Fort Douglas holds a lot of memories for Utahns and others who passed through its old, stone gates over the years.
Deseret News staffers recall some good times and not-so-good times of the aging fort:Political Editor Bob Bernick Jr., while attending the University of Utah in the early 1970s, worked for a year for a civilian contractor cleaning several fort buildings.
"One day I watched several Army men using a front-end loader to move a piece of heavy equipment. The loader looked new. I commented on it to a sergeant overseeing the operation. `Yeah,' he said, `That loader is two years old and this is only the second time we've used it.' So much for military efficiency," Bernick recalled.
As a young reporter, Bernick interviewed an Army general upon the opening of the fort's museum. He asked if the old rumor was true; that because of the friction between the federal government and Mormon pioneers, Fort Douglas was the only fort in the United States located in an offensive position over a city - in short, located not to defend a city but to attack it if necessary.
The general said those troubles were a long time ago and better forgotten and asked that it not be mentioned in the story.
Dance critic Dorothy Stowe has gentle memories of the fort. "Our family has always considered Fort Douglas a little haven of peace, very like New England, in Salt Lake City, a very western city. We loved to drive around that little avenue and look at the gingerbread homes, even though we knew we weren't legally invited to do so. We also loved the little chapel, and the grassy meadow beside it. We spent many July 4 evenings listening to the band concerts in the little gazebo, where the kids could run on the grass and the rest of us could stretch out and relax. After 25 years in New England, this has seemed very much like a taste of home, very similar to July 4 on a village green with the town band playing. Fort Douglas will be missed by the Stowe family."
Staff writer Joe Liddell was just 17 in 1939 when he joined the Citizens Military Training Camp and spent a month at Fort Douglas that summer marching on the parade ground and firing rifles on a range at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon. He recalls the young men took a lot of hazing from the officers and regular troops.
He and his young comrades slept in small tents across Wasatch Boulevard from the fort, where the Huntsman Events Center now stands. "One day I awoke from a nap and found myself still in my cot, but the cot was six feet up on top of a rifle rack, where my tent mates had put me." Later, as a young father, Liddell was inducted into the Army - and WWII - at the fort.
Wire Editor Hiram McDonald was inducted into the Army in 1943 at the tender age of 18 and mustered out in 1946 at Fort Douglas after four battle campaigns with Patton's 3rd Army in Europe. "I remember that even at 18, I thought that Fort Douglas must be some of the most valuable land in the valley," McDonald remembers.
Business writer Roger Pusey joined the Army Reserve's 96th Infantry Division, located at the fort, in November 1954. "I didn't want to be drafted. So I went with the reserves and ended up serving 21 years," he recalls.
His first day in the military was spent in Building 100, where he and other recruits stood at attention for what seemed like hours. One young man locked his knees, Pusey remembers, and fainted as the group stood in the hot attic.
Through the years Pusey was stationed in about every building at the fort, including what is now the museum. The buildings were old, the furniture and Facilities worn. "But it was clean, well-maintained and I have many fond memories of my service," Pusey said.