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Historic Provo

Oral History of Ethel Tregeagle


WINN: Today is July 16, 1999. This is Jennifer Winn and I'm here with Ethel Tregeagle.

TREGEAGLE: My name was Ethel Belmont.

WINN: Ethel, what are some of your earliest memories of Provo?

TREGEAGLE: It's where I lived on Second West. I was born at 186 West, First South. It was a big old house. My father bought it and my mother was very unhappy. That was two years after they were married. I was born there in 1912. Father was away contracting. He was a stone cutter and he learned to cut stone in England. They came about 1890 from Nebraska.

I have many footsteps around. They built a home on 61 South 200 West. My father built the first building on Temple Hill. It was the Maeser Memorial Building. My father had a stone yard called Belmont Stone Company down on Fifth South and First West. He was commissioned to do that. I think that stone came from Spanish Fork quarry.

They built the home there with the scrap stone from the Maeser Memorial Building. They moved in that home. My father was the architect for that home.

My father's name was S.H. Belmont. He was in the stone business. He laid all the first sidewalks in Provo. He had a cement construction company. I remember the old tool car was on the house. It looked like a railroad car. It was on wheels. That old tool car used to be used as an office. I used to go down there a lot on Second West. That corner was a half a city block.

The stores were all on the north side of the street and the other side of the street had houses on it. There was a non-Mormon school between Center Street and First South. Mother went to that school and many young people went to the Proper Academy. It became the Elks Club later. The Elks bought it and it became the Elks Club.

There was an old greenhouse that belonged to Mr. Jensen that was on the east side. The main tourist shop was Thomas'. The Provo Floral was there for many years. I used to go down there and play and run up and down the aisles. That was my earliest impressions.

The Millrace ran by our place on 200 West. That Millrace furnished power. There were lumber mills. They all used the Millrace for water power and electricity to run their plants. That's what the Millrace was for. It ran by in front of our place.

My father made cement copings and two bridges that came into our property. He had restored this old home and added on to it. It was a beautiful estate. The stone bungalow was in back of that. It was all one big area.

He taught me to drive and I would drive him on Saturdays. I worked at the brickyard from the time I was in the ninth grade. They delivered the brick. They kept good work horses. There was a lot of land. They ordered the coal for the brickyard.

The Heber train would flatten our pennies. Also on the corner of this lot I had a big play yard. All the kids came to my place. The people across the street had five kids and their name was Philpot. I had a brother that was nine years older than me so he wasn't around much. We were kids and we'd scrap. We'd come to my yard to play. There was a swing and a sand pile. My father built a little log cabin.

I went to Maeser School. We were just on the border of Franklin. My brother went to the Franklin. The Millrace was the dividing line so I had to go 8 blocks to the Maeser School.

My grandfather was electrocuted. Grandma had a lawsuit against the company and they gave her a little home at 381 East 200 South.

I went to the Maeser School. It was a two story white brick building. I always walked to school. I didn't take gym. They had some prize swimmers. The high school was a real asset to Provo. It was big. It seemed like it was big to us. We had a lot of good times.

The Gold and Green Balls were with the church. They were up at the BYU. They were gorgeous. They were decorated. The proms and the senior proms at the high school were decorated elaborately. We had programs and dates and we traded dances. We'd fill our programs before we'd go to the dances. We had them all lined up before we'd go. I sang with the glee club. High School was fun. We had many good times.

The north side of Center Street was stores. There was Taylors. There was the Strang Theater. Up the street was Hansen's catering. They had penny candy. We'd go up there. They made beautiful candy. They had a place where they would rent for special parties. We had a party up there one time. We'd put a nickel in the nickelodeon and play the old time dance songs.

We weren't afraid to be out until 10:00 at night. If I didn't get in by 10:00 the door would be locked. I wasn't afraid at night. There wasn't a lot of crime like there is now. My grandmother used to worry about me walking home at night. Mother would send me down there after dark.

My uncle had the first big plumbing and did the cornices on the buildings. That's why my grandfather was killed. He was working on this building and my Uncle Henry had this specialty of putting cornices on the buildings. That is metal cornices on the tops of the buildings. It was something nobody else did. They trained most of the plumbers in Provo. They worked for Uncle Henry first. His name was Blumenthal.

