Jayeson P. Vance
Interviewed by Lorrie Rands
10 October 2013
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Jayeson P. Vance
10 October 2013
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Vance, Jayeson, an oral history by Lorrie
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Leading Tour at Alcatraz
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Jayeson Vance. The
interview was conducted on October 10, 2013, by Lorrie Rands. Jayeson
discusses memories of Ogden and 25th Street.
LR: Today is October 10, 2013 doing a phone interview with Mr. Jayeson Vance who
is currently residing in San Francisco, about 25th street and Ogden. My name is
Lorrie Rands and I will be conducting the interview. Jayeson, I, again, appreciate
your time and your willingness to help us out with this. Let’s begin with the simple
basics of when and where were you born?
JV: I was born at the old St. Benedict’s hospital on 29th and Polk in Ogden, on June
LR: Where did you reside, where was your home in Ogden?
JV: Our home was, when I was a boy, we were, first we lived in a post war housing,
emergency housing for the GI’s. My dad was at Hill Field as an Air Force
Sergeant, an Army Air Corp Sergeant. That was at the old Bonneville Park, as
they used to call it. It was an old cinder block, post war or emergency housing
that, I don’t know who paid for, probably the federal government. Then they, at
some point around 1950 or 51, they destroyed those homes and we, my dad was
able to get a home on 1362 Hudson, between 5th and 6th on, at just above
Harrison, and we were just a quarter block below Polk. That’s where I spent my
early years and then we later moved to 108 Harrison, at first and Harrison.
LR: So was Harrison at that time, was it paved all the way through?
JV: Yes, Harrison was paved, Hudson was primitive, it was unpaved, thank you for
asking. We actually did not even have a phone in the house and my mother had
to walk to Hudson and Polk, to a little phone booth as did all the neighbors in
order to place a phone call. Actually, it seems funny now, and the street was dirt
and it had a curb and gutter but it didn’t have the sidewalks and it didn’t have,
you know, it was very primitive. It was like living out on the frontier in a way, and
my grandfather used to say, “You can hear the coyotes at night up there where
you live.” He lived on 256 Harrisville Road which is still there, that structure is still
LR: You grew up then in that part of Ogden?
JV: Yea, on that northeast bench, I went to Ben Lomond High and then my dad had
gone to Weber and my mother, actually my mother was a USU graduate. I just
said, “Well,” I couldn’t decide what to do after I graduated from Ben Lomond, so I
decided on Weber, which was a great choice. I was pleased with, I always
thought it had the best—a lot of people say about Weber that we had better
professors than bigger schools because you didn’t have teaching assistants
teaching classes, you had Ph.D.’s teaching classes quite often and so I think in
some ways we got a much better education at Weber than people maybe at the
University of Utah had in some ways, so anyway, it was a good time to go to
Weber. I briefly was the sophomore class president for a brief while, filled in for
Mike Howe I believe was his name, cause he couldn’t finish his term.
My name at that time, I changed my name in 1982, and my born name
was Clark Walker. So that’s always strange, and I have to explain that, that I
changed my name. I was one of those kids that had kind of an identity crisis and
so my legal name is Jayson P. Vance. I don’t know how much you want to know
about my personal life, but just to explain, if you look me up, you’ll find me under
Clark Walker. Weber State records, well, except I changed my diploma reads
Jayeson Vance now, so I had that changed.
LR: So, I’m just curious, why did you choose Jayeson Vance?
JV: It was just one of those things that I had a friend who was a counselor, which
said, “It’s time for a change.” I had just left a federal job and I wanted a new start
in life and she said, “This would be a good time to change.” She had done this to,
she had changed her name and she said, “I don’t know, it’s great,” and she was
able to persuade me that I should do it. Then once you do that, and we’d had a
house so we had to change the mortgage records so then and I had to go to
court, to district court and officially change my name by law. I can’t ever use the
old name again and legally, so anyway, I have, for better or worse, that’s my
name. So I just have to accept that. In some ways I felt shouldn’t be changing
that because it’s my family history, but then as I researched my family history, I
found out that my father’s father, who was an English immigrant during World
War I, which is kind of odd, how do you get to where my father was born in
California? It’s a long story, but his father deserted the family, his name was
reputedly, Sylvester Hodgson Walker. He deserted this mother and this infant
boy, who was my father and said, “I’m a British subject, I don’t want to have a
kid.” And he ran off to Canada, and he said, “You can’t touch me, I’m a British
subject.” I don’t even really know the man’s name, I never saw a picture of him
and it’s one of these great mysteries of life that I would love to see at least what
he looked like and how did he end up in California during World War One. The
British would have wanted any young man to be in the Army or something and so
it’s a—was his name really Walker, you know, all these mysteries like that. I
didn’t feel troubled about dropping the name Walker, so that’s, anyway, we got
off on a tangent.
