Dallas Casey

Learning to make something from nothing right from the start

Bert Smith’s grandson learns the apple does not fall far from the tree.





Dallas Casey loved the chance he had to help clean out the old Swift Building – memories of his grandpa mixed with his passion for art made for the perfect way to spend his days.

Dallas Casey

Intrigue. That’s how Dallas Casey has always felt about the old Swift Building that stands just over the 24th Street viaduct in Ogden, Utah. Something about the confluence of the river and  railroad tracks converging in the same space always reminded me of something from an old-time movie set in Chicago – a far-away place from the much smaller town of Ogden. 


Dallas Casey grew up around the old Ogden Stockyards and Swift Building. He helped his Grandpa Smith clean the Stockyards as a young man, worked at the old Elephant Press as a teenager and then helped clean out the Swift Building as an adult.

Casey always loved the idea of exploring the old Swift Building. Partly because he was intrigued by what might be inside and partly because it was a part of who he was. Casey is the grandson of Bert Smith, owner of Smith and Edwards and many other local and international properties around the world. Smith bought the old Swift building back around the time Casey was born, in the late 1960’s.


As early as Casey could walk and talk Smith and Edwards and even the old Swift Building was a part of his life. His father, Mike Casey, ran the old Smith and Edwards Boat Shop which was located in the old Swift Building for about five years. Casey remembers coming to the shop and being amazed not only by the display of boats, but just the enormity of the building itself. He also loved listening to his dad talk about one if his passions – boating and everything that went along with it. Dallas thought the boat shop fit pretty well in the space, even if it seemed not to. Even in the 1970s the building was in disrepair, but that was okay, it was still pretty cool to him. The boat shop closed when interest rates spiked, the old viaduct was torn down and gas prices spiked sky high.

Dallas Casey loved spending time clearing out the Swift Building. A labor of love for his grandfather, Bert Smith.

But Dallas’ interest with the real estate didn’t go away. One of his church leaders, Ron Hirschi ran the Elephant Press out of the south west side of the old building and Dallas spent many a day down at the press because he liked Hirschi but was also best friends with one of Hirschi’s sons. Hirschi rented the space from Dallas’ grandpa and he liked the idea of being in a place that his grandpa owned, with his friends. Graffiti was a common occurrence at the Elephant Press site and really many places at the building. One particular time Dallas was with friends down at the press and they thought it would be funny to do the graffiti themselves to play a trick on Hirschi. They took a few photos and called him and told him what they had done. They spent some time cleaning graffiti whether it was of their own doing or someone else’s, so why not have some fun in the process? It was during that time spent at Elephant Press that Dallas’ fondness for the area increased.


After Dallas left on his LDS Mission Hirschi sold the business and a business called Mobile Sound moved into the space, but that space wasn’t long for the location either.


But while Dallas spent time at the Elephant press, the rest of the place was off-limits and a bit mysterious. Sure, he would come with his grandpa to drop stuff off in the Swift part of the building from time to time – old boxes, excess surplus, things of that nature. His grandpa didn’t ever say much about it when they stopped in, but it was a mystery Dallas felt a nudge to explore…someday.


Sometimes he would have friends make the suggestion to sneak in to the old place – lots of teens did it in the 1980s and 1990s. It was a kind of “safe danger” to lots of kids. Could they sneak in without getting caught? What would happen if they got caught? Better yet, could they get on the roof without being detected? What about throwing rocks inside? All these things were questioned many a rebellious teen wanted to explore during Dallas’ teenage years. But, for Dallas, that was a risk he would never be taking. He didn’t even want to know when or if any of his friends had ever made that adventure. “Don’t tell me you’re sneaking in there. I would rather the cops came than my grandpa!” Dallas always told friends and even acquaintances. Letting down or disappointing Bert Smith was not something high on the list of Dallas Casey. “I was always more scared of grandpa than anyone else. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want him mad or disappointed in me,” Dallas said with a grin. Dallas did go in once when working with someone on a family project – either taking a load in or a load out, he doesn’t remember, but he got to ride the elevator. It was creepy to say the least. He tried to take it in quickly, but now doesn’t even remember what he saw.


As Dallas got a bit older, so did his grandpa. He started to spend some time with him clearing out the stockyards, which are just west of the Swift Building. Smith owned some of that property as well and he always needed help going through surplus and clearing things out. They would have some good talks and there were times when Smith was very frank and direct with Dallas, even a time or two when he got a little agitated with some surplus items that Dallas thought was garbage and he got rid of. As they worked, Dallas would often ask him how he decides what is worthwhile material and what is not. Dallas loved to listen to his philosophies and ideas. One of the things Dallas came to love about those conversations with his grandpa is that he came to realize his talent of seeing potential in all things. This is something Dallas came to realize he and his grandpa had in common, which seems odd, considering how different their personalities are. “I can see potential in things for art and creating. Grandpa could see potential to help others too, but could also see the financial side,” Dallas said, shaking his head at the memory. Dallas is an artist by nature and has spent some of his career as an artist, pretty much the opposite of his grandpa, but the two could find common ground with surplus. As the two would work in the Stockyards during the twilight of Smith’s life, Dallas also got to see a different side of his grandpa. Friends would stop in and do and say different things and he would see his grandpa be a friend – laughing and joking with people. Not something Dallas always got to see. “He always held his cards close to the vest with us (grandchildren) and we didn’t always see that. I’m so glad I got to see it here,” Dallas said of his stockyard time. Then he had no idea the connection he would get to feel with his grandpa or all the other stuff he would be seeing over the next few years.


But as Dallas worked at the Stockyards with Smith, the idea of getting inside the Swift Building started looming larger for him. What was inside? There were urban legends for sure. Maybe crated Jeeps, motorcycles, maybe even an old-timer Harley Davidson Motorcycle was somewhere in a dark and forgotten space.


When Dallas’ grandpa died it also coincided with Ogden City’s plans to buy the Swift Building and the surrounding areas and develop it into green space and some different things. But before the exchange could happen there was lots of clean-up to do. But there were also some changes in the family business. Dallas’ cousin Craig Smith was now the CEO. Dallas’ father, Mike Casey who had been a vice president had retired before Bert Smith passed away and Jim Smith, Bert’s son had passed away a few years before as well. Different family members were doing a variety of things, including Brian Opheikens who was married to another of Dallas’ cousins. Craig Smith approached Dallas about being the surplus manager now that Bert was no longer with them. For Dallas that was just too much. “I thought I could fold under the pressure,” Dallas said of such a large job. Not because he wasn’t fully capable, but because it was family and he didn’t want to have contention or let anyone down. “I didn’t want to butt heads and I could see that would maybe happen. I wanted none of that,” Dallas said. He turned that job down and kept working at his job at Jim Alvey Productions.


As things continued to shift, Opheikens was asked to start doing some work at Swift. Dallas knew he was a pretty good scrapper and salvager. He was a hard worker and had an eye for a good deal and also knew how to clean things out. This was reassuring for Dallas. Dallas continued working for Jim Alvey but was feeling the pull to go down to Swift and check things out. Dallas spoke with Brian and said he would like to help, Brian was more than open to the idea, so Dallas started working alongside Brian. The two were working side by side, but both Brian and Dallas could work alone too. They started loading out freight and lots and lots of army surplus along with cleaning supplies that were all send to Smith and Edwards. Dallas found that he enjoyed working with someone, but it was hard work, day after day. But hard work can be rewarding and this definitely was for him.

Dallas enjoyed his time working at Elephantz Press as a young man. The Press was on the south end of the Swift property.

When they first started they invited some local “pickers and scrappers” to come and check things out. “It was mostly people we knew and it was a private invite only affair,” Dallas said. “Things started going like gangbusters. People would come picking and it was nice because we could all trust each other,” Dallas said. It was normal for different pickers to be going through stuff and exclaim, “Come check this out!” and everyone would come running to see the latest find. Because they were all different experts in different things, it wasn’t uncommon for them to share value of items or quickly look it up on google or another “picking” site to see values for items.


And while Dallas never found a crated Jeep or Harley Davidson motorcycles, there were some treasures to behold. Because of Dallas’ artistic knowledge, he knew a bit about architecture and architectural finds. When he first started cleaning out the building molded plywood leg splints designed by brothers Charles and Ray Eames, were extremely popular and going for big bucks – around $500 a piece. They were mid-century modern and quite beautiful. People were finding them at garage sales and selling them for a high price tag. Those who bought them would hang them on their walls as an eclectic art piece. 


