|Length:||1 hour, 24 minutes, 48 seconds.|
|Released:||July 20th, 1995|
|Available in:||VHS, DVD|
Once upon a time, there were no malls in Salt Lake City. Parking was abundant, and anything past 2700 South was considered "out in the sticks." It was the early 1940s -- a time when men wore hats, life revolved around the war effort, youngsters waited in long lines to see Pinocchio at a Center Theater matinee, and everyone dressed in their Sunday best to go downtown.
"Those of us from that decade who are living today are some of the most fortunate people that there were," says Brig Smith, once an employee of Jerry Jones' Rainbow Randezvu dance hall. "The 40s was just a marvelous time to be alive, to be young, and to enjoy the fun."
Smith's recollections of Salt Lake and other intimate accounts are retold through KUED-Channel 7's production created by Elizabeth Searles, Salt Lake City -- Once Upon A Time. Narrated by former KSL weatherman Bob Welti and complete with an original score by Utahn Mark Chaney, the 90-minute program was written by Searles and Utah radio personality Hans Petersen. Hundreds of archival photographs combine with home movie footage and personal anecdotes to create the video scrapbook of a bygone era.
"In those days, there was no doubt in our minds that life was going to be good, and that we would be able to succeed in whatever we decided to do," says Florien Wineriter, a local radio personality. "We had a feeling of confidence about ourselves, about the community, and about people."
Lorin Wiggins recalls the general sense of safety and trust felt during the 1940s, a feeling some might find obsolete today. "There was a good feeling in our neighborhoods. We seldom locked our homes; normally we would leave the door open no matter what, and our cars also," he says.
In walking down memory lane, locals remember Main Street shopping -- taking the trolley downtown to Auerbach's department store and to Kress's five-and-dime for their errands. The 1940s marked the last full decade that residents enjoyed the charm of the trolley.
"Shopping in downtown Salt Lake City in the 40s was really an experience. It was a day's excursion: we started on 300 South and went to Auerbach's and the Paris Company, then Keith O'Brien, marched up the street and looked at all the little shops -- J.C. Penny and Montgomery Ward," recalls Leona Decker Ohlson of memorable businesses that once defined downtown.
"I remember how everything downtown was in walking distance, every great store you could walk to; you didn't have to get in your car and drive to the mall," says Beverly Frank, who once worked at a boutique in Auerbach's department store. "I can't think of any department store now that had the ambiance that Auerbach's did -- red carpets, gorgeous big chandeliers, everybody that worked there was elegantly dressed, and it was really an elegant store."
But the 40s was not always a time of Auerbach's elegance. World War II brought immediate changes to Salt Lake. Utahns watched their sons, brothers, and fathers march off to war overseas while, on the homefront, rationing and the "Rosie the Riveter" movement affected everyone's daily life.
Desmond Barker, who was a navy sonar operator during the war, vividly remembers the declaration of war and its impact on him. "I was in high school in 1941 when Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, and the following day all the male students in the school were called into the auditorium," says Barker. "We sat in the auditorium and heard over the p.a. system that President Roosevelt had called for the declaration of war. We sat there looking at one another -- 15, 16, 17 years old -- knowing the likelihood that if not all of us, many of us would soon be in the war."
Even in the midst of the world's most pivotal war, Salt Lakers managed to retain hope and have a little fun. Locals danced to big bands at dance halls like Jerry Jones' Rainbow Randevu and Covey's Coconut Grove and life on the homefront was eased by the cha-cha, bossa nova, and the jitterbug.
"It was just a wonderful time to be a young person," Brig Smith remembers of a time when big bands of the day would come to perform in Salt Lake City. Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Frankie Laine, Harry James and other unforgettable names played for gussied-up dancers at local venues.
Dale Minson laughs about one memorable night he and a date went to a Frankie Laine performance at Covey's Coconut Grove.
"Once when we had gone to see Frankie Laine, my girlfriend (who is now my wife, Shirley) and I were standing at the side of bandstand waiting for Frankie Laine to come on. Suddenly, a gentleman came up to my wife and said, 'Hello blondie.' I walked between them, looked him in the eye and said, 'Whatch it, fella.' It turned out that this was Frankie Laine who then climbed up on the stage to play," he laughs, adding, "and I felt really good about that."