LR: No, that’s great, I asked so, let’s go ahead and go back then. You said that your
dad worked at Hill Field as a sergeant in the Army Air Corps, what did your mom
JV: My mother was a teacher in her later years, well, when they were first
married she was a school teacher, then she dropped her job as a teacher to be
a house wife and about 1959 she went back to Ogden public schools, worked at
Edison school teaching second grade. Her name was Bonnie Ruth Murphy
Walker and she passed away this month, just earlier this month, ten years ago
the start of this month, she’s been dead 10 years now. The family is all gone, my
brother, my father and my mother are all gone and my wife and I live here.
LR: You’re kind of cutting out on me.
JV: Oh, maybe if I hold the microphone up closer here.
LR: I’m not sure if it’s you or if it’s me. That seems to be better, okay. I hate it when I
get off on my flow. As you were growing up, what were some of the things you
liked to do for fun?
JV: I used to draw maps of the city actually. I loved history form early on. I read Land
Mark Books, I was a boy scout. I got an Eagle Scout Award, I was an Eagle
Scout. I was very interested in police and crime, the FBI. I wanted to be an FBI
agent at one time and I studied the history of, I was reading adult literature
written for adults about the FBI, you know like the FBI story by Glen Whitehead I
think it is, when I was twelve. I was trying to—it was not easy to read—but I was
trying and I was just obsessed with that stuff and I saw the world very black and
white, in a very black and white way. I remember giving—I had some really
conservative, very, very conservative opinions about law and order and I wanted
to—we had some milk stolen and I wanted my mother so badly to call the police
department because I wanted to look at a real policeman in the face and we
hardly had any crime in that area. I was so excited that was my amusement,
anything to do with law and order or police, any TV show, Texas Rangers or
Broderick Crawford, who starred in California Highway Patrol or anything like
that. The Lone Ranger and all that stuff, I just loved all that. We played Army, it
was post World War Two so we had, almost everybody I knew was the son or the
daughter of a GI or a sailor from World War Two or a Marine. We had tons of
Army Men and toys about World War Two and I had a whole Army and Navy set
of toys that I just spent hours with. Then we would—the little kids in the
neighborhood—we’d organize into tiny army, little army training things. Then I
would build little model cities in the back yard with rocks and build a highway. I
had a lot of fun doing that. I made a model of Ben Lomond peak at one time in
my back yard out of clay and rocks and so I had a lot of fun as for Mount Ben
Lomond and all that. I tried to make of Ogden out of rocks but it was a little over
LR: I’ll bet. So did you ever have the chance to meet any Ogden Police officers when
you were younger?
JV: Yea, one of my friends, Gary Greenwood, became a police officer in Ogden and
he and I were golfing buddies for quite a while, and I met him, just before I
moved out of Ogden—I got married and moved away, I remember seeing him in
his uniform with his shoes all polished. I was so proud of him and I so wished that
I could be like him, be a policeman, but I never became a policeman, I became a
park ranger. Not quite the same, but he was just kind of an inspiration when I
saw him standing there with his highly polished shoes and his nice neat uniform
and he was very proud of it, rightly so. I lost track of him, I would like to talk to
him again but I tried to locate him on the internet and he was a probation officer
for a while and I couldn’t find any more about him. I haven’t, if you know him or
anybody knows him, I would love to talk to him. He was a great guy.
I’m just joining the auxiliary law enforcement team here for the San Francisco
police, I just applied to join that. It’s a volunteer position, but my fantasy, my
interest in crime and law and order has been lifelong. I guess it’s no wonder I
ended up on Alcatraz.
LR: Did you ever hang out downtown?
JV: Yea, we did, one of my stronger memories, my father would take me, well my
father was a—after he left the Army Air Corps, he became a postman at the main
post office and then later Gorder’s station as they used to call the post office over
there on the bench. He was, his route was the businesses along 25th and along
Washington. He was the downtown postman, and he would drive all the
packages, they didn’t have a UPS, and he would do all the package deliveries all
over downtown. He was a gun lover, he loved guns and there was a gun shop on
25th that he loved to go to. He knew 25th very well, he knew the Porters and
Waiters Club, he took me into the Depot Drug and there was some girly
magazines one time. Oh, it was a little embarrassing, I was going through
puberty. Oh we looked at those girly magazines a little bit, but that was among
little things like that that I remember.
Depot Drug was a hive of activity. It was scary, it was frightening, but it
was exciting also. They had these barrels of toys. I loved anything with a plastic
army man, or army soldiers like that, and they had just piles of that stuff. Even in
the front window, or I think it could even have been on the sidewalk, I could
remember my heart just pounding about it, and I only got to go in there a couple
of times, but it was a just a hive of excitement. There was also a fear about 25th
of course, the legend of all the possibility of heroin and prostitution and all those
things that were going on around there. I could even I guess sense it in my father
that he was a little bit on edge, but he never had anyone bother him or threaten
him in any way while he was delivering mail. He had some rude business people
that were pretty rude to him, you know, kind of abusive, but he didn’t ever have
He was very close with the black community in Ogden, he knew a lot of
the black folks and he was very pro civil rights and he felt that they had gotten
the bad end of the deal. The Porters and Waiters Club was famous, of course, for
the railroad porters that worked on the Union Pacific that brought Jazz to Ogden.
