GENE’S BINGHAM MEMORIES
By Gene Halverson
I was born in Telegraph but I was too small to remember Telegraph this early. I do remember Frog Town and life after that. I remember Telegraph when we moved back a few years later. Remember the song, “I owe my soul to the company store” well that was us. We lived in company town, in a company house, and required to buy from a company store with high prices and poor quality. Dad worked seven days a week, ten hours a day. When he became too sick to do this anymore he was fired. So one day a company truck came and loaded up our possessions and simply moved us away. This was also during the “Great Depression” when everybody was suffering. Our new home was now in Frog Town. In the George Panos Apartments and I remember buying food from Chris Apostle in his store just up the street. Hogan Dairy provided us with milk. Everything on credit. It took years to pay back our many bills and always felt grateful.
|Panos Apartments Frog Town|
My Klippiga Bergen books tells of strong young men who soon were sick and dying.
Men were dying every day because the companies refused to provide water for the drills and water to sprinkle on the floor to rid the mine of dust.
We lived in the top apartment and had a climb a stairs to our living room. The exit from the kitchen took you to the back yard and a mountain. Below us and down the canyon a ways was the abandoned Yampa Smelter with its giant smoke stack and all kinds of walls and holes to play in. Above this was a covered pipe-line that brought water line from Dry Fork. This made a nice trail to walk on. Now we had trees and a garbage dump to play in. Cows and pigs to see and take care and watch out for the rattlesnakes. We walked the Bingham creek, mostly called the sewer. We played in the fine white sandy banks of the creek. We had no idea it was the town’s sewer and the mine’s copper-water drainage ditch. We loved to dunk an iron nail in the water to make a copper one for you.
A few years ago one of the Turner boys told me, his dad and George got quite wealthy by diverting the sewer into a garage full of tin cans they got from the garbage dump and selling the copper.
To get to the mountain out front, we crossed the road and railroad tracks below the train depot, ice house and a few houses. It was covered with oak brush
and flowers. Higher up was two large rocks to explore. The upper rock was an entrance to a mine. I was scared of the cave. It was so spooky and a nightmare convinced me there was a lion in there. I can still see him in my mind.
Lee and I watched the trains come to town, they were “steam engines” and they huffed and puffed and whistled. We put lots of things on the tracks for them to flatten.
Out the corner of my eye I saw a little girl come and disappear. Was she a ghost, a fairy or an angel? She never came back. I’m not sure what I was looking for when I began peeking in a couple of the churches. No one bothered me until I peeked in in the Mormon Church and when a little old lady came to the door and I ran away. A couple of weeks later she caught me and was taken here and there and I must have liked it because a few years later I was baptized there. I did a lot of reading and liked the stories but I did not find what I was looking for. I was told to shun dark skin people, other churches were evil. Well I was playing with these kids and I knew better. My God loves all people.
Mother liked it here and had many friends. She smiled a lot and visited, and shared coffee, and played cards. A refrigerator and hot water made life easier. She had some “Tarot” cards that predicted a death, he died and she burned them.
It was New Year’s Day 1936 and we were out of school and we were sledding down an alley next door into Main Street. We were told the coast was clear so down lee and I went and that is all I remember. Days later I woke up in the Bingham Hospital. I was covered with sandbags so I could not move at all. There was wires stretching my leg and another pulling another way. There I lay for a week or a month, I don’t know. My leg was broken and dislocated at the hip and my pelvis was damaged. I was a mess. Mother refused to let them amputate. I could not walk for a year. Lee had his face and sinuses messed up and was lucky to survive.
We were hit by one of the Hoyne boys, he was the son of the man who fired dad. Mr. Hoyne knew his boy drove to fast and was afraid of a law-suite so he gave dad him an outside job back in Telegraph with a company house.
Our house was a small three roomed ugly unpainted little house without access to water. No bath tub, no sink. Even our coal shed was down a hill and across a ditch. Nothing convenient but we loved it after living cooped up in an apartment. Our house was set in a curve in the road below the Giant Chief Dump, one side had a high rock cliff and the other side was Chea’s house. One road going up Bear Gulch and the other up Galena Gulch to US. The cliffs was a solid rock face that went from Bodmer’s to the steep Bear Gulch ditch. I looked and looked for a way to climb up and over it. Next thing I knew Carmela Chea had done the impossible. Now we had a secret passage to a new playground on a forested hillside.
