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Vern Kilbourn

Interviewed by: Adam Christensen

00:00 / 45:52



June 8, 2010 Tuesday

Interviewee: Vern Kilbourn

Interviewer: Adam Christensen (Weber State college student)

Interviewed at Vern Kilbourn's home, 3075 S. Morgan Valley Drive Morgan, Utah

Subject: Como Springs Resort Experiences

Transcriber: Cissy Toone

Edited by: Linda H. Smith

Adam Christensen: How were you connected to Como, why were you there?

Vern Kilbourn: Como was one of the recreation places that we as children, and family went for summer parties and for recreation. My first recollection of Como was to go swimming in the swimming pools. Later on, as I got older it came to the war years, it was a more popular place because gasoline was rationed so we were not able to travel great distances because they just gave us so many ration stamps to buy so much gasoline. You just didn’t use the gasoline for other than the essential trips that you made. Como was quite close in that regard that we could go down and go swimming. Later on as I got older then we went to Como for the skating rink. That was a place we could go to have fun with the guys.  As I got older and interested in girls, that’s where you could go meet girls, get dates and, different things. They had a bowling alley and pool tables down there. I never was much of a bowler, but I did play pool a lot, and skated a lot.

We were very limited on our money during that time; we were raised here on the farm. My father had been injured badly in a horse accident. There were many months that he was not able to work. We were trying to buy a home and make ends meet. As far as family was concerned; there were five of us total in the family. A lot of times I would go to Como and they would pay us to set-pins in the bowling alley. They did not have the automatic pin-setters so we would go down and they paid us ten-cents a line game to set pins. If there were more than one person bowling or up as high as how many they had, then you got ten-cents a line for each one of the bowlers. I’d spend several hours there setting pins, then I’d get enough money to be able to go to the swimming pool to swim, buy a hamburger, or hotdog, a drink, then go roller skating. That was one of the reasons I was there at Como. Several of us had to do the same thing to earn our own money so we could go to Como to participate in the activities.

They had the little merry go round, that was not one of the things that I did very much because it was too small for me. I did ride the train around the pond several times. Then when the boat was in the pond there that Hal B. Heiner ran; I rode in that several times. He had a real beautiful boat; it was a wooden hand-built boat. They had it all varnished and polished up and, he still has that boat. I’m not sure if he has any of the train left or not. I believe he sold some of it here a few years ago. He did have some of the train for quite a while.

Como was a real active place during the Second World War and for a period of time immediately after. You have to kind of link several things together; the fairgrounds was right across the river from Como Springs so that would bring a lot of activity people wise. The fairgrounds, the rodeos and, then they would come over to Como Springs for more recreation during the periods of time when there wasn’t much going on with the fairs and rodeos. Another attraction was the River Lodge, that’s right next to the old bridge that goes into Como. You may have heard something about that.

AC: You are actually the first person to mention that.

VK: It was basically a beer hall, so a lot of folks would go there. They served lunch and they could buy all the beer they wanted. They had drinks that were of course, illegal at that time. In Utah you couldn’t buy a drink, you had to buy a drunk. You had to buy the whole bottle purchased from state liquor store located in Morgan Drug store. You couldn’t just buy one single drink. So folks would buy the bottle then proceed to get drunk. They frequented the River Lodge. They would go from the River Lodge over to Como for recreation too.

Como was a place that a lot of servicemen frequented. We had Hill Air Force Base, the Navy Depot in Clearfield. We had Second Street in Ogden, and also the Arsenal. There were a lot of military folks there. Fort Douglas was in Salt Lake City at that time too and it was very active so a lot of service people came there.

We had a lot of fun after the war, then I was old enough that we could skate. We’d skate in the skating rink during the weekday and evening. Most Saturday nights they would take the chains out of the inside circle of the skating and rink then have dances on Saturday nights. During the week when skating was on, we’d get together, a bunch of us, we’d form these chains. We’d grab each other’s belt. There would be probably 15, sometimes 20 of us in a line. We would form what we’d call the snake. We’d skate around the skating rink as fast as we could go. The lead guy would then reach out and grab one of those posts along the skating rink perimeter there. It would just start swinging people around. The people on the end sometimes would be coming so fast, being whipped. The one time I was on the end. I was whipped so hard that when I slid into the wall I put my foot right through the side of the wall. I couldn’t get my foot out because it pushed the boards in, as I tried to pull my foot out the boards would catch and there wasn’t space to get my foot out. I had to lay there till they went and got some pry-bars, held the boards back so I could get my foot out of the wall. The man that ran the skating rink wasn’t very happy with me over that, it was one of the owners, Rex. (Heiner)

