Jay Meehan: Backstage pass
Park Record columnist
I could be wrong, but I don’t really think all that much has changed. Internally, I mean. It would seem that those of us who arrived in Park City with left-leaning baggage from the ‘60s continue to pack similar carry-ons. And the same goes for the locals. Most of them, including close friends, to some degree retain the politics of their forbearers.
Not that some among the younger set didn’t bond with the newcomers and their ways in such a manner that their socio-political wiring didn’t get crossed. It just seems that, over time, most of them have gotten their pre-invasion religion back. Trump’s ascension, of course, makes this easier to measure.
Swede Alley retained much more of its earlier Chinatown flavor back then. It could have been the corrugated Quonset-hut look that pervaded the space but, no matter, it had yet to become the default staging area for Park City’s Fourth of July parade. In the main, that honor went to the empty lots near the “Turn Around” at the top of Main Street.
I’m reminded of all this due to investing more time, for a variety of reasons, rummaging through an old box of photos that has ascended from the shadowland under the fly-tying desk to a place of moderate prominence upon a rather hefty old-growth coffee table.
With yet another Independence Day looming in the short term, a half-dozen images caught my eye. Obviously shot with the Instamatic technology of the day, they almost appear to be from the dawn of color photography. You halfway expect Walt Whitman to enter the frame.
In his stead, however, we are awarded the likes of “Big George” Prudence sporting a British “Bobby’s” uniform while holding out a bottle of Champagne as if it were the fruits of a successful upland-game hunt.
Another features local entrepreneur and social impresario Larry McKown in an all-black get-up and stovepipe hat that, these many years later, could recall anything from an undertaker to a chimney sweep. Or, of course, cutting the dashing figure he always did, it might well be a period tuxedo.
Yet another image, taken from the interior of the Crazy Horse Saloon, captures Larry’s partner, Jim Patten, along with born-and-raised Parkite Jim Munro tending the cash register behind the bar. Or, they may be in the act of, due to an edict from the local constabulary, closing down the joint for the day. More on that later.
The final three images are of a couple of “floats” from the parade itself. The first is of Park City’s Rocky Mountain Power “cherry-picker” truck, the one linemen use to telescope themselves up to work on transformers and such. Astride the tucked-away “boom” are the pickin’ and grinnin’ members of the band “Slumgullion.”
Replete with a banner running beneath them along the bed of the truck, the then current band-in-residence, at the Alpine Prospector Bar on upper Main Street, had grown quite the local following, also performing at “The Oak Saloon” and up closer to the Resort in support of stripper Shirley Price at the C’est Bon.
Now we come to the two definitive shots of the day. Taken both in profile and from the rear, in hindsight, these shots of a “counterculture” entry speak volumes. The side shot is, at first glance, innocuous enough: a Conestoga-like, bough-encrusted frame upon a flatbed truck with a huge American flag draped along the side framing a quorum of “longhairs.”
It’s the next one, taken after the “float” had passed from in front of the Crazy Horse Saloon and including on the far side of the street, the soon to be lost-to-fire Poison Creek Drug and The Oak Saloon, that turned heads. Draped across the rear of the quite organic and rustic-looking affair was a somewhat smaller flag featuring, in the “star field,” a white-on-blue peace sign.
A sign of the times, to be sure. Many of us were having trouble digesting the mega body-bag counts arriving daily from the Pentagon, and we gave the “protest float” a standing ovation as it passed. This was 1971 and, obviously to the locals, a bit brazen for the mores of the community.
Suffice to say that, with the arrival of a barrage of errant post-parade water balloons, a “culture riot” of not-small proportions ensued. Park City was put under quarantine with roads in and out of town, not to mention that the Crazy Horse Saloon officially shut down.
As time went on, we became a community. And so it goes. Happy Independence Day!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”