Mother's family pioneered Provo and so did Dad's. Dad's came from England. He left his family in England and I never knew any of his family. Mother met him when she was working for C.E. Luce by the Maeser School. The building is still there. The house is still there. It has a chain link fence around it.

Mother came from Nebraska and she got work. She was about sixteen years old and she took off the dining room and all the linens. She had to polish the silver. She made $2 a week. She took her money home to her parents. They needed it. The children went out to work and had to take their money home.

My father met my mother when she was working for Luce's. They went together for nine years. She said she was engaged to him for nine years. He was twelve years older than my mother and he was away contracting all the time. He was contracting stone work. He was a stone cutter. He went all over. He went to southern Utah and all over. Many of the buildings he worked on. He was away working and he would come home about every six months and they'd go on a date.

They married and he had at that time a home down across the railroad tracks. He had a horse and a buggy. He was very well established when he was married. He had something to be married with. They had this little home across the tracks where my mother was very happy.

She went over to the neighbors and set a hen and she got a lot of chickens. Mr. Seamons said, "You're very lucky, Mrs. Belmont. You got eighteen chicks from one batch." My dad said, "If you're going to raise chickens, we'll get some good chickens." He bought prize Plymouth Rocks. They were large white chickens with red combs. I have a little letter pad that says, "S.H. Belmont, Plymouth Rocks." I saved one letter head. They did that. Mother raised turkeys down there.

He had an insight into buying property and he bought that big house and mother was very unhappy about it. He said, "We'll just furnish three rooms and then we'll finish it as we go." He was away contracting. I've written the story up for senior citizens two years ago. She started taking borders. When my brother was born she had thirty five borders. She had help in the kitchen. She had a lady to help with the cooking and she had another lady that took care of the upstairs.

I have one of the big water pitchers. It's Bavarian china. It's a big heavy water pitcher and these big basins. They had to come down to the second floor and get their water. There was one source of water in the center of the hall. They were called a slop hopper. That was their source of water then. There were two bathrooms on the upper floor. Father had restored it and made it livable.

She had all these borders and my father used to say she fed them too good. She was just as industrious as he was. They built the house in the back after he built the Maeser Memorial Building. They built the bungalow in the back and moved in that when I was a year old. It became a very lovely estate.

There was a beautiful white brick barn. They built the barn before they built the house. My mother would go in and say, "This could be my kitchen." They built the barn before they built the house. That barn had a place for the horse and the cow. They had a cow named Old Days. Mother would take the milk home to her family. She was always concerned about her family. She was always sending things to them.

Later he had one of the first cars in Provo. The car had the garage and it had a pump to pump the gas right there. He would have the gas delivered. He made it modern. He had a well dug. There was an artesian well. He had that well water piped into the barn. That was the way they did it in those days. We could always water our lawns because he could turn the water on from the artesian well and keep everything watered when other people had to conserve water.

Millrace was there in front and I used to love to sit out on the ridge and listen to the water. They would dump the dye from the woolen mills into the Millrace. Sometimes it would be green. Sometimes it would be red. Sometimes it would be yellow. It was just where they disposed of their dye. It was interesting. It ran in front of our place and made it separate from everything else across the street.

The train went by. The Heber train always went by. I don't know what year it was but the Orem train that went across Center Street to go to Salt Lake wrecked. They came together and had a real big wreck. There's a big picture of that out at Chuck A Rama. I was five years old. That was about 1917 or 1918. The war was on then. They had this wreck. I can remember that. After that, the train would have to stop and whistle before it crossed Center Street. It would blow cinders all over my mother's porch. She'd get so mad. That was one big accident they had.

I'm right down in the corner in that picture. My mother rolled my hair over on the top and I can see that's it me. And the little neighbor girl is standing on the corner looking. The boys in the front were wearing knickerbockers. They called them nickers. They were very well dressed. I always said that's my brother and Ralph Thomas. But I don't know whether it was or not.

