1956: A year of tragic accidents in Carbon
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.
The year of 1956 began ominously when on Jan. 1 a car with four Wellington teens in it hit a tree on Railroad Avenue and the crash killed three of them and critically injured the fourth. It was the worst traffic accident (in terms of fatalities) up unto that time within the confines of Price City. The car was traveling at high speed and there was no sign that the 17 year old driver had applied his brakes before hitting the tree.
In the third week of January, and after years of speculation, land purchases and near purchases in other parts of Price and a turned down bond to build a new courthouse, the county commission came up what most people seemed to want from the beginning, which was to build a new building on the site of the old one that was erected in 1909. That action would within the next two years lead to the construction of the courthouse that is presently on Main Street today, which is now under consideration for replacement. Later in March, figures were issued for the expected cost of the new building at $500,000. A bond election to finance part of the courthouse construction (the county had some of the money already) was later set for June 12. Carbon voters approved the bond by a vote of 567 to 164.
In another building project the Utah State Building Board and the National Guard announced that an armory would be built on the northeast corner of the property that contained Carbon College. The bids for construction were let in May and the building was expected to be finished by the next year.
Utah Power and Light announced it would build another unit at the Castle Gate Power Plant in April. The new unit on the plant was estimated to cost about $18 million. The original plant was constructed in the early 1950s and was completed and operational in 1954.
In mid-April a cave-in at the Sunnyside No. 2 mine trapped four men and rescuers worked feverishly to dig them out. The cave-in was caused by a bounce during the middle of a work shift in the mine. At first there was little hope that any of the men could be found alive, based on the kinds of rock fall and where it occurred, but after four days of being trapped in the mine, three of the four miners were found alive. One however had perished in the disaster.
"This rescue came hours after all hope of finding life had been abandoned," stated the Sun Advocate in its April 26th issue. "Thursday at midnight mine officials had completely given up hope bu then 15 minutes later the entire picture had changed and a sigh of relief and astonishment went up from those keeping a constant vigil oat the mine..."
Found alive after days of being trapped were LaVell Marion Golding of Wellington who was huddled under the boom of the loader in the mine. Also found alive was Joe Archuletta (Dragerton) who was pinned against that same machine by coal and Lloyd Allen Heath (Sunnyside) who was under another machine. Joseph Otterstrom, the crew foreman from Sunnyside, was found buried under coal apparently killed when the cave in happened.
In late June the single worst boating disaster to ever happen in Carbon County took place when a boat with eight people overturned in a storm. That accident happened at Scofield Reservoir and five of the six drowning victims were from one family. Dead were John Kanakis, his wife Yolanda, and their children John. Jr., Constance and Gust. Only 11 year old Katherine survived. Also drowned in the accident was Angelo Kanakis, brother of John Sr. Another brother and a friend were rescued. The disaster orphaned another daughter of the family, Katherine, who had stayed home that day because she told her mother "she was a little tired of going fishing."
An announcement in mid-summer also showed that despite the fact that the year before the Salk Polio Vaccine had been available, many people still were not taking polio seriously. Officials stated that up until July 1956 21 percent of the children under the age of 10 had not been inoculated and for those above age 10 to 20 years of age the number was much larger. It was reported that the vaccine had been highly successful in the last year with only two cases of polio contracted in the area after have the vaccine administered, and both of those were very minor having no paralysis at all.
The future interstate highway system was also under scrutiny and debate in 1956, with the local area being no exception. In August the Utah State Highway Commission gave its blessing to the fact the federal government ought to build what was to become I-70 through the Price area and connect to what was to become I-15 in Spanish Fork. The other route, which is presently U.S. 40 was discounted for several reasons. The overall cost for the U.S. 6-50 route was estimated to be higher, because it was 32 miles longer. However the cost per mile of construction was considered to be less at the time.
This was also the year when a new Price City Library building was in the beginning of the planning stages. It's plans then fall right in with how the building was added to the city complex after the old Carnegie Library that was standing where the Peace Garden is now was leveled.
This was also the year that it was decided that J. Bracken Lee would no longer be the governor of Utah. The former Price mayor and Carbon County native was eliminated from contention in the Republican primary election in September losing to George Dewey Clyde, who eventually became governor, 61,574 to 58,278. Lee would later go on to be the mayor of Salt Lake City. In the general election in November, for the first time since 1924 Carbon voters went for a Republican for president in the likes of Dwight Eisenhower.
In a grissley murder case Steve Denos of Price was arrested in late September after he killed two women north of Wellington. Denos admitted when he was apprehended to killing Mary Maxfield on the porch of her home and then chasing Sammie Stewart Daly for some time after wounding her and then found her hiding in a swamp a half mile south of the Mayfield home. Denos was bound over for trail in November after a preliminary hearing.
In late November the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools recommended to Carbon College President Aaron Jones that at some point before 1961 the college and the high school be separated from each other. The board feld that "no institution should be responsible to two governing bodies..." with both the Carbon Board of Education and at the time the Utah State Board of Education having jurisdiction over the campus. The association also suggested that the "flavor" of a high school campus is different from that of a college and that it short changed the college age students. (At the time the high school had 600 students on campus while the college had 300).
In early December three men escaped from the Carbon County Jail by sawing through bars with hacksaw blades. The cut their way out of the cell block and went out the front doors of the courthouse. The blades were apparently sneaked in by visitors to the three inmates.
Unfortunately the year ended how it began, with a deadly car accident. In the last issue of the year the Sun Advocate reported that three people were killed in a car accident involving a head on collision near Sunnyside.
"The two cars hit with such force that they were almost welded together," the paper reported at the time. Those killed in the accident were Charles Garcia who was the west bound cars driver, Mary Gonzales the driver of the eastbound vehicle and Annie Pacheco, Gonzales' sister.