Crescent Junction Memories: a tribute to Dad…by Colleen Wimmer, illustration by Page Holland

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Crescent Junction Postcard. c. 1960.

A glow of light creeps over the eastern horizon. Its intensity heightens until the air is heavy with heat. Dust devils swirl along sheep trails that traverse the hills, while on flatlands yellow tufts of wheat grass bend with southwesterly winds. Across the flatland of washes and sagebrush, from east to west, cuts a single line of railroad tracks… The rails reflect the sun like mirrors, bright and blinding… Parallel to the tracks runs an old highway, cracked and buckled from the shifting shale sands, and next to it a sleek modern freeway, Interstate 70.

Where the old highway meets the interstate, at the narrowest point between the roads and the railroad, sits a meager cafe, an Amoco station, and a little community—two houses, three trailers and a horse corral, to be exact.

In the early 70's the canopy was built over the pumps, and the station changed from Standard Oil to Amoco.  This was the Amoco era.  I can get specific dates from my mom if you need them. Pat is Center, I don't have info on the other two men, probably just random customers.    A few years after this photo, a Semi missed the turn from Moab to Thompson and took out the whole awning and the first row of pumps.  I have some photos from that morning.  Lucky it wasn't a big fireball.

In the early 70’s the canopy was built over the pumps, and the station changed from Standard Oil to Amoco. This was the Amoco era. Pat is Center, I don’t have info on the other two men, probably just random customers.
A few years after this photo, a Semi missed the turn from Moab to Thompson and took out the whole awning and the first row of pumps. I have some photos from that morning. Lucky it wasn’t a big fireball.

Before the highway was built, long before the freeway was even invented, this little community was just a switching station. And when Dad came with his father and family in June of ’47 to build a business there, it was called Brendell. Old timers still call it Brendell, but Grandad named it Crescent, for the bend the railroad tracks take along the flatland. It doesn’t resemble much of a switching station anymore. An extra row of tracks and old loading ramps are all that remain. Now it’s a truckstop whose backyard is cluttered with old cars—relics from the fifties and sixties, piles of ties, empty bomb boxes from World War II, and an assortment of someday useful junk that has found its home there.

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A soft smear of light marks the horizon to begin another day at Crescent. The stars to the east slowly fade one by one, and to the south, the ragged clefts that edge Salt Valley cast soft shadows on the valley floor. A range of cliffs resembling a library shelf of grey-bound novels forms the northern border of the flatland, looming above the desert—harsh, stark and grey. But in these early morning hours, its sandy base and rocky rims are lavender and distant. The desert sun is low and mellow, and the air is still cool from the night when Dad wakes, stares in the mirror at a reddened face and puffy eyes. He slowly pulls his Levi’s on. They have holes where battery acid splattered on them, and a little grease around the bottom, but they’ve got a long way to go before they’re really dirty. He buttons his grease-stained shirt, fumbles with the laces of his work shoes and mutters to himself, “Another day, another dollar…”

By the time he reaches the horse corral, the sun is in full view and beginning to warm the desert floor. He untwists the mess of wires on the gate and opens it wide for the horses to pass through. He pats each one on the flank or scratches their foreheads. He tells them to stay away from the freeway and warns that if they run off to Thompson (six miles away,) he’s going to lock them up for a couple of days. He stays there and watches them pick their way through the junked cars. Then they bolt, with tails in the air, over the railroad tracks and across the flats.

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Interior of the Station, I’d say early to mid 60’s. Dad is talking to his dog.

Buddy meets him at the door of the Station. He barks, paws the window in the door, sits, whispers, whines, and turns circles while Dad unlocks the door. In short, he tries every trick he has ever learned. Dad knows what Buddy wants and throws him a piece of beef jerky. He’s a faithful companion for the rest of the day. Wherever Dad is, Buddy is. If he’s lying outside a door, Dad is inside. If you can’t find one, most of the time you can’t find the other.

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This, I believe, is the first service station built at Crescent around 1947. There was a lunch counter inside, it was built approximately between and in front of the now existing buildings.

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This is mid 50’s, looks like it was taken the same day as the one of Pat in front of the station with the other attendant. Window display matches.

