Articles published in the Blue Mountain Panorama

This blog was created to preserve digitally, articles written by Janet Wilcox for the Blue Mountain Panorama. This newspaper is published in Blanding, Utah by Neil and Becky Joslin. By publishing digitally, more photographs can be added, and your comments and corrections can be quickly noted. Thanks for reading my articles in the newspaper, as well as on the Internet. If you have ideas for stories, please contact me at

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The 100 year Metamorphosis of a Home

By Janet Wilcox

This year marks 100 years that the Wilcox home has been in existence.  Our curiosity about the history of our house was first piqued when we remodeled the kitchen in 1977 and found copies of the Deseret Evening News dated 1912, in the walls.  They had evidently been used for insulation.  We saved some of the newspapers and these became the starting point for a research project that three of our sons (Aaron, Robert, and Nathan) did for a Regional History Fair in 1984.

The boys interviewed several people who had either owned or lived near our home in the past.  Primary informant was Alma Palmer who had kept a detailed journal of every improvement he made on the property when they owned it, as well as its cost. Verde Washburn Hughes who also lived in our home, also provided information via letters and sketches March 18, 1984.  Ervin Guymon also remembered much about the history of the early owners, as he lived just up the block.

The original structure at 112 S. 300 W. was at first a small granary, but was later turned into a two-room home by Benjamin Grant Black, the year he married Jennie Melinda Brown in 1912.  Four the Black’s children were born in this little wood home.  They lived there for seven years, and the sold it to LaVell and Wasel Washburn.

It was during 1912 that the first elementary school was also built in Blanding, and in 1914 the South chapel was begun.  In 1915 the Grayson post office was changed Blanding, and the next year the town built its first reservoir (1916) and the stone bank and Blacks grist mill were also built. 
LaVell traded the corner lot west of Morley Guymon’s (where Deb and Charles Orvin now live) to Benjamin Black in 1919 for the little home and lot.  Originally the kitchen door was on the north, with a small porch. 

Verde recalled, “Oh, the cave of that vine covered porch, the play house, the bed in summer, and reaching through those vines in winter for a bite of clean snow.” 

This shows the corral and granary build by
LaVell Washburn
LaVell expanded the kitchen and added a lean-to bedroom and moved the kitchen door to the south. There was no inside water, but there was a stand tap on the north side.  The Washburns had six children and had two big beds in the bedroom, “There was with no room to move or mop,” said daughter Verde Hughes.  Vela and J.B. Washburn were both born in the living room of the little three-room home. The walls were adobe and the roof was tar papered by her mother Wasel.  The wall boards were calcimined. 

The corrals and barn were built by the Washburns.  An irrigation ditch ran past the north side of the house. The granary and livestock pens were located on the east side of the barn.  Like most Blanding families, the Washburns, kept a milk cow.  “LaVell could whirl a full bucket of milk around his head and not spill a drop,” remembered his daughter Verde. “And Wasel made the best bread in the world, divinity candy, mashed potatoes and gravy, pies and delicious beans.”

In 1931 LaVell Washburn sold his Alkali Ranch and bought Zeke Johnson’s brick house across the street (where Maureen Beeson lives).  Wasel had helped her father David Patten Black build that house in 1915.  The Blacks lived there until 1929 when David Patten traded it to Zeke Johnson for the Charley Sipe home. 
Ilene Palmer as toddler

Margaret Palmer Redd getting ready to ride horse.
Shows the west side of the house. and edge of the chicken coop.

The Washburns sold their little home to Alma and Lila Palmer in 1931.  All of the Palmer children were raised there.  They had three milk cows and 44 pigs at one time, and Lila usually did the milking, gardening, & watering because Alma was away doing road construction and other projects.  Alma did, however, keep a very detailed diary of all his business dealings and the following data came from his diary:

1946—Built a second level addition, also added a porch, and front room.  Robert Dodge and Frank Wright did the work. A garage was built, cost $370; a picket fence was also added.

1949—Cement walks were poured around the home, cost $117; brick planters were put in which cost $190.  The Chicken coop was built for $485.  (All are still intact.)
Play house and swings on the north west corner of lot.

1950—Planted the maple tree on the north lawn. (Now 62 years old.)

1952--Planted the Ash tree on the north lawn. (60 years old).  Neighborhood girls who grew up with Margaret, Ilene, and Shirley also remember the play house Alma built for his kids, and how much fun it was to play there.

Shirley Palmer by front gate.

Patio doors on south side

1955—A fireplace and large patio doors were added on the south by Ernest Sondregger.

As busy as Alma and Lila were, they probably didn't much
chance to enjoy these lounge chairs.  The big propane tank
 was still there when we moved in.
1959—The bedroom walls downstairs were lined with knotty pine; cost $225; more picket fence built by Alma.

1974 shows wagon wheel fence, barn, and chicken coop
1960—Installed the wagon wheel fence.  

This shows the paneling in 1974 when we moved in.
1962—Home was remodeled again; paneling installed in the front rooms for $300.  Doug Harvey and Don Pendleton, Glen Johnson did most of the carpentry.  This was beautiful dark walnut paneling made from scratch.

1973—Pete and Charlotte Black bought home from the Palmers; insulation was blown in to the attic.

1974—The Blacks sold the home to the Wilcox family.  We had four children at the time: Aaron 4, Rob 3, Nathan 2, and Chris 1 year old.  After living in a trailer for six years, we thought we had moved into a castle!!

The house as it looked when we moved in.
Debarking the Elm tree to kill it
1975—We reshingled the house, remodeled and insulated the middle upstairs bedroom.  Planted lawn on the west side of the house.  Debarked the elm trees on the north and south to kill them, as they were over powering the Maple trees.  We loved the large garden and orchard area as both of us were raised on Idaho farms. Two of the original grapes vines are still growing.

