Saturday, July 9, 2011


Growing Up in Carbon County
A Short Story taken from the JOURNAL of

My name is Lena Thorpe Wade.  I am the daughter of John Thorpe and Eva Hall Thorpe.  My parents had 8 children: our names were Lena, Agnes, a stillborn baby,  Mary Jane, Tom, Hilda, Alice and Jack.  My sister, Agnes and me were born in Higham, Yorkshire, England.

My parents told me they were planning to come to America.  I got the measles, then pneumonia; that held them up until I was better.  They sold all the furniture and everything.  When we got on the ship, the captain asked my parents if I could walk.  They told him I could.  If I couldn't, he said we would have to get off the ship.  They put me down and I walked from one parent to the other parent.  We stayed on the ship.  My mother was pregnant.  She was seasick all the way.  My dad had to take care of us.

 We went to a mining town called Winter Quarters in Carbon County.  Mining was all my dad knew.  He quit school when he was 12 years old and worked in the mine with his dad.

My dad was bald-headed on the top of his head.  When we were kids, we asked him how come he was bald-headed. The only answer wee got was that he pushed the loaded coal cars with his head.

Winter Quarters was located 1 1/4 miles up the canyon from Scofield.  The altitude was very high.  The houses were on one side of the canyon.  On one hill, there was sage brush and sarvis berries.  They were good to eat.  The other side was pine trees, aspen trees, timber, lilies and forget-me-nots that grew wild.  There was the hillside, houses, road, railroad tracks and the creek.  It was cool in the summer and cold in the winter.

Eva, Mary, May, James Tom, John, Harry  

We got the first snowfall in October.  You never saw the top of the fences until spring.  We had dirt roads and no snowplows to clear the snow off.  The train would have a plow on the front of the engine to clean the tracks.  I have watched two trains together to clean the tracks off.  The snow was so high.

WE had no electricity in the houses.  We used kerosene lamps.  We had one in each room.  When I was about 9 years old, they put electricity in the homes.  My grandmother wouldn't let them put the wires above the ceiling out of sight.  She was afraid they would set the house on fire.

My grandparents and most of the family joined the L.D.S. Church in England.  My mother was 15 years old when she was baptized.  The missionaries converted them.  My mother said she did the laundry for the missionaries every week.  My grandparents had the missionaries for a lot of meals.  My grandfather and one son came to America first.  They worked in the mine and saved their money for a year, then Grandma and the rest of the family came to America.  We came a year later.

Grandma Mary Ellen Hall , Jim Nielson
I loved to go to my grandparent’s home.  Grandma always had something for us.  I was the first grandchild.   She always gave me a handkerchief on my birthday.

My grandpa worked in the fan house that pumped the air in to the mine.  It made a lot of noise.  It made him quite deaf.  Grandpa died after my mother's sister, Florence May Hall Nielson died.  She had 6 children, one a baby six months old.  Grandma took the baby (Jim) and raised him until he was 7 years old.  It was hard for her because her health wasn't very good. 

I remember the first year I went to school.  My teacher was Miss Walton.  I liked her very much.  I used to try and walk like her and wear my coat like she did.  When I was in the second grade, I forgot to put my dress on.  When I took my coat off, there I was in my slip.  The teacher wouldn't let me go home and get my dress.  After that I always looked myself over to see if I was dressed.  My mother had 5 babies in 6 years, so we had to do some things for ourselves.

Another time I put my tongue on a frosted wagon wheel.  When I tried to get it off, the skin came off, too.  For a while I had a sore tongue.  And another time I put my foot between the spokes of a wagon wheel.  The man came back and started to go.  I did some fast moving to get out of there.  I was always doing some dumb thing.

It was in the first grade, my Uncle Tom used to come to our house on Saturday nights, after we had our baths in front of the kitchen stove in a round washtub.  When we had gone to bed, he would come in and get us up.  He always had something for us, either an ice cream cone or fruit, a banana, orange or an apple. We thought that was great.  A little while after that, he was killed in the mine.

Lena Thorpe Wade
My grandparents lived next door to the schoolhouse I would go over there and see them during recess.  They had a fence around their yard.  One day I went to see her and the gate was locked.  I didn't know it.  I as running.  I pushed on the gate.  It bounced back and hit me on the nose and made it bleed.  My grandma came out and took care of it.  I always made sure the gate wasn't locked after that.

