Jay Meehan: Bench musings
Ryan Summerlin June 10, 2014
A classic early-June Utah bluebird day spent moseying from one bench to another proved a great way of checking out the old mining camp while unleashing old memories and making new ones. Park City couldn’t have looked any more the same or appeared more different.
From the bashed Banksy alley corner that once housed the Crazy Horse Saloon and the Robber’s Roost, the bench provided not only a space to doctor the large iced mocha but also time to reflect on both the ’71 Fourth of July culture riot and the ’72 (or was it ’73?) fire that took out most of the block across the street.
Larry McKown and Jim Patton had thrown together the Crazy Horse in the early ’70s following their success with the Buffalo Grill in the old Pop Jenks building across the street and a bit uphill from the Alamo. We habitués of the Horse made up in decibels what we lacked in subtlety.
In fact the riot going on outside the joint following the Independence Day parade that year may well have been more nuanced than the bedlam normally occurring at the bar or on the dance floor on a normal evening. It was a safe haven for a few of us on that most rowdy of days, however.
After Larry and Jim threw in the towel with the Crazy Horse, Terry Jannott’s Robber’s Roost generated some legendary outlaw ambiance of its own within those same hallowed walls. The biggest bang came from the fire that erased the Poison Creek Drug Store, the Oak Saloon and a couple of other buildings on the opposite side of Main, however.
The next bench in question reposed somewhat smugly down in front of the No Name Saloon. Fashioned of sandstone slabs, and heated by the energy harnessed from a cloud of old hippy vibes, this is one of the two benches on the tour built by Park City Mucker Rugby legend George "The Hack" Austin.
Reclining on "George" was this quite-comely young lady who, as soon as I joined her, must have remembered a previous engagement. Her exit may well have debunked the old Einstein theory about the speed of light.
Back when the No Name was the Alamo Saloon, this was ground zero. You had the much-smaller post office, the ever-so-important unemployment office, the Ink, Paint, and Clay art gallery with its aesthetic eye candy and guitar lessons, and the laundromat, which remains down at the end of the same long hallway.
The benches outside Dolly’s Bookstore beckoned next. After checking to see if Thomas Pynchon’s "Bleeding Edge" had yet morphed from hardcover to paperback (it hadn’t) I picked up Walter Isaacson’s "Steve Jobs" biography, which had not only come out in softcover, but also in a quite geezer-friendly font size.
The next lounging spot in my crosshairs was the Gary Weiss memorial bench outside the north entrance to the library down at the Carl Winters School building on Park Avenue. Taking the scenic route down to lower Main and up and over the Town Lift Bridge, lower Woodside, with its prism-wide color scheme and somewhat quirky architecture, hadn’t lost any of its charm.
The crack security detail at the now-fenced-in library remodel construction site, however, stopped me dead in my tracks before I could even get a visual on Gary’s bench. Directing me on down Park Avenue to the library’s new temporary digs at the Miners Hospital, though, softened the blow considerably.
I hadn’t even thought of those cool benches in the landscaped area out front of the Miners Hospital when I put together my itinerary for the day but they fit in perfectly. Something about the way the light filtered through the trees and played off that wonderful old building that I once lived behind when it was up where Shadow Ridge is now.
Although I would end up cruising the base area at PCMR before the day ended, I knew all along upon which bench the day’s benediction would be celebrated. And that could be none other than the one George-the-Hack set up with the help of Tom Lauder under a shade tree just off the rugby pitch at City Park to honor Ernie "The Breadman" Scow.
The trees we planted for Stormin’ Norman Hall and Rusty Prudence following their passing already consecrate this holy ground and the bench for Ernie is icing in the Twinkie, so to speak.
Memories of when the pitch once ran east and west encompassing much of the softball dirt infield spar with those of when we’d pull the Mucker Bus along the sideline and broadcast the rugby matches live from its roof over KPCW. That’s the word from the trenches and the benches! I must say, it’s still a pretty cool town!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.