History: Monument at Colorado/Utah state line gets facelift
GJ History Columnist
On Jan. 29, 2015, the Colorado/Utah state line monument was removed and sent to Grand Junction for much needed restoration. It lived at the old section of Highway 50 for over 83 years. The face lift was not just to repair the wear of time; it will also fix marks from spray cans and bullet holes, made by people who apparently felt the need to deface the monument dedicated on September 25, 1931.
The monument, once the crown of the highway system joining two states together, was a tourist stop and photo opportunity for travelers. Before Highway 50 was completed in the 1930s between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City, driving between the two cities took almost 36 hours. Colorado and Utah, along with the federal government, worked together to complete Highway 50, promising a road that was paved, oiled or well graded for the general public to drive.
The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce suggested we needed a monument on the state line and the communities of Grand Junction, Colorado, and Price, Utah, promised to pay for and build a monument. Three designers from the Public Service Company were chosen to make the plans for the cement monument. A huge two-day event including the dedication was planned with representatives from Grand Junction and Price working together on the project. Ultimately the City of Price was unable to raise their portion of the cost of the monument and Grand Junction paid the entire expense.
The local Grand Junction Chamber of Commence reserved rooms in town for the upcoming event and asked the people of Grand Junction to rent out rooms for all the visitors who were coming; with 5,000 to 8,000 people expected, there would be a shortage of rooms.
Among the Thursday events on Sept. 24 was a street dance, a carnival, the Governor’s Banquet (where 800 people were expected to attend); and a movie, “Monkey Business,” by the Marx Brothers was shown at the Avalon Theater at midnight.
Governor Adams of Colorado came to Grand Junction for the Governor’s Banquet. He and Governor Dern of Utah were to speak, however, Gov. Dern missed his train from Salt Lake City, and H.S. Kerr, chief engineer of the Utah Road Department, spoke on his behalf. Congressman Edward Taylor was also present to welcome all to drive the new road. This new road was compared to the railroad coming to Grand Junction in 1882.
On Friday morning at the state line, 500 people gathered for the event; the highway department took care of parking; and Mr. E.E. Johnson of Green River, Utah, showed up with a truck load of melons for everyone.
At 10 a.m., the state line dedication began and William Weiser, master of ceremonies, introduced Charles Vail, chief engineer of the Colorado Highway Department, and H.S. Kerr, chief engineer of Utah State Highway Department, who both spoke, saying they were glad to be here to dedicate the monument. Two young ladies, Betty Welch and Roberta Roberts, unveiled the monument; the Carbon County Utah High School Band played; the Army Douglas bombers flew overhead; pictures were taken; and everyone enjoyed Green River watermelons.
The Universal News Corporation had camera crews flying overhead and on the ground to film a Newsreel of the dedication to be played in movie houses across the nation.
The ceremony took only about 45 minutes and the September weather was fair, so everyone wanted to get back to Grand Junction for the festivities.
There was a barbecue at Lincoln Park with over 9,000 sandwiches of beef, elk and buffalo served. The local elk and buffalo provided were hunted on the Colorado National Monument by the State Game Wardens.
There was another street dance and the carnival continued. An air circus was in town along with parachute jumpers. The Army Douglas bombers were also on the ground, and the public was invited to visit the planes and take 10-minute flights. A lucky few were privileged to ride in the planes over the dedication site to view the new scenic highway from the air.
There was an afternoon football game between Grand Junction and Fruita, with bands from the local schools playing.
At 7 p.m. there was a parade and the crowning of the “Queen of the Rockies.” The contestants came from various community queens — Misses Grand Junction, Delta, Fruitvale, Palisade, Appleton, Clifton, Redlands, Fruita, Price, and Fairmont all competed, with Elise Copperberg, Miss Fruitvale, being chosen.
In January of 2001, I took a photo of the monument and it was in fair condition with only what appeared to be a few bullet holes. Between 2001 and 2015, someone almost destroyed the work of so many people from communities in Colorado and Utah.
Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis put together a group of people to restore the state line monument to its original form. At the beginning of the year, the monument refurbishment began.
Mark Twain once wrote, “The watermelon was the King of the Fruits of the Earth, it was not a watermelon Adam and Eve ate, we know they repented.”
So for any vandals with a spray can or gun who likes to destroy things … the moral of the story is … when you feel bad, just go find yourself a Green River watermelon, sit down and eat it, and when you’re through you’ll feel a lot better.
Photos and information: Museum of Western Colorado, Loyd Files Research Room, Michael Menard, Dave Bailey, Marie Tipping: Scott McInnis: Daily Sentinel: Snap Photo: Route 1 Mack, Colorado by Homer & Phyllis Likes: Times Independent Utah: News Advocate, Utah:
Garry Brewer is storyteller of the tribe; finder of odd knowledge and uninteresting items; a bore to his grandchildren; a pain to his wife on spelling; but a locator of golden nuggets, truths and pearls of wisdom. Email Garry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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