In and Around the Town of Hiawatha
The Historical Society meeting in October was a step back in time, Remembering Hiawatha, presented by Eldon Miller of Helper at the Museum of the San Rafael.
Dottie Grimes the President of the Emery County Historical Society opened the meeting and introduced Evelyn Huntsman who sang a few songs about coal mining. In particular she sang the song written by Johnny Cash "Sixteen Tons" all three verses. Then she introduced Miller who was there to tell about life in Hiawatha a coal mining community in Utah.
Miller, assisted by Kathy Hamaker on the computer, showed slides and displayed places selected by Miller during the presentation. Hamaker brought up photos on the screen while Miller told stories of his memories of growing up in Hiawatha. He told of skipping grade school in Hiawatha, which he did for several days until he saw a girl that interested him. In order to see that girl he had to go to school.
Miller liked the town of Clawson where he lived for a short time in his early years of youth, with his mother and where his aunt lived. As a consequence he always told people that he was from Clawson.
As a boy hitchhiking from Clawson to Price, Miller noticed the sun reflecting from a large building in the mountains. At night he could see lights against the hills and wondered what it was. The building and the lights were the town and mine of Hiawatha. The family later moved to Hiawatha.
Miller's father was a coal miner and moved the family whenever the mine he was working in laid him off.
Miller decided that he did not want to move from Hiawatha with his father, because he wanted to stay in grade school at Hiawatha. He made an agreement with the local hotel manager to allow him to work for room and board. The work required him to start at 5 a.m. helping with breakfast, washing dishes and making lunches for the miners. He attended high school in Price and rode the school bus back and forth to Price. It was while riding on the bus that he did his school home work.
When Miller was 16 someone told him that if he had a uniform girls would flock to him. He convinced his mother to give him permission to join the army. Which he did three months before turning 17. The Army sent him to Korea before the Korean War, to help the people of South Korea learn about Democracy and how to set up city, county and state governments. The conflict with North Korea did not start until Miller had been transferred back to the states. Miller felt the North Koreans thought they were safe to invade now that he was gone.
When Miller got out of the Army he bought a nice camera and started taking pictures of coal camps and writing histories. He has visited more than 60 coal camps and learned of their histories.
Hiawatha was owned and operated by the US Fuel Company. This mining company did many things to keep the miners happy in their town. Such as providing housing, a store and a recreation building.
Some of the photos shown of the Hiawatha community and discussed by Miller were of the War Memorial Dough-Boy statue erected between the mine office and the amusement hall in Hiawatha. The statue was transferred after World War II to Price, when US Fuel Company was closing the town of Hiawatha. Other photos shown were the school building, the large two story amusement building, the house where his girl friend lived, the decorations in the amusement hall for the Gold and Green Ball, the LDS Church building, the community church, the baseball team and the Company Store. The superintendent's home, the pool hall and the two-lane bowling alley pictures were shown. The confectionery (soda fountain and ice cream parlor) in the amusement hall and the amusement hall which were the center of most activities.
The Hiawatha jail was a one room stone building with bars on the windows. The fellow that built the jail was the first inmate. He was put in jail for intoxication from celebrating with the money he earned building the jail.
Miller displayed a coupon book that the miners had to purchase from the company in order to get items from the Company Store. The money for the coupon book was deducted from the miners pay. He also talked about and showed photos of the man train. A train of coal cars that carried the miners down into the mine at the beginning of the shift and back out at the end of the shift. The first place the miners went upon coming from the mine was the bath house to wash off the coal dust.
Miller mentioned how nice the yards looked and how well-kept the yards were in Hiawatha. It was a great place to live and grow up in.
At the end of the lecture Miller offered a book titled Memories of Hiawatha for $15. This is a book compiled from stories collected from people that had once lived in Hiawatha.