As Dallas ventured into a particularly spooky room one day he almost didn’t go in. As he opened the door he could see row after row of army rain coats hanging on long pipes. It was dark and almost looked as if soldiers could be standing in the coats the way the darkness cast across the room. They were hanging in rows and pretty much covered the space of the room. There was also 4” of water on the floor in the room.  But there was something pulling Dallas into the room and he had to check it out. He landed on his reason for venturing in. A huge stack of molded plywood leg splints!  Before he knew it, he was yelling and screaming, expletives flying out of his mouth. “Come quick, come see what I’ve found,” Dallas yelled, laughing and clapping as he got closer to the stack. There were 17 to 20 of them, just sitting there. Dallas worked quickly to pull them out of the stack to see what shape they were in – the shape was decent and he could fix them up perfectly. He called his friend and local art expert Ron Green. “That’s cool,” he said with some excitement, not quite as much as Dallas had hoped for. “Hold on to them. The market has dropped,” Green added. But Dallas wasn’t too crestfallen. For him, it was a goldmine find that he feels confident will turn into something great at some point. For now, he has some super cool art pieces in his own living room. “It was so fun to find something elusive,” he said, still grinning and laughing at the moment.


There were also the quirky things they discovered that had nothing to do with treasure. Take the boiler/engine room, for instance. Dallas and Opheikens started picking up rocks they would see in there every time they went in. At first there were river rocks everywhere. After seeing the rocks everywhere, they looked up at the windows. “That’s 40 years of people throwing rocks at the windows,” Dallas said. One of Dallas’ first thoughts about it was, “how lame.” But then when got thinking about it he realized each rock represents someone stopping to pick it up and throw it at the window. Now the rocks sit piled up where Dallas and Opheikens piled them nicely upon visiting the big, open room that once was a vital part of the old building.

For Dallas, the potential for use he would see every day was exciting. “There were so many springs and bolts that could be used for projects. They were often even already sealed in plastic bags,” Dallas said. But even if they weren’t, Dallas felt obligated to grab them and think of what they could be used for or how they could make a task easier. There have been thousands of things like that, but they can be hard to sell, especially in small places and small ways.


Dallas had spent his life seeing things with potential and this place truly inspired his creativity. “I am just fascinated with it,” he said as he looked at the old Swift Building.




Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 






Joe “Junior” Story

A Rough Exit Mars Man’s Opinion of Ogden Meat Packer

Hard work, quick exit  


Joe “Junior” Story knew his way around a knife and how to pack the meat when he was done.



Joe “Junior” Story paints a colorful picture of life at Swift.

Joe “Junior” Story

“I hate Swift!” exclaimed Junior Story as he started talking about the place where he was employed for 19 years of his adult life. “I worked there for 19 years and they only gave me $93 dollars,” Story went on.  Story pursed his lips in an angry twist talking about it. Story explained that after he had worked there for 10 years he and one of his buddies heard they get could get a better job elsewhere, so flipped a coin to see who would leave for the other job.



Want an animated explanation about Swift? Talk to Joe “Junior” Story

Story won the toss (or lost, depending on how you look at it) and went to find the other job. When it didn’t pan out, he was back at Swift in no time, but had lost his seniority which in turn made it so he only received $93 in severance when the Swift plant shut down in 1971.

The Beginning

But back to the beginning of Story’s time at Swift. He got out of the service in 1953 and worked at Hill Air Force Base for about a year and a half when he talked to a couple of guys that suggested Story could make some real cash at Swift Meat Packing. “They were really going great guns and they told me I could get a job right off the bat,” Story said with a chuckle. He didn’t hesitate because the idea of making some good, easy money was very appealing.


He found out fast that the money was good, but it wasn’t easy.


Story was what was called a “beef boner.” The process of beef boning is a precarious one. After the meat is cut and dried and cut into quarters, it is hung back on the hook. Story would take it off the hook to a bench area where he would get every last piece of meat off the bone and get it ready for hamburger. In his mind, it was the hardest job in the plant, but also the most rewarding because the pay was amazing. He wasn’t paid by the hour, but paid by how much beef he could bone in any limit of time. The job required a lot of physical work because they had to turn the side of beef around, drop it off the hook and hoist up onto the bench. They would work off the tables and the worked off an incentive basis. “They more we would do, but the more they would pay us,” he said. He would often get two checks – one for his regular pay and one for the extra work he would do. Story was told they were only allowed to write checks for up to $150, so that’s why two checks would be cut. Story always felt like something didn’t seem quite right about that, but he didn’t care – he loved the money.


The beef he would bone would be ground up into hamburger and then they would put it in special boxes – 50 pound boxes to be exact. Many of those boxes would go to the Army because of a contract Swift had with the Army. “We had a lot of them contracts,” Story remembered as he scratched his head at the thought. Even though much of the meat he boned went to hamburger, they would also box up steaks, roasts, everything related to the meat on a cow.


Story tried to invest what he earned well – buying 4 acres of land with the quick money he was earning. “I worked hard. I figure it took 10 years off my life – in the prime of my life,” he said. He still owns his apron and sheath from those days, but doesn’t use them much now. When word got out that the plant would be closing, Story quickly sold one of his acres of property just to be safe, especially when he realized he had been what he considered to be cheated out of his severance because he left the plant for those few months.


Story laughed when he talked about the bit of trouble he could get into with the guys he worked with. But his laughter turned serious when he talked about the trouble he got into with his wife. “My wife didn’t like me drinking and I would go drinking with the guys,” he said. He would come home after drinking and try to hide it. There was no hiding it from her. She found the bottle and he knew he was had. “’Joe,’ she would say, she always calls me Joe when I’m in trouble,” he said. “She would say, ‘you’re going to be just like your dad and brother, alcoholics,’” he told the story. He quit cold turkey right then, realizing that if he was hiding it from his wife, it was becoming a problem and he didn’t need that problem in his life. So then he just focused on his work and not the local café and beer joint that was so close to Swift.


So, focusing on his work was his thing. “I’m not bragging’ but I felt like I was the fastest meat boner they had,” Story said. “I worked so hard with my hand it was hard to get it off the knife handle,” he said as he lifted his hand to show the exact position he would put it around the knife – almost freezing that way. He admits he was surrounded by other excellent butchers as well. “I wasn’t the only good one,” he said. Others were admired by the boss man and even chummed around with him. That didn’t bother Story, though. “He was a great kid, he said of his old friend, although he couldn’t remember his name. He tried to follow some of his old friends he worked with for a while after Swift closed, but he said it was hard to keep track and everyone scattered. Story stayed put on the land he bought and he son also lives on some of the land with him. His sons are now his pride and joy and he loves talking about their accomplishments.


“I guess I don’t hate Swift. But I do hate Swift at the same time,” he said.



Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Wayne Vandersteen

Wayne Vandersteen Grew Up Quick at Swift

Young man learns about hard knocks of life   

Sheep Division showing catwalk above the stockyards and stairs down to the building. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery. Motorcycle parked in front of the building. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery. Ogden Union Stockyards.


Wayne Vandersteen worked in the pork boning department for some of his 8 years of employment.



Wayne Vandersteen took good care of his tools and everything about his job at Swift. His family was depending on him. 

Wayne Vandersteen

Wayne Vandersteen was the ripe old age of 16 when he started working at Swift in 1949. “I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I did it anyway,” Wayne said with a sly smile about his young age.


He started off cleaning the floors, but that only lasted one day. They threw him into the pork boning department on his second day. The pork and beef boning were in the same area, but different rooms. Wayne would get the pork after it had come off the belt gun and had to bone it quickly.



Wayne Vandersteen took his job very seriously, but when things got tough at home, he had to stand up for his family.

A Master at the Craft

Wayne got so he could bone four or five pigs per shift. Wayne liked the jobs, but accidents did happen. One guy cut his stomach open on the belt cutter. “It was pretty bad, but accidents happened, it was part of it,” Wayne said. Wayne could see there was more money to be made in the beef boning area and so he worked hard to get moved over there. He loved the fact that he could make more if he worked harder and boned more beef. For him, it was always a challenge and competition with himself every day to do a little better than the day before – make a bit more money. “We had to make the standard. Once we did that everything was extra,” Wayne said. The standard was to bone two cows in one hour. Wayne could sometimes do three or four on a good day. Thousands went through there in a week. He never thought of the job as hard at the time, but he did have to work hard. Once he learned a new trade, it wasn’t hard. “I never seen anything in there that was hard,” he said with a laugh.



He wore all own clothes to work and was given a set of knives for the job. They were his to take and forth to work each day. Wayne treated his tools with the utmost care, sharpening them regularly and making sure they were in tip-top shape. “The sharper your knives, the faster you could go, you see,” Wayne said at the memory. One day they would cut the beef to prepare it for hamburger and then another day they would cut the meet in different parts. They would cut the hind quarter into steaks and the and the front quarter into hamburger. On hamburger days, they would take the meat for hamburger to a different area to be ground. When he worked with the pork they did a similar procedure with the pork to make hot dogs, but they always called them weenies, Wayne remembers. There was some work done with sheep as well – some of the lamb was ground for different medicines. That was something that Wayne always found interesting, although he didn’t work much with the sheep. Wayne liked to take advantage of the perks of working there by buying the beef and weenies at a discount price for his family. Eating the meat was never an issue for him or his family. It was good stuff.

