Providence City Oral History Project
Date: 16 January 2006 Tape Number: PCOH 2006 ARG-04
Location: Providence, UT Interviewee(s): Ken Braegger
County: Cache Interviewer: Rachel Gianni
Recording equipment & mic:
Sony TCM 200 DV/150, mic: Radio Shack 33-3013
Transcribing equipment: Panasonic VSC RR-830
Project editor: Lisa Duskin-Goede
General description: This is a topical transcription with some word for word
excerpts. Ken Braegger lives at 298 South Main in Providence, Utah. There is nothing on side B of the tape. An addendum containing Ken’s revisions has been added at the end of the transcript.
I was born in 1926 in September. I was born just two blocks south of here which is at 495 South Main in Providence. My folks at that time had a small house on the corner, and I was the seventh of eight children, the next to youngest of those. I was born just at the beginning of the Great Depression, so my growing up years were in pretty humble circumstances, but the whole town was about the same.
Swiss and German Ancestry
Providence was noted, they used to call it German Town because most of our ancestors came from Switzerland and Germany and those countries. Some did come from Scandinavia, but most of them that settled here came back with the missionaries. I am kind of a unique individual in that I do not have one relative that came across the plains. My folks all joined the Church in Switzerland and Germany and came after the railroad was built, and so they came on the trains. They came here because conditions in Switzerland, and a year ago we had a chance to visit where my ancestors came from in St. Gallen, Switzerland in a little town of Watwil. They were real poor, humble people and the missionaries promised them a better life, and so they came here seeking a better way of life, and of course they followed the Church. My folks settled in Willard, Utah which is just over by Brigham City. My mother was just three years old when she came here from a little town, Kleineartach Germany. It’s interesting to note, as we visited there this last year, it’s easy to see how hard it was for them to leave such a beautiful country. It was special, and they came here with the idea of a better life. They followed the Church, they wanted to be close to Church headquarters. It’s kind of interesting, on my father’s side, he came over here, his folks were so poor that the missionaries brought two of them, of a family of ten, and when those two earned enough money, they sent back more money and two more of them came, and pretty soon my grandfather came and then they sent back and brought my great grandfather. It’s interesting to note that my wife and I were married in the Logan Temple, my parents were married in the Logan Temple, my grandparents and my great-grandparents were all married in the Logan Temple. They were sealed there, they were married when they came. So, we’re attached to that.
But, this has been home to me. I’d never been out of Utah until I was seventeen years old. Then I joined the Marine Corps and World War II was on, it was 1944. I graduated from high school and that was the first time I had been out of the state of Utah, so I didn’t know what the world was all about. It was a good experience.
(On the book that will be published as a result of these interviews: suggests to pick up where the old book left off.)
We grew up during the Depression. Times were tough. I wore patched overalls to school. I never had a brand new pair of shoes that were all my own that weren’t hand-me-downs until I was graduated from grade school. Then I got my first new suit and my first new pair of shoes. By then the War was going and things had changed a little bit and updating. I can remember my neighbor getting the first refrigerator that came to town. A girl my age took us in and demonstrated that refrigerator. Up until then, everybody used iceboxes.
Ken mentions that the Providence Lane needs to be in history –growth of town, Macey’s own merchandising.
When I was a kid, everyone had chores to do. We all had cows to milk, we had pigs to feed. We had chickens, we had pigs. We were self-sustaining, pretty much. I remember the only time our folks ever went to the grocery store was to trade in butter and eggs for things that they had to have that they couldn’t make, like yeast and a few other things. We were really self-sustaining, and we drifted from that to a point. I guess my wife and I are still of the old school, we still have two pressure cookers. We have a fruit room full of canned goods, bottles of fruits and vegetables. We do it every year. We’ve raised our eight kids in this house. It’s been a way of life we’re losing, slipping away.
I graduated from the elementary school. They had the same principals that are listed in the two books, which were principals when I was there. They need to pick that up because Dennis Jensen served as principal of the grade school for years and he isn’t even mentioned in the new book, so that’s something. The growth of the school, the fact that we got a new a middle school. The demise of the Utah Central railroad is gone. The bussing system is something that has taken over. So many changes. It used to be that if the family had one car they were considered pretty wealthy. Today everybody has to have two or three. Those are things that brings about prosperity and bring about change.
