Edward S. Murphy
Interviewed by Melissa Johnson
20 July 2013
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Edward S. Murphy
20 July 2013
Copyright © 2014 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
The Oral History Program of the Stewart Library was created to preserve the institutional history of Weber
State University and the Davis, Ogden and Weber County communities. By conducting carefully
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Business at the Crossroads - Ogden City is a project to collect oral histories related to changes in the
Ogden business district since World War II. From the 1870s to World War II, Ogden was a major railroad
town, with nine rail systems. With both east-west and north-south rail lines, business and commercial
houses flourished as Ogden became a shipping and commerce hub.
After World War II, the railroad business declined. Some government agencies and businesses related to
the defense industry continued to gravitate to Ogden after the war—including the Internal Revenue
Regional Center, the Marquardt Corporation, Boeing Corporation, Volvo-White Truck Corporation,
Morton-Thiokol, and several other smaller operations. However, the economy became more service
oriented, with small businesses developing that appealed to changing demographics, including the
growing Hispanic population.
Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with
the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. Because it is primary material, oral
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Murphy, Edward, an oral history by Melissa
Johnson, 20 July 2013 , WSU Stewart
Library Oral History Program, Special
Collections, Stewart Library, Weber State
University, Ogden, UT.
July 20, 2013
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Edward Murphy. The
interview was conducted on July 20, 2013, by Melissa Johnson. Edward
discusses his experiences with 25th Street.
MJ: This is Melissa Johnson and I am in the home of Edward Murphy in Layton, Utah.
It is July 20, 2013 and we are interviewing him as a part of our Business at the
Crossroads oral history project. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about when and
where you were born?
EM: I was born in 1925 in Ogden, Utah. I was brought home to a loving mother,
father, brother and grandfather. When I turned six-years-old in 1932, my
grandfather died. In the morning, I awakened and asked my mother, “Where’s
Grandpa?” She said, “Grandpa’s gone to heaven.” I found out shortly later that
he died of pneumonia. Two years later, my father died. I miss those two men
very much and have missed them all my life. They loved and cared for me.
Soon after my grandfather died, my other grandfather, on my mother’s
side, took me under his wing and brought me to his Indian trading post known as
the Indian Curio Shop. Here I worked during the tourist season. The first thing I’d
do was sweep the sidewalk, and in those days people were not as tidy as they
are now and the sidewalk really needed sweeping. I then mopped the floor in the
shop and washed the windows and the counters. I waited on customers as the
tourists came into the store. Later, I would run errands until about 10 a.m. and
then I would go home. In the evenings, I would return at 6 p.m. and work until 8
p.m. waiting on customers. This would last until September when I would return
to school. I lived about six blocks from the store on Washington Blvd. My mother
bought me a bicycle so that I could get to work sooner.
My grandfather was very good to me. He would pay me 50 cents a day if
business was good and occasionally he would take me to a movie. It was usually
at the Egyptian Theater in Ogden. Before we went to the movie, he would take
me into Keely’s Café and we always had limeade. It became a routine. Often
during the day, he would take me to the shooting gallery on 25th Street. He
taught me how to shoot a rifle and then he would take me to one of the
restaurants on 25th Street. There was the City Café, the Senate Café, Ross and
Jacks and a Chinese place that is still there. I enjoyed my grandfather’s company
and the interesting people that we would meet.
At this time, Ogden was called the Junction City and it was equidistant
from the major cities of the West Coast: approximately 800 miles to Los Angeles,
800 miles to San Francisco and the same distance to Portland, Oregon. People
at this intersection would have layovers ranging from three hours to sometimes
all day. They would have time to come to this immensely interesting store that my
grandfather established. During the day the Indian women would come in and
buy their beads. It was my job to sell them the beads. On one side of the store
were the cheap souvenirs, beads, and a few inexpensive items. On the opposite
side of the store, my grandfather sold the products of the Indians such as the
beaded gloves, purses, genuine Indian jewelry, baskets and rugs, and all the
items that commanded higher prices. He also had a vast array of interesting
items that he collected in the West. We had an abundant supply of fossil fish
from Kemmerer, Wyoming. We had woven blankets from Southwest Utah and
Arizona. We had Apache baskets and pottery from the Zuni tribe in Arizona. We
had moss agate rings made by white men from Montana. We had horse hair
belts and leather belts made from prisons in Montana.
