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 Richard Dunn


INTERVIEWER: It is September 15, 1999. It is 6:23 p.m. We are having an interview with Richard Dunn. Tell us when you moved here to Provo.

DUNN: It was around 1935 from Salt Lake City. My dad was transferred down here with Kings. He managed two Kings stores here in town at the time. They were cafes.

INTERVIEWER: How old were you?

DUNN: I was about six years old.

INTERVIEWER: You had just started elementary school. What do you remember of your early school days in Provo?

DUNN: I went to the old Timpanogos School. That was on Fourth North and Fifth West where the new Timpanogos is now. It is new compared to what it was when I started. There was an old building there. We went to that while they were building the new building which is now still standing. I went all through grade school there. They finally condemned the building and built a new one.

INTERVIEWER: What about junior high and high school?

DUNN: From there I went to Dixon Junior High. I went to three years there and from there to Provo High. I took some classes at vocational school down on South University, down by the old golf course, which is gone. It was down where Sam's and Anderson Lumber are now.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember from elementary school, junior high or high school some of your favorite classes that you had, or perhaps even teachers that you had and things that you did in grade school?

DUNN: In grade school there was a Mrs. Whittaker. She was our sixth grade teacher. Levar Cump was our fifth grade teacher and our baseball coach. We took the city championship that year in baseball. That was when I was in the sixth grade. At Dixon our coach was Silky Knudsen. We had Lee Buttell for an English teacher. They were two great guys. In high school Brother Paxton was our a cappella choir teacher. He was a fantastic man and a great individual. He was hard of hearing and yet he was a great teacher. He knew when we were off key. He was great. The vocational school was down at the end of University Avenue.

At the very end of University Avenue was the fourth ward pasture. That's where everybody put their cows. I had the job in the summer time to herd those cows from the pasture home and from home back to the pasture. It wasn't much to it. The cows knew they were going to pasture. The farmers would open their gates on this route down Second West. The cows would come over to Second West and I'd just walk down and shoo them on down to the pasture and then in the evening time they were at the gate waiting for me when I got there. I would open the gate and take them back up to Second West and they'd drop off and go home. I wouldn't have to take them to their barn.

INTERVIEWER: Did these cows belong to your family?

DUNN: No, they were just individuals in the city that had cows, but no place to graze them but the fourth ward pasture.

INTERVIEWER: It was owned by the ward?

DUNN: It was called the fourth ward pasture because it was in that ward area. They paid so much a month to have the cows run in there. They gave me so much to herd them down and herd them home.

INTERVIEWER: That was when you were in vocational school?

DUNN: No, that's where the vocational school was. I took auto mechanics and blacksmith welding down there. That was down just north of this fourth ward pasture. It's about where Anderson Lumber and the Village Inn are now. It's just south of there a little bit. There were four or five buildings they had. It was the old fair grounds. They had a race track down there.

INTERVIEWER: When you were in high school did you play any sports?

DUNN: I played football and track.

INTERVIEWER: How did your teams do?

DUNN: We did well. As a sophomore we would scrimmage with the main team. We worked real hard every night. We'd go out and scrimmage. We took the state championship the year I was a junior. The last year, in 1947, we lost to West in the championship game.

INTERVIEWER: Is that high school building that you went to gone?

DUNN: That's gone. That was on Third West, just off Center Street, right on First South, where the city building and fire department headquarters and the police department is now. I spent a lot of time there. I spent my high school years for three years. Then I chased my wife who was there for another three years. Then I got into the fire department and spent another thirty years. I spent a lot of time on that corner.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your social life, places where you and your buddies would hangout or what sorts of things you did for dating or dances.

DUNN: When we were kids in the summer time and going to grade school, Provo wasn't very big. There was Fifth West, Third South, First North, Center Street and University Avenue. They were the only paved roads in town at that time. The rest were all gravel. We didn't have curb and gutter. We had a curb, but the ditches were dirt ditches. There was no cement. There was water in them all the time. Everybody had a watering turn in Provo City, because everybody had a garden and a wood burning stove.

During the summer, we'd go up the tracks, which was up Second West. The railroad tracks used to run up Second West clear to Heber. We'd walk up those tracks. We had a swimming hole up there we called the Thistle. That was just about two blocks east of where the hospital is now. That isn't there anymore. They've built homes and there is businesses over that way now. It was way out in the country then. The hospital was stuck way out there at the time. That was about two blocks away from our swimming hole. We'd go from there, further up the tracks to where Denny's is and TGI Fridays. That used to be a brickyard there. In that whole area was mud pits. They'd get their clay from there to make their brick. We'd go up there. There was a swimming hole up there to swim in.

For fun growing up, they always had a little flat car on some narrow gauge track and we'd push that car up to the top and it was about three to four blocks long. There was a switch there. If you switched it, it would switch right into a bank into a small tunnel and you'd bang into that bank. But if you let it go straight, it would go straight down the hill until it jumped the track. It wasn't heavy enough that we could lift it back on the tracks. The thing was to make sure that nobody made that switch, so we'd go crash into the tunnel.