I grew up here, I went to school here, I graduated from South Cache High School. I spent four summers on a dry farm in Hansel Valley Utah working for an old farmer, and that’s where I learned how to work. That guy worked from daylight till dark and then kept going. When I got through with that I joined the Marine Corps and I went through boot camp. I hardly worked up a sweat, I was in such good shape. I spent three and a half years in the Marine Corps. I was just young enough that I caught the very end of it. I was wounded on the island of Okinawa. After six months in the hospital, I could have come home but they said, “You’re in the Marine Corps for four years, you gotta stay.” So they sent me to China, and I spent thirteen months in Sing Tao, China. Oh, what a great experience it was. I thought we were poor growing up, but we weren’t poor. I saw people who had tin roofs over them and cardboard houses to live in and dirt floors, orange crates for cupboards, and I saw people out walking down the roads looking for sticks to build a fire. That was poor. That’s the way it was in China, and I came home so grateful for what we had.
I met my wife and we were married in 1948. We wanted to move somewhere. She was from Clarkston, Utah and I was from Providence, and we didn’t want to live in either place because we thought it would be too close to our family. So we moved to Logan and we lived there for about three or four months. I still had a church calling here in our old ward that I kept, I was an Elders Quorum president. We kept coming home to church and pretty soon we found a house down the street and we decided to buy it. We bought that. My family built this house and my brother lived in it for a few years. I told him if he ever wanted to sell it, we’d like to buy it. So we bought this house. At that time we had a little over an acre of ground. It’s on Main Street. The house has about 4,000 square feet and it has just one bath, but it’s got a full basement. We paid $15,000 for it. My dad told me that he didn’t think we’d ever see it paid for because of conditions. But since then, we’ve lived here for about 52 years. A lot has changed. We rebuilt the house. We put in fire places. My wife is a great decorator and she does porcelain dolls and she’s made these and others. I have a wood shop out there where I built most of the furniture.
The Red Cross
We’ve enjoyed it here, it’s been a good town. My first civic assignment was I was a member of the Lion’s Club. The Mayor called me one time, and I don’t remember who he was at the time, and asked me if I’d serve as the Chairman of the Red Cross. Me and Opal Chugg served as Chairmen of the Red Cross for ten years. We had hospital beds, we had crutches, we had bedpans we would loan to people so they wouldn’t need to buy them. We had a certain amount of funds, we used to buy different things for people who needed it. It was a branch of the Logan chapter of Red Cross.
One day they asked me if I’d run for City Council. I’d never been in politics before. I was living on a dirt street and I said, “You bet, I want to get that road oiled so I’ll do it.” I was elected. I don’t know if I had any opposition or not, I don’t remember. I was on the City Council and I served there for about twelve years total. I imagine I started in about 1955 in the Red Cross and probably in about 1965-1975 on the City Council. I served as a clerk part of that time. The City only had two or three paid employees at the time. I needed some extra money and the mayor asked me if I’d be their clerk, so I did for a couple of years. Then, they had a fellow run for mayor that wasn’t very popular and he was a move-in to town. They got me to run for mayor and I was elected. I served almost a full term before my company transferred me to Provo. To them I gave up the mayorship and since then I’ve not been involved in city government, other than the fact that I still bear a great interest in what happens in our town.
Service as Mayor
While I was mayor we finished paying off the first reservoir that was built. We updated the water system and we built the city sheds. We brought the cemetery perpetual care fund back up into operation. Former mayors had had to borrow from it and so we built that back up and got it up. And then we saved some money for our new City office. We did that during those years that I was the mayor and I felt like it was a worthwhile thing. I enjoyed that. I think everybody needs to be on the City Council just once. I was in a City Council meeting not long ago and they have the same problems I had when I was a mayor -- doesn’t change, it’s just different people, different times.
I’ve always had a job in the Church. I served my first mission as a Stake missionary in the Mount Logan Stake. Something that’s real interesting, that doesn’t happen very often, I’ve been in five different stakes, but I’m still in the Providence Second Ward. This is my ward, and in 1960 I was called to be the bishop of the Second Ward. That’s when we built the new chapel across the street here. That took us four years to build it. It was a great experience for me because I learned the strength of the Church, and people were so good. It was on a 50/50 basis from the Church: the Church paid half and the wards had to pay half. Our building cost $237,000 plus the labor. We did about $100,000 worth of labor. It took us four years: one year to raise enough money to start, three years to build. Then I was a bishop nearly seven years and then they divided the ward and made the Third Ward out of it. We’d been the Second Ward from 1909 to 1967. Now, the areas that I was a bishop of, they divided and made the Third Ward and then the Fifth Ward, then the Sixth Ward, then the Ninth Ward, then the Tenth Ward, then the Twelfth Ward. So there’s six wards in the area that used to be the old Providence Second Ward.
