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A banner with an image of the Provo Historic Courthouse and the text Historic Provo.

Oral History of Winifred Jones


WINN: This is Jennifer Winn and I'm interviewing Winifred Jones. What are your earliest memories of Provo?

JONES: The McCord family home was opposite the city cemetery, across the street east. That was where we sort of headquartered when we came to Provo. I had aunts on the other side of my family who lived also on State Street. My earliest recollections are of south State Street in Provo.

I remember when we used to come from Idaho and the Columbia Steel Plant was then in force. You could see the flames from the big stack as you came around the point of the mountain. You always knew you were getting close to Provo when you came around the point of the mountain and could see the flames from the old Columbia Steel plant.

WINN: What were the activities that you did when you visited while you lived in Idaho?

JONES: When we lived in Idaho and came down in the summer time, we usually went for a family picnic up Provo Canyon. We usually went to South Fork. You could go to the meadows at that time where you could picnic. We would pack food and go up there.

We always went to Charleston. Sometimes we went on the Heber Creeper which is the old train that ran from up there. Sometimes we drove up there because we had family in Charleston and Heber and Wallsburg. In fact Wallsburg was named for my maternal grandmother's family. She was a Wall.

We visited a lot and played out in the back yards. We swang off big swings that they put on the big trees out there. That was when I was seven or eight years old. The cousins all got together and we just did what cousins do. They call it hanging out now.

WINN: You mentioned you weren't born in Provo, but you returned to Provo for college. Can you tell me something about the years you were at BYU.

JONES: I was at BYU in the fall of 1934 through part of the spring of 1935. Then I was out a year and in 1936 and 1937 and came back in the fall of 1938 and decided to get married. I never did finish 1938-1939.

WINN: What were some activities that you were interested in or involved with on the campus at BYU?

JONES: I worked for what they called the news bureau at that time, which is the public relations department. I wrote news stories for campus activities for the local newspapers. I also was on the campus newspaper, what they called the Y News at that time. I did a lot of reporting and column work for that. That was primarily where my interests other than classes were.

WINN: How far was that information disseminated? Did you publish just for the University?

JONES: Primarily when I was at college. It was local information. It went to the Salt Lake papers and the Provo papers. That's primarily what I did. I was writing news articles. Some of them were distributed more widely than that. If we were having some sort of competition with the school at Logan then we would send information to Logan. Also I did some free-lance publication at that time.

WINN: Can you remember any issues that you were interested in or that were hot topics during that time?

JONES: No, my concerns mostly were just boys and dances and getting good grades. That was about it. We had lots of dances then. We danced a lot. That was our primary entertainment when I was in school. We didn't have campus wards then. We just had city wards. Every Tuesday night one of the wards would be having a dance and we would dance. They had matinee dances at school every Wednesday. We did that. There were social units and they had dances.

Then we had public dancing. There was a huge public dance hall down on First South and First West in Provo called the Utahna. We all went there and danced. Sometimes the girls would go in a group and sometimes you'd go with a date. You'd just go and dance. Dancing was really a tremendously large part of entertainment then. It was inexpensive and no one had any money. That was what we did, we danced.

WINN: What are the topics or the areas that you studied in school?

JONES: I took a lot of English and some Journalism classes. I took typing to sharpen up my typing skills. I took shorthand so I could take notes. We took the required religion classes and did history, and that's about it.

WINN: When your met your husband, what were your dates like? What were the activities that you did on your dates?

JONES: He had a car. Not very many people had a car in those days for just running around. He was not a student. He was a town boy with a job and he had a car. Mostly we'd go somewhere in the car. We'd go ride around in the car. We'd go to the drive-in food places which they had then. You drove up in your car and a cute little bell hop came out and wanted to know what you wanted. They took your order into the store and then brought your food out and hung it on a tray on your window. You sat there and ate and talked and visited.

Then of course you went dancing. Once in a while we'd drive into Salt Lake, but those were rare occasions. We'd drive up the canyon, go up to Bridal Veils and sit and watch the water flow over the falls. We did what young people do.

WINN: Tell me about your marriage? Where were you married?

JONES: We were married in his mother's home. I'm not LDS so there was no pressure on me. At that time, not as many people got married in the temple either. You got married and then if it worked you got sealed in the temple later. People didn't get married in the temple right away. Some did.

