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Diversity in Box Elder County: Former Thiokol employee notes changes in his community

Scott Anderson smiles in front of a white background
Mia Shumway for UPR

Every rural person and place has a story. Change is part of that story. “Rural Utah at a Crossroads” is part of the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America, which explores the changing meaning of rural life and identity. Utah Humanities is touring Crossroads to eight rural communities across Utah in 2024. As part of the tour, Utah Humanities and Utah Public Radio are partnering with exhibition hosts to interview local residents about change in their communities.

This interview with Scott Anderson took place in collaboration with the Brigham City Museum of Art and History and Northrup Grumman.

Scott Anderson:

So I grew up in Garland, Utah, and I live in Bear River City now. I'll tell you, the way it was when I was growing up is you wanted to get on at Thiokol. And if you could get on at Thiokol, you were probably going to be good for a while. So I think that was the draw for me, I knew that I wanted to stay here in that environment and try to work out there and stay in a small environment. But it was working at Thiokol.

Honestly, every time the company changed, something changed. So it was Thiokol then somebody else bought us and things changed. But the basics [of] building a rocket hasn't changed, you know what I mean? So some of the software they use maybe, but as far as the hardware, it's the same. I worked in final assembly, that's where they basically finalize the segments as they come through. So basically, you touched every part of the hardware, every segment coming through there. So that was what I did.

You know, one of the challenges was there seemed to always be layoffs. I don't think my wife and I ever bought a brand-new car till about 10 years ago. So you were always careful because just with the government involved, you never know when they'll cancel a program or not. So you were careful with your money and you didn't go buy a lot of stuff you didn't need. And once you felt comfortable, then you would do that.

I mean, when I hired on out there, it was mostly people I grew up with and you knew everybody. And it was all Box Elder County kids, you know, and there weren't a lot of minorities or that type of things. And I mean, you see a little bit of that, it's different, and people were always decent that way. But I think the culture, they include women a little bit more in leadership, and I think of just the environment of respect, you know that type of thing. It used to be that diversity in a small northern Utah town was when a middle-aged, active Mormon ran against a middle-aged, inactive Mormon.

The challenge is, then, is seeing other people and accepting them and not thinking that they're different. They're just, they were raised in a different place. But it was, I mean, it's changing a lot, but that's what it was like when I was growing up. Everybody went to Boy Scouts, everybody went to Mutual, you know, that was what you did. There's a lot more opportunities now. But I think it's also important that you have a lot of different varieties, too, and you didn't have that. So you have to learn, you know, to be tolerant of that. Either be taught that or learn it on your own.

I think people are becoming more tolerant of things. I mean, I still think there's a long way to go in my mind, you know, even for myself, but I'd like to see it become more diverse. I mean, to me, when everything is the same, it gets a little boring.

“Rural Utah at a Crossroads” is a collaboration between Utah Public Radio, Utah Humanities, and the community hosts of Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition made possible in the Beehive State by Utah Humanities.

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

Mia Shumway is a producer and reporter for Utah Public Radio. She produces Rural Utah at a Crossroads and loves bringing the stories of rural Utahns to life. Mia studied Mass Communication at Colorado Mesa University and is pursuing a master's in political science at Utah State University. When she’s not on the air, she can be found on one of Logan’s many beautiful hiking trails or procrastinating her thesis.