1976-- Feb. 2, Quentin born; large garden planted (and each year afterward).

1977—Drilled a well near the barn.  Cost $1221, Anthony born Sept. 27

1978-79—Dick Einerson remodeled our kitchen, added new cabinets.  Cost $4000.  Autumn born Oct. 31   Built a grape arbor, and planted more trees and grapes.

1981—Andrew born April 6. 
1982—Installed chain link fence around three sides of the acreage. Stubbs family shared in the cost.

1987—Added on 12 feet to west end of home, and brought the walls straight up on the 2nd story.  This added four more rooms upstairs. Hoyt Hoagland did the work and remodeling for $17,000.   Our family did the sheet rocking, perfataping and painting and finishing work.  It was a long winter!

Jan. 4 , 1990—A house fire destroyed the interior walls downstairs, and smoke damaged the rest of the home.  We were devastated to lose all the hard work we had just completed. The basic structure, however, was still solid.  Bishop and Sister Webb generously invited us to stay with them, until we could find another place to stay. Nine people for company—just imagine!
Our neighbors and friends helped clear out the insulation, and burnt sections as well as wash our clothes, dishes, and anything salvageable.  What a labor of love they provided. We were soon able to rent Dr. VanDyke’s home, where the Giddings now live on the dump road.  Scott Hurst and his crew rebuilt our home and we moved back in 6 months later.  They did amazing work, and made the home better than ever. 

July 1990  Hurst Building added new wiring, insulation, plumbing, bay window on south, termite prevention, storm windows, new furnace, porch in front, vinyl siding and cement work.  They took down walls in the kitchen/family room area, added a big support beam, to open up the back of the home.  Taylor Palmer did the cabinets for the kitchen and office.  They did wonderful work, and we were so thankful to be back in our home.

1992—City installed curb and gutter on 3rd west and 1st south.

2006—Tired of hauling around water hoses for 30 years, we installed a sprinkler system, in preparation for leaving on the mission in 2007.

Most recently we leveled off the patio area with new cement and added a deck with an escape route in case of fire.  It has only taken us 20 years to do that!

We love our home, and appreciate changes and improvements made over the past 100 years.  It has served its occupants well and been a wonderful refuge to all the families who lived there and hopefully a friendly respite for those who come to visit.  Often we are quick to tear things down and start over, instead of valuing the stability and soundness of our foundations.  We truly have learned to value those who came before us, each one adding significant and beneficial contributions. Each one adding a new level of enjoyment to the structure and property. So Happy Birthday to our Black, Washburn, Palmer, Black, Wilcox home.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reflections of Shadows

By Janet Keeler Wilcox

Published Summer 2012 in the 25th Anniversary Issue of Blue Mountain Shadows

A seed is planted
Blue Mountain Shadows started with a seed planted at the Fife Folklore Conference in Logan in June of 1983.  K.C. Benedict and I had just become friends, and attending the two-day conference was our first historical foray together.  Little did we realize at the time that the seed would eventually expand to encompass 25 years of historical work and 45 magazines.  1983 was also the year we bought our first computer.  What a blessing this new technology was to be in facilitating the birth of Blue Mountain Shadows and helping it blossom.

 The conference was not only interesting but motivational and a seed began to germinate.  As we travelled home from Logan to Blanding, ideas and possibilities of how I could incorporate folklore were turning cartwheels in my mind. The whole trip was a memorable one, as we bounced ideas back and forth.  Eventually K C helped on our planning committee and became the writing expert who trained our first crew of researchers in 1987.  She has also been an editor and writer.

Initially I applied what I learned at the conference in doing a folklore project for USU credit.  I conducted about 10 interviews that summer, all focusing on a local trickster. This was eventually printed in issue #7 of BMS.  I began teaching at San Juan High the next year in 1984, and besides all the other “have too’s” I began incorporating historical research and writing into the curriculum. Jessie Embry who worked at BYU’s Charles Redd Center came down and trained my students and me on how to do oral interviews.  I have used her strategies ever since. By the time these 11th grade students did background research, prepared questions, conducted interviews, transcribed them, and wrote a paper, they had processed a lot of language in multiple ways  

By 1986 I had compiled a good collection of student generated stories and reports and I wanted to find a way to share their work.  It was during that time that  I met with Bob McPherson, and LaVerne Tate, both of whom were already involved with historical preservation and loved the history of San Juan County. While the seedling of historical research had been growing, there had yet to be a harvest.  We formed a committee and hammered out a mission statement of what we hoped to accomplish and have stuck to it for 25 years. 

Our initial goals included:
1.     Publishing two magazines yearly
2.     Conducting oral interviews with Hispanic, Ute, Anglo, and Navajo San Juan County residents
3.     Transcribing and translating all taped interviews
4.     Cataloging and indexing tapes, transcripts, photographs, and research articles
5.     Sponsoring public programs which explain and share new historical information
In a sense this was our garden design and we became the caretaker-gardeners of the Blue Mountain Shadows dream, tending and nurturing it and keeping it going.  It took all three of us to make that happen, along with many talented layout people, local artists, and dozens of dedicated writers.

The Gardeners: Bob, LaVerne, Janet

At the time that this historical “Awakening” began in Blanding, none of we three principal “Gardeners” were twiddling our thumbs looking for something else to do. We were all raising large families, working, serving in the LDS Church and community, and dealing with the vicissitudes of life brought on by tots and teenagers.  We were, however, all open to new ideas, and felt the import and urgency in preserving local history.

