Creation of Angela C. Butler Park City Collection in Late 1960s, Before the Progress, and My First Trip to Park City in 1967 with My Father and Future Mayor Park City, Dana Williams, and His Father & Family by Michael Joseph Butler
In the late 1960s my Mother, Angela C. Butler, a self-taught professional photographer of note, made a series of journeys to Park City, Utah because the company her husband worked for, Albert G. Ruben, was starting to do business in the area. At the time Park City was a small ski resort and an old broken down silver mining town.
Coming from Los Angeles, it was really like going back in time to the Old West when towns sprang up around a booming silver and gold mine only to disappear when the mines ran out. Here were structures built in the late 1800s that fueled wealth creation and progress, places that catered to miners who worked hard, played hard, raised families and were the foundation of new cities and societies. Here was physical evidence of a world gone forever; a world that sprang up, thrived, pulsed with vibrancy, innovation, laughter, tears, joy, sadness, hope, promise and then vanished like it never existed.
The Park City we encountered in the late 1960s had a classic Main Street that was run-down with cracked sidewalks and weathered storefronts with boarded up establishments, abandoned silver mines and ore processing facilities with railroad terminus capabilities, lots of run-down houses in various states of occupancy, empty wooden structures just sitting alone in a field, rusty railroad tracks running to and fro, a two-story school for all grades, piles of lumber and junk adjacent to abandoned buildings, large green meadows, meandering creeks teeming with fish, and a struggling one gondola ski resort. During the gondola trip, with the beautiful valley unfolding to the left and the town tucked in the valley on the right, the remnants of mines and processing plants for the silver that flowed out of these hills appeared sporadically.
Main Street was time capsule all by itself. It had a small theater called the Silver Wheel (The Fisherman’s Guild Playing Tue-Fri-Sat), a drug store called Poison Creek Drug with a chalkboard sign in front with Spaghetti Dinner Special for $1.50 (picture to right, click to enlarge), a Union Pacific Train Station with elevation displayed at the bottom of Main Street adjacent to the abandoned Silver King Coalition Aerial Tramway-Railroad Terminus Building (we played in the abandoned and probably dangerous structure, in picture below left I am on right side looking out the window), a small restaurant-bar called simply Oak, the Red Banjo Pizza Parlor, a stand-alone brick building with dresses in the window that was Mike’s Clothes Shop, one modern hotel, where we stayed, named Treasure Mountain Inn, one small run down Public Library, a classic closed, boarded up with broken windows, soda fountain-cafe-confectionary store called Pop Jenks, the Little Bell Boutique store and others I can only remember vaguely that were not photographed by my Mother.
The area and town were ripe to be documented by someone who worked diligently in large format black and white photography, and that happened to be my Mother. Very soon all the buildings and places of interest she photographed would disappear as progress transformed Park City into the world famous resort and home to the Sundance Film Festival the world knows today. Beginning in 1969 or 1970, not sure which, during successive summers this brave woman drove 10 or more unruly kids from Los Angeles to Park City for two-week vacations staying at the Treasure Mountain Inn. The group included my two younger sisters, Kimberly and Leslie, and friends and neighborhood kids whose parents were happy to get rid them for a time. It was an adventure and I frankly don’t know how she had the patience to put up with us for such long stretches.
These were the trips when a majority of the pictures in the Angela C. Butler Park City Collection were created. Angela, with help from a crew, would hike around with her large 2 1/4 format and 35 mm cameras and look for chances to create interesting and beautiful pictures. She couldn’t know that it would be a historical snapshot of a town about to swept away by progress.
Many of the enlargements were framed and decorated the offices of Albert G. Ruben in Beverly Hills and, decades later, graced the office of Park City Mayor Dana Williams during his entire 12-year tenure, 2001-13. Dana’s father, Bob Williams, was an amazing guy with a fantastic sense of humor and adventure, and he totally loved my Mother and her work. Below is the story of my first trip to Park City that included a young Dana Williams.
