Orem leaders, businesses and residents are preparing to party in 2019. It will be the city’s 100th anniversary year and the calendar of events is starting to grow.
As part of the year’s celebrations, May 5 being the official incorporation day, the city has commissioned Orem resident, writer and storyteller Charlene Winters to do a historical narrative book on the history and people of Orem.
“City of Orem, A Centennial Benchmark,” is filled with stories and photos commemorating Orem’s first 100 years.
For the past year Winters and her committee of researchers have been combing books, newspapers, and personal collections for information and interviewing residents and former residents for their stories.
“I can’t tell you how amazing the Orem people were,” Winters said. Winters says more than 700 people were contacted or shared in some way to make the book a true representation of Orem, its beginnings and its people.
“I really applaud the tough and rough settlers,” Winters said.
One of Winters’ stories reflects the smarts of the early farmers who saw the need to get water since the Provo Bench, as Orem was called before incorporation, didn’t have any. The farmers didn’t think Provo would grant them much either.
“Orem is one of the youngest cities,” Winters said. “There was Provo, the Bench, and then Pleasant Grove. The Bench didn’t have water but it was excellent for fruit trees.”
She continues that many times over the years the forethought of Orem leaders, farmers and residents have placed the current city in an enviable position with land, business, agriculture and community green spaces to name a few.
Winters introduces readers to the heart of Orem, its people and their stories. Included are separate vignettes: artist James C. Christensen; Stella Welsh, first female mayor of Orem; Kim Delgrosso, professional dancer; Elaine Englehardt of Utah Valley University; Golden Harper, inventor of Ultra sports shoes; Jerry Elison, resident theater director and producer; and Tom Holdman, internationally renowned stained glass artist.
Kathi Beckett, economic development analyst and project manager for Orem, was on Winters’ committee. She believes the centennial book is a great mix of history and color.
“We thought it was a wonderful mix. It’s engaging and heartwarming,” Beckett said. “She (Winters) went above and beyond what we expected. She has a way of drawing out the best in people.”
While doing her research Winters said she found out that the oldest resident of Orem was a woolly mammoth.
The book features the building of Geneva Steel and the growth in population that the steel mill brought to Orem. Winters looks at the contributions of the SCERA Center for the Arts and the decades it has been a part of the community.
Economic development has been a big contribution to the changing face of Orem and that started with the agricultural businesses up to the current University Place (formerly University Mall) and its contributions to the Orem community.
Sometimes inspirational, according to Winters, the Utah Valley University story is another important piece of Orem history.
The names and numbers of people that contributed to this keepsake volume on Orem are too long to mention here but Winters says she is humbled by the interest and love residents have for Orem.
“Many people contributed to ‘Orem City: A Centennial Benchmark’ and deserve heartfelt thanks for their support and efforts to make this celebration book a success,” Winters said. “It started with Orem city officials, an advisory committee and dozens of people willing and eager to help tell the story of a city they love.”
Winters continues and said, “I recognize that many others had astute comments that helped create a narrative that tells the events and story of their hometown who are not included in this list.”
For residents interested purchasing a copy, books are available for pre-order for $20.19 on Orem’s Centennial page at http://100.Orem.org, and will be available for purchase at Orem’s Centennial events. The books will be ready to pick up by or before Jan. 26.
“I always knew I loved Orem, but now I know why,” Winters said. “The people I’ve met made me love Orem more.”