 LaVerne Powell Tate had recently been appointed the first chairman of the San Juan County Historical Commission.  She was the mother of a large active family of 12 children and during the time we worked on the magazine she faced many trials and challenges in her life, among them the loss of her husband Jack following a life-altering logging accident. LaVerne is made of tough stock, however, and is San Juan County through and through.  She knew first-hand about trading posts, Navajos, Utes, pioneers, and history, genealogy, and geography.  Based upon her early experiences she had a life-long appreciation for culture and history and the impact of "place" on life in the Four Corners.

During the early years of the magazine, LaVerne did the leg work on finding and copying photos for each issue. She served as business manager and fiscal officer for grants as well as photo editor, magazine distribution and has often been a writer and editor.  For the past five years she has worked as managing editor and kept the magazine going since I retired in 2007. Through her steadfastness and skill she has helped to publish 45 issues of Blue Mountain Shadows.

Bob McPherson, like me, was a transplant to San Juan County; however, the Four Corners area soon became the center of the universe for all the key places, people, and history he loves.  He has been our resident scholar and advisor while teaching history and anthropology classes at USU/San Juan Campus. He had toyed with the idea of creating a regional magazine, even before we organized, but didn't have the resources to make it happen. He had many articles and ideas at his fingertips, that needed publishing and was so supportive and positive about the project from its inception.

Bob has written and served as editor of BMS dozens of times. He has been dogged in collecting oral histories, some of which have included the changing role of Navajo women, medicine men, early traders, plants, Comb Ridge, and stories about Navajo Oshley. It seemed he was always off to the reservation with sacks of Blue Bird flour, encouraging Navajo people to share their stories and culture. His interest in Native American culture uncovered stories that had been buried for nearly a century. Bob’s strengths helped us and others see the larger picture and the deeper meaning of county events and people.  He also kept us supplied with wonderful research topics, and themes for future issues. He is one of the reasons, the magazine will never run out of subject matter.   His research skills and ability to analyze, contrast, and compare, gave both depth and credibility to our efforts.

As the ringleader of this historical triage, I also had a large family of eight children, all at home when the wheels were set in motion for Blue Mountain Shadows.  I had a BA English and minor in history.  At one time I had begun a Masters Degree in folklore.  My real passion however, was journalism, and through early experiences writing news and feature stories for the San Juan Record I’d come to know and love many of the good people and rich history of San Juan County.  This menagerie of experiences prepared me in for the role I was to take as managing editor.

Even though most people only think of the “magazine” when they hear “Blue Mountain Shadows,” my role definitely included much more than just publishing.  In addition to making sure a magazine came out twice a year, I also spearheaded dozens of public presentations where we presented historical information to local audiences.  Topics included the Posey War, Archaeology, mining, ranching, trading posts, and many Native American topics. 

Between 1989-1997 Blue Mountain Shadows sponsored a series of 4th of July folk festivals in Blanding. These were done in partnership with Kigalia Fine Arts and the San Juan County Historical Commission, The festivals included quilt shows, programs, performances, workshops, and booths all related to folklife.  I served as the chairman seven years for that event, working with dozens of wonderful people who helped pull it all together. We also sponsored a big Blanding Birthday party with cowboy poetry, workshops and a hoedown.
Another role I filled was supervising the collection several oral interview projects.  These projects started in 1987 when Blue Mountain Shadows began, then expanded later to World War II oral histories as well as the collection and transcription Cottonwood Mining oral histories, the indexing and partial translating of 70 Navajo interviews; as well as the collection of over 350 documents related to historic road use in San Juan County.  Most of these required special funding, which meant writing proposals to make the dream happen.  In the process of sharing history I also learned how to create documentaries using Photodex and spent hundreds of hours creating the Blanding Centennial Show, 100 Years of Quilting, and 20th BMS Anniversary DVD. 

Work in the Trenches: Preparing the Ground

As in real life, the main killer of dreams is lack of funding, and that was the first big obstacle to overcome if we were going accomplish any of our goals.  Fortunately, a few years earlier Lynn Lee had helped me successfully write a proposal for San Juan Education Days which was funded by Utah Endowment of the Humanities (Utah Humanities Council).  In 1983 and 1984 our committee organized dozens of workshops throughout the county.  This experience helped me in writing the initial proposal which funded Blue Mountain Shadows.  The state UHC director, Delmont Oswald, was very encouraging, though he cautioned that the board would likely not approve the project more than once, as “they were not in the publishing business.”  My main role from then on was to keeping the dream growing by securing grants for our “great ideas.”

I wrote over 20 proposals in the 20 years I worked as managing editor.  These helped to partially fund the magazine and other historical events we organized. Over the years, the Utah Humanities Council awarded dozens of grants to help us with our specific issues as well as oral history projects.  Other groups and individuals who periodically helped fund our endeavors included Clyde Harvey, The Charles Redd Foundation, Utah Arts Council, Bureau of Land Management, Edge of the Cedars Museum, Recapture Metals, San Juan School District Foundation, San Juan County, and Division of State History.
Just thinking about writing another proposal makes me shutter today, but at one time I did it to help Blue Mountain Shadows survive and thrive.  Those were the years I learned to get by on 5-6 hours of sleep. Today, BMS has simplified its focus, and between San Juan County funding and magazine sales they are able to pay for publishing costs. We have also been thrilled to see the Edge of the Cedars Museum take the lead in hosting and organizing historical and cultural programs.  That has significantly lightened our burden.

