1941: Year begins with multiple mining deaths across county
Editors 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 as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011.
At the beginning of 1941 almost everyone knew that soon the country would be headed to war, with the possible deaths of men that were being inducted into the service heavy on everyones minds.
Little did Carbon County residents know that in the first three months of the year local multiple deaths of coal miners would rock the news, at times almost weekly.
Just three days into the new year, a coal dust explosion in the Royal mine killed Sheldon Binch, a 28 year old miner from Spring Glen. One other miner was also injured in the blast.
According to reports Binch was pushing a line of loaded coal cars in the mine when they derailed and knocked an electrical wire to the floor. That ignited the coal dust and Binch got the main force of the blast.
On Feb. 6, Frank Tangaro, 26, of Price was killed during a cave in at the Hiawatha Mine.
Then on March 8 Stephano Buffo, 51, of Helper was killed when a "fall of coal" hit him in the back. Alive after it happened, he was rushed to the Standardville Hospital but died later of his injuries. That accident happened in the Royal Mine, the second fatality of the young year for them.
A couple of days later Jack Leon Birch, 42 of Wellington, died at the Castle Gate Mine when he touched an electrified trolley line.
Apparently there was also another death during the month of February in a unnamed mine based on accounts in the paper when Birch was killed. The total by mid-March of 1941 was five and people in the community were becoming alarmed. While none of the deaths were related to one another, the string shook the towns and mining crews involved, with them wondering who would be next.
At the time the state had an inspection program for the mines, but the federal government did not. Ironically, a few days after the last men were killed Congress that required annual federal inspections of all coal mines. While federal inspectors existed before this bill was passed, they could not enter a mine without the permission of the mine's owners or operators. Now the once a year inspection would become mandatory and workers could petition to have more inspections if a majority of them deemed it necessary through a petition to the Interior Department.
The first quarter of 1941 also included a some other things that were reported in the Sun Advocate that affected the future of the county.
*In late February, a tavern, beer parlor and restaurant sales of alcohol closing regulation was passed and enforcement was begun. Because of "disturbances and roudism caused mainly by the ability of persons to purchase intoxicating beverages after late hours" the county sheriff's department and the towns in the county police chiefs said they would enforce a 1 a.m. sales ban. The ban pertained to all nights except Saturdays and holiday eves or holiday nights.
*Work that had begun on the new Carbon County Airport was furthered by a report that the entire plan for the new airport had been approved by what was then known as the United States Aeronautical Commission (the predecessor of the FAA). Along with the approval came a request from the USAC concerning the possibility of expanding the plans to include lengthening and widening the proposed runway to military specifications for landing and launching of "giant bombers and other large planes." It was also reported at the time that Transcontinental Airlines had been inquiring as to the possibilities of using the airport as one of their stops. Because of the federal approval that next spring it was decided that some state equipment and help would be added to the county's crew to work on the new airport.
*In late March the American Legion held its Legion Liars Contest. Each year the legionaires would have members come up with the biggest lies they could think of or had heard. Vern N. Davis, a patrolman in the county, was the 1940 champ and "holder of the golden cup (for lying) which is probably brass" reported the Sun Advocate. "It must be fun to be able to lie like hell and te a prize for it too," the paper remarked.
As for the paper itself, through the first part of 1941 its editorial remarks were aimed at county government for not working to bring more tourism and business to the local area.
It seems some things, and some hot topics, never change.