“I just love the desert,” Rappe said. “Every time I got the chance I wanted to come here.” Before he moved to Moab, Rappe visited often from Washington State to visit family. His family spent Christmas in Moab every year. During his sophomore year of high school, Rappe finally made Moab his home. During this time, he said he learned to take full advantage of the beauty of the area.
“It’s like being on the ocean. The desert’s the same way. It’s got that same kind of power ... of vastness. That same solitary feeling,” explained Rappe. He always appreciated Moab’s small population and scattered development. “That’s why I loved Moab so much. Back in the day, it was a funky little town,” he said. “There was nothing else to do. So we thought we might as well open a restaurant, so we had some place to meet.”
Rappe and his wife, Debbie, opened The Broiler on the corner of Kane Creek and Main Street in 1986, where there is now a Burger King. “We had the first espresso in southeastern Utah,” he said. The restaurant became a community staple in Moab.
“We would have people wash dishes, and kids were running amok, and that’s the way the [restaurant] always was. It was nice that way, full of good interaction. It was a whole mix of different types of people,” Rappe added. “We had a free Christmas breakfast every year, where we were open and we would put on music and cook a big meal for everybody.” The community aspect of the restaurant, to Rappe, is representative of the culture of what he calls “old Moab.”
“I think that lifestyle is gone,” he said. “It was a barter system. Even in running the restaurant.” Rappe explained how he bought the restaurant’s meat from another resident, saying, “During the winter it would be slow, and he’d say ‘hey, don’t worry, I’ll catch you in the spring.’”
After the restaurant took off, Rappe set his sights on another project: a radio station. “We were just sitting around the living room one day, me and ‘Too Tall’ Tom Simmons, an old character of Moab, and we just thought, hey, let's do a radio station,” explained Rappe. “[Simmons] said it would never happen, and I bet him $500 it would, but he died before he could ever pay it. I’ve always been into music my whole life; I loved music even as a child. I wanted music, and I wanted to share music. So then I called Wayne Bundy and started the process.”
It took Rappe and his small team of friends and board members three years to get the station up and running, but KZMU continues to serve Moab today.
It was not easy, he added. “There was a lot of pain. It tore my heart out a couple times,” remarked Rappe, telling of the work it took to establish the station. “Myself and Kyle Copeland were building the studio, and the Park Service donated the trailer we started out in. Mike Merritt and I had gone to Las Vegas, because the public station there said they had an old FM transmitter we could have, so we drove down there and got it.”
Rappe has worked with KZMU for 25 years. “Oh I’m still there,” he said. Rappe hosts a radio show called “The Lounge of Uncle Meat” on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m., the name for which came from Dennis Kilker, an old friend, because of Rappe’s many nieces and nephews in the area, and because he loved Frank Zappa’s Uncle Meat album. He also hosts “Tilted Park” on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Of KZMU today, Rappe said, “Serah, Marty, Kik and Bob are really excellent, I’ve got to say that. They do a really great job.”
Until last year, when he retired, Rappe worked as a campground host with the U.S. Forest Service. “I figured why not, I’m not doing anything else, and I spend most of my time up in the mountains or out in the desert anyway,” he explained. “So, I ended up taking care of a lot of the campgrounds, which introduced me to the Bear’s Ears area, which I had never spent time in before. It’s just so pristine and beautiful and untouched. I could go down there for a whole day and never see a single soul.”
Now that he has retired from the USFS, Rappe finds plenty of time to explore Moab and its surrounding areas. “I still have spots I go to that I don’t tell people about. There’s so many hidden treasures out there,” he said. “It’s ever changing. The light changes, and the seasons. I just love it.”
Rappe, like many other Moab residents, has noticed the rapid growth of the area, and wonders what further changes will take place in the coming years. “When I first came to Moab, it was probably 70 percent trailer. Main Street is unrecognizable from what it was 30 years ago,” explained Rappe. Despite the change, there is still much about the town he loves. “The heart of it is still there. There’s still a lot of old Moab here,” Rappe continued. “That desert’s still out there, as long as we don’t destroy it.”