We'd go up and swim. There were a few apple orchards up there. We'd pilfer some apples. We'd get tired of swimming and get on the flat car and down we'd go heading for home. We'd always pick up a bunch of blow snakes or water snakes and grab frogs that were there in those ponds. We'd take them home and put them in a box and charge kids a penny a piece to watch the snakes eat the frogs. Industrious group we were.

Right where we're sitting now was a farm. We also had a swimming hole right over here where Skaggs or Rite-Aid is now. That was the main highway into Provo. It was Columbia Lane. That was Highway 91. Where Rite-Aid is, there was the Riverside Motel. The road didn't go up the hill at that time. It was a big log motel and they had small log cabins they rented out. We had a swimming hole just this side of there. We'd follow the river down to the rock crusher at the end of Fifth North. We had another swimming hole there. During the summer time we were wrinkled from all the water. We swam an awful lot.

As we grew older things started to change a little bit. They started to gravel the roads. They first came along with a grader. At this time I'd be around the sixth or seventh grade. They'd gravel the roads and then they'd roll it with a roller so it wouldn't be too loose.

The city shops at the time were on Fifth North between Second and Third West. They were old green wood buildings by the ball park. I'd go up and get a job in the summer cleaning out these dirt ditches. We'd go in just before irrigating time or summer time and we'd clean the ditches out. It was a long ways for me to throw dirt from a ditch into a dump truck, so I'd throw it out onto the ground and have to throw it up into the truck. They hired us, me and a couple of my buddies, every summer to do that. I guess we proved ourselves to them.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember how much they paid you?

DUNN: I don't. It wasn't a heck of a lot. But we had fun. When they started to black top the streets, there was a railroad spur off of Second West. That's on Fifth North and Second West which is now Freedom Boulevard. There was a spur there. The asphalt would come in on railroad cars. The trucks would drive down into a hall, just below a platform. They would open the doors of the car and the asphalt would fall out onto the platform. They had to manhandle it and shuttle it from there into the dump truck. I got a job up there spraying oil on their shovels and in the beds of the trucks, so that the asphalt wouldn't stick. I first started up there and they said, "You can help us. We can't pay you, but we'll give you part of our lunch." That was good enough for me. I made friends with these old boys. Pretty soon they said, "You're working so good, we'll pay you." They gave me a dollar a day. That's all I had to do was oil these shovels and the beds of the trucks as they drove in. I watched them pave all of the streets in Provo after that.

Summers were great. We had to make our own fun. There was no T.V. We had to do things on our own. We'd make rubber guns and have rubber gun fights. We'd make old machine guns out of them. We'd pull on a leather lace and shoot five or six at one time. We'd get old inner tubes. They were easy to come by then. We'd use those with the rubbers to shoot and tie a knot in the middle and make them real tight. They had to hurt or it wasn't fun. We'd go out and work in the strawberries or the cherries. We'd go to Orem or Pleasant Grove. They'd pick us up downtown and take us out there to these different farms.

In junior high most of us would try to find jobs. I worked at a tire shop called Brimhall Tire. That's right where the hotel is now. I worked in this tire shop there all summer long.

Things have really changed during the years. I was thinking the other day if my folks were still alive they'd never recognize this place. It's changed so much. Right where we are was a farm. These houses all came in years and years later. Things started to grow. Where the hotel is now was the old fire department. Before then it was on Center Street and about First East. Then they built one just across from where the old Paramount Theater used to be. They've torn it down now. That's across from the old library. There was a fire department in there and then they moved over on First North between First and Second West. Then up on Third North and Second West, then down where they are now. Now they've got four stations in town. It's grown quite a bit.

INTERVIEWER: What sorts of things did you do in high school with your friends or with the girls?

DUNN: We had to have a job. Jobs were easy to come by at that time. You could get a paper route. You'd pick up any kind of work you could do. They had a place across from the high school, Startups. It was a little cafe and they catered weddings and parties and what not. That was a hangout for most of us. That's where you'd go to meet.

As time went on the teachers in school decided we had to have something to do in the evenings so we wouldn't get in trouble. It's easy for kids to get in trouble. We built the Teen Canteen which is where the city complex is now, in the old high school. One of the fellow's dad had some pool tables. He had a pool hall out in Orem. We got those pool tables and put them in the old library at the high school. We got a back bar out of an old saloon in Eureka and used that in there for decoration. That's where we'd spend most of our evenings, go in there and shoot pool and play table tennis and checkers. It was just a good time to meet and have parties. They had a little snack bar there. We spent a lot of time there. I was helping to instigate that and get that going.

In school I was made senior class president in 1947. That's still going on. I'm still babysitting all these guys. We just had our fiftieth class reunion in 1997. We still get together once a month. There are about 20 or 30 of us, and our partners. We had so much fun in high school we couldn't let go.