View on the growth of Providence
They put houses where I used to hunt pheasants, houses up the hill where we used to ski. They made a nice city out of it, they really have. A lot of people would like to see growth stop, but people have to have a place to live.
One of the articles I wrote was of Providence Lane. We used to say, that in the wintertime on a day like yesterday, there’d be a dozen cars off in the bar pit. That road was up here and had a big deep gutter on each side of it. It was impossible to keep a car down the middle of that road, everybody would slide off. They’d bring teams and wagons or a tractor to pull you back on the road. The road was done just these last five years ago. It used to have the pea vinery up at the top of it where the ball park is now. On both sides of the road it was kind of a swampy ground, it had pasture ground on each side. There was no buildings on either side of that road from Second West clear to the highway. Nothing. It was just open fields on both sides. And during that last ten years, they built that in and it’s going to continue to grow.
We’ve seen subdivisions up on the bench. They started up out on East Center Street and it just seems to have mushroomed. Two weeks ago I drove my Jeep up on the south bench. They’ve got a problem up there. These people were trying to transfer water shares from Richmond down to here. You can’t do that. But they’re up there with a subdivision going without any water. I don’t know what’s going to happen to it. They’re going to build two or three hundred more homes up there. When the book was finished, there was about a little over 2,000 people. Now there’s 6,500 here.
New Commercial Growth
We’ve got quite a bit of commerce in town. We have the service station down there, we’re getting a new Macey’s, the Iron Gate Grill, that whole development. It’s going to continue to go. It’s brought some revenue so they can take better care of the roads. Just a town by itself without any commercial income, not any tax base, just can’t hardly make it. That’s what Providence was for years. But with all this commerce coming, they’ve got money to oil the roads.
Sewer and Water Systems
I think something that would really be interesting to talk about would be the sewer and water systems that have been updated. I read in a letter that the mayor sent out a year ago that Providence has the best water system in Cache County. We have three or four wells, we have a beautiful spring up the canyon. We have good water. A complaint I’ve got is that I used to could 365 days a year go out and turn my tap on and ice water would come out of my tap. It was spring water from Providence Canyon, the greatest water in the world. Now I’m told that we use in the summertime about 80% well water and 20% spring water.
We have a beautiful canyon up here. In the summertime from about two miles up it has a beautiful spring water running down it. It has several nice campgrounds that could be developed.
Providence quarry was closed in 1986. That was a lifeblood of Providence. They hauled a lot of lime rock out of there.
Professionalism in Town
Look at the professionalism that is in town. We have doctors, we have lawyers, we have a member of the State Legislature. We’ve got a couple of judges, we’ve got several college professors. What a talent here. I’d like to see those people recognized. It brings a lot of culture to us. Randy Simmons, our new mayor, is a professor up there. We’ve got Clair Wyatt who just retired as a professor up there. I bet there’s thirty professors here. Doran Baker, who was at one time head of the Electrodynamics Department up there, that lives up the street right here. We’ve got Mike Bishop, who used to be a doctor, lived here. We’ve got three or four chiropractors in town. The records would show that we have a lot of doctors. We’ve got some historians here. We’ve got a lot of talent in town. It would be interesting to see what percentage of our young people attend college now compared to what it used to be.
When I was in high school, the war was on. When I came back, I spent a year and a half in college, and through a connection I got caught up in the printing business. I was only going to be there for a couple months when school was out, and I never went back. I sometimes regretted that. I wished I had gone back and finished college but I spent a seven year apprenticeship in printing. That’s why I tackle these stories a little bit. I was in the production end of newspapers and I always thought, “Hey, some of those people need to learn how to write.” I remember one time, they asked me to write an article. The next day I gave it to her, and the girl that was there that graduated from journalism in college, and she said, “How many drafts did you make?” I said, “What do you mean drafts?” And she said, “How many times did you go over this?” I said, “I didn’t. I sat down at my computer and wrote it and I gave it to you.” She couldn’t believe that. I’ve always enjoyed writing. We have a real nice computer and we do a lot of stuff like that.
Ideas for updating the book
I don’t know what more I could say excepting that I’m excited about them wanting to do another update. My hope is that they would not go back and try to do what’s already been done, but would take and push it from there. If I had a chapter in the book, I’d want to talk about the changes that have happened in Providence during my lifetime. I would take that from the last book up till now. I’ve written a lot of things. Each year, for several years, I’ve given my kids a spiral bound thing about things I’ve written. I did a little prose, I did a few stories, but they’ve all related to growing up. I think that’s what our new book needs to contain: personal testimonies of the richest of life, but not go back and talk about what my dad did or what anyone else did, but to talk about how much you’ve enjoyed living in Providence. That’s what I’d like to see. If I finish my mission before they get this book done, I would be delighted to make a chapter of that book, and put into it how much I’ve enjoyed living in Providence.
