How Ecker Hill Was Named after the President of the Utah Ski Club from the 1930s to 1940s

By Ileana Brown

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Photo of Utah ski jumping pioneer Pete Ecker at Dry Canyon near the University of Utah, about 1918. Alan K. Engen Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Peter Sandaker, formerly known as Peter Sand Ecker, was born in Oslo, Norway, on March 25, 1898, to Ole Lauritz Johannessen Sandaker and Ingeborg Sandaker. (Perry, Welland, Haws) He had six siblings, including Oline Marie Funnemork (born Sandaker), and Jakob Sandaker. (My Heritage) In 1968 The Utah Daily Chronicle reported on Peter S. Ecker in an article titled “Skiing: Sports Continue to Grow.” The article stated he migrated to Salt Lake City from Oslo, Norway, at the age of 20 in 1918. He was a Norski photographer and a pioneer in ski jumping. His passion for skiing and photography led him to create Ecker’s Photo Studio and join the Norwegian-American Athletic Club (NAAC). The club was created by Norwegian immigrant Martinius “Mark” A. Strand in 1918 to promote Utah skiing. On April 21, 1920, Ecker married Gudrun Kristine Kaalstad (1898-1984) in the Salt Lake temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had three children: Norma Ecker Larrabee (1921-1996), Raymond Ecker (1925-2001), and Harold Ecker (1928-2015). (Haws)

On October 15, 1924, the Utah Chronicle announced the official Utonian photographer, Peter S. Ecker. His job was to take professional photographs of the students and staff at the University of Utah for the yearbook. His ads were often published in the Utah Chronicle. Before he began his own studio, Ecker was formerly with Lumier, Wilcox and Freemondo Studios until he bought the Berryman Studio on 131 S. Main Street in Salt Lake City. He renamed it Ecker’s Studio. On November 16, 1939, an ad was published in the Utah Chronicle announcing Ecker’s new Bell & Howell Filmo Camera Department containing personal motion picture equipment “to help you capture the thrill of moments you will want to live again.”

In the late fall of 1928, Utah Ski Club members Ecker and Strand pioneered ski promotion by establishing a ski jumping facility near Parley’s Summit. The club included Norwegian Americans, all interested in promoting winter sports. (Utah Division of State History) In the same year, by Christmas Day, they completed a series of jumps. In 1929, the club hosted the first ski jumping tournament on “the hill,” then known as “Rasmussen Ranch” due to its suitable terrain. (Barlow)

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Photo showing Peter S. Ecker and Alf Engen at the ski jumping tournament held at Ecker Hill, Summit County, Utah, in January 1931. Wasatch Mountain Club Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Ecker and Strand were responsible for setting up major ski tournaments. Due to their efforts, many Utah skiers were encouraged and inspired to join and participate in the ski jumping revolution. Some of the big names include: Halvor Hvalstad, Halvor Bjornstad, Sverre Engen, Einar Fredbo, Ted Rex, Alf Mathesen, Lars Haugen, Steffen Trogstad, Alf Engen, Vic Johannsen, Axel Andresen, Nordquist, and Ralph Larsen. (Utah Division of State History)

Ski-jumping continued to remain popular throughout the early twenties and thirties. The Utah Daily Chronicle reported in 1968 thatAxel Anderson monopolized the jump title from 1918 to 1922 and 1924-’27 with leaps of 80 feet at best.” Mark Strand says “The ‘Big Boom’ of skiing began in 1930. In one year we jumped into national-—no, world—attention.” Not only that, but in 1930 with the help of many supporters and the Rasmussen family, whose hill was the ski jumping location, helped create the reality of the jump. Many supporters sought out a dedication ceremony on March 2, 1930, where Governor George H. Dern named the hill overlooking “Rasmussen Ranch” after the President of the Utah Ski Club, Peter S. Ecker. (Barlow)

In 2016, Jacob Barlow wrote an article titled “Ecker Hill Ski Jump.” “Ecker Hill attracted many amateur and professional jumpers from all over the world” who competed in events drawing thousands to the state. Alf Engen, a young 20-year-old who came to Utah from Norway in 1929, made himself a name on Ecker Hill. In 1930 he leaped 247 feet in the air and broke five world records. He became a recipient of the “Skier of the Century” award. (Nelson, Barlow) “Through the continuing efforts of Strand, Ecker, and later S. Joseph Quinny, Ecker Hill became the site of national tournaments from 1930 to 1949, and was on the international ski tour.” (Bea) Not long after the 1949 National Championships, Ecker Hill’s popularity declined due to bigger and better-designed hills. The hill was also rendered “obsolete” once ski equipment and techniques improved.(Roper, Ecker photographic exhibit)

Peter S. Ecker, Mark Strand, Axel Anderson, and Alf Engen will continue to be known as the Norwegians who propelled Utah’s winter sports. After ski jumping died down Ecker continued to manage popular Salt Lake City photo emporium Ecker Studios for 40 years (Alf Engen Ski Museum, Welland, Haws) and continued to take pictures for the University of Utah’s yearbook, the Utonian. (Utonian 1941, 1944) Due to the decline in the popularity of ski jumping many tried to revive Ecker Hill in the late 1960s, but the reality was, ski enthusiasts wanted to participate in the sport of causal downhill skiing. (Mays, Roper) “Local resorts such as Brighton, Alta, and Park City began their rapid growth during the 1950s. Ecker Hill was last used around 1960.” (Roper) In recognition of its significance, on May 5, 1986, a monument dedicating the early ski jumping site, Ecker Hill was put up in Summit County, Utah (Wilburn and Jean Pickett Photograph Collection) and the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Roper)

Ileana Brown graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (with an emphasis in journalism) and Film Production. She hopes to continue advancing her skills in all things media, including photography, videography, and writing in hopes to land a career in TV production.

Sources

Joan Nelson, “Skiing: Sport Continues to Grow,Utah Daily Chronicle, December 5, 1968, 10.

Advertisement, Utonian photographs, Utah Chronicle, February 10, 1944, 2.

Utonian Pictures,” Utah Chronicle, January 6, 1944, 1.

Advertisement, Ecker Studio, 1941 Utonian, The University of Utah.

Advertisement, Ecker Studio, Utah Chronicle, November 16, 1939, 3.

Utonian Photographer is Announced,” Utah Chronicle, October 15, 1924, 1.

Barlow, Jacob. “Ecker Hill Ski Jump,” October 8, 2016, JacobBarlow.com.

Haws, Julie. “Gudrun Kristine KaalstandEcker,” Findagrave.com.

Mays, Bea. “Ecker Hill,” Summit County, Utah.

Perry, Judyth Christensen. “Peter Sand Ecker,” Geni.com.

Roper, Roger. “Ecker Hill,Utah History Encyclopedia.

Welland, Betsey. “Peter S. Ecker papers, 1930s-1950s,” Archives West, Orbis Cascade Alliance.

Peter S. Ecker, 1797-1878,” My Heritage.com.

Peter S. Ecker,” Alf Engen Ski Museum.

Roper, Roger. “Ecker Hill: A Photographic Exhibit.” Utah Division of State History.

 

The Story of Alta Ski Resort

By Lorenzo Pighini

Skiing serves as one of Utah’s main forms of recreation, and locals believe the state possesses “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  However, mass public skiing wasn’t always readily available to Utahns. In the fall of 1938, the development of Alta, what is now known as one of the most elite ski resorts in the world, began. Within a decade, Alta had become a nationwide attraction. The story of how Alta came to be is quite remarkable, and certainly imperative to the growth of one of Utah’s most coveted historical pastimes.

