Cedar City: A Look Back – Union Pacific Train Depot

The Cedar City Depot was built and paid for in 1923 by Union Pacific with the hope that a railroad spur would increase rail tourism in Southern Utah. The trains brought tourists and movie companies into the area and the depot served as the gateway to the national parks until 1960, which marked the final year for regular passenger use of the railway. The north end of the depot served as the express office where local residents could pick up rare items such as salmon and halibut from the Northeast. The depot officially closed in 1984 and now serves as the location for a variety of local businesses.

The depot, 1924.

The depot with the El Escalante Hotel in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

The UPC vehicles ready to transport the arriving tourists.

The cast of “Forlorn River” leaves Cedar City, 1926.

Trains leaving the depot.

Utah Parks Company Memories – Bob Higbee

Bob Higbee (1943) worked at Bryce Canyon in 1962. The following is taken from an interview recorded in 2004.

Bob Higbee circa 1962

Bob Higbee circa 1962

We’d plan what we call ‘gooping the loop.’ Now, this was a term that came from years before we worked there. A group of people had gone around Navajo Loop one night and they’d had a watermelon bust down there and they had just thrown the rinds everywhere. One of the rangers said, ‘They just gooped up the Navajo Loop Trail.’ So, whenever you went around the Navajo Loop at night, you were ‘gooping the loop.’

We decided we were going to ‘goop the loop,’ and all of the new kids were invited to go. Some of the instigators met in my room and one guy wasn’t interested in chasing anybody, you know, didn’t have his eye on anybody. I said, ‘I’ve got an idea. I’ll tell a ghost story but what you need to do is go down early. We will leave the lodge at a certain time, so you can count on us.’  He went down early and up this little side canyon he knew of and sat behind a bush. The rest of us got to the spot a little later. It was dark and we started telling this story about old scar face or something, you know the typical story. The cue for him was when I got to the point of the story where everybody thought old scar face had left the area but just last summer a housewife in Tropic was washing her dishes when she looked up and old scar face was standing outside her kitchen window. When I got to that point, Larry, up the side canyon started going ‘Grrr’ and began kicking loose rocks.

Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon. Photo courtesy of takemytrip.com

Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon. Photo courtesy of takemytrip.com

TOTAL CHAOS! This one girl, Carol Ann was her name, she had gone down with this guy named Brant Henry, they had kind of paired off a little bit. Brant had a brand new expensive rain coat. Carol Ann freaked out so bad that she ripped the sleeve right off at the shoulder, right down over his hand.  Then those of us that were in the know, of course, we took off running down the trail and we would hide behind rocks all the rest of the way around the trail and just jump out on them. So, for the next hour and a half there was just a lot of squealing and screaming and fun stuff. When people came out from ‘gooping the loop’ they would be kind of paired off and were ready to go out and date.

Utah Parks Company Memories: Brenda Barrett Orton

Brenda Barrett Orton (1944) worked at Cedar Breaks in 1962, The following is taken from an interview recorded in 2004.

Brenda Barrett Orton Circa 1962

Brenda Barrett Orton circa 1962

We lived in the cabins when we working at Cedar Breaks. They had metal roofs and I remember when it was raining there was nothing like it. The rain on those metal roofs just sounded absolutely like it was coming in the house. It was just beautiful. The first year I went up there, outside the back door of the lodge was this huge snow bank. We were there to help get the kitchen and snack bar ready for the opening of the lodge. We would have to go outside and I’m 5’ 10” and the snow bank was way over my head. I remember it was almost intimidating. From the very first we had kids working there from Salt Lake and all over Northern Utah. We even had a young man from Chicago.

That was so fun. He was interested in our culture and so forth. That’s how I heard the word “Cowabunga.” This man, he was well known for saying that. He had us all saying that by the time we left. There were really, really fun people.

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 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.

Cedar Breaks Lodge. The dining room is on the right.

Cedar Breaks Lodge. The dining room is on the right.

