Not to be outdone by their neighbors in Price, citizens in Helper turned out in force to celebrate V-J Day in the streets.
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. These articles are being prepared in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.
It has been said that World War II was the biggest endeavor man has ever participated in.
And in August of 1945 that endeavor ended, capping a tragic year around the globe and particularly in Carbon county.
That year was filled with horrible deaths from mining accidents, shootings and names of service men that appeared on the front pages of the Sun Advocate as they were reported lost in action or missing in action. Right up until the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in August, names of these lost soldiers, sailors and marines came almost weekly.
That all changed on August 14, the day Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced that his country would surrender unconditionally. And even though the actual surrender document was not signed until Sept. 2 on board the battleship Missouri, celebrations broke out all over the United States, including in Carbon County.
"People in Carbon county, like those everywhere else in the country, let down the hair and put on a noisy, hilarious celebration," noted the newspaper in the Aug. 16 edition. "Whistles blew, sirens on the city fire trucks screamed, auto horns sounded to make an ear-splitting din as soon as the news was flashed over the radio that the long awaited victory was near,"
But not everyone was happy. In the three weeks before, families of three young men who had died in the war were still grieving over their losses. Reported lost in the time leading up to the victory was Rudy Kochevar, a B-17 pilot, George Jackson, Jr., a sailor who died of gunshot wounds in the south Pacific, and George Nogulitch who was killed in the invasion of Okinawa. All had gone to Carbon High. Jackson had been student body president at Carbon and at Stanford University before he went into the service. Nogulitch was the second in his family to die at war for the United States. His uncle had been killed in July 1918 in France during World War I.
After the surrender would be signed many more families would suffer because of late news of lost sons, brothers and husbands. In addition many that were listed as missing in action would never be found.
But for that short period in mid August 1945, the world and the county was a very happy place.
"The streets soon became littered with torn shreds of paper thrown from upper windows of business buildings along Main Street, crowds jammed the streets and long pent-up emotions ran unchecked to show how the the people felt about the end of World War II," reported the Sun Advocate. "When the final official news that the president had declared the war was over, the celebration started up all over again."
The joy was immense. Businesses closed for the day and let their employees join in the celebration. That night Main Street turned into a big dance floor as the Carbon High School band played until after midnight with revelers everywhere.
"While many imbibed more than enough liquid joy, people remained happy and good-natured, and turned their enthusiasm to harmless activity," stated the paper in a small article reporting that newly appointed Carbon County Sheriff Joe Dudler said there were no arrests on that day.
But there was no shortage of liquor, due to the fact that people had been putting away spirits for an end-of-the-war party for a long time.
"The state liquor store was forced to close by the rush of patrons who soon depleted the stocks," noted the paper. "However, most persons had hoarded some stimulants for the great occasion long ago."
Even coal production went the way of the wind for a few days as several of the mines in the area did not operate for want of employees to run them.
"On Tuesday morning a few of the miners showed up at various properties, but they were insufficient to carry in the work so they were sent home," explained the paper.
It was estimated that the mines would lose about 75,000 tons of production over the following days. Wednesday and Thursday were proclaimed "work holidays" by President Harry Truman and that meant that those who did work would receive time and a half pay if they came to work. Not very many did.
Wednesday also became a busy day as a victory and thanksgiving program was presented at the Price Civic Auditorium before a packed house that morning with various leaders of the community speaking. A parade down Main Street preceded the program.
By Thursday things had calmed down and life began anew, albeit a community and a country without a world war burdened upon its shoulders.
The future was bright, but the challenges of the coming years would be great as life turned to a time that no one had imagined before. The war had taken the United States out of a depression and placed it in the lime light of world leadership. Things were different now, and no one could know how that would change the direction and future of Carbon county.