Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Moab, UT

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    Column: Page 66 – GEORGE DUTOS – PART 1

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    AJ Rogers
    Times-Independent Columnist

    There were several “Old Timers” who made quite a splash in this little town that was originally called Thompson’s Spring, which later became Thompsons, then Thompson, and is now officially Thompson Springs.

    The ones I’m talking about are all gone now, but I consider it my duty, and pleasure, to put their names and stories in print before I end up joining them. Since I’ve now been living, working, and playing in this small, historical, semi-ghost-town longer than anyone still kicking, I figure it’s up to me to preserve some of its history.

    The fact that I enjoy doing it, and because a few folks let me know they enjoy my stories, makes it a fairly easy, though time-consuming endeavor. I’ve got a list of the above-mentioned “Old Timers” to choose from each time I sit down to type another story. Sometimes it can be hard to decide who to go with next. Well, not really hard, mind you, it’s just that I need to decide who cannot be left out if I should get run over by a train tomorrow.

    One such old-timer who cannot be left out is George Dutos, because the splash he made around here left rings emanating across the pond for a long while. As is often the case, I am going to tell this story using only my own memories because I didn’t take notes when I had the chance, and I don’t know where to find any of George’s relatives to help me out. Luckily, I knew the old boy pretty well, and I think I can do him justice without straying too far from the real facts.

    George was at least 90 but might have been 100 years old when he kicked the bucket. No one seemed to really know for sure and I’ve heard that George himself didn’t have it nailed down to an exact year either.

    During all the years I was growing up around here, George and Sadie Dutos were running the 10-room Thompson Motel. They also owned the Silver Grill Café nearby. The café was always leased out to others to run, but the Dutos family operated and cleaned the motel themselves.

    I used to spend some enjoyable evenings sitting with them in the motel lobby and listening to good stories of their early years, both prior to and during their 50-ish year stint around here. English was George’s second language with Greek being his first.

    With Sadie it was Espanol first and English second. That made the stories even more interesting as they were told with a little accented flavor.

    George Dutos was born somewhere in Greece. If he ever told me exactly where I’ve forgotten the name. George told me that he was still just a boy, maybe 14, when he got a job as a fireman on a cargo ship out of Greece. He said he spent several weeks shoveling coal into the boiler furnace of the ship’s steam engine.

    He said the foreman was a mean son of a gun and worked him and the others unmercifully. Any time they went into port the boss made sure the engine room crew didn’t get up on deck as he had no intention of losing any of his stokers, oilers, or mechanics. Nobody was going to be jumping ship just because the work was miserable.

    George said that after they had docked for the third or forth time he had had enough of the hot, dark and dingy bowels of that ship. George said he finally got his chance when he caught the foreman with his back turned. He said he took his coal shovel and whacked that guy in the back of the head with a hell of a lick. Apparently, a couple other coal-shoveling bottom feeders decided to hang it up along with George, so they all ghosted up through the decks and managed to get off the ship into what turned out to be some mighty fresh, but humid, jungle air.

    It turns out they were docked in a little podunk country where a great big construction project was well underway. George told me he wasted no time putting some distance between himself and the harbor. Then he found a new job right away. He still had to run a shovel, but he liked it a lot better. He was a laborer along with thousands of others as they built the Panama Canal.

    That big ditch was constructed between 1903 and 1914. George says it was some hot, hard, buggy work, but paid decent and he was able to put a little geetus in his pockets.

    I never got around to figuring out how George Dutos made it from Panama to Carbon County, Utah or just when that happened, but it must have been around 1915 or 1920. I also don’t know everything he was up to in that neck of the woods, but he did say he’d been a coal miner for a while. I think George may have left Carbon County for Grand County in the 1920s and probably landed in the coal-mining town of Sego, just up the canyon from Thompson’s, as it was called at the time.

    However, it was not too long before he ended up down here by the main line tracks where he apparently did his best to make some real money by providing certain less-than-savory services to the local miners, cattlemen, sheepmen, and what have you. That last sentence, I will admit, is only backed up by a passel of rumors and backroom gossip I overheard from other old timers throughout my Wonder Bread years.

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