It was also a street of sin certainly. Later in life, my best man at my wedding was
Arnie Jacobson and his father was chief Jacobson of the Ogden police. Arnie told
me some stories, but these are now second hand stories that he got from his
father, so I don’t have direct access to that information but it came through Arnie.
His father put on black face because they didn’t have any black police officers
and went down onto 25th to purchase heroine, because the dealers on 25th were
black. They did make some arrests and the Ogden police were known as the
toughest police in Utah because of the street, because of patrolling 25th street
they had to be tougher than the Salt Lake police, according to Arnie anyway.
They would have this annual football, I believe football game between the Ogden
Police and the Salt Lake police and the Ogden police would always win because
they had to be tougher, even though it was a smaller department by far than the
Salt Lake department. It really had quite a story there, I mean you could write a
lot of, I could easily see someone writing a novel or a historical novel about it.
Maybe that’s what I should do, I don’t know.
Then my mother told me about working at the Union Laundry but she did
all that Union Pacific linen as a young woman. She was a pretty young brunette
and her father, Clarence Murphy, would warn her, he was a Union Pacific
engineer. “Now Bonnie, you get down to Washington Boulevard and get on that
street car and you run to Washington Boulevard,” or somebody told her, or she
told me that she was so scared on 25th that she ran all the way from Wall Avenue
to Washington Boulevard as fast as she could run to get to Washington
Boulevard to where she felt safe, and then get on the street car to go north to
Harrisville Road where they lived. She had a palpable fear of that street but she
again never had anything happen to her so it just, there’s a lot of stuff about that
street. I’ve seen that, I don’t know you’ve probably seen that DVD that that fellow
put out about the history of Ogden I imagine. Are you aware of that one?
LR: Yes, The one that was in 2007 or 11, not too long ago? Yes.
JV: They explained that, I guess they alleged that Al Capone may have been on 25th,
which I’ve never found any—I tried because I studied Al Capone quite a bit
having been on Alcatraz where he was locked up for about five years, and I’ve
never found any evidence, have you? To support that he was ever there.
LR: I haven’t, the only thing I have heard about are the rumors.
JV: Yea, it’s just legendary. When I worked on Alcatraz we’d have people from
Canada and Saskatchewan Province was a place where he was reputed to have
been. Oh, Al Capone, you hear this all the time, in Wisconsin he went to honey
lodges and it is conceivable that he may have been in Ogden that he was really
on, and it was called Little Chicago at one point. It was one of the nick names of
Ogden, of that area of Ogden as you may know already. Of course, today, it’s a
very different street than it was and I’m looking at a picture of it right now, a
modern picture. I guess there were some movies made there with that famous
noddle parlor sign?
LR: Yea, the Star Noodle, the one with the dragon?
JV: There was a little China town there too of course, from the Chinese workers on
the railroad. My grandfather, as a boy, his mother died when he was a youngster
and his father was of course a railroad worker too, an engineer, and he was
basically raised himself on the streets. This would have been about 1900 or 1905
around in that era, used to run opium on a bicycle around China, the little Ogden,
and helped these opium dealers. It was legal at that time to sell opium, and he
would, as reprehensible as it sounds now, would sell opium to the Chinese, and
make a little money that way, because they didn’t have much money. He and his
sister and his father, no mother, were kind of, you know, they had some kind of
rough edges in his early years, and he remembered being pretty mean to some
of the Chinese as a teenage boy, pulling there queue’s. They used to wear their
hair in queue’s on the back of their head, doing some mean things like that and
of course the Chinese were abused everywhere. Out here in San Francisco they
were abused even more. The word Chink was frequently passed around. It was a
racist time it was not fun to be black or Chinese in those days. It was rough for a
lot of people.
LR: So did you ever witness any of that discrimination in that part of Ogden?
