Friday, September 25, 2020

RonnieAdventure #0431 - Colton and Helper, Utah

Colton was settled in 1883 under the name "Pleasant Valley Junction," which was the name of a junction on the Pleasant Valley Railroad. The Pleasant Valley Railroad was purchased by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) in 1890.

In addition to the railroad, mining and milling of Ozokerite brought a number of miners to the area. The town quickly grew to include a store, hotel, and five saloons. In 1898 the town was renamed "Colton" in honor of William F. Colton, a railroad official. The town burned down and was rebuilt three different times.

When the D&RWG switched from steam to diesel locomotives, the importance of Colton as a rail stop faded away, along with residents of the town. About the only business establishment building that remains in Colton is the country store, which has now been converted to a single-family residence.

The historic Pleasant Valley Coal Company was the primary supplier of coal for the steam locomotives that had to make the climb to Soldier Summit. After the mine closed, the company's main office buildings at Castle Gate were demolished and the site is now a vacant parking lot that contains a number of historical markers. 

One historical marker states that on April 21, 1897, Burch Cassidy, Elsa Lay, and Bob Meeks robbed the mine's paymaster of about $8,000 in gold and silver. Only a small part of the money was ever recovered. 

Another historical marker states that coal mining started in the Castle Gate area in the 1870s and had a significant impact on Utah's economy. During WW II mines in the Castle Gate area were some of the leading coke and coal producers in America. The site marker indicates that there are still vast reserves of coal that could be developed if needed. 

This was also the site of the Castle Gate Mine disaster. On March 8, 1924, an explosion in the mine instantly killed 171 miners. The majority of the miners killed were immigrants - 57 of the miners were single, 114 were married, and they left 417 dependents, which included 231 children and 25 expectant mothers. Then on July 31, 2000, an explosion in the nearby Willow Creek Mine killed two miners and sent eight others to the hospital. After the 2000 mine explosion, Willow Creek Mine was closed and the entrance was sealed. 

The town of Helper (2010 census population 2,201) is just a short distance down the road from Castle Gate and is known as the "Hub of Carbon County." "Hub" referrers to Helper's central location in the county. When the town was formed, it was surrounded by a number of different mining camps. 

Helper was settled in 1881 to service narrow gauge locomotives. The town was named after the Helper Engines that were kept in the town and used to help steam powered trains reach the top of Soldier Summit. After  D&RGW purchased the line in 1890, a new depot, hotel, and other facilities were constructed in Helper and it became known as the division point between the eastern and western rail terminals. 

By 1891 Helper had a school, three saloons, grocery store, clothing store, and other shops. There was such a large number of people that arrived in Helper from Europe and other parts of the world that an immigration bureau was opened in the train depot. By 1900 there were sixteen different nationality groups living and working in Helper.

In 1903 the Italian coal miners went out on strike, so Greek and Japanese immigrants (which added to Helper's diversity) were brought in to break the strike. The town grew quickly and a number of new businesses were started. By 1912 there were 29 different business, 71 by 1915, 84 by 1919, and 157 by 1925.

I stopped in Helper to visit the Western Mining and Railroad Museum, but the museum was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I was able to walk around the property and take pictures of the mining equipment that was on display outside of the museum.

The Price River runs behind the Museum and is crossed by a pedestrian suspension bridge that was fun to walk across as it swayed from side-to-side and bounced up-and-down.

There are a number of well-kept historical buildings in Helper and a statue of "Big John" that reminded me of Jimmy Dean's song Big John.


In 1948 Eldon, his brother Ormel, and Lanky Vance built our family a new house on some land we owned about eight miles east of Pierre, South Dakota. Lanky was a professional carpenter, so he may have had other people that also worked on the house.

The new house had electricity, hot/cold running water and two indoor bathrooms. Water was hauled from town in a 1,000-gallon tank that fit in the back of our truck and the water was stored in a cistern west of the house. There was even a full basement under the house that had a washing machine (similar to the one shown below). The washing machine was a large tub open at the top that had an agitator for washing the clothes and a ringer over the tub for removing water from the clothes before the clothes were taken outside and hung on a clothes line. There were hot and cold water faucets on the basement wall connected to a garden hose that could used to fill the washer with water. Waste water was disposed of in a septic tank and drained through a septic field located east of the house. 

