Utah in the 50s - Moab

Original Airdate: 
November 2001

It has always been what it is today -- a small town set right in the heart of some of the most beautiful country in the world. However, in the 1950s Moab, Utah exploded on the scene!


Prospecting for Uranium near Moab


Mining near Moab

A 'miracle' discovery triggered a get-rich-quick uranium stampede to this corner of the Colorado Plateau. At the same time, movie crews scouted the red rock scenery and rugged canyons for locations for the latest westerns. Almost lost in the mix, were government surveyors scratching out the future boundaries for not one, but two national parks!

When the dust settled on the decade, the population of Moab had increased over 400%! Every man, woman and child had stories to tell of wild times, legendary characters and a very, very special corner of the world.

Join veteran journalist Ted Capener as he journeys back in time to relive the boomtown days of the 1950s in Moab, Utah. Share a front row seat to enjoy the films, photos and laugh-out-loud stories of a bygone time in the timeless beauty of the West.

About Utah in the 50s

It was the best of times. Everyone liked Ike, and they loved Mayor Earl J. Glade. Young people drove snazzy cars and wore snazzy clothes. And when Utahns went downtown to shop, eat or go to the movies, they dressed to the nines.

Following the Korean War, the decade of the '50's seemed a time of tranquility and joy. It was a time of new prosperity and unprecedented growth around Utah--when malt shops ruled, poodle skirts were in, and Elvis was King. Utah in the 50s: Salt Lake City with Ted Capener takes a playful jaunt down memory lane, featuring archival photographs, original music and personal anecdotes from the people who know the era best.

"It was a time when television was new," says Capener, host of the new series. "The nightly news on WXIX-Channel 4, an experimental station in those days, meant a lot of fooling around by a couple of guys viewers might remember. And of course there were those marvelous "Romper Room" Misses. Some viewers might even catch a glimpse of themselves as 'Doobies.'"

Nine holes at Bonneville, as Capener recalls, were followed by clubhouse sessions with friends. The Deseret Gym, of course, was a favorite. Why was it, Capener wonders, that girls wore bathing suits while boys had to swim in the nude?

Drive-in movies often led to sleeping children in the back seat, cuddling couples in the front, and for hard-pressed teens, hiding in the trunk to get in free. And Salt Lake's "passion flats"--now covered by houses--eventually became a quaint memory.


Downtown Moab in the 1950s


Vintage Moab postcard


Moab miners

While women rarely went downtown without their hats and gloves, the younger set wanted Jantzen sweaters and Joyce shoes. And until Elvis arrived late in the decade, Utahns listened to Nat King Cole at the Rainbow Randevu, Louis Armstrong at Lagoon or Stan Kenton and June Christie at Saltair.

Interviews and personal accounts bring this golden decade to vivid life. While producing Utah in the 50's, Capener spoke with KUER's Gene Pack, "Miss Julie" herself, Edna Anderson-Taylor, and Bob Welti and Paul James, part of the original nightly news team.

"Cinemascope and stereo came to the movies--and so did we," says Capener. "Not in jeans and T-shirts, but in coats, ties, dresses and heels. We were always taken to our seats by uniformed ushers with flashlights, who later would ask us to be quiet. We loved Doris Day and Clark Gable and we loved Technicolor."

"Utah in the 50s: Salt Lake City with Ted Capener chronicles the memories and places of a golden era--memories that, eventually, could be lost," says Elizabeth Searles, producer of the series. "It has always been important for KUED to preserve Utah's stories, and the people we talked to truly enjoyed reminiscing about a simpler, more innocent time."

Original music for Utah in the 50s was composed by Jimmy Reed and Mark Chaney. Funding made possible by The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.

Utah in the '50s is made possible by the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation, the Cleone Peterson Eccles Endowment Fund, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation, the C. Comstock Clayton Foundation, the Dr. W.C. Swanson Family Foundation, and the Members of KUED.

54 minutes
Closed Caption: 
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