A 10-Year Old’s First Trip to Park City in Late 1960s with His Father and a Young Dana Williams, Future Mayor of Park City, and Getting Arrested with Him for Breaking Windows in the Famous Judge Loading Station Building That Spawned My Nickname, Rocky
I first went to Park City in the summer, probably 1967 or ’68, with my Father, Ted. H. Butler, horse rider left, the Albert G. Ruben President, the insurance company he worked for, Bob Williams and his three oldest sons, Kenny, Dana (eventual Park City Mayor) and Evan. We stayed at the Treasure Mountain Inn and met a local boy, Mikey Byers, who was a good guide, a terrific source of local folklore and a helpful conduit for getting into trouble. One of my most vivid memories of that trip was going horseback riding in the hills outside of Park City, near what is now Deer Valley. I was a skinny kid on a big horse for the first time and we went up a side-trail that ended and we had turn the horses around in place to head back down to the main trail, that scared the hell out of me. But it was a fun and the only time I ever rode horses with my Father, funny how that works.
Since our Dad’s were in town to do business, the four kids and our local guide Mikey had plenty of time to explore the town, play basketball at the local school, check out the cool abandoned silver mines and processing facilities, explore abandoned houses and structures, go swimming at the hotel, hike around the hills or, as you know, get arrested by the local police for vandalism.
Mikey took us up to the famous Judge Landing Station above town, the Silver King Coalition Mines Building pictured above was at the bottom of town, that was a massive four-story corrugated metal structure. A spur from the Union Pacific High Line was completed to this location and ore from two different mines was loaded on to rail cars for transport to smelting facilities. In 1926 the Judge Mining and Smelting Co. built an aerial tramway to carry processed ore from the Judge (Daly-Judge) mill in Empire Canyon to the rail spur. This four-story building was constructed as a loading station for the aerial tramway. It was demolished in 1976, about seven years after our window breaking foray, for safety reasons after sitting empty for about 25 years.
Pits with burnt timbers and old rusting mining gear lined the sides of the building and the only way inside was to gingerly walk up a three-foot wide angled support timber, might have been a base for a conveyor belt, that led to the upper floors. Most of the windows were in tact but that was about to change. I elected to stay outside while the older boys and Mikey made their way up the beam, leaning over to hang to the sides while carefully placing one foot in front of the other. While this was going on I was throwing rocks through windows from the outside, which was a long toss over the pits and to the upper floors.
Once inside I could hear Kenny, Dana and Mikey exploring around as they gave us updates on their activities. Then large objects started flying out the windows, breaking whole windows completely out, with hoots, hollers and loud bangs emanating from the upper floors of the building. I could only guess what was going on but stuff continued to fly out the windows, then they all came back down about the time a police car pulled up to investigate the disturbance.
Since I was just standing around there was nowhere for me to run to or hide from the officer. However, one of the older boys hid in the pit amongst the burnt timbers, could have been Dana, hoping to avoid a law-enforcement encounter. The officer figured this out and told him to come out or “I will would drop a rock on your head.” I am not sure what happened to Mikey, don’t think anything, but all four of us were driven back to the hotel and presented to our Fathers. After a chat with the officer, during which horse-trading and a getting acquainted session took place, we were each fined $25,00 and it was over, well not quite for me.
Back in Los Angeles, the Park City window breaking story began to circulate among friends at the company and, in particular, to a man named A.C. Warnack, a construction company executive who was also one of my Father’s clients. A funny, down-to-earth good ol’ boy, A.C. picked up on the story and immediately began calling me Rocky. It stuck and I continued to hear it for years, eventually decades later from my Stepbrother Steve who kept it alive for a long time.
This seemed to be a natural extension from my first nickname, Moon Man, which was given to me as a baby when one of my Father’s fraternity brothers looked at my big white head and proclaimed, “No Moon Man, I will not sell you Manhattan Island for twenty-nine dollars in beads.” This one also stuck for quite sometime.