We were just married in his mother's home. The reason I dropped out of school when I got married was because he had a job offer in Salt Lake. I dropped out of school to get married. In those days if you were married you went where your husband went. So I went to Salt Lake with him. There was no question of us commuting back and forth like they do now. We moved to Salt Lake and spent the first part of our marriage there.

WINN: While you were a student at BYU was there any difference because you weren't a member of the Church?

JONES: Absolutely not. Non-Mormons were accepted there more than they are today. It was easier to be a non-Mormon then, than it is now. I never worried about it. Nobody asked about it. If you were a non-Mormon and you didn't want to take the Mormon religion class you could take a class like comparative religion or history of religion to satisfy your religion.

WINN: Then you got married and moved to Salt Lake. When did you come back to Provo?

JONES: After World War II. My husband was in the service during World War II. After he came back we moved to Provo, because we decided we wanted to rear our children in Provo rather than Salt Lake. Even raising children was not a problem, but what kind of an atmosphere you raised them in. So we moved back to Provo.

WINN: What else attracted you to Provo?

JONES: That was our primary reason for moving to Provo was we wanted to establish our family. We felt they could get good schooling here and it's a wonderful university here without going away from home.

WINN: What schools did they attend in Provo?

JONES: Some of them attended BYU private elementary school. Some of the others attended a school that is still functioning over on Fifth West and Fifth North in Provo. Then they went to Dixon Junior High School. My oldest son went all the way through BYU private school and graduated from BY High. The others went to Dixon Junior High and then to Provo High School.

WINN: What were some of the activities that they were involved in as youngsters?

JONES: We lived close to the park. Our home was on First West and Fifth North in Provo. We were close to the park and it was summer and they enjoyed swimming. All of them are swimmers. My boys were not particularly into athletics. One became a very expert photographer early on and has since made it into a career. My girls just grew up and went to school and found men and got married. Now they're grandmothers.

WINN: During that time what family activities were you involved in?

JONES: My husband has always been a rock hound, so we used to take the children rock hunting a lot in the desert. They loved it. We'd go out and spend all day Saturday or Sunday out on the desert. We'd pack a big lunch and take them out. They'd go out on the desert while their dad hunted rocks; they'd chase horny toads and look for cacti. They loved that. We used to do that a lot down between Eureka and Delta. We used to take them down there a lot.

We used to go down to the lake. At that time you could go down along the lake shore at Utah Lake and find all kinds of Indian artifacts, like arrow heads. They enjoyed that. That was our primary family activity as a group was rock hunting.

WINN: What were some other activities that you were involved in?

JONES: I went to work fairly early while my kids were young. I kept busy working and keeping house clean and keeping kids clean. My husband worked for Geneva Steel and also worked on construction. Sometimes I was alone with my children while he was off on construction. Activities like people have today were far and few between.

We had one of the early television sets, because my brother gave it to us. I had a brother who was affluent and had a great love of new gadgets. He fell in love with television early on so he bought all his brothers and sisters a television set. We had television. Lots of times we'd have people in our house just to watch television because we had a television and they didn't. That's primarily what we did.

WINN: You mentioned that you worked. Where was it that you worked?

JONES: I worked at the Daily Herald. I was there for a long time.

WINN: Tell me about it.

JONES: I started as a proofreader, because I had had some experience as a proofreader prior to that time. I gradually moved over to the news room. I would work during the winter when the kids were in school and then take the summer off. After they were all in school and grown up and could take care of themselves a little more, I worked full time. I kept busy with community activities of various kinds. I was involved in what they were doing. We were a rather normal family.

We didn't have a lot of money. My oldest son was badly burned when he was fourteen years old and by the time we paid his doctor and hospital bills, we had very little money left for anything else. We lived quite poorly.

WINN: When you were working for the Provo Herald, what were the issues while you were on the job?

JONES: At that time we didn't address issues in the paper as much as they do now. We reported the news, believe it for not. We really did. We didn't try to scold people or send out too much advice. When we first started, we really put out a newspaper. I had a city editor who had connections all over the county and we covered a lot of news. A lot of news that doesn't get reported now, we reported. We did police reports, which nobody does anymore. We covered city meetings and county meetings and just reported a lot of news without impressing our own judgment on it.