Vandersteen took care of his tools with utmost care.

Taking Good Care


As far as being dirty, Wayne wasn’t. His department didn’t get too dirty during the work and there wasn’t any kind of smell.  “There were places where it was stinky. Outside where the cows shit,” Wayne said with a big, hearty laugh. But inside, everything was clean. Wayne was always quite impressed with the cleanliness there, as a matter of fact. “They came in and cleaned up every night. They washed everything down and it was like new every day,” he commented.


Every once in a while, he would go up to the kill floor when he was done with his work in the beef boning area. He only went a few times though. That was the place where the most people got hurt, according to his memory. The one place that no one wanted to go once the work was done in their own department was the hide cellar. The hide cellar was where the hides were shaken and stacked for transport. It was cold and unpleasant.  Wayne still wonders why he never had to go in there, but he never asked them why. “I was glad they never put me over there. Everyone hated it. I never had to go over there,” Wayne said with a sly smile.

The Best Part – the Pay


Wayne liked having a study job and pay check. For him that was the best part of the job – the study pay and study work. And the money of course. The money was good enough that when Wayne started working there at 16 he didn’t look back. He never felt school was a good match for him and he figured if he could get good pay why not do it at 16? So that’s what he did. While working at Swift he got married and had a couple of kids and just lived the dream.

He made some good friends, one named Dale Vey who he considered as one of his best friends. “He was the man in pork,” Wayne said. He was in charge of the belt cutter and did the job with great finesse. Dale was kind and honest with everyone he came in contact with. Wayne would often eat lunch and spend some time with him after his shift over at Stockman’s just across “the way” from Swift. “I would have to say he was my best friend. He was a good worker,” Wayne said.

Wayne was part of the union because everyone that worked there just was. He felt the union rules made the job better and he appreciated all his co-workers and his bosses. He talked and had fun with his co-workers, but didn’t really care to associate as much with him bosses for some reason. Looking back, he doesn’t know why now.  

Things Turn Sour


Things got a bit ugly for Wayne in 1957. As mentioned before, he was married with two young children when he woke up one morning for work and found his wife had left the family. He was in shock and turmoil. For a little while, he didn’t tell anyone at work and just tried to hide it. He would get up and get his children settled before he went into work but it got more and more difficult. He would often show up late for shifts and his boss was giving him a hard time. They called him in to talk to him about his tardiness. “They pissed me off,” Wayne said. When they called him in, he explained his situation with his wife and children and the boss didn’t believe him. “He thought I was lyin’!” Wayne exclaimed. “Who would lie about something like that?” he said. “So, they canned me. I walked out of there. It made me so mad,” Wayne said, the disgust in his voice rising even after all these years.


It didn’t take long for his boss to realize he was wrong to mistrust Wayne. “He came and apologized to me but it was too late, you see,” Wayne said. He couldn’t go back and he needed to move on. He worked hard and got his contractor’s license and could soon provide for his family again.


But he never stopped following the goings-on at Swift for the rest of the years they were open. “I still can’t believe they packed up and moved out like that,” Wayne said. “They was doing so much good business. I was just shocked,” he added. As the years have passed, Wayne holds no ill will for Swift at all. He enjoyed the work and the how he was taught to work while he was there. The good pay helped him to stay on his feet when times got tough when his wife left and he was still able to care for his family. He also appreciated the way Swift was active in the community. “They was good for me.”

Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Mike Casey

A New Idea Brings Fresh Faces to Swift Property

Bert Smith’s son-in-law marries business and pleasure with boat shop 

Hidden in there is an entrance to what used to be called the Smith and Edwards Boat Shop.


Mike Casey loved boats and the old Swift property was a perfect spot for a boat shop.



Bert Smith’s son-in-law was a lover of boating. The Swift property was a unique, but perfect spot to sell them. 

Mike Casey

In 1971 Mike Casey, vice president of Smith and Edwards, was running Kammeyer’s after Bert Smith had purchased the clothing store on 24th Street near Washington Boulevard. The spot was quite successful and they started to sell boat supplies and do gun repair in the spot. Casey enjoyed the location and the job and it was quite successful. Things changed at the location they day the new Ogden City Mall was announced. There would soon be no more Kammeyers.



Mike Casey was the vice president of Smith and Edwards. Opening a boat shop at the Swift Property proved to be a successful move for the business for a short time.  

But Bert Smith was never one to let a deal go badly and he started looking for another location that would be useful. He had purchased the old Swift building, located in West Ogden on the other side of the 24th Street viaduct in 1969 soon after the old Swift meat-packing plant had closed in a somewhat abrupt manner. The big old building wasn’t in great repair, but it was sufficient for housing surplus and maybe some other business possibilities, pretty ideal for a boat shop in many ways.


A Boat Shop


The one business possibility Casey was a part of was moving much of the Kammeyer’s merchandise to the building including opening up an expanded boat shop and gun repair shop. Casey loved the idea for many reasons. They could expand the boat shop and all the space made it perfect for boat display. They were able to showcase boats and use the second floor to do so. Even so, they were only using about 10 percent of the Swift (now Smith and Edwards) warehouse. The boat shop was located on the main floor of the old building just east of the ramps of the kill floor where the animals had been taken up for slaughter.


Another reason Casey loved the boat shop was that people didn’t believe they could make a go of it in such a bad neighborhood. “I knew we could do it, because it was really a perfect location,” Casey said.  “No one thought we could sell nice boats in the area, but we’ve proved them wrong, Casey noted.


And yet a third reason Casey loved opening a boat shop was that he knew at the time the outdoor recreation the Ogden area had to offer. He knew of many people who would love the chance to buy boats and all kinds of boat supplies to use close by on the Ogden/Weber rivers and up on Pineview Dam. All places that were just minutes away from the Smith and Edwards Boat shop. Casey loved to talk to people when they would come into the boat shop because they could share their passions – talking about boating and all of its ins and outs.


Dallas Casey, Mike Casey’s son, said he remembers coming to the boat shop with his dad and how much his dad loved it. “He was really into boat racing and so the boat shop really suited him,” Dallas said.


Mike liked the fact that Smith and Edwards gained a whole bunch of storage space for the thousands of surplus items that could not be stored at the current Smtih and Edwards location in Farr West.


A Successful Venture


Mike said the Smith and Edwards Boat Shop opened in about 1972 and they found much success. They sold ski, recreation and fishing boats. They also sold canoes and river boats. “The market was good,” Casey said. They started selling bass boats and those became popular quickly. They were new on the market at the time and people loved them and loved that they could find them locally. “We were the first bass boat dealers and we did a lot to promote them,” Mike said. They also found great success with basic aluminum boats as well. The location proved to be excellent for display purposes because they could use the second floor for display and the prime location with the railroad tracks because they were able to have boats delivered right to the location. “We could have two to three rail carts in at a time and so we became the top bass boat dealer in the country,” Mike said. They had up to 25 full-size boats on display at all times.


Mike always felt proud to tell people he worked at the boat shop and at Smith and Edwards in general. “It was a landmark part of Ogden,” Mike said, adding that everyone knows where both the Smith and Edwards/Swift building is as well as the Farr West Smith and Edwards location. It was a cool place to be and a bit notorious because of the nature of the neighborhood. He loved that they had so much success, especially because of the location.


Many people surmised that there were issues with break-ins and vagrants in the area, but that wasn’t the case. Occasionally a homeless person may wander the grounds, but there was a caretaker for the area that was there pretty much round the clock that worked to chase many people off if they dared come on the premises.


Unique stories


The biggest heist that went on was a strange one. Mike has a couple of Doberman Pinchers that was loved by their family, but were also known to be intimidating. The store was preparing for a huge boat show in Salt Lake City and had quite a few things that were out and accessible so they put the Dobermans on leashes in front of the merchandise. When they went down to get everything for the boat show they found everything intact except for some empty meat packages and no Dobermans. Someone had stolen the dogs!  “The leashes were still there and the dogs were gone,” Mike said with a sigh and a laugh at the same time. “It was the strangest thing. We never did figure that out,” he said.


They would have some strange characters wander around from time to time, but nothing too threatening. But it was a bit of a spooky place – mostly because of the thought of all the animals slaughtered on the top floor of the building, often referred to as the “kill floor.” Legends and myths also circulated about from former employees and through the caretaker of the property.


Mike never felt spooked by the place, but was aware of the spooky nature of the place. “So, why not have a great spook alley for young kids,” Mike thought. He was a leader of youth in his neighborhood and he and a friend created an all-out spook alley at Halloween-time.  They of course took the kids to the kill floor, telling them about all the animals slaughtered there as they walked through. They walked the kids up the kill ramp and then walked them back down. “it was the ideal scary place,” Mike said with a little laugh. “We had teenaged boys crying, it was really something,” Mike added. After that, his area leader suggested they not do that again, ever. “It was fun for one year,” he said with another chuckle.




