Library Tutorials
close
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 Max W. Berg

ORAL HISTORY TRANSCRIPTION


GRIGGS: I’m interviewing Max W. Berg who was born in Provo on July 13, 1912. The interview is being conducted at the Berg Mortuary which is located at 185 East Center in Provo, Utah. The time is 11:30 on August 1, 1988.


What are some of your earliest memories of Provo, some of the first things that you remember early in your childhood?


BERG: Well, Provo, at that time, was a very quiet college town. The population was in the neighborhood of 14-15,000 people. It was very rural. I remember the first hard-surface road that we experienced here. That was the paving of Third South between University Ave. and east to the old state US 91. That was about the first concrete that was poured around here as far as a road was concerned. So it was a lot different than it is today.


GRIGGS: What area of town did you live in when you were a child?


BERG: I lived at 484 East 300 South in Provo. I remember when the road was paved because I worked for Mr. Creer, who was the contractor. My job was to see that the workmen got fresh water to drink.


GRIGGS: How old were you when you were doing that?


BERG: I probably was ten or twelve years old.


GRIGGS: You lived in an area where you could watch downtown Provo grow up.


BERG: Yes. We went to school at the old Maeser School and we were about twelve years old when we graduated from there. Then we went to the Provo Junior High School. That was located at 400 West and 100 South. So we walked right through town almost every morning, at noon, and also when school was out.


GRIGGS: What were some of the prominent businesses in downtown Provo?


BERG: Well, there was Schwabb Clothing Company at University Avenue and Center Street in the bottom of the old Knight Building. Then there was the Provo Commercial Bank right across the street to the west. There was the Interurban Station at the south-east corner of 100 South and Center Street. And the Teluride Motor Company which was right next to the old Interurban Depot on the east side. There was the Hedquist Drugs that flourished at that time and Shrivers Clothing Store. Of course, there were several old-fashioned barber shops in the town. The predominant thing at that time was the BYU.


GRIGGS: What kind of activities were available to you in Provo?


BERG: At that time I was just going to school. Later on I got out of high school, I went directly to New York City and I stayed with my dad’s sister, Mrs. Edna Berg Groshell. And I attended Steven’s Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey for four years. Then I came back and became quite active in the civic affairs of the city. I was a charter member in the Exchange Club and I joined the 20/30 Club. Later on I became a member of the Provo Rotary Club. But now, you see, we’re getting into quite late in the years.


GRIGGS: Tell me about your participation in the Exchange Club. What was its purpose?


BERG: We met at the old Hotel Roberts which is located at 200 South and University Avenue. We had various jobs that we did to raise money for civic improvements in the city.


GRIGGS: What was the purpose of the 20/30 Club?


BERG: That was the Provo Jaycees. Their activities were about the same as the original Exchange Club which, I think, started first. We were very active. We promoted rodeos and we were able to do lots more as young people than some of the older members of the other clubs in town. We were very aggressive in doing what we thought needed to be done in the community, and we created a little interest in Provo community projects.


GRIGGS: Tell me about your home and family life when you were a youngster.


BERG: Well, we lived away from the mortuary and my job, as I remember, was tending the telephone. All the rest of the fellows would go out on weekend activities: football, track, and things like that. But I had to stay home and take care of the telephone.


GRIGGS: Someone had to be there all the time.


BERG: It was a chore in those days to watch it twenty-four hours a day.


GRIGGS: What about the family activities?


BERG: Well, we were very active. My sisters were very active in school activities. In the really early days, I worked with my grandfather, Ole H. Berg. He raised chickens and ducks. My job was to clean the pens and to sell the eggs from the ducks and the chickens. Occasionally I’d sneak a little extra egg money and get some candy from either the Harlin Thomas Store or Dinty Moore’s store up on 700 East and 300 South.


GRIGGS: Are you LDS?


BERG: Yes.


GRIGGS: Which ward did you attend?


BERG: Well, the first recollection I have is of my granddad being bishop of the old Provo First Ward. He served there for about seventeen years and then they made him bishop of the Bonneville Ward. He built that Bonneville Ward building. My job was helping move lumber and equipment around and see that the workmen had plenty of fresh water to drink. That was my first recollection of being a member of the old Bonneville Ward.


GRIGGS: Where was that located?


BERG: That was located at 600 East and 300 South right where Allen’s Market is now.


