I claim a few permanent results of my efforts as a columnist, and the tower clock in the Box Elder County Courthouse is one of the grandest.
My very first column, ever, in 1995, described the rediscovery of that old clock. It was forgotten and covered in bird dung for decades. My column sparked a community effort to refurbish and repair the clock, which now ticks in burnished brass splendor, tucked behind the elevator in the courthouse lobby. One of my stories describing the clock’s discovery permanently hangs beside it.
It was fun to help preserve a bit of Brigham City’s past, although the city does a pretty good job on its own.
The town is replete with landmarks I saw the day I first drove there in May 1978 — the sycamores, the Bear River Bird Refuge arch, the movie theater, the soldier in front of the courthouse.
Of course, much is gone. Smith’s grocery store took out a whole block of shops, including Compton’s Photography studio. The new county courthouse took out another block.
But the city’s core business district is still successfully holding “progress” at bay.
Bert’s Cafe is excellent, and I highly recommend it, but on the day I visited most recently I felt the need to dine in one of the state’s three oldest restaurants, so the Idle Isle got the nod.
Those old booths are fun. You can admire the vintage art-deco light fixtures and ponder the ancient coffeemaker now in a glass case. I get a kick out of watching old couples wobble in, sometimes helped by their children.
You just know those folks have been eating lunch at the Idle Isle their whole lives. They probably even courted there.
I stopped next door at Hansen Jewelers. The shop has been there since 1914, complete with that big old safe in back. It hasn’t changed a bit, down to the tiny repair desk littered with tools and watch parts behind the barred window just inside the door.
Take a picture. Steve Hansen, the last of four generations and two families, doubts the business will survive him.
“The jewelry business is in a profound recession,” he said as he puzzled over setting instructions for a watch that tells the day, date, phase of the moon and who knows what else.
“With gold at $1,600 (an ounce) now, it’s priced everybody out of the business,” he said.
And when gold’s price crashes again, it will take a lot of small shops like his with it, stuck with high-priced gold inventory.
That would be sad, but Brigham City will go on, because one thing it hasn’t lost in 34 years is its nice people.
This last anecdote sounds like a joke: Where does a retirement home director go to retire?
Walking down the street, I ran into Hal Greene, who used to manage a bank in Ogden but, most recently, ran a retirement home in Sandy.
He and his wife retired about five years ago. They looked around for a nice place and picked Brigham City.
The city is conveniently located near their children, he said, but mostly they just like the place. They like how it’s small, near so many lovely places and relaxed. As he and I were demonstrating, you can walk down the street, meet a total stranger and end up chatting.
Small towns can be standoffish, I said. “After only five years, do Brigham City residents still treat you like an outsider?”
He smiled. “The thing of it is, they’re so friendly, it only takes a week and you’re one of them.”
The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.