INTERVIEWER: And most of these people have stayed here in Provo?

DUNN: They have gone, made their millions and come back. Most of them are coming back home or are home now. Most of them moved away. Some of them spent their years in the service and retired from there. Others went to California and made their living and came back to Provo. I stayed here all my life. I was a die hard. I tried California for a year and that was enough. We moved back up here.

We always had dates. Wherever we went, you'd never go alone. You never went out on a date by yourself. You always had another couple or two or three to go with you. It kept you out of trouble and it was fun to have the association with those people. A lot of times we'd go to Salt Lake for the Rainbow Rendezvous. That's where the big name bands used to come, Harry James and Louis Armstrong and all those guys. That was a big deal for us to get a date and go up there. Usually if you took a girl up there, you liked her and hoped she liked you. It was great. We spent a lot of time up there.

A lot of Saturday nights we'd go swimming. There was Park Roche over by Springville and the Saratoga over by Lehi and Arrowhead down by Payson. There were three places we could go swim at an indoor pool. That was about the only recreation we had. Once in a while, there would be up by the Y, the parking lot where the Y is by the practice field on North University, was an outside dance hall. We would dance there once in a while. It was for more of the older people who liked their beer. We spent a lot of time at the outside dance hall. We'd go up and enjoy ourselves. We had a lot of fun.

We had to make our own fun. We had horses and we'd ride up Slate Canyon and spend the night and come back down Rock Canyon. It was easy to do then, because there wasn't all these homes around. You could ride your horse and not have to worry about getting hit.

We'd go to school during the day in grade school or junior high and watch the telephone lines as you were going to school. They called them nighthawks. They don't fly during the day. There would be hundreds of them. You would go two or three blocks to school. You weren't that far away. Buses weren't even in existence then. You would count these nighthawks and after school you'd go home and get your flipper cock or your BB gun and you'd go out and clean up on nighthawks and get their claws or their feathers and put them in your hat. Nobody would turn you in. It was our way of having fun. But now a poor kid walks down the street and he's got a toy gun that looks so real, people call the police and the next thing you know you've got to go to the police station and get him. You can't blame them. Things have changed quite a bit.


DUNN: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little about your experience with the ward that you were in. I don't know how long you've been in the ward you're in now.

DUNN: We've been here 37 years. When we got married we came out here this way. Our ward was this little red building up on the hill. I think it's the Presbyterian church now. We met there. That was the whole Grandview area. As time went on and houses were being built, there were other wards as well. We moved to the ward down the street here about four blocks away. It was the Grandview ward. Then they split it into Grandview second and then the eighteenth and now it's the second, fourth and fifth. It's gotten so big they built us a new stake house just down the street here. Being the original ward in Grandview, we are the ones that are going to go to that new building. I've seen a lot of bishops come and go and a lot of people come and go out of the neighborhood for a lot of years. We're some of the oldest in here now. There are still some that are older by a couple of years. We've watched this area grow and it has grown.

INTERVIEWER: How did the fact that the wards are divided and changed have an effect on the sense of community in Provo?

DUNN: They got so big that you were overcrowding your meeting houses. They split it up and would take so many blocks and so many families and put in the ward. Right now you've got three wards going to one. Throughout the years you've always had stake parties. The other wards would come in, the whole stake and you'd have these stake dances. The stake presidency would get together and all the wards would get together and have a time over at the park. The camaraderie was great. Half the people that are in the other wards now, we've all been in the same ward at one time or another in this area.

Then it got to where people were moving. They were bettering themselves and going into bigger, nicer homes. Lately it's been a transient ward. People come and go. Kids come here to go to school and Dad buys them a house if they're married and they'll stay here four years. When they graduate the house sits and goes to pot. Maybe Dad can't sell it. Those who own their homes and are settled take care of their places. The others kind of let them go to pot, because no one really cares. As far as camaraderie with people in the ward and other wards, it's fantastic. We have great times together.

INTERVIEWER: So there was a big connection between the ward life and community life. They were one in the same in a lot of ways.

DUNN: It was. We as a group out here, they call us the Rivergrove area. We had get togethers over here in the park with all kinds of people that have been in our wards throughout our lives. Everybody knows everybody. It's getting back to a little bit like it was when we first moved here. I couldn't walk down Center Street with my Dad, from University to Fifth West in a short time. It would take us two and half hours because he knew everybody. Everybody knew him. As a kid, when I'd walk down Center Street with my Dad I hated it, because it took us too long. Now I can go downtown and there is hardly anybody I know. It's grown. It has really grown.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think more people walk around town or less people now?