Preparing for the first harvest

In 1986, our planning committee determined that the first grant request should include funding for conducting interviews and transcribing them as well as publishing one magazine.  From these interviews we hoped to have enough material for two or more additional magazines. We concentrated on the history of San Juan County from 1900-1940.  The pre-selected topics were the CCC camps, Mexico Mormons, pioneer entertainment, the building of the South Chapel, bootlegging, remedies, Ute culture, law enforcement, the Anasazi, and the influenza epidemic. 

Beverly, Deniane, Gipp, Laura and Kim:
Part of the awesome BMS high school team
We next selected a team of students, and adults to conduct interviews.  These included Bertha Parrish, Anna Marie Nat, Kim Hurst, Deniane Gutke, Laura Shumway, Annette Carroll, Gipp Redd, Thelma Tate and Regina Yazzie.  Once all these details were hammered out I wrote the first proposal, which was funded for $6649. Half of our hours were considered volunteer donations that summer, so I made $3 an hour, and my transcribers made $2.  We certainly weren’t in it for the money!

Helen Shumway was another consistent and loyal writer, who provided dozens of articles, ideas, and even art for the magazine.  She also took on the daunting task of collecting and editing the first 50 year history of San Juan High for BMS.  She just passed away in 2011, and will be missed.  Her cousin Dora Shumway helped us with distribution for many years, which lightened our burden. Gary Shumway, Jim Knipmeyer and Winston Hurst are three other key writers who added to the magazines veracity and longevity.

On June 10-11,1987 we officially began with a series of workshops to train the BMS staff, then we all joined in force to conduct the interviews. Even though each person had a specific topic to write on, as interviewers we asked questions related to all the topics when we talked to someone. 

The School District Foundation donated money so we could purchase variable speed recorders and microphones for interviewing and transcription. We did interviews in Monument Valley, White Mesa, Monticello, Blanding, and Salt Lake City.  Each hour of recorded tape required nearly 10 hours of transcription.  It was tedious work requiring a high level of concentration. Additional transcribers were pulled in including Preston Blake, Patrice Webb, Beverly Brown, Shana Stubbs, Karalene Brown, Stephanie Blake, Sheri Balch, Staci Brown and Maureen Black. We relied heavily on these responsible high school students to get the job done, and when we ran out of money to pay them, they worked as volunteers. This time was as valuable as money, as we could use their work hours as match to the actual cash the grant provided.  All this had to be documented and tabulated when the final reports were made – another task I didn’t enjoy.

Denianne Gutke’s assigned topic was the CCC camp in Blanding.  She interviewed at least a dozen different people while collecting her information. She recalled interviewing Frank ‘Bo’ Montella. 
 “He was a CCC enrollee from back East who stayed in the area. Thinking back on my interview with Bo, my mind recreates him as this fascinating rogue from New York, still carrying an accent after all his years in Blanding. I glimpse a twinkle in his eye as he tells me the pranks of the camp and we laugh together. “When the mess sergeant wasn’t around, there were the biggest food fights you’ve ever seen!” Bo recalled. To this day I remember the connection I felt to the CCC’s just by being in his house—so close in proximity to the camp where many of their experiences occurred. Bo made so many good friends through the CCC’s, and several stayed in contact with each other their entire lives. Ultimately, my interview with Bo was vital to history because he was so good at seeing and explaining both sides of the story. Political and religious clashes were a part of almost everyone’s experiences with the CCC’s, and Bo was able to share this aspect in a way I could understand and later share with others through magazine articles. (Letter 1/9/2012)” 

That summer Blue Mountain Shadows staffers conducted 60 interviews and we about wore ourselves out getting them transcribed. Even though many on the team were intimidated by the thought of interviewing, I believe it was actually one of the most rewarding parts of the whole process.  We all made new friends, while validating and preserving the experiences and memories of the older people we interviewed.

            High school senior Annette Carroll recalled the experience: 
Blue Mountain Shadows was a wonderful conception! What a fabulous way to connect people to each other while we learned about our area's history and lore. 

I was privileged to be in on the first project. Mrs. Janet Wilcox asked me, as a senior in high school, if I would like to participate in writing a couple of articles for a local magazine. She hoped it would be long lasting. I agreed, knowing it would help me in high school. She actually let me use part of two research papers I had completed for school work as the basis of the two articles that I was to write about. One was the myth of Bigfoot and the other was on the Last Indian War of the United States which involved Posey, a native of our San Juan County area. 

I remember interviewing a couple of good men for these articles as well as my own grandmother. I also remember using the transcribing tape recorders that were new then! We had to check them out from Mrs. Wilcox. 

When we were done with the interviews we spent several hours at the school on weekends using the "new" computers of the time to type out and save what we had done. Not fully understanding computers and electronics yet, I had spent a few hours one stormy day transcribing, when suddenly the power glitched and it deleted all I had done. I was so frustrated when I had to start all over! I learned to save often after that. Transcribing was tedious work. It required careful listening and constant rewinding to be able to understand and type all that the people said in those oral interviews. 

When we came to a point where the publishing process was ready to begin, I had a deadline I was trying to meet. I had gone to St. George with some of my family to get registered for college. As we were returning home, I was working on one of the articles with papers spread everywhere in the vehicle, when we were involved in a serious car wreck. The papers were scattered all over the car, and I thought I might lose my life. However, God was watching over us and though we sustained some injuries, everyone was OK and eventually I got my article turned in on time. 

Being involved in the beginning of such a project was so cool. Being able to watch what it has grown into, is even better. Thank you for the opportunity to be involved in something so wonderful that preserves our heritage
(Facebook post 1/7/2012)!