We’d get races around in the rink there. I was one of the people that could skate backwards faster than I could skate forward. We’d have races, I would win a lot of the races skating backwards. I remember one time we were going around the rink making this snake. It just happened to be where the little opening was that came in from the ticket window, rather than hit into the railing and probably get hurt; three or four of us went out thru the gate and went out the door, clear outside and ended up in the shrubbery outside the door. I made a couple of summer-salts down into the fitzers. When I got up, I had the whole back panel of the guy’s shirt that was in front of me. I had ripped his shirt right off his back. So he was walking around there with just his shirt sleeve still on his arm. The guy's name was Gene Jones. I don’t know what ever happened after we graduated, got married and, moved out.

One thing I remember about Como was the medical doctor’s wife from up to the cement plant at Devils Slide. His name was Dr. High. They didn’t have any children but he had a real beautiful wife. She would come down to Como a lot and sun bathe out by the pool. She would drive a little MG sports car. She would park it out in the parking lot. I did participate one time, a bunch of us picked up her little sports car and set it between two cement blocks that formed the parking lot; it was just a perfect fit. There was about one-inch clearance between the two bumpers to fit in between these cement blocks. I didn’t participate in doing that more than once because we were in the vicinity when she came out of the pool to find her car between those blocks. The language that she used, I certainly cannot repeat on this tape. She questioned the legality of our parent’s marriage and made all sorts of threats so I really didn’t want to participate and have her ever find out I may have been one who participated. On occasion, I went to see her doctor husband for different medical reasons. I'd had some fractures and different things from farm accidents. So I didn’t want her to find out because I always felt like I wanted to grow up and have children. That would have been something. I would not have wanted her to know that I participated in putting her beautiful little MG between those blocks. It was done more than once. After a while people started watching her car so that they would not do that anymore.

One of the other things I remember when we went swimming; in the swimming pool they had lockers that you could go in to change your clothes. It was not a common dressing area, you had separate lockers, and one, two or, maybe three people could share one of the lockers. You would lock the locker, then take the key with you. We always made a point not to get some of the lockers against the hillside of Como because it was not uncommon to go in there and find a rattlesnake under one of the dressing benches. We watched that pretty close. We had a lot of fun there in the pool. We got a little older and more daring. We’d climb up on the high dive, it wasn’t high enough so we’d straddle the bars and climb up, put our feet straddling the diving board area, then we’d jump off these rails down on the end of the diving board and launch ourselves a lot higher in the air, then dive into the water.

They remodeled the swimming pool at one point, then put in one of the first water slides that I had ever seen anywhere in the country. It was a pretty high slide; it was a lot of fun. You were always supposed to go down the slide feet first but, naturally we’d go down head first and anyway that we could to the annoyance of the people running the swimming pool. Most of the time they didn’t really pay that much attention to us. It was very active all up through the time that I was a senior in high school.

When I graduated I went to work at Hill Air Force Base. I lived in Salt Lake for a while. We had a flood in 1952 that washed out the road in Weber Canyon. For many months in order to get to Ogden you had to either drive up Echo Canyon, [upper Weber Canyon] through Coalville and Park City and into Salt Lake, then back to Ogden. Some daring folks would hook a ride on one of the trains going down Weber Canyon, which wasn’t very safe. Then a lot of people bought an extra car. They would park it on the lower side of the railroad track, on the Ogden side, then drive their car down from the Morgan side and walk across the railroad bridge, cross the river, then pick up their car, then go into Ogden. I didn’t have an extra car so I moved to Salt Lake where my sister lived and stayed with her for a few months, working at Hill Air Force Base. My father and I had to run the old family farm so I moved back up to Morgan as soon as there was any kind of a road available up Weber Canyon again. It was quite a while before the road was paved. Horseshoe bend had washed out and naturally the freeway was not there at that time.

After I got married it was just a short period of time that I went in the military service. I was drafted into the US army. I was gone for two years and served in Korea. After I came back from the military then I went to Weber College and started my training for my professional career, I’m a licensed chiropractor. After getting my requirements, pre-requirements, and training at Weber State then, I went back east to Iowa and went to school there for four years. During that time I don’t know very much about what happened at Como except that I know that at one point a woman was drowned in the pool. After that the insurance rates went up so high for the swimming pool that I understand, that was one of the major things that contributed to Como closing up.

