Building Utah: Profile of Retiree Del Thompson
Del Thompson is a 75-year member. This biography was written by his granddaughter, Kristi Mickelson.
Delmus (Del) Thompson was born in Midvale, Utah on February 13, 1918. He was the 13th of 14 children. From a young age, he had a reputation for being a hard worker. His first job was that of a bean picker. Although at 11, he was the youngest employee working with 12 to 18 year olds, he picked the most beans.
Del was 16 years old when he bought his first car, a Model T Ford, for $8.00.
During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal included establishing camps to provide jobs for unemployed, unmarried young men which would provide financial relief and also help implement conservation projects. Del, at age 17, joined the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in Escalante, Utah and drove truck for about five months. The CCC provided Del and the other young men with shelter, clothing and food. He was paid $30 a month with $25 sent home to his family. After those five months, he was given a certificate stating he had been driving a truck for the CCC.
With his truck driving certificate, he was able to get a job with the contractor who was building the road from Bluffdale to Camp Williams.
Del and his brother went every day for a week to the Brigham copper mines, trying to find employment. They were paying $3.50 a day at that time. Their persistence paid off and they were hired to pour concrete. Del worked 12 hours a day and stayed on until the project was finished.
After that job, Del was hired as a truck driver by Utah Construction to help build the power plant in Magna. This job paid $8.00 a day. One day the Superintendent of the job told Del that he thought he would be a good carpenter. The Representative from the Carpenter’s Union came out to talk to Del. He told Del he would start him as a Third Year Apprentice, even though his only experience had been as a carpenter’s assistant for about two months. At age 24, Del began his life-long career as a carpenter and as a member of the Utah Carpenter’s Local Union #184. At that time, Del started going to carpentry school three nights a week. When he started, he was making $1 an hour. Within 6 months, he had received two raises and was earning Journeyman wages of $10 a day. After three years of night school, he received his certificate as a Journeyman Carpenter.
Del related the following story that took place while he was working to help build the power plant in Magna: “I was carrying a 2’ x 12’ plank to the scaffolding when the Superintendent said to me, “Why don’t you double up on those?” “I was struggling to carry one plank and I remember thinking how can I carry two? But, the next time around, I picked up the lightest two boards I could find. Then, I realized the superintendent meant that I should have two men carry one plank. He really got a kick out of the fact that I was carrying two instead of getting another man to help me with one!”
In 1943, at the age of 25, Del started building his own home in Sandy. He and his first wife Elna have one son, Byron. Although Byron is a retired high school psychology teacher, he has used the skills he learned from his Dad in doing part-time remodeling and carpentry work. Del says it cost him about $3,000.00 in materials to build his home and he did most of the labor except for the plastering, brick laying, plumbing and electrical. During the building of his home, he also worked for Roy Menlove building houses at Glen Arbor. Del still lives in his home today with his second wife Ina. Both are 99 years old.
Del’s reputation as a master carpenter grew and he became well known as an honorable man with the expertise to get the job done right. For 35 years, he worked for Culp Construction as a Superintendent over many projects. Del, in his words, says “I ran those jobs,” referring to the construction of the following landmarks:
*Salt Lake City Library complete with underground parking garage
*Salt Lake City Fire Station on 2nd South, between 1st and 2nd East
* Little America Hotel on Main Street in Salt Lake City
*Grantsville High School and gymnasium
*American Fork High School, gymnasium and swimming pool
*Student Union Building at Weber State College in Ogden
He says his favorite project, and perhaps the one he is most proud of, is the Salt Lake City Library (now The Leonardo Museum). This project was started in 1962.
Del has also supervised the construction of fifty homes in Bountiful, fifty homes in the Fort Union area and several homes near the University of Utah.
The building projects throughout northern Utah that Del has helped build are only part of his legacy. To this day, he is known for his love of family and ability to recount stories in great detail and with charisma and humor. His skill and leadership, along with his commitment to quality work and a stellar work ethic will assure his legacy continues.