Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BINGHAM BOYHOOD DAYS by CREEDON

BOYHOOD DAYS
By John J. Creedon
Highland Boy
            How did we spend our time?  What did we do for recreation when we were young?  These and other questions have been asked many times by my daughters and their friends.
            There were no playgrounds or supervised activities in those days.  No hotrods or bus service to take us to the ball ground, but we made out alright.
            The hills and canyons were our playgrounds and an abandoned mine dump was our ball ground.  We lacked the play equipment of today, but we did not lack in enthusiasm or imagination.  The boys were pretty good in making guns and many of the boarders at the places in Carr Fork were handy with a knife and would whittle out guns and swords for us.
Arial Tramway
            The gulches were made to order for the roving cowboy gangs and the skulking Indian tribes.  We had Cottonwood, Dixon, Deadhorse and Markham to explore and hunt down the marauding outlaws.  Throw in a few abandoned mines and shacks and you had the perfect Western setting.  We had the good fortune to have the aerial tramway going over our territory. This tramway transported the ore from the Yampa Mine in Highland Boy to the headhouse in Frogtown.  At one time it went direct to the Yampa Smelter, but the smelter was closed down before I arrived in Bingham.  We would climb up the towers that supported the track and cables that controlled the buckets and “rob” the buckets of their precious cargo.  We all carried sample sacks and it was a lucky day when one of us would get a shiny lump of pyrite of iron, “fools gold”.
            It was a thrill to catch a ride across some of the shallow gulches and draws the cable line transversed.  Some of the braver boys even rode the buckets across Markham Gulch, but I remember one boy who spent about an hour in a bucket suspended over the deepest part of Markham while the tramways was shut down for repairs.  We were as scared as he was and didn’t think we would ever see him alive again.
            After the tramway was abandoned, we still used the track as a means of transportation across gullies.  We would use a bent iron or large bolt and with the iron across the track we would run and lift up our feet and sail over space.  One spring a friend of mine lost his grip over Deadhorse Gulch and fell about twenty feet.  He fell in deep snow, but hit a tree limb in the snow and broke an arm and leg.  For a long time that stopped this form of recreation.
            Another favorite stunt was to get a long rope and tie it to the top track of the tramway and then get up the hill a ways with the other end of the rope in your hands and then swing out hundreds of feet in space.  One day the rope broke and Bert Terry went headfirst into a pile of oak brush.  I shall never forget how his head looked when we picked him up, but he got over his injury all okey, but that put an end to space travel on the aerial tramway.
            The old abandoned mine shafts and shacks provided an exciting playground and there was always a atmosphere of mystery and excitement in exploring them.  We were careful about going too far into these mines as we were warned about the bad air.  We used a lantern made from a tin can and a candle inside.  The shinny bottom of the can served as reflector and a few nail holes in the top let out the smoke without effecting the flame.  If the flame would flicker a bit we would retrace our steps.
            There was a gold producing mine in Dixon Gulch when I lived at the B&G.  An old Italian named Gardella owned and operated this mine.  He was miner, mucker, timberman, assayer, and engineer.  He had a small ditch bringing water from far up Dixon to his sluice boxes near the mine entrance and we used to float boats in the little stream.  He had a double barreled shotgun and they say he was not afraid to use it on any trespassers.  He had a small forge and hand bellows that he used to sharpen his tools.  Native oak and maple was used to timber his mine, and it was hardly high enough for a small boy to walk upright in it.
            When he left for his native Italy, there were many stories and legends about the amount of gold he took with him and his cabin and mine was searched by many in the hopes of finding his cache of gold.  He never returned and no one seemed to know what happened to him.
            Far up Dixon across from the U&I Mine there was another mine tunnel, unnamed for some reason, and it was there we had our swimming hole.  There was a sizable stream of ice cold water flowing from this mine and we dammed up this mine dump and that was where we paddled around.  It was hardly deep enough for swimming, but we had a lot of fun in that old place.  The oak brush came down to the edge of the water.  The mud in the bottom was about a foot thick and it was great sport to plaster each other with mud.  The water was invigorating.  I am reminded of these enthusiasts that break the ice to go swimming.  We never broke the ice, but the water was only a degree or two from freezing, at least that was my impression.
            What a thrill it was to get out of that cold water, hurry and dress and then dash down the mountain in pursuit of Indians and outlaws.  What did we do in those days?  What did we do for fun?  I hope I have let you relive those memorable days in good old Bingham!