Hal B. Heiner had mentioned, I believe it was in 1973 is when he pulled the boat out of the Lake, the little pond there at Como. At one time, I don’t remember the year but, the bowling alley burned down so they didn’t have that facility anymore. As they rebuilt they did not rebuild the bowling alley. Where the bowling alley had stood they put up a restaurant. Then even after the pool was closed and the skating rink was closed they still kept the café opened and really served some terrific meals there. Things just did not really work out and I don’t know much about the family business but it’s my understanding that there were many members of the family that had an interest in Como. Most of them wanted some type of return out of the facility rather than reinvesting the money and upgrading it. It had gone into disrepair in most areas and just started to literally disintegrate. Closing things when Rex Heiner had his heart attack and passed away, he was the one who for years, had kept the restaurant open.

We had a lot of different things happen in Como. There would be small insignificant gangs would come from Davis County and Summit County. They would come to Morgan looking for fights and just kind of try to be big heroes in these little gangs they had, so there were a few fights there, but nothing really major there ever took place. It was just a fun place to go. I remember that every summer a band of gypsies would move into Como. They would come and stay in some of the cabins and they would set up their own tents. You could always expect a local theft and things to go up. You don’t like to profile anyone, but it was an expected thing. They were there and they would pilfer things. They always had the gypsy fortune tellers. I got very interested in…oh, I guess when I was fourteen or fifteen I got very interested in one of the pretty gipsy girls. They soon let me know right away that there was no messing around with the gypsy girls. You could get a hurt on your body so I didn’t keep much interest very long.

I think when I was sixteen or seventeen years old I got tired of renting roller skates because you would always get these roller skates that had been used hundreds of times and people would drag the skates sideways and get flat spots on them so they would plunk as you went around the court there. You couldn’t skate straight because the wheels were always out of line. That was when these precision roller baring skates came out. That would have been in about 1951 I guess, 51-52. About 1952 I guess it was, so I bought a pair of the precision roller skates. At that time I think they were $70 a pair. I saved up money for a long time to pay those to Rex Heiner. [He] was running the skating rink at that time and allowed me to buy them on credit. I bought them, then I met a girl from Benjamin Utah, that’s near Payson and Spanish Fork. I bought her a pair of skates but, I never did get a chance to give them to her because we never did date very long. We dated for awhile and I could see that trying to romance a girl that lived in Spanish Fork and me living in Morgan didn’t work out very well so I kept the skates, however, they were brand new. I did give them to my wife after we got married. We skated together for a few years after we got married. I think my son still has that pair of precision roller skates, which would be sixty years old now.

It was a lot of fun and I was sorry to hear that Como closed up because it would certainly be a big asset to Morgan County now. It’s a little bit humorous at this point, they’re very concerned about trying to get a swimming pool here in Morgan now. They had one of the best swimming pools in the world and our own residents wouldn’t support it, which is the case with a lot of our businesses here in town.

AC: Next question: If I were to go up there on a summer day what would I see?

VK: Well, one of the first things you would see as you drove into the parking lot would be the cars parking around the outside of the parking lot. You would have passed some small cabins that would have been on your left hand side before you got to the parking lot. The bowling alley would be on your left. Then right straight ahead in the parking lot would be the hamburger stand that had the little merry go round behind it. The merry go round was made out of fuel tanks from military aircraft; it would be from the drop wing tanks made to be small airplanes. Off to the side of the hamburger stand and this merry go round would be the skating rink, on further straight ahead would be the swimming pool with the diving boards and the water slide. Then off to the right hand side next to the mountain would be the overflow pond from the water coming into the swimming pool and forming this lake. It was a small lake they used to put the boat on and also, they had pumps on the lake to pump the water out onto their alfalpha fields which were about a quarter of a mile away. That’s the first things you would see. Then there was a bowery right next to the pond that at one time, they at least served some sandwiches and things in there. Then there was a picnic area out behind the bowling alley. There was also another area where they had picnic tables and folks could go there as they were going swimming, skating, or bowling. They could go out and have picnics in that area. If they wanted to stay overnight they could stay in the cabins when they had vacancies.

AC: Do you remember any special events or activities that were held there, any kind of community events or anything like that, any celebrations?

VK: There were a lot of family reunions that they had in the picnic area. It was a real popular place for families in Henefer and Coalville, and also from Weber County, particularly Uintah, South Weber, Riverdale, Ogden. That was one of the better swimming pool areas. Ogden had a skating rink, it was “The Berthanna” but it’s closed now after many years. [Located on 24th Street, south side of the street below Grant Avenue] That was where the socialites went to skate because they would not allow racing and things at The Berthanna that you could get away with at Como. It was a very popular place. Lagoon was becoming very popular but particularly during the war people just didn’t have the gas stamps to go to Lagoon all that often. About the only thing that Lagoon had that Como didn’t was the roller coaster. Lagoon wasn’t all that attractive. It was more expensive to go to Lagoon to get in. At Como there wasn’t any admission to get into the park itself but, if you bowled or used the swimming, or skating then of course you had to pay a fee for that. They really had some good hamburgers at Como. There was the Sommers lady, [Nola Sommers] I can’t remember her first name, it was Dick and Dan Sommers' mother that ran the hamburger stand most of the time and she really put out a good hamburger.

