A Page Out of the Book Cliffs – June 27, 2019

Page 49, Clarence and Elise Rogers, Part 3

By 1930 nearly all the mines in the Ouray, Colorado area had shut down due to the nationwide depression. Apparently, Grandpa Clarence and Grandma Elise decided that they couldn’t make a very good living there anymore. Besides which, they had had enough of the kind of winters that “The Switzerland of America” is known for.

It was time to move to warmer climes. I guess things happen for a reason because about that same time they found an advertisement in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The ad told of a pool hall for lease in Thompson’s, Utah. That brought back memories of the several good days they had spent resting their horses and the midsummer heat they had endured back in 1921. I guess an overdose of heat sounded pretty good after a few winters in a cold Colorado cabin.

I’m not sure just exactly when the Rogers family of six landed back in Utah but it was sometime in 1930. I’m also fuzzy on just what they spent their time doing other than running the pool hall. My dad remembered a small little frame house they lived in for the first few years. I’m sure Grandma Elise was always busy with something because I never knew a time when she wasn’t always busy with something.

I don’t think Grandpa wasted any time getting his foot in the door of the local bootleg liquor business. Grandma almost never talked about those less tasteful things, but she did once tell us of a time when: “My old man and the Greek loaded their pistols, met in the street, and nearly had a shootout.” I guess they proceeded to make a big show of defending their rights to a part of the local illegal booze trade. “The Greek” was George Dutos, a very interesting character who lived here in Thompson Springs for about three quarters of a century. I’ll give him a full column sometime in the future.

My Grand Folks decided to build a café so grandma would have plenty to do, besides raising four kids and everything that goes with that. I’m not exactly sure what year that was but it was probably between 1932 or 1933. I do know that when grandpa heard about the new Highway 6&50 that was going to come through the middle of the town of Thompson’s he got serious about things.

The family story goes that Grandpa needed working capital to get a start putting together some businesses. He probably didn’t have a credit score and since it was the depression era, getting a bank loan was pretty dang hard for most folks anyway.

So, he motored down to Moab and met with John Jackson, told him the plan, and asked for a $200 loan to get started. Jackson apparently was doing okay and had a firm hand on some personal purse strings, something kind of rare at that time. He told Grandpa Clarence that he would have to talk to the “boys” and see what they thought about him loaning any money to an outsider. In those days a lot of the good old boys from Moab had never even seen over the rim of the valley, and anyone from anywhere else was an outsider.

Grandpa went home to Thompson’s uncertain, but when he next met with Jackson, he was pleasantly surprised that John agreed to loan him the $200 against the good advice of his pals. Grandpa didn’t waste any time getting his project in gear. The first thing he did was to visit a Scotch family living at Valley City where he borrowed a team of horses and a plow. Returning to Thompson’s he used them to start digging basements.

Building the café came first. It was kind of a lean-to-shaped building with room for a pair of PEP 88 gas pumps out front. I don’t know how much of that kind of construction could be done in the early ’30s on $200 bucks, but nowadays you couldn’t even get the first permit.

After showing a good start, the local bankers figured out that my Grand folks had a good plan and a good location, so they kicked in with some loans to make it all a reality.

The café and gas station were finished and the hotel was started. There was also an open-air dance floor added behind the café. It eventually was closed in with an arched roof several years later. The hotel was finished in 1936 and was a pretty grand affair for those days. It had 15 rooms on three levels and a beautiful knotty pine-paneled lobby. The rocks for the foundation were quarried about three miles north in Thompson Canyon. The builders who did the finish carpentry inside the hotel were top of the line. It still shows their beautiful handiwork. Later on, five tourist cabins were added just west of the hotel. The entire group of businesses was and still is called “The Desert Moon.”