We had twelve families living in the apartments and five houses so there was usually enough kids to play with. Every one of them built on an ore dump. There was a huge wooden cribbing under neither the apartments. The cribbing made a home for many squirrel and chipmunks. One day we would feed them and the next we would throw rocks at them. So they were to wise not to trust us.
We had floods that came from snow melt and rains. They were scary and fascinating. At times wild animals would come wandering through. Spring brought the flowers and birds. Mother always had something for the little redheaded that came birds came to the kitchen window to be fed. Winter came early with cold and snow. Lots of snow with no place to throw it. When the tap in the shed froze I had to carry the water home. A yoke over my shoulders allowed me to carry two buckets at a time. Our water came from a spring, to a tank that was piped to a tunnel. It was so good that people came from miles around, it was famous.
I wanted to stay and explore this new home but I was sent away to Mapleton to live with grandma on her farm. I was lonely but it was fun feeding and caring for the animals. There was all kinds of things to do on a farm and everything was new and fascinating. Like it or not I healed and grew strong. Uncle Joe had cut this field of wheat with a hand scythe with cradle, a day's work on the scythe was real hard work. I could barely lift this huge contraption but I did cut a little. I then bound and tied the stock with a few strand of wheat, and later stacked grain side up to dry. These standing stocks would be loaded on a horse drawn wagon and taken to the thrasher. I could hardly wait for the thrasher and neighbors to come. The thrasher would soon begin to growl and grown and dust would fly. In time a large straw stack would form on one side and grains of golden wheat was being loaded in the bed of another wagon to be taken to the granary. I loved to run my hands through the grain and chew on these grains. Hay for the cow was planted and cut at least twice while I was there. I remember the hen and chicks scrambling to get away from the cutter. After drying it would be raked and loaded on a wagon. Huge forks would pick it up and carry it into the barn.
I loved to watch Uncle Joe milk. He was good with a flick of his wrist would give each cat a squirt of milk right in the mouth. I tried but never hit close to the cat. I fed the pigs and chickens, turned the crank to separate the cream from the milk, and then make butter out of cream. Grandma made money selling her butter. One lady drove all the way from Salt Lake City to buy some. Oh, how I loved the buttermilk. We had meat, vegetables and fruit with every meal. But no one to play with or talk with.
West of the farm was a ravine with a pond and a creek with, ducks, birds and snakes. We called it the “Hollow”. I loved it there.
One day we all went for a picnic up Hobble Creek where I met our double cousins. We had two Halversons that married two Petersons. I was bored and restless and went off by myself looking in the creek. She said don’t look at him, catch him. It was my Aunt Mary Halvorsen Peterson and she showed me how to fish. I found a pole, she found a hook and string and off we went. What a wonderful day with a wonderful lady.
I had no idea why I was sent down to grandmas. I thought no one loved me. And where did these babies come from? First there was Paul, then Vivian.
They came and brought me home just before school was about to start. I had missed so much school last year they decided to put in the first grade again. School was a about a mile down the canyon and the way was steep.
Walking from Bingham to Upper Bingham was quite an experience and dangerous. You were walking through the main part of the mine right next to the trains, trucks, giant shovels. If you heard a whistle you had to run to a shelter. They were springing and blasting and rocks were falling everywhere. Rocks were also falling from the bridges you had to walk under. A few years later they built a mile and a quarter tunnel to walk through.
It seems like the new boy in town gets tested. I had many fights. It seems like I always had a bloody nose or a lump on my head until I got the hang of it. I even got to like fighting. Max was taller and had a longer reach so I learned to take my lumps until I wore him out. Then I took him down and got even. Then he would take me home and his mother would feed us. He was a lifelong friend. He would go on to be quite famous.
In the fourth grade I got real good in arithmetic and multiplication. The fifth grade was with Miss Holbrook and school began to be interesting and my report card showed it.
Beverly Barrett was “Taffy Ann” and I really do not know who or what I was. I was happily singing away when the teacher said, “Stop” and everyone looked at me, Halverson just move your lips, “do not sing”. I cannot carry a tune to this day.