Web Picture - Photographer Unknown
I remember one day I was helping my Mother run clothes through the ringer and did not let go of the clothing in time. My hand and arm were pulled into the rollers and the rollers were about up to my elbow before Mother got the machine stopped. If I recall, the lever on the side of the ringer stopped the rollers from moving and a large button on top of the ringer released the rollers. Fortunately, no permanent damage was done to my arm.  

Friday, September 18, 2020

RonnieAdventukre #0430 - Soldier Summit, Wasatch County, Utah

Steam train with Helper Engines climbing Soldier Summit (Web Picture - Photographer Unknown)

Soldier Summit is both a mountain pass and a town. The town is now almost totally abandoned; however, in 1921 the town had a population of about 2,500 people. There were stores, hotels, saloons, restaurants, two churches, and a school.

The first recorded European party to visit the area was the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition in 1776, and they named the summit "Grassy Pass." 

When the Civil War started in 1861, Johnson's Army of about 40 officers and enlisted men that had been stationed at Camp Floyd were ordered to return to the eastern part of the United States. In July they were camped at Grassy Pass when a blizzard unexpectedly started. Since the soldiers had been enduring a hot summer at Camp Floyd, they were totally unprepared for cold weather. Six or seven men and a fourteen year old boy froze to death before the blizzard ended. After their deaths, the name of the pass was changed from "Grassy Pass" to "Soldier Summit" to honor those who perished in the blizzard. 

The Utah and Pleasant Valley railroad (U&PV) established a narrow-gauge rail line into Thistle in 1878, but the company went bankrupt and the company's assets were purchased by the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad (D&RGW) in 1890. 

D&RGW upgraded the line to standard gauge and connected it to their main Denver-to-Salt Lake City line. Due to track curvatures and the steep grades required to reach Soldier Summit, D&RGW stationed Helper Engines and built several facilities on both sided of the mountain to service and prepare steam trains.  (Soldier Summit is the fifth-highest summit or pass in the United States on a transcontinental railroad main line and is still a favorite photography destination for train enthusiast.)

To cut operating costs, in 1919 the D&RGW moved part of their service facilities to Soldier Summit. Housing was provided by the railroad for their employees, but the housing was small and not well constructed. Each house contained about 850 square-feet and the houses soon became known as "half salt box houses" and "squat boxes." Many of the house foundations are still visible on the hillsides.

It was common to have 6-to-16 feet of snow on the ground at Soldier Summit six months of the year. The snow was so deep during the winter months that residents dug tunnels between the buildings - including their outhouses. 

In 1929, due to severe winters, the railroad decided to move their facilities off of the mountain; but a few hardy residents remained to keep the town alive. The town's population continued to decline and by 1949 there were only 11 students left in school. In 1973 the school closed permanently. 

By 1979 there were only about a dozen people left in Soldier Summit, but the community had four police officers to enforce the low speed limit on the highway that passed through town. Motorists complained about the "speed trap" to the State Attorney General, and the Utah Chief of Police Association investigated the complaint. It was determined that the only reason for Soldier Summit to even have a police department was to generate revenue through traffic tickets. The Soldier Summit Police Department was disbanded and the County Sheriff is now responsible for law enforcement in the area.


Grandpa and Grandma Hawkins really enjoyed spending the summers in South Dakota, so they purchased a house about one block east of Saint Mary's Hospital in Pierre. They especially liked fishing in the Missouri River because they could catch large catfish. In the 1940s rods and reels were not very sophisticated, so the fishing line would often "backlash" in the reel when casting. However, the rods/reals were still a great improvement over the cane poles that were used for years. 

Sometimes we would spend time with both Grandpas. We called Grandpa Welty "the old Grandpa," and Grandpa Hawkins "the young Grandpa." I like to wear a hat like my grandpas.

Jerry, Ronnie, Grandpa & Grandma Hawkins, Merl

Grandma Hawkins with catfish caught using a cane pole

Grandpa with fish caught using a rod & reel

Grandpa Welty, Merl, Grandpa Hawkins, Ronnie, Jerry (part)
I could not find a lot of pictures that were taken in 1946 after our California trip, but apparently we had a family Christmas picture taken that was sent to a lot of relatives because a number of the pictures have been returned to us. 

Wileta, Jerry, Ronnie, Eldon, Merl
In 1947 Wileta's brother Nelson passed away, so Wileta and Eldon went to Kansas for the funeral. All of Wileta's siblings were there, except for Kenneth ("Jack") who was in the Navy and Mary who was living in California.