My grandfather always wore a dark suit, white shirt and a tie, and was
distinguished and also educated. He had a degree in accounting from the
Valparaiso in Illinois. He came to Utah in the latter part of the 19th century from
Colorado where he was employed as the accountant for the superintendent of
mines, who later became my grandfather’s father-in-law. He married the boss’
daughter, which turned out to be an advantage because it was his father-in-law
who gave him the money to set up the business.
After my great-grandfather retired, my grandfather was en route to San
Francisco to begin a new life when they stopped in Ogden for the birth of my
mother. In their brief stay, they came to like it and negotiated with my other
grandfather to set up a business in his building, which he did, and the work lasted
a lifetime. In off season, when the tourist trade would decline, my grandfather
would go on buying trips throughout the West. He would collect petrified logs
from Arizona, which wasn’t illegal at the time. We gathered obsidian from
Yellowstone Park and buffalo horns which would be polished. We had copper
souvenirs from Bingham Canyon in Utah. We had older guns and he had an
array of rifles and pistols.
My experience occurred during the Depression and at that time people
would sell their valuables to buy bread to live. There were always rich people to
buy things; it was the rich people that traveled on the train. One of the interesting
things I liked about working with my grandfather was meeting the people that
came off the train. I met such people as William Randolph Hearst and Mrs.
Hoover—but not her husband, as he rarely came in because the crowds would
follow him and that was a bother to him. Mrs. Hoover always came in to visit with
my grandfather, whom she liked very much. There were a number of movie stars
I met. In those days, they traveled by train. I met Elizabeth Taylor, Richard
Burton, and a number of others that I remember. Charlie Russell came in and I
liked him. He was the eminent artist that portrayed cowboys. I also met Mrs.
Zane Gray and her daughter. At the time I met them, Zane Gray had passed
away. It was interesting to meet them.
25th Street was an interesting street. It was an intersection of life that lived
to the fullest. There were good things and there were bad things that happened
on this street. I won’t go into the bad things because that was not part of my
experience. What I remember of 25th Street are the good things. The people who
ran the stores were people of character and personality that made them
interesting. Across the street was the Healy Hotel, owned and operated by
another Irishman who came to work on the Central Pacific Railroad, Patrick
Healy and knew my grandfather. He was an immigrant from Ireland. My
grandfather was not an immigrant, but his folks came from Ireland. His father
died when he was very young and he was apprenticed out and raised in another
situation. One of his regrets in life was that he missed having a family. He missed
family life, but he made up for it later.
At 18 he was drafted into the Union Army and became an artilleryman. He
engaged in three major battles with William Tecumseh Sherman, the General of
the Army. After the campaign, he went back to New York barefoot as his shoes
had worn out. There wasn’t much for him to do at home, so he got on a boat to
San Francisco and got a job with the Central Pacific where he became a
surveyor. Both the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific employed a lot of young
men, most of whom were immigrants. Most were young Irish men that had
served in the Union Army, and these young men built the Union Pacific. On the
Central Pacific, the Irish laid the rails because they were big. The Chinese
worked on the track bed and that was the real hard work.
When the rails were finished, my grandfather and Patrick Heely became
roommates and got a job with the Central Pacific. Patrick Heely became the
engineer and my grandfather became his fireman. They lived and worked
together for a while in Corinne, and then my grandfather went to Salt Lake City
and got a job in a bank. He was there a short while and the opportunity came to
open up a business in Ogden, so he came to Ogden and put up a dry goods
store at the very place where the Union Depot stands today. One day, after a trip
to Salt Lake City, he came back and his business was burned down. This didn’t
deter him, however. He opened a new business at the location where the hotel
was and put up a hotel with a number of retail outlets and a saloon in it.