You know when you worked as a waitress for the Utah Parks Company there was a certain way you were supposed to hold your tray. It was up above your head and you had to learn to keep it balanced. That’s how they wanted you to carry every item out to the dining room, up over your head and you got so you could really carry your tray well. Once I had a full tray of desserts and I don’t know if this was on purpose, but this gentleman put his leg out in the aisle and I tripped over it. I went down on my knees and I slid the whole way down the rest of the aisle with this tray over my head, and I didn’t drop one dessert! I was very proud of myself.

Utah Parks Company Memories: Elaine Robb Smith

Elaine Robb Smith (1911-2007) worked at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1936, The following is taken from an interview recorded in 2004.

Elaine Robb Smith 1936

Elaine Robb Smith 1936

They had a fire that happened years before I was there and the lodge burned down [1932].  They had started building the present lodge, but it had not been completed during my first year at the North Rim [1936].  When we lived there, we had a temporary building [on a hill].  I’ve forgotten the exact floor plan, but in one end on the first floor was the boy’s dormitory and on the second floor the girl’s dormitory, and on the other end was the dining room.

We went along that way for a while and then one of the boys from the kitchen took a nap in the afternoon with a cigarette in his mouth. It started a fire right by his bed. That floor was in so much danger.  All the fire drills we ever had didn’t really do us an awful lot of good because we couldn’t do anything that we’d practiced during the drills. This boy, his room was blazing before they knew it. My brother lived down there too, and he ran upstairs on my floor to try and save anything he could save. He was there on the hill throwing my clothes and my costumes, any kind of pictures, anything that belonged to me, throwing them out the window. That hill was covered with our clothing, all kind of just miscellaneous uniforms, and everything you could think of. Some [girls] didn’t get any shoes back, didn’t have any shoes to wear until they got help.

The original lodge at the North Rim.

The original lodge at the North Rim.

Of course, after that the building just went like that. It was all burned. I guess they got us out of there before the fire got to our room, but it was still burning. So, we ran down and waited in front, or wherever we could wait. Of course, we were cheated out of our place to sleep. We had no rooms to go to sleep in; we had no dining room to do our work in. Everything was gone.  So, they put us in cabins until they could figure out what to do with us.

Then we had no dining room, so they let us do substitute work in the cafeteria, but that wasn’t real easy for us because we had been trained to be waitresses.We had to go in there and figure out what to do.  Anyway, we got through the season that way, and they started sending us, one by one, home where we belonged.

Gronway Parry: The Architect of Our Collection

Gronway Parry

Gronway Parry

The horse – drawn vehicles and much of the farm equipment on exhibit at Frontier Homestead came from the collection of Gronway Parry.  Born in 1889, Gronway developed an early love of horses and horse – drawn vehicles.  He worked his way through college buying, reconditioning, and selling racehorses. After graduation, Gronway became the first county agent of Iron County, managed the Cedars Hotel and opened the first Buick dealership in Cedar City. He enlisted in the Army during WWI but was given a bad dose of smallpox vaccine, and received a medical discharge. Gronway suffered the effects of this inoculation the rest of his life.

Gronway and Chauncey Parry 1917

Gronway and Chauncey Parry 1917

In 1917, with his brother Chauncey, Gronway began the Utah – Grand Canyon Transportation Company. Using a second hand 7 passenger Hudson and a Model T, the brothers took tourists to the scenic sights of Southern Utah. The initial route crossed the Virgin River 22 times. The Company was bought out by Union Pacific in 1925 and became the Utah Parks Company (UPC) – which existed until 1973. Gronway became the first Transportation Agent for the UPC, a position he held for 17 years.

Gronway married Afton Parrish in 1922 and they became heavily involved in the Cedar City community. During his years in Cedar, Gronway served one term as mayor, became instrumental in bringing Hollywood to Southern Utah, pioneered the road over Cedar Mountain, and worked as a sheep rancher, carrot and potato farmer, land developer, and college professor. Gronway was a fixture on Cedar Mountain in his snow tank and early snowmobile. In 1931 Gronway developed a love of polo and became quite skilled in the sport, until an accident during a match removed him from active competition.

