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 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. 

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 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. 

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 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. 

Men on catwalk above the pens in the Ogden Union Stockyards. one wearing a cowboy hat and overalls and the other in a white fedora, slacks and white shirt. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery.

Pablo Sanchez Sr. 

Pablo Sanchez Sr. played a vital role for both the

Ogden Stockyards and Swift Building

A Mexican immigrant teaches his family the value of hard work

1926 pens with cattle at the Ogden Union Stockyards. Sign reads Carload fat Steers owned and grown by Bar R Ranch Bert Rudd Irwin, ID, for sale by Peck Bros. Livestock Com. Co. Special Collections Department, Stewart Library, Weber State University
1926 Pens


Pablo Sanchez Junior around the time when he spend summer days with his dad at the Stockyards caring for the animals.



Who fed and cared for the animals before their sale or slaughter? One man.

Pablo Sanchez, Sr. 

Pablo Sanchez Jr. loves to drive around the old Ogden Stockyards and area around the old Swift Building. Fond memories of his years there come racing into his mind. Not the years of his employment, but of his father’s. His father, Pablo Sanchez Sr., worked just across the river from Swift, feeding the livestock the day before their slaughter. Sanchez Jr. would go to work with his dad around one day per week during the summer months. “I think my mom just liked to get me out of the house,” Sanchez Jr. said with a laugh. But for him it was an adventure.


When Pablo Sanchez Senior immigrated to the United States as a young boy he was determined to make a difference. He did so by hard work and perseverance. His love for the outdoors and animals proved irreplaceable for the Stockyards and Swift.

Pablo Sanchez Sr. during the time he worked at the Stockyards.

A Son Shares His Father’s Stories

His dad was the sole person to feed the hundreds of livestock of sheep, pigs, goats and cattle each day. Most days he would lift 50 to 60 bales of hay for the animals and sometimes twice – once off the trucks to store in the hay house and once to deliver it to the animals. Sanchez Jr. was always amazed and how easily his father would lift the bales of hay, when as a child he couldn’t even move them. His father always laughed at him for that.


Making a Life In America


It seemed like an easy enough transition for Sanchez Sr. to work outdoors day in and day out, caring for the animals and lifting hay. He grew up in a horse ranch in Mexico and loved working outside with the livestock because he understood them. Plus, he enjoyed putting in a hard day of honest work. When his parents died in Mexico there was nothing left for him there and he moved to Ogden, Utah to be near his sister who he loved dearly. Once in the United States, he joined the Army and spent several years serving his country. He served during World War II time and although he never saw combat, he always respected the time he spent there. After returning from the Army he started working at Swift. Sanchez Jr. is unsure if he was employed by Swift, the Stockyards or the railroad or he’s not sure if the railroad contracted with Swift. That’s one of those questions he wishes he could ask now, but he passed several years ago.

Pablos Sanchez Sr. during a trip to his homeland, Mexico.


Waste not, Want not


Sanchez Sr. took his job very seriously, meticulously cleaning out the animal pens each and every day. He had a systematic way of sorting the hay bales and taking the wires off each bale of hay. He saved the wires and bunched up the hay and re-used it at the end of each day. Waste was not something that he allowed in his job. He also utilized the manure by using it for fertilizer on not only his yard, but his sister’s. Sanchez Jr. said his father and his aunt’s yards were some of the most beautiful in the neighborhood because of the way Sanchez Sr. took care of the fertilizer and made the best of it. “He always considered the extra hay and fertilizer to be fringe benefits of the job,” Sanchez Jr. said with a laugh.


Sanchez Sr. said watching the process of the animal slaughter was always interesting to him. He couldn’t say how many animals were slaughtered a day, except that it was in the hundreds it seemed. The sheep would go in cycles – usually 200 at a time. While the animal pens and hay buildings were in close proximity to the Swift Building, it was still a process to get the animals to the building. The animals were on the other side of the river from the Swift building close by the train tracks that the animals were brought in on regularly. Sanchez Sr. was not in charge of releasing the animals for slaughter, there were two other men who did that job, but he would often watch and could step in and assist if needed.

