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MEEKER I The gift of stories, memories and family ties in our area is abundant, and the opportunity to talk with a woman with a tremendous life experience, education, admiration for her family and a genuine desire to work for a cause give yet another perspective of our community.
Shirley Taylor grew up in a large family that arrived in Meeker in 1936. Her father, Sherman Anderson Taylor, and mother, Deltha Taylor, were extremely talented individuals with the work ethic to go with their talents — gifts they would hand down to generations still living in the area.
Sherman came to Meeker from Deep Creek, Utah, when he acquired a contract to deliver mail between Meeker and Rangely.
When they first moved to town, they had Nyla (Dick) Merriam, Beryl, Lynn and Shirley and moved to a cabin at the Chrysler Court.
After delivering mail for two years, Sherman bought a parcel of land on the corner of Ninth and Hill streets. He tore down the old cabin, used some of the same material and built a new home for his family.
As the family grew, three more rooms were added for young Byron and baby sister Parna (Pete) Etchart.
After the mail route, Sherman got the building on the corner of Fifth and Market streets, where there were two gasoline pumps in front and a walk-down service bay to the east of the building.
To lube and oil a car, it was driven over a pit with stair steps leading under the car. The place became the Standard service station for the town, and John Fothergill, Phyllis Wigington’s father, was the Standard Oil distributor for the area.
Inside the building were rectangular tanks used to store different grades of oil and kerosene, and the fuel was pumped by hand into measured containers.
Sherman was also very talented with leather and set up a cobbler shop in the back of the building, where he provided all necessary leather services for the townspeople.
He was well-known for repairing children’s shoes. When asked how much they owed him he would reply, “A dollar three eighty.” On several occasions, when a child would open his hand displaying a quarter, Sherman would take the quarter and get a piece of bubble gum, give both back to the child and say, “Just right.”
He was a kind man and very disappointed when he became allergic to the leather dust and could no longer have a cobbler’s business.
As the town grew, there was a demand for groceries, so people unable to get to town during regular business hours could purchase their necessary items.
This transition involved Deltha. She said, “We were the main proprietor for a store that sold everything from soup to nuts.”
They had meats, produce, canned goods and baking goods. One item that was very popular because it was hard to come by was bananas, and Shirley remembers the excitement when people learned of the delivery.
They would say, “Taylors got bananas.” An hour later they would say, “Taylors are out of bananas.”
Deltha worked extremely hard gardening, canning, cleaning and feeding a family of nine, not to mention the long hours at the store, but she always had a wonderful sense of humor.
Along with all the work, the Taylors always found time to share their musical talent.
Shirley remembers her mom sitting on the side of the couch playing the piano while her father would play the mandolin.
Soon, the back room was converted into an entertainment center complete with a turntable, records and a loudspeaker system.
Bob Ridings decided to become the local disc jockey, and he would announce the purchases made by customers.
In 1950, the old country store was sold, first to a couple named Meyers, then Wilton and Avery Wharton, then, finally to Tom Watt. He moved the old building from the site and built Watt’s Ranch Market.
Sherman decided to start a band after selling the business. Everett Proctor played the fiddle, Jesse Pilkington was on banjo, Gene Maine played guitar, Deltha played piano and, of course, Sherm played the mandolin. They played for dances at schoolhouses on Strawberry Creek, Little Beaver, Buford and at the Odd Fellows Hall.
After a time, Sherman returned to working the land and bought the old Clubine place 16 miles west of Meeker. He had hay fields on one side of the river and wheat fields on the other.
Crossing the river was a trying task. In the late summer and early fall, they could ford the river. In the spring, they had to use the bridge near Ivo Shults’ place. The trip wasn’t far, mileage wise, but the 16 gates made it a real chore.
In 1960, Sherman’s youngest daughter’s husband passed away, leaving her with two young children and a crop of wheat in the fields on Little Beaver. The two combined machinery and went into custom wheat cutting. This became a tradition passed on, as grandchildren John and Mark Etchart now have a custom hay business.
With the responsibility of the store gone and the children pretty much grown, Deltha had the opportunity to expand to other things.
She took two years and taught at the Rock School on Piceance Creek. She was well qualified with a degree in education from Brigham Young University. When they needed another teacher, Shirley, who was also graduated from BYU, joined her in teaching at the rural school. It was a great experience for the kids as well as teachers.
Deltha was very involved in the community, as was Sherman, and he was elected as justice of the peace in 1963.
In 1977, Sherman and Deltha celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Six months later, Deltha passed away at the age of 72. Sherman continued to check his farmland and enjoyed music sessions with Bob and Aileen Searcy.
He sold his farm in 1985 and moved to Clifton until failing health brought him back to Meeker in 2002. He lived in the Walbridge Wing until his passing in 2004.
Shirley’s parents lived exemplary lives, leading by example. The standards they set for themselves were passed on to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and anyone who had any association with the family is much richer because of the experience.
“Such incredible talent, work ethic and kindness is a legacy they have made,” Shirley said.
Shirley also orchestrated the “Rally for a Cure” golf tournaments in Meeker and California for eight years.
She grew up working hard in Meeker and, when she was employed at the 101, it was obvious to several of the members that she would be a great attribute to society.
Her schooling was paid for by those members and it proved to be a sure bet.
She has contributed a great deal to education in California and in Meeker, and she is another example of the great strengths we have in our small community.