BYU, Economics, Education, Environment, History, LDS Church Leadership, LDS History, Provo History, Society, Utah Economy, Utah History

Growth, Change: They’re Perpetual Watchwords

Click to see original imageSo we’ve entered a new decade!

High hopes for happiness and prosperity are mingled with concerns over inflation, energy shortages, and other economic problems as we turn from the 70’s and advance into a new 10-year span.

There are other concerns too, as war clouds gather in parts of the world. The Soviet Union is flexing its muscles after years of military buildup. Its bold and unwarranted march into tiny Afghanistan has added new apprehensions and caused America to consider military registration, a prelude to any return to the draft.

We say the 70’s are behind us. But they’re not, really. You cannot package up any 10-year period by itself and file it away. Always there are overlaps – planning and projects that span eras of time, often many decades.

Meantime, in a continual process of change, erstwhile players on the stage of life step aside, having made their imprint to be replaced by new generations with their own hopes and ambitions. Reminiscent of the Old Testament passage from Ecclesiastes:

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.

This writer has observed activities and accomplishments here in Utah’s heartland for four decades as a member of the Herald staff, three of them as editor prior to retirement last October.

And what growth we’ve observed! The face of Utah County has changed tremendously, with marked change also in neighboring Juab and Wasatch Counties.

Population-wise, Utah County has frown from 66,900 in 1940 to an estimated 190,000 today. It became the second largest county in the state with the 1970 census which showed 137,776 inhabitants to 126,278 for Weber, previously No. 1 behind Salt Lake County.

Provo, the county seat, has climbed from 18,071 in 1940 to 53,131 in 1970 and an estimated 70,000 today. The Intermountain Chamber of Commerce directory also lists Ogden, traditionally the No. 2 Utah city, at 70,000. Thus, it’s possible Provo will overtake Ogden in the 1980 federal census – something that is yet to be determined.

The story of some projects, institutions, and developments in Utah County has extended pretty much over the entire 40-year period. Four examples:

-Brigham Young University, whose growth was dramatically accelerated in the fifties celebrated its Centennial in 1975-76 riding high. Scores of new buildings plus academic expansion made spiraling enrollment possible. The roll passed the 25,000 mark in September 1970. Since then it has been controlled at about that level although this year it is at a temporary high of 26,000. One of the highlights of the 70’s was installation of a new BYU president, Dr. Dallin H. Oaks, in 1971, to succeed Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson who held the post about two decades.

-Utah Technical College, which started in 1941 as the Central Utah Vocational School, now operates from a sprawling campus being developed at Orem as well as from the Provo location. Enrollment doubled in the 70’s to 4,000-plus (day and night schools combined). Wilson W. Sorensen has headed the school for 35 years, first as director, then president. He took the reins in 1945 from the original director, H. E. Johnson.

-Geneva Works was built starting in 1942. It was operated during the remainder of World War II by the government. Later the plant was purchased by U. S. Steel Corp. The valley’s biggest payroll, the plant currently employs about 5,000. The decade of the 70’s was a period of some expansion, but of escalation of government regulation, by EPA and OSHA, especially. With costly environmental controls required and the problem of “steel dumping” on the West Coast by foreign producers, Geneva wound up the decade fighting for its life, with most of the citizenry obviously in full support of the company.

-The Central Utah Project was in various stages of planning for many years before it was approved by Congress in w1956. While it is well-advanced in construction, the development has been slowed by sometimes-inadequate appropriations, environmentalist interference, and inflation. Completion still appears far away.

With so many variables, who can say what the decades ahead will bring? Seven political, industrial, and civic leaders expressed that same view when this writer approached them early in 1950 for their predictions on future growth in Utah County.

The seven, however, agreed to try the guessing game anyway. Their names and their answers to five specific questions appear on Page 12-C (to the left) in a reproduction of a page from the Progress Edition of 1950. We have to say the seven leaders did quite well in guesses covering the period to 1975. How their Utah County population estimates for the year 2000 will stack up remains to be seen. With the booming growth, chances are most of the participants will have been too conservative.