Reviewing the list of people we were privileged to interview the summer of 1987, reads like a San Juan County Hall of Fame. Many of them lived nearly 100 years, so their life experiences were wide and varied. The ones I personally talked to were Eva Torres (1912-2007), Hilda Oliver Perkins (1912-1999), Alma Jones (1902-1989), Ervin Guymon (1907-2006),  Frank Wright (1903-2002), J Glen Shumway (1908-1992), Parley Hurst (1892-1995), Gene Blickenstaff (1916-1996), Ray Hunt (1902-1998), Kent Frost, and Ray Jarvis.  As I reflect upon the years of experience these good people had, I’m so thankful we started when we did, or their memories may not have been preserved.  Ray Jarvis just died in 2011, but his stories of the southwest and Mexico were some of the wildest ones I’d ever heard, and told in a most entertaining fashion.

Patrice Webb Crandall remembered working for Blue Mountain Shadows as a high school student:
When you first approached me about working on the Shadows, the money was tight and we knew it would probably be a lot of volunteering. I think I made $2 an hour, and that was only until the money ran out. I still thought it was a great summer job, and I'm sure I was thinking my resume would benefit, too. Description:

I was pretty nervous when I first started interviewing people. I actually had to talk to old people I didn't know. 
Description: That's pretty scary for a teenager. But, over time, it was easy and enjoyable. I wish I remembered all that we talked about, but I do remember interviewing people on home remedies. Mustard plasters and herbs and even how they used a hot knife on the back are a few I remember.

Much of my time was also transcribing mine and others' interviews (I must have been a fast typist). I learned so much about the area, that I truly felt I fell in love with San Juan County. Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of something special. And now 25 years later? Wow” (Facebook post 1/3/2012)!

San Juan High Principal Jim Harris allowed our staff to use San Juan High’s computer lab all summer.  Besides organizing the interview teams, and keeping track of their tapes, typed manuscripts, and work hours, I supervised the high school students throughout the summer, answering their questions, clarifying words, and making sure everyone was paid their pittance.  Editing transcripts was part of my tedious task, but it also had its humorous moments:  Oljato being written as “Old Jay Toe” and Verdure was often spelled “Verjur.”  By the end of the summer a vast bank of data had been collected and we were ready to begin writing.

Hard Fought Harvest:

From these transcripts three magazines were generated, with the first one published fall of 1987.   I was so tired and worn out after we completed that first year of work I didn’t feel I could do any more work on Blue Mountain Shadows, much less teach school that fall, but somehow I did.  At this same time, our family had started a major second floor addition to our home and were doing much of the work ourselves; plus, my mother had moved to Blanding and she needed quite a bit of attention as well.  Had it not been for our older boys I’m sure I would have had a breakdown. I always felt I was juggling a dozen balls and at times I wondered if we’d ever get the first issue out.

I wrote In my journal Oct. 25, 1987: “Mon-Thurs. I worked on the magazine and nearly have it all done.  There is just a little more photo shooting to do, and a couple of captions to finish.  It has really been depressing in lots of ways—lots more hours than I had expected, and we’re a month behind schedule.  I hope it turns out well.”

Another role my students played was in selecting the name of Blue Mountain Shadows.  Through 1986 and most of 1987 I always referred to it as “the magazine.”  But as we got closer to publishing date, we had to decide on a name.  I asked my English students to submit possible names for it.  We did an initial vote in the classes and I let them vote 3 times as I recall.  The next day they voted again on a narrowed down list of 10.  The final vote had 3 names on it, and Blue Mountain Shadows rose to the top. Finally the dream had a name!

My Rattler staff and I did the layout for the first issue.  This was all done using the old fashioned cut and paste method on a light table.  Computers were only used for composing and editing text, which was printed out in columns, cut apart, and pasted on the layout paper.  The titles were strip printed at the media center, and they also half-toned the photos for us. Lea Hurst and Betty Shumway were our key help there. We had some problems with the first issue, as the school district media center had never printed on slick magazine paper before, and it required a special ink to make it adhere. There were no machines to collate the 66 pages and cover, so again my classes manually collated all 500 magazines.  That was a little wild but we got it done. Next they had to be stapled, which we helped do as well.  That first issue was really a “hands on” experience.

Miraculously the first issue came out a month later.  I wrote on Nov. 29th, “Our first issue went on sale this week and we have sold about 3/5ths of what we need to pay the printing bill.  There were a few really bad boo-boos.  Three black photos and two captions left off and one photo upside down, but the articles are good.  We are selling them for $3.50 or $4 for mail orders.” 
All the BMS staff and writers were especially excited to get the first issue out.  When they came to pick their copies up, we all signed each others articles.  It was our big payoff for all our work, and we all felt we had really accomplished something.  Now to market it and hope others would love it too.
A week later on Dec. 5 I wrote, “The first sales of our magazine have gone so well.  It will only be three weeks since we got it out and we only have about 75 left that aren’t placed.  The response has been better than I had even hoped.  That is very encouraging, knowing that it has been so well received.”

We only published 500 copies of the first issue, but later Gary Shumway helped us do a reprint in 1988. He has been a faithful contributor/supporter over the years, full of ideas, and willingness to help write and serve as editor.  We had a brief few months respite and then we jumped right into preparing articles for the 1988 issues. I knew I couldn’t do layout again with everything else I was responsible for, so we hired Debbie and Terri Slade to design the magazine -- plus it was handy for me as they lived just through the fence!  They had started a local paper in Blanding, and had the equipment necessary to do layout.  That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.  

Stan and Eva Byrd did layout for the following two issues.  Stan had experience in publishing, and made more improvements to the magazine.  By issue #5 Deniane Gutke came back to Blanding with a whole new bank of skills and creativity, and she took over the layout for the next seven issues.   Even though others were doing the layout, the magazine always required a final read and corrections.  I remember several all-nighters when we worked through the night making final edits and changes.  “Sleep deprived” became my “modus operandi.”

