Monday, January 9, 2012


Life in a
 Company town
By Eugene Halverson
A child’s view of Winter Quarters
Wasatch Store
Ella Nielson said, Winter Quarters was like Yellowstone Park.  In the canyon, where the mines were, on one side of the hill, there were beautiful shrubs, pines, lilies Indian flowers, violets and strawberries.  The strawberries were small but they were good.  There was a stream of water and a railroad track.  We lived on the back side of the mountain.  Our home had only three rooms and behind there was a cave.  My father owned this home.  In one room there was an organ.  I think my mother played it. 
When I was a little girl, my father would put me in a sleigh and put a harness on the dog and I would ride all over town.  In the summer he got a little red wagon for me and we went all over.  When I was little, I had mumps, measles, and diphtheria.  They always had a sign on the house, when anyone in the house had the measles.  When I lived in the house in Winter Quarters, I sold the newspaper and became a news girl and sold the San Francisco Examiner.  In mother’s words, they charged me five cents and only gave me two cents. 
saw mill and farm
 Then I sold the Grit and it was ten cents and they gave me four cents.  I'd go on one side where the rocks were and the other side where the trees were.  I'd sell all over town.  I thought I was rich making all that money.  I got tired of that and started tending children for a butcher and his wife.  I got tired of that too. 
enforcing Company rules Turkeys were confiscated
In MIA, when I was young, we had dances in a big amusement hallThey had dances but the boys wouldn't dance.  We had to dance with girls all the time.  They had shows on Charley Chaplin, the silent movies.  We would go there once a week and have to pay for it.  When I was young, I played basketball and you should have seen my bloomers.  They were black with elastic on the middle and elastic on the legs.  We would go up where there were cattle and get mushrooms.  My brother fished and gave us some.  I went horseback riding up the hill with Winifred on Joe's horse.  Oh, it was so much fun.  My father went with us on picnics.  He watched me skate.  He would say, "Ella quit letting those girls fall on top of you."  The first car I rode in was the old Model T Ford with Stanley Harvey.  It made me sick as a dog.  I have a picture of the school with Millicent when she was visiting us.  I was dressed up with a crown on my head and a thing in my hand.  I was the Statue of Liberty.  Our outdoor toilet had a catalogue in it.  We had dreams every time we went to the toilet probably about some of the things you couldn't get at the store.  On the 24th of July we went up a big hill to Lee Marsden's.  They had a bunch of lambs.  The men built a great big platform and put brush on every side of it and they would give popcorn, ice cream and hamburgers free anytime we wanted.  The Bishop (Parmley) was sponsoring it and he was the head of the mines.  The Bishop's son married Lavern Parmley of Salt Lake.  We had the best time.  We ran races and made a lot of money.  They played ball, and I like to play ball then.  We had fun.  When we got hungry again, we went back and had all the food we could eat.  I would love to play horseshoes. 