Before skiing in Utah reached mass popularity, it was used as a means of travel throughout Utah’s rugged mountain terrain. According to A. Joseph Arave, the first Utah skiers included trappers, miners, and others who relied on skis as a means of transportation. Gradually, it became a recreational activity for those looking to tour the mountains and by the late 1920s, these tours, as well as ski-jumping meets, began to attract thousands of Utah residents. Due to the growing interest and demand in skiing, several small ski areas were developed using simple tow rope and T-bar systems. All the while, The Alta Winter Sports Association was building Utah’s first ski lift and what would eventually become one of Utah’s finest ski resorts.

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Ski Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

The New York Times reports that after Alta was destroyed by fire and avalanches in the early 1900s, the lone resident of the town was the self-declared mayor George Watson. Watson agreed to give 1,800 acres of land to the United States Forest Service. With the help of Watson and the Forest Service, the Association was able to obtain land to construct the resort. The Association raised $10,000 in order to construct the lift, and was able to obtain a permit to construct the chairlift in the fall of 1938. An aerial mining tramway was then purchased from a pair of mining men, and the Association converted the machinery into a lift. It was named The Collins lift and it scaled the mountain a total of 2,740 linear feet.

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Alta Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

After the success of constructing Utah’s first operational lift, Alta’s popularity skyrocketed. New lifts were constructed in the early 1940s, and while many ski resorts nationwide shut down throughout the duration of World War II, Alta remained open and offered recreational relief to soldiers based in Utah. The Utah Chronicle reported on February 6, 1941, that University of Utah students were able to take tri-weekly bus trips sponsored by the student ski club to the resort. As Alta began to expand year after year, so did the number of visitors. According to Anthony Will Bowman, between 1964 and 1965, over 230,000 visitors went to Alta between the months of December and April.

As ski resorts have become Utah’s largest tourist attraction, as well as one of the state’s most profitable industries, Alta Ski Resort still possesses some individuality among other local resorts such as Park City and Canyons Resort. Alta is one of only six resorts in the National Ski Area Association where snowboarding isn’t allowed. Alta has also stuck to fundamental values of skiing, focusing its efforts on providing a quality skiing experience on unmatched terrain, rather than selling out for profit or joining a massive corporate conglomerate. This refusal to adapt has allowed Alta to preserve its integrity and remain the most historical ski resort in Utah.

Lorenzo Pighini is a Chicago native majoring in communication and minoring in business at the University of Utah. He moved to Utah to pursue an education and to experience world-class snowboarding.

Sources

Arave, A. Joseph. “Skiing in Utah,” Utah History Encyclopedia, Utah Education Network.

Bowman, Anthony Will. “From Silver to Skis: A History of Alta, Utah, and Little Cottonwood Canyon, 1847-1966″ (Master’s thesis, Utah State University, 1967).

“Ski Manager Plans Bus Trips to Alta,” Utah Chronicle, February 6, 1941, 2.

Jake [no last name]. “SkiUtah License Plate.” Ski Utah, November 20, 2007.

DeLeo, William. “Alta, Utah Historical Timeline.”

Diliberto, Gioia. “Earning It; A Ski Area Without the Extremes,” New York Times, March 22, 1998.

Photo Gallery. Alta Historical Society.

 

Utah Sugar Beets: A Struggling Industry

By Andres-Alcantar Castro

During World War II, President LeRoy E. Cowles encouraged University of Utah students to help struggling sugar beet farmers. Ads were placed in the Utah Chronicle to increase participation. The Chronicle reported that only 24 students had participated. Utah farmers continued looking for workers in the coming years but the industry fought to keep crops plentiful despite the shortage.

Sugar beets supplied half of the nation’s sugar by then. The U.S. military relied on sugar and foodstuffs for energy. In 45 years, Americans went from consuming 45 to 109 pounds of sugar per capita, making the U.S. the world’s largest sugar consumer. The sugar beet became a viable option because it grew where sugar cane couldn’t. Sugar beets, however, yielded a maximum of 15 percent sugar and thus required research to yield more. (Weeks, p. 370)

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Beets at loading station. 
Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

As early as June 1942, the North Cache News printed an article emphasizing the struggles that farmers faced in finding labor to thin their sugar beets. The locals suggested that farmers use children to help in the fields. While farmers were first reluctant, the crisis changed their minds. White-collar workers from Bingham City also helped the farmers of Cache Valley. The article points out that the labor shortage wasn’t only because of men turned soldiers, but also men working in the industries conducive to the war.

The Rich County Reaper reported on January 2, 1942, that 1.5 million workers would be needed by 1943 to produce sugar and other products. In addition, 12.7 million tons of sugar would be needed in 1943. This amount was twice as much as that needed in World War I.

University students might’ve thought the work was not worth doing because they were paid $1 per ton harvested. This amount translates to only $15 today, adjusted for inflation. The university, however, claimed it was patriotic to work in the beet fields and even offered transportation to and from the university to encourage students to do so. A Chronicle article published in the October 15, 1942, issue reported, “Even though it is difficult for students who are busy with defense jobs and activities …, they may, in a few spare hours after classes, do a job which to them might seem minute and unimportant, but which in reality will greatly aid in our war program.”

Layton_Sugar_Factory_Wagon_Dumping_Beets_into_Hopper

Layton Sugar Factory, wagon dumping beets into hopper.
Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

During this time, the Japanese relocation program had begun. The Topaz internment camp housed many of the displaced Japanese-Americans. On October 14, 1942, the Topaz Times printed a job announcement for topping sugar beets for $16 monthly pay. This work was attractive to Japanese men because they had little freedom. Fifty-six other Japanese men left for Cache County, while some went as far as Preston, Idaho, to work. Even Topaz only had 250 of the 400 workers needed there. Also, Mexican miners had started immigrating to Utah since the 1930s but by the 1940s about 60 families settled in Garland, Utah, to work in the sugar beet fields. Mexican immigrants were able to take advantage of the pay from the sugar beet industry and work toward building a community. (Solórzano, p. 18)

The new labor force helped the beet farmers harvest crops but they still required advancements in technology to reach their goals. Luckily, groups like the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists were researching new ways to increase yields and were optimistic for the future of the industry. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on January 5, 1942, that a new method, tested in 326 beet fields, controlled irrigation and produced a higher sugar content within beets. Naphthalene acid amide was also a chemical being tested that could eliminate the leaf hopper, a type of fly that attacked the leaves on beet plants. The acid was reported to cause plant growth in some cases but damage in other cases.

The sugar beet industry suffered from a wide labor shortage, particularly because of the war. The university students’ reluctance to help was only part of a bigger problem. Farmers had to rely on immigrants and community members for their farms to survive. Small sugar yields helped win the war but more research needed to be done to make it successful.

Originally from the Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon, Andres Alcantar-Castro is a senior at the University of Utah. He will graduate in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism.

Sources

“Working in Beet Fields Is Patriotic and Fun,” Utah Chronicle, October 15, 1942, 5.

“Chairman Issues New Appeal for Student Labor,” Utah Chronicle, October 15, 1942, 1.

“Questions,” Topaz Times, October 14, 1942, 2-3.

“Farmers Accept Boys and Girls in Beet Fields” North Cache News, June 19, 1942, 4.

“Sugar Experts See Big Future for Industry” Salt Lake Telegram, January 5, 1942, 13.

“U. S. Farmers with Less Labor, Supplies, Machinery, Must Double the Production Shown in World War I,” Rich County Reaper, January 2, 1942, 3.

Solórzano, Armando. “The Making of Latino Families in Utah,” Beehive History 25 (August 31, 2009): 18.

Weeks, Michael. “Sugar State: Industry, Science, and the Nation in Colorado’s Sugar Beet Fields,” Western Historical Quarterly 48, no. 4 (October 2017): 367–391.

The Story of the Utah State Capitol

by MATTHEW A. SMITH

The Utah State Capitol building could be considered the crown of the Salt Lake Valley. Nestled high atop the northernmost hills of Salt Lake City, this beautiful statehouse can be seen from miles around in most directions. Despite its current location overlooking the capital city in which it resides, Salt Lake City was not the original choice for the Utah State Capitol.