Then we did “The Copperfield Wood-Burned Mural” and it was one of the most ambitious projects in all the 350 school-works by Utah school children in the all-Utah school arts exhibit at the Utah Arts Center in the Utah State Arts Center in Salt Lake City. It is a ten foot by four and a half foot wood-burned mural done as a community project by the children of the fifth grade of Upper Bingham School. Committees of the fifth grade were chosen to visit various buildings in Upper Bingham, Included in the mural was the First Utah Copper Mine Office behind it was the Mine itself with its levels and operations. The center piece was the large figure of a miner, the mural accurately shows stores, boarding houses, schools, mine buildings and other familiar scene to Bingham residents. The children of the Upper Bingham School have developed the mural until it is representative of life of life in this community.
We had a tall Japanese was our main artist. He was very talented and he drew the center piece, a miner with a pick and a shovel. Our mural look so real. Isabell Rose drew and burnt the Copperfield side of the tunnel. Our school was in the lower right-hand corner. I remember sitting on the floor burning and shading it.
The companies divided Copperfield by national and racial housing. Whites lived on Main Street in brick houses, Mexicans in Dinkeyville, Greek Camp for single men and Jap Camp. I loved to go with Jackie Myaki to bathe in their large hot tubs. And before the war they had a school to teach the kids how to draw and write the Japanese language. This extra help made them very good students in our school. It was a shame to see them close these schools after the war. But even before if any child spoke any language other than English they were punished. The many nationalities, cultures, customs, dances, and food made Bingham what it was. I loved everything about what we had. I am afraid it is lost and gone forever.
I could not go to school for a whole year. So, day after day, summer and winter, here I sat like a bird, with a bird’s eye view from our house sat unable to hardly walk even with crutches. I began watching Karl John coming and going. He was doing some strange things. I could tell he was not fond of being watched even by an eight year old kid. I told him I knew he was hiding something and now I knew what. Who knows anything besides you, who have you told, what about your parents? Then the two of us sat down to talk. He didn’t tell me how he found this body of ore (silver and lead, whatever) but I believe he went down to bedrock for gold and found it by accident. He asked me to keep quite or he would be sent away. So, I promised. He worked with a pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. He mixed waste dirt with his ore to fool the US Mine who he was leasing from. If they even had an idea how rich a claim he had they would have shut him down. One day he retired and went to Salt Lake to live.
One day a dump truck stopped on the road and dumped about seven powder boxes of glass negatives that had been stored in a warehouse somewhere. They would have been worth thousands of dollars today. I saved about a dozen years until dad put them in the garbage dump along with my collection of carbide lamps and brass candle holders.
We lived in a dangerous world. There were working mines and abandoned mines right amongst the houses. Two men went in a tunnel in Dinkeyville and died of poison air. It was a quick way through the mountain to Yosemite. I went through it but never with a flashlight. There were mine shafts, holes where the surface caved into a mine. I lost a dog and the Ivies lost a horse. Two boys were found dead in a ventilation shaft.
There wasn’t much for a crippled boy to do and I was bored. Mother noticed this and gave me a balsa wood airplane kit. The more I made the better I got. The first were proper driven, then I went into gliders. Then in wings. Now I needed to make a big one. I soon found myself in a place I should not be and took an armful of ¼” by 1 ½’ by 14 foot fir strips from US Carpenter shop. It took a while to build and a while before I tried to fly it. Kids came in from Dinkeyville and Copperfield to watch me fly it. A half hour later we were up on the Giant Chief Dump and tying a 25 pound bearing cap to the nose. Everything was perfect, a good rising wind coming up the dump and all I had to do is find the right balance and send it away. On the third attempt I was lifted off the ground and flying away. They told me I was still running even when my feet was ten feet off the ground. I was in trouble and knew it. If I dropped off now I would be dead, but when I got to the end of the dump I was twenty feet in the air and going faster every second. Well I
dropped off before the hundred foot death drop. I ended up with all kinds of cuts and bruises and bleeding in many places. All the time trying to see my giant wing. I was looking down the canyon when it went straight up higher than the dump and then see-sawed its way down into Marsell Chea’s garage. The bearing cap busted its way into the top of the garage leaving the poor wing for us to take away. He never asked anyone about the hole we knocked in his garage or the bearing cap inside so we came out of hiding. He must have known but took it with a smile. We never even told mother what we were up too.