They did take an editorial stand sometimes on things, but not like news stories are written nowadays. We used to call this slanted stories and we avoided slanted stories. We didn't try to turn the news one way or another, so we left people with an opinion about it. We just reported the news of who, what, when, where, why. Now they can't write a news story without saying whether it's going to impact you or change your life or cost you money.

WINN: You would be the best person to ask, how has the news reporting in Provo changed?

JONES: That's one big way is that now so much of the actual reporting becomes opinion pieces, rather than just straight news reporting. This is universally a difference. A lot of it is the result of television news coverage. That's the way they report the news because they want a wide audience. That's the way they report the news, so now most of the newspapers reflect that too.

I think in some ways it's good, but in some ways it's not so good. For instance right now, they're having a bond election in Provo. At one time we would have reported the results of that bond election. Now they say something like, "Increasing the tax payers' burden, the citizens voted positive." Or they would say, "Rejecting the effort to enlarge the schools capabilities, they did not elect it." They don't just say it was passed or defeated. We used to just say it was passed or defeated. That's the difference between straight news and slanted news.

WINN: During that time were a lot of the news issues that you covered central to Provo or did you do some outside?

JONES: We had wire service, so we had national and international news. We had a good city staff. We also had what we called county correspondents, who covered news room every little town in Utah County. Some of it was not really news worthy, but they got paid by the inch, so they sent it in if they went to visit their in-laws. We had a little more room for that sort of thing.

I'll tell you one thing that has made a difference. They can pull these feature wire stories off the wire and get them set and ready to go. They don't even have to set type anymore. It goes right directly on to the page. They can use these feature stories about somebody in Humperdinck, Illinois and they don't have to pay a local reporter to cover it. They create a local feature story. They do lots and lots of that to fill up the space.

The news space in a newspaper is determined by the amount of advertising. If you have a lot of advertising you go from 60 to 80 pages. If you have very little advertising you go from 60 to 40 pages. In the old days we used to go from 10 to 15 pages. It was fun. We had a good time. Some of us worked there together for a long time and were very close. It was fun.

WINN: How have you seen Provo change?

JONES: It used to be literally a one horse town and now it's a little city. When I first came to Provo to go to school, Provo ended on 7th East. There has been tremendous changes. I have a friend who has written an autobiography. She grew up on Fifth West in Provo and at that time they actually had huge yards where they had gardens and had cows and chickens. That was just on Fifth West. That's why they put the power plant over that way, because it was out of town. Then they built the hospital over there. Then they began to build up. There were some older homes along there. That was really out of town.

Originally Fifth West was kind of the main street in Provo. That's where the big homes were. That's where people built their homes. Then that gradually moved over to University Avenue where the really nice homes were and up Center Street east. That's where people built their homes. From about 7th East there was a street going up to the mental hospital which they didn't call the mental hospital then.

It was a very small town. There was a fountain right in the middle of the street at Center Street and University. It was a beautiful fountain that played water all day. The tabernacle was on one corner.

I remember when they built the court house. I was here to go to school for part of my fourth and fifth grade, due to my father's work. It was during that time that they dedicated that big county courthouse. Before that there was a jail on the other side of that building. If you were really daring you walked past the jail windows when you were going home from town.

WINN: How have the activities that your children have differed from the ones that you see today?

JONES: Not a whole lot, actually. They went to school. They did school things. My boys weren't particularly athletic, so we didn't get involved in that part of it. Their dad wasn't a great sports fan either. They went on dates and went to movies and rode around in cars and drove their parents crazy. About the same.

My youngest daughter just turned fifty. She started school in the early fifties and got through school in the sixties. They were crazy times.

WINN: Going back to World War II, how did World War II affect your family?

JONES: My husband was away. He served in the services. I came to Provo because my mother was here. I was pregnant at that time. You just survived. He came home from boot camp just about the time I had my third baby. I had lost my second baby. He came home from boot camp just about the same time that I had her and then he left. He missed all her first year or year and a half.

My brother was in the Marines. My brother was in the very worst of the South Pacific fighting as a Marine with the Third Marine Corp. It impacted all of us.

I had two sons who served in the Army. One served in Korea during the Vietnam War. The other one just served six months active duty.

You might be interested in the fact that Stan's grandparents used to have a big place up Provo Canyon. It was a hotel and dining room. It was called Hissel Place. It was a very popular place for people to drive up from Provo or ride up on the train and have a trout dinner then come back down. Orem City finally bought the property for the water. It had springs on it. That's how they got irrigation. But it was up there for many years.