After Dad opens up the garage doors, and sets out all of the equipment—the air jack, the old rack—he ambles over to the Cafe to have a cup of coffee with Grandma. They discuss the newspaper and worry about the heat, her back, and the sad state the world is in. While they sip their coffee, the temperature is rising. By noon it will be in the high nineties, and Dad knows he’s got a lot of work to do before the heat sets in. There is always garbage to be hauled and cars that need to be fixed. If the air conditioner isn’t broken, then the sewer is backed up, or the pipe line that comes all the way from Thompson with the water supply has sprung a leak and is forming an oasis. Sometimes he has to jump in the wrecker and fly down the freeway to chase the horses off the road and back down the flats. There are always bills to be paid, gas to be ordered, and books to be balanced. He has hired help, but aside from pumping gas and fixing minor car repairs, he has to do most of the work himself. He knows that if it’s going to be done right, he has to do it. In short, Dad’s the plumber, the carpenter, the bookkeeper, the gardener, the garbageman, and the cowboy of Crescent Junction.

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When a tourist naively asks him, “What’s there to do around here?” he just grins to himself and doesn’t bother to explain. When they ask about the plaque on the wall of the service station that reads, “In memory of Ed Wimmer, a dream fulfilled,” he tells them about Granddad and how he wanted to build a business here. They either stare at him blankly or whisper among themselves, “Why here? This was his dream?” Few people understand, but he really doesn’t expect them to.

Dad doesn’t mind the hard work, and he really doesn’t care what people think of the place either. He sweats and swears, and grumbles at the hired help. Sometimes he’s just a mean old bear. But he almost always apologizes. It’s funny how he grumbles at the tourists who run out of gas five miles down the road but always gives them a free ride back to their car—or at least trusts them with a gas can. And it doesn’t matter how busy he is, he always has time to watch the sun set.

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At night, when the desert is cooling down, and Dad finally has time for himself, he lies on the grass in the front yard. With his hands behind his head, he hunts through the vast expanse of stars for the Big Dipper. He thinks about what happened during the day and worries about what he didn’t get done. Sometimes he dreams about the places he wants to go, and the land he wants to buy so he can build his adobe house and just raise horses—that is, if he ever gets the money. But he knows that he can never leave for very long and that it’s already asking a lot just to save enough money to help his daughters with college and to keep his two grandkids in toys. Besides, he doesn’t want to move. It’s more than just a place where work is never done, more than just a greasy, grimy gas station in the middle of the desert.

Dad lies there for hours sometimes just listening. A warm summer zephyr rustles in the trees and busy little crickets rub their feet together. Out on the parking lot, diesel engines purr and bats swoop at the light posts, while the horses pace restlessly in their corral. Sometimes Buddy barks at nothing and distant voices drift from the houses. As the moon rises boldly over the freeway, all these sounds echo through the cool night and finally fade into the openness. They speak to a man of comfort in simplicity.

In addition to the illustration, Page Holland contributed the photographs and their captions.

To read the PDF version of this article, click here.

To comment, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget the Zephyr ads! All links are hot!

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27 comments for “Crescent Junction Memories: a tribute to Dad…by Colleen Wimmer, illustration by Page Holland

  1. Sheryl Butrymowicz
    June 3, 2015 at 9:44 am

    How charming. I love towns where everybody knows who you are 5 minutes after your arrival. I love Klamath County.

  2. Sheryl Butrymowicz
    June 3, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Sorry. I thought this was out of Oregon. My first two comments still stand.

  3. Donna Brownell
    June 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Pat Wimmer raised 4 lovely, talented and accomplished daughters at Crescent Junction.

  4. Bobbe Wimmer Kidrick
    June 3, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Well written and fitting…about the only thing I would add would be this. Pat was also our “grumpy bear”, but with a heart as big as all outdoors, who would be there to help anybody , anytime.

  5. Ray Pini
    June 3, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    …Crescent Junction wasn’t just a “place”… it was a way of life… it was “life”… The characters were all part of that existence… and Pat n Al n Tony were just a few of those characters…
    …lots of memories from there… and it’s all good…

  6. Denice Hoffman
    June 3, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    What a wonderful story that brought back many grand memories. Thank you

  7. Deanna Mecham
    June 4, 2015 at 1:41 am

    This is very beautifully written.I hadn’t about your family 4 years. pat was a great friend to my dad Nolan Curtis, who ran gas stations in Green River. your descriptions remind me I love him also. thanks so much

  8. Jesse Powell
    June 4, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Great work Page and Colleen I have great UHP memories of you and your family

  9. Dan E Young
    June 4, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    great telling

    I remember when it was a long long way to crescent. And once in a while not very often because we were poor. We would get to stop for an ice cream cone on the way back from punching cows up Thompson and sego canyons in the 60s and 70s. I remember your grandma at the cafe when I was very young and pat also and then when I was a bit older stopped for food everyday when driving truck in the 80s. Also got married there to !

