1952: Floods and another presidential visit
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.
Snowfall was deep for valley locations in the early winter of 1952 as Price had over 54 inches for the season as January began. That snow, and what was in the mountains would proved to be disastrous later in the year for flooding, but also could have been considered a sign as a change from some drought years in various ways in the county. Changes in politics and priorities began to affect the county as never before.
At the beginning of May, the Carbon Country Club golf course was inundated by flood waters from the Price River. That year's heavy snows and sudden warm temperatures caused the river to rise quickly, as it broke through its banks and began to flood the Number 4 fairway. It also devastated the Carbon Canal that ran through the area as well as cutting away Highway 6-50 for over 300 yards. In places the ground was cut away 10 to 12 feet deep for 200 yards or more. In the end Numbers 1 and 4 fairways were washed away, and parts of 6, 7 and 9 were also destroyed. The Country Club Golf Course was almost new at the time.
In connection with the melting snow a mudslide in Clear Creek also destroyed a home. The slide came down the side of the mountain and took the house of Wallace Gordon right off its foundation. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gordon were home at the time and rescuers had to pry open doors of the house to rescue them. While they had no injuries the house was a total loss.
The on-going Korean War, which had already taken so many lives, claimed another Carbon soldier in 1952. George C. Bolotas was killed in action and his body arrived for burial aboard a Rio Grande train on Feb. 3.
A fire that occurred in the Consumers mine in February closed down the mine and it was thought it might not be opened again. The fire was believed to be the same fire that had broken out in 1943 in another area of the mine that was eventually sealed to put the fire out. At the time management felt the only way to put the fire out was to seal the mine and close it, laying off 25 miners and abandoning thousands of dollars of equipment to the blaze.
In the early 1950s some people began to talk about having natural gas put into residential and business properties in eastern Utah. Up until that time much of the heating of structures had been done by coal, Carbon County's life blood. The opposition to bringing in natural gas was strong. However in August of 1952, companies began to meet with city councils and the county commission about bringing that new energy supply into the area. That month Wasatch Natural Gas Company, having filed with the public service commission approached the Price City Council to grant it a franchise to distribute natural gas to the city's residents. It was explained that the gas would come from the Clear Creek field that was being developed at the time. Later that month State Rep. Frank Bonacci wrote a letter to Price mayor A. D. Keller concerning the fact that any move toward letting gas in should be reviewed within the confines of a public meeting "so that the people who depend upon the coal industry and especially to property owners and the local business people who have invested their money to make Carbon County a better place in which to live be given a chance to express their opinions." Later that month a public meeting was held and both advocates for gas, and those against had their say in the matter. There was more opposition to the proposal than there were those for it, particularly from the UMWA and from some coal mine operators.
In the fall of 1952 the Carbon School District had shrunk and many of its smaller schools had been closed. One of those, a rock school at Latuda, was offered free to anyone who wanted it. In December a story on the front page of the Sun Advocate pointed out the district had had no takers on the free offer., but still wished someone to take it away.
Probably the biggest political event of the year was a visit by the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman to Helper for a few minutes in October. As in 1948, when his train stopped in Price and Helper, the President, now campaigning for Democrats as an outgoing President, spoke for a few minutes to a large crowd in the town before his train pulled away.
"A crowd estimated at 3,000 persons greeted (the President's) train as it stopped for 15 minutes at Helper," stated the Sun Advocate in its Oct. 9 edition.
That fall the Democrats lost the Presidents seat to Dwight D. Eisenhower as Adlai Stevenson was defeated by a fairly large margin. Only nine states went to Stevenson, and his own state of Illinois did not even cast a majority of votes for him. However, Carbon went Democratic with a 5,790 to 3,770 vote for Stevenson. That election ended 20 years of Democratic domination over the White House.
In the same election J. Bracken Lee, a native son of Carbon and the former mayor of Price, won reelection to the statehouse. But he "failed in Tuesday's election to carry his native Carbon county which he did in 1948 when he was first elected to office," reported the Sun Advocate on Nov. 6. "...Lee polled 4,583.....to 4,948 polled by the Democratic aspirant Earl J. Glade, a lost of 365 votes."
Whether it was that vote against him or other factors, he would take action during his second term as governor which would make him a pariah in his home town. That action was to attempt to close Carbon College in 1953.