Wednesday, July 20, 2011


By John J. Creedon
            Bingham’s last Fourth of July celebration went out in a blaze of fireworks and for the last time the firemen packed away their mortars for firing and serial bombs.  As the last glow of the Grand Finale display faded out there was a lump in the throats of many a fireman and spectator. We all realized it was the end of the line for this kind of celebration.
            I was asked by one person, “How long have the firemen sponsored the Fourth of July Celebration?”  I could not answer the question specifically, for I cannot remember when they didn’t have charge of the Fourth.
            I remember way back when I was a boy, that those men in red flannel shirts and blue pants and wide patent leather belts with BVFD on them were in charge of the glorious Fourth.  I remember how thrilled I was to watch then parade with the hose cart and perform their drills. These firemen were heroes to me and I little realized that one day, I would be part of that fine organization.  Men like Ross Marriott, Bob Wells, Charley Kelly, Charley Stillman, M.L. James and many others were on hand to handle the races and the many other duties that go to make a good celebration.
            The Fourth of July seemed to have more significance in those days of boyhood.  Was it because I was a boy, or was it because we placed more value on patriotism and pride of country? In those days there was not the wide variety of entertainment we have today and the little things meant more.  We did not take everything for granted as we do now.  If you wanted something, you had to work for it.  Every whim or request was not granted on a silver platter.
            I thought of the many times I marched in the parade on the Fourth with my brother firemen, waving to the spectators along the route and returning the applause and good wishes with a smile or a tip of the hat.  We were proud to be firemen and proud of our town and the people showed their appreciation for our efforts.
            Yesterday as I walked through town,  I was greeted by empty windows and vacant lots, where once people gathered on porches and lawns to cheer us on.  How the parade route would be packed and it was a day when old friends came back to take part in a program that was unique in this day of commercialism.
            Most celebrations are put on with the emphasis on profit, but not ours.  Everything was free from the opening event to the big dance that usually closed out the evening.  There was prize money for all the boys and girls, a free show, free treats and a free dance for the young people.  In the evening there was a free dance and in later years the fireworks.
            Of course, celebrations cost money and the money must come from somewhere.  Prior to the establishment of the Bingham District Activity Fund, the firemen solicited the business places for the fund to put on the Fourth.
            The Fire Department would start early in the summer to prepare for the Fourth and the soliciting committee would have the first big job of raising the money.  Next would come the decorating for the big day.
            The streets and buildings would be strung with flags and bunting and there would be a festive air throughout the town.  The fire trucks would be polished and the parade uniforms would be brought out and inspected and put in tiptop shape.  The streets would be washed down and everything put in apple pie order.
            Early on the morning of the Fourth the firemen would put up the bleachers for the people to watch the races from and they would be on the job until the wee hours of the morning till the last celebrant was gone.
            An old fashioned Fourth without balloons was unthinkable, so Johnny Jackson, Jack Whitmore and Bonny Jones would have the fun of inflating hundreds of balloons the night before and early on the day of the Fourth.
            I thought of the Bingham Merc. porch where the orators would pour forth words of freedom and liberty and the heritage of our fore fathers.  Later it would be the scene of the pie eating contests and the womens’ nail driving contest.  It was hardly a contest, as Mrs. Baker usually won in a breeze.
            What a thrill it was to watch the drilling contests and envy the bulging muscles of the brawny miners as they swung their sledge hammers against the steel bits held in place by their mate.  They would change places without missing a stroke and after each blow of the hammer the bit would be turned a little.  This was a skill that required team work and a steady hand.
            Many a band concert was heard from the Merc. porch on that festive day and we would stand and watch the musicians enraptured by the stirring marches of John Philip Sousa.
            Yes, the Fourth was a great day in Bingham, a great town in its day.

By John J. Creedon
            With most of the merchants gone from the Canyon, it seems proper to pay tribute to these men and women who have contributed so much to the everyday living of all of us.  We take the services provided by these merchants as a matter of course and seldom think of the many difficulties they face in the fast business pace.  We pay for our merchandise, so we feel no further obligation on our part.   
            The merchants of Bingham Canyon have carried us through good times and bad times, booms and depressions, strikes, layoffs and cutbacks.  They have suffered the loss of income along with the workers and had the same problems of making ends meet.
            In times of trouble and disaster they have been on hand to help out with their resources, many times stretching credit to the breaking point.
            Have you ever been in a supermarket and have the manager or owner inquire about the health of you and your family?  Or discuss the new job or car or the local problems?  Have you ever asked to get some groceries on credit to tide you over a temporary shortage in the bank account?  I can imagine the icy stare you would receive, or may be an abrupt refusal.
            These glittering palaces we call the supermarket are pleasing to the eye and the prices may be some what lower due to the carload lot buying they enjoy, but there is no warmth or feeling for the customer.  You are merely a faceless person going through the line and laying down your money.  They are interested in only one thing, profit!
            I know many a merchant who has a great amount of red ink on his books, due to the failure of people who were extended credit and reneged on payment, when the strikes and bad times were over.  This may look like a dark mark on their books, but I like to think that the Great Auditor, when He goes over the Book of Life of these merchants, that He will credit them with being His agents in caring for our brothers.  This goes for the many good doctors we have had serving our community.
            The sign over system seemed to be part of the life of a mining town.  Maybe it was a carry over of the old “grubstake”, of the early days of mining when the prospector was advanced bacon and beans and a few clothes and sometimes his powder to blast with, in return for repayment and maybe part of the claim if he struck it rich.
            Often a worker would hire out at one of the mines and have no money to eat on or even clothe himself with.  He needed a place to sleep too, and it was up to the store owners to take care of him.
            I wonder how many men got their first start from Charley Adderley, owner and guiding hand of the Bingham Merc. for nearly half a century?  He stands out in my memory best because he had the big store where you could buy everything from soup to nuts, a suit of blues, (Overalls and jumper) to a Stetson hat.  A tiny bolt to a can of blasting powder.
            Another store I remember far back in the Bingham Grocery, operated over forty hears by Charley Dimas and in later years with his son, Pete.  I remember when Charley and George operated a small peddler wagon, selling vegetables and fruit from door to door.  After serving his adopted country in World Ward I.  Charley established his grocery store and has been in business ever since.
            I wonder how many people in the Canyon had their table stacked with food during the bad times because  Charley and Pete were humanitarians first and business men second?
            It seems almost unfair to single out any merchant for these good deeds, but these were the ones I am familiar with.  The list of others is long and honorable.
            The Highland Boy Merc., Tony Strilich and Nick Bolic in Highland Boy.  The Miners Merc., Lendaris and the Independent in Copperfield.  Vienna Grocery, Millers Grocery and Centre Market all operating in the same location at different times in Bingham.  The Bingham Meat, Chris Apostal, Tom Praggastis, Michigan Grocery, with Joe Scussel and his mother, and George Adondakis.  Kidder and Dowd in Copperton.
            Service stations like Adderley and Nichols, Spud Morley’s and the Standard Garage.  The cafes, the taverns and nearly every business and service in the area could qualify for this honor role.  Our good Doctors, Richards, Frazier, Jenkins, Straup and Flynn gave freely of their time and skill.
            As we spread out in the valley, each going his own way, think kindly of these people and remember the pleasant smile, the hearty handshake and the real down-to-earth friendship of these businessmen.

