1974: Region faces severe drought, bizarre chase ends in motel
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. The article is being written from front page stories that appeared during each year in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.
As 1974 progressed it became evident that labor troubles in the coal industry were ahead. In early August the UMWA president stated that if union miners didn't get sick leave as part of their contracts there would be no contract. Later, beginning on August 19, the union also closed down all mines for five days as they took a "memorial" period that had been negotiated during contract talks in 1971.
The memorial period was officially to remember (and there were events associated with the work stoppage) the "many thousands of our brothers who died in mine disasters and of occupational diseases." November brought a general strike when the present union contract with all but two of local mines expired on Nov. 12. Negotiations seemed to go well and the issues seemed resolved over the next three weeks, but on Dec. 1 only four of the 12 local elections approved the contract the way it had been negotiated. However, nationally, the union members approved the contract with 55 percent of them voting yes. Altogether the mines had been idled by the strike for about four weeks.
Water was a big problem in the area in 1974. A severe drought was striking the area and cities were in fear that they could actually run out of water. Price City made moves to get residents to conserve water, not only because of the drought, but also because of just short supplies within their own system. At times during the summer of 1974, the Sun Advocate reported that the water tanks on Wood Hill became dangerously low.
At the time Price was planning a new pipeline to bring more water into the city. In early September the paper ran a story about a meeting of ranchers and stockmen who met with Senator Frank Moss and representatives of the Department of Agriculture concerning disaster relief for agriculture in the eastern part of the state because of the drought. The reports from the agri residents ran from no water in any ponds to feed not being available because there wasn't enough water to grow crops.
In October, Utah Power and Light held an open house at the partially completed Huntington Power Plant. At the time one unit was in operation and the company wanted people to see how the plant was built and how it was being operated. Today, a fixture in the area, the plant was unique being located part way up Huntington Canyon with its own reservoir (Electric Lake) to help supply water to the plant. Coal did not have to be shipped to the plant because the Deer Creek Mine was less than two miles away and the coal was shipped to the plant via conveyor belts. The dedication that took place on Sept. 30 was attended by 450 civic and business leaders from around the state.
Late September brought an unusual high speed chase to the area. Two men, one from California and the other from Wisconsin, had teamed up and stole a Porsche in Colorado. While on I-70 going west they were pulled over by a Utah Highway Patrolman who clocked them going 90 in a 55 mph zone. When the trooper found the car had not registration, he suspected theft, and took one of the men into his patrol car and told the other man to drive back to Green River as he followed. But the man kept stopping saying the car was giving him trouble and the trooper told him to lock it up and come to the patrol car.
The driver's partner in the car put a choke hold on the trooper and the troopers gun went off shattering the windshield of the cruiser. The two stuck the trooper in his car and when another car came along they held the occupants at gun point while they ran the state vehicle off the embankment and tore out the two way radio. They then drove off west in the Porsche. The trooper was released by another passer by and went to Green River and reported the incident.
Meanwhile the pair got to Fremont Junction and tore north on Highway 10 toward Price with speeds of 100 miles per hour. They actually avoided road spikes and made it into Price turning on 100 South and doing speeds of 80 miles per hour. They ended up in a wash northeast of town and ran off on foot. Despite large numbers of law enforcement personnel looking for them they had not been found by dark.
But hunger and lack of sleep got to them and they came out of the desert and checked into the Mission Motel. The police were alerted that two men fitting the description of the fugitives were there and they were arrested.
In another bizarre story two Moab men were kidnapped after a man walked into a mortuary owned by one of them and forced them to withdraw money from their bank accounts. He then brought them to Price, had them rent a car, and tied them up in a motel room with rope and tape he had them purchase at Skaggs Drug. He then left them until one man was able to get loose and contact police. But with six hours lead the man had got away by then. However a few days later the man was arrested in Portland, Ore, when he went to a hospital for arm and chest pains. A felon from previous crimes that were committed, his name sparked the interest of the hospital and then police which matched his fingerprints with evidence from crimes committed in Utah.