Exploring the Mountains
I got a brand new 22 rifle for Christmas, a pocket knife, a potato and a few matches and Tippy a Rat Terrier grandpa gave me. He was quite a hunter and furnished me with many meals. I ate squirrels, porcupines and birds with my potato. A time or two I didn’t even come home at night. When some mother was looking for a child they’d call and told them if they were with Lee they’d be alright. These were the best years of my life.
We even cooked grasshoppers. If an Indian ate it we could too. You ever tried stinging nettle? Boil it a couple of times and it was tasty.
Snow was melting and the water was running and I was there panning for gold. I followed Alvin Cole to a flat above my house. I was not the best but I did find gold.
Our house at the head of Bear and Galena Gulch was the starting place for most all trails into the mountains. From these mountains I could see Salt Lake, Tooele and Lehi. What a place and time to live.
We had the coldest, sweetest water in the water tunnel next to Bodmer’s house? The Black Rock Trail started right there. There were “Skinks” there they were half snake and half lizard. Long and skinny as a pencil. Dark brown with tan corners and bright blue tail. These were not the common blue belly lizards.
From there we walked over the mountain to “Hawk Rock”. In late summer we would find these crazy star shaped “Puff balls” that exploded when you stomped on them, this would send these brownish/purplish powder spores all over your ankles. They are actually a very poisonous mushroom the 6/8 stars are the hard outer cover of the ball that flattens leaving a tannish ball holding the spores. I now know them as the Earth Star Puff Ball or the Devil’s snuff Box.
The last stop on this trail was down to “Eagle Rock” sitting above the old Bishop Mine in Yosemite Gulch, we could see Lark and all of Salt Lake Valley from here. The mine head frame and building were still in use, it pulled cars up from the shaft going deep down in the mountain. We had a choice of walking back over the mountain or a tunnel Dinkeyville? The tunnel was about a mile long with shaft that was very dangerous to tip toe past. It ended near Carter’s old house near an old trail to Telegraph, this used to be the “Old Holden mule railroad”.
Take a left just behind my house on the road to Queen at the top of Telegraph, after a steep climb the road levels out where a cement dam was used to save the creek water for “gold mining”. Every time I panned out a nice piece of gold, Alvin Cole would say, “That’s a good boy, here put it in my bottle”. Across creek was the most beautiful grove of ancient old Maple trees and the only lawn I ever knew? It was a camping and picnicking that I used many times. A half mile latter you past the “Big Tree”. I remember the spring there before the arsenic got in it? This was an old Indian Camp where I found many arrowheads and flint knives here. Can anyone remember Jack Ass Gulch with all the old Quaken Aspen trees, this was the right fork? The center road went to a couple of mines still being worked, I remember it as Bear Gulch. By staying on the main road about a mile or two farther took you over the mountain to the town of Queen. I remember when Queen housed at least several families and a boarding house for the single men. Travelling below the big Queen Mine Dump to the first turn you would leave the road and make short climb to the mines water line that went from Butterfield to Queen. Then traversed the tops of Butterfield Canyon until we got to the Boy Scout Camp. I remember the building with its big fireplace where Lee and I spent a snowy night with one blanket. There were four of us to start with but the others left sometime in the dark.
The Bear Gulch Middle Canyon Trail
Starting at the back of my house in Telegraph you would walk to the Queen Ridge leaving the road for a trail that headed up toward Sun Shine Peak, to the left you could look at Queen far below. At the right was Doctor Frazier’s ski run and ski jump. I skied it and remember it well. Going up put you high above the “Silver Shield Mine and the US Road. A little higher and above Silver Shield was the stumps trees of an ancient forest called “The Big Grove. It was clear cut to build the Mormon Tabernacle. Did anyone besides me ever go over and lay on the huge 5/6 foot diameter stumps. A half a mile father up the trail leveled off a mile or so above Butterfield, passing through two large groves of Quaking Aspen. I remember this part of the trail because of the many Horny Toads found there. You see the Butterfield-Middle Canyon Pass a half mile below where you would go over the pass to another to a spring above the Highland Boy water tunnel and on down to the tunnel. At times there would be kids my age who had arrived here from Highland Boy. These were my first friend I knew from Highland Boy.
