Within the conventional definition of a company town, Holden met several common criteria. First and foremost, Howe Sound was the sole industry. The only employed individuals who did not work for the company were the postmaster and a few store clerks. The townsite buildings were built to a standardized design, and where the employees lived was at least partly reflective of their status within the company. The company provided or supported various kinds of communal recreational activity. It supported a high-quality public school. It also provided a number of public utilities and services, including garbage collection, a sewage system, limited medical care, limited fire protection, and limited law enforcement. The management, headed for most of the operation’s history by General Manager J.J. Curzon, influenced many aspects of everyday life outside the work environment, though sometimes in ways not widely visible to the entire community.
On the other hand, Holden did not meet other criteria. Howe Sound did not own the land that the townsite or Winston Camp was built on – the Forest Service did. It did not own the homes in Winston Camp, either, though they were tied to the operation, because their residents could not remain in them after the mine shut down. The main parcel of land the company owned consisted of 225 acres of claims on the south side of Railroad Creek, including the Honeymoon Heights location. Although there was a company commissary at one point, it did not play a central role in the life of the community, at least not in the sense that the employees were more or less obligated to shop there and enmeshed in constant debt to it, as was the case in some of the more unpleasant company towns in the West, such as Colorado Fuel & Iron’s notorious coal towns of the early twentieth century. Instead, Howe Sound permitted a couple of private businesses to sell groceries and other necessities. What the residents could not obtain from these businesses, they bought on trips downlake, or from catalogs.
Holden was not unique with regard to its spectacular, isolated setting. Other company towns in the Pacific Northwest were located in verdant forested areas and mountain valleys, such as Seattle City Light’s Skagit Valley dam towns of Newhalem and Diablo. These two towns, located some 40 miles to the north of Railroad Creek Valley, were nearly as isolated as Holden. However, whereas they were linked to the outside world by rail, and eventually by the North Cascades Highway, Holden’s isolation remained at a constant level throughout its 20 years of operation.
I. Early History
The history of the Holden site dates back to the nineteenth century. Some Holden Village residents have assumed that Railroad Creek Valley was named for Howe Sound’s abandoned early efforts to build a railway between Holden and Lucerne for the transportation of concentrate. In fact, the name derived from the Great Northern Railway’s 1880s survey of the valley as a possible route through the Cascades.1 The mining history of the valley began on July 24, 1896, with prospector James H. Holden’s discovery of the copper ore outcropping on the north side of Copper Peak. Holden spent the rest of his life trying to develop and promote the claim. Although he achieved a measure of financial success by leasing the property, becoming a prominent Chelan citizen in the process, he was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempts to convince a major company to buy the property. Exploratory mining took place during Holden’s lifetime (initiating the buildup of the three tailings piles seen above Honeymoon Heights), but he and his men neither concentrated nor smelted any ore, partly because Holden could not finance the technology necessary to effectively mill the low-grade copper.
Holden died in 1918. In 1922, his shares in the local company controlling the site were sold at auction to Chelan businessman Crooker Perry, to whom Holden had been in debt at the time of his death. In 1930, Perry sold the company and the site to Howe Sound Company, which had been leasing the mine since 1928. Falling copper prices halted most work at the site in 1931, and also shut down a number of existing company copper-mining towns, including several in the Southwest. Work resumed in 1937. Howe Sound and its contractors completed building the transportation system (including the road to Lucerne, the docks in Lucerne and Chelan, and the tug and barge), the power system, the ore concentration mill, and the townsite in 1937-38. The first shipment of concentrate arrived in Chelan on April 9, 1938.2
II. The Workers
Holden’s workers came from throughout the country. The 1940 U.S. Census reveals that roughly a third of them were native Washingtonians, and many had been living elsewhere in Chelan County in 1935. At the beginning of the operation, some men came to Holden directly from working on the Coulee Dam project. A 1943 government report stated that the company hired most regular employees through the U.S. Employment Service. Incoming workers reported to the company office in Chelan.3
The men came to Holden to perform hard, often dangerous work for Howe Sound. From 1939 to 1945, the men worked 13 out of 14 days. After the demand for copper fell at the conclusion of World War II, they worked six days a week, and eventually five starting at some point in the late 1940s. This is evidenced by a letter J.J. Curzon wrote to a would-be visitor, in which he stated that both the mine and the mill were closed on Saturdays and Sundays. The operation returned to a six-day schedule in the early 1950s. These changes were in part the result of fluctuations in the price of copper, which obviously affected how much the company could afford to pay its workers.
Except on weekends, during strikes, and during a period of nine months in 1946-47 when the concentrating mill was shut down to allow time for further development of the mine shaft, the operation produced and processed ore continuously.4 Every work day was divided into three eight-hour shifts, each of which included a paid lunch break. Except for the foremen, all or nearly all of the underground workers rotated shifts every two weeks; at least some shop workers worked fixed day shifts. Underground work included “mucking” (gathering chunks of ore knocked loose by other miners), drilling holes for the dynamite-layers, setting support timbers (though in few places, because the hard rock generally did not require timbering), operating the lift that brought men up and down the central shaft, operating the ore transportation train that ran between the mine and the mill, and other jobs. The shop and surface workers included blacksmiths, carpenters, electricians, machinists, mechanics, truck drivers, and warehousemen. Office workers included chemists, geologists, engineers, accountants, timekeepers, and stenographers.5
The mine attracted graduates from geology and engineering programs throughout the West. Many of their applications survive in the company files. With possible rare exceptions, J.J. Curzon never took on any of these young men unless they were willing to work underground first, as Howe Sound maintained a policy of filling engineering positions from within the company. In a typical response to one application, Curzon wrote: “There are no openings on our engineering or geological staff at this time. When openings do occur they are always filled by promoting someone from within our own organization. The only thing we can offer you is a job in the mine starting in at the bottom, taking your chances on a promotion later if an opening should occur.”6 Some of the applicants were either unwilling or unable to accept this offer, but others used it as the basis for long and successful careers. Engineers John Bley and Wellington “Wimpy” Phillips, both of whom eventually became mine superintendent, started in the mine. (In Bley’s case, he kept his education a secret from all but the managers during his stint underground). According to a former employee who attended a miners’ reunion at Holden Village in 1992, there were as many as 17 college graduates working underground in 1938.7 The obvious reason for this policy, and the one that Curzon gave the applicants, was that they could only benefit from the practical experience they stood to gain. It was also a good way for the company to discover if a prospective staff member and long-term resident would be a good fit for the operation and the community.