GRIGGS: You’ve talked about some of the early jobs that you had: answering the phone, etc. Were you employed in any of the other businesses in Provo or mostly with the mortuary?


BERG: Oh yes. I worked, of course, at the mortuary. We did clean-up jobs and kept the windows washed. During high school I worked at the old Smoot Lumber Mill. I worked for the Craven's, Arthur Craven and his two sons, Ralph and Ken. So every summer I was employed at the wood-working mill in the old Tri-State Lumber Company.


GRIGGS: Were there any other notable locations or businesses in Provo that you can tell me about?


BERG: Well, of course there was the old Knight Bank on 100 North and University Avenue. Then we had the Paramount Theater and the old Strand Theater.


GRIGGS: Where was the Strand Theater?


BERG: The Strand Theater, as I remember, was between 200 and 300 West on Center Street. I think right now it’s occupied by that beauty school, Mary …


GRIGGS: Kawakami.


BERG: That’s right. I never could pronounce her name. Then there was the old Troy Laundry that was between 300 and 400 West on the west side of the street. And there was Taylor Brothers’ Store. The present location now, I guess, is the mini mall on the north side of the street between 200 and 300 West. There was the old Commercial Bank. They closed during the Depression when Roosevelt closed all the banks. Then it became the old Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank. That was located on 300 West and Center. In addition to Hedquist Drugs, we had Thornton Drug and Bonnette Vasher Drug all on Center Street.


GRIGGS: Tell me about some notable people that you remember who influenced you as a young person.


BERG: There was Jesse Knight.


GRIGGS: What do you remember about Jesse Knight?


BERG: I just remember him as being a miner and discovering gold in Eureka. The reason I guess that a lot of that sticks with me is because we bought his mansion on Center Street for the mortuary. That’s our location now. He, of course, owned the Woolen Mills and he owned the First Security Bank. He built the old Knight Block that housed lots of offices and a lot of stores on the ground floor. Then there was the Schwab Clothing Company. It was quite a prominent store in the Knight Building. I remember Mr. Schwab was a very short fellow, and the man that worked for him was Milton Jones. Milt was about twice as tall as Mr. Schwab. That was quite a talking point in town, Mutt and Jeff type of thing. Of course, there was Alex Hedquist, Victor Bird, Doctor Taylor and then the other Taylor family, John T. Taylor, and then the Taylor Brothers’ store. The family more or less separated, then part of that family were the ones that instigated the Dixon Taylor Russell, which was located just across the road from the parent Taylor Brothers. The Taylor family, when they sold out, was the oldest family running a business in Provo. Then we became the oldest family-run business in town.


GRIGGS: Tell me about attending Maeser School.


BERG: We had a great time over there. We had a baseball team that won lots of contests. Lots of the stars that became basketball stars in Provo High School are originally from Maeser School. Mrs. Page was, I think, the assistant principal. She taught. Oscar Biergaard was the principal. He ruled with an iron hand in those days. He didn’t hit you with the flat of the ruler, it was the edge of the ruler. We had a good time during our early days in the Maeser School.


GRIGGS: Were there any activities or events in the school that were particularly memorable?


BERG: We had May Day. And we had to dance the Maypole which none of us fellows liked to do. We had our regular track meets and baseball games. Basketball, of course, was not very far advanced in those days.


GRIGGS: Then you went to the Provo Junior High School? Do you remember any of the any of the instructors that influenced you particularly?


BERG: Oh yes. There was Mrs. Wilkins. She was the librarian. Then there was Orson Slack who was a professor. And the superintendent of the schools at that time was a man by the name of Smith. I think it was Charlie Smith. He was superintendent of schools. He was subsequently replaced by J. C. Moffitt and then Moffitt was replaced by the B. W. McAllister and then Jess Weight. There was Reese Bench who taught mathematics and algebra. There was Mrs. Jacobs who taught us English and Literature. Chestina B. Larsen was the Type and Shorthand teacher. And a man by the name of Claud Leaf was the swimming coach. One coach was Glen Simmons, who, by the way, is still alive and lives in Arizona with a daughter. Reese Bench is still alive also.


I think that by the time we were in high school, most of those teachers had either retired or had gone another way except for Mrs. Wakefield who was the librarian and Mrs. Wilkins. It seems to me like when we got into high school, there were very few of the teachers that we knew from the junior high. The high school was on 300 West and 100 South and the junior high was on 400 West and 100 South. So we’d have classes both in the junior high and high school at the same time.


