“Utah native Max Gene Leonard got a job with the US Department of Defense school system as a school master after visiting Europe in 1950 at the invitation of his brother Leo B. Leonard, the US Army head of military police in Stuttgart,” writes his son Michael Leonard, who provides captions to his father pictures. “Max was a teacher in Utah and a history major. He loved traveling in Europe. He first worked in the UK, at Shaftesbury, then Upper Heyford and Lakenheath. He met my mother in Bournemouth, Dorset. Later we moved to Germany and lived for 10 years in Wiesbaden before moving to Rhein/Main Airbase where he retired in 1989.”
Luckily for us, Max took pictures on his travels, often using a Kodachrome camera. In this story we look at his photographs of Utah in the 1950s.
Max’s nephew, Dr. Leo D. Leonard, has more about Max’s years in Price, Salt Lake County and elsewhere in his native Utah.
“In 1947 and 1948, Max was at the University of Utah and working in a gas station with an attached repair garage where he had keys to many cars, writes Leo. What a thrill to have Max arrive unannounced at our home at 323 “E” Street in Salt Lake to give Phil and I a ride. Oh! How we loved to get Max to speed up Emigration Canyon and down Parleys. Even racing along 11th Avenue by the cemetery was a very big deal. Max usually had a convertible or a new big car he had borrowed from the garage, such as a Buick. I remember especially a big yellow 1947 Roadmaster. All the neighbor kids begged for a ride. Sometimes he would take them for a short ride, but no fast driving while they were aboard. The kids thought I was making up Max’s racing up the Canyon. After I told Max that my honesty was in question, he took my neighborhood friends (Alan Johnson and Phil Tanner) on the ride of their lives. After that, Max was the neighborhood hero…or at least one of them!
“I often think of Max in that way when remembering those years. Cash was very scarce in those years in Price. I used to save all my pennies for Uncle Piggly Wiggly books. I seldom saved enough to purchase a book. Max often made up the difference so that I could walk uptown to Price Trading to purchase my treasured book.
“I also remember those evenings in Price where the whole family would sit around the big dining room table reading newspapers or V-Mail letters from my father or Uncle Jack who were serving in the armed forces overseas.”
And now Max in his own words:
I was born in Peerless, a small mining town in Carbon County, Utah on December 21, 1922. I was the seventh of nine children born to Zoe Ellen (Powell) and Leopold Leonard. My parents had moved from Price to Peerless, about 10 miles away, in 1920, in order for my father to assume his new position as a tipple and weigh boss at the mine. They rented our house in Price while they were living in Peerless. Peerless was the first of several coal mining towns located in a small box canyon that was about nine miles long and that was known as Spring Canyon. These towns were connected by a narrow dirt road and a railroad that was used for hauling out the coal that was mined near each town. Peerless was made up of just about fourteen houses that were laid out on each side of the canyon. At the entrance to the canyon was the large tipple where the coal was loaded on to the railroad car after being hauled up the road from the mines.
The coal miners homes where made of wood. They had large balconies on one side and wooden steps on the other side. These homes lacked such essential amenities as bathrooms and running water for bathing, cooking and dish washing. Water had to be hand carried from a communal water hydrant that had to be hand pumped. We didn’t have an indoor toilet. Facilities consisted of a small wooden structure placed over a hold in the ground. It was called an outhouse. That was because it was out back some distance from the main house. With these inconveniences to contend with bathing was a once a week ritual. It was usually done on Saturday night. Toileting was never a nocturnal activity unless there was an emergency. It was dark and cold out back and you never knew what you might encounter as we lived in a remote canyon where it wasn’t unusual to see wild animals…
Shortly after beginning my second year at Carbon College Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on 7 December, 1941. Many of my friends signed up for one of the branches of the armed forces and others were soon drafted in to the military services. Because the polio left my left leg paralyzed I was classified as 4F and was unable to join the military forces. This was very disappointing for me because I wanted to be with my friends and to serve my country. During my two years at Carbon Jr. College I lived at home on South Carbon Avenue. My father still led his orchestra that played at the mining camps in the area and he gave me a job playing piano. Dad had a master degree in music and he taught each of us to play one or more instruments. The income provided me with money for clothing an a little entertainment. Mother and dad gave me free room and meals for which I was most grateful.