The regular employees who worked underground, in the mill, or in the shops also sometimes changed roles in the course of their employment. John Peterson was a student at Cornish College in Seattle in 1937 when he hiked into Holden from Darrington (over Cloudy Pass, on the crest of the Cascade Range) and got a job doing roofing and flooring on the crew that built the townsite. He went on to work in the mine for a couple of months, ultimately staying at Holden without pause from May to December. Elmer Foster also worked as part of the construction crew, and later came back after college to work as an engineer.8 Like the salaried professionals on staff, regular employees gained roles of increasing responsibility through demonstrating their willingness to do somewhat less important or less glamorous work. William Sartain was 21 years old when he first went underground as a mucker. He later learned how to drill, lay pipes, and set timbers in the mine. Ed Miles, who arrived at Holden in 1941, worked as a switchboard operator, a carpenter, a diamond driller, and a mill worker before becoming an assistant chemist, in which role he wrote the assay report for the last shipment of concentrate in 1957.9
The Holden operation paid its workers well. A 1951 Chelan Valley Mirror article reported that “total wages paid during 1950 were $1,555,247.69. Names on the payroll averaged 363 and the average number working per operating day was 325. Wages averaged $15.05 per day and yearly incomes averaged $4,785.37.” By contrast, the average yearly income for metal miners in the US that year was $3,608.10 According to a wartime government report, basic expenses at Holden for a dormitory dweller were limited to $1.80 per day for room and board (in 1944). The people who worked in the townsite as kitchen workers or waitresses generally made better money than they could have doing the same work elsewhere. Linda Powell Jensen’s mother supplemented the family income working as a waitress in the Fountain Lunch, the little diner-style restaurant located at the east end of the recreation hall. When the family left Holden after Mr. Powell had a fatal heart attack, Mrs. Powell signed up to receive unemployment benefits, but the unemployment office found it hard to believe how much she had made working for Howe Sound, and initially tried to deny her commensurate benefits. Mrs. Powell was reluctant to take a new waitressing job, which would have paid less than the benefits and would not have been sufficient to support four children alone. She consulted the attorney (a family friend) who was handling her husband’s will. He intervened on her behalf, and she was able to collect benefits until she secured a higher-paying job a few months later.11
Except for the management, which included the office workers, the department heads, and the foremen of the mine and mill, all Howe Sound employees were members of the Chelan Miners Union, No. 379. This was the local branch of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers, which was a founding member of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The union included all working people in town except the postmaster, who was a federal employee, and the clerks who staffed the small privately-owned grocery store. Even teenage workers, who generally only worked during the summers performing the most menial jobs in and around the townsite, had to become members of the union. This was somewhat awkward for those teenagers whose fathers belonged to the management, such as Bill Phillips. His father told him never to go to a union meeting after his first, the one at which he officially became a member.12
Relations between the union and the management seem to have been mixed. Holden was the site of a prolonged strike in 1939. In late June of that year, contract negotiations between the union and the company stalled. Howe Sound offered a wage increase of 50 cents per shift, plus 25 cents per shift, “starting at 10 cents a pound, on each 1½ cent rise in the price of copper.” The company also guaranteed free medical examinations for all workers and a week of paid vacation after one year on the job. The union presumably accepted the latter components of the contract offer, but did not agree with the company on the wages offered, initially demanding a $1, then a 75-cent increase in wages per shift. As the company pointed out, the wages it was offering were better than those paid at the copper mine in Butte, Montana, where living expenses were higher, but the union representatives cited the gold content of the Holden ore body as justification for better pay. When Howe Sound refused to meet this demand, the miners went out on strike.13
During the weeks that followed, although the contract negotiations dragged on and the mill stood idle, relations between the workers and the company apparently remained civil. The dorms and the dining hall remained open to the men at the same cost as before. However, most of the men left Holden during the strike, and the majority of those who stayed were family men. By mid-July, the Wenatchee World (which covered the strike closely) expected only the negotiating committee of 12 men to stay for much longer. The union issued 60 cents per day to single men who stayed on site, and $5.50 per week to married couples, plus an additional dollar per child. In a July 14 letter to one of his superiors, C.P. Browning, Curzon expressed doubt that the strikers would receive much relief from beyond their local union and other supporters in Chelan.
To Curzon, it was clear that the company must stand its ground. “If the company weakens on this strike,” he wrote, “we can expect trouble every year.”14 His position was rewarded when he began to see cracks in the strikers’ resolve. In his estimation, the remaining residents of the family campsite were divided between those who favored continuing the strike, those who were unresolved, and those who favored returning to work; he thought that this last group probably composed the majority, but lacked leadership. On July 21, the Wenatchee World reported that the union had proposed that the men return to work while an arbitration committee continue to discuss wage adjustments with the company. Nevertheless, not until August 16 did the men finally vote to go back to work on the company’s terms. This came after some minor concessions by Howe Sound, including the switch from a six-day work week to the 13 out of 14 day schedule, which the men presumably wanted for the simple reason that it meant one more day of earned pay.15
This episode was costly to Howe Sound, and to the other links in the transportation chain between the mine and the ASARCO smelter in Tacoma. The company was unable to recover the $20,000 it paid in freight bills for this period, and some of the employees at the smelter had to be laid off.16 However, as Curzon had predicted, by standing firm, and by maintaining civil relations with the workers during the strike, the company discouraged future clashes and apparently kept the respect of most of its employees. Virtually all those who went on strike returned to Holden by the end of August. In a September 5 letter to Browning, Curzon reported that life had more or less returned to normal. There was a field day for the children, an exhibition softball game against a Wenatchee team, and a dance in the recreation hall, at which union-appointed floor managers watched for rowdy behavior. “There seems to be an excellent feeling among the people,” Curzon wrote, “and the mine officials report a better attitude underground.”17
Although there were no other prolonged strikes following this episode, relations between the union and the company again became confrontational on a number of occasions. Correspondence between Curzon and company president H.H. Sharp reveals that contract negotiations could be drawn out and acrimonious at times. The miners almost struck again in March 1942, once more because of disagreement over wages. A bizarre situation involving a group of contractors led to a brief, impromptu strike in February 1946. The Morrison-Knudsen company had been contracted to work on sinking a new shaft in the mine. Following a dispute over whether these men, whose local union belonged to the AFL, would be allowed to work in a CIO mine without switching their affiliation, a group of Morrison-Knudsen employees refused to go to work over an alleged lack of commissary sugar for their coffee. Without any direction from their union leaders, the Howe Sound workers joined them in a sympathy strike, using the opportunity to demand more and better food in the dining hall. The company eventually got the situation under control by cancelling the Morrison-Knudsen contract and requesting that the local union president state publicly that a strike was not in effect, and that the men should return to work. In a letter to Sharp, Curzon expressed a low opinion of the local union leadership, blaming it for allowing the men to “blindly [follow] the few and [stay] away from the job.”18
Curzon could express his exasperation with the union in very stark terms. In another letter, during a period of tense contract negotiations in November 1950, he wrote to Sharp: “Negotiations have now developed into a show down between the Union and management as to who is going to run the property. Company negotiators need backing now, otherwise we will lose the respect of our employees who in the final analysis seem to understand and appreciate one factor only, force…Although you may not agree with us, we would like to see this dispute go all the way to strike action if necessary in order to teach them a lesson.” Around the same time as these negotiations were taking place, a union dispute with the owners of the tavern in Lucerne led to talks between the company and union as to whether the sale of beer in town would be allowed. It seems that most of Holden’s inhabitants opposed this move, but, as Curzon wrote, “they appear reluctant to stand up and speak their mind before the single men in the dormitories who apparently run the Union.” It is difficult to determine the accuracy of these impressions of the General Manager without making a more in-depth study of labor relations at Holden, but it is interesting that he singled out the dormitory inhabitants as the primary force behind the union. As the most transient residents, they arguably stood to lose the least by striking or otherwise impeding the operation.19
III. The General Manager
At least within the confines of the valley, the General Manager occupied the position of highest authority, both over the mining operation and over the community in general. For most of the operation’s history, J.J. Curzon held this position. Bill Phillips describes him as “a fairly strict person,” generally aloof, but interested in his employees’ welfare. His correspondence with colleagues and superiors supports this description. Among the company files, there is a letter to the Registrar’s Office at the University of Washington, in which he urged the office to reconsider the application of a young employee who had been rejected because of a low high school GPA. Curzon cited the employee’s interest in metallurgy and his work experience as potential for advancement in the mining industry.20 In this and in other instances, the management showed its interest in assisting young people.