GRIGGS: Tell me how your day would run when you were in high school. How did they run the school and the curriculum?


BERG: I think the way they ran the school was very similar to the way schools are run today. There was a superintendent of schools and a principal in the high school just like junior high. The teachers were given the curriculum that they had to teach. That all came from the principal, the superintendent of the schools and the school board. I think it was very similar to the way it is today.


GRIGGS: Were there some outstanding instructors in the high school that you particularly enjoyed?


BERG: I was not a very good student. Mrs. Lavere Huish, who later became Mrs. Frank Earl, used to tease me quite a bit in English class because I couldn’t keep up with them. Maude Beeley Jacob was a very stern teacher and so was Mr. Eggertson.


GRIGGS: What subjects did you study in high school that you enjoyed the most?


BERG: We studied very much like they do today. In grade schools and in junior high we had our arithmetic. It was a lot different than modern arithmetic. With my grandchildren now, I can’t even understand what they’re doing. Their math is entirely different. We had science class and we had O. D. Campbell who taught us in drafting. We had Chestina B. Larsen who tried to teach us typewriting and shorthand, Sam Biddulph, who taught science, and Oscar Garrett taught us penmanship. I don’t know. I guess it was Oscar Garrett who really made us write better because my experience today is that we, as a student body, we could write much more legibly than the children who are coming out of school today. You can hardly read their writing. I don’t know why that is. I can’t tell you that. I can remember Oscar Garrett making us make these continuous loops clear across the page. I guess that was to limber up our fingers or something. But today, it seems to me that they don’t even teach them how to hold a pencil. They put a pencil between their thumb and the forefinger and try to write. I don’t see how they do it myself.


GRIGGS: Were there any notable activities in the high school while you were there?


BERG: Oh yes. Basketball was our outstanding thing and our swimming team won the state championship for many, many years through the efforts of Professor Leaf and Walter Hires who was his assistant. The girls were very active also. They were active in gym and what’s called aerobic classes today, I guess. I can remember they wore these big long bloomers with elastic at the legs and at the top. And they were really bloomers. They really bloomed out. Nothing like they wear today.


GRIGGS: They were completely covered.


BERG: I’ll say.


GRIGGS: Did you participate in sports activities at the high school?


BERG: Not very much. No. I never was very athletically inclined. I enjoyed woodworking shop where Mr. Montinmore and later Mr. Asel Fisher were the instructors.


GRIGGS: How about clubs? Did you have clubs that were associated with the high school?


BERG: We had a journalism club and we had a forensic club that we participated in. We had our pep club and things like that.


GRIGGS: Tell me about the history of the mortuary.


BERG: My grandfather walked across the plains shortly after 1860. He was a full-fledged cabinet maker. He served his apprenticeship and learned the trade in Bergen, Norway before coming here. Both my grandfather and grandmother were Mormon converts and they met on the plains as they came across pushing handcarts. After he established himself here as a cabinet maker, he went into the general contracting business. Subsequently, when there was a death in the area, they’d go to Brother Berg to get a casket made. As time progressed, he established his wood-working mill where Ahlander's Hardware is now. That was about 170 South University Avenue. He wanted to be close to the railroad because that’s where he’d get his deliveries for wood. He was making wagons and he brought Mr. Joseph Ahlander to this country, who was a blacksmith and a machinist by trade. They established businesses side by side. By the way, Ahlander's still exists here today. They’re more or less of a wholesale hardware store now. In those early days he did the metal work for the wagons and Granddad would do the woodworking part. Pretty soon, Granddad had to have one or two caskets on hand because they might have two or three funerals or deaths at one time. He went along with his general contracting and had a few reverses like is generally the case. By 1870, he established the O.H. Berg and Son Undertaking Parlor. That continued to exist until about 1919 at that location on South University Avenue. He bought thirty-one and a half feet of property at 45 East Center Street. At that time, he owned eighteen acres on the upper campus at BYU. They used to grow alfalfa up there. My dad used to complain to me or to the family how he hated to get up at three in the morning and go irrigate up on the temple hill. So he traded that eighteen acres for this thirty-one and a half feet of ground on 45 East Center Street.


GRIGGS: Is this your grandfather or your father?