JV: No, that was way before my time. I think it went underground, I’m sure there was
a feeling that Asians were odd or you know, they were kind of a curiosity. I don’t
remember. We used to eat at the Utah Noodle Parlor a lot and have the other—I
forget the other noodle parlor name on Grant there. We used to, and we enjoyed
all the food, the chop suey and all those things. So you’d hear little remarks like
that, that were racists but it was, and of course it was. My grandfather had
actually been a member of the Klan when he was a youngster. He had no
education, he was brought up on the streets and he picked up whatever he
picked up, and he picked up a lot of racists attitudes. I remember he, as a young
man—he wasn’t that in his older years—but as a young man, there was a Klu
Klux Klan Chapter there in Ogden. The Klan was all over the United States if you
study the history of the Klan and it was very powerful in the early twenties and
that’s about the time he was starting his family. My grandfather was out there on
Harrisville Road, but he I guess they had some Klan meetings up on the foothills
in the early twenties where they burned crosses and stuff up on the foothills
above. You can imagine how it must have felt to be a black person and see that
going on, especially a tiny minority, there in that part of the world. A feeling, you
must have been pretty much an emotional, a very unpleasant emotional
experience anyway for a black or an Asian too. I think they were pretty mean to
Asians, the Klan was, as well. He never said much about that, he did express
racist attitudes which were part of that generation, occasionally. I had that
wonderful contrast in my father who just really loved the black folks in Ogden.
Marshall White, the police officer who was killed there, who was a hero of the
police department. After they finally got a black officer, and then he got killed, but
it was a rough town.
There was somewhat open prostitution, if I remember, right along parts of
Grant Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. Even in my early years, even as late as
maybe 19, probably about 1970 even, there was still open prostitution going on, it
was very limited, but it was there. As I’ve studied the street I know there was a
back alley that ran heroin and a tunnel that ran heroin from the depot all along, I
think on the north side of the street. Maybe that tunnel is still there, I’ve seen
some references that indicate that the tunnel went all the way to the Ben Lomond
Hotel apparently. Are you aware of that?
LR: I’m aware more of the rumors.
JV: I saw something online about historic tunnel tours of Ogden and they, if I
remember correctly were going into the basement of the Ben Lomond Hotel and
somebody was leading a ghost tour or something like that. They were able to go
under Washington Boulevard possibly and they said, “Well, who knows.” Of
course they want to enlarge everything and make it more exciting so they bring in
Al Capone and all that. The danger of history is always that somebody tries to
enlarge things or exaggerate things. I was never able to see that myself and I
didn’t even know, I’d heard rumors about it but I’ve never been in it.
LR: Well I know that most of the businesses now have closed up there tunnels, so
most of the people we have talked to, yea, it’s possible, but now they’re all closed
up so. But yea, we’ve had a lot of references to them, a lot of people that
remember being down in them, but none actually going form Ben Lomond to the
depot. We can’t actually verify that, so. It’s fun to hear about though.
JV: Well that was the big fancy hotel, I guess the Ben Lomond was built about 1927,
and being a big, the highest building in town and anybody who wanted a
prostitute probably would have wanted to bring them in underground into the
hotel or something like that, or wanted maybe drugs and happened to be at the
hotel. It does kind of make sense if you were in the, in the world of vice and you
had money enough to stay in a nice room there and you wanted something,
knowing the hotel business as I do, because I worked with it for a while here,
there are people in the hotels are bribable a lot of times, and if you want—they
want some cash and if you have the cash, they’ll find a way to get you what you
want. Who knows, I wouldn’t be surprised, I don’t have any evidence of it, but I
wouldn’t be surprised if there was something like that going on.
LR: I wouldn’t be surprised either. Do you remember any of the people that used to
live or work on 25th street?
JV: Yes. Well, my mother worked at the Union Laundry I guess it was called as a—
this would have been—she was born in 1919, so it would have been roughly
around the time she graduated from Ogden High in 1938. So she was working at
the Union Laundry, and that’s where that tale about running down the street as
fast as she could run, her heart pounding came from, that era.
And then my grandfather, Clarence Patrick Murphy, a real Irish name, half
Danish, but in fact his mother was Danish. He was working there from about age
16 and he was born about 1885 I believe, so he would have been there about
1901 and he was already working as a fireman as a teenage boy. He couldn’t
finish school, at Sacred Heart School on upper 25th where he went. He would
bend over all the way to Wyoming shoveling coal. He told a tale later that even
as a 16 year old boy of working with his back bent to shovel coal all the way from
Ogden to Evanston and back just almost constantly shoveling coal to get up that
grade to that high plateau in Wyoming. It was not the life that any of us would
want to live I am sure, to spend back breaking hours to make a living. He was a
devoted member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineman and Firemen
throughout his life and was a lifelong democrat of course, because of the
Democrats alliance with the labor unions. He was also one of the shop stewards
of the Union Pacific in his later years. He also worked on the old Oregon
Shortline Railroad, which was, he fondly would say, “Oregon Shortline," and his
eyes would drift off as he thought about it. I guess the Oregon Shortline was, ran
from Ogden to Pocatello, if I’m not mistaken, and didn’t obviously it didn’t go all
the way to Oregon. He was the switching engineer which would be, he would
build trains by bringing cars from one train and hauling them to join another train
and then back and forth all day in the yards of Ogden. He’d go over those yards,
and of course today, there’s even I guess some activity there, but back in those
days the yards were just a hive of energy and the sound of the rails and the
squeaking of the iron against iron and you would hear all the noises associated
with all that.