In 1851, legislators for the then-territory of Utah decided the small working-class town of Fillmore, named after the sitting President Millard Fillmore, would be the ideal place to construct a government building. Construction began in 1855 for what was to be called the Utah Territorial Statehouse. (Fillmore City)

Funding for the project came in part from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had recently arrived from the Midwest to start colonizing the new territory. Other construction funding came from the federal government, with a personal touch from President Millard Fillmore himself, who had become sympathetic to the young territory’s quest for statehood. (Fillmore City)

Fillmore’s goal of achieving capital city status never was fully realized. In 1856, after only part of the statehouse was completed and just one legislative meeting, territory lawmakers determined the bigger town of Salt Lake City would be the better option for a permanent location. (Fillmore City)

However, the capitol building as it is seen today took some time before it became a reality n Salt Lake City. Many local buildings in the area were used for the purposes of conducting territory business while officials pondered a final government home. (Fillmore City) In 1896 Utah was finally granted statehood by the federal government and that accelerated plans to come up with a capitol building. In 1900, the “Capitol Commission” was started as a special group dedicated to creating plans, searching locations and securing financing for the project. (“May Construct State Capitol”)

A few places in Salt Lake City were top candidates for the new construction, including the grounds of Fort Douglas, downtown Salt Lake City near the city/county building that had served as the temporary state building for some time, or the northernmost hills of Salt Lake City known as Arsenal Hill. (“Surveying Site of New Capitol”) Arsenal Hill was a more popular choice among decision-makers due to its central location and elevation. The site was not without its obvious challenges, though. The state legislature as well as the Capitol Commission had strong doubts regarding the placement on Arsenal Hill. Not only was there a large, natural grade, but there was also a large presence of residential neighborhoods and private property. Lawmakers knew it would be expensive to secure the land for the project to move forward. (“Surveying Site of New Capitol”)

Despite these concerns, Arsenal Hill was chosen. Thanks to a $1 million bond provided by the state legislature and receipt of an inheritance tax in the amount of $800,000 that was charged to the estate of Union Pacific Railroad President E. H. Harriman, the finances were secured for construction of the Utah State Capitol. (About the Capitol)

Once the finances were secure, Utah architect Richard Karl August Kletting won the bid out of 10 other national and local candidates to design the capitol building. (“Plans Selected by Commission”)

Kletting wanted to start right away because the governor of the new state of Utah, William Spry, who also served as the chair of the Capitol Commission, promised the citizens of Utah the project’s foundation would be poured by the time the following session of Congress commenced. (“Construction of State Capitol”)

Throughout the construction process, the Capitol Commission and Kletting worked together to ensure satisfactory completion. There was a clear understanding between the two that the capitol building be “functional, distinguished and lasting.” (Centennial Exhibit)

The materials involved in the construction were specifically chosen with Kletting’s eye on perfection and architectural significance, the sort that made him a name in the industry up to that point in his career. A priority that both Kletting and the commission agreed upon was the need for this building to be as fireproof as possible. (Centennial Exhibit) As most structures in that day were created with stone and wood, the destruction a fire would have on a building of such scale was certainly apparent. So, Kletting used reinforced concrete for the frame instead of wood, the standard framing option then. He also ensured the further protection by installing a vacuum system for fire suppression and stone walkways. (Centennial Exhibit)

capitol

The Tribune announced on March 14, 1912, that the esteemed architect Richard K. A. Kletting had been selected to design the capitol.

Aside from pragmatic construction methods, the pride Kletting had in Utah’s own natural resources gave way to the use of Utah granite, copper, Sanpete limestone and Utah onyx on the construction site. (“Marble Dial in Stone”) This was crucial in Kletting’s attempt to make this capitol building unique and representative of the local environment. These resources adorn the entire building, from the rotunda to the basement, and granite and limestone make up a large part of the capitol footprint. (About the Capitol)

Unfortunately, the state legislature was not able to hold its meeting, as promised earlier by Gov. William Spry, on the capitol grounds. Construction delays prevented the ability to open the capitol on time, thus an alternate location was designated for the session. (“Construction of State Capitol”)

The Utah State Capitol was finally completed enough in 1915 for many state workers as well as state legislators to move in. Improvements were still being completed to the satisfaction of the Capitol Commission and Kletting, but most of the working quarters were complete enough to house many people.

Then on October 9, 1916, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah State Capitol was dedicated before a crowd of nearly 40,000 people. Citizens, out-of-state guests, dignitaries and reporters attended the dedication on the steps of the capitol.

Gov. Spry addressed the crowd and said, in part, “I want to tell you how glad we feel that such numbers have turned out to accept from us this home that we now turn over to you.” (Centennial Exhibit)

Matthew A. Smith is a junior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism and religious studies.

Primary Sources

“Fillmore City,” http://www.fillmorecity.org/historyoffillmore.html

“About the Capitol,” https://utahstatecapitol.utah.gov/explore/about-the-capitol

“Centennial Exhibit,” https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4l_fw7iWWaLSTdvNi1xSWNqZk0/

“Capitol Commission and City Are Agreed,” Salt Lake Herald, October 13, 1912.

“Construction of State Capitol,” Wasatch Wave, August 2, 1912.

“Plans Selected by Commission for Utah’s New State Capitol and Photograph of Richard K. A. Kletting, the Winning Architect,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 14, 1912.

“Surveying Site of New Capitol,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 12, 1911.

“May Construct State Capitol,” Salt Lake Herald, June 11, 1909.

“Marble Dial in Stone,” Deseret Evening News, January 16, 1900.

 

 

Lucin Cutoff Tragedy: Greek Contribution and Sacrifice in the Mountain West

by JONO MARTINEZ

Greek immigrants were among the last Europeans to make their way into the United States during the late 1800s. Toward the turn of the twentieth century, thousands of young Greeks fled to Utah to live what they would consider their first years of exile. Facing continued Turkish control in their own country, many of these people, young men and boys mostly, sought to live a life elsewhere with hopes of returning to a more promising Greece. (Papanikolas, 45)

Finding solace in the American West, Greek immigrants quickly took to labor on railroads and mines as a means to survive. These men endured long, isolated seasons of strenuous labor with payment as low as $20 for a single month. Although California and Nevada would provide bountiful labor for immigrants, the railroads of Utah would be of special interest to them and would also tragically cost some of their lives. Among the places where extensive Greek contributions took place are the Carbon County mines, Murray-Midvale smelters, Bingham Canyon mines, Magna mill, Garfield smelter, and north of Ogden for railroad-gang work on the Oregon Short Line (later Union Pacific). (Papanikolas, 46-48)

On February 19, 1904, 24 men—16 of whom were Greek immigrant railroad workers—died in a train collision near the Lucin Cutoff crossing the Great Salt Lake. The Lucin Cutoff is a 102-mile railroad line in Utah that runs from Ogden to its namesake in Lucin. (“With Dead”) News reports at the time provided varying numbers of victims and gave inconsistent details regarding the details of the crash. By most accounts, the air brake system failed on the eastbound train, which contained a boxcar of black powder, and the locomotive collided with a dynamite-laden westbound train attempting to clear the mainline. (“Air Brakes”) The magnitude of the explosion was such that the adjacent small town of Jackson was destroyed and 1,000 feet of track were blown up, leaving an excavation 30 feet deep. One engine was blown over in the flat and almost buried in the salt earth; one of the drive wheels was found nearly a half-mile away. (“Dynamite Wrecks”)

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An unidentified group watches a woman shaking hands with a railroad worker. Greek Archives photograph collection, 1900-1967, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