Another time, I knew she had some apples.  I wanted one.  I didn't like to ask for one, so I started to sing, made up the words as I went along.  As I sang "Apples, Apples, I sure would like an apple,"  she heard me.  She said, "Do you want an apple?"  I said, "Yes."  She gave me one, then she asked, "Why didn't you ask for one?"

Another time when I was about 5 years old, it was in the wintertime.  We had a storm.  Some of it had melted.  There was a lot of ice.  Some of us decided to chop some ice.  A boy had a pick.  I bent my head over; he hit me one on the top of my head with the pick. My dad fixed it up.  I had a sore head for a while.  I still have the dent on my head.

Another time, I was taking care of the baby, Tom.  I put him in the buggy and took him to our next door neighbor's house so I could play on the lawn.  We didn't have any lawn around our house.  They had a picket fence around their place.  I parked the buggy on the outside of the fence, then jumped the fence to play on the lawn.  The baby started to cry.  I started over the fence.  My slip got caught on a picket.  While I was twisting and turning and pulling to get loose, I tipped the buggy over.  The baby fell out and it made his nose bleed.  Then mama came and picked up the baby and got me off the fence.  My slip had a big hole in it.  I was sent to bed without my supper.  She gave me something to eat later.

I used to stand on a stool and wash the dishes.  We didn't have a sink, so we washed the dishes on the kitchen table.  On a Saturday, I thought I would never get through washing dishes.  She did a lot of baking on Saturday.
Helen, Veda, Sunny, Jack, Jim, Grandma Hall

We always had a baby to take care of.  We would just get one to walk when another would come along.

Mama was a very good seamstress.  She made all of our clothes.  She would sew all summer so we would have clothes for school.  We never had a lot of money, but there was plenty of love in our home.

I was baptized when I was 8 years old in the creek.  The boys had made a swimming pool in the creek.  That's the only place we had for baptisms.  After I was baptized, I had a terrible headache.  When I was confirmed, my headache was gone. 
When I was 9 years old, my dad was transferred to Sunnyside to be the mine foreman.  Sunnyside wasn't near as pretty as Winter Quarters.  The town was much larger.  The scenery wasn't as good.  When my brother was 8 years old, he got the flu.  That was in 1918.  He died.  Nobody would come to your house if someone had the flu.  There was one friend that came and helped to dress him.  My dad took the body to Scofield.  The rest of us stayed home.  We were all so uptight and scared to sleep in the bedrooms upstairs, so we slept in the kitchen on the table, floor and chairs until my dad got back home.

One time, my sister and I were slapping each other.  Our house had two doors in each room you could run form one room to the other in a circle.  She started running, me chasing her.  On the way, I picked up the hairbrush.  She dashed out the kitchen door.  When I got to the door, I saw someone.  I thought it was her.  I hit him--he was a salesman!  Was he startled!  And so was I.  He took off; he didn't say anything.  That was the end of this slapping.

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When I was 12 years old, I spent the winter with my grandparents.  Grandma had rheumatic fever.  She was in bed all winter.  When she was better, she had to learn to walk all over again.  I tried to help out. 

I took music lessons on the piano for two winters.  I was ward organist in three different wards. 

I graduated from the eighth grade while in Sunnyside. We lived in Sunnyside for about 9 years.  Then my dad was transferred back to Winter Quarters to be the Mine Superintendent.

 We had to walk 1 1/4 miles to Scofield to go to school.  Mr. Allred was the principal of the eight grades and taught the 9th grad.  One day a book salesman came in our class.  The teacher asked 10 of us to get up and each one of us to put an algebra problem on the board.  I was given the first one.  I did mine and sat down.  He asked me to get up and explain the problem, which I did and sat down again.  Then he asked me to get up and explain the problem and give all the rules.  I got up and got half way through; I forgot the rest of the rules.  The salesman was sitting on the front seat.  He was whispering the rules.  I couldn't hear him and started to laugh.  The teacher got so mad, he made all of us sit down.  By then it was noon.  Some of the students went out in the hallway to get their lunch.  (We had to take a sack lunch to school.)  That made him madder because he hadn't dismissed the class.  It was 12:30 before we ate our lunch.  That only gave us a half-hour for lunch. 
Ethel, Veda, Helen, Jim, Sunny

The salesman left and that afternoon, he [Mr. Allred] made us turn in a copy of every subject for the day.  We were late getting home from school.  In the meantime, we asked Mr. Allred if we could have a party on Friday after school.  He said, "No."  They had a parent teacher's meeting the night before and they had some refreshments left.  We thought if we could have a party, we could eat the leftovers.