The paternal role of the General Manager also made itself apparent when Curzon exercised his authority to resolve disputes between neighbors. In early 1949, he received complaints from some residents of the company apartments (located in Dorm 3) about their loud-talking, foul-mouthed neighbors, as well as a separate complaint about a couple who refused to take part in cleaning the bathrooms and other common areas. Curzon resolved the latter problem by calling the husband of the couple into his office and telling him to move out within three weeks. Curzon’s correspondence reveals that he also had the pulse of the social life in the community. Commenting on the reasons for an employee’s imminent departure in a letter to Sharp, he wrote: “Earl Sackett…is undecided on just what he wants to do…Mrs. Sackett has never cut as wide a swath in the social whirl here as she could have liked.”21
However, the General Manager was far from the only person of authority within the operation. He was supported by several other important figures, including the mill and mine superintendents. At various times, these positions were held by H.A. Pearse, Victor Zanadvoroff, John Bley, Ed Haddon, Mike Defoe, and Wellington Phillips. They, the General Manager, and other company officers provided the leadership needed to hold Holden together as a commercial enterprise, and as an isolated community.
IV. Holden Neighborhoods: Townsite, Winston Camp, Honeymoon Heights
Within the greater Holden community, there were general divisions that corresponded to the different places in which the residents lived. Besides the central, company-built townsite, there was Winston Camp, just to the west of the vehicle bridge, and Honeymoon Heights, located on the mountainside above the level of the mine portal. The former was where most of the married men and their families lived. Some families also lived at Honeymoon Heights, though, as its name implied, its first residents during the Howe Sound era were newly-weds, some of them being rookie engineers and their college sweethearts. In that remote valley, Winston and Honeymoon Heights were as close as Holden came to having suburbs, but they were not so far removed from the main camp, its activities, and the mining operation itself that they could be considered separate communities. Lucerne, too, became something of a bedroom community to Holden during the mining years, but its history of human habitation goes back much further than Holden’s, and Howe Sound had little control over what happened there besides the loading and unloading of concentrate, equipment, and supplies at the company dock. It should be considered a separate community.
It is somewhat difficult to determine Holden’s average population during the mining years, since the community was in a constant state of flux, probably with a few single men arriving and a few departing every week. Most surviving residents mention a population of between 600 and 650 people. However, Bill Phillips compiled a table based on the 1940 census, which lists 374 townsite residents, (46 in the chalets, 328 in the dorms), 172 Winston residents, and 37 Honeymoon Heights residents, for a total of 583 residents. This was fairly early in the town’s history; Winston expanded from 45 to 82 homes within the next few years, and eventually to 101. Phillips estimated that the population of Winston could have increased by as many as 150 people by the end of 1941, bringing the total population of Holden to well over 700.22
The townsite was home to both the lowest and the highest strata of Holden’s corporate and social hierarchy. The men who lived in the dormitories were the most transient workers. The vast majority did not have high school diplomas, and many did not even have an eighth-grade education. On the other hand, the 1940 census lists 16 men with college degrees who lived in the dorms; they worked as engineers, warehousemen, muckers, mill workers, pipefitters, and diamond drillers. Although the dorms were designed for single men, many married men lived in them, too. Of the 119 dorm residents whose marital status was recorded in the census, 42 were married, 63 were single, 9 were divorced, and 5 were widowers. Some of the married men were waiting for a house in Winston or Lucerne to become available so they could bring their families up. William Sartain lived in a dorm until his wife, Theda, was able to join him, at which time they moved into a cabin in Lucerne. They later moved into a dormitory apartment in the townsite, and eventually, with their two children, to a three-bedroom home in Winston. The dormitory apartments were converted from ordinary two-man rooms on the lower floor of Dorm 3 sometime in the later years of the operation. Otherwise, with the possible exception of one floor that may have been set aside for women at one point or another, the dorms were off-limits to women and children.23
The single men ate in the dining hall, located on the main level of the Hotel building. Howe Sound fed its workers well. Dorothy Rodgers Miles, who worked in the dining hall as a dishwasher and later as a cook, recalled breakfasts regularly consisting of dry and hot cereal, toast, rolls, bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, coffee, milk, and tea; and dinners consisting of canned and fresh vegetables, varying meat dishes, soup, cake, pie, cookies, fruit, and salad. Aside from the presence of female kitchen workers, this, too, was a predominantly male zone. Though women and families were allowed to eat in the dining hall, they rarely did so. Single men or families who wanted more of a restaurant experience had the option of eating at the Fountain Lunch, located in the southeast corner of the rec hall building. It mostly served burgers and milkshakes.24
By contrast to the dorm residents, those who lived in the chalets were among the longest-term residents of Holden, and they included the General Manager, the office manager, the superintendents of the mine, mill, and shops, some of the engineering staff, and some of the office workers. There were 12 family-style chalets; Chalet 3 housed bachelor engineers. Chalet 2 served as a guest house, typically reserved for visiting Howe Sound company officers, and also for visitors from universities and other companies who came to learn more about Howe Sound’s methods.25 Who lived in which chalet was a reflection of position and rank within the operation. Certain houses were assigned to certain positions, and, generally, the lower-numbered houses (corresponding to a lower position on the hill), belonged to employees of higher rank, though not necessarily in a consistent order. Chalet 1, which borders the road, was the General Manager’s house. Chalet 4 seems to have been the house of the mill superintendent, and Chalet 7 was assigned to the mine superintendent. Chalet 5 was assigned to the superintendent of the mechanical and electrical shops; Chalets 8, 10, and 11 were assigned to engineers; and Chalets 6, 12, and 13 were assigned to office staff members. Whether they were inclined to do so or not, men and their families were required to move from one of the other neighborhoods to a chalet upon promotion to a staff position that came with one, or from one chalet to another lower down on the hill. The Bleys, for example, moved from Honeymoon Heights to Chalet 7 when John Bley became mine superintendent and J.J. Curzon, who had held the position of Chief Engineer, was promoted to General Manager, requiring him and his family to move into Chalet 1.26 Howe Sound’s use of this housing system emphasized the importance of certain staff positions, creating a visible hierarchy within the townsite.