The station where I went as, this would have been approximately 1955.
My grandmother, my California grandmother, my father’s mother, would come up
from across the Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake on the Union Pacific
from Promontory Point to West Weber and she would, we’d meet her at the
Union Station whenever she’d come to visit us. That’s where I got to see the
Union Station quite a bit as a boy. There would be three or four taxi cabs, several
cars coming and going and people were dressed—in those days the women
wore gloves and hats and high heels all the time and the men wore business
suits and big fedora hats. The railway express, REA railway express agency had
a large outlet in the foyer of the station.
Just going in to the foyer of the Union Depot was to me, one of the most
exciting things of my childhood because I would go in there and look around and
seeing people coming and going, people making orders and carrying tickets,
porters carrying baggage and porters with red caps on and white uniforms and
white jackets. All black men, the only black people I had ever seen at that time in
my life were down in the depot. Sorry, I get a little emotional sometimes when I’m
talking about these things. I have to take a breath here for a moment.
There was a very busy barbershop with an old fashioned striped aprons
that, or whatever they called those things that they, smocks, that they would put
around people being, having their hair cut. They had the talcum powder brushes
and the barber clipping away furiously, and people in a hurry to get on, “I don’t
want to miss my train,” and all those things. The station itself, getting inside was
just, it seemed like the biggest building I had ever seen in my life at that time,
probably was, and it, the big chandeliers and it was just, in its heyday was just
packed with passengers and train schedules and the public address system
announcing what was going on. I didn’t even know what the people were doing
as a boy, I had no concept of what riding a train was because we didn’t actually
get on the trains, so we never went out on the platforms and so all I saw was just
the results of all that. What I observed was a little confusing because I didn’t put
it together that these people are coming from California or Chicago or wherever it
This really was the junction city of the Mountain West and it really was a
big deal. It was so sad to see the old down town, as I’m sure you’ve heard from a
lot of people, to see what happened to that wonderful downtown on Washington
Boulevard. Again, that’s another subject for a book you could write about,
Washington Boulevard in its heyday. Beuhler Bingham and B and B Clothiers,
the Blue Door and all those fabulous clothing stores and Fred M. Nye that were
able, because the economy was so powerful then with Hill Field and the Army
Depot and the Naval Supply Depot and all those things, and then the railroad.
Everybody was making money and it was sort of the golden age of Ogden. I
guess from about the end of World War Two till roughly the time I graduated from
Ben Lomond, about 1965, for about those twenty years that downtown district
was just thriving. There was Watson and Tanner and 24th street was almost
equal to Washington and its level of commercial activity and it was a really nice
feeling to the town.
There wasn’t a lot of crime for the most part, you didn’t hear about a lot
of—we had, my mother had a friend, Officer Keith Burkdahl, who was a
policeman. I remember she got—I guess one of the early beat nicks, there were
a handful of beatniks I guess, in Ogden, that maybe were smoking marijuana and
this guy hit her at 25th and Monroe. It was at night and he had dark glasses on,
and he had sideburns and this would have been 1955 or 56 around the time Elvis
was big. We just thought that was so bizarre that this fellow was dressed in this
leather jacket and he had sideburns and he had dark glasses on and it’s
nighttime, you know, why are you wearing—it is kind of odd even now. Keith
Burkdahl investigated this because my mother happen to. His wife was a good
friend of my mothers and he was a patrolman and so he said, “Yea, we caught
this guy and arrested this guy.” They finger printed him and everything. I was
excited by that. It was, there were some rough characters in Ogden and who
knows maybe he was using heroin or something too, or maybe he was
associated with 25th street, but we never found out.
Whenever I would encounter the Ogden police, I can remember in 1956,
the Ogden Police had four brand new blue Fords that they got and they all, they
had no markings, anywhere on the car. They were painted, I think, if I remember
correctly they were a dark royal blue and they had just about the size of a coffee
cup, maybe a large coffee cup, on top was a red, just a red light, and that’s all,
and a radio antenna, and not anywhere on the car did it say police, anywhere. It
just is so funny to look back at that, we’d walk through City Hall Park and of
course that was the police station back then. It was in the back of the city hall
building, and you’d walk through city hall park and I’d see maybe eight or nine
Fords with that bubble light on top, and maybe a couple of unmarked cars. That
was the, such as it was, the Ogden police at that time.
There’s another story, you could do the history of the Ogden Police
because they must have some tales to tell if you come across one of the retiree’s
from the Ogden police or somebody, the son of a police officer, I’d bet you’d get
some great stories. Arnie Jacobson might be a good source because his dad. I
don’t know what became of him, I haven’t been in touch with him in years, but his
dad, I know was the chief about 1970, they had the police radio in their house
because his dad was the chief, so he would hear all the radio calls in Ogden as a
boy. You get into some personal information sometimes, but he got run out of the
LR: Well speaking of growing up, did you ever attend any of the theaters downtown?