DUNN: There is less. You'll see them out in the mornings and in the evenings doing their exercise walking, but back then, you walked everywhere you went, which was good. We didn't have that far to go. Downtown Provo was where it is now, but it was real busy. Saturday was a busy time. All the other surrounding towns would come into Provo. They'd come in and do their shopping. Saturday was a busy day in Provo. We had JCPenney's down there and Firmages and Shrivers and Levans, and all kinds of men and women stores. They had six or seven pool halls up and down Main Street. It was one busy place. There were small cafes all over the place. Keeleys had a tremendous business. They included all of the rotary club and the 20/30 met there in the banquet hall. The other one was up where the old Paramount was. They made all the ice cream. There was cafes on every street and grocery stores all down through Provo.

INTERVIEWER: What were some of the more popular places for shopping or going to eat?

DUNN: Taylor Brothers was one. That building is still there. DTR is another. That building is still there. You could get almost anything you wanted at Taylor Brothers. The bottom floor was clothing, kid's wear, women's wear, men's wear. Upstairs was furniture. Up another flight was pianos and things like that. DTR was the same way only didn't handle clothing. Dixon Taylor Russell was strictly home furnishings. They had three floors of that. Sears was on Center Street and Second West. That was a big booming business in there. JCPenney's was up where the NuSkin building is now.

Before then it was the Orem Train Depot. The Orem ran from Payson to Salt Lake. It was an electric street car. You traveled more sideways and up and down than you did straight ahead. It was a way of getting across the county and into Salt Lake. The tracks went straight up Center Street. They had to be careful on Center and Second West, or you'd run into a train going up Second West.

Back then you knew everybody. Everybody knew everybody. It was fun. It was close. I enjoyed it. Today there are so darn many. The BY has grown so fast. They are redoing the lower campus and it's going to be our library. There were two or three other buildings on campus. We called it Temple Hill. That was as big as the Y was.

INTERVIEWER: Which buildings were up there?

DUNN: There was the Maeser Building, the president's home, the old Joseph Smith Building and one other. There were only four of them there. Where the field house is was the old football field. The stadium was where the stairs are to go up to the upper campus from the Joseph Smith field house. Along there was just one side along that hill where the football stadium was. That's where all the high schools played their championship games. Provo High played all their games there. Then they started building up on campus. They still haven't quit. They keep going. It's done a lot for the city. The city has grown an awful lot. I contribute that to BYU more so than Geneva.

Geneva has been going up and down here lately. It was a boom at one time. They called us junior commandos where they were building the place. We could go out there after school on Saturdays and work and help build it. We were called the junior commandos then.

There was always something for us to do. It didn't matter where you went, there was always something to do. It was a humming community. It was the hub for most of the outlying cities, especially on payday, which was usually on Saturday. They just walked to town. We had the Paramount Theater, Uintah Theater, Strand Theater, Provo Theater and along came the Academy. Those were right there in Provo, which they don't have anymore. The Academy is closed now. We don't have any of those anymore.

INTERVIEWER: What would be the relationship between BYU and the Provo community?

DUNN: It was great. BYU brought a lot of money into a lot of people, even way back when. The BYU had two places for kids to live. That is the one on University Avenue and Eighth North. There was one on Seventh North and First East. It was a girl's dorm and a boy's dorm. That's where the kids got to stay unless they could find them an apartment somewhere in town. A lot of people in that area opened their homes and made apartments for the kids which brought in some revenue. Then it got to the point where the Y grew so big that the kids didn't have to leave campus and go anywhere. They had movies and everything right up on campus. But still it was a big boon to Provo City. It made it grow. It's a bedroom community and still is. It's growing more and more all the time. There are more and more apartments getting built. I don't think they'll ever build enough to take care of the students. There are a lot of students.

The Academy helped the city a lot. At one time they had a high school there. That was the time we were in Provo High. We had a little competition there with all our sports. We knew the competition. There were two high schools in this little town. Now you've got four.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what sorts of celebrations and holidays that Provo would celebrate?

DUNN: The Fourth of July has always been a big celebration for Provo. It's gotten so big that everybody around the country knows about it. It's gotten really a lot of publicity. As kids that was the thing we'd really look forward to. Just before school started we got new clothes for the Fourth of July. The parade would start up on University Avenue and it would go straight down to Center Street and then go west and end up at the park. It was always a huge parade. They always had a big affair at the stadium, even the old stadium up there. They had merchants to get tickets for so much merchandise they would sell. Those tickets were a chance to win a new car. They did that for years. My older brother and I would take a shoe box full of them and a paper and we'd write all the numbers down. We didn't' even come close. We were mad because we couldn't win a car. We were too young but they'd give it to you. There was a big draw. People from all over. It got bigger and bigger.

The fireworks got tremendous. I was selling for a meat place. The guys got a hold of me. We had a volunteer fire department at that time, along with a paid department. They got me to join the volunteers. Part of their job on the Fourth of July was to help shoot off the fireworks at the stadium. I did that for twenty five years and ended up taking it over myself. The man who had it moved and he recommended that I do it, so I took it over. I took it over until the Osmond's came in. They had a bigger name and more money, so they took it away from me.

