“Great-great-grandpa Holyoak was a rancher,” he added. “On the Johnson side, they were ranchers in the area too, and they ran cattle all down the river into the Canyonlands area.” The Johnson family history, inherently woven with the history of southeast Utah, is littered with anecdotes of early Moab. “Grandpa Westwood was a deputy sheriff at the time, and he was killed by the prisoners,” Johnson said of one of these stories. He referred to Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard D. Westwood, who was shot in a prison uprising at an unstaffed jail in 1929.
Johnson grew up in Moab during its uranium mining days. He graduated from Grand County High School and embarked on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in St. Louis, Missouri. In that area he met his wife, Tammy, and they were married in February, 1981. The couple moved back to Moab, where they started a family.
In Moab, Johnson worked in several jobs in the community. He describes his jobs in Moab in terms of the friends he made and the skills he learned. After working with Packer Distributing, he worked at Custom Body Shops, and then shifted into the trucking and freight industry. But in the late 1980s, the bottom fell out of the uranium market. “Moab went from a lot of people to just a few,” Johnson said.
Johnson and his wife left Moab, moving to Provo, then Ohio and Tennessee. “I always told my friends I’d end up back in Moab. If I didn’t move back, I’ve got a funeral plot in Moab,” Johnson said. “In 2012 we decided it was time to go home again, so we moved back to Moab.”
The Johnsons moved back into and remodeled the house George grew up in and began life again in Moab. Tammy took a job teaching second grade at Helen M. Knight Elementary School, and George became the crossing guard.
“It’s the perfect job for me,” George said. “One really nice perk about the job is that I get to see the youth in the morning and the afternoon. I get to tell them to have a good morning, and I get to tell them to have a good evening later. And I get to see all the parents too, and to anyone who waves at me, I wave back.”
Besides helping them cross the street safely, Johnson is involved with Moab’s youth by volunteering with the school and mentoring two fourth grade boys. “They all know my name,” he said of the children, “so I’m still trying to learn their names, but there are quite a few of them.”
According to Tammy, she can see George at the crosswalk from her classroom window, and the two wave at each other often. “I can keep an eye on George keeping an eye on the kids,” she said.
“What I really like about [the crossing guard job] is that it gives me the same days off as my wife has off,” George said. “In our time off we like to go driving around the Moab area and seeing all of the beauty of the canyon country here ... to get reacquainted with it after being gone for a while.”
Johnson realizes he’s not the only one who enjoys the desert landscape surrounding Moab. “It’s changed from the sleepy little town I grew up in, but it’s exciting to see that people want to come here and enjoy the beauty of the area.”
He said tourism does not bother him too much, unless the automobile and bicycle traffic does not heed his crosswalk.
“You’re going through a school zone,” he warned. “Keep an eye out and slow down.”