Herbert ("Herb"), Grandpa William ("Will") Welty, Ralph ("Bud"), Albert ("Bert"), Gerhard, ("Heck"), Quinton ("Cot"), Wileta, Walter ("Walt"), Harry ("Short")

Friday, September 11, 2020

RonnieAdventure #0429 - Tucker, Utah County, Utah

The community of Tucker started as a railroad junction and then a rail station was constructed on the site to house Helper Engines that were used to help steam locomotives over Soldier Summit. A town of 500 people soon formed around the rail station and the town was called Clear Creek. Clear Creek had a boarding house, company store, saloon, post office, and some poorly constructed houses. In 1900 the town's name was changed to "Tucker."

In 1913 the railroad realigned the tracks to lessen the grade up to Soldier's Summit and the new alignment bypassed the town of Tucker. When the railroad abandoned their facilities in Tucker, the town soon died and was abandoned by all of the residents.

All of the buildings were destroyed and in 1920 the original railroad grade was paved and used for a highway. Then, in 1969, the old townsite was developed into a rest area for passing motorist and a historic monument was built on the site to commemorate the town of Tucker.

The rest area was considered to be in a dangerous location because it was at the bottom of a 5% downgrade near a sharp curve in the road. To make the road safer, in 2009 the State of Utah closed and destroyed the rest area and a new road alignment with a banked curve was built over the townsite to increase traffic safety.

In 2010 the State of Utah built a replacement rest area about two miles down the road from the old townsite and named the new facility "Tie Fork Rest Area." The rest area was named for the canyon where the rest area is now located.

The replacement rest area was designed to mimic an early 1900s era train depot and to honor the town of Tucker. Included in the rest area is a replica roundhouse with exhibits and a replica steam locomotive. On the day I stopped at the rest area the visitor building was closed, so I just walked around and took some pictures.


After WW II ended, everyone in the country wanted to travel to see relatives that they had not seen in four years, but most people had old cars that were about worn out. To meet the strong demand for new cars, the automotive companies retooled as quickly as possible from war products to automotive production; but it was still difficult to find a new vehicle. Due to shortage of new vehicles, people typically bought any car they could find at a dealership in their price range, regardless of body style or color.

Our family purchased a new 1946 2-door two-tone-blue Chevrolet Fleetmaster Business Coupe and my Dad's brother Ormel purchased one just like it, except his car had a sunvisor. The new cars came with a 90-day or 4,000 mile warranty, whichever came first. 

The factory recommended breaking-in period for the engine was 40 miles/hour for the first 100 miles, 50 miles/hour for the next 200 miles, and 60 miles/hour for the next 200 Miles. Oil changes were recommended every 2,000 miles and a complete engine tune-up was recommended every 5,000 miles. The engine used 10-weight oil during the winter months and 30-weight oil during the summer months. There were no multi-viscosity oils at that time. 

Chevrolet had been building tanks for the War effort, so cars were built like tanks. An adult could stand on the car's front fender without denting the metal. Since there were only two doors, the front seat backs on both the driver and passenger sides folded forward so that passengers could get in and out of the back seat. Each door had a roll-down window plus a vent window that could manually be pivoted inward to help direct air into the car when driving. Attached to the vent window was a lever with a center lock button that could be used to fasten the window when not in use. There was also a cowl (area below the front windshield) vent that could be opened manually by pulling a lever below the cigarette ash tray on the instrument panel. (All cars had a cigarette lighter and an ash tray on the instrument panel and some cars also had ash trays in the door armrests and in the backseat.)

Our car had an inline six-cylinder 216-cubic-inch engine (the only engine available) that produced 84 horsepower and a manual 3-speed transmission with a column shift lever. The car could go from 0-60 mph in 22 seconds. Leaded gasoline was used because it lubricated the engine valve seats and helped limit engine knock. Engine knock was caused by high temperatures in the cylinders and the gas would self-ignite before the spark plugs fired. So that people didn't have to buy a high-octane gasoline, the engine had a manual spark control and weights in the distributor that were vacuum controlled to change the spark timing. And, of course, on really hot days the car could vapor lock and the engine would stall. This was caused by the gasoline vaporizing in the fuel line before reaching the carburetor. If this happened you had to wait until the temperature under the hood cooled down and the vaporized gas turned back into a liquid. Although not recommended, you could also pour water over the fuel pump to help cool down the fuel going to the carburetor. (Pouring water on a hot engine could vaporize the water and the steam could give you a severe burn. And even worse, pouring water on a hot engine could crack the engine block.)

