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Historic Provo

Oral History of Max & Colleen Littlefield


BUDGE: This is an interview with Max and Colleen Littlefield at his home in Provo, Utah. Today is April 17, 1999 at 2:15 p.m. My name is Heather Budge. Max, tell me your earliest memories of Provo.

MAX: I was born and raised in Provo. My early life was in the southeast part of town. My folks had a home there and I spent twenty two years of my life in that home growing up. I have a lot of very fond memories of the area and the people and everything about the southeast part of town.

Our ward was a very close ward. We had a lot of young men. There were eight of us boys the same age. We grew up and went through school together. All of us were active members of the Church. We had a very good relationship with the Church.

BUDGE: What about schools?

MAX: The school like the Church was very close and small. The classrooms were quite small. We had to walk about eight blocks to the elementary school. I went through six years of school in elementary, then graduated and went to junior high school. We walked a mile to the junior high school. I had a lot of good times in school. I felt I got a good education in schools. I went to the Maeser Elementary and Farrer Junior High School and Provo High School. They were all located within a mile of our house.

In high school we had an awful lot of social activities. There were dances, ball games, basketball and football. The whole student body was involved in activities. Everybody participated in sports or as a spectator. I was the best spectator they had. I didn't actually play any of the sports. I spent a lot of time at ball games.

The junior high school participated in the band if we could. There wasn't really a marching band, although we did participate in different parades within the city like the Fourth of July parade and the Homecoming parade. They were all big activities when I was younger. This was in 1939 and the forties.

BUDGE: Were you affected by the Depression?

MAX: To a degree. I was born just as the Depression hit. I don't recall any hardships from the Depression. My father told of the problems that he had. He worked at the Ironton Steel Mill during that time. He was working twelve hours a week and he had five children to raise. He had a hard time, although we never had any problem with food. He always provided meals.

During the winter time, in the southeast area of town where I was born and raised, Dad leased a big pasture about ten acres big. Right now it's completely filled with railroad tracks and yards. It is Pittsburgh Des Moines Steel. At that time, it was just a great big pasture. During the winter time as an activity for us kids, and not just our family, but everybody, he would take us there. There was quite a large stream running through there. He would dam it up and flood about half that field and make us an ice skating rink. It was a gathering place for kids from all over Provo City. He would take a big barrel and fill it with coal and set it on fire. We would skate for hours. It would keep us warm. When we weren't skating we would stand around the barrel.

He provided a lot of activities for us. We made our own fun. We didn't have the television. He and we provided our activities.

BUDGE: What were some of your summer time activities?

MAX: We spent a lot of time swimming. From the time I was just a small tot, he provided us an area to go swimming in that creek. He would dam it up. We would swim there. Provo City at that time had an outdoor swimming pool up near where the Memorial Swimming Pool is now. We would go up there swimming practically every day during the summer.

We spent a lot of time with friends. My friends had some horses. We did a lot of riding around southeast Provo and into the mountains.

BUDGE: Tell me about meeting your wife.

MAX: That's a story within itself. I'm from Provo. She's from Provo. And we never knew each other. I lived right across the street from Provo High School where she was going to school. I never did meet her. After her graduation from high school, she went over to a soda shop. One of the girls that worked there was married. They talked these girls into accompanying this married girl to Colorado Springs. Her husband was in the military and he was getting ready to ship out to sea. They asked her to accompany her. They came over to Colorado. I was off base and in town and happened to run into this group and asked her to go out. I corresponded by mail and then came home and spent some time with her and then went over seas. I spent three years corresponding by mail and then came home and got married.

BUDGE: Where did you get married?

MAX: In the Salt Lake Temple.

BUDGE: Where did you live?

MAX: We lived on Center Street and 900 West in an apartment. We lived there for a while. My wife was originally from this area of town. That was up town. That was too busy an area and she kept telling me that she didn't like it there. She wanted to move. We moved from there into an apartment just north of us here at 1225 South. We liked the area so much that we acquired some land here and built our home on this location.