Men on catwalk above the pens in the Ogden Union Stockyards. one wearing a cowboy hat and overalls and the other in a white fedora, slacks and white shirt. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery.
Pablo Sanchez Jr. and his father, Pablo Sanchez Sr. would often walk along the catwalk above the pens to survey the animals.


He always cleared the roadway for the animals before they were released so the animals could pass safely along the road and the bridge to the kill floor of the Swift Building. Sheep were led across the river to Swift and up the ramp by goats that were dubbed “Judas goats.”

“The goats were amazing and we would often give them names,” Sanchez Jr. said. He especially came to love one goat that they named “Billie.” They would put a large bell on the goat and it would parade back and forth with the bell on in front of the pens. The animals would be mesmerized by the goat and the bell and as soon as the pens were open they would follow right behind the goat. The goat would them lead them across the bridge and over the Swift Building. Once to the building, the goat would lead them to the ramp and then the livestock would part ways with the goat. The goats would always return back to the pens. The animals had to walk up almost to the top of the building on the ramps to what was called the kill floor where within moments they would be slaughtered. Sanchez Jr. said it was amazing how they did it each and every time and how the goats knew where to take them…and when to leave.

Helping Dad at Work


Sanchez Jr. got a kick out of walking between the pens and checking out what the animals were doing. “The sheep are kind of greedy,” Sanchez Jr. said. They would get so eager to get their food sometimes they would get their heads stuck in the slats of the pen trying to get their food before anyone else could. On the days Sanchez Jr. was there, it was his job to push their heads through the slats. He loved when he would hear his name called to take on the task.

Some of the bulls were extremely mean. Especially the Brama bulls. Sometimes he would walk between the bull pens and they would charge at him. “It was scary,” Sanchez Jr. said, but he knew he was safe, so he kept doing it. One day his father came in contact with an especially mean and fierce bull. As his father walked by to feed him, the bull charged at him. His father took the gate and pushed it back, forcing the bull back. His father and the bull stared each other down for a moment. His father eyes saying, “Go ahead, come at me.” At that, the bull turned around and walked away. “It was amazing to me. That elevated my dad in my mind,” Sanchez Jr. said with a big smile. He was saying to that bull, “You aren’t going to get the best of me,” Sanchez Jr. said.

Auction Action – Tempting for a Young Boy

On many of the days Sanchez Jr. got to go work with his dad he had other adventures to check out besides just the livestock set for slaughter. There was a live auction. Sanchez Jr. loved to slip into the auction and see what the cowboys were doing. “I couldn’t ever understand anything they were saying. They would say a whole bunch of stuff and then I would hear, ‘Sold!’” Sanchez said with a big chuckle. The livestock were paraded around and cowboys of all different statures would buy the animals. It was at the auction where he saw the sickest of the animals. “You never saw any sick animals on the Swift side,” Sanchez Jr. noted. But he saw plenty at the auctions, which was something he never understood. Sanchez Jr. watched the hundreds of animals on both sides of the stockyards – the Swift side and auction side and felt lucky he got to be a part of the action. He loved that he lived in the place that was the hub of so much excitement every day.

Cattle inside the auction ring at the Ogden Union Stockyards. The gallery bleachers are full. Thank you to Don Strack for generously sharing this photo, part of his extensive gallery.
Pablo Sanchez Jr. loved to sneak away from work in the pens to check out the auction. Exciting for a young boy!

Stockman’s Cafe – Yum!

During his weekday adventures, he would try to pay a visit to Stockman’s, the yummy restaurant just across the street from the Stockyards. Workers would often toss him a quarter or dime during the course of the day and tell him to go get himself a soda. He was happy to oblige. When he would go inside, being the young kid he was, the employees made a big deal of him. They knew his name, knew who he was, and who his father was. At the time, he wasn’t sure why, but now he feels sure it was because people could see what a hard worker his father was and admired him for it.