One way in which Holden differed from the stereotypical company town was that it featured a number of privately-run businesses, and the company store was not a significant factor in the life of the community. These businesses were located in townsite buildings. A company commissary occupied the current guest laundry facility at the lower west end of the Hotel building. It eventually gave way to a dress shop, run by Helen Bell, who (according to Linda Carlson) started her business in a spare room of her Winston home. The store most frequently mentioned by former residents was Fred Wigbers’ five-and-dime store, located in the basement of the Hotel. Wigbers, who became a storekeeper after he was blinded in a mining accident, sold fishing gear, soap, toothpaste, shaving lotion, magazines, comic books, paperbacks, candy bars, gum, newspapers, and other small items. Although Howe Sound gave Wigbers the space he needed, Linda Powell Jensen and Bill Phillips believe that his store was not part of the company operation. The store was next door to the post office, run by postmaster Al Holzhauser. The post office was the only place that could not accept the Howe Sound-issued tin money used as currency in town. Employees could draw $5 worth of 50 cent tin pieces at the grocery store as an advance on their paycheck.27
Residents ordered groceries from stores in Chelan (often in bulk), which arrived a couple of days later on the company barge. In Winston, a company truck delivered the orders house to house. However, in 1946, Howe Sound invited William T. Price, owner of the Cash & Packit store in Chelan, to open a store at Holden. In addition to groceries, the company stipulated that the new store had to carry work clothes and some of the equipment needed by the men in the mine, but could not carry any items that would bring it into competition with Wigbers’ store. Price accepted the invitation and opened the new store on the lower level of Dorm 6 (the space currently occupied by the Village carpentry shop) in June 1947. It was equipped with large walk-in coolers for meat and vegetables. Although the store seems to have been a success with Holden residents (despite the fact that dairy and produce still suffered in transit), it ultimately proved a financial burden to Price because there was little opportunity to increase his profits with such a limited clientele. He sold it to Peter Rabbit in 1955, under whose ownership it remained open until the mine’s closure two years later.28
Winston, located a few hundred yards to the west of the townsite, also included the houses of many long-term residents. Like the townsite, the land Winston stood on was leased from the Forest Service. The neighborhood got its name from the company Howe Sound contracted to clear and develop the site and possibly build some of the original houses, Winston Brothers Construction Company, of Minneapolis.29 The later houses were mostly built (and sometimes designed) by the residents themselves. Each resident paid Howe Sound $20 per year to rent a 50 by 100-foot lot. Although the residents were allowed to sell their houses whenever they left Holden, they could not sell them for more than their original cost and the value of any subsequent improvements. Workers had to put their names on a waiting list for the opportunity to buy a vacant lot in Winston. Miner D.A. Rodgers put his name in to buy one in 1940, but gave up his spot during the uncertainty of the 1939 strike, though he eventually secured a lot and built a home on the lowest row of houses (of which there were five, divided by three roads running parallel from east to west). After all the lots had been bought and developed, would-be residents had to wait for someone to sell and move out. The wait could be long; Linda Powell Jensen’s family lived in Chelan for a year and a half while her father lived in a dormitory, waiting for his chance.30
More than any other part of the community, Winston looked and felt like it could be a neighborhood in any other small American town. The working residents of Winston represented nearly every work area and level of responsibility within the Holden operation, including staff employees whose positions did not require them to live in the chalets. These included the transportation supervisor, some office workers, and some members of the engineering staff. The average level of education among the adult residents was higher than that of the dorm residents, but lower than that of the chalet residents and residents of Honeymoon Heights; more than half of those listed in the 1940 census had at least a high school diploma. Winston was home to the most families, and the largest families.31 The Leavitt-Holmes family included several workers, among them Ike Holmes, ore truck driver; his sister, Nadeen, telephone operator; his sister, Winnie, cook/waitress; and brother-in-law, Lewis Leavitt, machinist. Additionally, Ike’s sister, Retha (Leavitt’s wife), and mother, Nora, worked as seamstresses, and his brother, Billy, ran the meat department in the grocery store. Other large families included that of D.A. Rodgers, who had 12 children, though some were grown up by the time the family moved to Holden. Theirs was one of the largest houses in Winston.32
At least a few older, childless couples lived in Winston. Among them were “camp characters” George and Annie Folk. George Folk supposedly made most of his income at the gambling tables in the basement of the recreation hall. Annie Folk owned 17 cats by the end of the mining years, and when the couple moved away after the mine’s closure, she left all but a couple of favorites behind in a house filled with open cat-food containers. Other residents owned dogs, some of which were allowed to wander about the community. Aside from the ore trucks on the main road, they encountered few perils in the way of traffic. A few residents of Winston had cars or pickups, which Howe Sound transported in and out on the company barge at no expense to the owners, but during the winter almost all private vehicles except those belonging to select managers and members of the safety and transportation crews were put in a garage, parked in Lucerne near the company dock, or sent downlake.33
The community was not entirely cut off from outside media. Two newspapers, the Spokane Spokesman-Review and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, came in every day by the regular passenger boat, and were delivered to subscribers in the townsite and Winston. Those who had radios could listen to stations from Seattle (at night) and Spokane. In the last years of the operation, a few families even had televisions. There was a receiver set up high on Copper Peak, which picked up two or three Spokane channels by capturing signals reflecting off the glaciers on Mt. Bonanza to the northwest. However, the reception was poor. Although former residents have often mentioned that they had access to television, and television probably generated neighborly gatherings in the few homes that had sets, it does not seem to have been a significant factor in the life of the community.34
Honeymoon Heights was the oldest Holden neighborhood. Indeed, as a place of human habitation it predated the town itself. It had been the campsite of J.H. Holden and his men, and had also been the location of Howe Sound offices and bunkhouses in the years between Holden’s death and the completion of the townsite in 1938. Situated on the slope of Copper Peak, about 200 feet west of one of the upper tailings piles, Honeymoon Heights was more removed from the townsite than Winston, but much closer to the mine portal. It was composed of 15 houses in 1940, and Bill Phillips estimated that a total of 17 families lived there during its time as a Holden neighborhood. In terms of its residents, Honeymoon Heights was the youngest neighborhood, and the best educated. In 1940, 13 out of 32 adult residents had bachelor’s degrees, and only one did not have a high school diploma. Phillips’ analysis of the 1940 census comes up with an average age of 28, compared with 32.5 for Winston, 33 for the dormitories, and 40 for the chalets.35
Honeymoon Heights was abandoned in the fall of 1946. As Christine Plimpton noted in her thesis, maintaining the site proved problematic for Howe Sound. It was difficult and time-consuming to transport basic supplies and large items up the mountain. Due to its proximity to the mine, the neighborhood often had to be evacuated when there was blasting underground, regardless of the time of day. Most importantly, Honeymoon Heights lay between two avalanche chutes, one of which bisected the only road to the neighborhood. After the company made the decision to abandon the site, its last residents moved to Winston, and the remaining structures were dismantled or burned in 1948.36
Howe Sound provided the residents of these neighborhoods with a number of public utilities and services free of charge, including garbage collection. As a general rule, all kinds of waste, including household waste collected from cans set by the street in Winston, ended up in a pit in the tailings. The company did the same with the contents of the septic tanks (one of which was located in the woods behind Chalet 1), which were first emptied manually, but later pumped out. The company burned some waste in a large incinerator located somewhere near the mill structure. Linda Powell Jensen recalls that her father used the incinerator to cremate the remains of the family dog, which died after eating poison.37
There was limited telephone service. Within the community itself, telephones were reserved for emergencies and business purposes. They were located in the offices, the home of the transportation supervisor, the home of the fire chief, the homes of the shift bosses, two boxes in Winston, and superintendent staff houses. All calls to the outside had to be relayed through the company office in Chelan, and only one call could be made at a time. This did not deter one worker from proposing to his girlfriend by telephone. The company officer in Chelan, Ansel Snodgrass, relayed the proposal to the girl, who said yes.38
Electrical power was both the only public utility that was not free to all residents and the only utility that was not provided directly by the company. Howe Sound paid for the installation of about 40 miles of transmission lines all the way up the east shore of the lake from the Chelan suburb of Manson; the hydro dam at the extreme southern end of the lake generated the electricity. The lines terminated at a substation on the south side of Railroad Creek, near the mine portal, from which point power was distributed throughout the community. Winston (and presumably Honeymoon Heights) homeowners paid the company one cent per kilowatt used.39