  10. Tine
    June 5, 2015 at 1:20 am

    Colleen and age,
    What a work of collaborative art. As you know, I never knew your Dad – but now I get a familiar feeling of his ways and wonders.

    It makes me “homesick” to read your story and look at the illustrations.

    Hope to see you all again soon,

    Love Tine

  11. Marilyn Hunt Every
    June 5, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I loved this. You’re a great writer. My dad, Gene Hunt, used to bring the gasoline to Crescent. I got to ride with him sometimes. I really liked Pat. This brought back many memories. Thank you.

  12. AJ Rogers
    June 6, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    I lived in Thompson during those times and everything in the story is just as I remember our little neighboring Crescent Jct burg. Well done by both of you dear schoolmates! Thank goodness some folks take the time to record the simple but important memories and histories.
    AJR

  13. dutch zimmerman
    July 9, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Almost every trip north it was hamburger time. Pat was a neat man!

  14. david irish
    August 20, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    So glad I happened upon this article. Nice job Colleen and Page. You both know that crescent junction was always a place that we stopped. Dad and Pat knew each other well, as did our families.

  15. Jim Macpherson
    February 27, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Great Tribute! I miss Utah

  16. Bill Dickerson
    February 27, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Great job ladies! I remember visiting often with Quint ,Stacie and Kelly. Swimming out back!! And a few skiing trips that originated from there with the Langs!

  17. Yvonne
    May 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Beautifully written. ….I love when I can read a story and feel as though I am there ,thanks ….great job

  18. Ron Pene
    February 22, 2017 at 11:03 am

    So very well written. Colleen and Page, you are spot on. Pat was a “man’s man”. I learned so much from him and Al, in conjunction with Dad, (Tony). Pat had me drive the jeep from his house to the “ball field”, he had to bring the water truck over to wet down the field. Uravan’s ball team came to play the Crescent Junction hard ball team. I remember it well. I was 11 at the time. What a thrill. Pat was a “teacher” if any one wanted to listen.

  19. LaDyne Pene
    February 22, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    This is such a great read, what a great job Colleen and Page! Pat was such a good guy, never heard a negative word said about him. I still remember the old phone number at Crescent Junction. I was surely a hard one……………….Crescent Junction number 1!

  20. Rich Haycock
    February 23, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I spent many years as a UHP trooper in and out of this place. Some of the finest memories in my life I spent at Crescent Junction. One thing the story didn’t tell was the generosity displayed…the food, gas, car repairs, time and energy these people put in to helping other people that passed by who need a hand. They would’ve been millionaires if they’ve been paid for all they did . Great story, thanks for sharing.

  21. Tracy Flynn
    February 23, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Well done Colleen and Page.
    Beautiful tribute.

  22. Pamela Fedrizzi
    February 24, 2017 at 7:22 am

    I remember Crescent Junction well. During my childhood, our family owned and operated a Conoco station in Thompson as well as Moab. CJ was to first stopping point to get out and buy a soda. I was always excited when a train would come roaring by while we were enjoying our brief stop. I miss those days. Love the history behind it all.

  23. Brent Hawks
    February 24, 2017 at 11:07 am

    In the 60’s my Grandfather, Cecil Thomson, used to take me to Crescent for lunch on occasion. Wonderful memories. Thank you.

  24. Clinton C. Finicle
    February 25, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    I spent a lot of time Crescent, as a kid. I have truly fond memories and miss the time I spent there greatly.

  25. Bob Robertson
    May 1, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Dad ran a gas station in neighboring Thompson Springs around 1935, lived in a tent with Mom and sister Maurine until they moved the Valley City school house to Thompson. I was born in the Grand County Hospital in Moab in 1937, we moved to Moab a couple of years later. Pat was a friend and dear gentleman to our family, My sister was a good friend to Pat’s sister, Bobbie, and his brother Duane helped our scout group. Thanks for the long ago memories, so great to relive an important part of my own history.

  26. Leslie Watson
    May 9, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Sign language learned, icecream cones served out the window, truckers with this their routine stop, Burke Taylor making it to work in 18 minutes from Moab, and yes I was a passenger a few of those times. Hiring this 12 year old to wait on tables, to learn to serve with a smile and actually enjoy the work. Pat and Gerrie were great cousins.

  27. Brent Richeson
    May 10, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Wow brings back such good memories, i had the pleasure of working out there for a summer. Its still one of my favorite stories to tell. The restaurant had this awesome chili burger man o man was it good. I miss those days and i so miss all the sisters out there! Its not just a place its a destination, part time home, and makes me smile everytime i pass by headed home.

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