Winter Quarters
A woman’s life
Christena and her friend looked down from above the town.  Twilight was a great time to sit and relax, the sun was down and it was cool, the kids were playing and neighbors were coming out to talk.  Then she noticed the men were gathering at the Bars to drink their night away.   Look! that is why I hate Winter Quarters.  We have lost everything because of my husband’s drinking and gambling.  Now my sons are drinking.  I have never been told how many bars there were.  The Finns had their Finn Halls, a family Hall, the Greeks had combination smoke house and bar and I’m sure the Italians and Slaves had there’s. 
Wasatch Store, Church, School
I lived in a company town and knew of a company store but even in Bingham we didn’t have a  “Company Bar”.  Just put the drink on my “Tab”.  At the “Company Store”, it was just put it on my tab.  No matter how hard and long the miner worked the family was always in debt.  “I owe my heart to the company store”, as the song goes.  Prices were outrageous and the selection was limited.  It was against the law to buy at any outside stores.  A group of town’s people brought in a bunch of “Turkeys” from the valley, the picture shows “three armed guards” confiscating the turkeys” In many of the other company towns workers were paid in “Script”, paper money or coins only redeemable at the store.  I would guess the guards wages were added to the grocery bill.  Winter Quarters had a narrow road one way road so it was easy to keep an eye on its people.  In Castle Gate this same company had aluminum coins for their store, these coins were in almost every drawer in my mother-in-laws home. 
Winter Quarters on day of explosion
The D&RG’s “Utah Fuel” did provide houses, hotels, amusement halls, hospitals and other conveniences but they ruled with an iron-hand.  The Mormons were their first workers, the next were the Finns, and in time the company brought in Greeks, Italians, Austrians and many others.  The Mormons got rid of the Chinese first but the others remained but they were feared and laughed at and humiliated.  These new-comers had strange customs but were all good people.  Ella loved them especially the Greeks and her brother, Joe hated and fought many fights with them.  Ever looked at Joe’s cauliflower-flowed ears, they were very large.  I was more like Ella, I loved being around all these ethnic groups.  But many, like Joe, treated them like animals and not as human beings. 
We had many nationalities in Bingham; the companies separated them into camps, Jap Camp, Greek Camp, Dinkeyville for the Mexicans, Carr Fork for the Swedes, Frog Town and so on.   My father would never ever go into them but I made many friends there.  No mated where us kids went we had someone to play with.  I loved to talk to the old people there.

Levi was killed and family removed house being boarded up
Joe worked for Parmly at the store, but this was not the Parmly who hated all emigrants and said so.  But one day he to his shame was wrestled to the ground by six large Austrian ladies who then peed on him.  This was the greatest insult given to a man in the old country.  When Utah Fuel asked for help during a strike the governor sent the militia.  The streets were filled with company gunmen and troops to intimidate and even wound some of the strikers.   In the May 1900 mine disaster one of the Parmly’s blamed the Finns for using to much dynamite and blamed them for causing the explosion.  Latter it was proven to be just poor management.  In 1924 the same kind of management killed a few hundred more miners.  It was the coal dust and the mine-owners failure to water down the dust or get rid of it.  The workers had to furnish their own tools, buy their black powder and timber the roof.  The workers who only get paid for lumps of coal cared for nothing about the mine just making a living. 

 Helen,   Veda,    Sunny,   Jack,   Jim  Grandma Hall
 Joe Nielson kids at Grandma Halls home in Winter Quarters 
I wasn’t happy as I looked at old Winter Quarters with its locked gate and a "No Trespassing" sign.  The mountain was still covered with Pines and Quakies.  The stream is no longer running thanks to mining but it still had that “Yellow stone look.   I could see the two walls of the Wasatch Store still standing in the green grass a mile or so up the canyon.  I got a better look in May 2000 as I with many others were escorted in Forest Service vans to the town and the portals.  I took some pictures of the store and what signs of the town that are still left.  There is little sign of the old town and no way to identify where our different families lived.  I tried to remember the old stories and visualize the pictures in my mind as I looked at the remaining foundations of houses, hotels and even old fences and holes but I was lost.
Winter Quarters is hard to find, just remember you are not welcome.  One must leave the oiled road and zigzag up an old dirt road for about a mile to a locked gate.  I came there one foggy day and all I could see was the two stone walls visible through the fog it a Ghost Town, ghosts and all.  Did you know they dynamited the store and every building in town?  Those who lived in the old town are all gone.  My home-town in Bingham is gone as well but we still have our memories.
Coal mining like metal mining is a boom or bust occupation.  You work when the demand is there and starve when there is no one to buy it.  At the farm money was scarce but you usually had something to eat.  The mine owners in bad times cut wages, then the days a miner worked and finally the firing began. The emigrants left first and the Mormons came last.  An Italian friend told me his grandpa got up every morning and stood in line holding his lunch-box but most days he was sent home.  

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