The company relied on a steady flow of power to keep its operation moving at all times. Where the lines spanned the lake, near Lucerne, they were once struck by a student pilot flying a float plane. Miraculously, both the lines and the pilot survived the collision. Commenting on this incident in a letter to an aviation official, Curzon wrote: “The importance of uninterrupted electric power for this property cannot be overemphasized…Only enough standby power is available to keep the camp lighted, to operate the heating units in the mill to prevent everything freezing up, and to attempt to keep the mine pumped out to prevent flooding. There is not enough standby power to do all this and still maintain service to the 112 families of the community.” Power outages occurred from time to time, but the company was prepared for them. During a nine-hour outage on July 18-19, 1950, which Curzon called “one of the longest on record,” a new backup unit kept the town lit and the mine pumps active until the cause of the outage, a lightning-struck line in Manson, could be repaired.40
V. Community Life: Recreation, Religion, & School
James Allen described entertainment in the average company town as being “of the homemade variety, with dancing, baseball, and school activities providing the main community recreational program.”41 For the most part, this description rings true when applied to Holden. It is important to note that, although the management was interested in maintaining a happy town, the company was not directly responsible for organizing most recreational activities. This was the responsibility of the Community Club, which the company managed for one month in 1938 before turning it over to a group of officers elected by the community. All employees supported it with 75 cent monthly fees, which went toward new equipment, maintenance, and library subscriptions. Howe Sound provided and maintained the recreational hall, which it furnished with light, heat, and water.42 This building was at the heart of most organized community activities. The main floor included a gym, a circulating library, and the Fountain Lunch. The basement included a bowling alley, a pool hall, and a room for gambling, the last of which was off-limits to anyone under 21. In addition to poker and pinochle tables, the basement held a number of slot machines, which helped pay Community Club expenses, among them the tradition of giving each village child a Christmas present. This tradition had to be scaled back in 1952 when the use of slot machines for non-profit purposes, which had previously been exempt from a general prohibition against slot machines in Washington, was ruled unconstitutional by a state Supreme Court decision. The Community Club still gave small children presents, but the older ones had to be content with boxes of candy.43
The gym served as a basketball court, a movie theater, and a dance hall. The company showed films three times a week. Each week included one adult film, one kid-friendly film, and one family film. The company ran the movie concession, but 10 percent of the proceeds from each viewing went to support the Community Club. Dances included the annual New Year’s Eve Mucker’s Ball, which the company hosted. Although anyone of high-school age or older could attend, dances were effectively closed to single men. It was not easy for a man to find a date at Holden. There were very few single women in town, and any miner who brought a date from outside the community usually had a hard time finding her a place to stay. Women were not allowed to stay in the dorms, and there was limited space in the Hotel rooms above the dining hall.44
The gym also served as a makeshift church sanctuary. Holden did not have a full-time minister, but outside ministers made regular visits, which the company encouraged. When an Episcopal minister from Wenatchee moved on to another parish after years of monthly visits to Holden, Curzon wrote to the man’s former church, urging its members to choose a replacement who would be willing to continue the visits. According to Ed and Dorothy Rodgers Miles, a Catholic priest came to Holden every six weeks or so. Given the limited options, many non-Catholics attended his services. In the 1950s, Howe Sound carpenter Brad Morgan led weekly services. After leaving Holden, he eventually became an ordained minister.45
Bowling, basketball, and softball were the most popular sports. The community took all three very seriously, and there was competition both between teams formed within the community and against teams that came in from Chelan, Wenatchee, or elsewhere. The bowling alley had four lanes and a hand-loaded system for resetting the pins. Holden had a resident bowling instructor, and the company employed a few people as pinsetters. Holden rec hall manager Tom Blythe eventually became the manager of a bowling alley in Wenatchee. At least once, he brought both men’s and women’s teams back to his former workplace to compete against Holden’s best. The winning teams of the men’s and women’s leagues usually went to Chelan to compete in regional championships.46
Only the basketball team did much traveling outside Holden. At some point in the late 1930s, it won the state amateur championship. Holden sometimes hosted baseball/softball teams from the outside, including an Air Force team from a base in Ephrata. However, most games were played between teams representing different Howe Sound work areas, including the office workers and the managers. Even J.J. Curzon played. Fire Chief Niles Sims maintained the field, located a few hundred yards to the west of Winston. (At least once, he berated a group of boys who had the audacity to play on the diamond right after he dragged a screen over it with his pickup and put in fresh chalk lines for a game the next day).47
Non-organized activities included many that are still popular at Holden today. Men and boys hunted, trapped, and fished, both for recreation and for supplementing family diets with fresh meat. Deer and bear were common game in the valley. At least once, a trigger-happy miner shot a bear in the townsite. There may also have been cougar hunting. Nearby Domke Lake’s resident trapper, Gordon Stuart, was an accomplished cougar hunter. Cougars are elusive creatures, but, to this day, they occasionally cross paths with Holden residents. Dorothy Rodgers Miles once encountered a cougar on the road between Winston and the townsite as she was walking to work early one morning. Linda Powell Jensen recalls being forbidden to wander above the highest row of houses in Winston after dark after one resident thought she heard cougar screams in the area. Holden children sometimes encountered bears while picking berries, but these encounters usually ended with the bear ambling away.48
Naturally, Holden’s children had their own activities. Both Linda Powell Jensen and Bill Phillips fondly recall the rope-tow on the slope above Winston, which was used by both sledders and skiers. (Today, most sledding takes place on Chalet Hill. During the mining years, this was forbidden, or at least discouraged, because of the ore trucks and other traffic at the bottom of the hill). There was an active Boy Scout troop, of which Phillips and his younger brother were members. The troop traveled to Camporee events in Chelan and elsewhere in eastern Washington; Howe Sound gave men time off so they could accompany their sons on these outings. There were no Girl Scouts, but there was a Campfire Girls group. (This group met in the existing Forest Service cabin, which stands just north of the vehicle bridge and east of Winston). There were also groups of the junior versions of both organizations, Cub Scouts and Bluebirds. The Campfire Girls had a number of adult leaders throughout the mining years, including Bill Phillips’ mother. Another adult who was actively involved was the primary teacher and principal of the Holden school, Florence Field.49
Mrs. Field’s students typically made up between 10 and 20 percent of Holden’s total population. (Enrollment at the end of the mining years was about 120). The school had two or three teachers who taught grades 1-8, occasionally supported by skilled members of the community who came in to the classroom to share their expertise. The school building originally housed a single classroom; a second was added in 1939, and a third (on the side of original structure) in 1949. The basement was sometimes used as additional classroom space, or for crafts projects, such as leather work, carpentry, pottery, or tin work. With both space and instructors being in limited supply, students of different grade levels attended classes together. After the third classroom was added, the students were taught in three groups: grades 1-2, grades 3-4, and grades 5-8. In the largest classroom, eighth-graders held the privilege of sitting by the windows.50 Graduation from the 8th grade was a rite of passage for Holden students because they had to attend high school elsewhere. Some students went to live with friends or relatives while they attended public high school in Chelan, Wenatchee, or more distant cities, while others went to boarding schools, such as Lakeside School in Seattle, Gonzaga High School or Holy Names in Spokane, or Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma. At least one student spent her freshman year at Holden taking high school correspondence courses.51
The Holden school was not part of the Chelan school district. According to a 1937 Chelan Valley Mirror article, Howe Sound petitioned for the new school to be included in the district, but eventually withdrew this petition and decided to create and maintain its own separate district. As far as the students were concerned, this move did not have a negative effect. Former Holden students have stated that the quality of the education they received, which included instruction in such practical subjects as basic carpentry (for both boys and girls), gave them an advantage over their peers when they started high school on the outside. Howe Sound had a clear motivation for providing the community with a good school: without one, it was less likely to attract family men, who were generally perceived as being more stable employees than bachelors. The same logic drove Weyerhaeuser’s decision to build a school in its lumber town in Potlatch, Idaho.52