All of this was done by the Church. The Church program was, the stake president would call and ask you to volunteer for work on the fireworks. It was all volunteers. They'd call and say, "Do you want to do the same thing this year as you did last year?" They had booths in the parks at the county building where we would bake cakes. It was all Church functions. All of this money went to the Church for different things people needed in their wards. It was big. Everybody participated. It was all volunteer. There wasn't any expense. It went over fantastic. Finally the Church came out and said, "We're in the religious business and the church business. We're not in the parade business." They gave it all up and the city took it over.

INTERVIEWER: How long ago was that?

DUNN: That has been about when the Osmond's came in. It was before then. I used to have to go to the city all the time for the Fourth of July. That was years ago. They did it for a lot of years and then finally they had to give it up. It was a big draw to the city. It has gotten bigger and bigger every year. They recognize it all over the country as the number one spot to be on the Fourth of July. That's great.

INTERVIEWER: You said that after vocational school you joined the fire department.

DUNN: I went to work out at Geneva before I ever got married. I was working there when I got married. I had a guy approach me and wanted me to go to work on a route for Arden Dairy, which used to be on south University. I had a retail route there. I had everything in west Provo and all the schools in west Provo that I had to deliver milk to. I was going home one night and a Continental Bakery supervisor grabbed me. He wanted to know if I wanted to go to work there. I went to work on a Hostess cake route there. I worked on that for four years. I had all of Provo and up Provo Canyon and Springville. It kept me running.

After that we moved to California for a year. I went down there and did some window cleaning and janitorial work for my wife's brother. We came back here and started my own window cleaning janitorial business and worked at that for a year or so and then got a job selling cars, Oldsmobile. From there I went to Santiary Meats. I worked there four years and then joined the volunteers. From there I went right into the main department and I spent thirty years all total, and retired thirteen years ago.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about some of your experiences in the fire department.

DUNN: We've had some good fires. We've had some that stick with you. BYU had a big fire at their movie studio. It burned them right out. That was a big fire that we spent a lot of time on. I don't know whether I've got it in my scrapbook or not, but it was quite a while ago. They had a huge fire up there.

DTR burned. That was quite an experience on that fire. I was still on the hose for the men. My buddy and I took the hose up the back stairs and the smoke was pouring out of that building when we pulled up to it. We took our hose up the back stairs and one of the other group took one up on the roof and through a window in the window where the fire started. It had started in a paint room upstairs. This other fellow and I had the opportunity to come up the stairs in this smoke and look down around that building. It was all open floor and it opened down to the bottom floor. It had a balcony up here. You could see the glow down there. The minute they opened that nozzle, that spray turned that glow into nothing but smoke. What a sight it was to see that smoke coming down through there and out those front windows. That fire was out that quick. It was so hot in there. They lucked out. They hit the room the fire had started. They put a fog pattern on it and poof put it right out, but what an experience it was to see it happen. We enjoyed it. It was real exciting.

We were host to a fire seminar here up where the high towers are now at the Y. There were farms up there. There were some old coops there and we set fire and did a lot of training for other departments throughout the state. That was exciting to be able to train and show these people how we operate.

They also had some homes up where the student housing is. There was one house there just off the BYU property where an old gal lived. She was kind of a cripple. We got a call in the evening, about dusk. We hit the back window. One of the guys went in the door with an air pack on. We hot a stream in, not knowing that this woman was in there. She was dead. She was still sitting in her chair. She had gotten out of her tub the night before and had reached for a towel. She was wet and hit the cord of a heater, the kind that had coils in it. It turned that heater towards the wood wall. In doing so it electrocuted her. That cord burned right through her arm to the bone. It electrocuted her and she sat right there in that chair. It took all night for that fire to take off and burn.

When we got there some kid had been up in his room east of there said, "I saw a real eery glow here last night. I got up this morning to do some lessons and there was still that eery look." All that night and dusk that day is when it caught fire. That was traumatic. That was the first one that I'd seen of death by fire at that time. She had a dog that was in on her bed. I noticed he was still flinching. I took him outside and gave him mouth to mouth and he took off down the lane and I never saw him again. I just told him, "You're welcome," and away he went. We've had some pretty good experiences.

We had another one down by the viaduct at west Center. The guy had left his house closed. He only lived in one big room. it was upstairs and he had an apartment on the other side. He had a living room and a bath and a little small kitchen. That's all he lived in. He was the only one living there at the time. He went down the street to play poker with his cronies and some way or another the house caught fire. We rolled up on it and I hit it with a booster line, which is a small one inch line and put a fog pattern on it. Down it went, the quickest extinguishment I'd seen. We walked in and the floor had completely burned out and was down into the basement. Everything that was plastic was running down the walls. The kitchen floor was still intact.