BERG: That was my grandfather and father. The O.H. Berg and Son was my uncle Henry Berg. When he was nineteen, he was then a licensed embalmer and was intending to go in business with his father, O.H. Berg. They called him on a mission when he was nineteen years old and he died in the mission field in Oslo, Norway. That left it up to my dad who was quite a bit younger than Uncle Henry. So he and grandfather put together this building on East Center Street and it became the O.H. Berg and Son Undertaking Parlor. About 1919-1920-21, the Berg Mortuary was incorporated and it has continued to exist since then. We stayed there and operated that until the town grew and business encroached so that we had a hard time establishing funeral processions and such on Center Street. In 1935, we bought the Knight mansion and moved here.


GRIGGS: I’m not sure whether this is actually an appropriate question, but I’ll ask you anyway. It seems like deaths sometimes have some interesting facts that go along with them. Were there some prominent people or some interesting circumstances that were involved with some of your business?


BERG: Oh sure. We had lots of those things happen.


GRIGGS: Can you think of any specific cases?


BERG: I can remember when granddad died. We were expecting our first motorized funeral coach or hearse as they called them in those days. We held off the funeral for three or four days, but the railroad car that was bringing this automobile hearse to Provo became sidetracked and we had to go ahead with his funeral at the tabernacle without the mechanical hearse. That was what he wanted to be taken to the cemetery in. That is one of the first recollections I have of experiences in the field. I was still pretty young at that time.


I can remember when Senator Reed Smoot died. We had his funeral in Salt Lake. As I remember, as we were coming from Salt Lake to Provo, one of the funeral coaches broke down and we had to hold up the procession in Sandy until they brought another coach. We had about twenty or thirty highway patrol police cars and Salt Lake motorcycles leading the procession. It was quite a hair-raising experience. Some of our old-timers had a different flair for things, especially in death. We had the funeral for Steven Bee who was one of our really old first saddle makers and harness makers. He eventually started Steven Bee’s general housewares. He made the little copper boilers that we boiled the clothes in on the coal stoves. And then Colonel C. E. Lewis was another prominent funeral in town. Of course, Jesse Knight’s funeral was one of those outstanding things that came along later.


GRIGGS: Was that held at the tabernacle?


BERG: Yes. In those days, if the death occurred Friday, Saturday or Sunday, we never had the funeral until the next Sunday. Everybody wanted to go to the funeral and they generally couldn’t get away during the week. So Sunday, besides being a church day, it was also a funeral day in those times.


GRIGGS: I didn’t realize that.


BERG: That’s when the funerals used to last three and four hours.


GRIGGS: Tell me about your father.


BERG: Well my dad was quite an active community leader. He was one of the original members of the old Provo Commercial Club that later became the Chamber of Commerce. He was active in the Social Sixties and he graduated from BYU. So he was very active in dramatics at BYU. He was one of the originators of the old Provo Timpanogos Golf Course. He played golf quite a bit. He was one of the first members of the Provo Rotary Club. Eventually, I became a member. Then my two sons became members of Rotary. At one time, we were the only three generation family who were active in the Rotary Club. My father stayed active throughout his life. He died quite young, when he was 68. Nowadays we’re all living a little longer. Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t know.


GRIGGS: What about your mother?


BERG: My mother’s name was Josephine Thomas Berg and she was a native of Springville. She was born in Salt Lake City, but she was reared as a daughter of William and Eliza Holly. Her mother married Mr. Thomas. They lived in Springville. He was a timber and sawmill man. They moved to Winter Quarters near Scofield in Carbon County. He continued in the lumber business there. My grandmother ran the boarding house in Winter Quarters and took care of all the miners in the old Winter Quarters Mine. So my mother and her sisters learned to cook, to wait on tables and to wash dishes in this boarding house. Then they moved back to Springville and my mother was married to my father in about 1910-11. It was quite an occasion. We lived in the first home that granddad built here. That was at 484 East 300 South. When she was nineteen years old, she cooked dinner for twenty-two people on Thanksgiving Day. That’s not heard of much anymore. She had three children. I was the oldest and my sister Marion was next, then Joan. We were just very young kids when she got up in the night to answer the telephone and fainted. She was burned quite badly on the floor furnace that we had just recently installed. In fact, it was one of the first furnaces installed in Provo and used the old Mountain States Gas that was made out at the Ironton Plant. When she fell, she burned her leg quite badly. Of course, it was before antibiotics. She developed septicemia and died when she was 34. It was in 1927.


GRIGGS: So Veva is your stepmother?