Howe Sound also supported Holden’s children in other ways. Although no one under 18 was allowed in the mine for any reason, the company practically guaranteed work of some kind to older teenagers and college students home for the summer. As a rule, the jobs available to them were not very pleasant. For example, Bill Phillips spent part of one summer on a crew pumping out the town septic tanks. As in most American towns of the time, there were opportunities for younger children to earn a little money doing odd jobs. Linda Powell Jensen and her friends started earning money as babysitters when they were as young as nine or ten. The Phillips brothers delivered the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to residents of the chalets and dormitories.53
VI. Women at Holden
Howe Sound offered employment opportunities for women, too, but limited ones. Most surviving personal accounts left by working women tell of jobs in the dining hall or the Fountain Lunch. Nearly all the working women were either the wives or daughters of miners, and some were both. Betty Frye was the daughter of a company machinist who started working in the dining hall in 1945, when she was 17. She and her husband, Jack Frye, met two years later when the latter came to Holden, where he worked underground, and later in the machine shop, presumably alongside his father-in-law. Betty continued to work for some time after their marriage, though perhaps not after the birth of the couple’s two children. Other couples, including Ed Miles and Dorothy Rodgers Miles, also met at Holden and stayed for years after their marriage. However, according to an edition of The Holden Miner newsletter, only one couple, Roy and Marge Schoeppach, actually married at Holden, on January 15, 1943. They were married in a private home by a minister who was living at Holden at the time. Apparently, only Roy’s parents were Holden residents; thus, it seems likely that the Schoeppachs did not meet at Holden. In any case, they did not stay long after their marriage.54
Being a mother at Holden involved some special challenges. Foremost among these was the fact that Holden’s isolation made giving birth there a risky proposition. A few women did so, either by choice or because they went into labor sooner than expected. The first birth at Holden occurred in December 1942 when a storm prevented the mother, a Lucerne woman, from being taken downlake. She was brought to Holden, where the company physician, Dr. Harris, delivered the baby with the assistance of three midwives. Generally, the company doctors were unwilling to deliver babies because of the risk of complications. However, from 1955 to 1957, Dr. William Miller and his wife, Marie, a nurse, handled at least 11 deliveries, and possibly as many as 15. According to Linda Powell Jensen, there were at least 17 babies born in the Holden hospital. But most women chose to play it safe and went out to Chelan, Wenatchee, or Spokane as they approached their due date. They usually had to go without their husbands, who could not take enough time off to make sure they would be present when their wives went into labor. However, at least one Holden husband took time off to visit his wife in a Spokane hospital shortly after she gave birth, and it is probable that many whose wives gave birth in Chelan did the same.55
Especially for those Holden women who did not have jobs (the overwhelming majority), there may well have been times when life in the community proved monotonous, perhaps dauntingly so. However, a variety of women’s groups served to combat boredom, including bridge clubs and hospital guilds. (The funds generated by the guilds went to support the Chelan Hospital and the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle). Incredibly, some residents endured the isolated setting for exceptionally long periods. Linda Carlson recorded that one mother did not leave the valley at all for four years; this may have been the mother of Dorothy Rodgers Miles, who recalled that neither of her parents went out during a four-year period.56
VII. Environmental challenges and emergency situations
While boredom should not be underestimated as one of the challenges of living in such a remote location, Holden residents also lived with more tangible environmental hazards. In winter, the residents had to remain vigilant against avalanches. Besides being a very real threat to vehicles, walkers, and skiers, avalanches sometimes cut off the only route to the outside world, potentially compounding other emergencies. Throughout the year, and most of all during the dry summer months, the physical community was highly vulnerable to fire. The company had resources for mitigating these hazards, and for dealing with medical situations and crime. But these resources were limited, illustrating the extent of the Holden community’s self-reliance.
Generally, the community took precautions to reduce the risk of avalanche deaths. Both Winston and the townsite were built between major chutes that came down from Martin Ridge. On the road between the two camps, one adult escorted small groups of children across the most dangerous section while another kept an eye on the chutes above. The wisdom of this practice was confirmed by an avalanche that took out part of the footbridge spanning the creek below the mill at some point during the 1940s. The slopes above the mill were also avalanche-prone; and with men working and commuting through this area at all hours of the day, it was there where the risk was greatest. On one occasion, a landslide filled the assay office with mud and ice, though no was hurt. In February 1947, as Alfred Otto was leaving the dry-and-change house after completing a swing shift, he was killed by a slide that carried him 200 feet downhill, burying him deeply enough that searchers failed to find his body for several hours. He remains the only person to be killed by an avalanche at Holden. However, two years previously, there had been another snow-related fatality; a man died from injuries sustained when the snow plow he was driving went over an embankment.57
The greatest potential for loss of life and limb lay in the mine itself. On average, there was about one fatal accident per year. In the Holden Portal Museum, there is a list of these deaths, compiled by Linda Powell Jensen from Howe Sound company accident reports and articles in the Chelan and Wenatchee papers. In most of the newspaper accounts, the exact cause of death is not given, but there were men who fell down holes or open shafts, men who were crushed by falling rock, and one man who suffocated in an ore bin. Some may have been killed through inexperience; Ernest Jacobs was 19 when he died in 1947, and had been working in the mine for only two months.58 However, it should be noted that the operation’s safety record was relatively good: no accident claimed the life of more than one man.
There were numerous deaths in the general community, stemming from various causes. The correspondence among J.J. Curzon, his superiors, and the department heads reveals that employee deaths not caused by accidents could be at least as shocking as fatalities in the mine. A few men died of heart attacks. In reaction to one such death, the victim having had no prior health problems, mill superintendent H.A. Pearse wrote: “One would have expected that going up and down the stairs, and the hill to the heights, would have produced such definite reactions as to make him very suspicious about his condition.”59 The company and the workers were supportive of widows. Beginning in 1939, all employees who had been on the job for at least six months automatically became insured for $1,500 without medical examination, and each additional six months of service added $200 to their coverage. Additionally, whenever an employee died, Howe Sound put up a list for men to voluntarily have an amount deducted from their paychecks to support the dead man’s family. At least some families were allowed to stay on at Holden for a while; after Linda Powell Jensen’s father died, her mother continued working at the Fountain Lunch long enough for Linda to finish the school year at Holden.60 Undoubtedly, the deaths that impacted the community most heavily were those of children. One young boy drowned in Railroad Creek, as did another in Lake Chelan during an outing to Lucerne. (A man also drowned in 1953 while fishing at Moore Point, on the other side of the lake). A 1952 polio outbreak infected several children and claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl, who died in a Wenatchee hospital shortly after being evacuated from Holden. In 1943, a 15-year-old Boy Scout bled to death on Mt. Bonanza after falling on his ice-ax.61
It was always the policy to evacuate anyone who was critically injured or ill. This had the potential to be very challenging if an accident occurred at the wrong time. Before the advent of helicopter evacuations in the 1950s, the only way to get a sick or injured person out was by the road, and then from Lucerne by boat or float plane. In 1942, a severe winter storm over the lake delayed the evacuation of a critically injured miner, who later died. While this writer is not familiar with any accounts of a medical evacuation being impeded by snow on the road, it could have happened. A heavy avalanche could isolate the community for days. This was also troublesome because it prevented the ore trucks from delivering their loads to the barge in Lucerne.62
However, to handle emergencies, and to deal with less urgent situations, Howe Sound maintained an on-site company doctor and a nurse. The doctor’s primary responsibility was to respond to mining accidents, but he was also allowed to run a private family practice on the side. In this regard, medical care was not a public service, but it was provided indirectly by the company. As someone who could bar a man from employment in the mine for medical reasons, or prevent a man from being rehired, the doctor had an impact on the composition of the community. As someone who treated the miners’ families in addition to the miners themselves, he could become the focal point for feelings of dissatisfaction toward the company. The various doctors who served the community during the mining years displayed markedly different levels of professionalism and respect for the people in their care. One is the subject of some of the most colorful and revealing items of correspondence in the company files.