During the summer months I got work with the State Road Department along with my dad. We were painting the yellow stripes on the state highways. We drove from Price to Moab and from Price to Soldiers Summit which went north through Price Canyon. My dad operated the flow of paint to the road while I guided the truck trying my best to keep the yellow stripe straight on the road. Driving was difficult as I couldn’t bend my knee and I had to maneuver my hips to work the pedals. It was hot and the sun was bright, which made it harder. Sometimes the temperatures got to well over 100 F. The heat was the worst on the stretches from Price to Moab which was a dry desert. During the day it didn’t seem so bad. I was young and used to it. We felt the heat more at night when we were trying to sleep in the hotels at Crescent Junction and Moab. This was before air conditioning and there wasn’t a breeze. It was hot all night long. Somehow dad and I survived and I look back on those days working together as a good experience.
After finishing my two years at Carbon Jr. College I moved to Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah. My brother Stanley gave me a place to live in his home even thought it meant that his two girls would have to sleep in one bed. He helped me obtain employment at a gas station on weekends and after school so I could have enough money to eventually get a room near the university. Stanley was a very kind hearted person who helped his parents before getting married by allowing them to buy groceries at his expense in the grocery store where he worked. I’ll never forget how he and Beth helped me. The years I attended the University of Utah will always be etched in my memory. It was years of hard work to finish my degrees and years of memorable experiences outside the classroom.
Getting the First Job as a Teacher
After completing my years of education at the University of Utah I got a job teaching at the Helper Jr. High School. I enjoyed my years at this school. It was a good teaching experience. It provided me with the opportunity to get to know my older sister Birdie who often invited me to lunch at her home in Helper. Birdie got married when I was about four years old and moved from Peerless where we lived, to Helper so I never got to know her as well as my brothers and sister who were younger. Gerry, one of Birdie’s daughters was one of my students at the Helper Jr. High School. She was a straight A student who was a great asset to my classroom.
During the summer after my first year at Helper I got a job with the Utah State Dept of Business Regulation in Salt Lake City. I moved to Salt Lake and worked for about a year at this job. Because it was a political appointment position dependent on which political party gave you the job, I lost my job because the governor who was a democrat lost the election to a republican. I was a victim of the Spoils System. During the summer I got a job with R.L. Polk & Company, a company that published a directory of businesses and people living in large cities. They sold advertising to businesses in their directory which helped pay for it. I was hired to learn all facets of the business so I could eventually become a manager responsible for putting together the whole directory.
Working Some Summer Jobs
My first assignment was with the big office in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. I started learning the responsibilities of every position and actually performing all aspects of each position. During this time I was living in a hotel and eating in restaurants. Life after working hours was lonely. I hadn’t been able to make any close friends so after dinner I usually went to my room and read till I fell asleep.
After learning most aspects of the job I was transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio with a more responsible position. I found a room in the local Y.M.C.A. that was more reasonable than a hotel. I settled down to learning my new job, but my after work life was still lonely. Back in Utah I never suffered from loneliness, this was a new experience that I wasn’t enjoying. To make matters worse Cincinnati’s weather was unbearable. Every day was hot and very humid. Not many offices and hotels had air conditioning so you suffered the heat day and night. It was so different from Utah’s climate. Each day I struggled to go to work during this period of depression. I encountered in the lobby of the Y.M.C.A. a fellow from Price, Utah who had played trumpet in Dad’s orchestra when I was playing with Dad. I asked him what he was doing in Cincinnati? He told me “my parents live here and I am originally from here.” He asked me what I was doing and I told him. He said “why don’t we drive back to Utah in your car?” after I told him I wasn’t happy living there. After thinking about his suggestion for several days I asked for a leave-of-absence from my job. They granted me two weeks so back to Salt Lake I went.
Upon my arrival I started looking for a job. I found one selling supplies to beauty and barber shops in Salt Lake and little towns like Kamas, Park City and counties north of Salt Lake. I had to use my car which I didn’t like because I was traveling a lot of miles each day. Even though I was reimbursed so much per mile it wasn’t enough to cover the wear and tear on the car. After working at this job for about a month I decided to apply for a teaching position in Carbon Co. I was offered a job in the new Dragerton Jr. High School, so I took it. I lived at home with Mom and Dad and shared rides with two other teachers living in Price.
I lived at home with Mom and Dad and shared rides with two other teachers living in Price.
The first year I worked at Dragerton I bought a new Chevrolet Coupe. Mother and dad didn’t have a car because their Kaiser had been totaled by Bob. Even though they had obtained a fair settlement from the Kaiser from the insurance company with my help they hadn’t purchased another car. After I got my new car I took dad and mother around or let them borrow it to go sit on Price Main Street and watch the people go by which they seemed to enjoy.
The Letter From Brother Leo in Germany
During the spring of 1950 my parents received a letter from my brother Leo B. Leonard inviting them to come and visit him in Stuttgart, Germany where he was stationed with the American Occupation Forces.
Max went to Europe. His pictures of his time in London are here.
Via Michael Leonard