My father was in the stone business and in the cement business and he was a prominent business man. In 1920 he acquired the brickyard. I asked him one time why he bought that brickyard. He said he had it wished on me. "Frank decided I was the only one that could run it." It was in the hands of the receiver. It belonged to the Dixon family." He took that on. He never took any wages out of it. He always just put his wages at the end of the year back into it. He gained a controlling interest of that. That was the brickyard. That was our life. We worked on the brickyard. We worked hard. It was hard work.

The men worked hard. The BYU students used to work there a lot. They had to lift the brick with buggies and stack the brick in big lots. The buggy would run underneath and lift them up and move them about.

The machinery became very obsolete. Father died in 1942 and we closed the brickyard. It went broke and we closed the brickyard. Then they tore all these kilns and the office down. I had a lot of footsteps around there. I worked there until the year I was married.

Father had restored an old house on 1200 North so we could be close to the brickyard. He restored an old home there and made a duplex out of it. My brother lived in one side and when I got married I moved into the other side. We lived side by side for fifteen years there. We had two big farms and all the kids came to our yard to play. We always had potatoes in our cellar.

I was married in 1931. It was during the depression. Meat was ten cents a pound. Hamburger was ten cents a pound. Eggs were ten cents a dozen. But we didn't have any money. My husband worked for 37 1/2 cents an hour. We didn't need money. Things were cheap. But we were better than most because Dad was a gentleman farmer and had a man that took care of all of the watering of the fields. We had plenty. We always had enough.

I remember during the flu epidemic during the war, we all had to wear masks. They didn't have any antibiotics. It was touch and go. My grandmother had the flu. She had arthritis after that. She had a lame arm and she said she got that from the flu. Many people died with it. The masks were made out of gauze with elastic over our ears. We had to wear these masks.

I had two cousins that were in the war, Earl Blumenthal and Howard Brewster. My brother wasn't old enough, but he joined the National Guard later after the war. My brother went up to Washington as a bugler. He had a bugle. He was a bugler in the National Guard.

The brickyard was on 1200 North. That's right down here. That was clear out of the city. That was a long way out of the city. My mother used to fix my brother's lunch and I would walk it to the brickyard and take this lunch to him, because mother didn't get up early enough to get it for him. She was a night person. She's work at night and sleep late in the morning.

The center of the city wasn't very big. I didn't ever know that they talked about a railroad that went down to the lake. I didn't ever see that. I didn't ever know that.

We used to go to the lake. We went down there. I rowed the row boats. I swam in the lake. We swam in the lake all the time. I've got pictures. I have a picture of the old bath houses. They had some old bath houses down there at the lake. Someone said they didn't know that they had bath houses.

We went dancing at Geneva. It was a big pavilion and people went there and took picnics and went swimming at the lake. It was Geneva Resort.

I swam at Glenberry between here and Springville. It was a big swimming pool, all enclosed.

Downtown Provo was pretty centralized. The old post office was where the city and county building is now. My dad had a downtown office. It was the Provo Pressed Brick Company. Then when he took over they made it the Provo Brick and Tile Company. We used to go to Dad's office downtown and watch the Fourth of July parades. I have a big picture of the fountain. It would freeze in the winter. They put colored lights in it before winter. The colored lights would come through this ice.

First North was about the limit. Piggly Wiggly was a grocery store on University Avenue. There was the Paramount Theater. The Princess Theater was on Center Street between University Avenue and First Avenue. It had little lodges upstairs for the little lovers to sit. The Academy Theater was very late in coming. There was a theater called Bonita Theater that they built, where Mary Kowacami's Beauty Shop was. It was the newest one. I had friends that worked there. They had Sylvia hats with the little beads around. They wore toreador pants and white blouses. They worked as ushers. They were in high school.

DTRs, Taylor Brothers Store was always the big store. That's where Mother went over and went in debt for $1,000 and furnished the house to the top while Dad was away. They were merchants. They Taylors were wonderful people. They always treated me well. I was young and whenever I entered the store they'd say, "Good morning, Miss Belmont." I thought that was a fine way for gentlemen. They don't do that anymore. They catered to my mother because she always shopped there. They would deliver a blind and come and hang a blind for her.