The next day, we decided if he was going to be so nasty, we would give him a licking!  There were 11 girls in the class.  The boys had gone home.  We went in his office and dragged him out.  He started running.  He lived next door to the schoolhouse.  He ran home.  We went in the front door and pulled him out the back door.  He ran back into his office and locked the door.  We climbed through the window and pulled him out again.  He ran around the building.  On the corner of the building was a sheet of ice.  He missed jumping over it and went flying on the ice of his rear end.  We all jumped it.  By then, we had torn the shirt off his back.  We decided that was enough.  We got home at 7:30 p.m.  When we got home, Mama asked us where we had been.  We told her what we had done.  She said, "Don't tell your Dad!"  We never did.  We knew what we would get if he found out.  The next day, we went to school.  He was as nice a pie.  He let us have a party every Friday.  He could have flunked all of us, but he didn't.  He quit teaching school and worked in a grocery store.  A few years later, I saw him.  He said it was the best year he ever had teaching school.

One morning we walked to school, it was 38 degrees below zero.  We had frost on our eyelashes, also on our clothes.  When we got there, they didn't have any classes.  They couldn't get the building warm enough.  So we hugged the radiators to try and get warm before starting for home.  We always walked down the railroad tracks to school and home on the road. 
a friend, Helen Nielson
 They always had so much snow and no plows.  The roads were snowpacked.  They used sleighs pulled by horses in the winter. So if a sleigh came along, we would hitch a ride home.  If there was no room in the sleigh, we would stand on the runners.  It was fun.

The only plows up there were to keep the tracks clean.  I have seen the snow so deep, it would take 2 trains together to clear the tracks off; when it was so cold, the coal cars would freeze to the tracks.  One time it took 5 trains together to get them loose and up to the mine.

 While we were in Winter Quarters the mine went on strike.  There was no union at that time. Some of the men got mean, especially the ringleaders.  They would try and stop the train by getting on the water tank and shooting at the engineers.  It got so bad they called the National Guard from Provo to come in.  We were under martial law for months.  Every body had to be off the streets by 10 p.m.

Maxine Dougherty and I chummed around together.  We got acquainted with a couple of fellows from the National Guard.  Somebody told my dad about Maxine and me.  He hit the ceiling.  His eyes were as red as fire, he was so mad.  I didn't know what the trouble was until I asked Mama.  She said someone told Dad something about us.  He was so mad he wouldn't sleep in the same bed as Mama.  He slept on the couch; that went on for a whole week.  In the meantime, Chuck gave me a big box of candy.  I asked Mama if she would like some.  She said no; she had enough of the National Guard.  I stayed clear of my dad.  I didn't offer him any candy.  At the end of the week, he found out the truth; nothing had happened.  They were all lies, so he calmed down.  He bought some ice cream and made all of us a banana split to smooth thins over.  On the weekend, they had a dance.  I didn't dare ask if I could go.  After a few months, the strike was over.  They got rid of the ringleaders; the rest of the men went back to work.

We had been in Winter Quarters a little over a year then Dad was transferred to Castle Gate to be the mine inspector.  Castle Gate was a pretty nice place.  That's where the Castle Gate rock used to be, before they took part of it away to make the new road.  I went to high school in Price.  We had to ride the school bus.  The driver would never let us stay for any school activities.  If you wasn't on that bus, you had to find another way to get home.  It was 12 miles to Price.  I had a science teacher in Price that I was afraid of.  He used to upset me all the time.  I had a nervous condition.  The doctor took me out of school for over a month.  When I went back to school, he wouldn't let me take that class. 

A few years went by.  The mine started to slack off.  They didn't get as many orders for coal.  Some of the members of the ward were moving out of town to find more work.  As each family moved, they would give them a going away party.  It got so too many were leaving so they decided to give a farewell party for the whole town.  Members of the Ward and non-members--everybody was invited in a mining town.  Everybody knew everybody.  They had a dance and refreshments.  There was a big crowd there.  They all had a good time.