Shurrell, Janet, and LaVerne by display done at the museum,
celebrating 20 years of Blue Mt. Shadows.  A CD was also produced.
Shurrell Meyer was our next specialist for layout and did a great job as well, helping to produce issues 13-39. Her cover designs were always striking and creative.  Issues 40-45 have been designed by Donna Blake. The amazing progress in computer technology the past 25 years has truly made publishing a small town magazine a viable possibility that has become more of a pleasure instead of a pain.  Word processing, page design, photo scanning, and spread sheets for compiling data have all enhanced our ability to produce attractive and interesting magazines. Yet at the core of any publication such as this, is the basic need for accurate historical research, and engaging writing and we have tried to do that from the very beginning.

How our Garden Grew

As readership grew we would publish anywhere from 1500-3000 copies of Blue Mountain Shadows, depending upon the topic and our financial status.  Looking for additional ways to promote the magazine and share our findings we expanded our presence through a web site which I created the summer of 2001. Though a great idea, a web site is a whole different garden to tend, and requires diligence and technical skill to keep alive. My volunteer bank of energy only had so much to give and it hasn’t been updated since 2006, but it does articles from the out of print issues, as well as summaries of issues through #26.  It can be found at

Delmont Oswald Presents Plaque to Blue Mt. Shadows
Through the years several of our issues, and oral history projects were given state as well as national recognition. 

 In February 1988 I wrote in my journal, “We received two letters from UEH commending us for the project and saying it had been selected as a merit project for 1987.” K C and I went up for the awards program in March.  I was on foot, and not knowing where the Rio Grand Station was I had walked to 530 E. and instead of 5:30 W.  Fortunately, I was able to catch a bus back and was only 5 min. late.
As exciting and happy as we were with this first commendation, I wrote in my journal that week, “It was really a nice recognition and plaque they gave us, but walking back afterwards, I realized that it was less satisfying than the feeling I have when my kids do what is right.  They are my real “merit projects.”

Bob & I receive award from Kent Powell, Utah State History

In 1990 the magazine was recognized by the American Association of State and Local History, specifically for our effort in interviewing and preserving local history. I gave a presentation for them at their conference in Park City on using oral histories and drew heavily upon Blue Mountain Shadows on our experiences.

In 1992 the magazine’s contribution was recognized along with other community groups and Blanding was given The Governor’s Award for the Arts at special banquet in SLC with Norman Bangerter.

In 1996 our State Centennial Issue also received a Merit award from UHC. This time I asked one of our sons to represent Blue Mountain Shadows and pick up the award. 

in 2006 Blue Mountain Shadows was honored by UHC for our public programming and the Blanding Centennial issue in 2005.  LaVerne and I attended the awards program Feb. 1. We had worked hard to make our town’s centennial celebration historically richer not only because of the magazine but through four events which Blue Mt. Shadows sponsored:

1.     Blanding’s 100 year History slide show. This was shown at 6 different events during 2005, with approximately 1900 people seeing it.
The Francis Lyman Band performed for the Centennial Swing

The Centennial Swing on March 5 had 1000 in attendance with old time dance instruction, and a lecture on the history of dance in rural Utah both by Craig Miller.


Centennial Quilters slide Show featured 100 years of quilting and quilters in the county.

4.     Lecture on The Early Native American Experience presented by Bob McPherson and Winston Hurst.

During the 20+ years I worked on the magazine several family crises occurred.  A house fire in 1990 and the tragic death of a son two years later were especially devastating. During those difficult times there were always good people who shored me up, and kept us going.  I love the integrity and grit of the people I’ve come to know through researching writing about the history of San Juan County.  None of this, however, would have happened without a very supportive husband and good children, who helped so much at home and supported me in my never ending projects.

As with any good “seed” that is cultivated and cared for, it thrives, and Blue Mountain Shadows continues today because there are those who tend it.  Their inventory of past issues fills an historical granary of sorts and new readers to Blue Mountain Shadows can purchase enough past issues to have almost a full set.  There have been many good harvests and our little historical publication became much more than I had initially envisioned. I thought perhaps we might be able to publish 10-12 issues of the magazine before we ran out of ideas. Now it has grown to #45.  Hopefully, there will continue to be dedicated gardeners who can help keep the harvests coming.

1987-2012 Magazine Topics
           TOPIC                           COVER
#1 Mexico Mormons, CCCs, (Sheriff Oliver Pix)
#2 Bluff history, Anasazi,  (Twin Rocks)
#3 Bootlegging, sawmills, etc.  (Orange)
#4 Posey War, pranks, M. Ogden (Newspaper articles)
#5 Trapping, Livestock (Lt. Blue w/ wolf) 
#6 Land and Livestock (Tan Branding) 
#7 Folklore and folk crafts (Green, native papercutting) 
#8 Civilization comes to SJC (Gray) 
#9 Education in San Juan (Red Map with schools) 
#10 Living on the Land ( Brown Mainstreet) 
#11 Native American (Turquoise Navajo) 
#12 Rivers & Roads (Blue-Frank Wright) 
#13 Archaeology (Sandstone Rock Art) 
#14 More archaeology ( Patchwork) 
#15 Cowboys & outlaws (Brown Adobe house)
#16 Mining in SJC (Yellow, Uranium)      

#17 Centennial history (Maroon, paper cutting)
#18 Quilting (Forest green, quilts)