BERG: Veva was married to my dad in about 1929.


GRIGGS: I didn’t realize that.


BERG: I have all those dates. We could correct them probably.


GRIGGS: When I get finished transcribing, you can check them. That would be very helpful.


BERG: Veva’s maiden name was Veva Peters. She’s been a stalwart all through the years. I can remember her taking care of us kids out in the old house, and she tending the telephone. She was a busy lady. Since we moved here in 1935, she’s been right here and active, not only as a homemaker, but as a partner in the business until her retirement about a year ago.


GRIGGS: And she isn’t feeling very well now, is she?


BERG: No not too well. She’s having a little heart trouble. She fell and broke her hip and she was in surgery for over six hours. She had broken her femur bone in four different places. It took a long time to get over that, but we finally did get her so that she was at home, learning to walk again and getting along just fine. Then, she fell a couple more times and got two compression fractures. She just hasn’t been able to cope with this last experience.


GRIGGS: That’s hard. We’ve talked about the various businesses in the area. You must have observed the changes that took place during the Depression.


BERG: Oh. I should say. I was in New York when the worst of it came. I went to New York in 1930 and didn’t come back until 1934. But, of course, the ravages of the depression were still here. The banks had been closed and all had changed hands. So many businesses had failed and new ones had started. Things were pretty bleak in those days.


GRIGGS: Did that affect the mortuary?


BERG: Oh yes. My father had very serious times keeping this place going. Nobody had any money. Yet when they died they had to have funerals and they had to have merchandise and services. But they couldn’t pay for it. My dad, of course, lived in the era when practically no one kept any kind of books. I don’t think he ever sent a statement in his life. Our old black ledger was filled with nothing but debts. That situation still existed almost until his death. It got better a few years before he died, but there were still plenty of bleak times. He died in 1955. I guess the only thing that snapped the community out of the doldrums after the Depression was World War II. World War II hit and, of course, it didn’t affect us until four or five years later because Provo is always that much behind the general economy of the country. Even though that war ended in the late forties, the financial benefit didn’t reach here until two or three years prior to his death.


GRIGGS: We have a lot of questions at the library concerning various resorts that were located around Provo. Please tell me about any of the resorts or the entertainment spots that you remember.


BERG: Oh yes! I can remember the resort down at Utah Lake where they used to have dances and a big picnic area. I can remember all of those things that existed almost where Utah Lake State Park is today. Maybe it was a little further south.


GRIGGS: What kind of facilities did they have there?


BERG: They had a big dance hall called an amusement hall, I guess. They had a picnic area and they had tremendous big picnics. A whole stake would go down there for picnics and activities.


I remember Vivian Park was quite a popular place and Geneva Park, which was out on the northwest corner of the Geneva Steel Plant. By the way, there’s a marina right where the old Geneva recreation area was. There was a big dance hall out there and it was a really popular place. Of course, there was Castilla in Spanish Fork Canyon. We used to have excursions up there and we’d take the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and they’d stop there just above Pace’s Ranch. That was where warm springs were and they had a great big hotel, dance floor and dining room. It was really a going concern in those days.


GRIGGS: My goodness. I hadn’t heard of Castilla before.


BERG: That was really a popular place. They had baths. The older folks would go up and lay in the sulfur baths to get rid of their arthritis. They didn’t have any name for it in those days.


GRIGGS: What about entertainment places right in Provo?


BERG: Well, we had the Mozart that started in the old Veteran’s building. It was about 50 North 100 West in Provo. I think it was the old National Guard building. The Mozart started there as a dance hall and then they moved a block and a half west to 100 South and 100 West. It was called the Mozart at that time. Later it became the Utahna. But they used to have tremendous dances and entertainments there. I remember when my dad first started giving the party for the kids every Christmas, I think the very first one we had was in this old National Guard building where the Mozart was started. We had it there for a while and then we moved to the Utahna and then to the Paramount Theater. Pretty soon the parties got so big we had to go to the old Provo High School gym to hold them. They were held later at the new high school and also at different theaters in town. We had lots of entertainment. There were three theaters in town. We had the old Social Sixties dance group that flourished for many, many years here.


GRIGGS: Tell me about that.


BERG: I don’t know too much about it. I know my dad and mother were members of it. My mother, I remember, was a member of the old Tres Jolie Club. It was a kind of a bridge club. In the early, early days, there wasn’t very much entertainment. I can remember my grandmother and her sisters. About the only entertainment they’d get would be to get in their rocking chairs and knit and then gossip all afternoon. That was about the only thing they ever did as far as I can remember.


