Library Tutorials
Skip to main content
Font size options
Increase or decrease the font size for this website by clicking on the 'A's.
Contrast options
Choose a color combination to give the most comfortable contrast.
Historic Provo

Oral History of James & Ralph Winterton


MEYERS: This is Sharon Meyers. The date is May 28, 1999. I am interviewing James Winterton and his twin brother Ralph Winterton. We'll begin by letting James introduce himself, so we can identify his voice.

JAMES: I am Jim Winterton. I've lived in Provo since 1927. Provo has changed during that time. There were two main streets in Provo, University Avenue and Center Street. Center Street went up to the mental hospital and had landscaping in the middle of the street. There were two wide streets. The rest were divided from there.

It's changed a lot. I can remember the battle that went on when ZCMI was coming to announce they were going to come to Utah County. The Provo planning commission had to decide.

In Provo there was an east side and a west side. Marion D. Hinckley was the president in the west Utah stake and he represented that part of town on the council. It's a great place to live and a great place to go to school. The university and things are here are the best.

MEYERS: This is Ralph Winterton.

RALPH: This is Ralph Winterton. My father's name was Ralph S. Winterton. Mother was a Ririe. Her father was called by Brigham Young to go up to Alberta, Canada and settle Alberta as one of the pioneers that went up. Jim and I were both born in Magrath, Alberta, Canada on June 4, 1918. That puts us up into the eighties. Jim doesn't admit it, but I do.

We lived on 159 North on Fourth East in Provo, Utah. We lived there. We moved there and father bought a home. We lived next door to the mayor, Jessie N. Ellerton. I remember Jess Ellerton had a beautiful daughter. Her name was Flo. Jim fell in love with Flo. We had a mutual car drive in. His garage and our driveway to our garage were right close. The houses were pretty close together. We were pretty close neighbors. He was a pretty good mayor. He had a son by the name of Keith. There were just two children.

MEYERS: Where did you go to school?

RALPH: I went to school at BYU Training School. Father wanted us to go to BYU. All he could talk about was Brigham Young University. He went to the BYU Academy and he wanted us to go up there. We went from Canada into BYU Training School to become model citizens, which I believe we tried to be.

We went there from the third grade on up through high school. We boycotted the BYU High School. We went to Provo High. I went to Farrer Junior High first and then to Provo High School. Then we went back to Brigham Young University.

Jim graduated from BYU. I didn't. I got two and a half years. I was a cheerleader at Provo High for two years and Jim was student body president for one year. We put him in there. He was a great president. We meet now once a year for a class reunion. Jim takes over the gambit as president of that class. It was a big class. We had a lot of fun there.

That was when Provo High School was down town Provo on the corner. They had a drug store across the street at Center Street. I can't remember the name of that drug store. He can't remember it either. That was years ago.

I remember the celebrations. The fourth of July was the big celebration day of Provo. That was when they had a parade. We always used to go out to pioneer park and take a lunch. We were little kids then. We used to run around. It was kind of fun.

JAMES: When we moved to Provo Father brought sheep from American Fork. They had a company called Cove Branch Land and Livestock Company. It is up where Sun Valley is now. As kids, Ralph and I used to go up there, just to be with Dad during the summer.

I remember the most money I made was when Father went out to fight forest fires. One came up there and Dad said we could stay home at the camp without him. We agreed and he said he'd give us the money that he got for fighting forest fires. It was beautiful country up there.

When I was going to high school I worked at an ice cream company named Calder's Ice Cream. It was a college hang out, a popular place. One day Ham Calder called up and said, "Jim would you and Ralph like to buy our business." Mrs. Calder wanted a family at that time. We said, "Yes, but we haven't got any money." HE said, "How much have you got?" "I think I've got $100." HE said, "How much has Ralph got?" I said, "He's a bigger spender than I am, so he's probably got a little less." He said, "Come down and we'll see if we can work it out." So we bought that ice cream place. It was on Fifth North and University Avenue. It was popular then. All the kids used to come there. Malts were ten cents each.

Ralph was going to take care of the business when draft came along. He told his folks he'd be gone a year. Ralph's number came up in the draft before mine did. He said, "I'll go take care of the business, then go get my year over with." Then December 7 was Pearl Harbor. My draft number came up and I left on May 15. We had to sell the business.