The clutch and brake pedals went directly through the car's floorboard and there were rubber grommets around the pedals to help keep out road dust. (After a few years the rubber grommets deteriorated and fell out, so you could then see the road by looking through the space between the floorboard and the pedals where the grommets should have been located.) Many of the vehicle control features were located on the floorboard. The headlight dimmer switch was above and to the left of the clutch pedal. Snow, rain water, and mud dripped off of the driver's left foot when operating the clutch, which caused the dimmer switch to frequently fail from rust and corrosion.

The engine had a starter that was operated by depressing a button on the floorboard with your right foot. The starter button was located above and to the right of the accelerator pedal. There was a hand controlled choke that could be pulled to help start the engine in the winter when a richer gas mixture was needed. However, you had to be careful when using the choke because too much gas would "flood" the engine with too much gasoline and then the engine would not start. Rather than use the choke control, people typically just "pumped" the accelerator petal a few times (which could also "flood" the engine if you did it too often) before depressing the starter switch. (Speaking from experience, pumping the accelerator pedal before cranking the engine was really a hard habit to break when engines started having computer controlled gas mixtures.) There was also a hand-throttle control on the instrument panel that could be used when driving on the highway to keep the engine turning at the same speed. In other words, the hand-throttle control was like a modern cruise control, only manually controlled.

When starting the car, you had to be careful because the engine could be started when the transmission was in gear and the car would just take off when the engine started if you forgot to depress the clutch. Actually, some times people intentionally started the car this way. 

On the 1946 Chevrolet the three-speed manual transmission shift lever was located on the steering column. From the neutral position between gears, the shift lever was pulled toward the steering wheel (up) and then pushed counterclockwise for reverse, up and clockwise for first gear. From the neutral position the shift lever was moved away from the steering wheel (down) and counterclockwise for second gear, then down and clockwise for third gear.

Starting the car on an incline required some practice. Pressure was applied to the brake pedal with the right foot so that the car would not move while the left foot was used to depress the clutch pedal and move the shift lever into the neutral position. The left foot was then moved to the brake pedal and the right-foot toe was used to depress the start button while the right-foot heel was used to depress the accelerator pedal. Once the engine started, the right-foot heel was moved to the brake pedal while the right toe operated the accelerator. The engine would often stall if the accelerator was not pumped even when the engine was running. The left foot could then be used to depress the clutch pedal and put the transmission in gear. With practice, the left foot on the clutch pedal could be released slowly in synchronization with releasing the right heel from the brake pedal and pressing down on the accelerator pedal with the right toe at the same time. Quite often people would over-rev the engine or "slug" (kill) the engine while trying to execute this maneuver. When driving and required to stop on an incline, the same right foot toe-heel combination was used, but some people just "slipped the clutch." This was done by depressing the clutch part way with the left foot while controlling the accelerator with the right foot to hold the car in a suspended position. Obviously, this was not recommended because it soon burned out the clutch. 

Since Chevrolet only made a few different ignition keys. If you ever lost your car key or locked your key in the car, and there were other people around, you just ask other Chevrolet owners to try their key until you found one that worked. The same key worked for all locks on the car - including the glove compartment door that always had a lock.

Power steering was not available, so to help turn corners the car's steering wheel was as large as a steering wheel found on a truck. I remember that my Mother was so short that she had to look through the space between the horn ring and the steering wheel rim when driving. (The horn was honked by depressing a chrome ring that was slightly smaller and on the inner circle of the steering wheel.)

Standard equipment that came in the car's trunk was a full-size spare tire and a hand rank that could be used to crank the engine if the 6-volt battery was dead. We had to use the crank more than once. However, if the car's battery was dead, people typically just pushed the vehicle by hand or with another car while it was in gear with someone sitting in the driver's seat with the clutch pushed in. After the vehicle started rolling the clutch was quickly released, which would turn the engine and the engine would usually start. 

Tire chins were not a factory option, but everyone in South Dakota purchased a set of tire chains and also kept them in the trunk. Our car also had an AM radio (the only radio available) that used the latest vacuum tube technology. At night the radio could pick up KOMA in Oklahoma City. Radios would often break from driving on washboard roads or hitting holes in the road, so there were shops that just repaired radios. 