In addition to dancing, locals entertained themselves at popular resorts like Lagoon and Saltair. The Bamberger train whisked people to the amusement park, while the Bamberger open-air train brought swimmers and dancers to the Great Salt Lake.
"The train ride to Saltair was a fun trip if the weather was nice," remembers Jack Goodman, Salt Lake Tribune architecture columnist. "Every tourist and every newcomer went swimming in the lake once. I don't know if they ever went twice. You couldn't swim without getting salt in your eyes, and you couldn't dive -- you'd be crazy to dive."
Without television, Salt Lakers kept informed through the radio, newspapers, and other, more creative means. Hundreds of locals experienced "watching" the World Series on Old Ironsides -- a large metal scoreboard hung outside of the Salt Lake Tribune Building. Painted like a baseball diamond, the board was complete with lights that flashed from base to base to show plays in the game.
"The Tribune sports staff used to run the scoreboard by listening to the radio or reading the play-by-play that came in on the teletype," says Goodman. "They would mark the strikes and scores up on the board -- if a player got a two-bagger, they moved the marker around the base paths up to second base."
Wineriter knows today's generation would perceive the practice as outlandish, but he insists that watching Old Ironsides was a popular activity. "There would be hundreds of people standing by the Utah Theater on the west side of Main Street who were looking up at Old Ironsides applauding and just imagining they were actually at the World Series," he says.
Not only has technology like Old Ironsides changed, but so have the city's notable landmarks, including the Coon Chicken Inn restaurant. While the eatery's name and exterior would today be viewed as racist and inappropriate, it was accepted by the general public in the 40s, says Goodman. "In those days, the language was different. The name of the restaurant was not one of degradation."
"I remember the Coon Chicken Inn because of its entrance -- it was a round black face with the mouth being the entrance going into the cafe," says Wineriter. "Of course that would be something you couldn't do today, it would be considered disrespectful and racist, and rightfully so. But it was a very famous restaurant in Salt Lake City for a good many years."
Ted Speros of Lamb's Cafe has worked on Main Street for over 60 years. He remembers some of the city's finest restaurants.
"The Rotisserie Inn was the big one, and most of the people in Utah still remember all those chickens that were roasted in the window. We'd stand outside and our mouths would water seeing these chickens," Speros said. "A lot of businessmen enjoyed that place because at that time they wouldn't sell liquor or wine or anything. But these two operators, if they knew you, would always slip you a cup with a little wine in it."
Beverly Frank recalls a popular meeting place for teenagers on Fridays and Saturdays -- the Do Drop Inn. Located at 3900 South State Street, it was one of the city's first drive-in cafes, according to Wineriter. "Pete Harmon, who later became the Kentucky Fried Chicken king of the entire United States, built the drive-in. That was the beginning of the Pete Harmon's gigantic restaurant career," says Wineriter.
Memories of other forgotten landmarks -- including the Sugarhouse prison and Slim Olson's 43-pump gas station -- come easily to those from the era. But perhaps the most powerful recollections are those of the war and its end. From the moment of Harry Truman's dramatic proclamation, Salt Lakers danced in the streets, confetti and ticker-tape flowed through the downtown air, and locals waited for the return of their brothers and sweethearts.
Desmond Barker recalls hearing the news while in military service. "On the day the war ended, we got the word about 11:00 in the morning on a naval vessel. When they wanted to get everyone's attention they opened the microphone on the p.a. system and the bo'sun's mate blew a whistle and said, 'Now here this, now here this,' and the message followed. In this case it was the voice of President Truman coming on to say that the war had ended."
"It was a time of wonderful celebration. The soldiers soon came home, then the wounded came home, and then my brother came home," says Lorin Wiggins. "I remember on V.J. day the whole community started making noise: all the factory whistles, all the train whistles, everyone out in the streets cheering, young teenagers like myself driving too fast up and down the streets honking our car horns."
Speros, too, reminisces about the crowds on V.J. Day. "I think all the people in the state of Utah were down on Main Street that day -- cheering, hollering, dancing, music being played...It lasted for hours out there. That was the most people I ever saw in downtown Salt Lake City." Through the vivid memories of locals like Speros, Salt Lake City during the 1940s may be worlds away from today's generation, but it will never be forgotten.
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