BUDGE: What year did you build this home?

MAX: 1954.

BUDGE: How much land do you have?

MAX: We have just an acre of land. When my oldest son was five years old, he kept hounding me wanting me to buy him a horse. We went and found him a Shetland pony. I told him that as long as he would use the horse, I would provide for him here. What a mistake that was! I had three boys and every one of them loved horses and so we had horses around here. We still have horses. It's been a lot of fun for our children. It's kept them out of mischief. They had the responsibility of taking care of them. When they got married and left the area, they took the horses with them. I went down and got myself one.

BUDGE: Tell me more about raising your children.

MAX: The schools have always been an outstanding feature of Provo City. When I went to school I felt they were outstanding. I got a good education. I had three boys and one girl and each one of them attended Provo City schools. I feel they got an extremely good education. They all have good jobs now.

BUDGE: Are they still in the Provo area?

MAX: No. All of them have moved away. They're close by. They're close enough to get home and visit us, with the exception of my daughter. When she got married her and her husband moved to California. One is in Lehi and two are in the Palmyra Lake Shore areas. They're close by and come over.

COLLEEN: Max built this little one horse sleigh and our old palomino used to pull it. She came home from California after she was first married and said, "It's snowing. I want to go sleigh riding. Get the sleigh out."

BUDGE: Has the ward changed a lot?

MAX: We have lived on this street since 1953 and we have been in at least five different wards. We have lived in the same home. We have lived in three different stakes. You can see how it's changed.

When my boys were growing up and were teenagers, they used to go out of the front door of our home and walk half a block west and could begin duck and pheasant hunting during the hunting season. Now there is no way. The homes have moved in around us. This was an experience and privilege they had when they were growing up.

Our ward has changed dramatically. We lived in some real large wards until they split them off again and made them quite small. We've had some real good wards.

BUDGE: Has the sense of community changed?

MAX: It's changed dramatically. A few years back we knew every person that lived on the street from 600 South to 1500 South and quite a ways east and west of that. We knew their children. We knew the husband and wife and grandparents. Now there are some of them that live across the street immediately from us that we don't know. It's just a different type of people and they want to live their own life. They don't want to be involved.

After I got out of the service I went to work at the Ironton Steel Mill with my father. I had the privilege of working for a couple of years side by side with him at the steel mill in the railroad department. In 1954 they closed it down. They shut the plant down. All of us were out of work.

I did a little construction work until September 1954 when I went to work as a police officer for Provo City on a probationary basis. I started at $254 a month. They furnished my little farm and we worked shift work around the clock in shifts.

When I first came on we had foot patrols. The officers would start at 11:00 at night and go down the front of every one of the business districts down in Provo on Main Street. We'd check the doors and windows. They would stay out from 11:00 to 1:00 and they would come in and go to a motor patrol. Then two other officers would come off of their patrol at 2:00. They would go down the back alleys of every one of the businesses and check the back doors to make sure they were locked and secured and check things. That was for two hours. That was quite an experience in the middle of the winter when it was below zero out making the patrol. We'd hurry right along from one place to another to check the doors.

BUDGE: Did you ever feel threatened?

MAX: You never know what you're dealing with as an officer. We didn't have the drugs and the problems that they have at the present time. But we had other activities. And with the construction at Geneva and around, we had a lot of outsiders come in who were a different class of people than the local Provo people. We had a lot of problems. Drinking alcohol was a big problem. We had intoxicated people. You never know just what they may do when you're dealing with them. We had some different situations that were scary. You kept your mind on police work.

I never had to fire my weapon at an individual in a situation. I dealt with a number of people where I had to draw my weapon. I took people into custody and there was an escapee from the state prison who was a very dangerous individual. We took him into custody without incident. I felt very fortunate to go through my career for that many years in law enforcement.

BUDGE: Are you concerned about violence now in Provo?