Gronway and his polo horse.

Gronway and his polo horse.

Gronway driving his Mountain Wagon across the Virgin River.

Gronway driving his Mountain Wagon across the Virgin River.

Gronway Parry’s hobby of collecting and restoring horse – drawn vehicles began as early as 1911. During the 1930’s Gronway began to actively restore and display his wagons and coaches. He later stated that: “An era was dying and its relics should be preserved.” He bought or made his own tools and Afton sewed the upholstery. His collection quickly became nationally known and many of his pieces were used in motion pictures. Gronway felt strongly that his collection remain whole and in Cedar City. In 1968 he sold everything to the Iron Mission Park Commission for half its value. He considered the rest a gift to the people of Cedar City. Gronway Parry died in 1969.

Gronway Parry 1889-1969

Gronway Parry 1889-1969

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum now seeks to preserve, restore, and interpret the Gronway Parry collection for the benefit of its many visitors.

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.

Cedar Breaks Part II

The clash between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service over Cedar Breaks was rooted in a rivalry born from differing ideas of land use and competition for resources. In 1917, Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, had called the southern Utah region an “all year round resort” and began working to develop the area as an integral part of the nation’s new national park system.

NPS officials visiting Cedar Breaks.

NPS officials visiting Cedar Breaks.

Mather had spent years cultivating the American business and tourist community and by the mid 1920’s had built a powerful support network, especially with the railroad industry. Mather planned to link the development of National Parks to the accessibility of the railroads, and the sparsely populated Southern Utah region provided an excellent opportunity to establish these links.

By 1931, services or concessions at Zion Park, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon were actively part of the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of Union Pacific that brought visitors by rail to Cedar City and then by bus to the parks.  Mather’s successor Horace Albright felt the time was right to acquire Cedar Breaks as a protected area. Due to the stunning pink cliff formations and the large natural amphitheater, Albright argued that Cedar Breaks had enough scenic merit to be included in the National Park system and that the area would be so small that it would not affect the local livestock industry who used the meadows of Cedar Mountain for grazing. The Forest Service disagreed.

Charged with protecting the resources of the nation’s forests, the Forest Service administered the land around Cedar Breaks for multiple uses and felt threatened by the request of the Park Service.  Afraid that grazing rights would be limited, the Utah Woolgrowers Association and Associated Civic Clubs of Southern Utah petitioned their elected representatives to oppose any legislation creating a national monument at Cedar Breaks.

The Park Service argued that by adding Cedar Breaks to the national park system, Cedar City businesses would gain a huge economic benefit. However, due to a lack of support for the proposal in the local community, the idea for the addition of Cedar Breaks was put on hold.

Cedar Breaks visitors

Cedar Breaks visitors

Visitation at Cedar Breaks continued to increase and the Park Service decided to try and acquire the area again. Albright argued that the visiting public already thought the Park Service administered the site because of its inclusion in the Zion – Bryce Canyon scenic loop. He wrote to Chief Forester Robert Stuart; “If the Cedar Breaks area is most valuable to the pubic because of timber or grazing resources, administration would naturally come under the Forest Service. However, this area is scenic rather than industrially useful . . . and the public should be afforded a unified educational service such as the Park Service is equipped to supply.” Stuart agreed and against the advice of his field staff he withdrew his objections.

Early entrance to Cedar Breaks.

Early entrance to Cedar Breaks.

UPC bus during the dedication of Cedar Breaks

UPC bus during the dedication of Cedar Breaks

On August 22, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Cedar Breaks National Monument and charged the National Park Service with its administration. More about the Utah Parks Company and Cedar Breaks next week.