My parents met in Wallsburg. My mother and my grandmother went up there to teach in the school. My dad lived up there. His name was Nuttall. They met and were married. That's what that connection is. The Walls were very prominent in that valley up there. The Nuttalls were too. They were ranchers up there.

On the other side of the family my grandmother taught school for almost fifty years. Everybody knew Jenny Wilkman, because she was a short little lady who stood absolutely rigid upright. She could wilt a whole room of eighth graders with one glance because she had this enormous force of personality. She was quite a woman. Many people knew her.

I had mentioned to you about the possibility of interviewing my cousin. That was her brother's child. Her brothers were prominent merchants in Provo for many years. They ran the shoe store which was a retail shoe store until the depression closed them up. One brother became McCord Oil and they serviced all of Utah with gasoline. They are very interesting people.

WINN: You were telling me about sons and how one of them went to Korea.

JONES: That was during the Vietnam War. He was sent to Korea rather than to Vietnam for which everyone has been grateful. I think that particular son would have come home really distressed. He would have been a victim of the Vietnam syndrome. I'm glad he went to Korea instead of Vietnam.

Oddly enough, both of my boys were in the service and both of them were assigned to be cooks. I'm no cook. I don't know why they became cooks.

The older son now lives in Phoenix. The other son works for the LDS Church computer center.

WINN: Did your interaction with the LDS church change through the years? You mentioned that it's not the same now as when you were in school.

JONES: I think on campus that it's difficult to be non-LDS now. But I lived non-LDS in an LDS community all my life. I never had any problems. The Relief Society teachers come and visit me. Both of my sons are in bishoprics. It's no problem for me. Some of us are LDS and some of us aren't. I think that the Church is the greatest sociological institution that was ever formed as far as what it does for families and communities. I just can't accept their theology. Everybody knows that and nobody argues about it.

Some of the grandkids have had difficulties, because one of them wanted to marry LDS or non-LDS depending on which side of the family you're in. My one daughter is absolutely non-LDS. She has brought her boys up that way. Everybody else in the family is LDS.

A lot of people don't know I'm not LDS until I tell them. We just don't go to church on Sunday. When our grandchildren are blessed we all get dressed up and go to Sacrament Meeting.

My grandmother's family were among the earliest people to come to Utah that were non-Mormons. They came in the early 1860s. They came in a wagon train. He was a sailor. They lived in St. Louis. He was a water master in St. Louis. He thought it would be an opportunity to develop a water shipping business on the Great Salt Lake. He came out here and discovered that it wasn't feasible to put it on the lake because of the salt. He opened a shop. We have been here a long, long, time and have been a non-LDS family in an LDS state for a long time. We just live with it.

I worked at the Deseret News. Nobody asked if I was LDS.

WINN: They wouldn't even know.

JONES: They asked but nobody bothered about it.

WINN: Thank you very much for helping with this. Is there anything that you'd like to add about how Provo has changed or the growth that you've witnessed?

JONES: The one thing I rather dislike about some of the growth in Provo and this does not apply just to Provo, is that the big chains are taking over all merchandising. There are no small merchants. The small merchants used to be the backbone of the community. They were the people who served on the city councils. They were the people who made the decisions. And they were the people who kept their money here. Now people who run these big stores, they're managed by people who are transient. They come and manage a store here for three stores and then they're transferred to someplace else. Then somebody else comes in. They have no real concern for the city like the small owners used to have. They were involved.

You knew who the men were in your town, who had the power, who had the money, and who could make judgments. Now if you ask yourself, living in Provo, if you had a real crisis, who would you turn? The mayor? I don't think so. The mayor used to be a prominent man in town who knew the town. Now he's just a politician. He doesn't have a feel for the town, like small merchants and a few big names had.

We've had three or four small banks in town and they were the men who loaned the money to the merchants and who paid the contractors money. Now they're all big chain banks and you deal with people in New Jersey rather than having a local townsman. I think this is not healthy for the town.

I think that's why we let things happen where we let our open space get chewed up by malls and things like that. Because they're not concerned. They don't care what it does to our infrastructure.

Other than that I think there are some real nice people. By and large it's a pretty good town.

Interviewee: Winifred Jones

Interviewer: Jennifer Winn

May 4, 1999

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