1951: Arson, rustling and football championship
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.
As the new decade began, Carbon County was feeling its growing pains in terms of population and its place in the new world of nuclear technology.
At the beginning of the year, the Carbon County School Board set a bond election asking the public to approve $1,080,000 in bonds for school construction. The money that the bond originally was to be approved for was to be spent on additions and remodels at Helper Junior High, East Carbon Junior High and at Sunnyside, Wellington and Southside Elementaries. On Feb. 20 voters approved the bond by a vote of 1694-312.
From late 1950 through to January of 1951 as many as 15 suspicious fires had broken out across the area. Most were deemed arson, but no one had been found starting fires until the night of Jan. 17 when Charles Atwood of Price was apprehended starting a fire in wooden milk crates behind Keller's Market in Price. In March he was convicted of arson related to the single case and sentenced to the state prison for one to three years.
As with the rest of the country, Carbon found itself enmeshed in another foreign war (Korea) with boys leaving almost weekly as they were drafted into the service. One of them also died in Korea during the year. Alvin N. Rutherford was killed in action on Feb. 10. His mother later was awarded medals for his service and valor.
While the days of the wild west had passed more than a half century before, gunfire erupting between potential cattle rustlers and the owners of the cattle happened in late February. The result of the high price of meat across the United States at the time, rustling was picking up once again, which made Nick Melissakas perk up when he saw two men tying up sheep. Melissakas was an employee of the Tony Michelog ranch and at the time ran into a ranch house and grabbed his .22 caliber rifle along with another worker who carried a shotgun. But before the pair could hold the rustlers at bay, the men tying up the sheep opened up with rifles on the pair. A number of shots were exchanged between the groups and then the rustlers drove off with one tied-up sheep, while two of the bound animals remained behind. Sheriff's deputies traced the pair of rustlers by taking plaster casts of the tire treads left in the ground and by getting a description of the car. They found the car parked on south Carbon Avenue and also found it had a couple of bullet holes in it. The two men were located and taken into custody.
During the year the changes in phone service that are going on today were also proceeding then as well. Prior to 1951, it was a long distance phone call from Price to Helper and vice versa. As of mid-1951 it became one calling zone, so long distance charges no longer applied. Of course the only phones available were dial land lines at the time, and party lines (or a number of customers sharing a single phone number and line) still existed, too.
A romantic tryst also ended the life of a Carbonville man when he rammed the car of the husband of a woman he was having an affair with in April. At an inquest, it was determined that "Rex Milano came to his death as a result of a gunshot wound inflicted feloniously by one Tony Karterakis sometime between the hours of one and two a.m. on April 12." Reportedly Milano had taken his car and driven it into Karterakis' vehicle pushing it up almost to the door of the Karterakis apartment. Karterakis came out with a gun. Bodily contact ensued and Karterakis started to run but Milano followed. It was then that Katerakis shot him. In August Katerakis entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter. In October he was found guilty, but at the reduced rate of involuntary manslaughter.
Sunnyside (and Dragerton) also got a glimpse of water prospects improving in 1951, as the Sunnyside Canyon Reservoir construction started. A short water supply for years, and with the towns being dependent on runoff throughout the season, the cure of having a reservoir (now the Grassy Trail Reservoir) would be reality once the dam was finished. Completion of the dam was set for the fall of 1952.
A Price soldier was also in the news, not for valor in battle, but for standing up for his orders. Glenn L. Wilson was told to keep everyone out of Secretary of State Dean Acheson's office in San Francisco during a Japanese peace conference negotiation. To Wilson that meant everyone.
'Should get a medal'
"He was stationed on the left side of the door and as he stood there Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida followed by a flock of news reporters" attempted to enter Acheson's office door. "No amount of pleading and arguing could break the military stance of the Price youth," reported the Sun Advocate. "(He) was told to guard and guard he did." A sergeant was finally summoned and Wilson stepped aside. "The newsmen, although held at bay for awhile, got together later and made a suggestion that PFC Wilson, who refused to retreat under fire, should receive some kind of an army medal, perhaps the Order of the Crossed Conferences."
In the feel good story of the year Carbon High's football team won the Class A (largest schools in the state) football championship at the University of Utah field on Nov. 10. They beat Box Elder 27-0 in a dominating game. "The backfield-Martin Bezyack, Louis Mele, Tommy Taskar and Dick Morley added to the reputation (the team) has built up over the season and the line took care of everything the Bees had to offer, even holding for four downs at the one yard line at one time," reported the Sun Advocate.
It was the last time Carbon won a state crown in football.