MAX: Yes, very much so. When I was growing up as a youth in Southeast Provo, we lived next to the railroad tracks, near a switchyard where they did a lot of switching of tracks and trains. There were a lot of young men and people called hobos. A lot of them came up to our doors. During those times we never locked our doors, the front or the back.

Things have changed now. We are out away from the more traveled area, but I lock the door when we walk in the door. I lock the doors all the time. It's just a different element and situation. It's been a very gradual change. A lot of things have changed gradually. The crime situation has gradually increased. It hasn't been a dramatic situation. It's gone slow. The crime and drugs and disrespect is the biggest thing. It's disrespect for any type of authority, parental or law enforcement. Anybody in authority, there is no respect like there used to be.

BUDGE: What about the businesses? Were there certain stores you would shop at?

MAX: The stores have changed dramatically. Years ago the majority of our shopping was done on Center Street between 100 East and 500 West and a few of the side streets there. During Christmas time we had to assign a police officer or two up there to be on patrol to help direct people and traffic and getting out so they could pull in and park with that many people there. Now you have the neighborhood shopping malls and we don't have near the traffic at Center Street. They're out in the malls now. It's dramatically changed.

The place that we used to shop has gone out of business. In the southeast area of town where I lived in a period of seven blocks there were five little neighborhood grocery stores. That has dramatically changed. There is not one of them left. The large neighborhood malls have taken over the business.

JCPenney's, Sears, Firmage's, Woolworth's and Kress' used to be on Center Street. They have all moved and gone into the mall or gone out of business. 

BUDGE: Do you remember the names of the little markets?

MAX: There was Kay's Market and Voltor's Market. Those two were within half a block of one another on 200 East. On 300 East and 300 South was Thomas' Grocery Store. I don't recall the names of the other ones that were over on 100 East and 300 South and University Avenue. That's a few years back.

BUDGE: What are some of your memories of holidays?

MAX: The Fourth of July in Provo still is a big celebration. Back then, prior to the sixties it was an activity carried out by the Church. The Church sponsored it. Each stake and a number of wards within that stake would sponsor and build floats for the parade. We had an awful lot of floats in the parade. The Church would put on an activity like a bazaar. They would have all kinds of booths with homemade breads and pies and sewing materials like dresses and things for children. They had quilts and they were all for sale at the bazaar. It was a large thing. People in the ward would start months prior to the parade to make these items and have them available. They would sew items and baked goods just prior to the bazaar. It was a large thing.

The homecoming parade was an extremely large activity at the time. The wards would also build floats and participate in the homecoming parade. A lot of the wards would build these floats and the merchants would sponsor a float in the parade. There were many marching bands from through the area that would participate. On Center and University Avenue on the big lawn area near the tabernacle, it was completely covered with booths and tents and people selling things.

In the evening on the Fourth of July there was always boat races at Utah Lake. That was a big thing. We had some national racers come in and we had some local people who had achieved national status in their racing and done real well. That activity was a big draw. Thousands of people would show up for the boat races.

BUDGE: What kind of boats did they race?

MAX: There were all different types of boats. They were very fast. I don't know what type of boat they were. One of the local people, Wes Knudsen gained national status. He was the world champion at one time for the type of boat he was racing.

The schools provided a lot of activity. In grade school we had baseball competitions with the schools in Provo City. We played competitively for the champion of the city league.

They had activities for the youth in the riding arena. They used to have an arena on University Avenue where K-mart is located now. They had a race track and a rodeo ring. They provided a lot of activities for the youth that had horses to go there. They had different activities. When they sold that out and moved it, they built an arena down by the airport. We used to go down there for a couple of years. Now they don't have one.

In our family it's been a tradition for years to get together on Christmas and Thanksgiving. That was started by my father. We brothers and sisters all got together on Thanksgiving. When our families got so large that it wasn't feasible to do it, then we'd break into our own little family groups. We'd still come home. We have all the children come home and all the grandchildren. We have a big meal that my wife provides here. She has provided for as high as 35 people in our home for Thanksgiving.