Life has been good. My wife and I got married in 1948. We raised our family here in town. We had six sons that are all Eagle Scouts. They’ve all graduated from Seminary. Because of the closeness of the Church and the environment of the community, I just have to pay tribute to our school system. They do a great job. The kids grew up here. We could jump in a Jeep, I think I’ve had four or five Jeeps. The kids would mow the lawn, we’d weed the garden, we’d do the yard work, we’d take off and go cook hotdogs up Providence Canyon. That was a good life. We’re five minutes away from the mountains. My Jeep fit on every road in these Cache hills. That’s been a recreation. Two weeks ago I had my granddaughters here from St. Louis. “What do you want to do?” “We want a Jeep ride.” So we jumped in the Jeep and we rode up to the Hardware Ranch to see the elk. To me, that’s what made Providence such a special place, the fact that I have the canal running in my back yard. I was smart enough, I took Will Roger’s advice: he said the most important thing other than land is water. So I bought several shares of water. I have an acre of ground. I got eight fruit trees, a big garden. I don’t golf, I don’t fish, and I gave up hunting. I’ve shot my share of wildlife and so I finally decided, when the Prophet came out and said you’re not supposed to kill for sport, I gave it up. My gun closet hasn’t been opened for a long time.
Atmosphere of Providence
I’ve never lived in other towns, so I really don’t know what they got, but I do know that everybody who’s come here loves it. I have a son that lives in Hyde Park and he likes it there. But it isn’t like home and he’s told me that many times. I ask him what the difference is and he says, “Well, the people are different.” We’re kind of a ward town family. I think it’s the attitude. I shouldn’t say this and publicize it, but we never lock our house. We’re going to have to start locking it because there’s different environment coming, people with different standards and different ideals. It’s prepared to lock, but we feel free here, comfortable.
Paved roads and sidewalks
I think the thing that’s happened to Providence, and I have to commend the city, I can’t think of a graveled road in Providence. When I grew up, I was a young boy on a bicycle when they did this street here, Main Street. The first sidewalk in Providence was this one and it ran through in front of our house on Fifth South. We used to have to walk to this corner to roller skate to school. That’s as far as the sidewalks went. We have a lot of sidewalks now. We have some real good roads. They’re well cared for.
In any season of the year, Providence is a pretty place. Everybody has a lot of trees, a lot of shade. Most people take good care of their yards. That’s something you don’t see in a lot of communities. I’m a nut for this. When we were on our mission, we left our place empty and our two sons took care of it and my one son, when we got back from out first mission said “Dad, I wouldn’t have your place for a gift. It’s too much work.” This has been my hobby, it’s what I do, I just love it.
Years ago, Providence had a whole bunch of cesspools. Then they put in septic tanks. Then when they put the sewer in, they dug our town completely to pieces. Our water system, they’re continually updating that. They drilled a well out here on the corner, just a block south of us. I heard one of the city people say that there’s enough water out of there that could run the whole city. It has a big old pipe coming out of it.
Quality of Life
I think that’s the thing that has made Providence so special. They’ve been able to make it a nice place to live. The roads are good, the water is good. We have good clean air. One thing we have that others don’t have, we have very little wind in Providence because we’re down over the hill a little bit and the mountains protect it. Very seldom do we ever get a storm wind here. Summertime, we have a nice cool breeze coming out of the mountains. It’s just a pleasant place.