What were other highlights of the decade of the 70s? Most of you readers were here, too. What would you say? We’ll note some of our impresions in the remainder of this space… and you can add to the list:

The Osmonds, Utah’s premier family of entertainers, built studios in 1977 in Orem and have continued to woo audiences “live” and on television. Previous Osmond video network programs have expired, but Marie will open a new variety show on NBC this fall. Meantime, the family is planning an extensive road tour in this country and abroad this spring and summer.

Film actor Robert Redford, who has resided in the North Fork of Provo Canyon for many years and built a new home there in recent years, was one of the big stars of the decade and is involved it movie making also.

Mr. and Mrs. Redford (the former Lola Van Wagenen of Provo) are good friends of the Osmonds and the two families and others are doing a great deal to put Utah County on the map in the entertainment world.

Some “old-standby” business institutions of the valley closed their doors during the 70’s, including Taylor’s, Chipman’s, and Provo Bakery. Many other businesses and industries had their beginnings during the decade as part of the unprecedented commercial growth in the area.

The most dramatic of the new developments is University Mall at Orem, which opened in 1973 with about 20 businesses. Today there are 126 companies in the complex and a substantial increase in volume has been recorded in each year of the operation. The mall’s primary trade area is Utah Valley, but it draws from Wasatch, Juab, Carbon, Millard, Sevier and other counties also.

Provo’s downtown business district was modernized during the decade, with exciting changes, particularly on Center Street and University Avenue. The project served to stabilize and expand business and broaden the sales tax base.

Numerous new schools were built in the valley. The Stevens Henager College established itself in Provo, and the 88-year-old junior college now has 330 students working for business associate degrees.

Provo opened its new City Center in 1972 – and razed the old “post office building” at Center and University which served as “city hall” for many years.

Utah Valley Hospital built a new multi-story addition at a cost of some $19 million, with $4.2 million raised by community subscription in a tremendous show of public generosity and cooperation.

Highway construction continued through the 70’s. Plans for a dramatic widening and improvement in the Provo Canyon road were unveil in 1970. But the project met with environmental opposition and requirements. Now the impact statement for a new version of the improvement has been okayed and the project cleared for detailed design.

The Utah County Fair, after an Interim of 34 years, was revived in 1976 and turned out to be a splendid success. It is held annually in wish Fork where facilities have been leased by county.

Utah County continued to rank No. 1 among counties of the state in farm income.

The Utah Junior Livestock Show, reputedly the oldest such show west of the Mississippi, was held each year in May during the 70’s in Spanish Fork. The show, which has established a great tradition among young livestock raisers of the state, got its start in 1918. At that time, an old-timer related, a group of cattlemen had an argument on who had the best bull. So each owner tied his animal to a tree at the park. An out-of-town judge determined the winner. From this unusual beginning, the stock show evolved.

The Daily Herald moved into a new plant in February 1970 and unveiled it to the public in a May open house. Probably more building was accomplished in the valley than any previous decade. Among the projects under way is a large addition at the Utah State Hospital. Wilderness Associates received approval to build a year-around resort and ski area in the mountains east of Provo. After getting clearance in some 32 hearings over a period of years, the sponsors ran into financial problems which were delaying the project as of the end of the year.

Employment in Utah County was at a reasonably high level, with the jobless rate repeatedly under state and particularly national averages. Jobs increased to keep pace with population growth.

The LDS Church has had 12 presidents – and four of them have served in the last decade. Long-revered President David O. McKay died Jan. 19, 1970. He was succeeded by Joseph Fielding Smith, who in turn was succeeded, at his death, by Harold B. Lee. President Lee died after a relatively short tenure and was succeeded by Spencer W Kimball,┬áthe current president.

Utah County and many of the cities launched a “solid waste” program to handle and recycle the mounting volume of garbage. But the contractor ran into financial difficulties and defaulted. The project is currently shelved.

United Way, organized in 1965 in Utah County grew considerably in the 70’s, with the number of agencies assisted enlarged from 13 to 18. The current president is Dick Marshall of Mapleton, while Jack Holmes of Provo is executive director. The 1979-80 fund drive is still under way.

The counties of Central Utah joined in 1976 in celebrating the nation’s Bicentennial, with numerous patriotic-building events.

Gov. Calvin Rampton completed an unprecedented three-term governorship in Utah and was succeeded by Scott M. Matheson.