But things went south quickly in 1977. The business was going strong – great customers, great inventory and inventory that was moving quickly but a sudden spike in the interest rate changed everything. But that wasn’t all. Along with an 18 percent interest rate, gas prices spiked and the viaduct was torn down, making it nearly impossible to get to the boat shop in an any kind of easy manner. Mike said people would have to go about 20 minutes out of the way just to get to the boat shop because of the missing viaduct. “Any one of those things could have spelled disaster, but all three were definitely a deal breaker,” Mike said.  “We had to turn down the lights, the party was over,” Mike added.


Mike and Smith decided it would be best to sell the boat shop and sell it quickly, if that would even be possible. They started looking for a buyer, and surprisingly found one.  “We sold it for too cheap,” Mike said. But, nonetheless, they were able to sell it. Mike said the gentleman who bought it was a great guy with high hopes for the space. The name of the shop changed from “The Smith and Edwards Boat Shop” to just “The Boat Shop.”


“The Boat Shop” stayed open for just a couple more years, about as long as it took to rebuild the viaduct.


Still a use


But Smith and Edwards still actively used the Swift building for storage. Mike said the space became a vital holding place for merchandise, especially surplus. They used the space and went back and forth to retrieve supplies almost daily through the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Things like sporting goods, clothing, and other surplus materials proved to be stored well at the Swift building. In the latter part of the 1980s they started two major add-ons at Smith and Edwards in Farr West. Once those add-ons were complete, they relied less and less on the Swift building as a major storage space. It was of course always used to store surplus, but not inventory that was regularly circulated into the store. “We started to phase out using the Swift building once those renovations were complete,” Mike said. But he did note that during that one decade the area was vital for daily use at Smith and Edwards.


Mike visited the spot regularly during those early years, but visited less frequently over the past 20 years or so. He visited occasionally with Bert Smith to go over some things, but not on a regular basis.


Smith and Edwards tried to sell some boats and supplies for a few years in their sporting goods section at the Farr West Smith and Edwards location, but there just wasn’t the space like at Swift. But as time passed and viaduct was re-built, the Swift building became more dilapidated, so it didn’t make sense to re-open the boat shop in that location.


For Mike, the Smith and Edwards Boat Shop was a great venture while it lasted, but not something to re-visit again.



Being that junction gave Ogden the chance to be a haven for the livestock because livestock could be brought in – not only from all parts of Utah – but Idaho as well. With that opportunity, it seemed only natural to have meat packing right there plus it was easy enough to haul refrigerated freight cars in, so the refrigeration industry had a great place to work and work well. “It was just a huge mecca for business,” Witten said.


Witten loves to talk trains and their worth then and now – he sees it and he loves the transition Ogden is making even today. “We have still kept our Junction City and have that same flavor and diversity,” he said as he looked out onto the bustling 25th Street from his office window, still smiling.



Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Brian Opheikens

Grandson-in-law to Swift Property Owner Cleans Things Out – A Labor of Love

Getting Things Ready for a New Birth  


Brian Opheikens, grandson-in-law to Bert Smith, the most recent property owner of the Swift Property has worked tirelessly to clean things out of the old property.



Brian Opheikens loves looking through old things for great artifacts to keep or re-sell. His love for all things old has kept him very busy the last couple of years. 

Brian Opheikens

Brian Opheikens always had a special affinity for Bert Smith after he married his granddaughter about 10 years ago. He loved his ability to make something from nothing by the world’s standards, but for Opheikens, he could see that Bert could just see things for what they really were. And why? Opheikens thinks the same way.



Brian Opheikens dreamed for years of getting inside the old Swift Building. When that dream became a reality he learned much about himself, his family and Weber County.

A Love of Scrapping

He started scrapping things like metal with his good friend Carson several years ago and he had always had his eye on the Swift Building which he knew Smith owned. At family functions Opheikens would often try to get Smith’s ear to see if he could get in there just to see what was in there. Not necessarily to scrap anything, but just to check it out. “It was always no, no, no from Bert for a long time,” Opheikens remembers. His friend Carson kept at him about the prospect of checking the building out though.

A Sneak Peak

Smith finally let him on the grounds around the outside and Opheikens looked around, taking it all in, and started to work to clean things up. What he saw there was a lot of potential, but also a lot of trash and a lot of potential work. About two years ago, just before Smith passed away they wanted to start to assess what was on the property and wanted to start with the Industrial Supply portion of the property. Knowing his love of scrapping and that he wasn’t afraid of hard work, Smith contacted Opheikens and Bert’s other grandson, Dallas Casey. Opheikens had been doing some work at Smith and Edwards and so a deal was made to use some of the things in the Swift building for Smith and Edwards. At first, Smith and Edwards was going to buy it all. They thought they could make quite a bit of money from what was in there, but they didn’t really know what was in there either. The family was a little skeptical too, because they didn’t want to lose too much if they created a deal to sell it all. So, a contract was created and Opheikens worked directly with the store – they could buy and purchase what they wanted and Opheikens and his group could also “scrap” other items. Opheikens and his friend, along with Dallas seemed to think the deal would work. And it has all along. “There really wasn’t an issue about it and it has worked out fine although I stayed out of the logistics of it. I just let Craig handle it,” Opheikens said. Craig Smith is Bert Smith’s grandson who know runs Smith and Edwards.


They started in the Industrial Research arm of the building and there was a treasure trove of cleaning supplies there that the store used and did well with, Opheikens said. As for the main building, Opheikens had no idea what he would find when he entered. “I had heard rumors and I was excited, but I was also afraid of Lother,” Opheikens said of the first few visits. Lother was the caretaker of sorts for the property. An older German man who is very rough around the edges. At one time he worked at Smith and Edwards, but Smith had hired him to keep an eye on things at Swift and he took the job very seriously. He was also slate as a mechanic on the property, fixing forklifts and what not. A side note to his caretaker job came some hoarding of some of the items from the building. He felt very possessive of the property. There were times when Opheikens would come down and Lother was a bit confrontational with him which Opheikens didn’t like. Opheikens doesn’t think that Lother had any bad intentions and there were no major contentions, but some minor ones and some bumps along the road. Opheikens would ever know what he was going to get when he saw Lother. “He was just straight up rude,” Opheikens said. Opheikens tried hard to work him and admitted he really tried kissing his butt a few times, and this was when Opheikens was still working on the outside of the building. Lother kept harassing Opheikens enough that he felt frustrated. Smith caught wind of this and wrote a letter to Lother telling him to knock it off. “It was really quite sweet. I cherish it. The note really backed me up,” Opheikens said. From then on, there have still been moments of frustration and contention, but Lother backed off from Opheikens quite a bit. “He thought I was a threat for no reason,” Opheikens said.

Seeing Inside Swift for the First Time

After some of those difficulties were resolved, Opheikens finally got his dream day – his day to go in the doors of the Swift Building and to see what was really there. Smith had passed, so it was Craig and some of the other Smith and Edwards crew that accompanied Opheikens on the walk through.


Opheikens felt like a kid on Christmas as he walked through the doors, but that Christmas morning feeling didn’t last long. Sure, there was PLENTY of stuff in there, but it wasn’t the finds he was dreaming of. “It’s like thinking your’re going to find $1 million and you find $100,000,” Opheikens said. “Now there was good stuff, don’t get me wrong and we have done well with it, but it just wasn’t all that I thought it would be,” he added. Soon after the initial walk through Smith passed away, but the work has continued. Initially there were some trailers full of items that the store was able to use.

Keeping Watch

Security also became a big part of the job. “For a long time people were just coming down here and talking whatever,” Opheikens said. Opheikens and Casey starting working really hard at keeping people out. When they first started coming down and working on the property they would do a walk through to see who was on the property, or if anyone was. Those were some scary moments for Opheikens. One time he ran into a Hispanic family in between the Swift building and the Industrial Supply building. There were four kids around the ages of teen and tweens. They startled Opheikens and he didn’t know what to do with them once he caught them, but he decided to call the police. Once the police came down, they seemed familiar with the family and they called the mom. The oldest boy said he had left some items on the property and had come to retrieve them. “He wasn’t ignorant at all, he was very polite,” Opheikens said. The mother, Opheikens and the police officer came to an agreement about the trespassing and the kids said they wouldn’t be on the property again. He hasn’t seen them since.


