London Connection, A History Part 1April 7, 2017
Life as a child was always filled with discussions about another trip, near or far, but always with a purpose. After World War II, my mother learned that the first commercial flight between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City had been organized, and she was determined that our family would be on that plane. I don’t remember the experience, but I have looked at the snap shots of my being carried on the prop plane in my mother’s arms and have realized that my family’s attitude toward travel came to me while still a toddler.
Travel often meant summer season tickets to the Hollywood Bowl to hear the greatest musicians of the age, or traveling by train three times a year between Los Angeles and my grandmother’s home in Utah, or flying to Washington, D.C. to spend the summer with my cousin who was a page boy in the U.S. Senate, or Yosemite National Park to camp with a neighbor’s family, or to San Francisco to go shopping in Chinatown with my mother. Of course, always in the back of my head, I knew I would be off to Europe as soon as travel was allowed after the horrible days of war, but I was patient and filled my time by wandering as far as I could travel as the World put the pieces back together.
The television came into our home to watch General Douglas MacArthur return to the States. I remember my father saying we as a family should visit Asia, knowing that would not be soon. Then the big event happened in my life: The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. My Moore grandfather was born in London, and we always heard stories about his early life in what seemed a very far away place, but the Coronation of the Queen brought England and London into my heart, mind, and soul.
School was closed so everyone could watch this great event, and my entire family was glued to that little black and white screen as the Queen became Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I was enthralled, my father was very interested because it was his heritage, my mother found it interesting, and my brother Bob spent the time planning his next pigeon shoot at the Salton Sea with his friends. I knew in my mind, that England was my goal, and there was no turning back.
My wise parents saw what was happening in Southern California with the large number of Spanish speaking migrant workers coming across the border to work. Our gardener was not allowed to speak English to my brother nor to me, and we were enrolled in Spanish classes to be taught only by native speakers. My wise mother knew that her sons would be much better off if we traveled during the holidays rather than wasting our time wondering what to do. So, when I was fourteen years old, I was packed up and sent to the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, to study Spanish literature with Dr. Lopez Suarez who was a family friend, and an exciting storyteller. I flew from Los Angeles Airport to Mexico City to be met by friends of our family who made sure I was able to take this experience alone. After one bowl of vegetable soup and the most marvelous tacos and enchiladas, I KNEW MY LIFE WOULD BE SPENT TRAVELING TO SEE THE WORLD. Within a week, I was put on a local village bus and made my expedition to Guanajuato. I met chickens in baskets, birds in cages, and pigs whose backsides were shoved out the bus windows every time their tails started to straighten; unfortunately, I was often seated behind with my window open so I could see the countryside and take pictures with my box camera.
When I arrived in Guanajuato, I was asked if I would like to see the accommodations I was assigned; I was really excited. The three-story house was a colonial building with a center courtyard with plants growing on all sides. My roommate was ten years older than I, and we traveled a great deal with his nanny. The three of us bonded, and we went sightseeing every weekend, and studied together with our Spanish tutors every evening. It wasn’t until toward the end of my trip that I found out that the young man was from New York and his name was Vanderbilt. He related his fascinating tales of his travels all over the world and how he loved art, antiques, furniture, opera, ballet, and of course folk music. My education was wonderful, and I THRIVED in this wonderful setting.
Eventually I returned to the States and soon found myself fluent in three languages and a solid foundation in Latin. I was determined this was just the beginning. Since I was born during the war, my parents were eager for me to have a successful high school experience, even if I was two years younger than the rest of the students in my classes. I was an eager student and found myself in all kinds of clubs and taking classes which dazzled a young boy. I was fortunate to be assigned to a Spanish teacher Mrs. Ernesta Lopez Pease whose roots went back to California’s colonial times. They once owned all the land around the San Gabriel Mission, and she had that sense of fashion of a lady who traveled to Europe often, read great literature, and had style and elegance. But the best aspect of this situation was that she had no children and she decided I was her special project. Mrs. Pease knew my mother, and together they saw that I continued going to the opera, the Spanish plays like RAMONA, and the beautiful nurseries which were places of great beauty in those years. I became friends with the gardeners at the Huntington Library and watched them care for some of the most beautiful gardens I had ever seen. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be a gardener at a great hacienda where I would be in charge of a magnificent cactus garden. That never happened.
Eventually, I left high school in my junior year to enter into advanced language and humanities classes at USC where I was happy and learning, and loving every minute of it. When my parents felt that I was old enough, I was sent to a very large university where I studied Spanish literature, French language and literature, Latin, and European history. I could see even then that my heart’s campus was directing me to life in Europe. I finished at the top of my graduating class for both a B.A. degree and my M.A.. During my graduate studies, I was asked to teach three beginning French classes which I considered a challenge that I wanted to undertake. Little did I realize that this decision would affect the rest of my life. Finally, Stephanie came along, and life became more exciting and wonderful. We decided to return to the East Coast to study Renaissance Literature at a very large and wonderful university. Weekends were spent driving to Boston to see her parents or off to the colonial destinations which are so fascinating.