In 1946 all Chevrolet production cars were equipped with hydraulic drum brakes on all four wheels. Power assist was not available, so stopping could be a challenge. The hand brake lever was located under the instrument panel to the left of the steering column. It was a curved handle with a trigger to release the parking brake. You never used the parking brake in the winter because the cables would freeze and not release the brakes or the brake shoes would freeze in the locked position.

Bumper guards were attached to the front and rear of the three-piece bumpers for pushing other cars or for being pushed. And, of course, all cars came with bias-ply blackwall tires and small hubcaps that just covered the wheel lug nuts. All tires had inter-tubes that had to be patched frequently. This is something that many people repaired on their own, while other people went to their full-service gas station to have tires repaired. 

A complex tire rotation pattern was recommended every 3,000-to-5,000 miles - spare to right rear, right rear to left front, left front to left rear, left rear to right front, and right front to spare. One of the main problems with the nylon bias-ply tires was that when it was cold the tires would have flat spots from sitting and when you started to drive, the car would shake until the tires warmed up.

In some states it was the law that drivers had to use hand signals when driving - arm and hand extended straight out to turn left, arm held out with hand raised up at a 90 degree angle to turn right, and arm held out with hand tuned down at 90 degrees to slow down or stop.

Is it any wonder that some women didn't drive a car until years later!

I remember one time Mother stopped in town to see her friend Hazel Barnes and left me in the car standing on the front seat because she was just going to be in the house for a minute. However, just as she ran in the house, Hazel's husband (Guy Barnes) backed his car out of the garage and ran into the front of our car. The impact made me fly forward and I hit my head on the solid metal instrument panel that did not have any type of padding. It about knocked me out and I got a really large bump on my forehead. Guy was an older nervous type person and he didn't know what to do, so he gave me a quarter and told me to hold it on the bump to reduce swelling. The impact also knocked about a three inch hole in our car's front grill chrome strip. There were several other cars in town that looked like ours, so after that you could always tell our car when you saw it coming by the hole in the grill trim. (The chrome-plated metal used for the grill trim was so thick and hard that it did not bend, it just broke into pieces.)

Wileta could never sit still - she always had to be doing something or going somewhere. After we purchased our new car, she convinced my Father that we need to take a trip to Kansas to see all of our relatives and then continue on to California to see all of our relatives that had moved to the Los Angeles area. Her younger sister Mary lived in California and now had a daughter my age and twins (a boy and girl) that were my younger brother's age that she had never seen. 

All that I remember about the summer trip to California was that our car did not have air conditioning (not available from the manufacturer) and it was so hot in the car when we crossed the desert on the way to California that we kids took off all of our clothes and sat in the backseat in just our underwear. Mother gave us wet towels that we could put on our bodies to help keep cool. 

Water was kept cool in a canvas water bag (like the one shown below) that was hung on the front bumper of the car. A slight amount of water leaked through the canvas bag and acted like an evaporative cooler to keep water in the bag cool when driving. Too bad we did not have evaporative cooling in the car. (They actually made an evaporative cooler that you could fill with water and hang on the passenger door window. When you were driving, air was forced through the evaporative cooler and directed into the car. The coolers worked well in dry deserts, but due to the high humidity produced they were worse than nothing in other climates.)

A number of years later we purchased a new car and my older brother drove the '46 Chevy to high school. He always hated the car's two-tone blue paint color, so one day when he was not home Wileta and I decided to surprise him. We purchased some exterior house paint and we used paint brushes to paint the top of the car white and the bottom of the car fire engine red. He didn't like our paint job. Fortunately, Wileta sold the car before I started driving to high school. Farm kids only had to be 13-years old to get a driver's permit. 

Web Picture (Photographer Unknown)
Family with Mary Hall & Her Kids and Nelson Welty
Wileta with Mary's Twins Jimmy & Janice
Karen Hall & Ronnie
Merl, Karen Hall & Ronnie
Janice Hall, Wanda Welty, Karen Hall, Bonnie Welty, Ronnie, Jerry, Earl Welty, Jimmy Hall
Ronnie and Danny Lloyd
Ronnie Picking Grapes
Gerhard ("Heck") Welty, Walter Welty, Mary Hall, Wileta, Nelson Welty
Merl, Wileta, Jerry, Eldon and Ronnie at the Pacific Ocean