Childhood memories of Eureka moments
Post Independent Staff
Despite a working life that has taken him all over the country, at heart Rodger Carlson is a small-town boy. Carlson has written about his formative years in Eureka, Utah, in his book, “In the Shadows of Eureka Peak.”
The Carlson clan was rooted in Minnesota, but Carlson’s father, C. Albert Carlson, struck out in the 1930s on a series of adventurous jobs that took him from Boston to Alabama and a stint in the South Pacific during World War II. Eventually he brought his family west.
After the war he was hired by U.S. Smelting, Mining and Refining to work at the Eagle-Blue Bell Mine in Eureka, part of the booming Tintic gold, silver, lead and zinc mining district southwest of Provo.
In 1947, after C. Albert had settled into his job Eureka, he sent for his family: wife, Florence; son, Rodger; and daughter, Jule.
Rodger’s first impression of the booming mining town was a doozie.
When the train stopped at Tintic Junction, the Carlsons had to hot-foot it to the platform.
“We were the only ones to get off the Pullman car. (The porter) opened the door and put the stool down and before our feet hit the ground the train was moving,” Carlson said.
It was snowing and the lonely depot “looked like the middle of nowhere,” Carlson said.
Tintic was about three miles from Eureka, and knowing his dad didn’t own a car, Carlson wondered how the family was to get to their new home.
Not taking any chances, C. Albert had arranged for the town snowplow to pick them up, and there it was at the depot, hulking in the snow.
“That’s how we got into Eureka,” Carlson said.
Life in Eureka for a 10-year-old boy, who also happened to be pretty precocious, was like something out of “Huckleberry Finn.”
Carlson tells of settling into school; getting a dog, Champ; riding horses; belonging to a boys club and learning to shoot a slingshot. In his book, he paints a vibrant picture of the small but industrious mining town and his own role as a young mover and shaker.
Early on he met up with the man who owned the town’s biggest mine and after whom the section of town where the Carlsons lived, Fitchville, was named.
Cecil Fitch took a shine to the boy. Carlson spent many Saturdays at the Fitch house doing odd jobs and formed a close friendship with Fitch’s grandson, Mike Combs.
In the few years the Carlsons were in town, Carlson and Fitch grew closer and the man came to depend on the boy. As Carlson relates in the book, Fitch asked for and took advice on how to improve operations at the mine from the 10-year-old boy, including buying a neighboring mine and a Caterpillar tractor.
For Carlson, this idyllic life was short-lived. In 1950, the family was on the move again. They landed in Grand Junction, where C. Albert worked in the uranium boom for the Atomic Energy Commission.
Carlson went to college back in his home state of Minnesota, graduating with a degree in mathematics from Carleton College in 1959. After a short stint with Kaiser Steel in Fontana, Calif., he began a teaching career in marketing that took him to Colorado. In 1974, he married Lee Melnar.
He taught in California, Texas, South Dakota and finally at Morehead State University in Kentucky, where he taught until retirement in 1997.
Rodger and Lee now live in Battlement Mesa, and he is working on a second book, about his father.
“In the Shadows of Eureka Peak” is available from the author for $26.50, by calling 970-285-5658 or on the Internet at http://www.bookgrove.com.
Contact Donna Daniels: 945-8515, ext. 520
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