As I came in there I kicked something and new darn well it was a body. I was afraid to pick it up. You get fear. It really strikes you. I picked it up, took it outside and it was a dog. All I could say was, "Whoopee." I was never more relieved in my life. The poor dog was dead but I was sure happy it wasn't a human. There are experiences like that that happen to us all the time. It's an exciting job. If you ever want to have fun, become a fire fighter. It's a great job.

INTERVIEWER: What about some of the older original buildings down there on Center Street?

DUNN: I mentioned the DTR building is still there. That's on Third West and Center on the southeast corner. Across the street north of there in the middle of the block is Taylor Brothers building. It's still there. I think it's a college now. Most all the old buildings are still standing with the exception of the Paramount. They tore the Uintah down. The Academy is empty. But everything on University and Center Street, all those are original buildings from 100 years ago. A fire in one of those is a nightmare to the fire fighters because they've got so many false ceilings in them. You think you've got it extinguished and the next thing you know, you've poked your pipe through another hole and there is another crawl space. There are so many false ceilings, that it's a nightmare to get a call there. Those buildings are all still standing and they've done a lot of remodeling on them. Most of the buildings downtown are the original buildings there, especially on First West to University and First West to about Fifth. There are a lot of buildings still standing there.

INTERVIEWER: There are some dedications to people.

DUNN: Jerry Jolley got the ball rolling on this. It was a monument dedicated to those past fire fighters that have died. We haven't lost any in the line of duty, but these are the guys that started out the whole thing. We thought it would be a good tribute to them and set up this monument. Their names are on it. Jerry Jolley came up with the idea. He did a good job on it and he asked me if I'd dedicate it. I went back and got the history of the fire departments and the two by the Paramount were the first. I just brought things up to date on what their wages were back then compared to now and I deemed it a real honor to be able to dedicate this. This was this past Memorial Day.

INTERVIEWER: Where is it?

DUNN: It's on Third West, right in front of the fire station. It's on Third West, just off First South. There is a little monument right there that is dedicated to them. Anybody that has been there twenty years or more will have their name on it.

INTERVIEWER: You were there for thirty years. Do you have anything else to add about your experiences at the fire department?

DUNN: I loved it. My wife said that was my first love. To become a fire fighter, you've got to be dedicated to the job. Now it's even more so now because we have paramedics and EMTs and the ambulance service. In Provo we had an ambulance service. It was Willard and it was a private individual that owned it. He ran it for years and years and then a man who had a funeral home ran one. Between the two of them we had pretty good ambulance service. But it wasn't as great as it is now. We've got six ambulances and they're going every day, all six of them.

Willard decided he was going to give up the business and wanted Provo to take it over. He said, "You subsidize me for X amount of dollars a month and I'll still run it." Back then it was months before he'd ever get a call, because it wasn't all that busy. Provo said no and they finally had to have an ambulance service. The first ambulance was an old 37 Chevy panel truck. It was Provo City garage's parts truck to move parts in. It was dirty in the back and all greasy. We'd get a call and we'd have to go clean that out. That was in the same building as the fire station there on Second North and Second West. We'd clean it out and have to take an old Army canvas stretcher. That's what we put them on. I know it was rough riding. I was one of the first that took a ride in it. I got hit by a car when I was on my scooter. We ran that for a lot of years.

Finally Dr. Dick Clark said, "Enough is enough. We've got to get you an ambulance." We got a '61 Chevy station wagon and converted it. Dick said, "It will work, but not good enough." He went on a drive and we got a Cadillac. They out phased those because they said they couldn't carry enough stabilizing equipment on them. Now they've got the big box type. There are six in the city now. They're going all the time. My hat is off to those paramedics.

I could have gone either way. I came up through the department. I started out on the bottom and then I got on as an engineer, then driver, then took the test to become a captain. We were running three stations at the time then. I was running either one of those or wherever they put me. I always had a crew working with me. I was always on the elite truck. I had a chance to go into the medical side of it and I didn't care much for that, so I just stayed in the fire end of it and really enjoyed it. I decided I didn't want the medical end of it. They came along and said, "It's mandatory to become an EMT." Then we all had to become EMTs. That was part of our training. The ambulance service more or less takes the biggest share of our budget because they're going all the time.

Then the paramedics came along. They were completely divorced from the fire department for a good six months. They go to Weber State to paramedic school. They're up there and come home on weekends. They're still getting their paycheck. When they come home those guys know a lot. They are more or less an emergency doctor in emergency situations in short order time. My hat is off to those guys. I have a lot of respect for them. They can burn out in a hurry. Those guys see an awful lot that I'm glad I don't have to see. They're a great bunch of people.

INTERVIEWER: I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about the impact of some national and international events on Provo. For example, the Depression, how did that affect Provo?

