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Front Page » March 20, 2012 » Carbon County News » Rock Star
Published 1,004 days ago

Rock Star


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Many high schools in Utah have letters on the mountains or hills near the town where they are located denoting their territory. Even some of the universities and colleges in the state have the same tradition.

While the "C" on the Wood Hill above Price represents Carbon High School, for years it was also associated with Carbon College as well, partly because of the same letters representing the two institutions and partly because until 1959 the two schools were on one campus.

But not long after the college was founded in 1937 a group of students went one better than just having a letter on the hill; they adopted their own rock.

"Gibby" as it is known today, is in its own way the predecessor of our modern electronic social network. The rock, which was named after the Rock of Gibraltar that is located on the southwestern coast of the Iberian peninsula (and owned by the British) has been a symbol or strength for not only the British Empire, but for one insurance company over the years.

Today Gibby sits right outside the east doors of the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center on the lawn. It acts as it always has, as a place where students paint it with messages and causes they care about. Sometimes the messages change almost daily, other times whatever is marked on the rock stays on there for considerable amounts of time. Regardless it has held messages of humor to messages of pain for more than 72 years now.

In 1996 the rock, which was then situated in front of the old Reeves Building, created a controversy when an instructor suggested that the campus get rid of the rock because he thought it was an eyesore and an embarrassment to the college. While a few backed him, there was a firestorm on campus about Gibby and its meaning to the institution. Many said that Gibby was a tradition that should not be done away with.

Layne Miller, who wrote for the paper at the time, composed a story about Gibby and how the tradition started.

It was 1939 and a number of students, many of whom went on to become prominent figures in the community, decided that they would place a rock found in the lot near where Carbon High is now located on campus as a kind of mascot. The idea came from Louis Bunnell, one of the first students at the school, according to Boyd Bunnell his brother who was interviewed at the time the article appeared in the Sun Advocate. However, Louis had a date the night he had planned to move the rock, so he asked his brother Boyd (who later became a the Seventh District Court Judge in the area) and some of their friends to move it.

"We used the Bunnell Garage wrecker and put a big chain around the rock and lifted it up," Bunnell told Miller. "Well the rock was so heavy, it lifted the front wheels (of the wrecker) off the ground. The other guys had to stand on the front bumper so it would stay on the ground. Every time we hit a bump, the front wheels would come off the ground and I couldn't steer.

The group eventually made it to the college campus with the rock. Using logs and other material, the young men backed the wrecker over the curb and up to the front doors of the main building. They mixed up a batch of cement and the rock was put solidly in the ground.

"It was right in front of the doors," stated Bunnell. "You had to walk around it to get into the school."

Between then and the 1960's the rock not only became a sign post for student idea and issues, it also became a place where a lot of photos were taken. Many a beautiful girl and good looking guy had their photo taken for the yearbooks and various publications over those years.

When John Tucker was president of the college (during the 1960s) he had the rock moved without telling anyone he was going to do it. It caused a controversy on campus but the rock remained for some time encased in glass in the library (it's not clear whether it was in the old library that was in the main building or the one built in 1968 that stands today). The some time later it was taken out of the library and stored away.

Later Bunnell's cousin Bert, who was the student body president, got permission to move the rock in front of the Reeves Building where it resided until only a few years ago when that building was torn down. Once again he used the Bunnell Garage wrecker (presumably and newer and heavier one) to move the rock.

Once again, with sunlight upon its surface, the rock became an important part of the campus. Over they years there have been contests over the painting of the rock and even one marriage proposal. The rock has been everything from a rallying point to a controversial billboard with not-so-popular inscriptions placed upon it. This past fall the rock was used as a memorial to Brad Barton, the popular basketball coach who passed away. His jersey number from his college days at Weber State, 23, was the simple inscription on Gibby.

The Gibby tradition lives on and it must be expected it will last as long as the college is there.

But one question that has often been asked has never been answered.

How many coats of paint are on Gibby after over 70 years of painting and repainting?

That could make for a good project for some student of science to evaluate and give the community an answer.

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March 20, 2012
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