Columnist Tom Clyde recalls early years
He was the town’s first city attorney in the 1980s
Record contributing writer
Tom Clyde recently marked 30 years of writing his popular column,” More Dogs on Main Street,” for The Park Record, a long run for a regular guy from Woodland who never considered himself a writer (though he admits he was an English major in college).
His spot-on, often-self-effacing and sometimes-folksy weekly columns have been entertaining the town for three decades, dealing with the mundane, the annoying and, occasionally, the absurd.
Though most Parkites delight in Clyde’s column, few are aware of his key role as the town’s first city attorney in the 1980s. In his early 60s now, he bore witness to Park City’s tumultuous, often-contentious transition from a small ski town to the world-class destination resort it has become. It was, he says, “a quantum leap.”
Clyde grew up in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City. “I had the perfect ‘Leave it to Beaver’ childhood, 1950s suburban bliss,” Clyde said.
During his “free-range growing up,” he attended Irving Junior High School (now a condominium complex) and went on to graduate from Highland High School. A prodigious student, he went straight on to the University of Utah.
“I took a degree in English, which qualified me to do next to nothing. It was actually a double major in English and History, so I was doubly unemployable,” he said wryly.
Weighing his sketchy job prospects, Clyde chose to follow his father’s footsteps into law school. “It just seemed like the logical thing to do,” he said.
A newly minted lawyer in 1978, at the tender age of 24, he settled in the valley and went to work at his father’s law firm, mostly preparing real property loan documents for a client bank.
It wasn’t a good fit.
“I hated the work and was getting sick of the winter temperature inversions, when you couldn’t see your shadow for weeks at a time,” Clyde said.
In 1982 he learned Park City was shopping for an attorney to handle its burgeoning legal responsibilities. He jumped at the chance, got the job and made the move to the high country, settling into a house on Ontario Avenue above Main Street.
He was no stranger to the town.
“I grew up skiing in Park City and watching the town grow,” he said. “I had a grandmother in Heber and dad had bought an 800-acre ranch in Woodland in the early 1950s, so we made the loop through Park City pretty regularly.”
In 1984, Clyde built a home on the family ranch in Woodland and has lived there ever since.
The city attorney job was all-consuming, he recalls.
“It was absolutely the Wild West,” Clyde said. “Park City was growing so fast and the budget hadn’t caught up with demands. I had no staff, just me and a typewriter. I had stuff flying at me so fast I couldn’t possibly keep up. Deer Valley was just coming on line. We had no precedent, no infrastructure or ordinances to deal with such a spooky rate of growth. It was combat all the time.”
Nevertheless, Clyde loved the work, in the beginning.
“It was a lot of fun while we were all moving in the same direction,” he said. “We shared two secretaries among the entire administrative staff and had to do everything.”
Over time, the nonstop city attorney’s job lost its luster.
“The pressure finally cooked me,” Clyde said.
He left the post after a frenetic five years, proud of the work he’d done. He then went into private practice.
Clyde’s long-running, now iconic Park Record column was first published in 1986. His penchant for writing up amusing, phony agenda items for City Council meetings caught the eye of prominent, longtime Park City resident Teri Orr, then the paper’s editor, who attended and reported on council meetings. When she suggested the idea of a weekly column, he decided to give it a try. Thirty years later, he’s still “trying.”
“More Dogs on Main Street,” the somewhat arcane title of Clyde’s column, derives from a campaign slogan coined by a local character named O.D. McGee (Jay Meehan’s brother) who ran for Park City mayor in the early 1980s. His platform: There was nothing wrong with Park City that couldn’t be cured by having more dogs on Main Street. This was at a time when historic Main Street was perpetually littered with canine “land mines,” and a trip to pick up mail at the post office resembled a game of hopscotch.
A keen observer of the town with a gift for capturing the amusing and the absurd, Clyde and a small gang of rabble rousers created the Park City Follies in 2000. The annual comedic romp, which skewers the town without mercy, draws sellout crowds every spring at the historic Egyptian Theatre.
“We’re always drawing material for the follies,” he said. “The mood and issues in town are a little different every year. We start writing in September, meeting every Wednesday night for ‘follies home evening.’”
Though Clyde claims to be “semi-retired” now, he remains an avid skier, averaging 100 days a season on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley.
“The winters are so long and gruesome,” he said. “I can’t imagine anyone living in this climate and not skiing.”
When the snow melts he works the family ranch, managing to slip in a few long-distance bicycling trips with friends during the summer.
“I started out mountain biking in the 1980s, and gradually transitioned to road bikes as I got older and it hurt more,” Clyde said.
Looking back over his career and his lifetime bond to Park City, Clyde says he’s most proud of his role, with Jan Wilking and others, in creating the Mountain Trails Foundation in 1986.
“When we saw many of our trails disappearing under developments, we knew we had to do something,” he said.
It’s hard to imagine what mountain bikers and skate skiers would do without the incredible trail system that has evolved here.
Clyde also collects antique tractors. His favorite is a 1943 Farmall, and he admits he often writes his best columns in his head while plowing or harvesting hay in his late-model, air-conditioned Kubota.
“I’m still having fun with the column, hard to believe it’s been 30 years,” he said, adding, “I don’t intend to stop.”
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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