Howe Sound preferred its doctors and nurses to be husband-and-wife teams without children, which allowed the company to house them in one of the two apartments at either end of the hospital building, located uphill of the dormitories and just west of the highest-numbered chalets. The hospital was equipped with an office, a room for surgeries, an X-ray room, one single-bed and one four-bed ward, and one room reserved for Dr. Dewar, a Chelan dentist who visited periodically. The first doctor and first nurse were Manly J. Wham and his wife, Muriel. They stayed until September 1942, when Dr. Wham left to become an officer in the Army medical corps. Muriel Wham’s successor, a Mrs. Johnson, was married to a Howe Sound geologist, and lived with her husband in one of the two hospital apartments.63
Curzon encountered difficulties with Dr. Wham’s first two successors. The first, Dr. Harris, who came out of retirement in response to the war, worked at Holden for about two years before issuing an ultimatum: if Howe Sound did not increase his salary by $100 per month (from a base of $500 per month), he would quit within 10 days. Even if the company agreed to the raise, he would only stay for one more year. In a letter to Howe Sound president H.H. Sharp, Curzon wrote: “None of us care for Harris’ attitude during this entire procedure, as he is quite definitely taking advantage of the situation…If Harris was really trying to do a good job it would be an entirely different thing, but he is very definitely trying to do as little work as possible, especially with the families and children.”64 Despite his evident disgust with the situation, Curzon seems to have agreed to Harris’ terms and retained him well into 1945, probably for the sole reason that finding an acceptable replacement was difficult. The General Manager’s files contain a number of letters to and from young doctors with excellent credentials, but few who were interested in practicing in such a remote location.
Eventually, Harris was succeeded by Dr. Theo Gallup. The new doctor cannot have been living at Holden long before he made himself unpopular in the community, for in April 1946, Curzon received a petition from the Chelan Miners Union, which charged Gallup with incompetence, unsanitary practice, excessive fees, lack of courtesy, “requiring the school children here at Holden be vaccinated for smallpox, then sending the parents a bill for the service, and being unable to handle maternity cases.” While Curzon cannot have been pleased about these charges, his response to the petition was cool. Including a copy of the petition in his correspondence with Sharp, he wrote: “If the company took any action on a petition of this kind, a precedent would be set whereby the union could petition any other staff employee out of his job, which is something that will not be tolerated by this company. The company’s stand in this case is that Dr. Gallup is a staff employee, who is deemed satisfactory for what he is employed for, which is to handle company accident cases.”65 In this instance, as in the case of the 1939 strike, Curzon saw a situation that had the potential to weaken the authority of the company and the management if handled in a way that was too accommodating to the workers’ demands.
Nevertheless, later correspondence reveals that Curzon was sufficiently displeased with Gallup to try replacing him. In early 1947, the General Manager invited at least one doctor to apply for the position, candidly admitting to the prospective employee that he was doing so without Gallup’s knowledge. This effort was unsuccessful. Gallup remained at Holden for another three years, during which time he continued to make problems for himself and the company. In February 1949, an insurance company sales representative sent a letter to Curzon, complaining about Gallup’s lack of cooperation in filling out and returning claims forms for Howe Sound employees. Not long after, Gallup wrote an angry letter to a member of the Washington Hospital Service, in which he demanded to know why he was never asked if he was willing and able to qualify as a Blue Cross-eligible physician, even though he knew that he did not qualify because he was not a member of the county medical society. This letter reveals more about Gallup’s relationship with the members of the Holden community. Citing his treatment of one employee’s daughter for a renal infection, and another employee’s baby for a strep infection, he wrote: “In both cases I felt the long trip out to a hospital would be detrimental and treated the children at home. The families were finally awarded the actual cost of the penicillin I administered. Both families were given the impression that was all I should have charged them, with the result that I have made some bitter enemies, and in one case I never was paid.” What Gallup characterized as misunderstandings were probably perceived by the families of his patients as overbilling.66
To be fair, Gallup also did some things that rightfully earned him praise from company officials. As Curzon noted, he seems to have been competent in his handling of work accidents, which were, after all, his primary responsibility. In 1949, near the end of his tenure with Howe Sound, Gallup conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of the ventilation systems in the Holden mine. A comparison of new and old X-ray images of several miners’ chests showed no evidence of silicosis, a deadly lung condition that appears in men who work in dusty or poorly ventilated mines. Naturally pleased with this conclusion, company president Sharp wrote to Curzon, asking him to thank Gallup for his work. Gallup also played an important role in enforcing the company’s policies on containing the spread of disease within the community. When Bill and John Phillips contracted scarlet fever from an unknown source, Gallup and Curzon determined that their father would have to move to a dormitory room until his sons were no longer contagious, thereby discouraging the sickness from spreading to the work force. In the end, Gallup was neither fired nor covertly replaced, but himself asked to be replaced in January 1950.67
There is less information in the files about Gallup’s successors, of whom there were at least six before the mine closed. Of these, four, including Gallup’s immediate successor, Jack Carleton, had children. Bill Phillips described Carleton as the “complete antithesis” of Gallup, a personable man who actively involved himself in community activities, including the Boy Scouts, even though his own sons were not old enough to join the troop. His role as the troop’s counselor for the first aid merit badge had a strong influence on Phillips’ later decision to become a professional first aid provider through the volunteer ski patrol. Carleton and later doctors Paul Mickens and William Miller lived in Chalet 11 with their families. As previously noted, Dr. Miller and his wife were unusual among the company doctor-nurse teams in that they were willing to handle maternity cases.68
While avalanches and the hazards of working in the mine were probably the greatest threat to the residents as individuals, there was no greater threat to Holden itself than fire, especially forest fire. The community never lost sight of this, even during the 1939 strike. Minutes from a meeting between union representatives and company officers record Curzon seeking assurance from the union men that those workers who remained in town would be available to respond to fire, and another officer expressing concern about the risk of fire being sparked by hikers or fishermen carelessly dropping cigarettes. Naturally, such risks also concerned the Forest Service, which worked with the company to prevent and contain forest fire. On at least a few occasions, the Forest Service borrowed miners to fight fires; Curzon’s files contain a letter to a local ranger requesting compensation for five employees who spent a day fighting a fire on Tinpan Mountain (the peak to the east of Buckskin), as well as a letter from Forest Service supervisor N.J. Penick thanking Curzon for the loan of 50 miners to fight a fire on Lyall Ridge, near Stehekin. Penick called the men “excellent firefighters,” adding that “their performance, when the going is “tough,” is a splendid reflection of the cooperation which has always existed between your company and the Forest Service.” The loss of 50 men, of course, would have affected the mine’s production capabilities after more than a brief period, which Penick acknowledged.69
Holden was never directly threatened by a forest fire, but there were smaller fires in the physical community. Surviving incident reports and articles in the Chelan Valley Mirror reflect a range of close calls, minor blazes, and full-blown building fires. A fire started by an overheated radio in Dorm 6 may well have burned a significant section of the building if it had not been extinguished by some off-duty residents. In January 1938, the old bunkhouse in the Miners Camp (later known as Honeymoon Heights), which dated back to the period when Howe Sound was leasing the property, burned down; men were sleeping in the bunkhouse when the fire broke out, but no lives were lost. This was not the case when a Winston home burned down the following year – a young couple and their seven-year-old daughter were killed. A fire destroyed Hal and Florence Field’s Winston home in February 1950, constituting a loss of $5000. It is interesting to note that while the danger of catastrophic fire is greatest during the summer, all major fires in both the mining years and the Village era have occurred during the winter, no doubt because that is when the residents most often use stoves and furnaces. The chalets and the homes in Winston were heated by either wood or oil-fired furnaces. As is the case in the valley today, the Forest Service marked trees along or near the road that could be felled; they were harvested, bucked, and split by the homeowners themselves, or by men they hired. The single men who lived in the dorms could earn extra money this way. The company provided fuel oil to those residents who needed it and deducted the cost from their pay checks.70
