1941-42: Sad notes as war, death shadow Carbon County
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 as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011.
While World War II only came to the doorstep of America late in 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, most people realized much earlier that sooner or later the United States would be drawn into the conflict, much like they were pulled into what was referred to as The Great War (World War I) in 1917.
The events of 1941 were punctuated with ties to the new war as well as ties to the past in Carbon County.
A foreboding of the coming war came when the well known and successful Carbon High football coach Pres Summerhays decided to join the Army Air Corps early in the year. He had been coaching at Carbon for eight years and also handled the Carbon College football team since the second year the school opened. Summerhays had taken his high school team to the state playoffs six times in those eight years (three times to the finals) and in 1938 his team had won the state Class A championship. He had also been the first coach in the entire intermountain area to send his football team by airplane to a game out of state (Mesa, Colo.). His departure was a surprise to the community who had adopted the University of Utah graduate, and a former Granite Farmer as their own.
In the summer two events happened that struck the community with a sense of mortality. Robert W. Crockett, the son of the former publisher of The Sun (one of the papers that merged in 1932 into the Sun Advocate), and who himself took over the paper after his dad died in 1930, passed away suddenly in Salt Lake City. He was only 33 years old. The cause of death was listed as a heart attack. At the time of his death he was the editor of "The Circuit" a company newspaper put out by Utah Power and Light.
The other event in early August took the community by surprise and grief when two prominent citizens of Helper died when the canvas boat they were fishing from apparently collapsed and dumped them into the waters of Fox Lake in the Uinta Mountains.
The tragedy is compounded
Jack Vignetto, 45, a well known cashier at the Helper State Bank and Jack Cima, 40, who worked for the railroad and was a justice of the peace in Helper came up missing and when Vignetto's daughter, Jill, Henry Ruggeri (a Price attorney) and Paul Mancina went to look for them all they found was a hat floating near the edge of the lake. After the Carbon area was notified of the tragedy, several parties of searchers arrived from Carbon along with some from Uintah County to look for the men.
The death of Cima, also precipitated another death when his wife collapsed after hearing the news, and also died. She reportedly had had a weak heart for some time.
A couple of days later the bodies of the two men were recovered from the lake.
Since the fall before, a new Carbon County Airport was under construction. The old airport had become inadequate and with the possibility of war, a new airport was thought to be something that could be used by civilian aircraft, but would also be of military importance in case of emergency. In September plans were made for a dedication of the new airport, as it was nearing completion. The dedication was took place in October, with military craft and 50 airplanes from around the state appearing for public inspection. Over 6,000 people showed up for the dedication and many pilots and officials said it was one of the best airfields in the state.
As the year closed out, the area realized the toll that had been taken by mostly singular mine accidents throughout the year. The Sun Advocate ran an article on Jan. 1, 1942 that stated 14 men had died in mining mishaps throughout the previous year.
"Royal and Hiawatha each recorded three (deaths)," stated the paper. "Castle Gate and Rains each recorded two (while) Columbia, Spring Canyon, Standardville, and a truck mine at Scofield each recorded one."
Paper observes Golden Anniversary
Only two of the deaths happened during the same accident, a Sept. 1, 1941 rock fall in the Rains mine.
As the new year began the Sun Advocate also celebrated its Golden Anniversary with a special issue of the paper. The papers lineage, while convoluted, ending up with the Sun Advocate as the surviving paper. The beginnings on Jan. 15, 1891 in the form of the Eastern Utah Telegraph, which was started by attorney S.A. King, were celebrated in the issue. The publication talked about the growth of the area, its industry, mining, education system and of course its people.
That celebration was long on words of success and happiness, but the coming months would bring stories of death, horror and fear, as the United States struggled through its first year into what now had become named World War II.