1963: Dams, rumors of dams and the JFK assassination
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.
While Carbon county was occupied with dams that were controversial, possible and with one in the area under construction, and while the county was also concerned about losing its passenger train service which had been almost wiped out by the advent of the national highway system, the biggest headline of the year in the Sun Advocate came on Nov. 28 when the paper proclaimed that "Price residents join nation, world in mourning for President Kennedy."
Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas the Friday before, and people in the area were in shock over the first successful assassination of an American President since 1901 when President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in Buffalo, N.Y.
"Immediately upon hearing the news of President Kennedy's death, flags on display in Price were lowered to half mast," the paper reported. "Several affairs scheduled for Friday night were canceled for postponed and this extended through the next day and evening."
Schools in the areas canceled play performances and athletic events were rescheduled. Memorial programs were quickly put together and held quickly and events that remained scheduled also contained references to the assassination. On the Sunday after the killing, all churches in the area had memorial services for the slain President. On Monday, Nov. 25 the downtown area was almost deserted as people watched the procession in Washington, D.C. on television and most businesses were closed until that was over. Many were closed the entire day.
Price residents reacted with grief and some fear. Some worried that the assassination was a plot to overthrow the government. This feeling was reinforced by the killing of suspected shooter Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby a couple of days after the assassination. Grief and then fear was the order of the time.
But for the rest of the year, local issues dominated the pages of the Sun Advocate.
In April Senator Frank Moss introduced a bill in the congress that would build a multi-purpose reservoir in Carbon County to meet more supplies for the county. This bill came at a time when court cases were flying and the controversy over the construction of the Gooseberry Dam was at one of its high points. The dam that Moss addressed was to be located somewhere in the Willow Creek area. At the time the Army Corp of Engineers were studying the area and had found that there was some feasibility to constructing a dam, more than likely in the Castle Gate area.
In June the first blast of dynamite to start building the Joe's Valley Dam in Emery County took place. The reservoir that was to be constructed was a little different from most in the state in that it would be wider than it was lengthwise because of the structure of the valley it was being built in. The opening of construction took place on June 20, with a lot of fanfare and a mutton fry for all that were in attendance.
While polio had been battled back to fairly low levels since the Salk vaccinations of the 1950s with improving vaccines each year, that needle in the arm still bothered a lot of people. But by 1963 a change had come to battling polio and that was the Sabin oral vaccine. In 1962 only one case of polio had been reported in the state, but still, other places had more and it was feared that the disease could return with a vengeance if not totally wiped out. Complacency had also set in about the disease. At its height in the mid 1950s many had forgotten what the disease could do and it was getting harder and harder to get people to come in for vaccinations. Starting in March of 1963, the oral vaccine clinics (with what was called Type III vaccinations) were set up and people started taking the vaccine by getting sugar cubes soaked in the medicine.
In July the new headquarters for District 4 of the Utah Department of Highways was dedicated in Price. The building was built at a cost of $253,000 on almost 10 acres south of town on Highway 10. In another project, planned since the first of the year, the county decided to build and nursing home in the area, near Carbon College and next to the hospital. The project had been controversial with some saying that such a building should be built by private industry, but the project went ahead when the county selected Gramoll Construction of Bountiful with a low bid of $296,499.
The end of the year brought tragedy beyond the death of the President. An explosion at 11:55 a.m. At the Carbon Fuel Mine in Hardscrabble Canyon northeast of Price killed nine workers on Dec. 16. Dead were Victor Fossat. Helper, Archie Alonzo Larsen, Price, Mike Ardohain, Price, Andy Juvan, Spring Glen, John Senechal Jr., Kenilworth, Heino Liin, Price, Benjamin Valdez, Helper, Gerald Nielsen, Helper and Benino Montoya, Helper. The only man in that section of the mine to escape death was Jesus Nunez, who was thrown 200 feet by the blast.
Preliminary reports on the cause said that methane gas with coal dust was set off by a spark by a machine that hit a rock.
Rock dust that had been on the walls of the mine was blown out of the entrance to the mine and covered almost everything for several hundred feet around. The blast obviously had tremendous force, but no cave in occurred during the event.