CARR FORK — FINN TOWN
By John J. Creedon
Carr Fork's Finn Town
            Carr Fork or Finn Town as it was widely known was to be the focal point of my activities in Bingham for nearly thirty years.  It was there I spent my childhood and where I made friends who have remained close to me to this day, although most of them have moved to other places.
            Carr Fork was truly Finn Town, for with four or five exceptions, all of the families were of Swedish-Finn extraction, and what fine people they were.
            Some years ago, when I read that Finland was the first and possibly the only country to pay its war debt to the United States, I was not too surprised.  I knew many of these fine people and saw what price they put on honesty and hard work, characteristics they brought from their homeland.
            Nearly half of my playmates in those early days were fatherless, victims of the “miners con”.  The underground mines with bad air, dry stopping and few safety measurers took their toll of the young miners, leaving their widows to provide for their families as best they could.  In those days there was no Workmen’s Compensation or insurance to help them over the rough spots, but they were resourceful and managed to keep their families intact.  Many of them operated boarding houses or worked for others to maintain their homes.
Swedish/Finn Hall Carr Fork
            What noble women they were—hard working, honest and for the most part, cheerful in the face of adversity.  Who could use a little of that old fashioned family life today?  The coffee pot was always on the stove and there was always some cake or cookies for anyone who called. The door was open to one and all, young and old.
            I can see now, those miners coming home from the mines in the winter with their clothes frozen stiff and the yellow muck covering their boots and pant legs.  There were no change rooms in that day where they could change into dry clothes.  No wonder they died in their thirties and forties.
            These men worked hard and they worked long hours, but they were happy people and they played as hard as they worked.  Imatra Hall, or Finn Hall as it was better known was the center of entertainment in Carr Fork.  These men built the hall and when it was torn down a few years ago, the wreckers marveled at the workmanship and the sturdy construction of this historic old building.  It is well they built so sturdy, for a building of lesser strength would not have withstood the stirring dances and parties held there.  How it would sway and rock to the Schottische and the Polka and the sound of happy people singing would fill the night air.
a Mill
Another landmark and playground of the young was the old Shawmut Mill, situated where the Gemmell Club now stands.  We had a ball ground there and the old mill provided a hangout and meeting place for young people.  The road forked at that point and the main road followed the present site, with the Miners Hotel dividing the highway.  The creek ran along the westside of the road and every time a foul ball was hit, it usually landed in the creek.  At the cry of “Creeker”, every player would head for the creek and try to retrieve the ball.  We had certain places along the creek where we could get at it before it went under the houses.  Many a player fell in, but usually we got the ball, for if we didn’t the ball game was over.  All we had was one ball, one bat and a roll of tape.
            One of the boarders at Johnson’s Boarding House at 75 Carr Fork, John Quist, used to make a cover for our baseball out of an old leather boot.  He would soak this leather and when it was sewed and fried out, it made a tough and tight cover that would wear for days, but it was hard on the arm of the pitcher, for it weight a few ounces more than a regulation ball.
the old days--before mining
            Another great day in Carr Fork was Midsummer’s Day, when all the families would go picnicking.  Some of these celebrations were held at Geneva, on Utah Lake, and I remember one year I was lucky enough to go on one of these excursions.  It was the first time I had been near the lake and it was a real thrill.  Other years the picnics were held at Picnic Flat in Markham Gulch.  There was a lovely bridal path from the B&G around the hill to Markham, past the Ben Butler Mine and to the grove of trees where the flat was located.  Chock cherries were plentiful and the wild flowers grew profusely in that locality.

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