Another time, Opheiken was on the property early on a Saturday morning. He was in the Industrial Supply Building again and he saw a very young girl, about 15. “She was dressed real nice, not like she was homeless or anything. She had some nice flip flops on and a tank top,” Opheikens recalled. I looked at her, asked her if she was okay and she ran off. “It kind of scared me,” Opheikens said. “Sometimes I ask myself it was a ghost or something, but I’ve never seen again and I really hope she was okay,” Opheikens said. There have been quite a few run ins with homeless people as well. Many more when Opheikens first started working there than now.

Figuring it Out

Opheikens said those first few months were a bit tedious for he and Casey. “We didn’t know what we could and couldn’t sell and we didn’t want things to be uncomfortable with Kathy (Smith’s widow,)” Opheikens said. Opheikens had a great talk with Kathy and she told him she trusted he and Casey and kind of gave them some wiggle room, well maybe a lot of wiggle room. “She told me she knew the doors weren’t going to walk off. I really appreciated that about her. She has been so kind and so easy to work with. I just can’t tell you how much that has meant to me,” Opheikens said.


Opheikens has enjoyed working with the Smith family in general. He has seen the transition since Bert has passed away as a smooth one, with both Kathy and Craig being very cordial to each other and other business partners, including Opheikens and Casey. Opheikens credits a big part of that smooth transition between he and Kathy to the fact that she can rest easy knowing that the safety concern has been cut down significantly. Opheikens knows it’s good for homeless people or other vagabonds to know there are people there on almost a daily basis so they can’t be hanging out there. They also installed video cameras, which Opheikens attributes as a big secret to deterrence on crime there. “People see those cameras and they don’t want to be on them,” Opheikens said with a laugh.


“I’m not afraid of a homeless person though. I am afraid of scary people with weapons – a knife, a gun, a tight encounter,” Opheikens said as he looked around the building. “The longer I’ve been coming down here the less afraid I am. Most people just take off running when they see us,” he said. But he still stays careful. “You could make one homeless mad and stir up a hornet’s nest,” he said with a big grin.

Cool Finds

But he also doesn’t let that deter him from the work at hand and all the interesting finds he has made at the building. One of his favorites? An old-time soda machine. He did a bit of searching on the Internet to see what its value could be and he found out he may have hit it big. It was a 7-Up machine, but the first of its kind – but there was one catch – it has the sign had to be made by Royal Crown. If it was, he had hit the “mother load” and it would have been worth up in the area of $10,000. But alas, it was from RC Cola. But, still super cool and worth about $4,000.


“People are always asking me if I’ve found any gold here,” Opheikens said with a big chuckle. “I haven’t and if it was here, they did a pretty good job of hiding it,” Opheikens said.


Two years has passed since Opheikens started pouring his heart and soul into the “Swift” operation. As he talked about the experience he sat on the dock portion of what was once the Industrial Supply portion of the property. He lovingly refers to the space as his “office.” He sat on a broken office chair and spread an old towel on an old-time school desk to conduct the interview. The area is littered with remnants of years gone by – nuts and bolts, old cups, smashed soda cans, old clock parts – all pieces of people’s lives when they worked the place, either when it was a meat-packing plant, a cleaning supply spot or even way back when it served as a refrigeration site for the animals slaughtered in the Swift Building adjacent to the space.


It’s hard to imagine what things looked like before Opheikens and Casey got started there just because there is so much stuff everywhere. But there is much less stuff than their used to be and Opheikens has learned what is in the space, where it is and what most of it is worth.


As he walks through, carefully guiding those eager to see just what sits within the walls of the old places, he points out old army helmets and then with the next step a skeleton of a raccoon. One afternoon we happened upon to raccoons fighting. We cleared the space fast, but Opheikens stuck around for just a minute, making sure all was well before he cleared the area. He shows off all the old soda cans he has collected over time – a long line of cans that display much history of the space – Old rootbeer, 7-up, RC Cola and just some old Coke cans. Those cans give a glimpse of the history the place has seen. Opheikens admits he get pretty excited when he comes across the cans because it gives him some insight into the history that is there.


He excitedly showed off an old magazine ad he found in the old Swift bathroom near the “kill floor” when he lifted an old mirror. “It was probably something pretty bad for the time,” Opheikens said as he pointed out some naked ladies – not in sexy positions or anything, but just there. “Pretty tame for our day, but I thought it was pretty funny,” Opheikens said with a little laugh.

Working With the Pickers

Opheikens has learned how to be a good judge of other pickers as they have come along and wanted to grab some of the memorabilia there. There have been some people willing to pay a fair price for items, and others not so much. Opheikens has had to evaluate that and make sure people are on the up and up and then figure out how to let them know they aren’t welcome back, not always an easy job. But he has made some good friends with some who are there for the right reasons. Some “pickers” come on a Saturday morning, take a peruse through the building and stack things up on the dock of the big bays on the south end of the Swift building. Opheikens has enjoyed seeing what “one man’s treasure” may be because he has found that it’s different for everyone.


There are still layers and layers of things to recover, but time is running out. Great finds still surface on the daily though. Just the other day he found a set of stamps that meat packers would stamp on Swift meat packages before sending them out. There were 10 or 20. He lined them up and examined them carefully. The stamps, like many other things, show the different ages things were happening when Swift was opened. Different kinds of logos, different names under the Swift name. And while cool finds are still within the walls, Opheikens feels pretty good that the best stuff has been retrieved though. “At the end of the day I feel pretty good about how things have turned out,” he said.

Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Clair Barrow

Clair Barrow worked the gamut of jobs of Swift. And what do you know? The first job was the hardest!

A young boy sets up a nice life for himself with good wages at Swift Meats  


Clair Barrow with his wife Judy and daughter Shelly during the years he worked at Swift.



He never thought much about the hard work he did at Swift. But now he sees it set him up for a pretty nice life.

Clair Barrow

Clair Barrow learned at the young age of 16 or 17 what it was like to work hard. That’s when he started working at Swift Meats in Ogden, Utah. He worked summers starting in 1956. He worked in nearly all the departments of Swift and while there, but found quickly that his first job was the hardest.




Clair Barrow describes some of the work he did at Swift as “back-breaking.” But he didn’t mind it once he got his paycheck.  



He loaded rail cars on the shipping docks. It was hard, back-breaking work. “It was probably the hardest job down there. You had to be hunched over in those rail cars hauling a half of beef. Them things were heavy. You really built your muscles doing that,” he said, laughing at the memory. The rail cars were packed with ice that was produced in an ice house just across the street from Swift and then traveled back east, mostly to Chicago. Clair would load beef, lambs and pigs on the cars and he always knew he earned his paycheck after a grueling shift in that department.

aerial view of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the American Packing and Provision Company building. Special Collections Department, Stewart Library, Weber State University
Ariel View 1940-1950

By 1958 he was married and got offered a full-time gig. At that time, he was able to switch from loading the rail cars to loading trucks with smaller portions of products to go to local grocery stores – about as far as those loads would go is Idaho. While the work was still difficult, it was nothing like what he had done loading the rail cars. In the shipping departments, shifts were round-the-clock, the only shifts at Swift that were.


Clair learned early on that seniority was key at Swift and as different jobs came open that paid more or were desirable people would bid for them and got the jobs based on seniority. Once a person got a job in a different department they had to work their way back up again. But that didn’t stop Clair from trying different jobs to get better pay or better work conditions, although he didn’t really mind any of the work. “Well it was all hard work, but the pay was so good you didn’t mind,” Clair said of Swift. “And they knew they better treat us right because of the union.” Clair attributes the union to the excellent way employees were treated and paid. There had to be a clean work environment, money had to be paid on time and things had to be positive. And Clair always felt they were.


He worked on the “kill floor” for a couple of years – the top part of the building were the animals were brought up to be killed. Many described the kill floor as the one of the worst or hardest jobs in the place, but Clair didn’t think of it that way. It was swelteringly hot and the jobs were sacred for those that had been there a while. “Those were some mean and tough guys there,” Clair said of the men who had the seniority on the kill floor. Pay was based on how quickly you killed and got the animals ready to go so work had to be fast. Clair admitted not a lot of socializing went on during shifts on the kill floor. Clair didn’t actually kill the animals himself – which consisted of knocking the animals in the head with an air gun; but one of his jobs was to tie their legs off and pull their hides. Clair was always amazed by how many animals were killed in a shingle shift. Thousands, he figures some days. Lambs were a premium. He decided this was the case because that’s the kind of meat people liked to eat on the east coast. On the kill floor, there was a beef side and a sheep side and Clair worked both sides.

Clair Barrow with his wife, Judy.

Often, rumors would start that layoffs were coming to one department or another so employees would start to bid to work in a different spot. That’s why Clair moved around so much. One of his favorite areas to work was in the smoking department. It was cooler and it was where the meats were prepared for packaging. He would work getting the pork ready to be made and packaged into bacon which was where most of the “girls” worked, as Clair put it. He would also prepare the hams and different meats for smoking. It was really the last step before shipment. It was still busy and not easy, but it was less chaotic than the kill floor or the actual loading department for shipment.