The first half mile above my house was quite steep until you reached and crossed this huge air pipe 10 inches in diameter, coming from Copperfield to the US Mine. Did any of you try to slide down it too? Once was enough for me too. The road was mostly level for the next two miles to the US Town and Mine. The Utah Copper Dump on the right went straight to the US. The Silver Shield Mine had a dry-house for their workers too shower but the water was full of arsenic and tasted bitter but it was hot and Lee loved it.
I remembers when US was full of houses and people, I had many friends there? Lorraine, Blackie Clinton’s daughter said, “In the winter time when the roads were closed, they went down a mine shaft through a tunnel to the Copperfield school.
The “Water Falls Trail Freeman Gulch
As a kid I hiked all over the hills in Bingham. My buddies at that time included Art Bentley, Teddy Allen and Floyd Timothy. We had a favorite place we called “waterfalls”; it was a real pretty spot with a nice stream and a pond. We made rafts and poled around the pond. The water was so cold we didn’t swim unless we fell off the raft. The water falls and pond was in Freeman Canyon just over the B&G railroad.
The Markham’s Trail
We played in the snow did a lot of sledding. We could ride over a mile or so with no problems. We were at the end of the road and the cars were mostly parked and snowed in. But one day I noticed ski tracks and we were too poor to buy me some. So I went behind a Copperfield store broke up a big barrel and made a pair of skis. I followed the ski tracks to the top of Bear Gulch and found a much used ski run and jump. I didn’t have much trouble with the run but I fell down on every jump.
Our principal Mr. Atwood left us to manage a California school. I still have his post card with a one cent stamp on it. Mr. Nelson was now our teacher and principal and we did many things. We had a long “May Day” from school, through Telegraph, on up over the top of US to look over the mountain. We were well over 10,000 feet and could see both sides of the mountain.
One field trip we went to the University of Utah to see experiments with electricity, vacuums and other interesting things.
We got our first radio and at first we would sit down and listen to some funny stories; I Love a Mystery, Tarzan, Fiber Magee and Moly, Kingfish etc. Then the Second World War began. War in Europe, war in China and then Finland was fighting Russia. We still had family in Finland and we were quite concerned. Now we were tuned into the wars. China was in a losing war. Germany had taken most of Europe and was losing in Russia. Finland had stopped Russia at its border. But it was on the other side of the world.
The war got closer when Bob Burke was killed when his ship was sunk by a German submarine.
Graduation classes for the next few years several years had very few boys left.
War took so many men into the service boys and girls were hired.
I hired out in 1944. Worked on the track-gang. At times the gangs were all young boys. I first worked on Bicycle Gus’s gang. He was a little old man with short legs. He peddled down the ties so fast he was hard to keep up with. He was Greek from the old country and I liked him very much. He had quite an accent and we all tried to mimic his speech. We learned how to cut rails with chisel and hammer. Drill holes in rails. We were the only gang at the mine who could do this. I learned a lot from him.
Then I was a Dump man. Telling the brakeman where to dump his train. When this berm when it became long enough it was flattened and the track moved out for another berm.
Jack Whitely noticed me and I was given a train to work with. I was now a brake man who hanging on the lead car going to the dump. I learned all the tricks to keep them running, and putting them back on track. A couple of friends were killed so I moved on. I remember some funny times with “Wild Bill” and we were helping him so he could eventually retire. He was a good man in his day but today he was “blind as a bat”. Signals were never seen. The brakeman stopped the train by kicking the tail-hose. Gordon Hickman was riding the end and signaling like crazy. He jumped and watched his train run to the end of the track and over the hill.
I bid on the machine shops to work there. I helped Lewy Ballamis and it was fun. He was the only real boilermaker left at the mine and every day was a surprise when one of those old steamers would come in. More than once we would rake the fire from the boiler and the grate was still red. We covered the grate and I would cover Lew with wet rags then he would climb in and tighten a stay-bolt or something. I loved that old man.
Then in 1948 the US Mine took our house and tore it down. We moved to West Jordan and my story ends.