RALPH: After we bought Calder's it was fun, because it was directly across the street kiddy corner from the ladie's gymnasium in Provo on University Avenue. All the big events, the dances and all of the kids hang out around there. Across the street was Brood's Grocery Store. Dean Nuttall had a little drive through service station in the back. We used to gas up our cars there and take our dates and go over to Calder's and spend our money, what little money we had.

When the draft came along it was kind of a shaky situation, because it was an adventure that we had to participate in. But at the same time it was kind of exciting and devastating.

I remember Mother was a very scary woman, to the point she didn't want us to go to war. She didn't even want us to go in the Army. I promised her I'd be a good boy and I'd go have a patriarchal blessing that would promise her that I would return. We went over to Amos M. Merrill and he gave me a blessing. He promised Mother that I would return with no harm done. This consoled her and she felt very good about it and let me go to the Army.

I joined the Army and went to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake. That was a strange place to be. They transported us down to San Luis Obispo, California.

I'll never forget when Pearl Harbor was bombed. We used to change our clothes and go to church on Sunday morning. We had our locker with our dress suits in downtown San Luis Obispo. We were down there and we changed into clothes. All of a sudden the MPs came along and picked us up and put us in a truck and took us back to camp. What a shock. We were there in San Luis Obispo. The next day we were in a truck to Los Angeles, California and within 48 hours we were on another truck going to disembark at San Francisco and we were on our way to Hawaii. We were in Hawaii for two years.

Then we went to the South pacific. We were down there for a long time. I had four battles to go through. Saipan was number one. We landed on D-Day in Saipan. Then we went to Tinnian. Tinnian is an island by Saipan. Then we went from there to the Philippines. We were down there for about two years. It seems like yesterday. The Pacific experience was quite an experience.

I met a couple of coworkers, Philip Knight from Provo, Utah, who was in the Navy and I ran into him. I ran into an airplane pilot who landed onboard ship on an aircraft carrier. He was from the mission field.

I was in the eastern states mission. Jim and I both went on a mission in 1938-41. We returned. This man was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a pilot. He was making landings on this aircraft carrier and I ran into him. It's quite a thrill to see somebody you know who is LDS, especially from the mission field. He got out of the war safe and sound and went back to Philadelphia.

JAMES: I remember the draft man was from Lehi. When we went to go, he said, "I'd like to say that all of you guys will be coming back, but you won't be." If I had a gun now, he'd be my first casualty. He was a good guy. I was drafted and went to the Orem Urban depot that used to go from Provo to Salt Lake. I had to ride up from Orem to Salt Lake. I remember saying good bye to Dad. I said goodbye to Mother at home and I remember saying good bye to Dad. He was pretty broken up at the time.

I'm glad that we went. Everybody that could walk had to go. It was fun. It was a good experience. I'm sure that I was where I should have been. I went to the European Theater. I was in England first and then went over to France and Brussels. I was released. I was in the Air Force, 94th Air Depot Group. It was fun.

I came back and didn't know what to do. I was released in 1945. I went back to school to BYU and then I went to New York University to a retailing school for a retailing degree. It was fun.

I met Jody. She came down with a cousin from McGrath, Alberta. I went over to see my cousin. I started going more frequently to see my cousin. Jody and I were married December 30. That's a good date. That was an extra tax deduction.

I worked for Sears Roebuck for a couple of years and then came to work here in Salt Lake and then in Provo for a year. I decided that I wanted to be in business for myself as people do about that age, in their twenties and thirties. We opened up University Appliance. We had about ten different kinds of televisions. That was just when T.V. was becoming popular. Our advertising was, come in to University. We've got ten different kinds, compare and look and see. We are selling them real fast. It was a real good experience.

A lady came into the store and we had Sunbeam appliances. We were selling them for cheap. The ladies said, "Will you guarantee this?" I said, "We'll grantee it." It was a Sunbeam fry pan. She said, "Will your store stand in back of it?" I said, "Sunbeam is the world's largest manufacture of those fry pans. They'll guarantee it." She said, "Will your store guarantee it?" I said, "I'll take it up to Salt Lake for you. The store is there that repairs them. But you won't have trouble." She said, "Will you stand back of it." I remember saying to her, "Madam, I could care less if you buy that, because you're trying to blow our cost."

