100 years ago, a young county knew how to celebrate Independence Day
One hundred years ago, in 1913, Carbon County was getting ready to celebrate Independence Day with a real flourish. Today, we have Energy Days and Pleasant Valley Days. Then, they had a huge celebration in Price, with 2,500 of the 3,000 residents coming out to the festivities.
This would be like 17,000 of the 20,000 residents who live in the county currently attending Energy Days at the fairgrounds.
While people work hard today, in those days a holiday was even more important. There were very few per year. Most of the employed residents either worked hard labor jobs in the mine, for the railroad or in agriculture. None of these are known as forgiving, when it comes to holidays, particularly in the days of pick and shovel mining, steam locomotives and horse and plow farming.
So, when the city set the celebration for Friday, July 4, people were excited. Many events were planned and executed.
While the county had been inhabited by the white man for around 25 years at the time, it was still a very frontier area. Yet, hope sprung eternal.
An ad in the July 10 Carbon County News showed the optimism of people in the county and what they thought of the celebration. It claimed that Price was "the Pittsburgh of the west." That may not mean much in today's context. Recently, Pittsburgh, Pa. has risen from the ashes of a dashed economy and is doing pretty well as a tech center. However, in the early 1900s Pittsburgh was one of the country's centers of industrialization. Andrew Carnegie's steel mills were booming and coal was king. Railroads fought for access to the city to carry the heavy industrial products away.
Real estate was going for a bargain here. New subdivisions built around Washington Park and Carbon County High School (which sat at the north end of Carbon Avenue) were going for $250 to $275. You could buy one with $25 down and a payment of $10 per month. The average person earned about $750 a year in 1913.
So it was that some very hard working and largely poor people flocked to Price to celebrate the nation's birthday. Patriotic programs started the celebration at the Eko Theater (now the Crown Theater) which had opened just a year or two before the event.
"Carl R. Marcusen was the master of ceremonies," stated the Carbon County News on its front page on July 10. "Following a selection by the Price band (probably the city band) the congregation led by J. Rex Miller sang 'America' after which Bishop Bryner invoked the divine blessing on the people of the state and the nation."
The program apparently went on for about three hours. Today, its hard to imagine sitting in a closed up, non-air conditioned building packed with people on a hot July day. But since cool air was reserved for the morning and the fall, winter and spring, people probably didn't mind. The program came to a close with the benediction and then the presentation of special designated guests.
"...Miss Annabel Lews as the Goddess of Liberty and her maids to honor, Miss Dorothy Wade and Mildred Fausett occupied prominent places on the stage and formed a pretty picture in their holiday attire."
Festivities then moved to Washington Park and the ball fields in north Price.
While baseball is still the biggest sport played in Carbon County, in those days town teams and mining camp teams were huge draws. The first game of the day saw Price defeate Kenilworth 5-4.
"Miller caught for the locals, with Singleton and Hungary on the firing end," stated the paper. "For Kenilworth, Stone and Sowdki were behind the bat, with Shultz on the mound."
In a following game, Helper beat the Price team 3-2.
After the games, there were motorcycle races.
"..run around the half mile track the race was won by Lee Whitmore in five minutes flat, with Stanley Ballinger second," reported the paper. Both of the men road Indians, which were the biggest manufacturer of motorcycles at the time.
Next, three people participated in a car race that went 10 times around the same track the motorcycles had run on. Bill Broeker and Bill Austin of Price as well as George McGann of Helper all drove Fords in the race. During the seventh lap, McGann's front wheel bumped the rear of Broeker's car and McGann went out of control turning over on the track.
"A cry of horror went up from the grand stand, as it seemed certain the driver must have been pinned under his machine," stated the paper. "It was with sighs of relief, however, that the driver was seen in a moment standing beside his overturned auto."
A crowd of men righted the car, and all the damage was confined to a broken windshield.
"McGann cranked up his machine and drover her back to Helper," reported the paper. "It was a mighty close call to a serious accident, and many people were so unstrung that hey left the grounds without waiting for the other sports."
Broeker won the race.
The day continued with foot races, both sprints and long distances races, including a four man relay. That relay race had only two teams, the Married Men and the Single Men. Those in wedlock prevailed.
That evening a huge crowd danced until midnight in the Carbon High gymnasium.
"The crowd was one of the largest and best behaved seen in the gym since its erection," stated the paper."
There were no fireworks reported. In fact the News made a point of it by writing, "That the nation's anniversary can be celebrated sanely and pleasantly, without the aid of explosives, was demonstrated in this city..."