The disaster would quickly gain the attention of local newspapers, with Ogden’s own Standard dedicating at least one piece a day of coverage for the weeks following the event. Accounts in the paper were graphic, with descriptions of decapitated bodies and scattered limbs. (“Dynamite Explosion”) Even the hailed New York Times would mention the half-mile radius of damage in its February 20 issue. The article listed by name the three American victims, but the immigrant workers were lumped into a single group with little to no recognition. While the tragedy was indeed covered in the news, the loss of the eight Utahns would ultimately overshadow the loss of Greek immigrant life. As The Salt Lake Tribune would make sure to mention on February 20, 1904, “A majority of those killed were Greek laborers, although many of the victims were English-speaking people.” The emphasis on “American” life over immigrant casualties in news accounts of the 1904 wreck ultimately reflected views that foreign laborers were expendable. (“Memorial Honors”)

Misfortune for the victims’ families only grew in the days following the accident. The designated coroner charged various undertakers, including Larkin & Sons, with handling the 24 bodies. Larkin opted to remove the bodies under his care to his own establishment in order to better prepare them for burial. This raised a protest from the assembled multitude of Greeks, many of whom had cousins and other relatives under the coverings inside the improvised morgue. They declared the bodies should not be moved. Richey, the other undertaker, later burned the blankets in which their bodies had been wrapped for transportation to the city. The Greek community had their own blankets that they wished to use instead, which were traditionally used for bedding. These were often hand-woven of superior material by them in Greece and brought to America with them. (“Dead are Brought”)

It was clear that there would be a long process in both identifying and treating the bodies, yet unique issues arose with regard to the extant language barrier between immigrants and local authorities who hoped to discover the cause of the accident. Two Americanized Greeks, John McCart and Arthur Mitchell, were sworn in as interpreters. Even so, they were unable to communicate much information to the authorities due to the conditions survivors were in. According to a story published in The Salt Lake Tribune on February, 26, 1904, “very little information concerning the accident could be elicited from the wounded Greeks.”

Other obstacles in the investigation came in the form of English-speaking witnesses who refused to give their full testimony. For example, Sam Courtney, the conductor of the water train, was questioned to no avail. Courtney’s hips and back were badly injured in the accident; yet, when he was asked who, in his opinion, was responsible for the makeup of the train and for the accident, he refused to make any statement. Ultimately, no blame would be placed on a single party and all persons interviewed would be absolved. (“Verdict of Jury”)

George N. Tsolomite, vice-consular agent for the Kingdom of Greece, arrived two weeks after the accident in Ogden. He then decided to contest each of the probate proceedings, which had just begun in Weber and Box Elder counties for the appointment of administrators in the estates of the Greeks who were killed in the recent railroad disaster at Jackson. (“Verdict of the Jury”) For many people at the time and now, it was evident that immigrants were misused as employees, especially those who could not speak English. Tsolomite’s involvement was to lessen aggravations felt by the families. Yet it was disasters like the one at Jackson and countless others that eventually energized immigrants to force employers to improve working conditions through labor unions. (“Memorial Honors”)

On October 22, 2000, nearly a century after the Lucin Cutoff tragedy, members of Utah’s ever-growing Greek community gathered in Ogden to witness the installation of a granite monument in memory of the deceased workers. (“Memorial Honors”) The tragedy and suggestion for the memorial were brought to the attention of the Utah Hellenic Cultural Association by Stella Kapetan of Chicago, who discovered the episode while researching her family history. (“Memorial”) This commemoration was seen by many as long overdue, considering that the majority of the men were buried without a headstone. For many, those Greek railroad workers who lost their lives are an example of the undervalued efforts and sacrifices undergone by immigrants in the United States of America. The memorial now serves as a reminder to both Greeks and non-Greeks of an otherwise downplayed moment in Utah history. Furthermore, their contribution as immigrants to help build the American West now receives the credit it has deserved.

Jono Martinez graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism.

Sources

“Action of Greek Counsul,” Standard, March 1, 1904.

“Verdict of the Jury Judge Pritchard in Cut-off Disaster,” Standard, March 1, 1904.

“Coroner’s Inquest Continued to Thursday,” Standard, February 26, 1904.

“Inquest in Jackson Explosion,” The Salt Lake Tribune, February 26, 1904.

“Verdict of Jury in Cut-off Disaster,” Standard, February 26, 1904.

“Air Brakes Failed,” The Salt Lake Tribune, February 24, 1904.

“Dynamite Explosion Brings Havoc and Death,” Standard, February 23, 1904.

“Dead are Brought to Ogden Sunday,” Standard, February 22, 1904.

“With Dead of the Jackson Explosion,” The Salt Lake Tribune, February 22, 1904.

“Dynamite Wrecks Town,” The New York Times, February 20, 1904

“Memorial Honors Forgotten Victims of 1904 Railroad Tragedy,” The Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 2000.

“Memorial,” Deseret News, May 29, 2000.

Papanikolas, Helen Zeeze. Toil and Rage in a New Land: The Greek Immigrants in Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah State Historical Society, 1970.

 

Nuclear Testing: Southern Utah’s Battle for Air

by ARYAN FARAHANI

During the years of World War II and throughout the years of the Cold War, we saw many horrific acts of violence that changed many components of our society. Within these acts of violence, the rise of destructive weapons, known as nuclear weapons, were more prominently showcased throughout the world.

Not only were these nuclear weapons used for “safety,” but they were also manufactured to showcase a nation’s superiority. In 1945, toward the end of WW II, the United States was the first nation to use nuclear weapons, on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After these horrendous events, and as the quest for world dominance continued, many more nations began developing nuclear weapons. With that in mind, the competition to create the world’s best nuclear weapon was in the works. And with the United States taking on the role of global hegemon, it was clear that in order to create the perfect weapon, many tests had to be conducted throughout the US.

Nevada, with its desert-like geography and immense amounts of open space, was an ideal site for one of the nuclear testing centers operated by the United States Department of Energy. Nye County, in south-central Nevada, also was close to two cities in southern Utah: St. George and Cedar City. With the initial test-taking place in January 1951, many Southern Utahns were unaware of what exactly the nuclear tests would entail. But in the coming years, the disastrous effects of the “purple cloud” became more evident. (“Atom Explosions”) As Seegmiller writes, “Relatively few Iron County residents were aware of or concerned about nuclear testing when the first mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the western skies … but the cloud figuratively remains over southern Utah and Nevada to this day.”

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on January 27, 1951, that “residents of Southern Utah, miles to the cast of here, said they saw the sky light up and heard the distant rumbling.” This initial blast was the beginning of many tests. And although that was the case, many were not aware of the harmful toxins that nuclear tests would release on the residents, as well as on the surrounding residents of Southern Utah.

Through the initial steps of the first nuclear test, further progress needed to be achieved. Therefore, another nuclear test was conducted in April 1952. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 14, 1952, that “indications pointed to the testing of another atomic device rather than a full-blown atomic bomb,” which would essentially “be developed into future atomic weapons.” Many of the repercussions were still not evident to the residents, but it became clear that more nuclear tests were to be conducted in the near future.

Moreover, another nuclear test was conducted in March 1953. The Iron County Record reported on March 5, 1953, that “ranchers, miners, migrants, private fliers, and others concerned are warned that the atomic energy commission’s Nevada proving grounds will be used for nuclear experiments.” Although this was the case, many were still not warned of the harms, but instead had to find out about them the hard way.

In consideration of the above tests that were conducted throughout the years of 1951-1953, some individuals who were educated on the matter of nuclear weapons concluded that they were obliged to talk about it. It wasn’t until 1953 when some of the nuclear tests’ tragedies began to become evident. More specifically, and as reported in the May 7, 1953, issue of the Irony County Record, University of Utah research student Ralph L. Hafen noted that he was “morally obligated to warn people of the irreparable damage that may have occurred or may in the future occur” from the nuclear tests. Hafen stated in the Irony County Record that the plutonium and radiation that the tests released could affect many components of southern Utah residents’ lives, which can be summarized to include cancer, blindness, mutations, death, and climate change.

