Hollywood Comes to Cedar City

Gronway (left) and Chauncey Parry 1917

Gronway (left) and Chauncey Parry 1917

It began when brothers Gronway, Chauncey, and Whit Parry relocated from their Salt Lake City home to the rural southwestern Utah town of Cedar City.  Gronway, the oldest, saw this community as an opportunity to succeed in a variety of business enterprises, including transportation and lodging. He quickly advised his brothers to come and share in his success. The Parry brothers soon capitalized on the national interest in Zion and Bryce Canyons and the natural amphitheater at Cedar Breaks.

Chauncey, having trained as a pilot during WWI, combined his loves of flying and photography and spent many hours creating amazing aerial footage that he would soon market to the film studios in Hollywood. In 1924, the Fox Film Corporation announced that the world’s most popular cowboy Tom Mix would film his next movie Deadwood Coach in the area.  Cedar City was now in the viewfinder of Hollywood movie studios and fervently opened their community to them.

Cast of "Forlorn River" leaving Cedar City, 1926

Cast of “Forlorn River” leaving Cedar City, 1926

Upon leaving Cedar City, Tom Mix prophesied “We have pioneered the picture production business in your section much to our satisfaction and that of the director, and we feel that our reports on the possibilities of your country will induce many other companies to follow.” And follow they did. Movies such as: The Good Earth, Union Pacific, Drums Along the Mohawk, Brigham Young, Can’t Help Singing, My Friend Flicka, and Proud Rebel were all filmed in Cedar City and the surrounding areas.

The Gem Photoplay became the first theater in Cedar City. In 1919 Thomas A. Thorley built the Thorley Theater, replacing the Gem. Throughout the following decades, the Thorley would undergo a series of name changes including theAvalon and the Utah but by the 1950’s it would come to be known as the Cedar Theater.

Gem Photoplay - 3rd from left

Gem Photoplay – 3rd from left

Cedar Theatre, 1968

Cedar Theater, 1968

The Thorley Theater served as the location for the Utah premier of the Cecil B. DeMille film Union Pacific in 1939. Union Pacific was one of many motion pictures filmed in the area. Local resident York Jones remembers, “It was a thrill to watch the premier because you could recognize the people who were extras.” The Cedar Theater has become a local landmark and is directly tied to the history of the Cedar City and southern Utah area. It is the last of the traditional movie houses in the community as its sister theater the Parks, formally the Orpheum, was destroyed by the great main street fire of 1962.

Parks Theater, 1940's

Parks Theater, 1940’s

Filming on Cedar Mountain, 1930's.

Filming on Cedar Mountain, 1930’s.

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Pick Your Park: A Southern Utah Watercolor Society Exhibit

suwsFrontier Homestead State Park Museum is pleased to announce a special exhibit by the Southern Utah Watercolor Society (SUWS).  The public is invited to an artist’s reception on Saturday July 23rd, from 2:00–4:00 p.m.  The reception is free to the public. Following the reception, the regular entrance fee applies.

SUWS encourages those in the community with a passion for water media painting, or a desire to learn to come meet the artists and learn more about the watercolor society.  SUWS-Cedar City Chapter has been busy this year working together to bring new and interesting programs, demonstrations, and plein air events to Cedar City.

Big Bend - Elizabeth Pickett watercolor

Big Bend – Elizabeth Pickett
watercolor

Bear Trap Canyon Fall- Ray Pittman - watercolor

Bear Trap Canyon Fall-
Ray Pittman – watercolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To go along with the Centennial of the National Park Service, the theme of this year’s exhibit is “Pick Your Park.” Each artist was challenged to exhibit pieces reflecting their favorite places of natural beauty. The exhibit features the work of 17 local artists, with many of the works available for purchase. Additionally, there are a number of unframed prints offered for sale.

Biscuits in the Oven  Carol Stenger - watercolor

Biscuits in the Oven
Carol Stenger – watercolor

The exhibit will continue at Frontier Homestead through August 30.

 

Cedar Breaks Part IV

Throughout the years the Utah Parks Company operated the tourist concessions at Cedar Breaks, hundreds of young people called the Breaks their summer home. Following are some of their fondest memories:

Snow removal at Cedar Breaks

“We lived in the cabins when we were working at Cedar Breaks. They had metal roofs and I remember when it was raining there was nothing like it. The rain in those metal roofs just sounded absolutely like it was coming in the house. It was just beautiful. – Brenda Barrett Orton

cabins

Cedar Breaks cabins

 

