From ghost towns to drive-in restaurants, new book chronicles local author’s ‘Southern Utah Memories’

Composite image. Background photo by alpenarts/iStock/Getty Images Plus. Inset image of "Southern Utah Memories" courtesy of Legacy Preservation Foundation, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — It could be said that you never really know a place until you’ve seen it through the eyes of a local. Along these lines, author Loren R. Webb has affectionately recounted the people, places and events that influenced the development of his hometown St. George in his new book, “Southern Utah Memories.”  

Stock image by Maria Jeffs/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“Southern Utah Memories” is now available for purchase online as both a paperback and digital download. 

Coming in at nearly 500 pages, the book compiles 81 individual stories, all researched and written by Webb and spanning centuries of history, from the arrival of the first settlers through the modern era. Although most take place within the greater Washington County area, he also visits nearby Mohave County, Arizona, and Clark County, Nevada. 

“These smaller towns were just as important as St. George,” Webb said. “Some of these are ghost towns – they did not succeed – but they all contributed to the overall history of this area.”  

Webb chronicles with particular reverence the stories of pioneer families who first planted roots in the harsh soil of Washington County during the 1850s and continued to persevere despite tremendous adversity. 

“These are my ancestors on both my mom’s side and my dad’s side,” he said. “They were called to settle down in this area, and they literally made the desert blossom as a rose.”  

Image courtesy of Legacy Preservation Foundation, St. George News

Other stories were inspired by Webb’s own childhood memories and the people he met over 21 years of working as a news reporter in Southern Utah. Among his favorites is the tale of three drive-in restaurants along St. George Boulevard, where he recalls spending many afternoons with his schoolmates. Only Larsen’s Frostop remains today. 

Webb is an educator, author, journalist and member of the Washington County Historical Society. Born and raised in St. George, he grew up working on his father’s dairy farm. He graduated from Dixie College in 1977 before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in journalism and history from Brigham Young University.   

In August 2012, two years after the release of his first book, “Milking Time: The History of Dairy Farming in Washington County, Utah,” Webb approached KWBR 105.7 FM with the idea of writing historical vignettes about Southern Utah to broadcast as part of the station’s programming. Several had already aired when the station’s transmitter broke down for an indefinite period. Shortly afterwards, he was contacted by KCSG Television’s Morgan Skinner, who was interested in publishing them in an expanded format on their website each week. 

While working as a 7th grade history teacher in Las Vegas, Webb combed through historical documents and conducted interviews in the evenings and on weekends. By 2014, he had published 81 articles about the people, locations, events, businesses and institutions that shaped the history of Washington County and surrounding areas. 

“I felt like I had exhausted my story ideas,” he said. 

Stock image by
Sara Edwards/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

It was Skinner who suggested compiling the articles into a book, Webb said, but the idea remained in limbo for several years. Webb retired from teaching in May 2020 and inked a deal with Legacy Preservation Foundation to finally bring the project to fruition. LPF is a nonprofit company that has published several books on the heritage and history of the Bear Lake Valley. Skinner is one of five trustees for the company and became the project manager for “Southern Utah Memories.”

Although many of the narratives in the book may be familiar to lifelong St. George residents, Webb said a large segment of the area’s population is now composed of people who relocated from other parts of Utah and other states. 

“There are some interesting stories that I felt needed to be told – and maybe retold – to our current population to remind them of the great heritage of this area and how it was settled,” he said.

Webb said he hopes readers will gain an appreciation for the ingenuity and resilience of Southern Utahns throughout history. Stories range from the inspirational to the somber to the offbeat, and each lends to building the community he’s proud to call home.  

“For a long time, this place was called ‘Color Country,’ and it really is,” he said. “It’s a colorful area – it has colorful people, a colorful history. It’s just a beautiful place to live.” 

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

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