National Geographic comes to Cedar City

Angels Landing

Angels Landing

“Utah blazes with color.” This sentence opens the May 1936 article in National Geographic “Utah, Carved by Winds and Waters.”In early 1936, writer Leo A. Borah visited southern Utah and toured with local tourism booster Randall L. Jones. Thanks to local Cedar City resident Scott Truman, who recently donated this issue to the museum, we now have access to this forgotten piece of writing.  Borah notes many unique features of our community, especially the golf course:

“Cedar City, gateway to the southern Utah parks, has a golf course which symbolizes the Utah pioneer spirit. Several miles from town it lies, in an arid valley crowded by craggy hills. Its ‘greens’ are a mixture of sand, sawdust, and oil; its teeing places bristle doormats set in wooden frames; its fairways barren stretches from which sagebrush has been laboriously dug.

Randall Jones and I went out to the course with a club member, who explained with a chuckle as we jounced over the rough trail from the highway to the links that the jolts were ‘warming-up’ exercises for the game. In front of the ‘shake’ clubhouse beside a clump of scraggly juniper trees an iron mine owner and a West Point cadet were toiling in the hot sun to set an additional doormat for teeing.

The sand, sawdust, and oil putting "green"

The sand, sawdust, and oil putting “green”

The course lacks nothing in ‘rough.’ As if the hazards of cliffs, gullies, sagebrush, and thickets were not sufficient, there is an occasional rattlesnake for the player to kill with his club, or an inquisitive deer to chase out of the way with his shots.  That wild valley looks as little like a possible place for a golf course as the trackless desert the pioneers settled looked like farmland.”

Following is a sampling of the many photos from the article:

The rock church

The rock church

 

The aspens of Cedar Mountain

The aspens of Cedar Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zion singaway

Zion singaway

A 1936 Cedar Breaks view

A 1936 Cedar Breaks view

The Utah Parks Company – Dining

Everything at the Utah Parks Company controlled lodges reflected the care which the UPC took to reward their guests. The dining room became the center of the lodge. Three times a day it was opened and closed and produced a variety of treats that matched the surroundings in every way possible – if you were a guest that is. Employees were usually fed the previous night’s dinner, but very few complained.

Menu from the Bryce Canyon Lodge - August 11, 1934

Menu from the Bryce Canyon Lodge –
August 11, 1934

Meals were chosen on a weekly basis by Company headquarters and groceries were sent every few days by delivery truck. Guests were usually given a choice between two entrees and a variety of deserts and beverages. One of the items always included on the menu was the relish tray. This large platter of olives, pickles, and various other fresh vegetables proved notoriously hard to carry. Many stories have been told of rogue olives falling down a visitor’s dress or of watching in horror as the tray crashes to the floor, spraying innocent onlookers with pickle juice.

Every care was taken to please the sensibilities of the guests. The small menus came with colorful postcards attached. Most of the UPC tours included room and board in the package price, so the dining room became a prime spot to provide stand out service. The Grand Canyon dining room featured large bay windows and the tables near them were difficult to get.

The dining room at the North Rim.

The dining room at the North Rim.

Additionally, Grand Canyon had a large organ at the dining room entrance and every evening guests would hear the Grand Canyon Suite played while they ate. For those easterners who feared the backward ways of the West, these dining experiences proved a welcome relief from the dusty trail.

Although not a traditional overnight stop on the Loop tour, the lodge at Cedar Breaks proved to have the most remembered dish – fried chicken. Every bus would stop at Cedar Breaks and partake of this wonderful treat. The chicken dinner with all the fixins’ soon became the only item on the evening menu. Some drove all the way up from Cedar City for a taste of this local delight. Those who ate at the UPC dining facilities left with crumbs on their shirts and smiles on their faces.

The UPC also offered special BBQ's outside the lodge dining rooms.

The UPC also offered special BBQ’s outside the lodge dining rooms.

UPC waitresses were expected to place cards on the table with information including where they went to school.

UPC waitresses were expected to place cards on the table with information including where they went to school.