Capture

The Iron County Record reported on March 3, 1955, that ranchers were convinced atomic testing had killed their sheep.

Many individuals in southern Utah began noticing that some changes in their everyday lives could be related to the nuclear tests that had been conducted in the border state of Nevada. And although they noticed, it was clear that the tests would continue to be conducted. That being said, the March 31955, issue of the Iron County Record reported that “the third atomic blast [of 1955] was seen from Cedar [City],” which shows its severity, because Cedar City is more distant to the Nevada border. The article also stated that that southern Utah farmers were “convinced that the atomic fallout from the experiments at Yucca Flats in Nevada two years ago was the direct cause of heavy loss to sheep herds grazing in adjacent areas.” Therefore, they filed a lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission for its actions and incompetent behavior. Also in 1955, many citizens, including southern Utah residents, were briefly told about the harms that the nuclear tests could have on their lives. The Iron County Record reported on February 3, 1955, that “the Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Defense, has announced that it will not be responsible for patrons who might wander into the area, without proper authority.” It was also reported in the same issue that it was dangerous to be around the tests, identifying that “caution has also been advised for individuals in the general area.”

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The view of an atomic explosion at the Nevada Test Site, located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Nye County, Nevada. Lloyd Franklin Manis Collection, Special Collections, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Used with permission.

The book Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy by Philip Fradkin discusses the government’s historical role with nuclear testing. Fradkin highlights how the Atomic Energy Commission was at fault through “the mistakes and subsequent cover-ups” that they used with these nuclear tests. (2) It is clear that the government officials involved with these tests were aware of their harms, but did not feel a need to tell residents the details. Instead, these officials withheld information, and gave them a brief warning four years after the first nuclear test took place.

Southern Utah residents were deeply affected by these events and by the actions of the Atomic Energy Commission. In the book Justice Downward: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s, a former University of Utah professor, Howard Ball, discusses the careless behavior of the government. Ball examines the events of the blasts, and quotes Frank Butrico, a Public Health Service radiation safety monitor who worked in St. George during the 1953 series of tests. Butrico testified in a 1982 wrongful death suit filed by 24 cancer victims and their relatives. He said, “The radioactive cloud hung over St. George for over two hours, fallout radiation levels peaked at a little less than 6 rads, well over even AEC standards.” (Ball, 43)

In addition to that, southern Utah residents were not truthfully told about this information. Instead, they were told, “Radiation levels were a little above normal but not in the range of being harmful.” (Ball, 43-44) Not only was valuable information withheld from residents, but they also were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation that indefinitely caused many issues to their health and surrounding environment. With a matter as severe as this, it is saddening to learn about the truths after they had initially taken place. Although there isn’t a reliable statistic proving the amount of illnesses and cancer-related deaths the exposure of the radiation levels caused, Seegmiller reports that “as of September 1994, 1,003 claims had been approved, 829 claims had been denied, and 125 were pending.” These figures illustrate just how severe the effects were on southern Utah residents.

All in all, it is clear that the nuclear tests that were conducted in Nevada are an incredibly important part of Utah’s history as a whole. Although this research focuses on the years of 1951-1955, these nuclear tests ultimately changed many people’s lives, and to this day in 2017, the effects that these nuclear tests had on southern Utah residents are extremely palpable. It is important to take into account these events, because although these nuclear tests caused many tragedies, they are an essential part of our history, and are important components in learning more about how nuclear activity had an effect on Utahns.

That being said, today, the government has set up funds to compensate families for the illnesses and deaths these blasts may have caused. Although it does not make up for the damages the nuclear tests have done, it does show some initiative and responsibility on the government’s part. Looking through the United States Department of Justice webpage, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act “established an administrative program for claims relating to atmospheric nuclear testing and claims relating to uranium industry employment.” (RECA) And if these nuclear tests are proven to be the cause of any harm, then families would receive compensation to make up for the indescribable damage.

Aryan Farahni graduated in May 2017 from The University of Utah. He attained a Bachelor of Science degree in political science, with minors in media studies and international studies. 

Sources

“Atom Explosion Set off in Nevada,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 27, 1951, 1.

“Spews Purple Cloud,” Salt Lake Telegram, October 30, 1951, 1.

“Scientists Arrive at Vegas for Second A-Blast,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 14, 1952, 2.

“Atomic Proving Ground Set for Nuclear Test,” Iron County Record, March 5, 1953, 3.

Ralph L. Hafen, “Effects of Atom Blasts on Southern Utah Discussed by U. of U. Student, Iron County Record, May 7, 1953, 9.

“Citizens Are Warned of Dangers at Nevada Test Site,” Iron County Record, February 2, 1955, 2.

“Local Sheep Raisers File Suit with Govt. for Loss,” Iron County Record, March 3, 1955, 1.

“Third Atomic Blast Seen From Cedar,” Iron County Record, March 3, 1955, 8.

Ball, Howard. Justice Downwind: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Fradkin, Philip L. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989.

The United States Department of Justice. “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.” https://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca

Seegmiller, Janet Burton. “Nuclear Testing and the Downwinders.” Utah History to Go, http://bit.ly/1nSvCYD

 

 

 

 

 

The Origins of Snowboarding in Utah

by STEPHEN KONKLER

Snowboarding began in 1965 with the invention of the “Snurfer.” Sherman Poppen, an engineer and father in Michigan, invented the first prototype of a snowboard as a toy for his daughter by attaching two skis together side by side and putting a rope at the very front of the board for control. (TransWorld, Part 1) Not long after, snowboarding took off nationwide, and it wasn’t long before fanatics made it out to Utah for the lightest snow on earth.

Although it’s not mentioned much in Utah’s history books, Utah has been a home to snowboarding, and a dominant destination for the sport since the early 1970s. Alta Ski Area, one of the oldest ski areas in the US, started out as a small mining camp in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon in the 1920s and 1930s. Alta opened its doors to skiers in 1936, and years later in the 1970s became the first ski area in Utah to allow snowboarders to ride the slopes, with Snowbird Ski Resort close behind. (Scheuerman, “Snowboarding”)

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Dimitrije Milovich rides his Winterstick snowboard. Photo by Alan K. Engen. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

With a newfound sport on the rise and an open market demanding snowboards, a young man by the name of Dimitrije Milovich found his way to Utah and set out to invent the first snowboard without a rope for the rider to hang onto. (TransWorld, Part 1) With the help of famous surfboard shaper Wayne Stoveken, Milovich invented the first snowboard that used plastic for the base and metal on the edges of the board to help grip the snow. (Winterstick Advertisement) Milovich started out testing his prototypes at Snowbird and at Alta Ski Area. (Although Alta was willing to let Milovich test his newly designed equipment there, the area subsequently closed to snowboarders in 1984. It has yet to reopen to anyone but skiers, despite being on public land.) By 1971, Milovich had a couple of patents for his state of the art “snow surfboards” and had opened a shop to sell his aptly named “Winterstick Swallowtails” in none other than Salt Lake City, Utah. (TransWorld, Part 1)

Although the sport of snowboarding continued to grow, not only in Utah but also across the country, some skiers weren’t very happy to share the slopes with this newfound sport and the culture that followed. After a skier crashed at Stratton Mountain, a resort in Vermont, and sued the ski area, management was forced to create ski-at-your-own-risk laws and ban all non-traditional skiing sports. Snowboarding as well as telemark skiing were both considered too dangerous, and resorts started banning both all across the country. With few snowboarders willing to hike mountains to be able to ride, Milovich had to close the doors of his Winterstick stores in Utah in 1982.

But Milovich wasn’t done with owning a business. He and a man named Dwain Bush opened a windsurfing shop named Milosport. Later, it became a snowboard shop when the sport started to get back into the mainstream in the late 1980s. (Scheuerman, “Snowboarding”) Milosport is now the most popular snowboard shop in Utah, and has led the pack for snowboarding’s revolution in Utah since 1988.