One evening, I received one of the most important phone calls I have ever received. A very famous man Dr J. Reuben Clark III, a professor of classical languages, offered me the opportunity to study in France and to lead one of the first university study tours to Europe. I was speechless, I was thrilled, I was honored, I was ready for the change. I flew to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne and then received 40 university students who spent one quarter in Paris and then a longer period of time at the University of Grenoble. The experience changed my life. Stephanie realized that we were expecting our first child, and we had to make some plans which didn’t include wandering around the world. So, we took a year out of our wandering and accepted to teach French, English, and AP studies in a rural high school in a town I had heard of as a railroad town: Ogden, Utah. Stephanie and I thought we would have some time to get used to being parents and could write and publish and collect. That decision was the perfect decision.
Utah was not unfamiliar to us as I used to take the Pullman from Los Angeles to Salt Lake almost every holiday to spend time with my glorious grandmother who was a cornerstone of my youth. Stephanie’s father loved the West and dragged her family to experience the great monuments which are adored here: Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon. But for sure, Stephanie and I were not in the least Westerners. But we began to love the West as home as we met some of the greatest people with the most amazing achievements.
Stephanie felt lost and needed to find something to fill her time. So, we decided to open an antique shop offering the finest European porcelain, glass, silver, and paintings. We now had the perfect reason to start our many voyages to Europe to gather the finest antiques we could find. We bought an old historic house which we decided to fill with the finest objects d’art we could find. In time we became involved with the Utah Symphony where I eventually became Vice-President under the great Wendell Ashton and was assigned to the Search Committee to select a new maestro when Maurice Abravanel retired. I met every young aspiring conductor in the country who wanted to direct a large orchestra like the Utah Symphony. Varujan Kojian was selected, and I was the first to meet him at the airport as he arrived.
Next came my first real challenge: saving an historic district. Some of the greatest “builders of the West” lived in Ogden, Utah, like the Watts family, the Eccles family, the Browning family, and of course the Dees and Scowcrofts. Many of these families had built homes in what is now the Eccles Historic District. The City was considering turning all these magnificent homes into offices, but with the help of the Junior League of Ogden we studied architecture-history-feasibility to place the residential neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places. My working with a wonderful group of Ogden residents to accomplish this was one of the most rewarding projects I ever undertook. As you can see, leaving this amazing city of Ogden was not forthcoming. And on the story goes.
One evening, I received a call from Mr. Val A. Browning who was known to my mother’s family through the Browning’s architect Georgius Cannon. I became friends with Mr. and Mrs. Browning through our mutual interest in 18th century paintings and fine porcelain. Mr. Browning’s phone call is one of those events that you remember where you were and almost the conversation word for word. Mr. Browning, the son of the greatest gun inventor in American history, had gathered all the John M. Browning prototypes and was considering where they should be put on display in a permanent Museum.
It was Mr. Browning’s idea to save the historic Union Station in Ogden, Utah, near where the Golden Spike was driven. Mr. Browning and I met in his office in Morgan and put the plot in motion. Some of the most talented people joined the committee/board of directors such as Murray Moler, Carolyn Rich Nebeker, Steve Songer, Lucia Browning, Ralph Johnson, Robert Hunter, Ralph Mitchell, and the unmatched Teddy Griffith.
I will never forget the phone call I received from Mrs. Blanch Browning Rich who said she thought the station needed a fountain in front to let the public know that UNION STATION would indeed be the Anchor of the famous and historic and notorious 25th Street. I was on the board of directors for eleven years and president of the board for six years. Without a doubt, this was the most important project I ever was a part of. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. My heart is full of gratitude to Mr. Val A Browning for his faith in my ability to add muscle to this amazing project, so much a part of Ogden life today.
As the Union Station began to take less and less of my time, I received another life-changing phone call. Stephanie and my antique shop became rather well known. My training in antiques goes back to my days at home when my mother dragged a very eager lad to antique shops and auctions. I collected small pieces of antique sterling and started my now well known Derby porcelain collection. So the word got out, and the LDS Church had plans for my next few years. Florence Jacobsen was curator of the LDS Church, and she wanted me to join her in the Church’s plan to restore the early Church’s community of Nauvoo, Illinois. A group of architects including George Cannon Young and Georgius Cannon as well as T. Edgar Lyon met at Florence Jacobsen’s very beautiful house to discuss the possibility of such an enormous project. They were considering the well known architect Steve Baird to start the drawings. I could see where I fit in right off the bat: gathering the correct antiques which would be put back in these famous pioneer homes.
For the next few years, I traveled all over the country gathering and shipping and locating and reading wills and inventories. My wife’s family friend Shirley Carrol Querolo, a very well connected New England antique dealer, agreed to join my search. In three years, Brigham Young’s home, Wilford Woodruff’s home, and the Browning workshop had been restored.
My last project was the interior of the Lucy Mack Smith home. During these years, I traveled thousands of miles from one end of this country to the other looking for the correct antique for the perfect spot in a very important American history house.
Now the compass steers me in another direction, and it started with another amazing phone call. TO BE CONTINUED….