After the meal is cleaned up we have a few games and activities in the home and then we go outside. We had horses. I built some old fashioned horse drawn buggies. That's been a traditional activity we have done for many years to get the buggy out and go for a buggy ride around the area here.

COLLEEN: He built a wagon just like that one there that he and our son took.

MAX: We took it to Cedar City. I built the wagon. This is the wagon train we were participating in.

COLLEEN :I only have one brother and he was killed when he was 25. He was an electric line man. I don't have much family. But Max has a big family.

MAX: My family is all scattered around the country in California, St. George and around. My folks came from Richfield. They migrated to Provo. My father went to work for Ironton Steel Mill and spent his whole career there until he retired.

The police department would annually have a picture. When I started on the department there were 28 officers. By the time I left there were 100. There were a lot of changes in Provo City.

COLLEEN: One of my sisters died at age 39 of a broken appendix. His horse was the only one that wasn't accompanied by a rider. But it stood there. That was back in 1911. Her horses were just beautiful. In front of the church while the funeral services were going on, the horse stood right alongside. She left eight children to my grandmother to raise.

BUDGE: Where is that?

MAX: That's on Center Street between University Avenue and First East. There is nothing there now but the county offices. There have been three departments since then. After that one was razed, they went over on 100 North between 100 and 200 West and built a fire station there. It was there for quite some time, then they went over to 200 North, between 200 and 100 West. After that one was depleted of its usefulness we went over to the present location.

It was the same way with the post office. We've had three different post office locations. The first one was on University Avenue and Center Street. Then the one on 100 North and 100 West and then the present one on 100 South and 100 West. Years ago, where the present post office is, there was an extremely large building that was a dance hall. It was the Utahna Dance Hall. That was a very popular attraction during that time for dancing. I danced there two or three nights a week. They had a large crowd there.

BUDGE: Was there live music?

MAX: Yes. That was all they had was live music. There might be a small group playing, but it was always live music. People always went to the dance in suits and women in their finer dresses. It was Sunday dress. Dancing was quite an activity. A lot of people came.

When we first got married we liked to bowl and dance. When we first got married I had a speed and ski boat. We spent a lot of time at Utah Lake water skiing.

COLLEEN: We raised children.

MAX: A lot of activity revolved around our children. When we started getting children we went to their activities like ball games and swimming and dancing lessons.

BUDGE: How did Geneva affect the lake?

MAX: It hasn't affected Utah Lake. They forced them to make provisions for their discharge of water that might have any content in it. Geneva has been a factor in that.

COLLEEN: This is the first church house I remember. It's across the street from the Franklin School. We were even bussed in by school bus to get to Franklin. There were coal potbellied stoves that heated it.

We had our gold and green ball in this little amusement hall. That was always a real big thing then. We called it Mutual, not Young Women's. We would train for weeks before our dances.

BUDGE: What kind of dancing?

COLLEEN: I can't remember the dances we were learning. We did turkey in the straw. We all got in a line. We did the fox trot.

MAX: They had a floor show at the gold and green ball. Everybody would participate in that. All of the Mutual age children would participate and all their parents would come and watch the floor show. It was a big activity. There was a queen.

BUDGE: When did they quit doing those?

COLLEEN: Quite a few years ago. I think some of the girls got their feelings hurt because they weren't chosen as queen. In Mutual I used to do a lot of fun things. We'd all go skating and after we'd have a big pot of chili or hot chocolate. We'd have some refreshments.

BUDGE: What church callings have you had?

MAX: I've been in bishoprics. I was the high priest group leader and the elder's quorum president and Mutual president. I've been active in the Church all my life. I have had callings throughout my life, more so since we were married.

My wife has been totally active in the Church. She's been in the music end of the Church since she was in grade school. She started singing when she was in grade school and the Church encouraged it. She has been involved in music as well as a number of other things. She just completed a ten year stint as a Relief Society president. She was a Relief Society president in a rest home. They went there and had the complete Relief Society every week with a lesson. She spent ten years doing that.

