One of the first people I met in Price was Tom Anderson who owned and managed the local radio station, KOAL. The radio station had provided its own sort of welcome to Price as it woke us up in the morning with agricultural price reports. We were apprised on a daily basis of the price of beef, hay and, of course, pork bellies. It was not long before we met the man behind it all. Tom was sort of a one man welcome wagon in Price. He did it partly just because he was so gregarious but he was also a very good businessman and he had advertising to sell, after all. Tom’s wife, Gege, was the dietician at the hospital at the time and she and Maun worked closely together when Maun was running Meals on Wheels. We all became very good friends and Tom taught us a lot about living in a small town.
At almost the same time as we opened the antique shop, a new manager took over the Sears catalog store, which was right across the street from the shop. Tom and Gege, again in the welcome wagon mode, had us all for dinner one evening and after introductions and a fine meal the conversation turned to business Tom had traded advertising on the radio station for incredible discounts on Sears products. For some reason the new Sears manager offered us virtually the same discounts. We ended up buying a radial arm saw, a six inch jointer and a new air compressor for spraying furniture. The compressor was much bigger and better than our old one and now we had a very complete woodworking shop. And we bought a lawnmower, not as much fun as power tools, but obviously very useful. Somehow Tom was interested in power tools as well and he owned almost every tool Sears sold. He even had a cement mixer that I used when we built our house and I don’t think Tom ever saw his half-inch drill for the whole time we were working on the house. No matter, Tom didn’t seem to use the tools, he just bought them because they were such a good deal.
It was very thoughtful of Tom to introduce us to the Sears manager and get us included in the discounts, but introducing us to the notion of trading was way more important in the long run. We ended up bartering for a very large part of the labor that went into our house and we even traded with Tom and the radio station. I wall papered a couple of rooms in their home for three radio spots a day for the antique shop and the very clever ads that Tom created made a difference. It was a very generous trade on Tom’s part but he was a very generous person. I say was because Tom died recently. We will always cherish his friendship and will be forever grateful for all we learned from him. Friends like Tom and Gege were a big part of the reason we stayed in Price.
After struggling to get the claw footed tub out of the house we set it in full view of anyone coming down the lane and we soon had a taker who gave us a load of firewood for it.
But I still had to chop and stack the wood.
So where did we do all this trading and wheeling and dealing? I have mentioned earlier that after my friend Lou and I both quit teaching our after work meeting place changed from the Hi-Spot cafe to the Savoy Club next door. It was a different crowd but what mattered for building the house was that one seemed able to find almost every craftsman in Price gathered there for after work conviviality. As I look back it was in the Savoy Club that I dealt, sometimes on a trade basis and sometimes for cash, with almost every one who helped us build the house.
Sometimes these deals worked perfectly but in a couple of cases they backfired. The very first deal I made in the bar didn’t work. Actually it had to to with the antique shop and not the house. The shop building hat last been a floral shop and it still had a sign hanging over the door. The bracket and rod that held the sign were perfect for our purposes but the old sign was neon and heavy and I was having a hard time figuring out how we were going to get it down. One afternoon as Lou and I entered the Savoy there was a truck out in front from Young Electric Sign Company, the biggest sign company in Salt Lake. And there was the electric sign guy sitting at the bar, I could tell it was him by his uniform. I sat next to him and after friendly greetings I told him what we were doing and that we didn’t know how to get the sign down. He told me that for ten bucks he would take it down on his way out of town the next day. I had been in Price long enough to know that I could take people at their word and as I had a job I had to do that day and couldn’t be available I just gave him the money on the spot. He never came through and at the end of the next day he had my money and the sign was still there. We always said that he cheated us because he was from Salt Lake and not from Price.
The entire old house was heated with this Warm Morning stove. We traded it to a mechanic down the lane who repaired both our car and the old blue truck. Notice that the chimney does not extend all the way to the ground and is supported only the stud wall. We used the bricks from the old chimney to build our hearth.
Another view of the Warm Morning stove. They must have been the best coal stoves ever made. This is a scary picture, we have now completely opened the house to the elements. We had better get going before winter. Kids I had taught at the junior high helped me with the demolition.
Another deal that did not work out, a trade this time, was for some wiring. Before we could do anything with the old house we had to move the electrical connection from the pole to the house because the box was located on a wall that we were going to tear down. While we were still running the antique shop we had met a man who was a mine electrician, in fact a fire boss, the guy who enters the mine before every shift to assure that the mine is safe to enter. We had something that his wife wanted very badly, an intact Singer treadle sewing machine, as I recall, and we arranged a trade. So when it came time to move the electrical connection I called him. We didn’t want to involve the power company because there would have been bureaucratic hassle and, according to the fire boss we wouldn’t have to, he could easily change the live wires to the new box. I erected a temporary pole and mounted a box and then told him we were ready. He showed up at the appointed time but I am afraid our fire boss-electrician was also something of a drinker and I think he had downed a few before he came. In any case as soon as he had disconnected the lines, there are three, remember, two hots and a neutral or ground, he managed to drop them from the ladder he was on and we ended up with the live wires from the pole lying in the road. Now we really had to involve the power company and in a big way. But couldn’t you guess by now, I knew the power company guy who responded to my call. Where did I know him from, from the bar, of course, and he very casually directed the rest of the operation until we got the wires out of the road and connected to the new box. I couldn’t believe my luck. Never the less, our fire boss friend’s wife had our sewing machine and I didn’t want this guy around anymore so we just had to chalk it up to experience, just glad we didn’t have to rely on him declaring the mine safe before we entered. I recall this incident with amusement but it could have been very serious and we could have been in a lot of trouble. Later we traded the rest of the wiring with a young man who was also a mine electrician and the brother of one of my good students. He was building a very impressive new house at the time and I painted while he wired. It worked out very well. In the meantime the young man has developed his own electronics firm and has done very well.