GRIGGS: I was interested in the story about your grandfather and grandmother meeting as they were crossing the plains. When did they finally get married? How did that happen?


BERG: Well, they got married after they arrived here. And the funny thing about it was that, actually, he knew her in the old country. I think he was in one of the upper grades in the school and she was in the under grades. So he actually did know her, was introduced to her over there. He was one of the first branch presidents and then he also served as bishop in Norway after he joined the Church. He was married and had a son. Then his wife died in childbirth. When he came to America, the son died on the trip over. They were aboard the ship for something like three and a half months. I guess, circumstances weren’t like our luxury cruisers today.


GRIGGS: No. Not at all.


BERG: Then they landed in New York and came across the plains in the same group.


GRIGGS: So they were in Provo when they finally married. That’s interesting. We have a number of parks and recreation areas in Provo. Do you know any of the history of those? Or did you participate in activities in some of the parks?


BERG: Oh yes. We helped build the Exchange Club Park. And I had a lot to do with building the Rotary Park up Provo Canyon. I dug the holes and made the forms for the anchors for a shelter that Geneva Steel fabricated for us at that park. Of course, that’s all gone now because we had to move the Rotary Park from Provo Canyon because of the new highway construction. Now it’s out on the Grandview Hill. Then later on I had a lot to do with building the Footprinter's Park.


GRIGGS: Where’s the Footprinter's Park?


BERG: The Footprinter's Park is down on about 1400 South and about 1900 West, right down there on the old Stubb’s Farm. There’s a creek that runs through it. The Footprinter"s have a real nice park there.


Of course the Rotary Club was one of the original ones that built a really nice park. That’s one of the older clubs in Provo too. Then the Elks Club came along and they had kids Purple Day and regular adult Purple Days. And almost every club now has one or two celebrations. In fact we were to the Jaycee Old Timers‘ party last Saturday. It was held at the Lions Park in northwest Provo.


GRIGGS: Did you attend any activities in the parks?


BERG: Oh, we attended the band concerts that used to be held in the band stage in Pioneer Park on 500 West and Center. We were instrumental in helping get North Park established many, many years ago. Now, that’s more or less a historical park because that’s where the Pioneer Museum is and the old original cabins that were built here out of logs are there.


GRIGGS: The Fourth of July has always been a real time for celebrating around here. What do you remember about some of the early celebrations?


BERG: I can remember the parades that we had. We used to have them on the Fourth and Twenty-Fourth. Some of the floats were just nothing but hay racks with a bunting strung around them. I remember those very well. I can remember when President Taft came to Provo. He had a big open touring car that he rode in from the station. I think he spoke at BYU. Senator Reed Smoot was there with him. Maybe it was the tabernacle where he spoke. I think probably it was.


GRIGGS: Have there been activities at BYU that you have participated in or that you remember particularly?


BERG: I used to attend all the football and basketball games and have been active in the Downtown Coaches Club. We’ve been very active and we’ve contributed a great deal to BYU over the years. In excess of, I would say, $50,000. Something like that.


GRIGGS: BYU always appreciates donations.


BERG: Yes, and for a good cause.


GRIGGS: Is there anything else that you can think of that we haven’t covered?


BERG: I know that we’ve had lots of changes in the food business—you know, in the grocery stores and the restaurants and things like that.


GRIGGS: Oh. Tell me about the grocery stores and restaurants that you remember.


BERG: I remember Walter Whitehead. He was bishop of the old Provo First Ward and he had a great big grocery store and meat market on 300 South and University Avenue. He had a little Englishman there that was a butcher. I used to go down there and get what my mother had ordered. He’d always give me calf’s liver because no one would eat it. And I just thought that was the greatest stuff there was. He’d save all the calf’s liver for me. Now you can’t even buy it because it’s not available at any price. We’ve seen lots of changes in the grocery stores. I remember we used to have an old O.P. Skagg's store on about 70 North University Ave. Then they transferred around to where the Utah Office Supply is now at about 80 East Center. Then in 1934-35, we rented our original mortuary building at 45 East Center Street to Safeway's. That’s when we moved to the Jesse Knight home. So Safeway's were there. Then we had O.P. Skagg's store just a little bit further east. That store eventually became Hayward’s Market. Of course, Ralph Hayward has a son here in town. His [son] was married to Victor Berg’s daughter. He’s an oral surgeon or a specialized dentist here in town until he retired. I can remember when we had a big grocery store over there on 200 West and 100 North in the old ... that was a part of the estate of the Dixon Taylor Russell Company. A big grocery store there. I think that was Safeway's. Of course, now, Safeway's have completely sold out in this area. There have been lots of changes.


