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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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.