We started selling bigger appliances and furniture. It was a lot of fun. Then I started to get into the real estate business. Tad Bushnell was a friend of ours from the ward. He said, "Get your license and work with us." So we did.

I came up and saw this area where Indian Hills is and I thought, that's a beautiful place. Why isn't it developed? A man named George Kudjanis had about 60 acres here on the plateau. He controlled it. I went to the city and found out that they had a way of getting water to it. We worked out a deal and a few other people had little pieces of ground that we joined together with ours. George Kudjanis had the biggest pieces that we developed. Jessie divided it into lots.

The names of the streets we decided on Indian Hills for the name. We went to Karl Young to get indian names. He said, "Jim, it will cost you a lot if I give you those names." I said, "Yes." I still don't know to this day because he's on the other side. Karl Young called up about ten years ago and said, "You owe me a lot." I said, "Why do I owe you a lot?" He said, "Don't you remember? I told you that if I gave you the names of the streets, Indian names it would cost you a lot." I said, "I do remember that. I thought it was funny at the time. But Karl I didn't take it too seriously. It's like going into a doctor's office. You expect to pay him for a service call, but you don't plan on putting a mortgage on your house just to pay the doctor's call." He was kidding. I didn't ever pay him. I should have give him something. I offered. I guess he was kidding.

Provo is a wonderful place. We have family here. We love it. We love the people. We love the church. We love the schools. We're glad to add these experiences from our lives here.

I graduated from BYU in 1945. When I graduated I was going down the street and Harold VanWagenen honked and I went over to his car. He said, "What are you going to do, Jim?" I said, "I am just getting graduated." He said, "Why don't you come work for us at the radio station, KCSU." I said, "Okay." I went down. Harold is a good friend of ours. He was the mayor of Provo. One of his councilmen was Stella Oaks. She was Dallin Oaks' mother.

We had some property we'd purchased on Fifth North and University Avenue. Harold was a good friend in guiding us and helping us to get it zoned commercial. George Collard was on the city council and he was helpful. He said at a meeting, "You want to zone it up Fifth North." The west side of Provo was trying to protect west side interests all the time.

Stella Oaks and Harold VanWagenen and George Collard said, "How far north is it commercial now on University Avenue?" We said, "Up to third north." He said, "I think it's going to go up to Fifth North whether we like it or not."

I remember the council was just like it is now. There is always different interests between the west side and the east side. An old story of Provo is where the railroad station was on Third West going down that concrete street and University Avenue with the concrete street going north and south. The west side wanted to have the main street be where Third West is now. The avenue went out. It's been an interesting little town. They've had spirited ideas here. They did make it commercial. We have commercial property at Fifth North, between Fourth and Fifth North.

I remember Dale Despain was the city planner in Provo. He made the statement when we were talking about some commercial in Provo. He said, "ZCMI wouldn't dare go to Orem." But they turned out to be an anchor store at the Orem Mall. It's been interesting to see the development.

RALPH:We're talking now about the Depression era. Father went to Canada again to see what to do. The Depression was pretty hard on everybody. He thought maybe he'd made a mistake in coming back to the United States. He took a trip back up to Canada and it had changed a lot even in the period of time that he had been away. He came back and decided he didn't want to go back up there. He decided to find something to do in Provo.

On the corner of Second North and Fourth East, there was a little corner grocery store. He went down and bought it from Gilbert Childs. Dad bought the building along with the Child's corner grocery store. They were always out of everything. Dad really made up his mind to have everything that a big grocery store would have. He went down to ZCMI wholesale grocery in Provo and made a deal with them to get credit, which they gladly gave to him. He had 100 percent credit. So he opened the store.

It was a nice store. We had a lot of people come. The only one that was competition was Haywards, down town. They had a big walk in store. But it was only five blocks down town. We had cars. We were not like the Mennonites that had horse and buggies like in Pennsylvania. We had that when I was on my mission.

We ran that store there. Dad would get up in the morning and go open the store. The store would all be flushed and the shelves would be drawn out, faced out so they were ready for a new day.

Interviewee: James and Ralph Winterton
Interviewer: Sharon Meyers
May 28, 1999

Return to Oral Histories List