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Front Page » January 11, 2007 » Senior Focus » The Checkerboard Man
Published 2,785 days ago

The Checkerboard Man


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Guido Rachiele stands by an old Coke cooler and Hi-Land Dairy ice cream freezer in his store, Checkerboard Grocery, located at 90 South and 100 West in Price. Rachiele and Joe Santi bought the business in 1946. Within three years Santi moved on, but Rachiele didn't, to the benefit of all those who live in the county.

In the 1940's there were 22 grocery stores within the confines of the Price City limits. Only two, Safeway and Kellers, could be considered today even remotely like the supermarkets most of us see in this day and age. Most were small markets, family owned, and each did present quite a competition for the others in town. Ads for these markets filled the Sun Advocate and Helper Journal in those days.

No one knows that better than Guido Rachiele, owner of Checkerboard Grocery in Price, who began working in the grocery business at the age of 12 in Helper in a store owned by Lynn Broadbent in 1937.

Helper also had a lot of markets; 13 to be exact.

"There were a lot of markets," said Rachiele as he sat in chairs lined up just behind his check out counter when friends from the old days often come to visit. "They were neighborhood markets. In this area there were a lot of Italians, and that worked well for me because my parents were Italian and we spoke that in our house before we learned English. I could always converse with them and order the special things they needed."

But before anyone thinks the 81 year old grocer's life was dull, counting pennies behind his counter, they need to think again. Rachiele has always been civic minded and sports minded as well.

Guido Rachiele at about the time he bought Checkerboard Grocery.

"I and my brothers loved baseball," he said. "We played in high school and on the Helper American Legion teams. In 1941 and 1942 we won the state championship. We also came close in 1943, but we lost to Ogden."

Rachiele also played on Carbon High's team and played old times baseball up until 1975 when the league for that ended.

He also was a boxer and boxed at the old Elks Club as well as for Carbon High in the early 1940's.

"There was this policeman in Helper named Red Knobbs and he worked with a lot of us to teach us how to box," he said as his eyes lit up. When asked how he did at boxing he said "I lost some matches, but I won some too."

Rachiele was born in Helper, or as he said "well sort of." He was actually born in a wooden structure, one of a few set up along the Price River near where the golf course is now. Then his family moved to Helper.

"My father had been working in Mohrland and then went to work in the mines in Kenilworth," he explained. "He actually came to Carbon County accidentally. He and a buddy were working on the east coast when they heard southern California was a lot like southern Italy from where they immigrated in 1910. They both jumped on a train for the west coast but the train stopped in Elko, Nev. for the night. Later in the evening they heard gunshots, so they jumped off the train and hid in the sagebrush. The shooting came from cowboys celebrating because they had brought cattle into town, but my father and his friend thought it sounded too much like when the mafia came looking for someone in Italy. In the morning after it got light they got back on a train, but it was the wrong one; it was headed toward Salt Lake. Once there another Italian guy talked them into going to Mohrland to work and that is where he ended up."

Rachiele's mother came to the United States from Italy to marry his father, basically sight unseen. She, two sisters and her aunt came as what people commonly refer to as "mail order brides" today.

Rachiele came from a big family. There were 11 kids, seven boys and four girls. Of that nine are still alive. One brother was killed in a truck rollover in Cat Canyon in the early 1940's when he was very young and another just died recently.

"Being a big family we grew a lot of our own food," he said. "We also raised animals. I remember herding sheep on Steamboat Mountain during the summer."

His mother would bake bread, the shape and size of basketballs in an outdoor oven his father had constructed in the back yard of their house which was across the street from where Helper Park stands today.

"We would gather wood from the hills above town and then dad would light it and warm it up," he reflected. "The rail yard was just below our house and that bread baking outside would attract a lot of hobos who were riding the trains. She always gave them a loaf."

Rachiele is very proud that of the 11 kids in his family, 10 graduated from Carbon High.

Candies (and kids) are still a popular item in the Checkboard Grocery repertoire.

"My oldest sister was the only one that didn't finish," he said. "My mother pulled her out of school to help raise the rest of us."

When in high school, and while working at the market in Helper, Rachiele was able to get a job on the railroad. He decided he was going to quit school and work, but one of his sisters got wind of the plan and told his dad.

"He followed me down to where we got on the bus and told me that I was going to stay in school," he said. "I did what he told me to do; he was always the boss."

After getting out of high school it appeared he was bound for the service, like two of his brothers who were serving during World War II. But when a physical exam showed he had two perforated eardrums, they rejected him. To this day he has no idea how his eardrums got that way.

He finally did take that job with the railroad, but then later ended up working for the Broadbent's in a new store they built in Price. But when Joe Santi approached him about being partners in buying Checkerboard Grocery, he decided to do it.

"The store is named after the feed store that was next door," he said. "We just kept the name and it has remained that all these years."

After years of owning the store, Rachiele became involved in civic affairs. In 1966 he ran for the Price City Council and won. In 1969 he ran for mayor and was defeated by 100 votes.

In 1974 he was appointed to the city council when an opening occurred on the council and then in 1976 he ran for county commission and stayed there until 1989.

During that time he was also appointed as one of the original members of the Utah Public Service Commission by the governor. He stayed in that job for 15 years.

In 1971 Rachiele was appointed to be the board clerk at PRWID. It is a position he has held ever since, for 36 years.

"I have enjoyed my time in public service," he says. " I would work at the grocery store during the day and go to meetings at night."

Over the years he also had time to raise a family. His wife Dorothy and he raised five kids, who are scattered with their grandchildren from Taylorsville to Las Vegas, N.M.

But all along his wife and his store have been steadfast. The store is less busy than it once was, but the near 82 year old Rachiele comes to work every day, opens his store's front door and his regular customers and vendors come to see him. The shelves, which could probably tell some good tales, are well stocked and the kids come in and still buy candy, which Rachiele proudly displays.

Just another day at Checkerboard Grocery.


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