My father and uncle grew up to become bartenders. They worked there
most of their lives. It was an attractive saloon, in fact, the most attractive in the
city of Ogden. It had three Italian arch windows facing the depot, one of which
was later bricked in. It had revolving fans on the ceiling and a beautiful
mahogany bar on the east side with a number of tables with chairs spread
around. It reminded me of the bar I saw in the movie, “Casablanca,” and brought
memories back to me. It was here in this atmosphere that I grew up, which to this
day I hold cherished memories of it.
I remember the stores on 25th Street with their particular odors. You’d go
into a bakery and you’d smell the wonderful odor of fresh bread. You’d go into
Cave’s pharmacy, which was across the street in a part of the hotel, and you’d
smell the spicy smell of botanicals. You’d go into my grandfather’s store and
smell the peculiar odor of tanned buckskin, which was agreeable and
distinguishing. You’d go into these other stores where people lived in the rear of
them and you’d smell their cooking, although sometimes it wasn’t very nice.
Today it’s different. Everything is air conditioned. You’d go into the department
store on 24th Street in the summer time when it wasn’t air conditioned and go
upstairs and you would start perspiring. In those days there was entrepreneurial
opportunity for plain people, something that I feel isn’t present so much today.
Times have changed and we all change, there’s no stopping it.
I am a poet. I’ve written two books of poetry and I’m now on my third one.
Last Sunday, the church secretary came up to me and said, “I’d like you to recite
a poem for next Sunday church services, would you?” I said, “Yes.” So I went
home and wrote one. I wrote a poem that summarizes life, but this poem is
special because it’s written at the pinnacle of my life experience. I should like to
end this interview with my impression of life from the experience that I have had.
I was also a soldier in World War II. I was an infantryman and saw seven months
of combat, so I can relate life from each stage. I’ll read my poem. It’s called, “A
“A lifting melody if filtering through discord. A resurgence with intent is
giving form. The continuum of fury is fashioning a new design. An
effervescence of ideas rise within instinctive fervor. The vigor of renewal
ignites the eternal intention. For something to be will never remain the
same. Since evolving pieces are meant to fuel change. Though a day may
seem bland, time is churning. Surprise is often the remedy for oversight.
Change opens the vent for good. For one to garner starch to meet affront.
These earthly sounds bear the lifeblood for what is beautiful to become
the pathway for reaching.”
MJ: Thank you. We really appreciate you taking the time to meet with us today and to
share your memories, they are quite wonderful.
JC: I have one question. When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?
EM: I liked to play softball, tennis and hike. I had a friend my age who lived across the
street that was like-minded. We would walk all over the city of Ogden, poking our
noses into everything. We liked to go to the foothills and hike the trails. We would
gather on a hot summer day and read each other stories. I remember in
particular, we would read Edgar Allan Poe and scare each other.
MJ: Poe is pretty scary.
EM: We read, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and The Pendulum,” “The
Black Cat,” and we would read his poetry: “El Dorado,” “The Raven,” they are
great works from a master. We would also get on our bikes when we were
teenagers and pedal up to Pineview Dam and rent a canoe or a catamaran and
paddle around the lake until we got tired and then we’d ride our bikes home. I
had cousins and uncles that I would do things with, which left good memories.
Once a year, my mother, brother and I would get in the car and we’d drive
as far as Idaho Falls where the roads were paved and then take the dirt road
from there to Yellowstone Park. In those days, the idea was to keep ahead of the
car next to you. If you didn’t, you would eat their dust for 90 miles. We would visit
my uncle Carl, who had a store in West Yellowstone and stay there two weeks.
We’d tour the park and go to the same places usually in July when all of the
beautiful flowers were out in bloom. We’d “ooo” and “ahh” about the beauty of
this wonderful national park.
Occasionally, we’d go to Zion National Park. I remember one trip that we
made with an aunt, uncle and cousin. We all got into the car and my sixteen-year-
old girl cousin did the driving. We went to Bryce, Zion and the Grand
Canyon; it was a wonderful trip. I’ve had a most fortunate life with many
wonderful memories and wish to carry them over. Thank you very much.
MJ: I’m glad we got to hear some of them today. Thank you.
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