Vincent Christiansen has been busy tearing down memories.
On April 19, he reported for the last time to the U.S. Fuel Co. King No. 4 mine at Hiawatha, where he had worked for 21 years. The mine, owned by Mueller Industries of Witchita, Kan., was closing except for a small crew. The mine had operated continuously for the past 79 years.The family moved to Price when Christiansen was 13 and his brother 15.
He said that as he worked outside the mine as a heavy-equipment operator, he sometimes thought about the three boys he palled around with in Hiawatha. They got together when the one who lived at the top of the street whistled for the next one down.
Afternoons were spent on a Tarzan swing over a pond the older children had made by damming a stream, or playing basketball, baseball or hiking. "We didn't have TV so we made our fun," he said. There was lots of Little League baseball and on Friday night there were movies and basketball in the amusement hall.
Christiansen was the third generation of his family to work in the mine. His grandfather, John Martino, who came from Sicily by way of Colorado, worked there. His father, Torval Christiansen, worked there. His father met his mother in Hiawatha. Christiansen attended the same grade school in Hiawatha his mother attended.
Christiansen served in the army during the Vietnam War. After he got out he worked for a short time at Rock Springs, Wyo. His father called asking him to come back because there was a job for him at Hiawatha.
He began working Jan. 26, 1970 as a roof bolter. Four months later his father was killed, on May 26, 1970, in a haulage accident in the mine.
Two years later, only a few days after his oldest daughter was born, Vincent Christiansen lost his foot in a mine accident.
With a wife and baby to support, he said he couldn't quit. The family had just bought a home. He decided to not let the accident slow him down.
Now, almost 20 years later, the prospects for finding another job that pays as well as mining are not bright. He said he hopes his two sons and two daughters get an education. He said things seemed to be "going downhill" at the mine for the past few years, and he didn't expect his children to follow in the footsteps of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather and go into the mine.
His oldest daughter, who is already married, is attending the College of Eastern Utah and hopes to become a teacher. Her husband is studying nursing.
But still there are roots in Hiawatha. Christiansen remembers hearing his parents and grandparents talk about Tram Town, Greek Town, String Town, Black Hawk, which was incorporated into Hiawatha, and other small areas were different ethnic groups lived when mining was booming.
Meanwhile Fred Lupo, vice president, District 22, United Mine Workers of America, said the union is looking into the mine's closing.
He said the miner's contract may have been violated by not giving 60-days notice prior to the closing.
The company cited several reasons for the mine's closing, including the coal's high ash and sulphur content.
Lupo said if the coal does not contain as much sulphur and ash as the company said or if insufficient notices of the closing was given, the union will seek legal remedies.
A total of 134 miners were laid off. The force remaining to maintain the mine is 18.