Adrien’s Many Trails

Dictionary. A noun. Derived from late latin, according to one that has been around the Times-Independent offices since 1919. We were located around the corner next to the bank way back then, The bank, institutionally as we know it now didn’t exist way back then. But Sam’s father, L.L. “Bish” who got involved in newspapering here in 1911, sure did.

The building where we are now located at 35 East Center St., was built by Bish in the 1940s, right after the end of World War II, when the whole country experienced an explosion of growth. We (the United States) were “the bee’s knees.”

Our big dictionary sits on what we call the “ad desk.” This is a stand-up desk that holds a variety of things, some completely irrelevant to putting out a newspaper. But here they have been for years and here they will stay.

The big dictionary is Webster’s Third International Dictionary, copyrighted in 1961, the year Sam and I married. This book states it was first out in1909, and lists 13 copyrighted edition years at that time.

It also states, on the cover, that it is “An entirely new presentation of the English language as it is written and spoken today. . . . 2,720 pages – magnificent color plates – 450.000 entries.”

The fact that the dust cover still exists at all is amazing but is entirely attributable to the fact that it has resided, in tatters, under the bulk of the big book. The dust cover also is stamped (with a rubber stamp) “DISPLAY COPY NOT FOR SALE”. It says it was “created at a cost of “more than $3,500,000.” A pretty price indeed.

According to my Monday favorite TV show, Antiques Roadshow, covers are very important to maintaining the value of books, I doubt that holds for our big dictionary and its venerable (and tattered) cover.

Before the listing of those 450,000 entries, there are 56 pages of explanation about the book (yes, a dictionary is a book, but with no real plot), and a full column of the various meanings and uses of the letter “a”. This is a plethora (excess is a synonym), of pages.

I am comparing the office big dictionary with the 1919 one mentioned at the beginning of this writing. The old book is a Webster’s, before it became Merrian-Webster’s. The 1919 book has probably been around the office, wherever the office was located, since 1919, or thereabouts. It belonged to John B. Skewes. That would be Grand County Sheriff John B. Skewes, or Uncle Johnny in this family.

He died years before I came on the scene. But his wife was Lydia Taylor Skewes, one of Bish’s sisters. She was Aunt Lyd to our family, the provider of homemade lillipops every Halloween. We also had Aunt Helen, another of Bish’s sisters. That’s Helen M. Knight, the superintendent of schools. She’s another complete story, and I won’t say anything further about her today.

Going back to the little 1919 dictionary. The flyleaf is signed by John B. Skewes, as I said. Uncle Johnny and Granddad Bish were close friends, as well as being brothers in law.

One of Aunt Lyd’s daughters was Dione Skewes, a fine pianist and teacher/music teacher in Salt Lake schools for years. She moved back to her childhood home (Aunt Lyd’s) during her retirement. We became buddies, and I attended her in death. And so, back to the Skewes family. Yes, I kept an eye on Dione during her last months, and so did her nephew, Jack Skewes, who lived in the Uinta Basin, my natal area. I was born in Altonah, which doesn’t exist anymore. Altamont is close.

Jack and I had lots of opportunities to talk. And I want to close with this information about the Skewes boys.

The Jack Skewes I knew best was just one of many. Young Jack explained to me that the name has been kept active in the family for years, and the various Jacks had small differences in what they were called: John B. Skewes (as in the flyleaf of the little dictionary), J. B. Skewes, Jack Skewes, and more that I can’t remember at the moment. So there you have it. A name that has been important in Moab history but which has nobody in Moab these days.