A President Visits Carbon County
|In 1948 President Harry Truman "whistle stopped" in Carbon County as he kicked off his campaign for reelection. He is pictured here with wife Bess and daughter Margeret standing on the back of a train at the Price station.|
If President George W. Bush decided to have Air Force One flown into the Carbon County Airport to make a campaign speech next year in September, shortly before the general election, what would happen in Carbon County? Would people flock here from all over the west to see him? Would local residents desert the town and crowd Airport Road with their vehicles trying to get a glimpse of the chief executive of the country?
While that happening here today is very remote, there was a time when the President of the United States did visit and it put Carbon County on the national map for a short while.
It occurred on September 21, 1948 when President Harry S. Truman actually opened his campaign in Utah as his train stopped in Price and then Helper.
Truman, who was engaged in a close election run with Republican opponent Thomas Dewey at the time, did what candidates did before the advent of jet air travel. He was buzzing through the country on a special train stopping everywhere he could to pick up votes. And since he was headed into Utah from Colorado on the train and he couldn't begin his whistle stop campaign in Moab, Vernal or Castle Dale because they didn't have railroad tracks running through them, he started it off in Price.
The President's train arrived at 12:55 p.m. at the Price railroad station, and he was immediately joined on the train by local officials and Democratic candidates running for national office in Utah. As he came into town he was standing on the platform on the back car waving at the huge crowd that was waiting to see him.
The town had almost shut down to greet him. Businesses closed and the schools let kids out to go down to the rail line to get a glimpse of the chief executive. He was greeted by Price City Mayor A.D. Keller, Governor Herbert Maw, congressman Walter K. Granger and other officials as soon as the train stopped.
The officials spoke from the back of the train, introducing the president to a crowd of nearly 5,000 people that had gathered by the time the President was ready to speak.
Once President Truman had been introduced to the gathered crowd, he made a political speech commenting on a previous trip to Utah when he had been in the Senate. He also touched on the issues of the conservation movement and western economic development.
Eventually the President's wife, Bess Truman came out on the platform along with their daughter, Margaret. It was typical of his whistle-stopping trips during the 1948 campaign that Truman often ended his campaign speeches by introducing his wife as "the Boss" and his daughter as "the Boss's Boss."
It is felt by many political experts that the sight of this family together on the end of the train platform as it pulled away from various stations across the country was one of the keys to his eventual victory over Dewey in an election all the experts said the incumbent would lose.
As the train pulled out of Price headed westbound, much of the crowd began to follow the train in their cars, hoping to see him at the next stop on the agenda, Helper.
Another large crowd greeted the train at the Helper station, and during his speech he asked for labors help in getting reelected. During his speech he also spoke of the importance of coal to the nations economy.
At both stops the President shook hands with those in the crowd, although Utah Highway Patrolmen and Secret Service agents surrounded the train trying to keep the surging assemblages back.
The crowds that showed up included many people who weren't from Carbon County. Residents from almost every county in southeastern Utah were present and many of the children that showed up at both stops were from other counties as well, traveling to the site by school bus. All the coal camps in Carbon County were represented in the gathering as well.
It was an eventful day for Carbon County and one of the last campaigns in which presidential candidates travelled by train to meet the people. By the 1952 election, four years later, television had taken over as the new medium for reaching the voters and campaigning by airplane had begun replacing the rails as the means of getting to the public. That meant that candidates mostly travelled to big cities and skipped the small ones in order to garner the most votes.
But even though it was a sad ending of an important era in American politics, it was an exciting September day for residents of Carbon County.