After years of battling resorts for the return of snowboarding, in 1986 Beaver Mountain in Logan, Utah, was the first resort in Utah to open back up to snowboarders. (Halcomb, Part 1) After the sport of snowboarding stayed in the backcountry and off of the resort slopes for years, places like Brighton Resort, Powder Mountain, Sundance Resort, Snowbird, and many others started to see the return of snowboarding on their slopes. Although resorts all over Utah were welcoming back snowboarders, it wasn’t without stipulations. A rider certification card was required to use a snowboard at most resorts, to indicate that the rider could turn and stop without harming any skiers. (Scheuerman, “Re-search”)

Leading the pack in the fight to bring snowboarding back to resorts across the nation was a man named Dennis Nazari. Nazari was born in California and moved to Utah with his parents as a kid. Although Nazari spent most of his childhood in California, he was quick to pick up skiing and eventually snowboarding in Utah. After searching many ski shops in town, Nazari was able to locate and buy a snowboard at a local ski shop in Salt Lake City, which he rode primarily at Alta Ski Area, until they banned snowboards on Christmas Day of 1984. (Sheehan)

After Alta banned snowboarding, Nazari started the Southwest Surf Skiers Association, a program designed to get snowboards back on the slopes of resorts in Utah. (Halcomb, Part 1)

The SSSA was a program dedicated to educating people about the safety measures of snowboarding, and certifying that snowboarders could safely ride down the hill of a resort without injuring anyone else on hill. Nazari would drive up to Logan on the weekends to educate and certify riders. The rider would get an A, AA, or AAA, depending on how good they were at maneuvering their snowboard, with AAA being the best. (Halcomb, Dennis Nazari) After developing the idea of the rider certification card, Nazari brought snowboarding back to resorts all over Utah. (Sheehan)

Although snowboarding was becoming popular again in 1986, Milovich’s doors were still closed, which meant no one had anywhere to buy a snowboard. So in 1987, Dennis Nazari opened up a shop called Salty Peaks to cater strictly to snowboarding and the people interested in the sport. Not only did the shop sell the only snowboard gear available in Salt Lake City, but Nazari also started an official shop snowboarding team, dubbed the “Salty 8,” Utah’s first snowboarders to be sponsored for riding. All this was helping to make Salt Lake City and the rest of Utah a major hub for the culture and the sport itself. (Scheuerman, “Re-search”)

Utah is home to a very large ski and snowboarding community, so much that the license plates even claim the state has the “Greatest snow on earth.” Snowboarding’s culture and industry will continue to grow around the world as well as in Utah, while creating jobs at resorts, shops, local businesses, and elsewhere in Salt Lake City. With an industry booming and more people moving to Utah for the snow all the time, snowboarding will always have a home in Salt Lake City.

Stephen Konkler is a senior at The University of Utah, majoring in communication and minoring in design.

Sources

Erin Halcomb, “Dennis Nazari, an interview by Erin Halcomb,” March 28, 2012, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Erin Halcomb, “Josh Scheuerman, an interview by Erin Halcomb, part 1,” November 8, 2011, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Erin Halcomb, “Josh Scheuerman, an interview by Erin Halcomb, part 2,” December 6, 2011, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Paul J. MacArthur, “Snowboarding, It’s Older Than You Think,” International Skiing Association, December 1, 2016, http://bit.ly/2oVZwMI.

Josh Scheuerman, “Snowboarding in Utah: An Adolescent Sport Grows Up,” Sports Guide, Winter 2009, 10-14. http://bit.ly/2pspLva

Josh Scheuerman, “Re-search and Destroy: A Brief History of Snowboarding’s Roots in Utah,” SLUG Magazine, March 2001, 6-7. http://www.slugmag.com/pdf/147-March-2001.pdf

Sheehan, Gavin. “Salty Peaks.” City Weekly, August 242009. http://bit.ly/2nM5v75

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 1.” TransWorld Snowboarding, http://bit.ly/2mqe7T7

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 2.” TransWorld Snowboardinghttp://bit.ly/2mHJeW0

Advertisement for Winterstick, Newsweek, March 1975.

A Look at the Mormon Church Influence in Building the Union Pacific Railroad

by SAMIRA GUIRGUIS

Union_Pacific_Railroad___Survey_p_1

Mormon surveyors worked in Utah’s Uintah Mountains during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

A civil war and the prospect of a quick fortune from the California Gold Rush left big companies like the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads starving for a labor force. While it is common knowledge that Utah played a role in building the Transcontinental Railroad, an important factor often overlooked is that a big section of it was mostly done by Mormon workers. Power, influence, culture, geography and even a little luck all played a role in why the Mormons were perfect candidates for this job. (KUED)

In 1868, Union Pacific, desperate for workers and approaching Utah Territory, needed to recruit a lot of workers, including surveyors who knew the lay of the land against the intimidating Wasatch Mountain Range. Who better for this job than Mormon leader Brigham Young, who not only had access to a large number of workers, but also men with the discipline and sobriety of their faith? In fact, Mormons were so influential in the building of the railroad tracks that songs were even written about them.

In the Canyon of Echo, there’s a railroad begun,

And the Mormons are cutting and grading like fun;

They say they’ll stick to it until it’s complete,

For friends and relations they’re longing to meet.

Hurray! Hurrah! The railroad’s begun!

Three cheers for our contractor, his name’s Brigham Young!

Hurray! Hurrah! We’re light-hearted and gay,

Just the right kind of boys to build a railway. … (“Echo Canyon”)

The clean, sober, and polite Mormons stood out in stark contrast to the hard drinking, “wild west-type” of most other railroad company crews. Instead of whisky-induced boisterousness, gambling and “soiled doves,” the Mormon campsites operated under orderly and religious governance. (Miller, 102). Deseret News assistant editor Edward Lennox Sloan noted, “In but one camp of less than one hundred men, out of between two and three thousand working in the canyons, did I hear profanity.” The only evidence of any problem between other crews and Mormon crews was good natured “horse play” such as those cited in The Golden Spike, like hiding each other’s equipment, turning horses loose in the middle of the night and, in one example, dropping a rattlesnake into a nearby camp’s soup kettle. (Miller, 199)

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Union Pacific Railroad workers construct tunnel no. 2 at the head of Echo Canyon, Utah. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

Mormons proved to be excellent surveyors. They knew the lay of the land better than any outsider possibly could and grew up in a culture that highly valued the creation of records with meticulous detail. One only need look at the LDS genealogy to understand that. Consequently, Mormon surveyors drew detailed maps to help engineers determine the path of least resistance. (KUED) On one account, “Mormon workers became experts in the use of nitroglycerin ‘blasting oils’ and other explosives… Their sobriety would prove to be an advantage, indeed.” (Stewart, 93)

The Mormon Church used notices in the advertising section of the Deseret News to elicit help. For example, “MESSRS. Joseph A. Young, Brigham Young, Junr., and John W. Young, agents for President Brigham Young, left this city on the 8th inst., for the head of Echo Canon, to let contracts for grading on the Union Pacific Railroad…. Parties wishing contracts on that road can now start their men.… About 10,000 men will be wanted. (“Notice”) In fact, there weren’t enough men in the area, so Brigham Young sent letters to his friend and apostle Franklin D. Richards, encouraging him to send newly converted Mormons from Europe to Utah in order to keep a steady flow of workers. (Stevens, 17)

Union_Pacific_Railroad__Construction_P__3

Mormon laborers grade the Union Pacific line at the mouth of Weber Canyon, Utah. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

There’s also a mention that “fit men—immigrating from England to Zion could ride from Omaha to the end of the line free of charge if they agreed to work for the railroad.” (Stewart, 183) This fact is important because it kept the work in Utah hands; the wealth didn’t go to other places to be invested. Interestingly enough, Mormon crews worked for both the UP and CP lines east and west of each other. This competition between the two companies allowed the Mormons to increase their wages by starting bidding wars between the two companies. (Stewart, 198)

Despite working hard and being praised for their skill, there was a huge debt scandal and many Mormon workers weren’t paid for months, sometimes not at all. (Stewart, 177) One good thing did come from this experience: working with the Union Pacific gave Utahns the knowledge of how to make their own railroads rather than relying on big companies like the Union Pacific for future building. More importantly, it armed Utah with the economic power to grow. (Miller, 122) Having the manpower and new income, Brigham Young could now choose where the next railroad line would go and thus have a direct route pass through Salt Lake City. The railroad brought change to Utah, which was unsettling, but it also brought a bigger barter system, immigrants, and information. Brigham Young knew he couldn’t stop the railroad from coming. So, he prepared for its inevitability, making sure his people didn’t miss out on the economic opportunity and at the same time showing the world that the Mormons were a hardworking, selfless people (KUED).