In the end there were a lot of people involved in wiring our house. My brother, who had just remodeled his home and had taken the time to read the electrical book while I was reading about carpentry, came to visit for a few days and between him and Maun they got a lot of it done. And even though I had, with the help from the owner of Western Auto, installed the hot water heating system, the boiler had a very complicated control box that nobody wanted to tackle. Nobody, that is, but another bar customer, the guy who owned and maintained all the pinball machines in town and was frequently on the next stool at the Savoy. To him wiring the control box was a matter of fifteen minutes or so and he charged us accordingly, very little.
Another friend named Lou. Lou is a very good carpenter and was conveniently unemployed when I needed help. I could do almost everything by reading the carpentry book but things like framing stairs would have been very time consuming so I hired Lou to help and we did it very quickly. And I couldn’t hang the drywall by myself so Lou was a big help.
Another trade that didn’t work so well was the plumbing. Still another former teacher whom I was friends with at the junior high was in the contracting business and had somehow, probably self taught, learned plumbing. I painted a couple of houses for him in return for plumbing work. In this case we traded both time and materials and that was probably a mistake as it meant that there was cash involved. My contractor friend and I had taken an agreed upon shortcut in the painting of one of the houses and the people insisted that it be repainted which I had to do at my expense. The deal ended in conflict at the cost of our friendship. It was the only time that happened.
The best trade of all was for taping and finishing the drywall. Again we were friends from the Savoy although as a painter I had followed the drywall man on a couple of jobs. We were both very generous in our terms. I painted the exterior of his son in law’s old house in a little town that had been a mining camp and was now becoming sort of a residential hot spot. In exchange, after making it very clear that he had no interest in smooth finish, as opposed to sprayed on texture, he taped the drywall and applied the first two coats of finish mud. I had learned a lot about finishing drywall from a colleague at the college and I was happy to do the last coats because that way I knew it would be done right. It was a very good trade.
Wikipedia’s version of the 1954 Chevrolet pickup that we owned and offered in trade for the framing and sheathing of the second floor and roof of the garage. By then we had run out of energy and would have been forever finishing without help. But we also were running out of money so I was willing to trade the truck even though it meant a lot to me. The young carpenter finished so quickly that we had the money to pay him and he was glad to have it instead of the truck as he had a family to feed. This was the third one of these trucks that I had and we actually made money when we later sold this one.
The drywall was the best deal we made but the continuing saga of the plumbing provided the funniest. When we bought the house it was not connected to the sewer. It had been built before there was a sewer line in this part of the county and thus had a septic tank. In fact, in it maybe only had what we called as cesspool, I never really wanted to know. With the change of ownership we were obliged to connect to the sewer, which we were very happy to do as we certainly didn’t want to live with whatever was there. This time we were going to need a professional plumber and we found one who was relatively new to town and happy to give us a deal. However the sewer line was across the road in front of the house and making connection was going to require trenching across the road. The plumber said he could not do it with just his backhoe, it would require a trackhoe, the machine I always called a steam shovel. By yet another providential coincidence there was a crew conducting the final inspection of the new water line that had been installed between the water treatment plant just west of Castle Gate, and the city of Price, some seven or eight miles to the south. They drove a trackhoe along the line so they could dig and repair any leaks they detected. And where did these guys hang out after work? In the Savoy, of course. By then I had done enough wheeling and dealing that I would approach almost anyone and as soon as I found out who these guys were I told them of our dilemma. The waterline was located across the main highway and up on the slope of the plateau that limits Price and Helper to the west, maybe a total distance of a mile from our house. This was going to be a cash deal but as soon as we agreed on an amount and I made sure our plumber would be willing to work on Saturday, they arranged to leave the keys to the machine in the bar where I could pick them up on Friday. Our plumber couldn’t quite believe it but the next Saturday found him crossing the highway and trundling up our lane at all of maybe six miles an hour in the steam shovel. He dug the trench, made the connection and returned the trackhoe to the worksite and I took the keys back to the bar so the inspection crew could pick them up in time for work on Monday morning. As I write this even I have trouble believing this story but it really happened.
This young man was in the advanced carpentry class at the high school and the teacher, who had been my colleague, let him work for me and get credit for the class. When I asked the teacher for some help and he suggested this young man I said that it wouldn’t work, he had been the meanest kid I taught at the junior high. The shop teacher assured me he was a different young man and he was right. We worked very well together. This is an interesting picture. The interior demolition is not finished but it can wait, we are anxious to get things covered up for winter. The picture also shows how we cantilevered the floor joists out over the existing front porch so that we could have a much larger upstairs room. This is the detail that the architect in Salt Lake so generously helped us with.
The trading continued. But they didn’t all happen in the bar. After we closed the antique shop we still had the completely equipped woodworking shop in the garage. One of my colleagues’ daughter had just married a young man just returned from LDS missionary service. He was a good cabinet maker but had no place to work so we traded the use of the shop for this bed and nightstands. He was a good craftsman and we kept the bed for twenty years.