BUDGE: Which rest home?

MAX: The Crestview up the street on 10th East. She did that for ten years. She had some ladies that had been in there for a number of years before she went as teachers. They had a number of years in those callings. She has been real active in that. It's good for everybody concerned. She enjoyed it.

BUDGE: What have you enjoyed about Provo?

MAX: It's been a real wholesome place to live. It's been an extremely nice place to raise a family. There have been activities for my kids. For me when I was growing up there was activities. They were maybe not planned activities, but there was always something for us to do. The Church was a big part of that during our growing up years. Mutual was a big activity for us. Sundays we spent in church. We always had leaders who were providing activities for us during the week. They would give us incentives to work toward our goals. We used to go swimming, ice skating and roller skating. It's been a real wholesome place to grow up and raise a family. We've really enjoyed it.

COLLEEN: As a young girl I did a lot of singing. That was a lot of my activity. I took a lot of time preparing. I sang with a school choir. That was where I spent a lot of my time, going out to these places to perform. We would sing for the elderly or church or civic functions.

The Freedom Train came to Provo. It was celebrating something. He wrote a song just for the Freedom Train. We sang by this train with a group about the Freedom Train. It was a fun activity. It's been so many years ago that I can't remember anything about it. He wrote a lot of different songs for different functions like that. Most of them were resting songs, walking in meadows.

We celebrated his wife's 100th birthday. She is still living. We sang songs. This little 100 year old woman was mouthing the words right along with us. She remembered the songs. She is not really vocal right now, but she did remember the songs.

MAX: They used to have an electric train that would run through called the Orem railroad. It ran from Payson on the south to Salt Lake on the north. That would run right near our home and it would roll its way up and it ended up on Center Street in Provo. It went from 100 West on Center Street down west to where it finally turned north and headed north toward Orem.

As a youth we had a young man in our neighborhood who was blind. In order for him to make a living he sold brooms door to door. For years he would come and get me and we'd go get on the Orem train and ride out to Orem and ride into the different parts of Springville and Provo. We'd get off the train and go door to door. He'd carry about two dozen brooms and we'd go out each evening after school and spend all day on Saturdays. I did a lot of walking when I was a youth. He was a going man. He was really active.

BUDGE: How much were the brooms?

MAX: They were only a dollar and twenty five cents for a little whisk broom that he'd carry a dozen or so of. They were made by the blind in Ogden. They would distribute to different people and they'd sell them. They'd buy them for 75 cents and sell them for a dollar. They'd earn 25 cents. That's how this man made his living. He raised a family of three children.

COLLEEN: There was a business on west Center called Cook's Ice Cream. On our way home from school my friend and I would get an ice cream for five cents. It was a large scoop of ice cream. If we went to a movie it was ten cents. If we had fifteen cents we thought we were rich. We could have an ice cream and go to the movie. The ice cream was delicious. It was the best ice cream. I can taste that to this day. If you could just get another Cook's Ice Cream.

That shows the difference in prices and how they've gone so high. I took my ninety year old mother the other day to get a pair of shoes. I went to get her some Bass shoes. I thought they would be comfortable. They brought them out and said they were sixty five dollars. She looked up at them and said, "I could have bought a whole case of shoes in my day for sixty five dollars." She couldn't get over that.

BUDGE: Did it cost money to ride the train?

MAX: Yes. It was only ten cents within the county. If you went into Salt Lake that was 25 cents. There were three movie houses in Provo. There was the Strang, Uintah and Paramount and later on the Academy. They were all on Center Street. Our Saturday activity was going to the movie. Saturday morning we had a serial and every week there was a continuation of that serial. We'd see the same thing. It cost ten cents to go to the movies.

BUDGE: Was it the Academy Theater?

MAX: No, it's on University Avenue. The others were between University Avenue and First East on Center Street. One was down by the Provo City center across the street. That's where all the kids went to the movie on Saturday morning for the serial. We'd watch it every week.