#19 Sesquicentennial (Rainbow Bridge)
#20 WW I and W.W.II (Flag)                                                                                                                     #21 An Outsiders view (Blue Mountain)                                                                                                     #22 The Millennium (Green/orange)
#23 Folkarts & crafts (Black, Navajo art) 
#24 Historic homes (Tan house collage)
#25 Cottonwood Mining (Grey John Black cover)
#26 Cottonwood Mining #2 (White Mesa Mill cover)                                                                               #27 Cottonwood Mining #3 (Vanadium Mill, Green cover)
#28 Monticello homes (F.I Jones Home cover)                                                                                         #29 Cowboys, Indians, Conflict (Green collage cowboy cover) 
#30 Fort Montezuma (Montezuma Creek scenes)
#31 Monticello Businesses (Hyland Cafe cover) 
#32 Blanding Centennial issue (School papercutting)                                                                               #33 Natural History (Water rocks cover)
#34 San Juan Canyons (Hovenweep Cover) 
#35 Bringing roads to San Juan (Natural Bridges Cover)

#36 Beyond Monticello  (gold, Marie Ogden home)
#37 La Sal, (Mt. Peale in La Sal)
#38 Military in San Juan (Recapture Res. Medals)
#39 Movies in San Juan (Monument Valley Mittens)
#40 Bluff, Buttes, and Backcountry  (Lady in the Tub)
#41 Hunting in San Juan  (Green, Cougar)
#42 Law Enforcement (
 #43 Scouting in San Juan (Green, scout badges)
#44 Deep History II, (Archaeology (gold rock art)
#45 Twenty-five years of Blue Mountain Shadows

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dr. D. Gibbons Home Torn Down

Day 1 of the official demolition of the Dee Gibbons home July 10, 2012.  The Gibbons home was used for over 20 years as an integral part of the San Juan Campus.  Prior to the 10th, inside doors, windows & fixtures had been removed, but once the roof was removed the die was cast, and the beautiful home was soon destroyed.

Day 2 Tri-Hurst (De)Construction made quick work of demolishing the front and upper floors of the Gibbons home the 2nd day  on July 11

By Day 3 -- all that was left to remove was the basement of the home and the beautiful west arches on the west.    It is a sad ending to one of the most beautiful homes in Blanding and a reminder of how our little community college began.

Our family was personally connected to Dr. Gibbons and his family, as they lived in our ward and neighborhood for many years.  He delivered 5 of our eight children, doing a masterful job at performing C-sections.  Because our wedding anniversaries were in the same month, we often helped orchestrate December Anniversary parties, and Dee and Beppy were a part of that as well.  

In the early days of my journalism career for the San Juan Record, I wrote a feature story about his practice, and how federal and state regulations were nearly driving him out of business.  It was a sympathetic look at what rural doctors do to provide service.  He was also instrumental in getting Dr. Jim Redd into med school and to come back to practice in Blanding.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Twenty-three years of Blanding Quilt Shows

2001 Quilt Show booth with Jolene Holt

For those who quilt and attend quilt shows, it’s obvious that that Blanding has hosted a standout quilt show for more than five years, (contrary to what last years, and this year’s 4th of July program advertises).

Starting in 1989, Blue Mountain Shadows sponsored an expansive Folk Fair Festival with all kinds of folk arts, programs, and food booths.  This was held at San Juan High school for seven years.  The quilt show was in the cafeteria and each year it was totally filled with beautiful quilts.   Other folk craft booths lined both sides of the hallway, with presentations done in classrooms.

 Some of the die-hard quilters who helped with these early shows, included Eve Lynn Perkins, Kathleen Lyman, Bonnie Meyer, Norma Madden, Ada Rigby, Edith Young, Gayle Marian, Ingrid Meyer, Ruth Nielson, and Kathy Hurst as well as their husbands, and sons and grandsons. Many, many others helped orchestrate the shows, as it takes a lot of manpower to hang 100 quilts or more in just a day! 

The biggest show the local guild ever masterminded was in 1996 for the State Centennial Celebration.  They joined forces with Monticello quilters and pulled in 200 beautiful quilts of all makes and styles.  In addition, quilters were photographed and a short story and photo were framed for display at the folk festival, and were later hung at the Senior Citizen Centers.  Eventually these frames were given back to the quilters.  Though many of these quilters are no longer with us, but their influence is still remembered. 

Both Monticello and Blanding made beautiful Centennial Quilts for the 1996 state celebration and those two quilts are featured as cover photos in the 1997 issue of Blue Mountain Shadows which was celebrated 100 years of quilts and the people who made them.  This magazine was compiled and edited by Kathy Hurst.  Quilts along with short biographies of 147 San Juan County quilters are included in that heirloom issue, which will be on sale at this year’s 27th annual quilt show.

It’s possible that quilt shows began even before this, back when Blanding hosted Frontier Days, but someone else will need to find records on those---anyway, quilt shows have been going  a lot longer than five years!

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Book Captures the Colorful Missionary Life of J. Golden Kimball

The Worthy and Kim Glover family enjoy visiting with relative and author Scott M. Hurst at his first book signing in Blanding.

New Book Captures the Colorful Missionary Life of J. Golden Kimball
“If the history of the LDS Church were a quilt, then J. Golden Kimball would be one of the most colorful swatches” in it… so begins Scott M. Hurst’s book Open Fire: J. Golden Kimball Takes on the South.   Scott not only tackles one of the most legendary, and colorful of LDS Church leaders to have ever lived, but he also bravely held his book launch in Blanding, where Hurst story telling has also been legendary for many generations.

