Local man has lifetime full of experiences to share
Walt Borla has an endless amount of stories and life experiences to share with anybody who would love to sit back and talk. Take one step into his home in Helper and it's evident he has accomplished quite a lot over his 84 years of life.
His computer room - or his sanctuary - has the walls covered with everything imaginable such as family photos, sports memorabilia, materials from his years of work and much more.
Walt Borla was born in Castle Gate, Utah in 1926 and lived in Royal, formerly known as Rollap, for three years before the town closed down along with the mine. At the age of three, his family moved to Helper where he has lived for the past eight decades. He attended Carbon High School and was the student body president.
Through his work career and involvement with various organizations, he has had the chance to travel all over the country. But he can't imagine living anywhere else.
"This is such a diverse community with people of all different religions, cultures and countries from around the world," Borla says. "Long ago I used to meet people of about 20 different nationalities that were here because of the work in the coal mines."
Over the course of his life Borla has cultvated a love for sports - especially baseball, as well as traveling and politics. He was first baseman on the Helper American Legion state championship team of 1943 and Carbon High School's state runner-up club in '44. He loved playing the game, but never considered himself to be a great player.
"I played a lot of baseball in Helper," Borla says. "I think the town is mostly known for coal mining, trains and baseball."
He left Helper in 1945 when he was drafted into the Army, but never left the country. He was discharged a year later and returned home where he went back to school at the College of Eastern Utah (CEU).
Borla began working with the U.S. Postal Service in 1947. In 1973, Borla became postmaster of the Huntington office for eight years. In 1982, he was named postmaster in Helper, holding the position until his retirement in 1992 after 45 years of service.
"I got to meet different people everyday and we were providing a service to the communities I worked in," Borla says. "Everyday something new would be happening, so no two days were ever the same."
He received many awards and certificates during his time with the postal service, including winning Utah Postmaster of the Year in 1983 and receiving a lifetime achievement award in 1999.
"There are about 172 postmasters in Utah and to be chosen for something such as postmaster of the year is a real honor," he says.
In addition, Borla was elected vice-president, serving a two-year term for the National Association of Postmasters of the United States (NAPUS) and also spent two years working as the editor of the Postmasters Gazette. Because of his affiliations with state and national organizations, Borla and his wife, Josephine, have spent a lot of time traveling around the country.
Every September, he travels to the National Convention of Postmasters.
"I've been to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska and almost everywhere in between," Borla says. In fact, there are only four states that he has not visited: Vermont, Maine, Arkansas and North Dakota. Borla adds he would love to visit them but thinks he may not be able to do so before his life ends.
His love for baseball has continued even after his playing days ended by contributing to the effort in organizing a league for the youth in Helper. He even served as a team coach for a few years and later spent time as the elected secretary-treasurer of the league.
When Little League began expanding all around the world, a group of people from Utah, Colorado and California organized and created the Western Boys Baseball Association (WBBA).
It was founded to help small, rural areas that felt left behind during the expansion. Borla was elected to the WBBA Board of Directors in 1966 and also served as the president of the panel on two occasions.
He is still very involved with the local American Legion team where he has served as the official scorer and public address announcer at all of the home games.
Borla was honored for his service in helping within the community when the Helper City Council named the baseball diamond Walt Borla Field. Borla said that some people call the press box he works in during games as "Walt's Condo."
His love for sports has taken him to see Super Bowl VII in New Orleans (where the Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins, 14-7, to finish the season at a perfect 17-0), two Rose Bowls and visit baseball and football stadiums in many different cities.
But he always wanted to attend a World Series game. In 2005, Borla and Josephine took a trip to Indiana to attend a college football game with Brigham Young playing Notre Dame.
They booked the trip through a tour company and on the way back to Chicago for the flight home the tour bus drove near U.S. Cellular Field where the Houston Astros were playing the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
As they were passing by the stadium Borla could see the bright lights and the crowd. He turned to Josephine and said, "that's the closest we will ever get to being at the World Series."
But his luck would change in 2007 when the Colorado Rockies made it to the series to face Boston. Naturally, as a Rockies fan, he wanted to go.
With high ticket prices and the number of people who wanted seats for the games in Colorado, Borla didn't think his chances were good. But when his son, John, called and told him he had two tickets, Borla jumped at the chance to attend with him.
"I remember calling all of my family members and friends telling them to watch for me and I'll wave to you," Borla says. "The World Series was just another thing I could cross off of my list of things to do in life."
Another area in life that interests him, is politics. The shelves in his room are filled to capacity with a virtual timeline of historical and political biographies from the past to the present.
He even had the chance to meet some national politicians, including Hillary Clinton. In 1992, Borla attended a campaign event in Nashville, Tenn., where Bill and Hillary Clinton were campaigning during the presidential race.
As the event concluded, the Clinton's began shaking hands with the crowd as they left. Borla was able to grab a spot close enough to shake hands with one of them.
When Hillary got close enough, Borla wished her good luck and was able to give her a kiss on the cheek before she left.
In 2006, while in Washington D.C., Borla met with Hillary Clinton again - this time while she was campaigning to become president. As she walked by Borla, Clinton noticed he was wearing a hat with Helper, Utah written on it.
"Helper, Utah, oh we've got to take a picture," he remembers Clinton saying to him.
As she posed for a picture with him, Borla only had one question he wanted to ask her.
"Do you remember me?" he said. "I met you in Nashville back in 1992 and gave you a kiss on the cheek."
He has lived in the same house in Helper since 1961. He and Josephine have four children, two boys and two girls. They have six grandchildren are expecting their first great-grandchild sometime this spring.
In July, the Borla's will celebrate 60 years of marriage. Josephine sometimes finds it hard to believe some of the things Walt can recollect.
"I don't know how he remembers the scores and specific events happening in the games he has been to over the years," she said. "It's amazing."
For the future, Borla says he will continue on with his same routine, but with one caveat. "As long as I can keep moving around, those are the things I'll be doing for the rest of my life."