1943: Life - and local news - go on as war rages
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 2011.
On August 4, 1943 a fire started in the Sprouse-Reitz variety store on Price's Main Street and caused considerable damage to the structure.
The store was one of those downtown that everyone visited, actually in some ways what one could call an early "box store" because the chain had outlets all over the western United States. Like JC Penney, it was an early version of a store that could be found in many small towns, in fact over 400 of them existed in the 1940s.
The fire was discovered by Ross Boyack who was headed out of town on a fishing trip and saw smoke coming from the building. The fire had started in a back room, but the cause at the time of the report was unknown. The manager of the store, F.R. Gudmundson estimated about $14,000 damage ($10,000 to the building and $4,000 to the contents) but the losses were covered by insurance.
At the time this was a blow to downtown. First of all while $14,000 doesn't sound like much in terms of 2011 money that would equal about a $175,000 loss.
This story was reported in a Sun Advocate that hadn't changed much in the nine years before or would change much in the next five years. The paper of the 1930s had been generally a one section paper that ran from 12 to 16 pages each week. Late in that decade the Sun Advocate had gone to generally a two section newspaper (as advertising would allow) with six columns. About half the paper was dedicated to advertising, when measured overall. That is not much different that what is done today. A representative section of advertising for the paper during this time period included advertisements for wine, gasoline, food, whiskey, theaters, barber shops, insurance sales, repair garages and car dealers, and furniture.
The front pages usually consisted of the usual small town news such as school events, community happenings, political and government news, county wide news, and economic conditions. The later was very important as the country pulled itself out of the depression and into World War II.
Deaths were also often reported on the front page although obituaries of some of the same people were inside the paper. It is interesting to note that a military deaths of a person from the community today would be huge front page news, often the deaths of soldiers in World War II were reported inside the paper, and sometimes near the bottom of a page.
Past the front page which only periodically had photos on the front, there were two or three pages of news entitled "Price and nearby" which was largely the social news and some gossip from the area. Also a "Twenty years ago" and "Thirty years ago" column ran amongst this grouping as well.
During much of this time each many of the little coal camps and towns had a column written about them in the paper. For instance in issues in the early 1940s weekly story columns were written by correspondents from Castle Gate, Scofield, Columbia, Clear Creek, Hiawatha, Wellington, Sunnyside, Kenilworth, Rains and Spring Glen.
While photography is a mainstay of today's paper, during the 1930s and the early 1940s, while photos appeared it was not like today. Most were one column if they appeared at all on the front page, and they were seldom of actual events. They were usually a portrait photo taken of someone who had done something of note or who held an important position. Inside some photos appeared for events that were coming to town, like a circus, a play or a musical group. The social section hardly ever had photos. During the war years there were a lot of portrait military photos of men that were serving and periodically photos would appear that showed some action with a military theme. Often these were general photos and not related to anyone that was from the area. Many advertisements that were produced by large companies or chains did have photos in them.
Sometimes the most interesting things in town were not the big stories, but the small ones. For instance in May of 1943 two people came into the county clerk's office to buy a marriage license.
"'- Two hundred and forty seven, two hundred and forty eight, - Whew!) - two hundred and forty nine and two hundred and fifty,'" stated an article in a May 1943 issue of the Sun Advocate.
"Yep, they had enough for a marriage license," said Mary Morarianni, deputy (county) clerk, as she finished counting t the pennies plopped on the counter before her.
Yep (again) a marriage license in 1943 cost $2.50 and that pair that came in paid in pennies that came in a cardboard box.
"...They stated that they had been saving them for quite some time," said the article. "And, too, they found that they had more than they needed for the license so they said they would use the rest of them for paying the preacher."
In another article dated June 24, 1943, one Thadius Kizerian was in jail for resisting arrest and obstructing an officer in the discharge of his duties. If the man had been 23 the story would have been interesting, but Kizerian was 83 and his antics probably brought a smile to many.
"It is alleged that Mr. Kizerian filled in an irrigation ditch used by neighbors and refused to clean it (out) at the instigation of (Carbon County) Sheriff S.M. Bliss," stated the paper. "He also allegedly attacked the sheriff with a hoe, which was taken from him. Then Mr. Kizerian seems to have attempted to make good his escape by wielding an ax..."
The sheriff got the ax away from the man and tried to arrest him so Kizerian laid down on the sidewalk to keep him from doing so. A passing man labored to help the sheriff get the man into the patrol car and in doing so Kizerian "struck him in the face."
The article ended saying that Kizerian was "resting comfortably in the county jail." His bail bond of $500 had not been met as of the article's printing.