Scott is the son of Michael Hurst and Ellen and Steve Williams, and grandson of Riley and Carol Hurst.  His Blanding connections, as well as the topic of his book, pulled in a large crowd June 13 at the Blanding library, with 60 books being sold, and orders for more.   The forward was written by Blaine Yogenson, one of his father’s missionary companions.  Yorgason credits Scott for fulfilling the writing promise of his father, Michael, while celebrating the life of J. Golden Kimball in a “wonderful and entertaining way.”

Without faultering, Scott faced this first audience, and lived up to his two year-old pronouncement (told by eye-witness Winston Hurst) “I’m a Winner,” as he charmed his audience with honesty, wit, and sprinklings of J. Golden’s early history. 

The bait which hooked Scott on this Golden topic came initially from James Arrington, who decades ago did a one-man show about J. Golden’s humor.  Later James Kimball wrote a witty anecdotal book about his father, J. Golden.  Intrigued by the apocryphal nature of the man and his stories, Scott wrote to James, and eventually they became friends.  Hurst was given privy to journals written by this “raise a righteous ruckus” LDS General Authority.  At the time he was studying film making and screen writing at BYU and he hoped to make a film about J. Golden.

Undaunted by this bigger than life personality, the author began what would be 13 years of research and writing.  He first wrote a screen play but when big bucks funding was not possible for this period piece, he rewrote it as a book which focused on the little known years of J. Golden’s early life, and his missions to the South, first as a “not so young” missionary (30) and then as a Mission President.  Told in a captivating narrative style, the stories are sure to augment considerably any prior knowledge readers already have of J. Golden Kimball.  The book shows the humanity and down to earth nature of this cowboy General Authority, who once claimed he was so thin, “he didn’t cast a shadow.”

J. Golden’s shadow was actually immense and the book confirms the fact that even if he “didn’t always walk the straight and narrow, he truly did cross it a lot of times!”  When J. Golden died in 1934, the family requested permission to use the Tabernacle for the funeral, but many doubted they would need such a large facility.  It was good that permission was granted, as his funeral was second only in size to that of the Prophet Brigham Young’s 57 years earlier.  His death generated even more anecdotal stories, one of what has Saint Peter greeting him at heaven, with this declaration, “We finally got you to the Pearly Gates!”  At which point, J. Golden declared, “But you had to kill me to do it!”

The book is published by Bonneville Books and imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc of Springville, Utah and can be ordered through Amazon.  Many thanks to the Winston and Kathy Hurst family for planning and hosting a wonderful evening of entertainment, visiting, and book signing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Divine Dining in Dietary: Blue Mountain Hospital Food Fare

 Croissant Sandwiches, Chicken pesto, Reubens, homemade soups and fresh baked goods --  not the usual menu for  normal hospital fare. But then not every hospital has its own chef and experienced caterer as head of the dietary division.  Debra King, a California transplant, claims that title at Blue Mountain Hospital in Blanding where she has worked since it opened in 2009.

She is enthralled to be in San Juan County, and loves her job, and the “phenomenal cooks “ she works with whom include Denise Arthur, Megan Lacy, Holly Pederson, Rochelle Myrick and Nathan Begaye.  Cheyna Shumway Palmer has also been on board as a dietary planner with this crew for 6 months, having graduated with a BS in Dietetics. She is responsible for determining nutritional needs, especially for dialysis patients.

  “I just love it here and all the hospital staff,” Debra emphasized. “It is great working for an organization that has a vision for the future, big dreams and the desire to make this hospital something grand.”  She credits CEO Donna Singer, for that drive and spirit of teamwork permeating the facility. 
Besides preparing individual computerized diet cards for all hospital patients, the dietary staff also prepares food each day for the hospital staff and community walk ins, so they keep things sizzling in the kitchen.  Though small and compact it meets the needs of the BMH. This gourmet group made their first public breakout dinner on Valentines weekend, followed in March with an evening “Spring Fling” dinner.  Call 678-4835 for lunch specials or orders.

Debra and her mom moved from bustling California to San Juan County, east of Monticello in 2002, where they now have a little ranch with two horses.  “I could never live in a town again,” she emphasized -- adding, “I love the open space, and looking at the Horsehead every day when I get up.“ 
 “Deb King, Queen of cuisine” (as Dr. Mitchell calls her) began her food career as a produce buyer, then worked as a cinema chef at Universal Studio from 1983-1987.  This consisted of feeding actors and crew on location at movie sites.  She worked with an Australian chef, running one of the first gourmet food trucks in the business, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Bert Reynolds, Martin Sheen, Danny Devito and Tom Selleck, often working at the Disney Ranch and Universal Studios back lot. 

It was during that time that she also snagged her first big job catering for the 1984 LA Olympics at the Yacht Venue.  She worked non-stop for 6 weeks and “had a blast” keeping the hungry competitors fed from 7 AM-midnight. 

That same year she started her own restaurant, The Noon Room, on the back lot at Universal studios which she ran for 6 ½ years.  During those years she also took many food specific courses learning everything she could about pastries and entrees.  One of the best birthday presents she ever received was from a friend who gifted her a weekend pastry course in San Francisco.  ”I just like to cook and that course was really fun!” 

     As much as she loved cooking, the next 15 years took a career turn for her, as she became cosmetics director for Robison-May Company, where she worked until 2002.   By then her mom had retired and both were ready for a move to a simpler, quieter lifestyle.  The Four Corners area had been part of their vacations for years, and was Debra was always intrigued by the Navajo culture.  Finally she and her mom made the move.  “My original goal was to have a herd of goats and make cheese,“ she added, “but that’s on hold for a while.”

She still has two married sons in California and five grandchildren, so the California connection is still strong, but for sure, her new San Juan County connection has bonded equally well.