By John J. Creedon
            For a few hours last Saturday night, old Canyon Hall took on an air of gaiety and laughter, an atmosphere she was accustomed to for many years in the past.
            Spud and Frances Morley, owners of the building since 1937 decided to let the “Old Girl” have one last fling before being demolished.  The held a “No Host Party” for former residents of Markham and other friends who assembled for a last farewell.
            The tables were laden with good food and drink and there was music for those who might care to dance.  No one seemed to be in the mood to dance, they came to greet old friends and remember the happy times spent upstairs.  The Galena Days pictures of 1939 and 1940 were shown again and each time you see them you are able to pick someone else you missed before.  It was a night of reminiscing and recalling the days of our youth, when a dance in Canyon Hall was just about the most important event in your life.
            I left the happy crowd for a few minutes and walked up the ramp to the main floor where the dance hall used to be and let my thoughts drift back to boyhood days.
            Every day on my way to school I passed the hall.  It was the largest building in town and was quite impressive with its huge bulk and the quaint little cupola on top.  It had been the school for many of my older friends, but with the completion of the high school building on the lot near the Civic Center, classes were discontinued there.
            I remember it as the Opera House, where the traveling troupes would come and put on a stage show.  It was here I saw that great film, “Birth of A Nation”, for many decades regarded as the greatest picture ever made.
            The floor was unique.  It could be raised or lowered at one end and when a show was on the floor would be tipped so the seats would be arranged for good viewing.  Two large electric motors provided the power to raise and lower the floor.  For dancing the floor would be level and resting on springs.  You could dance all night and never tire on this marvelous floor.
            On our way to and from school we would stop at the little store on the ground floor to buy candy and school supplies.  C.L. Countryman had a book store and sold candy and notions. Later a Mrs. Bebb operated the candy store and then Tom Dafnis had his store there before moving to Carr Fork.  The Power company offices were on the ground floor too.
            I thought of the spring floods we used to have and Canyon Hall was right in the path of the torrents that came down Markham.  The debris would be cleaned up and business would go on as usual.  I tried to picture the layout of the dance floor and where the orchestra stand was. We entered the hall from the Markham side and into the main hall through double swinging doors. The dancing area was immense and all around the outside walls there were chairs where the spectators and wall flowers would sit.
            The strains of music of long ago seemed to come out of the gloom and I could almost see and hear again the Ariel Eight, the Gibson girls, Sammy Garcia’s group and Kay Lemon and Shiv Granquist and their band.  There was at least one dance a week in the Canyon Hall and all the organizations held their annual affairs there.
            These dances passed in review in my memory as I stood there alone.  The big New Years dance with all the noise and merriment and one of these stood out, for on that night in 1925 I had my first date with my wife.
Canyon Motor Co. Canyon Hall on top floor
            Next came the Firemen’s Washington Birthday Ball, and there I was selling “mountain dew” with Johnny Jackson and Jack Whitmore.  The Elks usually put on the St. Patrick Day dance and we would wear a green carnation.  Dr. Flynn would make a little talk at 11pm  for the departed members.
            There would be a big 4th of July dance.  The Italian lodge would have a Columbus Day Ball and then the Firemen again on Halloween with the Mask Ball, where everyone wore a costume.  On election night the old hall would sway to dancing feet and the victors would rub it in on the vanquished.  Then would come the American Legion with the Armistice Dance on November 11th.  Even the Thanksgiving and Christmas dances were well attended.
            As I walked back downstairs into the light, the spell was partly broken, but as I looked the crowd over, I saw many there I had danced with upstairs so many years ago.  There was the girl I married, the girl who first got me on a dance floor, Frances (Ball) Morley and the girl I dated for many dances, Mabel (Knudsen) Boberg, and several others.
            More on the Hall next week.

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