Way We Were: Lucky to live
On September 15, 1916, members of the Summit County Democrats were on their way from Park City to Kamas to attend the Democratic Convention. J.C Crooks, a beer distributor in town, was driving a party of six, including himself.
The other occupants included Bud Shanley, a miner who worked at several different mines in his time as a Parkite; William J. Wright, the Summit County Horticulture Inspector; Susie Baum, a housewife whose husband was a miner at the Daly West Mine; a Mrs. Hurley – likely Bridget Hurley or one of her two grown daughters (Bridget was a widow and housewife whose adult children worked and lived with her); and a Mrs. Hales – likely Mary Hales or one of her two grown daughters (Mary was either a housewife or nurse – the cursive writing in the 1920 census lists her occupation as either “none” or “nurse”).
Crooks was not a veteran driver. None of them could be – automobiles were still mostly a novelty, especially in Park City. Most roads were not paved in any fashion or graded for mechanical driving.
The Park Record reported that while Crooks was transporting the party, “In turning one of the sharp curves on the Kamas road, at a rather high rate of speed the car left the road and turned turtle [onto its back roof if it had one] over the embankment, and the occupants… were thrown violently from the machine, injuring all of them.”
George Sheen, a Park City dentist, happened upon the accident while driving along in his own automobile. He picked up the worst-injured of the bunch and brought them to the Miners’ Hospital. Bud Shanley had some internal injuries, while Mrs. Hurley and Hales both had significant head wounds. The other three passengers were picked up by Cash [Farfikenor?] and brought to the hospital. They were merely bruised, scratched, and shaken up.
The Park Record reported that the mood was solemn at the Democratic Convention after the news of the accident reached them, saying “the pleasure and enthusiasm of the Kamas convention was greatly marred.”
All in all, the party was lucky that no one was gravely injured. Although automobiles were still rare in Park City, they had progressively become more popular in the U.S. from their time as a fanciful machine in the mid-to-late 1880s. The number of auto accidents and deaths increased sharply every year from 1908 through 1916 and beyond. As more people started driving—and with a lack of universal safety measures, driving instructions, and proper roads— incidents became more likely.
Crooks was reportedly driving too fast for the route he was taking – something all too familiar to the history of car accidents. The passengers involved in this wreck all survived for at least a few more years and continued with their lives in Park City, Summit County, and Utah. Most stayed involved with local politics and social clubs.
This is that weekend. At least, I think it might be. The one perfect fall weekend where the aspen trees are orange and yellow against the evergreens and the maples are red, and the slant of the light tells us the days are getting shorter.
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