A Loyal Employee and Hard Worker

His dad went to work at Swift and the Stockyards every day for 26 years. He would get up early in the morning, his wife would make him breakfast, coffee and send him on his way with a pack lunch. The cycle was always the same. Sanchez Jr. thinks his dad only missed work about six times over the years he worked there. He had two or three weeks off straight when he contracted a terrible eye infection. He let it go too long (because he didn’t want to miss work) and had to go to the Dee Hospital. Upon arrival, doctors found that he would lose his eye. He had to take some time off to heal and he wore an eye patch for some time and eventually got a glass eye. Sanchez Jr. said his dad accepted it, even though it was a difficult trial. The hardest thing for him to accept was the terrible state of the animal pens when he went back to work! He was frustrated with the careless way they had treated the pens and most likely the animals. It took him weeks to get the pens back into the shape they needed to be in. “To many it was considered a crappy, nasty job, but to him, he took pride in his work,” Sanchez Jr. said of his father. His dad taught him much by example, but also taught him how to work at home. One day he made him mow the lawn three times because he failed to do it the right way the other times. That day, Sanchez Jr. came to understand why his dad spent so much time perfecting his job at Swift – he did it right the first time. On the rare day he had off, they brought in two people to cover his shift.

Pablo Sanchez Sr. was always a hard worker. His son has vivid memories of his snow shoveling and lawn mowing at their home. He was always busy.


Literacy, Language and Religious Barriers Lead to Tragedy

That’s why it was such a mystery when things went south so quickly for his father at Swift. After 26 years of hard work and service, Sanchez Sr. was RIF’d (Reduction in force). Sanchez Sr. was angry and hurt. The problem was that a noticed was posted explaining that a RIF was going to be happening, but Sanchez Sr. was unable to read, leaving him clueless as to the upcoming change. But the part that really stuck with Sanchez Sr. is that those who knew of Sanchez’s Sr.’s difficulty with reading never let him know what was coming. He and six other employees were cut loose, even though Sanchez Sr. was fourth in line seniority-wise. Sanchez Sr. always felt that it was because he didn’t belong to the predominant LDS religion that seemed prevalent at Swift, especially those that worked closely with Sanchez Sr. He always felt they looked down on him and treated him poorly because he was Roman Catholic.  Sanchez Jr. said he took his religion very seriously and was proud of it. He felt bitter about the fact that he didn’t feel respected for his religion.

His difficulty with reading was also a struggle his whole life. When he came to Ogden as a young boy, his sister put him in grade school. He was unable to speak or read English and would get whipped with a switch each time he didn’t understand the words the teachers uttered to him. He soon quit school because he just couldn’t take the beating anymore. The language and reading barrier just kept on because he didn’t have the tools to learn to read and speak. He knew quite a bit of English and could respond in English when spoken to, but the reading part was a sticking point for him. But he never blamed his job loss at Swift on his inability to read, he blamed it on those of the LDS faith who he felt didn’t have his back.

Pablo Sanchez Sr. wanted to serve America and joined the military.

Because of the language and reading barrier, Sanchez Sr. made sure his children spoke and read in English, always. They were not allowed to speak or read Spanish, only English. Sanchez Jr. said he knows little Spanish now because of that.

His father found work at a local poultry house, which is also now closed. Sanchez Sr. always loved the work at Swift, though. He loved caring for the animals, even if they were going to die. He loved being outdoors, even though Sanchez Jr. never understood how his dad handled the cold. Sanchez Jr. felt his years at Swift taught him to be a hard worker in all aspects of his life – perfectly groomed yard, shoveled walks, meticulous in all that he did.

Pablo Sanchez Jr. followed his father’s example and joined the service to protect his country, something important to the Sanchez family.

His father was struck with Alzheimer’s as he got older, which was tough for the family, but Sanchez Jr. spent his father’s last years with him. When he realized how bad things were getting for his father he moved back to Utah with his wife and family from Houston, Texas to help his mother and father cope with his debilitating illness. Those were not easy times for their family. But now Sanchez Jr. has the memories of his father to hold on to and all those years watching his father work. Sanchez Jr. joined the Army like his father did and it was while he was serving that his father was RIF’d.

Sanchez Jr. still drives around that area, remembering and savoring of his memories of times gone by in the hopping down he grew up in, Ogden, Utah.

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.