“Working at Cedar Breaks, of course, we lived there. We lived in small cabins that were to the left of the lodge. There were four girls that lived in each cabin, and we shared one bathroom. I remember when my father helped me take my stuff in the first day I arrived. I can remember thinking how tiny these little cabins were. I am sure that they weren’t much larger than a 12 x 12 foot space, with a twin bed on each side and one chest of drawers and that was the sum total of our living space.”  – Murna Archibald

“Our experience began in a unique way. We had to dig ourselves into our cabins and the lodge. There had not been a winter like that in many years. In fact, when we left in September there was still snow on the north side of the lodge. When the tour busses came to the front of the lodge people could not see anything but snow. It looked like a maze leading to the lodge. Many of the tourists had never even seen snow.” – Garth Jones

Living at the Breaks

Living at the Breaks

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Cedar Breaks friendly faces

“There used to be a water tank that set to the left and up the hill from the Cedar Breaks lodge. It was a wonderful place to go when we were off work. We would all put on our swimsuits and in 70 degree weather we would climb to the top of the water tank and sunbathe. It gave us a glorious view, a glorious view of the meadows and you literally felt like you were on top of the world at 10,000 feet.” – Murna Archibald

Driver Ike Beem

Driver Ike Beem

“Driving the tourist bus down the canyon from Cedar Breaks you are really in that compound gear, your low gear. We were supposed to stop at the Rock Church in Cedar City.  I was still about four or five miles up the canyon and I was hitting my brake and no air. So, I started shifting and taking the emergency brake and pull it a little, ease off, pull it little. I was pulling on the emergency brake and slowing down. At Main Street, I went right by the church and sailed through the intersection and finally got stopped three blocks down. Then a passenger said, ‘Ike, I thought we were supposed to stop at the church.’ I said, ‘Well, there’s only one thing wrong. I haven’t had any brakes since we left Cedar Breaks.’ I made a lot of tips that day.” – Ike Beem

Cedar Breaks Part III

Ready to go - circa 1952

Ready to go – circa 1952

In 1923, Union Pacific created the Utah Parks Company in an effort provide guest services that would entice passengers from the eastern United States to travel west by train and visit the scenic parks. The National Park Service encouraged this enterprise. Rail passengers would arrive in Cedar City where UPC buses would provide transportation and tours of the parks. The Grand Circle tour included stops at Zion Park, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks.

Gilbert Stanley Underwood

Gilbert Stanley Underwood

In the early years of the Utah Parks Company noted architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was commissioned to design lodges and cabins at the four stops on the Grand Circle tour. Underwood’s design of the Cedar Breaks lodge was of a simple but useful log building that matched its setting on the rim of the “Breaks.”  There was a lobby, a large dining area and a kitchen.  In the entrance lobby was a massive stone fireplace, which proved to be the focal point with a 6×6 foot opening and large andirons to hold the burning logs.

Early photo of the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

Early photo of the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

 

 

While the warmth of the fire was a welcome relief from the cool night air, the dining room certainly became the most popular part of the building.  The spacious eating area had 120 seats that were often all filled, with as many as three seating’s a night.

 “The tourists always had one meal at Cedar Breaks, usually lunch or dinner. The dinners were well known, The only thing they had on the night menu was the chicken dinner. They had fried chicken, country gravy and mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, biscuits, and for dessert they had a a strawberry sundae with little wafer cookies on them. They had the same menu seven nights a week and they were well known for that meal! We had people come up from Cedar City just for dinner.”

– Brenda Barrett Orton

The standards for the food served and the service were the same as at other Utah Parks Company lodges.  The serving staff of waitresses and bus boys maintained a spirit of professionalism and made visitors feel at ease as they enjoyed the scenery and the food. Former manager Gayle Snyder remembers: “One waiter as he carried his relish tray tipped it back and the olives and pickles rolled right down the back of a lady’s dress. She stood up and shook and the olives just came pouring out of her dress. But you know, the dudes didn’t seem to get really mad. We really didn’t have a lot of complaints about the things the kids did.”

Cedar Breaks Waiteresses

Cedar Breaks Waitresses

For nearly fifty years the Utah Parks Company transported and served the Dudes as guests were called at Zion, Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks. In 1972 the Utah Parks Company ceased its operations and donated the lodges to the National Park Service. It was determined that the Cedar Breaks lodge was too costly to maintain and it was torn down in 1972.  The Cedar City community angrily protested the removal of the lodge, so much so that the Park Service halted plans to tear down other similar structures at Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Cedar Breaks Lodge - July 1949

Cedar Breaks Lodge –
July 1949

Although the Utah Parks Company and the Cedar Breaks lodge are gone, their spirit still remains as tens of thousands of visitors pour into southwestern Utah each year to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, hike spectacular trails, and maybe remember the great chicken dinners once served in the lodge on the rim of the Breaks. Next week, living at Cedar Breaks.