Clair always felt very positive about working at Swift. Of course, for him the money was the best part. “I became a very rich man because of my start at Swift,” Clair said. He was making a lot more money than many others during that time and he was able to buy and provide things for his family that he never dreamed when he started working there. Because he had that extra cash he was able to also make smart investments and buy land. He thinks he wouldn’t have found that success without Swift. And although it closed down, the training he received there helped secure his career as the meat manager at Stop and Shop where he finished out his career.

Wrapping the bacon.


Clair feels strongly that the union kept Swift honest, although he really liked all his bosses and the people who worked in the office – none of which were part of the union.


Their work clothes were provided at the start of each shift. White shirts, pants and suspenders. After the end of a shift they were permitted to go shower and leave their dirty clothes behind. Their clothes had their work numbers (his was 280) and they would be ready to go at the beginning of the shift at their lockers the next day. Clair didn’t have a strong dislike for the smell of Swift for that reason. He always appreciated that at night workers came in and cleaned everything so they could start fresh each day. While he doesn’t think that was a federal law, it was part of the union. He was never required to wear gloves for any of the work he did though. He never felt like he was being watched over or anything like that, he always felt that he was treated with utmost respect.


Clair posing in front of his old-time truck.

There was a cafeteria with “some of the best food you ever ate.” There was a little bridge he would walk across on the north side of the building and that’s where the showers and cafeteria were. The food cost of course, but it always tasted good and fresh, Clair said. He didn’t often eat there because his wife sent a lunch for him, but it was nice to know it was there if he was ever in a pinch. Clair would often start his day at Stockman’s which was a café just west of Swift. “I loved that old place. I’d get me a short stack and coffee every day before work,” Clair said, smiling at the thought. There were pinball machines and it was a place to be social for many of the guys. Quite a few Swift employees would hang out there after work and drink a bit of beer. Clair wasn’t a part of that. “I didn’t want to get into too much trouble with Judy,” Clair said with a wink. Judy was his wife!

Clair loved buying delicious steaks for his family at a deep discount.


Clair enjoyed many of the fringe benefits of Swift – benefits like being able to buy the meats at a deep discount. He liked to take advantage of that and still loves himself a big streak to this day. “Oh, eating meat never bothered me a minute. I could eat steak every night!” he exclaimed.


Clair always thought Swift cared and wanted to contribute to the community. At least once per year Swift paid employees with $2 bills so they could see where people were spending their money in the community. “They wanted to see what impact they were making. They were proud of that,” Clair said. Clair liked the uniqueness of that perk, so did his kids. His daughter Shelly said she always thought her mom got those $2 bills from the bank. “No I just gave them all to her, like all the rest of my money,” Clair said with a tease in his voice. He remembers that he started at $2.65. “Of course, it only cost $1500 to buy a nice car back then too,” he said with a big laugh.


He liked the fact that he could “beat the clock” so to speak and get paid extra. If they wanted him to do a job in an hour and 15 minutes and it only took an hour, he would get paid for the hour and fifteen minutes. He loved when those work times would go fast like that. He also spent some time pulling some double shifts. Every so often they would ask for people to go and help render the lard from the animals. They would take the lard and send it off to a plant where they make all different kinds of oils. So Clair would work his main shift then pull another shift rendering lard. He made big stacks of cash during that time.


The Social Life


Clair made life-long friends in his time at Swift. He didn’t necessarily socialize while on shift, but socializing was done at places like Stockman’s and in the cafeteria. Plus, he was not alone in making the great money and many of them bought land and horses near each other and stayed friends and neighbors long after Swift shut down. They didn’t necessarily work together again, but had that Swift tie that started long-term friendships. Clair worked with his older brother which was a bonus for him. His brother got him the job but always had seniority over him, which never bothered Clair – he was his big brother after all.


The Shut Down


Clair admits it was somewhat of a shock when they learned things would shut down. The “bosses”  let the employees (he thinks there were about 300) know about two months ahead of time that they would be shutting things down so they could find other work. Clair immediately got a job at Great Salt Lake Mineral, but found that he hated the work there fast. He finished out his time at Swift and saw things slowly shut down. They had opened a new plant in Arizona and offered the employees a chance to transfer there. It wasn’t something Clair was interested in. He had a family in Utah and didn’t feel the desire to leave. The union helped keep things on the up and up and he felt okay with the way they were treated in the end. Other guys followed at GSL, but also found they didn’t like the work. Many went to Ogden Dress Meats and that’s where Clair ended up eventually as well and then onto Stop and Shop grocery store where he was a talented butcher.


Clair always considered Swift to be a great place to work. “It was a huge operation down there. Between the Stockyards and Swift and the ice house. There was a lot going on and it really put Ogden on the map. Swift really kept those Stockyards going too,” Clair said. He was always glad to be a part of that huge operation.


Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Rillon Champneys

Rillon Champneys grew up quickly from the things he saw at Swift

No regrets, but a lover of hard work


Rillon Champneys was a pro with any cutting tool placed before him. 



Rillon Champneys learned how to work hard and stay happy working on infamous “kill floor” at Swift. 

Rillon Champneys

Rillon Champneys wasn’t quite 18 when he started working at Swift. The technical age was 18, but it seemed to be something the bosses there quietly looked the other way about from time to time. Champneys was one of the lucky ones in his case. He started working at Swift the summer of 1950. Since he was still in high school, Swift was a summer-only job for him. He doesn’t remember exactly where he started, but he quickly ended up on the kill floor.



It didn’t take long for Rillon Champneys to notice one thing most of the workers on the “kill floor” had in common: They were all unhappy.

The kill floor was where all the animals were slaughtered and for Champneys, it was not a place of happiness and joy. “On the killing floor people were unhappy all the time,” Champneys recalled. The work was hard and fast-paced. For Champneys, making friends wasn’t an option because there simply wasn’t time. He never even took a coffee break on the days on the killing floor. He knew guys on other floors made friends, but there was just no time on top and it was pretty cut throat. He worked between 10 and 12-hour days, but sometimes 14 hours. He made around $12 per day, which was big money for a high school kid.


 The Kill Floor


This old article and photo gives a glimpse of the “Kill Floor” in the Swift Building. Much of the equipment still hangs there today.

Champneys mostly focused on killing sheep and he figured about 6,000 went through per day. “Good Lord, I wouldn’t have wanted to work there all the time,” Champneys said of his summer job. For him, working on the kill floor full time, all year would have been a bit too much. He would often think that the outside world just didn’t understand what it was like to work on the kill floor. As he worked he could see that it would get to people and some would lose their sanity. Granted, he didn’t know what their home lives were like that may have contributed to the sadness and anger, but he also could see that the fast pace of the work and the constant need to be faster and better would get the best of nearly everyone. If you didn’t keep pace (or beat pace) there were plenty of people waiting to take your job. The killing floor jobs were the highest paying jobs and plenty of people were vying for them – hoping someone would mess up so they could take the next man’s spot. Champney’s didn’t worry too much about it because he knew it was a summertime job – a means to an end and he could also see what working there year-round did to a man’s mental health and he didn’t want that. But…he really liked the money and for him it was the only positive thing about working there.


Killing the Sheep


There were different kinds of jobs to be done on the kill floor. Because there was a belt-like chain drive whatever job you had you had to keep things going at high momentum. The shifts were in 10 to 12-hour increments and none of the kill floor jobs were easy ones – and even when Champneys tried to make extra money with other side jobs there, they were taxing as well. “Everything was blood and guts (on the kill floor),” Champneys explained. He would find it hard to eat lunch on his lunch break because there was so much blood everywhere it would often make his stomach upset. “Sometimes it would take me three days to eat my lunch,” he noted, just because it was hard to get his stomach settled on a daily basis. He would often trade off on jobs on the floor because he was young and willing to do what needed to be done. He always was equipped with his apron and knife belt that he would wear over his regular clothes. For him, when he started working there all the blood was hard for him to take and even when he wasn’t eating the smell and the thought of the blood was a struggle for him. “I had to get my stomach all straightened out,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, all over the floors, all over the counters, just everywhere. It was hard to believe at times,” he said of the condition of the place during the busiest times. As for the jobs, there was the header who would get rid of the last bit of wool on the sheep. Then there was the cleaner. Somehow the sheep would get very dirty on their rear ends and they would have to be cleaned before they could be slaughtered. They would then shackle the sheep and hook them onto the big, heavy chains and one of the workers would cut their throat, hence all the blood that Champneys came to hate so much.


Then before they could go in the freezer they would have to be pinned on their hind and front legs. Their legs would be wrapped with little sticks with very sharp ends points. The government inspector would then stamp their rear ends once it was complete. It was particularly tough in the summer because it was hot outside, but they had to keep it cold inside. The person in charge of the temperature would often get into trouble because he would struggle to keep the temperature cool enough during summer months.