GRIGGS: Do you remember the Sutton’s Market at all?


BERG: Yes. And I also remember the John T. Taylor Market that was right in the middle of the block between 100 and 200 West on the north side. Then you got to about 70 South Center Street it was Provo Meat Company or something like that. That became the Meservey’s Market later on in years. Of course, the old established Provo Bakery was just north of the library there for many, many years. Now, it’s a beautiful operation and a restaurant. The north end, where Speckard’s Market was is now a rental office.


GRIGGS: Do you have any memories of the old library?


BERG: No. I really don’t. The only library I remember is where it is now. Early in the days, long before my time, those buildings around the Knight Block, that’s from 100 East around to University Avenue and 100 North, were all heated by the old central heating plant that was owned by Jesse Knight. That was right in the middle of the block where the telephone company employees parked. It’s underground. It used to be the central heating plant. As a matter of fact, the original Knight Mansion here was heated by that central heating plant a block away. Those big pipes are still in a conduit that runs under 100 East and also from here clear down to that central heating plant. They used to pipe the steam right up here. That’s the way they heated this building for years and years. In fact, our building at 45 East Center Street, where my wife has her lady’s ready-to-wear shop now, called Deon's, the Paramount Theater and the whole Knight Block was heated from the central heating plant.


GRIGGS: How long has your wife been involved with Deon's?


BERG: She’s had that store for about fifteen years. It’s been in existence since, well, a friend of mine, we went together and purchased a store from Deon herself when she got married and moved to Las Vegas. We used to have a store over on University Avenue about 30 North University Avenue, about where Bullock and Losee’s store was. Now it’s Kinko's. Then we moved over to the present location at 45 East Center. That was our old mortuary building. So it’s still in the corporation and that makes it easier for her to operate out of. She’s developed a fairly nice business there.


GRIGGS: You mentioned that you’d watched a lot of changes in the restaurants in the area. What were some of the early ones?


BERG: Provo used to be a very famous place for eating establishments. There was the old Sutton Cafe that was run by the Morefield family—Bob Morefield and his wife and her sister, Mrs. Nelson. People used to come from all over the country to eat at Sutton’s Cafe.


GRIGGS: What was it like to eat there? What made it famous?


BERG: Well, it was very much like it was at the time that Ted Bandley owned it. He had the big counter on the west side in the front and stools all the way around that. From there on back to the kitchen were booths on both sides. So it was very much the same as it was when the Morefields were there. But they had big walk-in lockers and their chefs knew how to age their beef in those days. They were very famous. They were known all over the intermountain country for their fine food.


GRIGGS: Were there other restaurants in the area that were well-known?


BERG: I don’t know. At that time, I don’t think so. Of course, since then, we’ve had the Elliot family that have had fine restaurants. Then Keeley's used to be quite a prominent place to eat. Then they established another store. Then they went just to soda fountain and ice cream parlors after that. Years and years ago we were introduced into the Chinese-type restaurants. Willy Wang ran a China City Cafe over on the avenue for many years. Then, it branched all out, and we got our fast foods restaurants. So there really isn’t any place now that is outstanding in Utah County.


GRIGGS: Do you have any memories about the Roberts Hotel?


BERG: Oh yes! The Roberts Hotel was a very popular eating place. All the clubs met there. Ed Burton was one of the owners and so was Mark Anderson, who was responsible for Provo City’s power establishment here in town. Ed was more or less the manager and his wife Myrtle was the cook. She used to make the greatest apple pie that ever was. We all missed that when they closed the dining room. All the big banquets and everything were held at the Roberts Hotel.


GRIGGS: Can you think of anything else that should be included in this history?


BERG: No. There’s lots and lots of water under the bridge since those days. At the moment, I can’t think of anything.


GRIGGS: Well, we really appreciate your help with this. Thank you so much.

Interviewee: Max W. Berg
Interviewer: Karen Griggs
August 1, 1988



Return to Oral Histories List