Sources


“Notice,” Deseret News, June 17, 1868, 4.

Emrich, Duncan, ed. “Echo Canyon” in Songs of the Mormons and Songs of the West, from the Archive of Folk Song. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1952.

Miller, David E. The Golden Spike. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, University of Utah Press, 1973.

Stevens, Thomas M. “The Union Pacific Railroad and the Mormon Church, 1868-1871: An In-depth Study of the Financial Aspects of Brigham Young’s Grading Contract and Its Ultimate Settlement.” M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972.

Stewart, John J. The Iron Trail to the Golden Spike. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1969.

The Media’s Role in Citizens’ Perceptions of Topaz, the Japanese Internment Camp in Utah

by Elizabeth Fields

The media have always played a role in our history. More than simply relaying the news, media dictate which stories deserve our attention, whether or not we are aware of it. Sometimes subtle and sometimes not, the media mold our values and opinions through careful choice of language and selection of which stories to tell. In the case of the Japanese internment facility located in Delta, Utah, the media’s influence over the public proved to be no different. Through the alienation of Japanese-American citizens and normalization of internment facilities, Utah media placated its citizens and prevented them from being able to recognize Topaz as being inhumane and unjust.

WRA official

Internees began arriving at the Central Utah Relocation Center, known as Topaz, on September 11, 1942. This article from the August 27, 1942, issue of the Millard County Chronicle, was typical of the coverage.

Described as being “one of the most flagrant violations of civil liberties in American history,” the upheaval and relocation of many Japanese-American citizens during World War II was set in motion on February 19, 1942, when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. (history.com) This order authorized the creation of military zones along the West Coast and stipulated that individuals who were considered a threat to national security could be relocated to internment facilities located farther inland. The order soon was used to justify the removal of Japanese-Americans who were suspected of having an allegiance to Japan. Forced to put their jobs and education on hold and to give up their homes and most of their possessions, more than 120,000 citizens were sent to internment camps in states including Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado, where they were closely monitored to ensure that they could not assist the enemy. The Central Utah Relocation Center, more commonly known as Topaz for the mountain to the west, officially opened on September 11, 1942. By the time it closed, it had housed more than 11,000 detainees. (topazmuseum.org)

American citizens who did not have ties to Japan had been primed by the media to distrust and dislike Japanese culture, both domestic and abroad, since the beginning of America’s involvement in WW II. In the months leading up to the opening of Topaz, Utah citizens were exposed to hateful, racist terminology degrading their perception of the Japanese. On January 6, 1942, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that American soldiers were “killing the cocky little invaders like flies,” quite literally dehumanizing the foreign enemy. On January 5, 1942, the Salt Lake Telegram relished the thought of American allies writing “in rivers of Japanese blood.” This violent rhetoric set the stage for internment camps to open without question or opposition from the American public. It is important to note that Utah media consistently referred to the Japanese enemy as “Japs” in nearly any article written about the progress of the war.

In September 1942, when Japanese-American citizens began arriving at Topaz, the media also referred to these camp residents as “Japs.” On August 27, the Millard County Chronicle published an article under the headline, “WRA Officials Arrive to Take Over Jap Camp.” In the same issue, a separate article advertised cheap labor provided by internees and provided details about “how the Japs can be got, the regulations, and other information.” In this particular story, the language is eerily reminiscent of historical articles advertising slave labor. Utah media did not even bother to differentiate between the Japanese enemy and the Japanese-American citizen. Instead, the media lumped the two populations together using the same racial slur. Immediately, citizens living outside of internment camps differentiated the Japanese-American citizens as being in a separate category from themselves and associated them with the enemy. In some cases, citizens may not have even made a distinction between citizens and the enemy because the two shared the same epithet.

To further Utah’s ignorance to the injustice at play, Utah media completely normalized the Topaz internment camp by publishing mundane, day-to-day happenings at the camp, none of which included any of the harsh realities of life at Topaz. One of the most insulting articles was published in the Salt Lake Telegram on December 30, 1942, with the headline, “You Wouldn’t Trade Places.” It suggested that those living outside internment camps were actually experiencing some kind of envy. The article observed: “There are all sorts of rumors—that the Japanese evacuees from California live there in style, that they are being fed far better than most Americans.” The article described the minimalistic lifestyle of internment camp, but then assured readers, “Certainly they are being treated decently … the food is wholesome…. Although not being pampered, they are being very fairly treated.” It even claimed that the Japanese-American citizens enjoyed the work they did at the camp, saying, “Work becomes desirable as a pastime.” In reality, life at Topaz was anything but fair. According to the Densho Encyclopedia,

“Many of the apartments were not finished when inmates arrived. The prisoners had to endure especially cold conditions until gypsum board was installed on the walls and ceilings… Ill health was common at Topaz… Several prisoners reported how this … traumatized them and prevented them from ever feeling fully secure in camp.”

On December 17, 1942, the Millard County Chronicle published an article detailing the plans for a Christmas party to be held at Topaz: “This will be a large scale operation, purposed by the WRA [War Relocation Authority] to promote good will, [and] to show the proper Christian spirit.” The brief article clearly applauded the righteousness of the WRA and completely dismissed the fact that internees could not be in their own home with their friends and extended family to celebrate. Many of the internees were not Christian and did not even observe Christmas as a holiday. This article reinforced the concept that they they were comfortable and happy, perhaps even lucky. This complete misconception of the reality of living in an internment camp prevented Utahns from recognizing the injustice of the situation.

The last and perhaps one of the most significant elements in keeping Utah citizens silent was the Espionage Act. This act prevented anyone from publishing material conveying “anti-patriotic” sentiments. More than an act of censorship, the Espionage Act reflected a deep-rooted fear that citizens of Japanese descent felt a stronger alliance to Japan than to America that would cause them to betray their country. On May 28, 1942, the Millard County Chronicle wrote,

“What shall we do with Japanese aliens to prevent possible espionage and sabotage?… Many of the Japanese, especially those of American birth, were loyal to the United States. But their fathers and mothers were aliens. It was to be expected that a considerable number of these would be tied to Japan by bonds of race and nationality.”

The Espionage Act only encouraged feelings of distrust toward the Japanese and furthered the media’s contempt for them. To write in opposition of Topaz would be to risk interrogation or even detainment. Simply put, it was unsafe to openly protest Topaz. Had it not been for the Espionage Act, perhaps Utah media would have exposed the truth about Topaz and the public would have had the ability to resist.

As Americans when we think of World War II, we think of bravery and sacrifice. We think of the grainy, black and white footage of victorious soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima. We think of Rosie in her red bandana, proudly pulling her denim sleeve across her flexed arm and proclaiming, “We Can Do It!” We think of the famous photograph of a young soldier home from war, in the streets of New York kissing a stranger out of pure elation. We do not think of an American Japanese family leaving their home in San Francisco to be locked away in an internment camp in Utah. We do not think of a young American Japanese student, forced to halt his education to be unjustifiably imprisoned. We do not think of thousands of people uprooted from their homes, careers, and aspirations to satiate the racism of a fearful country. We do not think of it, but we should. Through alienation, false justification, and writing within the boundaries of the Espionage Act, Utah media placated citizens and manipulated them to believe that Topaz and facilities like it were just and necessary.

