“I hope it rebuilds pride:” New book gives look at rare images of St. George’s history

Librarians Dianne Aldrich (left) and Kathleen Broeder hold copies of their book "Images of America: St. George" in the special collections room of Holland Library, Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold St. George News

ST. GEORGE —Dixie State University librarians Kathleen Broeder and Dianne Aldrich have teamed up to present a new picture book that portrays an intimate look at local history in St. George.

“Images of America: St. George” is part of the “Images of America” series published by Arcadia Publishing. The series publishes books about local history in towns all over the country, combining photographs and text that provide perspectives on a past that sometimes get overlooked.

“Images of America: St. George” compiles rarely seen photographs from Special Collections & Archives at Dixie State University Photo provided by Arcadia Publishing

With the exception of the map printed in the introduction, all of the over 200 images in the book come from Special Collections & Archives at the Dixie State University Library. Many of the images in the book have not been previously seen by the public.

Broeder, head of special collections and archives, developed a love of photographs over her career at museums and libraries.

“They’re such an easy way to reach out to a larger audience,” Broeder said. “They hit on an emotional level that you innately understand in a way that you could read a textbook and be bored out of your mind and miss it.” 

The book presents a cultural history, starting with the town’s founding by Mormon pioneers and discussing topics like social and cultural happenings, education, the economy and the transformation of St. George from a small town into a thriving city over the past decades.

“We tried specifically to go with some diversity when we were doing this collection,” Broeder said. “So you will see a lot of pictures with women represented, and you’ll see a lot of Native Americans, especially the Shivwits Band. We kind of take a holistic look at the community.”

Aldrich, head of public services at the library, has lived in St. George for 13 years. She said going through the collections to find photographs for the book was a labor of love.

“So it was really fun for me to be able to go in and research what was happening during the times that the pictures were taken and then develop a narrative to go with them,” said Aldrich. 

Pictures in the book include famous people when they visited St. George, like the picture of actor Jimmy Stewart when he bowled at a St. George bowling alley in 1940.

Actress Ginger Rogers was grand marshal of “The Happy Times”-themed homecoming parade, shown in a photograph from 1973.

Almost all of the photos in the book are devoted to locals, like historian Juanita Brooks and author Maurine Whipple.

“We feel like the women have been historically underrepresented,” Aldrich said. “The women that were here that were the pioneers of the area deserve so much credit. The heat was worse, the conditions were worse, they were having children. The women were rock stars, in my opinion.”

This historical photo shows the Dixie Academy band during the school’s early years, St. George, Utah, 1913-1914 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Historical Society, St. George News

Our shared history has been a hot topic in local discourse, especially since the decision was made to rename Dixie State. “Images of America: St. George” informs that narrative and provides cultural and emotional context to the telling of the city’s history.

“I hope readers learn more about the community and the people that live here,” Aldrich said. “I think it’s important for people to remember and grow. Even back then, people were doing similar things to what people do now.”

Readers on both sides of the debate about renaming Dixie State will find the book enlightening.

“I think everybody can look at this book and feel connected back to their history and their community, even if they’re not originally from here,” Broeder said. “I hope it helps rebuild pride in our community about who we are.”

“Images of America: St. George” is available through most online booksellers. Locally, five copies will be in circulation at Holland Library on the Dixie State University campus, and copies are available for purchase at the college bookstore and at The Book Bungalow.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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