JV: Yes, the movies?
JV: Yea, we loved the Orpheum, thank you for reminding me. The Orpheum and the
Egyptian, but the Orpheum even more so, it was sadly destroyed. The most
exciting, fun thing we ever did I think was about 1959 and Ogden was just in its
glory days at that time. We, there was a girl next door, Susanne Sylvester, who I
had a crush on, and I forget who else. Anyway, we were all about 12 or 13 years
old and our parents escorted us, and we got all dressed up and went to, I put on
a tie and a sports coat and the girls were dressed up and we just, we just thought
that was the most fun we had ever had. We went to the Orpheum and saw a
movie, I can’t remember what the movie was now. It was just going to the theater
down, either the Egyptian or the Orpheum was just one of the special things
about that time in life when you are coming of age. I think for almost anyone who
was there at that time would remember it well.
LR: So is that the theater that had the Popeye Club?
JV: I don’t know. You know, I don’t know about the Popeye Club. Actually when you
said that it was the first time I’ve heard that term.
LR: Oh really, okay.
JV: I must have missed out.
LR: It might have been Paramount. I get my theaters mixed up, I apologize.
JV: The Popeye Club, maybe the Paramount was, Popeye Copper Club, Ogden, or
Popeye—it says here, I am doing a little web search. I remember the Paramount
was where the Paramount Bowl was, is that right?
LR: I’m not sure.
JV: Where the river, by the river bridge? Where the Ogden sign, is that right?
LR: I’m honestly not sure, I thought it was downtown myself. I know the Orpheum and
the Egyptian were. I thought the Paramount was too, so.
JV: Let’s see here, we had a friend who lived right by the Ogden bridge, the Ogden
sign, where the Ogden sign in on the east side of Washington. There was this
very interesting neighborhood there that reminds, as I got older and look back at
it, I thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s a lot like big city’s back east." It reminded me
of, in some ways. I remember the Paramount Bowling alley. When you said
Paramount I thought more of a bowling alley then I did of a theater.
Then there was a drive in too, and there may have been called the
Paramount, there was the Riverdale Drive-in, and there was a drive-in on the
south end of town was the Riverdale and going up towards North Ogden was,
that Harrisville area there was a drive-in out that way, the North Point Drive-
In. The drive-ins, of course, when you’re a teenager in those days, it was where
all the necking and all that went on. Exciting dates or all the wishful thinking for
boys mostly was going on.
I know there was a Paramount theater, maybe if I put movie theater,
Ogden Utah, my search engine isn’t generating a lot right now on that. Let’s see,
as it opened on the, oh, here it says, “The Paramount theater opened as the
Alhambra theater, March 17, 1915 with a concert by the Ogden Tabernacle
Choir.” There’s one reference there, its Cinema treasure. Oh, here we go, 2429
LR: Ah, that’s right.
JV: Oh, the Alhambra. So here is a, I vaguely remember this photo, I mean this store
front. It’s located on Keisel, just off of, I think just off 24th, because that looks like
the Fred J. Keisel building.
LR: Yes, it would have been on the opposite, it would have been closer to 25th. It’s
actually not there anymore, they tore it down.
JV: Yea, I bet it’s gone. That’s my granddad’s era for sure, those old street lights and
globe street lights and the old early automobiles.
LR: What are some of your favorite memories of downtown Ogden then?
JV: Well, to be honest, it was the pretty girls you would see. You would see very, very
pretty girls, you’d see dozens of girls that would just you know, traffic stop kind of
thing where you’d go, “wow.” It was also just the feeling that it was exciting, it
was a pleasant city. There was a lunch counter near 25th and Washington,
Keeley’s Café. You’d go in, it was a bustling café, downtown café—going in and
having lunch there.
There was also a toy shop near there, and my grandfather doted on me, I
was his favorite, out of the five grandchildren I was the oldest one and he liked, I
don’t know, he and I just bonded and he would take me in as a boy and bought
me a pistol set, a cowboy pistol set from this store and I don’t know the name. It
was a toy store near the Broom hotel and it had just all kinds of cowboy toys all
over the walls, and this was a pretty big, pretty large, you know, reasonably large
toy store and he bought me this holster and toy gun and toy bullets and I think it
was probably one of my happiest moments in childhood. Then going on that date
to the Orpheum was another one. The Utah Noodle Parlor was always fun to go
to and having the big butterfly shrimp that they still make I think, I think they’re
still there somewhere.
LR: No, they actually closed down.
JV: Oh, they closed down?
LR: Yea, it hasn’t been that long, but Utah Noodle is no more.
JV: Oh, that’s too bad. That was a great tradition, but I guess Jimmies Flower shop is
still there probably. That was a great flower shop. I didn’t know the Glassman’s, I
guess you’ve come across A L Glassman, the name A L Glassman, but he was
the operator of the Orpheum it says. Have you come across the Name Ira
Huggins? He was the great attorney, probably the most famous attorney in
LR: I’m not sure.