James (father) & son ,Ed Nielson
EVA'S DREAM; It was about that time Mama had a dream.  She saw streams of light come down on so many houses.  She didn't know what it (dream) meant.  We always went to Church on Sunday.  They had a speaker from Price.  He talked about the different planets.  After the meeting, she told the bishop about her dream and asked him what he thought of her dream.  He said he didn't know.  It was still bothering her so many of her dreams came true.  Sometimes I would take off because I didn't want to hear it (her dreams), but this time I stayed to hear what she had to say.  About a month later, there was a mine explosion that killed 172 men.  Some families had 2 or 3 men in the mine.  At the entrance of the mine, there were the big steel doors.  It blew them clear across the canyon.  As it hit the doors, the gas went back into the mine.  What it didn't kill on the way out, it got them on the way back into the mine.  Some had their heads blown off.  Others were in running position and others were badly burned.  This was on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

My dad was the last man in the mine and the second one to be brought out.  We knew if anyone had the chance to get out, he would.  He studied mining for years through correspondent courses and worked his way up.  He didn't have the chance.  They found him at the side of one of the coal cars that brought the coal out of the mine.   He was burned as black as coal from the waist up.  They could only put his pants on.  If they had tried to put a sheet on him, his arms would have fallen off.  Mama didn't know what to do.  Then President Heber J. Grant came down.  She asked him what to do.  He said, "Lay his clothes beside him and on resurrection morning, he will get up and dress himself."  So that's what she did.

Nielson girls, Ela and Helen
I had heard Dad say that one half of one percent of gas would kill a man; there was 5 percent of gas in the mine.  They didn't know what triggered it off.

That was my mother's dream.  Where each light or stream came down, there was someone killed in that house.  It was a sad town.  They had a big building called the Amusement Hall where they had dances and picture shows.  They cleared that all out and put all the bodies in there as they were identified and taken care of.  After it was all over, there were 72 babies born.  The town doctor took care of each one free of charge.  It was strange because the doctor's wife had a baby; it died.  All the other babies lived.

There were 6 children at home at that time.  Dad made $325.00 a month.  After the explosion, Mama got $64.00 a month for compensation.  I quit school and got a job to help out.  They had a pool table, library, barber shop and restrooms downstairs.  I made $40.00 a month.  The company took out $1.50 and that entitled the whole family for doctor's care if anyone of us got sick.  My take home pay was $38.50 a month.  I worked there for over a year and a half, then quit my job and got married.  My boss didn't even say thanks.  He said, "I guess you have been a damned fool long enough."

Helen Nielson
I married a man from Price (Ernnie Wade).  He didn't belong to the Church, but never stopped me from going to church.  Somebody told Judge Hammond we were going to get married, so he stayed at the Court House until we got there.  I wouldn't get married until I asked Mama if it was all right.  We were married at 10 p.m.  We lived in Price for a while.  He drove the stage line from Price to Castle Gate.

I met him at the soda fountain where I worked.  In the meantime, I was going with a fellow from Rolapp [Royal], a mile from Castle Gate.  Every time he took me to the dance, he would get drunk.  They would have to take him home and put him to bed.  He could never take me home after a dance.  It got around Christmas time.  He said he was going to give me a diamond ring.  I told him if he did, I wouldn't accept it.  Then he said he would come to our house for coffee and a party.

I got tired of his drinking.  I had a date with him for New Years' Eve.  I married my husband on the 30th of December. That took care of that!  Somebody told him I was married.  He got drunk for a week.  When I saw him later, he said he would congratulate me but not my husband. 

remainder of Wasatch Store
We lived in Price for a while, then we moved to Salt Lake City, then we lost our first baby.  3 years later, Bill was born.  My husband got a job driving a bus for Pickwick Greyhound.  He worked there for 3 years.  They sold the bus line to another company.  It put 1100 men out of work in the Western States.  He couldn't find another job so we moved back to Castle Gate.  He got a job working on the outside of the mine.  While we were there, Bill had his tonsils out.  Then there was no more work there so we moved back to Salt Lake.

They later closed the mine in Winter Quarters.  Everyone had to move out.  They got rid of all the houses.  They dismantled the schoolhouse, which was made of brick.  The company store was built of rock.  They blasted that.  My grandma's house was a frame building.  It was sold for 75 cents for the wood.  That town is no more.

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A few years ago, they sold the mine in Castle Gate to another company.  They moved all the houses to Helper, Utah, so that town is no more.  My brother (Jack) was the Bishop of that ward at that time.  He is now in the High Council. 

Lena Thorpe Wade was born 4 December, 1904 Higham, Yorkshire, England a daughter of John and Eva Hall Thorpe and died 11 February, 1987. She married Ernest J. Wade, 30 December 1925, Price Utah.   Ernest died 27 September, 1956

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