Today still, our country faces prejudice every day that is perpetuated by our media. With the understanding of the injustice of Topaz, we are better able to critically analyze the sources we rely upon and protect those who our media would wrongfully have us fear.

Elizabeth Fields is studying strategic communication at The University of Utah.

Sources

“They Fought Like Demons,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 5, 1942, 8.

“The Japs Take a Beating,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 6, 1942, 6.

“The Story of 112,000 Japanese in America,” Millard County Chronicle, May 28, 1942, 8.

“WRA Officials Arrive to Take over Jap Camp,” Millard County Chronicle, August 27, 1942, 1.

“Utah County Wants Topaz Jap Laborers,” Millard County Chronicle, September 27, 1942, 8.

“To Hold Xmas Festivities at Topaz,” Millard County Chronicle, December 17, 1942, 1.

“You Wouldn’t Trade Places,” Salt Lake Telegram, December 30, 1942, 6.

“Japanese-American Relocation.” History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/japanese-american-relocation.

“Topaz.” Densho Encyclopedia, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Topaz.

“Topaz Camp.” Topaz Museum, http://www.topazmuseum.org/topaz-camp.

 

Utah’s Role in Nuclear Testing During the Early 1950s

by ZACH CARLSON

The early 1950s were a tumultuous time for the United States of America. The Red Scare was well into effect, the Korean War was raging on, and Soviet Russia’s nuclear capabilities were looming on the horizon. These issues carried into 1951, marking the beginning of the new year with nuclear testing in what is now known as the Nevada Proving Grounds. The Proving Grounds are 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. On January 27, 1951, the United States began dropping nuclear bombs to test the effect of them.

NTS_-_Warning_handbill

The U. S. Atomic Energy Commission distributed handbills such as this one before the first series of tests was conducted. The public is advised that there is “no danger” to individuals living outside the testing area. The Downwinders of Utah Archive, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

On January 4, 1951, the Iron County Record published an article stating, “We must pull out of Korea completely and stop useless sacrifice…. The A-bomb should be used if it will help our forces in Korea.” These lines tell us how local community members felt about the political situation then. Later in the article it is stated that “not a single letter expressed actual terror at the thought of another war and the possibility of A-bombs being used against us. War … is better than attempted appeasement of aggressors.” The local citizens would rather be exposed to the effects of nuclear radiation than roll over to the enemy. Little did they know, they got what they wished for.

In late January 1951, nearly a dozen nuclear bomb tests took place. The Salt Lake Telegram published an article on January 29, 1951, discussing how the 10th and 11th atomic blasts had affected locals. The bombs rattled casinos over 60 miles away in Las Vegas. The newspaper also reported on the wide number of complaints from citizens: “Citizens generally were not pleased. The police department got four calls per minute for a half hour.” Beyond this general grumble and discontent from Las Vegas and Utah residents, public fervor died down for a while.

A conference was held at the University of Utah in May 1951 on the subject of nuclear testing and specifically how Americans had been kept sheltered from just what nuclear bombs and energy could do when compared to other countries. An article published in the Salt Lake Telegram on May 19 discussed how the United States had recently declassified and made public a large amount of nuclear information. The author rightfully draws a connection between this now-public knowledge and citizens, especially Utahns and Nevadans, having such an up-close experience with nuclear bombs.

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This image was published in a February 1955 information booklet produced by the AEC for people who lived near the Nevada test site.

Later in 1951, multiple nuclear tests were delayed because “light winds” could spell death and disease for local residents of Utah. The Salt Lake Telegram reported in November that “the postponement was the third in as many days.” This tells us just how common and deadly these light winds could be.

In April 1952, the United States began testing the effects of nuclear fallout on troops. The Salt Lake Telegram discussed how from 10 miles away the heat from the blast singed the hair off of people’s faces. The heat was described as a “blast furnace.” The soldiers had dug fox holes only 4 miles away from ground zero, subjecting themselves to extremely unhealthy doses of radiation.

For over a year, the continued nuclear testing didn’t receive much attention, as it just became a part of day-to-day life except for when it caused a much greater inconvenience. In May 1953 residents of Cedar City and southern Utah, specifically St. George, were asked to stay in their homes and not leave or drive anywhere. The problem lasted longer than one would expect; the radiation lingered in the air days after the nuclear test. The levels of radiation were deemed safe by the Atomic Energy Commission. The Iron County Record reported on May 21, 1953, that “the levels of radiation produced outside the test control area were in no way harmful to humans, animals or crops.”

Poisoning from radiation takes time to rear its ugly head in the form of cancer, birth defects, and other unfortunate symptoms. Janet Burton Seegmiller writes in The History of Iron County that:

Relatively few Iron County residents were aware of or concerned about nuclear testing when the first mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the western skies and drifted to the northeast in 1951, but the cloud figuratively remains over southern Utah and Nevada to this day. Residents live with every day what the cloud left behind that the eye could not see. There are no southwestern Utah neighborhoods or communities that have not been touched by the tragedy of cancer or birth defects or lingering bitterness over human and financial losses.

These people had been promised by their own government that they would be safe throughout the nuclear testing. They had been lied to. Seegmiller discusses that declassified documents show even back in the late 1940s it was painfully aware to scientists that this was hazardous to human and livestock.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) proceeded to continue with the tests, anyway. Sheep began to have burns on their faces and miscarry fetuses that had deformities. Those that survived to birth would often die due to other deformities. Everyone still believed the government when it reassured the citizens that everything was fine. In 1984, the United States District Court ruled in Allen v. United States that “fallout caused human deaths and the federal government was negligent in failing to warn residents.” But the government won a reversal on appeal on the grounds of national security. On May 11, 1984, the New York Times reported that a federal district judge ruled that ”the Government was negligent in failing to warn residents who lived in the path of fallout plumes about the danger of radioactive contaminations.” The government again appealed the decision. In Utah, The Right Place, Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Although they knew or suspected the danger from the fallout, they did not tell the people… that they stood in risk of cancer or leukemia. Rather, AEC officials publicly lied about the danger.”

In 1990, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed. The government apologized to its very own citizens, now known as the Downwinders, and established a compensation program to help individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases. On March 2, 2015, the Department of Justice reported that it had awarded more than $2 billion in “compassionate compensation to eligible claimants” under the act.

Zach Carlson is a student at The University of Utah. He is pursuing a degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism. Zach is an avid consumer of movies, video games, and books, and loves dogs.

Sources

“Let’s Hear from the People,” Iron County Record, January 4, 1951, 2.

“Nevada Area Braces for More A-Blasts,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 29, 1951 3.

“The Big Question,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 19, 1951, 4.

“Storm Delays Atomic Tests,” Salt Lake Telegram, October 26, 1951, 7.

“Wrong-Way Wind Postpones Nevada A-Test” Salt Lake Telegram, November 17, 1951, 2.

“Mighty A-Bomb Slams Troops,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 22, 1952.

“Plan ‘Most Daring’ A-Bomb, Troop Maneuvers,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 26, 1952, 3.

“Atomic Winds – Fall-out,” Iron County Record, May 21, 1953, 2.

Alexander, Thomas G. Utah, The Right Place: The Official Centennial History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 2003.

Peterson, Iver. “U.S. Ruled Negligent in A-Tests Followed by Nine Cancer Deaths.New York Times, May 11, 1984. http://lib.utah.edu/services/geospatial/downwinders/

Seegmiller, Janet Burton. A History of Iron County: Community Above Self. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998.