JV: Ira Huggins was—my mother would speak of him very fondly. I found a URL here,
its Cinema Treasures, and it has a lot about the Paramount Theater, 2429 Keisel.
This might be a page you want to look at it. It’s
Cinematreasures.org/theaters/26282, [some of the information that follows come
directly from this website.] This is a lot of information I wasn’t aware of here
about the publisher . Glassman, of course, owned the Standard Examiner and
apparently owned this theater also at some point and one of its premier
attractions was Cecil B. De Mill, The Ten Commandments. In 1925 it was leased
by Public Theaters and renamed Paramount Theater so it started as the
Alhambra, I guess. Glassman also owned the Orpheum but he bought the
Alhambra in 1923 and then, according to this web site, during the summer
months, Orpheum Vaudeville moved to the Alhambra, so they had Vaudeville,
wow, now that’s very interesting.
In 1925 the Alhambra was leased by the Publix Theaters and renamed
Paramount Theater, so that’s where they got the Paramount. It underwent a
complete renovation and seating was reduced to 1900 one of its premier
attractions was Ten Commandments. Not the one in the 1950s but the original.
By 1927 the theater was under the direction of Brooklyn-born Louis Marcus, who
also owned major theaters in Salt Lake, including the Capital and other theaters
in Idaho. Fanchon & Marco “Ideas” supplemented the screen attractions at the
Paramount. With the demise of the American Theatre in Salt Lake in 1929, the
Paramount boasted being Utah’s largest theatre. Wow, I didn’t know any of this.
In 1929 Marcus said he was selling his interest to Publix Theaters and retiring.
He was elected mayor of Salt Lake from 32 and served four years and died in
1939. 1934 it came under the ownership of Paramor Theatres who also operated
the Orpheum Theatre, Lyceum Theatre and Colonial Theatre. The local Ogden
Theatre was an independent. So there is quite a story there of just the theater
industry in Ogden. In July of 1954, Paramor Theatres completed renovations
which gave it all new seating and a 42' by 21' screen. In time for Christmas 1954,
a new marquee and Paramount vertical sign in addition to the Formica snack bar
was added to the interior. And that’s when “White Christmas” came out with Bing
Crosby. So, you’ll probably want to look at that website for sure.
LR: Yea, I wrote it down so I’ll be able to.
JV: It’s not that much information but it has this one wonderful old photo of the
LR: Hmm, that’s cool.
JV: Yea, also, I would recommend to you to see UCR.edu.
LR: Right, I wrote that down too.
JV: Yea, and if you can’t—that website is a little obtuse—it’s something like digital
newspaper survey and it’s California papers, but remarkably, like I say, especially
the San Francisco papers, have lots and lots of Ogden’s lore and stories,
especially around the time of 1890 to 1930, which would be of great value to
anyone doing research at the university there. Then you can form a partnership
with the UC Riverside, maybe the two schools could maybe get together on
helping each other, because I know that educators always need support and they
have to help each other and there is always the threats of budget cuts and things
like that. I know he was, that fellow at UC Riverside was saying, “Oh we’ve got to
prove to the regents of the university that we are doing something of value to the
community so that they won’t shut us down.” I wrote, personally when I was a
park ranger, wrote a couple of paragraphs saying how much value I’ve gotten out
of it. You’re able to, or course with your printer on your computer, you’re able to
print stories up if you want, or photos. They also have photos too, because you’re
looking at the actual paper and you can see the old historic ads.
LR: Right, that’s fun.
JV: Yea, it’s really fun. You sound like you’re a history lover too, so you’d have a field
day with that probably.
LR: I have two more questions if that’s alright
JV: It’s been a lifelong love for me. ___________ being a park ranger, it was one of
the great joys of being a park ranger was being able to give history tours, you
know how it’s just limited to Alcatraz history, which has quite a colorful history of
LR: I know it’s kind of getting, this has kind of gone long, but I have two more
questions if that is ok.
JV: Yeah, sure.
LR: My first one is, you talked about your grandfather being involved in the Klan in
Ogden, do you know much about that?
JV: No, he was, I think he was a little ashamed of it. He, I know, it’s really unfortunate
I can’t ask any of these folks any questions or maybe my aunt, who is still alive
might know something about it. She lives in Portland, Oregon. I could ask her but
she would have been embarrassed about it too. I know that he talked in racial
terms about when he would watch the prize fights, Gillette Prize fights on
television and he would, there was definitely a palpable racism present when he
would—see a black man fighting a white man or something in a Prize fight. The
only reason I know about the Klan was that my mother told me that, he didn’t tell
me himself he was a member of the Klan. I think he was embarrassed. He was
certainly not proud of it.