DUNN: Way back then, at that time I was living in Delta. That's where I was born. I know my dad lost his business down there, and there were a lot of people here that lost an awful lot. Dad lost a drug store and here was the same way. During the Depression there were banks closed and people lost an awful lot. And some people made it at that time. How they did, I don't know. During the Depression it helped some of them in town here. It affected the town. It slowed us down quite a bit. I moved from Delta to Salt Lake. So what it actually did here in Provo itself at that time, I'm not sure. It did affect them.

INTERVIEWER: What about World War II?

DUNN: We all got together. I was in junior high and high school when World War II came along and we got out and sold war bonds and savings stamps. I was going through some pictures the other day and we got recognized by different organizations by reaching a limit on war bond sales. The kids in school, junior high and high school would sell these.

We'd go out on a drive for scrap metal. Back in those days people would take their old cars and dump them in the river. They had them lined up to keep the banks from washing away. We'd go get those old cars, kick the rocks out of them for the metal they needed. These were school projects. They'd let you out of school to go do it. The whole school would take part in it. It was fantastic. Everybody got together. You got to know your worst enemies and you became real good friends. It was really something.

You'd pass houses and for everybody they had in the service, they had a star in the window. Some places would have five or six stars with boys in the service. It brought people real close together.

There were a lot of cafes downtown at that time and there was a Sanitary Meat that rendered a lot of fat. I got the jump on most guys in town. My older brother and I would get the fat they cleaned off their grills and all the fat they put in cans and set out their back door. They'd get a bunch and then they'd throw it in the garbage. The Army wanted it. The Military wanted that fat and that grease to make their explosives. We'd take this stuff over from Sanitary Meat and they'd weigh it up. We made some good money during the war. I made more money during the war than most of the time in my life and I was just a kid.

I was in vocational school also. Steel was hard to get. Our welding teacher went in the service. The blacksmith teacher, who was an old fellow was teaching us welding and blacksmithing. We got tired of that and went into auto mechanics. I made Christmas tree stands. Wood was at a premium. You could not find wood anywhere. There was no building going on. Everything went to military.

For Christmas tree stands you couldn't buy a tree. You were in deep water because there was no wood. I was down where I could get all this metal for nothing. I made metal Christmas tree stands. My dad was working right next door to a tree lot. They'd come in there for a short beer and he'd say, "My boy's got tree stands," and he'd send them down to the house. I'd get five or ten bucks a piece for these stands. I'd take a pipe, bore three holes in it and put some lock screws in there and cut it and spread it out on legs and put the tree trunk in and tighten these down and it would hold it straight. I put a flat piece of steel on it and then the holes. I had a bunch of them. I'd paint them red or green. I made more darn money that Christmas. My dad would come home and say, "When are you going to split it with me." I think I was drawing down more than he was. It wasn't costing me a dime for materials. The school gave it to me.

The same way with chains. I did a lot of forge welding and we'd use rebar. They taught us how to make chains, to pound each link and forge weld it. I made some tremendous chains and I got $150 to $200 out of them way back then. Some of these truckers wanted these chains. I made some money going to vocational school. It was my tuition and then some. It was great.

INTERVIEWER: When the war ended, did things pretty much go back to normal or was there a difference?

DUNN: Things fell back to normal. They rationed an awful lot during the war. Things were at a premium. You had to have a gas stamp to buy gasoline. You had to have a stamp to buy sugar and certain commodities. You had to have food stamps. As they would gradually lift one of those as the war ended, it was another celebration. Every week or so you got to celebrate because something was taken off rationing. It brought a lot of people close together, because they got together and they pooled in with one another to eat and get along, even with coal. You'd buy a ton of coal and you'd give half to your neighbor.

INTERVIEWER: Did the Church do a lot?

DUNN: Yes, they did what they could. They sent an awful lot to the boys. Everybody was knitting and darning and making scarves and you name it, gloves. The Church took care of them real well, even commodities. A lot of the people were widows. A lot of women were left home alone with their kids and their husband was in the service. They did an awful lot for them. I think it made believers out of a lot of people about the Church. It really changed. The Churches were more busier. They had bigger crowds. There was an awful lot of togetherness. You had to, to keep your sanity.

INTERVIEWER: What about the Korean War?

DUNN: They did in some areas. We had a few leave here. That took some of the younger ones that hadn't seen war before. The thing that bothered them there more than anything was the death and unnecessary killing that went on. Some of those guys would come home. I was lucky I didn't have to go in either one.

I darn near did in the Second World War. I went down to join the three of us. The next day we were supposed to report. One kid called and said, "I lost some money and I can't go until I pay him back." The other kid said, "I'm not old enough." He was always older than the rest of us. I went down and the guy said, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I said, "No, I really don't. The other two backed out." He said, "Okay we'll get you anyway in the draft." But then I got married and they didn't take me. My first boy came along and I had one child. I just snuck out of it. The rest of the guys I went to school with, most of them did go in the service for World War II.

