Those were the days my friend, we thought they would ever end….
On Friday January the 14th1949 the moon was full, Randy’s mother was in the final throws of her pregnancy, a week later on Friday January 21stRandy Austin was born under a three quarters moon. The day before, Harry Truman a Democrat, was sworn in to office as President of the United States. The Democrats were enjoying a five term winning streak. The United States had put and end to World War II with the Japanese in August of 1945, and American citizens were settling into suburbia.
On January 17th 1949, the first Volkswagen beetle arrived in the United States; Dutch businessman Ben Pon brought the Bug to New York. Unable to interest dealers or importers in the funny looking little car, Pon sells the sample car to pay his travel expenses. Only two 1949 models would be sold in America that year. Volkswagen chairman Heinrich Nordhoff thinks the car has no future in the U.S. (The VW Beetle goes on to become the greatest automobile in American history, in the 1960’s every hippie had to have one.)
Harry Truman died on the December 26th 1972; in 1973 in a Volkswagen bus, lost and barley running on fumes, hippies Randy and Claudia Austin coasted into Torrey and never left.
The 1960’s hippie counter culture movement involved a variety of social concerns and beliefs. The hippies’ primary tenet was that life was about being happy, not what others thought you should be. Their “if it feels good do it” attitudes included little forethought nor concern for the consequences of their actions. The origin of the word “hippie” derives from the term “hipster”, in the late 1940’s and in the 1950’s hipsters were beatniks.
When the hippie counter culture came to Wayne County, and some folks in the area didn’t like it. “A bunch of us Wayne County cowboys were all sitting around down at Raeola’s and a fella from up to Fremont takes a swig of Ten High and says, there is a bunch of hippies that have moved into the Chuchwagon, lets’ go kick their asses. We finished off the bottle of Ten High and nobody got up because we couldn’t and the hippies never knew anything about it.”
As the story goes Randy and Claudia were living down by the river at the old Dez Hickman place, Eric and Kathy Kankainen’s place now, it was the party house, just far enough outside of town that they wouldn’t draw that much attention. Joe Hickman knows they aren’t married and rides up one day on horse and tells them, “We ain’t gonna have any little bastards born down here on the river, get married!” So they get a hold of Boyd Hiskey who was the Teasdale Bishop at the time they all go down to Joe’s place and Boyd officially married them.
Names like Tim and Mary Moss, Larry and Cathy, Haircut, Gene and Lanny Russell, Lanny Beakman, Steve Byrd, Rick Kline, the Thamerts, Dave and Chief Wilson and many more were common in Torrey in the early 1970’s. Locals like the Paces, Coombs, Browns, and many more slowly got used to the hippies, acceptance of their weird ways would still be a ways off.
Randy and Claudia bought the Chuckwagon from Lavoy Tolbert; it had a small café and store in it. Gene Russell and his wife Jan split shift cooking, latter Chief filled in a lot. The business grew and grew under Randy’s business savvy and evolved into a bakery, deli, motel and cabins. As far back as anyone can remember the Chuckwagon with its signature blinking yellow light was and is the center of the universe in Torrey. Randy was always around.
When there was a need Randy found a way to fill it and the Wayne County Fire departments were in definite need, especially the Torrey Fire Department. In the 1990’s Randy took over as the Wayne County Fire Marshall from Everett Williams and started county wide training program. Some how Randy got the idea to burn down the abandoned Harward cheese factory and gathered up every one around that could hold a hose. Every truck with a pump on it showed up, fire-fighting gear was optional and near non-existent, Randy was there smoking a cigarette and wearing shorts. Water was flying every which way; guys were spraying each other on either side of the old building. Nobody even considered the dangers of the overhead power line; the fire was still burning when the all trucks ran out of water.
Less than a year later a large group of Wayne County men gathered in Loa for a dedicatory dinner where all who completed the Utah State Fire Academy training received Wayne County Fire Department badges. It was a celebrated event after many hours of crawling around smoke filled houses, the basement of the Teasdale Ward house and flash over trailers searching for each other or a two hundred pound dummy.
It was a time that all of Wayne County was brought together for a common goal; even Capitol Reef National park personnel participated. Gary Olsen was the Fire Chief for the park at the time, one night Gary arrived for Wednesday night training in the parks antique truck pulling about a three-foot piece of fire hose. Some how the hose had come loose on the reel and he dragged it all the way up Fruita hill. They found parts of it scattered on the side of the highway from Torrey to Fruita for about three months. Randy got them some surplus hose from the state to replace it.
The side streets in Torrey were still dirt when Randy found a fire truck in Murray for the Torrey Fire Department, Wayne County paid $10,000.00 for it, the Mayor of Murray wanted 20.
The day Randy drove Big Yellow into Torrey with the siren blaring everybody called the Chuckwagon wondering what was going on, Randy informed them “The Eagle has landed”. That is just the way it was back then before cell phones, when people were nice to one another, a time when everybody knew everybody and if you wanted to know what was going on in town you called, or stopped by the Chuckwagon.
Randy passed on June 17th,2015 at his home Teasdale. Torrey will never be the same without him.
*Facts presented are somewhat in the vicinity of the truth and as remembered by those that found themselves to be hero’s in the story, dates and events are also approximate.
Adus F. Dorsey II