I heard, now, I’m trying to place where I heard the recollection by some,
probably from my mother, that they had put some burning crosses up on, I think
the north east bench, up around, somewhere around where Ben Lomond High
stands today. Up on 7th or 7th street, upper 7th street probably or somewhere
where it would be seen for miles around or hoped anyway. Just to terrorize the
poor black folks a little more, and probably it would have been, I’m sure they
didn’t like Asians either, or Jews of course. There were a handful of Jewish
people too in Ogden so those groups would have been not too thrilled, I’m sure,
to see that. I could try and ask Aunt Patty, she’s Jennings Olsen’s sister by the
way, my aunt. He was the professor there at Weber for many years. She may
know something about it also, and if you want, I could call you back if I’m able to
find out more. The KKK was organized in all 48 states in the 1920s per public
LR: It’s just a curiosity. I will leave that entirely up to you. It was just a—really,
someone who was involved, so I wouldn’t complain but I don’t want you to feel
like you have to do that or anything.
JV: Well, I’m always willing to help, it’s fascinating. What I have found with history
and the more you dig, the more interesting it is.
LR: Well this is true, I agree.
JV: You reminded me of that little neighborhood around the Ogden sign there on the
east side of Washington that, I wish I could relive that. Also there was
something— I went to visit a friend who lived right there. There was a little alley
that shot off of Washington and I think it said Paramount Bowl and it was across
from Bigler’s Desert Inn, which was an old structure that is no longer there either.
We fished in the Ogden river briefly, just once, it only happened once, I went to
see him and we fished in the river. It was kind of odd, it seemed like, because
here it is almost like in downtown but also almost like out in the country at the
same time. It was a really nice little district there that I haven’t seen any photos
of, but I can picture it in my head as I close my eyes I can see it. There were
store fronts right the river and I think a concrete fence or something against the
river bank itself, but I’m sure it’s all gone now. All that’s left is the historic sign
there now, but it’s fun to reminisce anyway.
LR: Well, my last question is this, how has Ogden changed since you were growing
up here, do you think?
JC: It had that timing, you know, 24th and Washington was the heart of the city and it
was the heart of Ogden, it really was like the heart. It was just like a human body
has a heart, it was the heart of the city and it was a thriving heartbeat. I
remember a young boy yelling, “Standard,” and he used to actually hold up the
newspaper in his arm and wave it and people would run up and buy a
newspaper. It was from the Bon Marché store which was at 22nd to about 26th or
27th along Washington, was just bustling with traffic, excitement. The ladies were
dressed in their finest clothes and men were dressed in business suits, and not
everyone dressed that way, but it was certainly a thriving place and then along
24th, almost the same scene.
It’s just sad to see that, well it’s happened to many cities; it’s not just
Ogden, that the core of the city got gutted and changed irreparably. It’s too bad
that it couldn’t have been like what was done with Trolley Square in Salt Lake
where they at least maybe changed the buildings, but don’t gut every, just don’t
tear everything completely. The W. T. Grant store was a big deal on 24th and
Washington and there was the Kiesel building and the Eccles building and the
First Security Bank building and it had this little sky line and it was just, I don’t
know, it just seemed like a really, really positive.
Overall, 25th kind of gave you the vice and a little excitement and drama,
which was also kind of fun, and it just kind of was a really nice place to grow up.
It sort of represented America, to me. I wrote a little article when I was a boy
about it and I took a world book and I followed the outline they used to write
about Chicago or New York and I just took every element, and Ogden had it all,
in miniscule amounts. It had a little Asian neighborhood, it had a black
neighborhood, it had everything in America and it was a, in a microcosm, it was
the country. It’s sad to a, I’m sorry,
LR: It’s okay.
JV: Makes me feel bad to see that all that is lost. I know there is some of it there still.
The Egyptian Theater is still there, but,
LR: You’re right, most of it is gone.
JV: We would get, to go down to Washington Boulevard was a big deal and we would
put on our best clothes and we would, yea, it was just a big deal. Even when I
started working at the highway department on 17th and Wall or near, just off Wall,
at the Utah Highway, Utah Road Commission, we looked forward to driving along
Washington Boulevard just for the fun of seeing people on the street and seeing
all the excitement that it used to represent. I don’t know, it’s just, thank you for
letting me share all that, and if I can come up with some more goodies I’ll
certainly call you. Also you’re always welcome to call me if you need any more
that I can provide, and thanks again for what you are doing.
LR: Well, thank you for being so willing to help us out, I appreciate that, and for your
stories, they’ve been wonderful and I appreciate you’re willingness to work with
us and to do this. We’ve been on the phone now for almost an hour and 20
minutes so I appreciate your time and your willingness, it means a lot.
JV: Well great, Okay Lorrie, keep in touch, and any time I can be of assistance, who
knows, maybe your or I or both of us may write books about it, who knows.
LR: That would be fun.
JV: It’s worthy of some good books, I can think of three right now that would be
worthy books about that era. But anyway, have a great day.
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