Growing up in Sugar House in the ’60s and ’70s
Aug 31, 2017 17h17
By Jana Klopsch
An aerial view of Sugar House in 1964 looking at Highland Drive. (Used by permission/Utah State Historical Society).
For those of us who have lived in Sugar House for a short time, we might wonder what Sugar House was like back in the day? One resident who has been in the area for over 50 years had his share of memories.
“I feel privileged that I grew up with such good friends, and it was a good place to grow up,” said Mark Christensen, a resident since 1966. Christensen grew up with his parents and sister in the Highland neighborhood.
Times have changed since the ’60s and ’70s, starting with shopping.
“One thing we would do first was do our clothes shopping at Keith O’Brien, that’s where Barnes and Noble is now, and the other store was J.C. Penny where the movie theater is,” Christensen said. “My mom took me there a lot, these were the two stores we shopped at.”
Apart from the shopping centers, Christensen remembers going with his father to a fishing store called Anglers Inn that opened up in the mid ’70s. He described the interior of the building as having an aquarium with game fish and the owner would let them put goldfish in the tank and the game fish would eat them.
“There was just magic and owners were so nice to us even though we were 13 and 14 years old,” Christensen recollected. “I remember the owner’s wife was named Bonnie and she’d tell us stories and her husband who was a well-known fisherman, and he’d take the time to talk to us.”
Of course, a love for fish and the water also came from his trips to the Sprague Library, where he said his mother would take him downstairs. He’d find books on fish and the ocean while his mother looked upstairs.
Another family activity was going down to A&W. The restaurant used to be around 2100 South and 700 East. He said that he and his sister would beg his dad to take them there when they’d visit their grandma. They would order from their parked car and servers would deliver their food.
“They had signs around it,” Christensen said about the building, “mama burger, papa burger, teen burger, and we’d see other families there from the neighborhood and it was sort of a gathering place.”
Another gathering place according to Christensen was Hygeia, which was in the area where Chick-Fil-a and Extended Stay are now. In the summer, it was a pool, and in the winter turned into an ice skating rink.
“If we had any money left over from ice skating or swimming, we’d buy french fries or burgers, it had a cool, old fashion feeling to it,” Christensen said. He said that they also did a lot of their swimming at Fairmont Park. Where the skatepark is now, there used to be two or three swimming pools and kids from around the neighborhood would take a break from the summer sun.
During the summer, Snelgroves was the place to buy ice cream. They served an ice cream treat called Snelly’s and even people from outside of Sugar House would come to the area to get a delicious treat here. He’d always get a malt shake and, to this day, hasn’t tasted a better shake. Another place to buy treats was a store called Nu-Crisp Popcorn Co. located at 960 East and 2100 South.
“It was like wow,” Christensen said, “it was the coolest thing in the world to see the different kinds of popcorn.” It was such a tradition, that Christensen’s wife sent him some while he was on his LDS mission.
Other traditions included a visit to Santa’s House by the monument in the center of Sugar House and buying a Christmas tree in the parking lot that was across the street from where Shopko used to be.
When high school hit, Christensen went to Highland High School, graduating in 1980. He said that the cool bands to listen to were The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers and Billy Joel.
“Everybody went to stomps, and that’s where you’d go to see other people,” Christensen said. “Stomp wasn’t prom, but it was a dance that you had before games or other reasons. And back then it was tradition for us that when the student body president came out, you gave them a standing ovation.”
So much has changed within the last year and the last 50 years but Sugar House remains a wonderful place to grow up. Christensen currently lives in the neighborhood and raised his kids in the area as well.
If you have any memories you’d like to share about growing up in a different decade in Sugar House, please reach out to the writer at [email protected]