COLLEEN: I have a picture of the BY Academy. We loved that place.

BUDGE: Did you ever sing in the Provo Tabernacle?

COLLEEN: Yes, I did. At one time I belonged to a sextet and the sextet sang there. It was a beautiful building. I always loved the stained glass. I'm so glad they restored it and preserved it.

BUDGE: When did they do that?

COLLEEN: It was about five years ago. They sand blasted the brick. I love to see things restored. I have a hundred year old log cabin in my back yard. It's full of antiques. I call it preserving our heritage. Everything is being torn down and nothing is being preserved. I hold Relief Society and Cub Scout functions there. I can't have too large of a group, but we do enjoy showing our cabin. We've worked on this with Provo City. It's been a blessing. We've both been on the same wave length working with antiques.

BUDGE: How long did that take?

MAX: I didn't spend a solid block of time. I'd just work on it when I wanted as I went. I sandwiched it in with other activities. It took me about four months to build it.

BUDGE: Is there anything else you can think of to add?

MAX: Provo City years ago was divided by two railroads. There was the Orem that went east and west on Center Street. They had another railroad that went north and south up 200 West, Freedom Boulevard. It went from the south end of town clear to the north end. It went to Heber. It was called the Heber Creeper. It started here in Provo and went to Heber. They took passengers and freight up to Heber Valley.

When it was in its heyday, you'd go up 200 West and just past 1239 North there was a brickyard where they made brick. That was the end of the road. There was no activity and no road north of there. University Avenue didn't go to the canyon. It went just about to 1650 North and that was the end of that street. It didn't go any farther. It dead ended there. To get into the canyon you had to go over to Canyon Road on 150 East. That went into the canyon through the Edgemont area and dropped down off Edgemont into the canyon. It really changed.

Where Provo High School is, at one time was a big swampy area. It was built in 1950. Up until then it was just a swamp. It was not much good for anything.

That railroad went up Freedom Boulevard. There was just a one lane road going up there. It was on the west side of the street and the railroad was in the middle. On the east side was a canal where the water ran down through the full length of the city and down into the present area of the golf course.

There have been a lot of dramatic changes. There were a lot of activities for us kids. We had to find our own fun. One of the things that we did when we were young boys was go over in that canal. We'd run from 500 South underground in some big caverns. It would run underground from 500 South parallel across from 200 West over to University. It would be a two block east and west direction and about two blocks south all underground and under these buildings. We used to go under them. It was dark and dingy in there.

My mother didn't ever know about this. Some of the activities we did, if my mother knew about it, she would have gone gray a lot sooner than she did. That was one thing the boys did to make their own activities. There were always six to eighteen inches of water under that. We had a lot of fun. It is crazy now when I think about it.

COLLEEN: 1100 West was a dirt road. It was a dead end. It didn't go through. At night all of the kids would congregate under the street light and play hide and seek and kick the can, and run-sheepy-run. We would play until almost 10:00, when our parents made us quit and come in. We could run clear to the creek. There was a creek down here and we could run down there and hide. Those fire flies were so thick. We had weeds to hide in. They couldn't find us for hours sometimes. We had to make our own entertainment.

MAX: A lot of our activities were out on the street. There was no traffic. You could play in the street. When we moved down here there were no homes in front of us. There was one just south of us. Behind us there were no homes at all. This is 1100 West. For six blocks there was no homes there. The only homes in the area were on 1020 South. That was about three blocks north of here. There were no homes. All this was open field behind us. It has really dramatically changed since we moved out here.

COLLEEN: My grandfather owned 15 acres of this down here. After my uncle bought most of this area over to 1700 West, it's been in the family. It was fun to live out here in those days.

BUDGE: Thank you very much.

Interviewee: Max and Colleen Littlefield (1928-2008 and 1932-2010)
Interviewer: Heather Budge
April 17, 1999

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