died,
Marriner kind of became the pilot force beneath it. The Eccles were major
investors. But he was off in Washington and the E.O. people kind of were in
attendance and there were some issues that occurred with leadership in various
branches of the company in the late „40s. And then, of course, Marriner brought
in Ed in 1951.
CC: I remember hearing stories about things going on in the late-„40s. It was about
the time when…Who was Ed‟s predecessor?
RS: Allen D. Christensen.
CC: I remember Christensen. I remember my father, I think, expressing some sort of
dissatisfaction with Christensen, but I don‟t remember the details.
RS: Do you feel any roots in Utah, or are your roots pretty much in San Francisco?
CC: No. Well, I feel a connection to Utah, but when I go back I tend to go to Salt Lake
City. First of all, I don‟t think there is anybody left in Ogden that I know. I am still
kind of connected with my one cousin on my mother‟s side; she was a Cannon. I
still stay in touch, in a general way, with Zeke and Kay Dumke. I never see Ed
and Carol. We just don‟t have any connection.
RS: You knew that Denise and some of them have bought the old E.O. house?
CC: It‟s my brother, his son, Denise, and Jacques.
RS: As I said that, I thought, “Of course she knows, her brother is involved in it.” That
might help bring a connection back to Ogden. We would like to see that
connection re-established, obviously. There are not any family folks left here.
CC: No, no I don‟t think so. All of the Kimballs are out here. Some of the Littlefields
are here. Denise is in New York, of course. The Dumkes are in Salt Lake City.
The other Dumke is up in Sun Valley and the third Dumke is back east. They are
kind of all over. I think some of them are around here.
LL: In Las Vegas?
CC: Yes, they are pretty much based out of Las Vegas; that is where their family
office is, but they are all over the place. There is one in Incline Village, and one, I
think, maybe up here in the Napa area. I never know where Marguerite is.
RS: Last October, when we held the Symposium, we took a bus-load of folks up to
Uintah to show them your great-grandfather‟s home. There is still a granary there
that he built.
CC: I have never been to Uintah. I don‟t even know where it is.
RS: It is south of Ogden. It‟s just a little, teeny town, and so if and when you are
interested, we would be happy to take you and show you around. The Uintah
Cemetery is kind of a quaint place and there are some Wattis graves there. They
were there when the Union Pacific Railroad came down the canyon to create the
Transcontinental Railroad. An original track from the Union Pacific Railroad in
1869 is still there. In October, when we hold the Utah Construction Symposium,
we are going to talk a lot about the families that lived around Eccles Circle.
CC: Is Eccles Circle where that house is?
RS: Yes, it is on Eccles Avenue. It‟s the house that Ed was born in.
CC: Is this the house that Zeke and Edna…did they take that house on at one time or
did they live nearby?
RS: No, they lived through the backyard. Two of E.O.‟s daughters lived in houses
GS: E.O. bought the property and built the houses for his daughters. That goes
through to the next avenue. The backyards were adjacent.
RS: In 1889 the mayor of Ogden—the first non-Mormon mayor—said, “We are going
to change the names of the streets that are now Mormon names like Young and
Smith. We are going to Americanize the city so we are going to call them
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Van Buren, and Harrison, and
CC: I was in Ogden in 1997. I had been fishing in Idaho and I drove down. I was on
my way through to visit my cousins in Salt Lake City. It was a weekend and I
stopped off and found the city cemetery. I was looking for my father‟s grave, but I
never found it. Nobody was there to point me in the right direction.
RS: He was buried in the city cemetery?
CC: Yes, he is buried there.
LL: Your mother passed away not too long ago, isn't that right?
CC: Four years ago.
LL: She did so much for art and the fine arts in this city. Would you mind sharing
some of your thoughts about her?
CC: She made things happen, I think, in her own way. She was instrumental, I don‟t
mean financially, but in other ways. She served on a lot of different boards. I
think she was always active through a great passion for art, particularly the visual
arts. Modern art was her great passion.
LL: Was she an artist herself?
CC: Not really. She drew and painted. I think she dabbled in it and enjoyed it.
RS: And this was her home?
RS: When did they move here?
CC: My father died in 1971. He had just turned seventy in the previous August and he
had a full-blown heart attack in his office downtown. She didn‟t want to stay in the
house but she wanted the security of an apartment. Within a year of my father
dying, she found this place and bought it.
RS: Is it difficult for you to live in your mother‟s home?
CC: We did some renovation. A lot of it is the same, but a lot of it is different. It is ours
now. We kept a lot of elements of it, but you have to make it your own. I think you
have to do that. Otherwise, you are trapped in somebody else‟s life.
RS: Where did your mom get her love for art and her patronage ideas?
CC: I think she developed it. My father had a very dim opinion of art. He wasn‟t
particularly interested. In fact, she didn‟t start collecting until after he had died
and she had a certain amount of financial freedom.
RS: That is an interesting story because Jeannik told us that Ed really didn‟t like the
opera very much but he would tell her he would take her to the opera if he
wanted her to do something.
CC: They negotiated, I‟m sure. I think there was a certain amount of negotiation with
my father, too. He was an outdoorsman. He loved to hunt. He would hunt and
fish. He would be with his cronies and this was the trade-off. Now my husband
and I go fly-fishing up near Highland Park. It is wonderful. Good fly fishing.
RS: Do you buy your flies or do you tie them?
CC: We buy them. We just go in and say, “What are they hitting on this week?” You
come out of the shop with a half a dozen that are the type you already had but
that you left at home. The Harriman Ranch is beautiful up there. It is so
gorgeous. We go into the fire hole in the park. We stay at the Flat Rock Club
which is having its one-hundredth anniversary this year. My mother would have
been 101 this year. My father would have been coming up on 107.
RS: We are appreciative your time today. When you come to Ogden, we will be
happy to take you around to show you some places that you may not know.
GS: You can see where the house used to be that E.O. and W.H. lived in.
CC: They lived in Uintah, not in Ogden, right?
GS: There is another house where their house was, so it is not the original house, but
the granary is right behind it, and you can see where they were almost within
spitting distance of the Transcontinental Railroad. That is, of course, how they
got interested in construction.
CC: They started out with mules, didn't they?
GS: Yes, they took their team up the canyon. They were just kids. E.O. was twelve or
something like that. He took a team up the canyon. He was barefoot and helped
grade the canyon. That grade is still there. The Union Pacific has two rail beds.
The lower bed is the original Transcontinental Railroad bed that your grandfather
graded when he was a kid. And your great-grandfather, Edmond Wattis, was kind
of the local child leader. He was the community leader.
CC: Were they Mormon at that time?
RS: Yes, which is why they came from England.
CC: Edmond Wattis came from England?
GS: Yes, he came from the London area.
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