Killing the Pigs

Champneys also worked at killing the pigs. “Those pigs were so big, good Lord,” Champneys said with a big sigh. Before they could start the slaughter, they would have to take two little parts like pellets off the back of the pig. “We would get the pig, open him up with all the guts and there were two layers. We would peel the fat off – two peels and we would have to find those two dark pill shape things about an inch long and a quarter inch in diameters. They never told us what they for and I always wondered that,” Champneys said. Once they found them they would cut the pigs throat and throw it in a boiling tank of water. It was a huge round tank, but just before they would throw then in they would have to shave off their hair. “It was kind of pitiful,” Champneys said.

March, 1947. Men in cowboy hats with cattle in front of the Exchange Building. From the Alice Petersen estate collection. Digitized by Evalogue.Life 2017.
March, 1947

Cow on the Loose

One day while everyone was slaughtering like crazy, one of the cows decided he wasn’t going to the slaughter. They would kill the cows with a sledgehammer as they came in and put them in the shoot. But one afternoon, they didn’t get the cow knocked out all the way and he got out free on the kill floor. “He was crazy!” Champneys exclaimed. “He took off running through there and knocked everything off the ceiling. The floor was slick, so when he tried to charge he couldn’t go anywhere because it was so slick,” Champneys added. Men started running off the floor as fast as they could because they cow was mad. But as the men they slipped too because it was so slick. In a way, it was a scene of panic, but also hilarity, because no one could move, but the cow was still coming after them. “Once he started charging he just tore the hell out of everything,” Champneys said. But, luckily because it was slick, he couldn’t get a lot of momentum. One of the workers came from out of nowhere and just shot the cow dead. “It was one of the funniest things that ever happened,” Champneys said with a laugh at the thought.


Extra Work

Some days when all the slaughtering was done they would ask some guys to stay and do extra work. That usually entailed taking the pelt off the sheep. Once the pelt was off he would drop it down a chute onto a lower floor. He would then go down to the lower floor and take the pelts and put salt on them. After about four dozen were complete, he would shake the salt out and put into a box for shipping. There were what seemed like thousands of pelts to be done at a time and four men would work with them at once. Why salt? Champneys wondered that for a bit too, but it was then explained to him that the salt would keep the hide soft. When he handled them the pelts still felt soft to him, but they would slowly get hard even as the day would progress – they would be hard enough to be able to shake the salts off. He always felt so tired trying to get all the salts off after working so hard on the killing floor. Even though it was some extra money, he always questioned if it was worth because his body was always so physically exhausted.


Dealing with the crazy

Some of the hardest and saddest parts of the job for Champneys was to watch some of the guys go crazy, literally. He watched two men take their own lives while he was on shift. One man cut his wrists and another jumped off the platform and landed on his head. Several others threatened to jump as well. Champneys was always troubled but what he saw, but also see why the men were driven to it because of the stress of the job. People were afraid of losing their jobs, making quotas and it was simply unpleasant on the kill floor.


All About the Money


“It was a horrible job but it paid really good money,” Champneys said. “I bought a car and good clothes,” Champneys said. It was for that reason that he considered trying to get hired on permanently after he graduated from high school. He had finished his senior year and hadn’t been working at Swift for a few months when he approached his mom about going back to Swift. “It took me six months to get the smell out of your clothes from the last time!” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “That job made you so tired,” his mom reminded him. That was true. He would come home after work and collapse in the kitchen chair just inside the back door every day after his work on the kill floor. The memory of the terrible smell and the hard work rushed back as his mom reminded him, but the money was calling his name. So, he decided to go back anyway. They quickly hired him back (he never knew why they liked him so much except for the fact that he always worked hard and didn’t talk much.) But by the time he got home from his first shift, his parents had something else in mind. They didn’t like the way he acted or felt after his shifts at Swift so his father found him working on the railroad –another hard-working job, but less stressful. He spent the next 23 years of his life working on the railroad. “There was no other job like that, that’s for sure. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever done that ever came close to working on the killing floor,” Champneys said of his time there. He was glad he did the job, he liked the money he made, but it also taught him what kind of work he didn’t want to do for his whole life. Good life lessons learned for Rillon Champneys.



Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Hogs being unloaded from a truck at the Ogden Union Stockyards. Photo obtained from Don Strack.

Verl Thompson

Farm Boy to Big City Meat Packer

Working on a farm wasn’t for Verl Thompson, he wanted something more  

Inside pens at the Ogden Union Stockyards, cattle stand. At the back of the pen are three men wearing cowboy hats, working jackets and two have ties on. One man is on a horse with a lasso. Above on the catwalk, men in hats and overcoats look down. Special Collections Department, Stewart Library, Weber State University


sheep being loaded up the concrete ramps onto a Union Pacific rail car at the Ogden Union Stockyards. Special Collections Department, Stewart Library, Weber State University
Sheep on the concrete ramps



The 1950s were a hopping time in the Ogden Stockyards/Swift Meat Packing Plant. And Verl Thompson was in on all the action.

Verl Thompson

There’s not much work to be found in Lewiston, Idaho. Not much work unless you want to be a farmer. And that wasn’t the line of work Ivan “Verl” Thompson loved to do. He did it long enough, but after his LDS mission, he knew it wasn’t his life’s work. Plus, he wanted to make some good money so when the time came, he could provide for his family.



Verl Thompson never minded getting his hands dirty or working in the cold  Swift Meat Packing Plant. He had goals and he knew Swift was the place to make them happen. 

A Chance for a Leg up in Life

He caught wind that there was a meat-packing plant in Ogden that paid well and decided he would give it a try. “I needed a job and heard there was some butcher work,” Thompson said. He decided to try it and that he would take the time to commute the 60 miles to the job. That didn’t last long though. The commute proved to be too much, so Thompson decided he would re-locate to the bustling junction town.


The year was 1952 and things were hopping at Swift. He was hired on to work in the cooler. He was there to greet the dead cattle soon after they were slaughtered so they could be cooled in preparation to be cut. The place was cold. “It was cold, but I didn’t pay it much mind,” Thompson said with a laugh. “They had to keep the whole place cold so the meat wouldn’t spoil so we just got used to it,” Thompson said, thinking of the memory. He wore a big, heavy shirt and coveralls in all parts of the plant that he figures employed about 100. “I stayed pretty warm, really,” he remembered. Even though the plant was kept at a toasty 35 to 36 degrees, he remembers.

Working in the Cold


When he worked in the cold room the meat would come there directly from the kill floor which was essentially the top floor of the plant. From there the meat would need to cooled before it could be butchered. At first, Thompson spent his days there, getting the meat cool and hauling it around. He remembers it was physical work, but because of his young age he didn’t think much about it. They would arrange it to go to the different parts of the plant depending on the meat. He worked primarily with the cattle and sheep and had little to do with the pigs, that was pretty much in a different space from Thompson’s memory.


He didn’t spend a lot of time working in the cold room before he was promoted to butcher. There he would cut up the cattle into fairly large pieces to be transported out to grocery stores – and mostly local grocery stores at that. They would ship some out, but most of it stayed in the area. He cut it into bigger pieces and the grocery stores could then cut the meat how they liked it to get the best sale. Thompson found that most of the stores liked to do it different. “I got of a lot of lessons in cutting meat, but it wasn’t very complicated, but it was hard work,” Thompson said. Thompson was paid by the hour, unlike those that were “meat boners” who turned the meat into hamburger.  Alberton’s was one of their biggest orders. “Their orders were big and I never wanted to do those when they came in,” he said with a sly smile. He did though because he liked the idea of working hard. He knows some of the meat was shipped out on rail cars, although he didn’t ever think it was a whole lot. “It may have been, I just don’t remember it that way,” he said.

A Natural Butcher


He also never lost the knack for being able to cut meat. He was always the designated cutter when they would get a deer. “I would take it home, cut it up, put in a locker and give it all away,” he said. But cutting meat never made his stomach turn. He has always been able to eat the meat in spite of those 19 years of chopping it up. “It didn’t bother me. I saw it raw and I knew what it was,” he added.


Thompson usually worked an 8-hour shift, unless there were extra orders to be filled. If that was the case his 8-hour day would quickly turn into a 10 or 11-hour day but the time went quickly because he was busy. If the worked 10 hours, Swift was always careful to feed the employees. “They sent us to a café for dinner,” Thompson said. The café was located in west Ogden out of the Stockyards. He didn’t remember a lot of the details of the place, but does remember he was pretty thrilled to get a free meal and paid extra for extra hours of work.

