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Newspaper wars entertain, educate county

Sun Advocate publisher

(Editors note; This is one in a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate that will be published between now and 2011 when the paper will celebrate its 120th year of publication.)

On June 4, 1915, the first issue of a newspaper called The Sun appeared on Carbon County doorsteps. Most people expected to pick up the Eastern Utah Advocate from their front porches that day. Instead, this new newspaper was there.

But it really wasn't that new.

The Crockett brothers who owned the EUA had suddenly changed the name. They had lost the former name in a sale to a man who only ran the paper for two years. He then bailed, leaving behind most everything from the old paper, except the name which he had sold to a cross town rival newspaper, the Carbon County News.

A few weeks later, on July 7, the Carbon County News appeared on doorsteps, many of them the same homes that had seen the previous paper change. The News now carried a new masthead that said News - Advocate. The name of the EUA had been purchased by W.C. Benfer. Under the new masthead, he added, "A consolidation of the Carbon County News and the Eastern Utah Telegraph."

But the consolidation was in name only. The Sun was exactly like the EUA, except in name. Nothing else, including the subscription delivery list, left the office of the old newspaper.

"The Sun will shine in 1,500 homes, businesses, houses and other places where newspapers are read," said Robert Crockett on the front of this inaugural issue. "The editor and owner of The Sun has been at the newspaper game in Price for 17 years. Most of the people hereabouts know him and his efforts of the past."

Benfer, in his first issue of the News - Advocate reminded readers that they were getting the benefit of what he said were two merged newspapers.

"The News - Advocate calls to the attention of advertisers (and those who should be advertisers) that with the consolidation of the News and the Advocate, the payment of one advertising fee gets the advertiser the advantage of a double circulation," he stated in an editor's column. "Now is the time to get on the bandwagon."

But that was also untrue. For the next 17 years, the same amount of time that the Crocketts ran newspapers in Carbon County, until 1915, the arguments and accusations went on and on.

The war of words began almost immediately. Benfer wrote a column (called The Editor's Column) in his paper each week that had the words "Wherein he comments on the things that pleases and displeases him" printed above it.

In August, he laid into Crockett for a number of things including an incident in which someone struck Crockett with the butt of a pistol.

"Since that tinhorn busted Wobbley Bob on the nut with a six shooter, the owner of 'Old Betsy' (referring to his paper) hasn't been so anxious for an open town. Sometimes blessings come in disguise, as the poet, Bob says in his little ballad entitled, "How Did the Toilet Paper Get in my Moustache?"

Benefer often took to insulting Crockett because he considered him slick with his black handlebar moustache and reasonably good looks. Crockett also had often commented in his paper that he wanted the town to leave bar and tavern owners alone. He said that people had the right to a drink when they wanted one without ridicule. He preferred an open town rather than a closed one.

In the same issue of the paper, Benefer also insinuated that Crockett had stolen flags from in front of the News - Advocate that had been put there on the previous Pioneer Day a month earlier. He said this occured while Benfer and his staff were helping out old veterans to get ready for the celebration at a union hall. He also made fun of Crockett because his office was open on the holiday while Benefer's crew honored the holiday.

This level of response resulted from an editorial a couple of weeks earlier in Crockett's paper (under a column he called "The Sun") in which Crockett had accused

Benfer of being un - American by saying, " - your socialist of the Benefer brand never did and never will have much use for Old Glory. The red flag of anarchy is more to the Benfer liking."

In the same column, Crockett also pointed out that Benefer was presently visiting the Wasatch Front and that his form (Benefer was a bit overweight) would not cause any problems.

"If any seismical disturbances are felt at Price this week, the cause is easily explained. Benefer of the News - Advocate is at Zion. However, there is believed to be no danger of this end of Utah tipping into the Great Salt Lake because of his presence there."

So with that, a much - expanded war between the two newspapers commenced, and lasted until 1932, when the two were bought and combined into the Sun Advocate.

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