In the Korean War it was a different breed of guys, younger kids that went into that. There was a lot of unmerciful killing going on. My wife had a nephew who was a helicopter pilot. He came back and he couldn't talk about his experiences. He never did for years. He was supposed to report any movement he saw. He saw an old grandmother and a grandchild down there and his orders were to kill them. Why? That's what he couldn't understand. Why? He said, "All I could see was my grandma and my little brother standing there. I rat-tat-tatted on the machine gun and they ran. I told them I got them. I couldn't tell them." Things like that were going on. Some of the hideous horrible things these guys were put through. A lot of them ended up in the booby hatch because they just lost it.

INTERVIEWER: What did that do to the Provo community here?

DUNN: I think Provo was like a lot of other places in the country. These men and boys did not get the recognition that they deserved in that war. Why I don't know. I think the people were too busy making a living for themselves. Whenever there is a war the economy goes up. You're making money. I think that's what they were more interested in than anything was to make that big buck. They did not recognize what these men went through and the men could feel it and they felt it when they got home. There should have been more done for them. I think they should have had a day for those guys and recognized everything and everybody. But they were too busy making a living. It was an easy living for a lot of them because of the war. You could feel the tear when these guys got home. It would be around them and the people that were home. You could feel that draw and disappointment and hatred these guys had. There was something that this guy said who has never been at war. There was a little bit of friction because nobody recognized this group of people and they should have done. They should have recognized them.

INTERVIEWER: What about the Vietnam War?

DUNN: That was the same way as the Korean. Again that was a hellish fight they had there. It was the same thing. They just were not recognized for what they did. Not like World War II. Everybody was recognized there and there was a big push for more in there. These guys were off defending their country, defending their families and they should have had that recognition. It just wasn't given to them.

INTERVIEWER: I remember reading in a Newsweek Magazine from 1969. There was an article about Brigham Young University and how it was so different from other university campuses around the country, saying that whereas at other university campuses people were protesting the war, burning down the ROTC building, at BYU people were supporting the war. People were joining the ROTC and there was a general support for the armed forces. Did you see any of that sort of thing?

DUNN: Yes, at times we would see it. But I think the big thing there was they were church oriented. And the Church makes a big difference in a lot of people's lives. I think right then it did to their students here. Some of them probably weren't LDS. I know a lot of them weren't. I know their ROTC went crazy up there. They had all kinds of people getting into it, even in high school.

The only thing I ever saw up here at the Y, where there was any discord at all, was when they'd have a panty raid. When Ernie Wilkinson was the president out there, we got called out. The fire department came out and hosed them down. They made a short club out of cue sticks and I was responsible for that vehicle. Even though the engineer took care of it, it was my responsibility. We went up to that call, the panty raid, and we doused them. They were climbing all over the truck and we'd smack them in the hands. It could have been a real riot. There was nothing else for them to do, I guess.

Ernie Wilkinson showed up and got a big old microphone and looked at his watch and never once looked at the crowd. He said, "This is disgusting and it's completely against the rules and regulations at this Academy. I will give you exactly three minutes to disperse. If you are not dispersed in that three minutes time, you will all be expelled from this school and I will see to it that nobody will ever be able to enter any college in the world. You've got a minute and a half left." He meant it. That crowd just went. We had dogs and everything else and couldn't do that. That statement that he made, they left.

This was about 1969. We got back to the station and I was missing a 20 pound extinguisher off my truck. I called BYU security and told them. They said, "Do you know what we've got to go through to find it?" I said, "I don't care what you've got to go through. They stole my extinguisher off that truck." "We'll see what we can do." The more I thought about it the more I got ticked. I called Ernie himself and he said, "I don't think one of our students would steal that." I said, "Think about it. Think about what they were doing." "I'll see to it that you get that back before morning. If it's here, you'll get it." About five o'clock in the morning the doorbell rang at the fire station and here stands security. "There's your extinguisher." I said, "Good enough. I appreciate that." He said, "The kid that stole it is on the train already going home." They threw him right out of school.

That's the only thing I've ever seen negative come from the Y at all. The kids were just trying to have fun. Then it got a little out of hand and they wanted to steal this.

INTERVIEWER: What about Watergate? Did Watergate have any impact on Provo?

DUNN: Not a heck of a lot. It made people stop and think about our leadership. The same way with Bill Clinton right now. What a leader. I just hope my grandkids and great grandkids don't follow his lead. That's the thing that really upset most everybody is that somebody in the government would pull that kind of crap.

INTERVIEWER: Was there pretty much a very positive outlook towards the president or leadership of the United States in the community?

DUNN: Before that there was. They were really upset about it. They started to think, what would they do to us as individuals, as citizens. There is nothing sacred anymore because of what they did. It caused a big stir. Most people would talk about the pros and cons of it. It was fun to listen to it. It was bad. I'm sure that there was an impact on certain areas and certain things. What it was, I don't know. The economy, if anything else I'm not sure. Some people did get hurt by it. Some people hurt other people.

Interviewee: Richard Dunn
September 15, 1999

Return to Oral Histories List