Sutton Chase Drug was on the corner. They'd deliver peppermints to her. It was real nifty. She had prestige. She was important. She had her groceries delivered from John G. Taylor's store. They had Sanitary Meat Market. He was a German, Mr. Speckert. The Speckerts had a grocery store. It was his son who years later had the grocery business. His father was a fine butcher. My mother would send me up for meat and if it wasn't just what she liked, she would send me right back with it. She said, "They know better than to send me that kind of meat." It was small town.

My mother would send me up to Mr. John's to get my shoes. She never went with me. She'd call Mr. John's and tell him to pick me out some shoes. He'd set me up with some shoes. I was raised on Main Street. I was raised right there.

I'd walk up and pass that old livery stable and they would be shoeing horses. One night after I was married, the old livery stable burned down. All the people in the apartments were out there in their night shirts. It must have been before I was married, because I remember them out there. It was over on the corner where the Kress Building is now. The flames went clear to the sky. I can remember all those people outside. Dad was quite upset about it.

My father did the stone work on the Maeser School and I went down and took these pictures. It's very beautiful. I told my brother, "How did you cut the stone?" He said, "Mother, those colonnades are in platters. They're stacked on top of each other." It's beautiful work. This is all stone across the stop. I think they're going to preserve it. They've had their hundredth anniversary. You can see the stone work. It says 1898 and they've got a plaque inside with my Dad's name on it. My niece took a picture of it.

This was the Luce's home. I took a picture of that. That's where my mother lived. It's still there. It was built in 1890. I hope it's on the register. They've restored it. They built on the side of it and a little bedroom on the front. It was so small. I slept in there.

My husband worked for Startup Candy Factory for 15 cents an hour when he was about high school age.

My dad built Cast Daha Springs in Spanish Fork Canyon. It was a grand hotel. There is a spring over there of mineral water and it was hot mineral baths. I can remember going with Mother and Dad. At one time it was where the horses and buggies and all the people went for celebrations. The railroad went right through there. They came from Price and they came from all over for big celebrations. My father built that. That's all gone. Later it burned. They served wonderful meals there. Mother and I went and stayed there overnight. Before I was born they would go and spend a weekend there.

My father acquired the old Baum place on 1200 North. It was half adobe and half wood lumber. In the basement my husband and I found a hole in the wall of the rock foundation. There was a big square rock that we took out. That's where the old man Baum kept his money. My brother drew the plans and my father restored that old home and made a duplex out of it. My brother and I lived there for over 15 years.

We saved our money during the War. We bought bonds during the Second World War and bought a lot over on 900 East for $800, which was a half-acre. One of our friends built on the south of us and another friend built on the north of us. We had some wonderful times there on 900 East. We lived there for nine years. My husband had a massive heart attack, so we sold our home and bought a place on the ground. There were stairs inside and stairs outside. We sold that. I lived on Cedar Avenue for 23 years. We sold our home on Cedar and we bought this condominium and I've lived her 22 years.

This is the old pressed brick yard before my father took it over. It was obsolete when he took it over. He restored that. Here is a picture of the crew. Look at these men. This is my father and my brother and sister and Maurice Harding. My father sponsored Maurice Harding when he was a young man and bought his first car for him. He loaned him the money to buy his first car. He stayed with the company for many years, even after he was city judge. He was a lawyer. Even after he was city judge, he'd come back and do books in the morning. He taught me how to do book work. This is my husband over here.

The pen stock at the brickyard was big. It had a big water wheel inside of it. It had a big rope that went over the water wheel. It went over to the building and it generated all the electricity to run all the machinery. This is all the crew that worked at the brickyard. This is where the water ran out of the flume. Men used to come and fish there. There was lots of trout in there. A lot of people fished the millrace there.

They were going to tear it down and get rid of it, so they decided it should be preserved. They took it up to the Lyon's park. They moved it when they tore the brickyard down. They moved it up to Lyon's park and the kids just destroyed it and then they set it on fire. So it's gone. It should have been there, but the kids destroyed it.

