1946: Postwar Carbon has high hopes
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 1891.
With the end of World War II, a country that had been so focused on winning freedom from tyranny in the world, suddenly turned upon itself to solve problems at home. And at the same time new problems created by the end of the war and a new economy popped up.
It was a time of enthusiasm, pride and optimism. Yet things that had lurked in the background with the emphasis on war against the Axis powers began to pop up almost immediately.
The local area saw itself in a new light. The coal industry had provided energy for the war machine, and now it found itself on the down grade as that machine came to a halt. Yet the new economy of millions of military men returning to civilian life showed promise as industries turned to making consumer goods for a pent up demand that would not be satisfied for a long time.
Developments in the local area included some big changes. Some of those were:
*The new Scofield Dam was all but completed in late 1945 and the gates to fill the reservoir closed that fall. By the next summer the reservoir was filling quickly as it captured the water of Muddy and Fish Creek. The old reservoir was to be eclipsed by 18 total feet of water by the time the reservoir was filled (reported in the April 4, 1946 issue of the Sun Advocate).
*Carbon County Sheriff Joe Dudler announced that the county's police cars would be outfitted with radios for two way communication. This would change the face of law enforcement in a way no one could predict. Also in February of 1946 it was announced that the county was organizing a "sheriff's posse" to help with law enforcement, search/rescue and for public displays and drills.
*While the battle on the fields of war were being fought, a more elusive, more personal enemy was appearing to grow at home, and after the conflict it grew quickly. Polio had been a bane to many during the depression and pre-depression years (including Franklin D. Roosevelt). Now it was becoming more and more of a problem, especially for children. In early 1946, it was announced the growth of the disease in the previous year had reached new proportions that didn't bode well for the state. The summer of 1945 had produced an epidemic of polio outbreaks that affected all but 11 counties in the state. The chair of the March of Dimes committee at the time pointed out that "the epidemic last year grew out of only one polio case that had been reported" in January of 1945. Almost 250 people state wide had been affected, and no cure was then in sight. By September of 1946 15 people had contracted polio in Carbon County, with 14 of those cases in Dragerton, taking place in a two week period. Schools in the Dragerton area were closed for two weeks because of the outbreak.
*On July 29, the U.S. 50-6 bridge that crossed the Green River in Emery County collapsed when a semi-truck carrying a 24 ton bulldozer tried to cross it. The bridge, which had a 10 ton restriction, broke completely away, isolating the east bank where many farmers fields and some residents of Green River lived. Westward traffic from Grand Junction, Colo, was routed north on U.S. 40, cutting off Carbon and much of eastern Utah from traffic which provided a great deal of economic support to the area. The bridge collapse also created telephone problems for the area, because lines on the bridge were ripped out, cutting off southeastern Utah and Colorado. However, while no one expected another bridge to be ready for a year, within two weeks workmen had been able to do some temporary repairs that allowed traffic across it as new supports were put in. Eventually a new bridge was put in and in the 1970s Interstate 70 began carrying the heavy traffic across the river.
*Carbon College purchased a bus that was to be used for the next few years to transport college students from Emery County to the Carbon County campus. At the time a company called InterCity Lines provided bus service in some parts of Carbon County, and the bus that was purchased was similar to those buses. The charge for riding it was set at 80 cents per day from Ferron, 70 cents from Castle Dale and 50 cents from Huntington.
*The war and all the people in it that came back to the United States had created a bubble of civilians that had fewer places to live than there were people in 1946. As the war rationing boards quickly dissolved, a new kind of board was taking its place - a rent control board. To keep veterans and their families from being gouged by the shortage of housing, many communities across the country started rent control boards and Carbon County was no different. Rent control became effective on Sept. 1, 1946, and the prevailing rent could be no more than was charged in July of 1945. The controls applied to all kinds of rentals from motel rooms to private homes. Landlords had to register their rentals with the board during the fall of 1946.
*The county had nine fatalities in coal mines and related industries during 1946.
* In economic news a new hotel group was formed, and along with the Elks Club, intended to build a multi-story hotel on the corner of Carbon Avenue and 100 North. The push across the community to invest in the project was vast and deep as people looked to see the tallest building in the county erected on that spot. One of the main leaders of the group was Price Mayor J. Bracken Lee.
*Pent up frustration with all the controls during the war also led to a lot of strikes across the country, including strikes in the mining industry which affected Carbon's coal industry. Early in the year one strike lasted 59 days. Then in November all mine operations in the county were halted, throwing 3,500 miners out of work across the area. It was a national strike that would go on for some time.
*Although the county would not tear down the old county courthouse that had been built in the early 1900s for 11 more years, the commissioners, at the time, were looking to buy property for a new courthouse. After a lot of community protests and in-fighting, the county finally purchased property from Price City for a new courthouse across the street from what is presently the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center on the USUCEU campus (where the Silver Moon Dance Hall once stood). As is evident today, the courthouse was never constructed on that property.
The Sun Advocate itself changed a lot after World War II. Printing technology and particularly photography had made great strides during the war years. Those technologies were now coming to roost in private industry. While photos had appeared periodically on the front page of the paper over the previous 14 years, almost all of them were mug shots and many were taken in professional studios or came from other agencies. On May 2, 1946, the front page of the paper sported a photo of Carbon High band members taken by newspaper staff. It was one of the first photos, not being a singular person, put on the front page. As the year went along more and more photos taken by newspaper staff began to appear throughout the paper. However, photos on the front page were still relatively rare. That, however, would change within a few years as one of the main features of the front page would become local photography which has graced its face in every issue since to this day.