POPULATION PENDULUM: BOOM VS. BUST: ACROSS THE U.S., SMALL COUNTRY CHARM IS GIVING WAY TO BIG CITY CONVENIENCE, AND THINGS ARE NO DIFFERENT IN SANDY AND HIAWATHA.Jerry Cowan, the town marshal of Hiawatha, Carbon County, rests back in his chair, strokes his bushy red mustache and reminisces about the day when this company coal mining camp was a hotbed of activity.

Square dances, potluck dinners and movies lured crowds from around the country up the narrow canyon to his hilly haven, 17 miles west of Price.But seemingly overnight, the boom town bombed. Small country charm gave way to big city convenience.

It's a story that can be told almost anywhere in America.

Urban areas are growing at steady rates while rural areas barely hang on as their population disappears.

In Utah, the all-American story brings into focus Salt Lake City's southern suburb Sandy and remote Hiawatha. Recent figures released by the State Office of Planning and Budget show that over the past 40 years, Sandy has been the state's fastest growing city - increasing by a whopping 3,482.72 percent to 75,058 in 1990.

By comparison, Hiawatha has been dying at a greater rate than any other place in Utah - losing almost 1,400 residents during the past four decades. The 1990 Census shows that only 43 people now live in the city.

Cowan calls census figures an extreme exaggeration. Hiawatha is home for five families - a grand total of 13 folks, he said.

Many - some victims of mine layoffs - moved on years ago. Thirteen families packed up in 1987 when the city's sole gasoline station and grocery store closed. A mangled "no-parking" sign in front of the store goes unnoticed.

But the coup de grace was the closure of the post office - the city's last convenience. With that shutdown, still other families relocated in Price - leaving behind longtime roots and memories of a once vibrant town.

Today dilapidated homes, boarded-up meeting halls and deserted streets paint a vivid picture of the Hiawatha's demise.

"It's sad; it's hard for me. It's like having a pet horse and the horse died in the field. And now you are seeing the white bones laying there," said Cowan, a native Hiawathan who lives in the same home where he was reared.

He remembers when Hiawatha, one of America's melting pots, was "like the crest of a tidal wave. There was no place to put a trailer, no place to rent, no homes to buy."

Even in the late 1970s, it was the "going" place to live - a status now reserved for other places such as Sandy.

Some attribute Sandy's population swell to annexation. Located about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City, Sandy comprises about 19.5 square miles.

Sandy Mayor Lawrence P. Smith confirms that three-fourths of the city has been annexed in the past 20 years "because Sandy has the water system for needed services." But Smith said in 99 percent of cases, the people came after the land was annexed.The draw? Smith says it's the city's beauty.

"Nestled in the southeastern part of the valley under the Wasatch Mountains, Sandy continues to be a very attractive place to live," Smith said. "One needs only to drive around our residential areas to see the appeal of the community. In addition to that, the development in our business and commercial districts is extremely attractive."

Sandy, according to recent census figures, has one of the youngest populations in the country. In fact, the majority of Sandy's residents are schoolchildren, who attend five high schools, six middle schools, about 21 elementary schools and three special education schools.

By comparison, Hiawatha has no schools. Because fewer than 10 school-age children reside there, the city doesn't qualify for school-bus service either. Cowan, also a Carbon County deputy sheriff, has special permission to transport his daughter to and from Price Middle School.

Sandy's governed by a mayor and a 7-member council - all of whom receive input from four community councils.

Cowan, who wears a third hat - Hiawatha town president - also gets residential advise from his four councilpersons. Despite its dwindling population, the city - incorporated in 1911 - remains incorporated.

"I guess we will be incorporated until there's not enough people left to fill those positions," Cowan said.

Not unlike other growing metropolises, Sandy has its own police, fire, water and public works departments.

Hiawatha has one fire truck, operated by one resident who's been designated "fire chief." Cowan alone keeps the city safe for mine employees and residents.

"There was a time we had people come and steal copper because nothing is really locked up. But there's no residential problems," Cowan said. "The people here are like me - vowed to be there until the end. So we are really a close-knit community."

Most Sandy residents own their homes, which cost $50,000 to $1 million - averaging from $100,000 to $120,000, Smith said.

All homes in Hiawatha are owned by U.S. Fuel. With the exception of Cowan, who says he's never stepped foot in the mine, the homes are rented only by company employees. Cowan's three-bedroom home costs $125 a month.

But you don't live in Hiawatha unless you have a job at the mine, which currently is operating five - and sometimes six - days a week.

Unemployment isn't a problem in Hiawatha. But the majority of Sandy residents earn wages outside their city's limits.

"One challenge we do have is economic development - getting more jobs for our residents, particularly our children," Smith said.

Yet maintaining sufficient play areas isn't an issue in Sandy.

The city has a plethora of recreational sites, including 14 parks, 20 softball/baseball diamonds, 28 tennis courts, three golf courses, 22 playgrounds and quick access to the "greatest snow on earth."

Cowan's not impressed.

Beneath the blue skies over Hiawatha are wide-open spaces where outdoor-types can throw on a pair of snowshoes and a backpack and "just enjoy nature."

"With these few people, it's like living in a summer cabin year-round. On the weekends, there's no noise, no nothing," Cowan said. "I've seen things other people haven't seen - like mountain lions and cougars - just by being in our mountains in the right place at the right time."

Smith is impressed. "We can't equal them there," he said.

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(Additional information)

Graphic\ Shifting population

Urbanized areas in the United States are growing while rural areas barely hang on as their population steadily disappears. Here is how the trend affected Utah cities and towns during the past 40 years.

The Gainers

Cities that grew the fastest

City 1950 1990 Percent Change

1. Sandy 2,095 75,058 3,482.72

2. Fruit Heights 124 3,900 3,045.16

3. North Salt Lake 255 6,474 2,438.82

4. West Jordan 2,107 42,892 1,935.69

5. Woods Cross 273 5,384 1,872.16

The losers

Cities that lost residents the fastest

1. Hiawatha, Carbon 1,421 43 -96.07

2. Ophir, Tooele 199 25 -87.44

3. Sunnyside, Carbon 1,881 172 -81.98

4. Scofield, Carbon 236 43 -81.78

5. Hatch, Garfield 244 103 -57.79

Source: State Office of Planning and Budget, U.S. Census Bureau.\