Friends, But Only at Work


He had a few friends that he was chummy with at work, but that ended, for most part when he punched the time clock. “There were a lot of good guys there. I really liked them, but we did have a lot of different values,” he said with a laugh and grin. Thompson didn’t enter in with a lot of the after-work shenanigans, but he liked the men while they were on the clock. Thompson admitted he was a family man and not long after he started working at Swift he got married and started his family. He was interested in getting home to his wife.


Thompson mostly worked with the beef, but if he got done with the orders on the beef he would move over to sheep area and help there. He didn’t do that a whole lot and doesn’t have a lot of memories of what he did while in that department. He did like the fact that everyone did pitch in and help though. If one department got done with its work, they moved to another department and helped each other out. Sometimes the job could get monotonous – hours and hours of cutting, but that was only when it was slow and they were waiting for orders to come in. “But we were busy most of the time,” he noted. He didn’t mind the times he could help with the “lambs” as he called them as that department always seemed to be thriving and busy.


As long as he worked there he made an hourly wage and didn’t know of people who were paid by the sheer amount of work they completed during the time, although some accounts have said they were paid by the number of pounds they cut, or ground up into beef. “That was not in my department,” he said. One thing he enjoyed was the fact that the employees all worked hard though. No one slacked off and were eager to get the job done, for the most part.

They Treated us “Pretty Good”


“They treated us pretty good,” Thompson said of the management at Swift. He didn’t feel put upon by them or underappreciated. “I really felt like we was government workers in a lot of way, by the way they treated us,” Thompson said of the place. The upper management seemed to like all the workers and didn’t want to see a lot of turnover so they treated the employees well. “For me, it was a good company to work for,” Thompson said. Although he is quick to say the very best part of the job was always payday.  Talking about payday yielded the biggest grin of the day from Thompson, who is now 92. “They paid us real good,” he said.



Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Bob Gale

Family Man Doesn’t Hesitate to Share his Expertise 

A son shares his memories of his father’s years at Swift  

Two men wearing cowboy hats stand with cattle inside pens at the Ogden Union stockyards. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery.


Mike Gale loves to talk about his father’s days at Swift in Ogden.



Bob Gale learned how to be a butcher at his young age. His expertise provided a good life for his family and fresh meat for Ogden residents.

Bob Gale

Robert (everyone called him Bob) Gale started working at Swift in 1959. The father of five felt lucky to be working at Swift because of the great pay and benefits. With five children, it seemed the expenses never ended. Bob learned at a young age how to be a butcher as he helped run the small market with his parents on 22nd and Jackson in Ogden.



Mike Gale loved going down to Swift on holidays with his dad, Bob Gale. The two would grind fresh meat, take it to McDonald’s and then eat a fresh burger as reward for their hard work. 

A Butcher in His Youth

By the late 1950’s the smaller markets were going under due to larger grocery stores coming into Ogden and seeming to be bigger and brighter than the small markets. Bob’s family’s market was one of the markets that all but disappeared by 1960. Bob knew before it closed he needed to find something else and started honing his butchering skills at Custom Meats and then was hired on at Swift.


He started working on the “kill floor”- the area many considered to be the toughest spot. But his talent for cutting meat did not go unnoticed by the “higher ups” at Swift and Bob was soon moved to what was called the “sales cutting floor.” That was the area where talented butchers cut specialty cuts of meats for specific clients – mostly high end. One of their clients was the Jackson Lake Lodge in Jackson, Wyoming. Bob was always very proud of the work he did in that area and liked to tell his children about it. One time Bob took his family on a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They didn’t stay in the lodge – it was a little too pricey for his family, but they did eat dinner there and feasted on the meats that Bob cut for the place. Bob’s son, Mike remembers the day with fondness. “We always thought it was super cool that we got to do that,” he said. “It was an interesting place and that was a good time.” he noted.

A Unique Holiday Tradition


Because of Bob’s expertise with the meats, he was also on call for many of the major holidays, in case any of the local places needed some extra beef. Summer holidays were usually the days he was on call. One of Mike’s best memories was when McDonald’s would call and run out of hamburger meat. Bob would take Mike with him to grind the hamburger and make it into burgers. Mike loved to watch the meat-grinding process and then watch his dad work his magic – making the freshly=ground beef into patties. They would then deliver the freshly-made patties straight to the McDonald’s on 11th and Washington and 39th and Washington. They made about 500 to 750 patties per store and it took about two hours to complete the job. They loaded the patties up in Bob’s 1965 Pontiac and away they went.  And of course, they ate some burgers after the deliveries. Bob and Mike never gave a thought to the fact that they had just prepared the beef they were eating. “We didn’t think a thing of it. We were meat eaters,” Mike said with a laugh.


Nowadays, all the meat is trucked in and patties are pre-made, but it was always nice at that time to know the how fresh the beef was at those local restaurants.

A Great Way to Provide for a Family


Bob loved the job because he was making a great wage and could provide for his family. He also loved the way he was treated while working there. Swift was a great family employer. Bob played softball for the Swift softball team at the All-American Park, right next to John Affleck Park on Washington just off 33rd Street. They always loved going as a family to watch the games. There was always a big summer party for employees and their families too. “We all thought it was a cool place to work,” Mike said. Swift liked to be involved in the community and wanted to support the families of the employees.


 The union made all the difference, but it was the union that ended up bringing on the demise of Swift as well. It was just a few days before Christmas when the plant officially shut down and those were bleak times for the Gale family. Mike was a teenager and so he could see and feel the pain of job loss more than some of his younger siblings. Bob went from job to job for a while and really liked being a butcher, but with so many other butchers out of work too, butchering jobs were not easy to find, especially paying the wage he and his family had become accustomed to at Swift. For a short while, Bob worked at some smaller stores, like George’s Market on 36th and Monroe, as a butcher, but it wasn’t anything that would be long-lasting for the family. Others found work at Oscar’s Meats or Wilson’s Meats, but the wages were poor at best. Bob finally landed a banking job at Commercial Security Bank.

Union Troubles


Looking back, it was a union disagreement that really caused Swift to shut down. Bob never had a bad word to say about the union, he knew it was necessary and knew it was why Swift was such a great place to work, but there were some union demands on the Ogden facility but the facility was also in great need for some big repairs to meet federal regulations. Swift didn’t want to put the money in to meet both the union demands and the upgrades, so it made more sense to them to just shut down operations in Ogden. Besides, meat was not going in and out on the rail cars as much and trucking was a much bigger industry – which could be handled from anywhere. At first, some of the operations went to Salt Lake City, but eventually, everything moved to Arizona. The union was threatening a major strike and that would be bad for publicity for Swift too and they didn’t want to deal with that. By 1970 Bob could see that the facility was quite old and knew of the need for upgrades and repair. Materials being used were different for the times and it was a struggle to be like the other meat packers or even some of the other Swift buildings.


Bob and his family didn’t feel bitter feelings toward Swift though and look at those years as good ones. They also like the fact that they are a piece of Ogden history in a unique way and Mike will always remember those patty-making days with his dad. A great father-son memory for sure.




Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members. 

Susan Cross

Ogden Woman Fondly Remembers Mother-in-law’s legacy

Ogden Woman was Friend to all Cowboys 

Red Rushton, Brose-Hadley and Eldis Barber, swearing light colored cowboy hats and sitting inside pens at the Ogden Union Stockyards. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery.
Red Rushton, Brose-Hadley and Eldis Barber




Susan Cross loves reminiscing about the Ogden Stockyards and her mother-in-law, the “Queen of the Ogden Stockyards.”

Susan Cross

It seems like yesterday when little Susan and her mom would visit Mrs. Cross at the Coliseum at the old Ogden Stockyards. They would often go to the Stockman’s café nearby and Susan’s mom and Mrs. Cross would drink coffee and talk for hours.



Mrs. Cross never hesitated to help a cowboy in need. 

Mid-century cars parked in front of the Ogden Union Stockyard Exchange Building. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery.

A Little Girl Listens

Susan remembers their conversations and was always in awe of Mrs. Cross. “I hate to say this because it wasn’t  official, but she really was the Queen of the Stockyards,” Susan said with mystique in her voice. “The cowboys really watched out for her, but she loved watching out for them,” Susan remembers.


The cowboys would saunter into her shop – kind of like an old office as Susan remembers – in the Exchange building. They would come in needing this or that and Mrs. Cross would rush to their aid – no questions asked. But she wasn’t alone in the effort. Her two sons would fetch and tote for the cowboys too. Mrs. Cross would explain what she needed and the boys would hurry to their aid to get precisely what they were asking for.


“Those were good times and I remember things about it well,” Susan said. She loves the idea of recording the things her mother-in-law knows because they are priceless tidbits of information. “When people get older they forget things – but not her – she remembers and we need to get that down,” she said.



Rachel J. trotter


Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.

tell your story

Evalogue.Life was hired to capture the history of the Ogden Union Stockyards and the old Swift meat packing plant, including oral history and other research. These vignettes were written by Evalogue.Life team members.