Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Highway 89...Big Rock Candy Mountain!

U.S. 89...Utah's Route 66
Greetings from Utah!  I was on the Internet looking for some old postcard images of Route 66.  I found such a wealth of vintage kitsch and vacation tradition!  Having a father who loved to drive us long distances in an old station wagon...I am quite familiar with stretches of the iconic highway.  But I also remember road trips along another great road...U.S. 89, which enters the top of the state of Utah at Bear Lake and exits near Lake Powell at the bottom.

My Way is the Highway...
 Highway 89 is the backbone of the state...it follows the Wasatch Mountains and meanders here and there like a river.  Utah's major cities and dozens of cozy small towns are found along this road.  Pioneers blazed the trail and outlaws haunted it...does the name Butch Cassidy sound familiar?  I love the stories found along Old 89 and I can't wait to share them with you...adding them to my Vintage Vacations series...which I began with our trips to Yellowstone.

Big Rock Candy Mountain...
You may...or may not...be familiar with the 1950s recording of the folksong "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Burl Ives.  Believe it or not...it's an actual place, located along Highway 89 near Marysvale, Utah.  I love to collect vintage postcards of places I've been, as a way to illustrate my memories.  This postcard shows the "tourist trap" as I remember it.

Did the Name Inspire the Song...or Vice Versa?
According to this informative brochure, printed by the owners of the attraction, the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" song was composed by Harry McClintock...also known as "Haywire Mac" when he was a brakeman on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which parallels the Sevier River across the road from the Big Rock Candy Mountain.  Another source states that shortly after the release of the song in 1928, some local residents...as a joke...placed a sign at the base of the colorful mountain naming it "Big Rock Candy Mountain."  They also placed a sign next to a nearby spring proclaiming it to be "Lemonade Springs."  The names stuck.

Song Excerpt...
           In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
          There's a land that's fair and bright
          Where the handouts grow on bushes,
          And you sleep out ev'ry night.
          Where the box-cars all are empty,
          And the sun shines every day,
          On the birds and the bees,
          And the cigarette trees,
          And the lemonade springs,
          Where the blue bird sings,
          In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

Have you been there?
Image from Roadside America

I remember two trips to Big Rock Candy Mountain.  The first was when I was a child on one of my father's "Sunday Drives."  The mountain was very pretty to look at...formed of volcanic rock in various shades of yellow. orange, red and white.  But the attraction was pretty much your basic "tourist trap."  The Souvenir Store sold the same souvenirs found all over the West, but you could buy postcards of the mountain and copies of  Burl Ives' record.  My favorite things were bags of candy that looked like real rocks.  But my siblings were most intrigued by the moth-eaten coyote they kept in a cage out back.  We found the "Lemonade Spring" to be kind of milky looking with whitish mud...but we loved it all!

The Devey Family on one of our outings.

The Honeymoon...
Newlyweds George and Shirley November 1975
George and I were married November 13, 1975.  We didn't have a lot of money, but we loved to explore the natural wonders of our state.  So we took our honeymoon on Highway 89 en route to the Grand Canyon.  We stopped in many interesting spots and scenic overlooks.  One of the places we visited was...you guessed it...Big Rock Candy Mountain.  Here is what we found in 1975...

Where is the Souvenir Store and scruffy coyote?
What is there now?  According to an article on Wikipedia, an RV resort called Candy Mountain Resort now resides at the base of the old mountain.  You can find a lot more fun facts by clicking on the Wikipedia link.  If you find yourself in the Mountain West, take a detour down Highway 89.  I have a few more fun stories about Old 89 to tell at a later date.


Dorothy said...

Hi there Shirley,
I have never been to Big Rock Candy Mountain! However, I have been to the Grand Canyon. Loved your posts, have a great week.

vintage grey said...

Hi Shirley!! Looks like such a pretty place to visit!! I know the song, and now I need to go!! Hope your week is most lovely!! xo Heather

LBP said...

I know the song but didn't know that is was a real place! You learn something new everyday.



Betsy said...

Hi Shirley,

We used to listen to this song on our little record player when we were kids. I loved anything with the word candy in it! I remember the line about cigarette trees--guess that wouldn't fly these days!