AC: Really, were you there for any of the…I understand the 4th of July was pretty big up there. Were you ever there for any of those, when they shot the fireworks off?

VK: Well most of the time we were at the fairgrounds or somewhere there. We didn’t really participate that much in Como. The fireworks that they had at Como or at the fairgrounds we could just go to the edge of town in Morgan and see them almost as well as you could if you were right in the immediate area.

AC: Okay, tell me maybe some of the reasons why you think Como was so popular. What made it successful? Why did people choose to go there?

VK: Well, one of the big attractions was that it was naturally warm water. [80 degrees] It was warm mineral water so you didn’t ever get the shock of having to jump in a cold pool. It was always very pleasant. Then they had for a while…I don’t know just when they closed the indoor pool. They had the indoor pool so if it was stormy you could always go in the indoor pool. Outside it was nice, it was open air, the water was warm and, it was a fresh flow of water all the time. None of it was ever re-circulated back into the pool. There was always as much of the water going out of the pool and into the pond as there was coming in. You knew that it was clean. With the picnic areas and the little merry go round, the skating, the bowling, it was an attractive place. Particarly during the war years when people could not travel very far; tires were rationed then, the gasoline was rationed so it was popular because it was close.

AC: You kind of talked a little bit about some of the reasons why it’s no longer here. We talked about the family, there were so many that had interest in it and, wanted returns instead of reinvesting. We talked about… you mentioned something else too, insurance?

VK: The local people got to a point where they really weren’t supporting it, part of it was because it was starting to get run down. The skating floor was getting quite rough. Then after the bowling alley burned down there was another bowling alley that was built in town. That helped to distract from Como. By that time Lagoon was becoming very popular, they were putting in new rides and they had remodeled the swimming facilities at Lagoon. Put in airplane rides and the hammer, and farris wheels, and all sorts of things there. Como just got kind of, got put off to the side. Then there were just several of the family members that participated and worked with Como to try to make it operate and to function. Maybe they were doing something that I was not aware of. You just didn’t see them. There were only four or five of them that were really actively involved in really working at Como. They all wanted something in return from their share. Rex Heiner particularly was one of them that worked. Hal B. Heiner worked there and helped keep things functioning, repaired the railroad tracks, kept the little train running, and kept the boat in the pond. But then when this women drowned, I know that was a major blow. Hal B. Heiner mentioned that when they got the bill for the insurance they said it was going to increase an extravagant amount so they said no, were not paying it, were going to close. Then it was closed.

They tried several different businesses after it officially closed. They tried bottling mineral water. I think they called it "Annie Heiner Water" or something. I guess it was alright but, the water really wasn’t that good. It tasted really strong of the mineral. It was overwhelmingly strong. So that (mineral water business) didn’t really go. Then they tried at one time raising tropical fish in the swimming pool, that was short lived, it didn’t really make much. I was gone for quite a few years so I don’t know other endeavors they may have tried. They tried building a trailer park there, it functioned pretty well when the freeway system was being put in because they had a lot of construction workers that parked there trailers there. After the construction slowed down the trailer park has not functioned well since. I don’t know if there are even any trailers there or not now.

AC: Two or three still.

VK: The entrance way is private; the bridge is a private bridge and private road. So they got no trespassing signs up there so I have no reason to go there. I used to go that way and make the loop over to the Round Valley road when I was in the fairground vicinity, but they put the "no trespassing" signs. Why I haven’t been that way for several years now.

AC: They’ve actually built a new road to Round Valley so you don’t even need to go. (through Como)

VK: I don’t know what the present owner, what his plans are for that area. If anything, it would still be a buyable place if someone invested the money because the source of warm water there is one of the major things that would be an asset to developing something there.

AC: Look at all those trees and ground for someone wanting to camp or picnic and all that stuff.

AC: Do you have any other memories or things you can think of? I’m out of questions.

VK: Those are the only things that I can remember. I don’t know anything about the business aspect of Como because it is none of my business. It was an attraction because we could go down to the fair and rodeos and things. If we got bored we could always go across the bridge and go skating or swimming, or bowling, play pool, try to meet some girls.

AC: That’s the number one goal.

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