Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BINGHAM THE BOARDING HOUSE by CREEDON

THE BOARDING HOUSE

Swedish boarding-house in Carr Fork
By John J. Creedon
            For a cross section of people of all types, a boarding house in a mining town like Bingham was a place to study them.
            It seemed that an endless parade of characters were coming and going all the time.  Some of these men were well educated and had the manners of a gentleman, while others were plain rough necks and drifters, but my mother seemed to know how to handle them.  She listened to their troubles and I know more than once she lent them money, but not before they got a lecture on the virtue of thrift and honesty.
            There was one man, Tex Sutton, a brakeman that mother never cared too much about and she never trusted him.  One morning the police came to our house seeking him for murder.  He had a fight in one of the saloons in upper Main and when he was losing the fight one of the girls in the saloon slipped him a butcher knife and he disemboweled his opponent.  They found him asleep in the dormitory with the gory weapon under the bed.  He was a cool one for sure.  He served a short sentence and we heard that he lost both of his hands in a railroad accident some years later in Nevada.
            One of the problems facing mother was keeping waitresses for any period of time.  As fast as they came, they would get married to one of the boarders.  Mother had a reputation of being a match maker in partnership with Dan Cupid.  She even brought one girl from Ireland, Bridget O’Conner, a sweet little Irish Colleen, raised by my mothers folks.
            I remember the day she got off the train.  She was to wear a flower so we would know her, but she didn’t need any label to tell us, she was straight from the “Old Sod”, with the rosiest cheeks and little turned up nose.  We didn’t keep her very long, either as she married Jack Cavanee, a big handsome Irish engineer, about a year after she arrived.
            In desperation, mother finally hired a widow, named Mattie McCleary, well along in years and not endowed with too many physical attractions.  She was a lovable soul and a good worker. But the inevitable happened—she succumbed to the charms of “Monkey-motion” Davis and they were married in due time.  The boarders gave them a rousing shivaree.
            It was in the boarding house at the B&G that I first met the man who brought fame to Bingham Canyon and a new era in the mining of low grade ore, Daniel C. Jackling.
Highland Boy grade school
            He would come to Bingham in his private car with several of his party and they would have dinner at our house.  What a spread mother would put on for these visitors! She was no stranger to cooking for large parties or the well-to-do.  Before her marriage she had cooked for one of the wealthy mining families in Aspen, Colo., The D’Arcy Browns.  She would spend the summer in Aspen and the winter in Long Island, New York.
            She would send my brothers and I out on the mountain to gather wild flowers and would decorate the table with them.  Some of the women from the East wee enchanted with the wild flowers and would take them with them            .
            It was there I first met Robert C. Gemmell, H.C. Goodrich and Louis S. Cates, pioneers in the development of the Utah Copper Company.
            Frank Haymond, superintendent of the B&G and John Fogarty, roadmaster, were frequent visitors at our house and whenever Mr. Fogarty came, mother would go to the big walnut wardrobe in the bedroom and get the jug, for John liked his little nip.  She always kept this wardrobe locked and it always had a surprise in it for young or old.
wooden side-walk and dirt road
            Once a month mother, father and I would go to Salt Lake City on the train.  We would get on the bus at the depot in Salt Lake and go to the Cullen Hotel.  We always stayed at the Cullen and ate at the Chesapeake Café next door.  We would take in the Pantages and the Orpheum theaters, where we saw live vaudeville at its best.  The acrobats on the slack wire and trapezes always thrilled me and the clowns on the trick bicycles that would fall apart and get caught in their balloon trousers would have me in stitches.
            All of these things are gone and will be no more, but they were part of a happy childhood and the memory of each of them brings a pang of regret for those carefree days.


HALLOWEEN
By John J. Creedon
            Monday night was Halloween and the Lions Club had a bonfire and treats for all the little ones and it may well be the last one in historic old Bingham.
            It brought back memories of other Halloween nights when the ghosts and goblins and some few devils roamed the streets in search of adventure.  There has been much improvement in the behavior of the children, at least in Bingham, over some of the mischief their fathers and even grandfathers cooked up on this festive night, in bygone years.  
            The plumbing in Bingham forty or so years ago was primitive to say the least, and to most of us it meant the little house in the back over the creek.  This little structure was a favorite target for the pranksters, and unless it was anchored well, over it went, and then on to the next one.
            I remember one Halloween night, O.D.Baker, father of our United States Treasurer, Ivy Baker Priest, decided he was going to foil the plans of the mischief makers, so he loaded his shotgun with salt and pepper shot and took up his lonely vigil inside the outhouse.  However, he had not reckoned with the spy system in his own household, and his son. Fernley gave his secret away.  The gang so informed, proceeded to get two long poles and approaching the privy from the rear, they tipped it over on its door, thereby trapping Orange in his own snare.  There was one mad Englishman in Carr Fork that night.
            When I think of the work it took to do some of the tricks, I marvel at the fortitude and ingenuity of the gang.  They would take a delivery wagon apart and distribute the wheels and other gear over a wide and varied area.  A favorite place for wagon wheels was at the top of a telephone pole, hanging on a cross arm or one of the spikes.  The bigger boys would relay the wheel up the pole and leave the hapless owner to figure out a way to get it down.
            Another favorite target for pole hanging was gates and garbage cans.  Often the wheels of a wagon would be changed so that the larger rear wheels would be in front and vice versa.  Any article that was loose and could be moved was sure to end up in another part of town or place and November 1st was exchange day.
            I must admit that in some cases we went too far and that there was some material damage done, but most of it was done in the spirit of fun and in harmony with the occasion.  Most people expected some deviltry and put up with it very well.  The police tried to keep down outright vandalism, and believe me, in those days we respected the strong arm of the law, and after curfew we were all home or out of sight.
            The night before Halloween was “Clothes line night” and very few lines were intact next morning.  To top off the festivities, there was always a big masquerade ball at the Canyon Hall, usually given by the fire department and woe to the one who went unmasked or without a costume.
Gemmell Club
            The Salt Lake Costume House would send out several trunks of costumes and they would set up shop and rent to the party goers.  Everyone entered into the spirit of the holiday, and long after the dance was over the masqueraders would take in the night life of the town, and live it up till the wee hours of the morning.
            I agree that the present “Trick or Treat” is a much more sensible way to celebrate and the chances of vandalism and property damage is eliminated, but with a nostalgic glimpse into the past, what fun it would be to tip over an outhouse and be chased by an irate home owner, down the street of Bingham with the old gang I knew and loved so well.

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