This is a modern picture of the brickyard with our modern equipment. This was how they lifted the brick. Years ago they lifted them with these old buggies. This is a modern picture, just before we sold it. Here is the newspaper with the old mill and the path of the new road. I've copied these.

This was the stone yard picture. I asked my nephew to do one for the wall. I can't remember this at all. Look at the old wagon. They lifted that stone with wooden trellises. They didn't have steel. They were wooden trellises to lift that stone. The power line was on wooden telephone poles. That old wagon that hauled the stone on was something. This was the time that they built the state capitol. How they moved all that stone I don't know. He merged with two other companies in Salt Lake and they got the stone out of Cottonwood Canyon.

The Tabernacle was just east of our house. I played in the tabernacle. When I was a kid, we'd go in there. I can remember Heber J. Grant speaking in the tabernacle.

They turned the Proctor Academy into the Elks Club. A lady lived in this old green house. She had a divorce and she lived in her grandfather's green house. Her daughter and I used to go play house in the Elks Club. She cleaned the Elks Club. We would go and sit in all these chairs around. We were crazy kids.

The smokestack was left standing after all the kilns were taken away. It was a landmark. PB&T Company owned it. Then the property was sold to Burger King. They said there was no provisions for that. My nephew's son came and they pushed it over. This is Randy on the tractor. I called the Herald and told them they were going to tear down the smokestack. I couldn't get anybody and finally I got Bailey Menstrom who was a friend. He made the photographer go out there. They didn't push it over until about 7:00. It just about got him when he pulled it over. He was young on that tractor. They pulled that big thing over and it crashed. There it is after it crashed. It should have been preserved.

This is the old Hoover Mills. It was run by the Hoover Brothers. That was one of the mills that was run along the millrace. I have all these old pictures.

When we moved to 900 East when we built our house, fifteen years after we were married in 1931, the street wasn't paved and there was no gas line down there. When we built our house we had to have an oil furnace. It was very expensive to run an oil furnace for that big house. As soon as they put the gas up there my husband converted to gas for the house. The street wasn't even paved on 900 East. So you see how Provo has grown.

This is the Salt Lake Brick Company. This is how the wire cut brick. It was pushed out of this machine in a ribbon. This thing came around and it was wires. It comes around and it would cut the brick. One of the men that ran the wire cut machine all the time got his hand in there. It cut his arm off. My husband had to take him to the doctor. It was an awful experience. My husband is very sensitive. This was doing the brick in Salt Lake. It was in the paper and it does show how brick is made. This is how they stack them inside of the kilns.

The Maeser Memorial Building was built and was occupied in 1911. My dad went to Hawaii after that. He was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Then he came back and built the state capitol.

They called the Maeser Memorial Hill Temple Hill. We used to go up there and roll our Easter eggs when we were kids. It was a long way to Temple Hill. We would walk to Temple Hill. That was our hike on Easter. We'd go up there and roll our eggs down Temple Hill.

WINN: You'd just let them go and watch them roll.

TREGEAGLE: It was always our Easter egg hike to go to Temple Hill. It says here that Temple Hill was purchased for $1,000. Now there is 600 to 700 acres owned by the school.

We used to have parades from the high school up there. We had picnics up there, bonfire parties up there. They were school parties that we'd have up there. Then they started to build up there later. We always called it Temple Hill. It was bought to build a temple there. That's what it was bought for. That's why we called it Temple Hill. Then they put all of campus up there.

In some way my father was instrumental in building the railroad offices down there. It was the railroad train station. It was a beautiful building, a good solid brick building. It was long. Dad was involved in that some way and he was always very proud of that building. It just went down. The tramps stayed in there and the city just let that go to pot. It just made me sick because it was such a nice building. There was a man that worked down there. They used it for a telegraph office. It belonged to the Union Pacific and they wouldn't do anything about restoring it.

Now they have a little shanty down there. People come to town and there is no electric lights and telephone. There is nothing down there. The city is not providing anything for the people that come to Provo in the middle of the night that are traveling on the trains. I don't know why we have to have that kind of a name. The city of Provo as big as it is we have to have a name. We don't even have a decent train station.

Interviewee: Ethel Tregeagle
Interviewer: Jennifer Winn
July 16, 1999

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