Working for the newspaper
I had a High Councilman who was over the Elders Quorum, and I was an Elders Quorum president. He was an old German, Gunnar Rasmussen was his name. He came up from Provo when they bought the newspaper locally back in about 1929 or ‘30. He was a publisher, and he said one day, “Kenneth, I want you to come and work for me.” I said, “I have never been on a newspaper floor in my life.” He said, “I like the way you work, you’re a good worker and I’d like to have you come work for me.” I said, “Okay, when the quarter ends in school, I’ll come down for a couple of months and we’ll see.” I had been working construction, working my way through college, and working for LeGrand Johnson, hauling rock out of Providence Canyon. So, I went down there. ‘Once you get ink under your fingernails,’ that’s an old saying they used to have, ‘you can’t get rid of it.’ I found it to be a real challenge. I started out in a seven year apprenticeship, and in about three years they put me on full scale. It was in a hot metal shop where they had to use lead to print the newspapers. I learned how to run a linotype, not very much, but I had a little bit of that. I was real good at mathematics. To lay out an ad for the newspaper took a lot of skill. I got started doing that and pretty soon that’s all they wanted me to do. I spent twenty years in that, working there. I worked my way up ‘till I was assistant to the foreman, and then when he retired I became the production manager to the newspaper. For the last twenty-three years, that’s what I did, I managed the Herald Journal. I took care of everything from production to the press room, some circulation supervision. I bought all the equipment, ordered most of the supplies. I enjoyed it. I was trained six different times. I went from hot metal to cold type. When the computer first started, our first typesetting machine was Number Thirteen. I was involved with J.R. Allred who was in charge of the public relations at the university. We put in the fist computerized system that sent information from the university down to the Herald Journal via phone line. He and I worked that out and got that to work. I did it on a little bit of a Radio Shack Trash 80, they called it. We went from that to modern equipment. Then we got a Photon 200B which was made in France. That was a pain in the neck that didn’t work. It had a relay back of open relays, thirteen of them along the wall, and a big photo unit. We went from that to modern equipment. Then we finally put in a system that had a computer room. It had 80 megabyte hard drives and that’s what we printed the newspaper on. I stayed there until that system needed to be updated. I’d been there forty-three and a half years. After that I decided it was time to quit. I was sixty-seven and half years old and I’d been there forty-three years and three months and I quit. I retired. They used to call me up all the time. I would still have my things and I would still run these articles in the paper just for something to do. That was my career. I never made a lot of money, but I was home every afternoon. Because I used to like yard work so well, they used to call me so often, I put a phone in. I have a little outhouse out back with a flush toilet in it and it also has a telephone in it. So when I’d be working in the yard, when the phone would ring I didn’t need to run into the house, I’d just take it out there. It was a very trying job but I enjoyed it. It was a challenge. I equal it to a college education. It was a good profession. My company transferred me in 1975. I was not only the mayor, but I was a counselor in our Stake presidency and I had to give them both up because they sent me to Provo to the Daily Herald down there. I spent a year there. I helped them put a computer system in. They kept calling me back there to fix their equipment and stuff. Finally the publisher said, “why don’t you just move back?”, and so we came back. We never sold our home, and we came back ever since.
Hopes for Providence
I hope it can maintain its present rural atmosphere with the growth that is bound to come. I’m afraid that’s not going to be easy to happen because the more people you get, the more cars there are and the more congestion you get. I hope they will never develop the inner blocks, the center blocks. When I was a kid we had a football field in the middle of our block and everybody was there. If they start building houses in the middle of the blocks they’re going to loose that. I’d hope that there’s still be people who like to have gardens and raise produce and stuff instead of buying it all out of Macey’s canned stuff. I’d like to see Providence maintain that rural atmosphere even though we know it’s going to grow. You can’t stop that. I’ve lived on Main Street all these years and we very seldom ever hear a car go up and down the street. Our house is well insulated and we live in the back of the house. It’s a nice place.
Addendum added by Ken Braegger:
Rather than mark up your original copy, I have decided to retype several paragraphs to make the necessary changes. I realize that this is a copy of the taped interview, but a few changes might make things a bit more clear.
Swiss German Ancestry
Providence used to be called German Town because most of our ancestors came from either Switzerland or Germany, and other European countries. There were a few who came from Scandinavian countries. I am kind of a unique individual in that I do not have one ancestor who crossed the plains. My folks all joined the church in Switzerland and Germany. They came west after the railroad was built. They came because conditions in Europe were not the best. They were poor humble people. The missionaries promised them a better life. A year ago we had the chance to visit the places where our ancestors came from. We visited the little town of Watwil St. Gallen, Switzerland, and other places in Europe. My folks settled in Willard, Utah which is close to Brigham City. My mother was just three years old when she came here from a little town of Kleingartch, Germany. It is interesting to see how hard it was for them to leave that beautiful country. They followed the church. They wanted to be close to church headquarters.
My father’s family came over to the United State two at a time. There were ten in the family. They were so poor that the missionaries brought just two at a time. When the first two earned enough money they sent for two more. Finally all of them, including my great grand parents came to Utah.
My wife and I were married in the Logan Temple, my parents were married in the Logan Temple. My grand parents and great grand parents were also sealed in the Logan Temple.
Providence has always been home to me. I had never been out of Utah until I was seventeen years old. I joined the Marine Corps in 1944 when World War II was on. I graduated from high school and left immediately for the service. It was a good experience.