Howe Sound employed a full-time fire chief. For most of the operation’s history, this was Niles “Chief” Sims, who took the job in 1939 after training as a volunteer firefighter in Omak. He acted as the company’s contact with the Forest Service. While there were times when Sims had few visible duties, there is no doubt that Howe Sound took the threat of fire very seriously. The company installed sheltered hydrants (hose-houses) throughout the community: six in the townsite, at least seven in Winston, one on the road between the two camps, one along the path running from the creek to the mill, one near the base of the mill, and possibly others on the southern side of the creek. (In winter, one of Sims’ jobs was to maintain access to these hose-houses). There were two fire engines, one stationed near the mine entrance, and one at the western end of Dorm 6, directly across the street from the fire chief’s office (now the Village garbage dock). During the summer months, at least, the company maintained “a fire-fighting organization consisting of approximately 16 employees.” Presumably under Sims’ direction, these men held weekly fire drills, at which time they tested hoses and other equipment. The company did not hold drills during the winter “because of the difficulty in draining and drying the fire hose.”71
Sims also served as Holden’s lone law enforcement officer, but he had little to do in this capacity. The few times residents committed serious crimes, outside authorities quickly took over. There were two major acts of theft against the company, the first of which occurred in July 1947. Two miners stole $500 from the rec hall safe or register; they confessed under questioning by two sheriff’s deputies who came in from Chelan. Along with a public brawl that took place the same year (which is part of the discussion in the third chapter of this thesis), this incident probably contributed to demands for a local law enforcement official. In January 1948, a Wenatchee World article reported that Holden wanted a justice of the peace and a constable to keep the peace, both of which it got later that month. The county auditor swore in Bob Brown, a former night watchman, as justice of the peace, and Sims as constable. Although Dorothy Rodgers Miles recalled that Sims “never had to do anything,” he may have played a role in dealing with the second major theft. In terms of the sum involved, it was much more serious than the first. In August 1949, someone stole $10,000 from the company safe. After nearly all the employees had been questioned, the guilty man was caught when it was discovered that he had sewn $828 into the lining of his coat. All but $2000 of the remaining money (consisting of checks, bills, and silver) was recovered from a number of caches in the woods near the mine. There is an intriguing but slightly confusing account of one of these burglaries in Holden Village’s Portal Museum, titled “The Great Rec-Hall Robbery.” Written by Sims’ son-in-law, Bob Marcum, it relates how Sims followed a coin trail to jars hidden under the footbridge, where he discovered the guilty employee’s brass identification token mixed in with the money. Marcum states that this occurred in the summer of 1949, not 1947, which suggests that he either confused the dates of the two incidents or confused the incidents themselves. The rec hall robbery occurred before Sims officially became constable, but he could have tracked the coins on his own initiative.72
As demonstrated by these incidents, Sims’ authority was limited. He was involved in the company’s response to at least one incident of domestic violence (which almost certainly resulted in the dismissal of the guilty employee), and he probably did what he could to prevent brawls and other disturbances.73 But any time there was crime that went beyond this level, full-time law officers came in from Chelan or Wenatchee to deal with it. Professionals also helped handle other kinds of trouble. In early 1950, an unknown employee sent J.J. Curzon an incendiary, typewritten letter. The letter itself was not preserved in the company files, but Curzon implied that it attacked the way the operation was being managed. The General Manager responded by directing one of his subordinates to ask the suspected employee to type a bogus set of instructions on his personal typewriter, so that he could compare the type with that in the letter he had received. Upon seeing tell-tale similarities, he sent both pieces to the FBI for a professional opinion. In his letter to the bureau, Curzon wrote that investigation had shown the writer’s accusations to be “either outright lies or gross distortions of true facts. The problem then became one of determining who the author of the letter was, because if such people are allowed to remain on our payrolls, trouble will follow without doubt.” The FBI confirmed his suspicions, presumably leading to a speedy dismissal for the employee in question. During World War II, the FBI also investigated half a dozen employees whom the management suspected of having pro-Axis sympathies.74
VIII. Holden During World War II
Despite its isolation, Holden’s experience during World War II was similar to that of countless other towns throughout America. The community was subject to the rationing of food and other basic supplies, though nothing critical to the mining operation (such as fuel oil). Households sent their ration books out to Chelan with their grocery orders and got them back, checked off, with the food when it came in. Soap was among those basic necessities that were somewhat scarce, leading some people to make their own from saved-up lard and oil. The Boy Scouts collected tins for the war effort. A Civilian Defense group trained residents how to respond to air raids. Like other rural communities in Washington and Oregon, Holden was subject to the threat of fire sparked by Japanese incendiary bombs. The Japanese sent bomb-bearing balloons on wind currents across the Pacific in the hope of starting massive forest fires in the Northwest, and also used a seaplane to bomb the woods near Brookings, Oregon, in 1942. For this reason, Holden residents were warned not to approach any downed balloons. Fortunately, the only one sighted during the war turned out to be a weather balloon.75
In other ways, Holden’s experience during the war was unusual. The copper the mine produced was vital to the war effort. The government froze the price of copper at its prewar price of 11 cents per pound for the duration of the conflict, but paid “bounties” of up to 27 cents per pound to those companies, perhaps including Howe Sound, that could not afford to stay in production at the fixed price. Holden’s miners received exemption from the draft as vital war industry workers; thus, the community retained a young, healthy, adult male population throughout the war. J.A. Krug, Chairman of the War Production Board, wrote to Howe Sound president H.H. Sharp: “It is essential that the mine and plant of the Howe Sound Company continue to produce copper at the rate of your present level of production in order to fulfill your share of the overall requirements…I can think of no better way in which the employees of the Howe Sound Company can serve their country at this time than by producing copper.”76 Sharp sent a copy of this letter to Curzon, having underlined the last sentence.
In 1945, the head of the Copper Division of the War Production Board, D.L. Forrester, guided the General Manager through a process to insure that none of his workers in the 26 to 29 age group would be drafted, which would have deprived the operation of “about a quarter of the best of the mine crew.” Forrester wrote: “We understand there is an arrangement between the Local Draft Boards and the State Director, that, if the quota from the local district cannot be filled without taking from the local district, the Local Board can call this fact to the attention of the State Director, who will or can, if possible, make up the deficiency from other districts while there is a surplus of men not eligible for deferment.” In a later telegram, Forrester told Curzon to warn his men that if they quit, they would be subject to immediate induction. The miners were, no doubt, fully aware of their protected status. One man only stayed at Holden as long as he needed that protection – he quit the day after the war ended. (It should be noted that, while the workers were safe from induction, other members of the community were not. The son of D.A. Rodgers entered the service, was captured by the Japanese, and returned to a hero’s welcome after he was liberated. A few years later, during the Korean War, the grocery store manager, Grant Birmingham, was drafted).77
Holden still had to reckon with the manpower shortage experienced by many American industries, especially during the later years of the war. According to a list Curzon sent to Sharp in August 1945, 216 employees voluntarily left Holden with the stated intention of enlisting in the military. (This was to keep track of men whom the company would be obligated to rehire under the G.I. Bill of Rights if those men wanted their jobs back, potentially a thorny issue when three or four men in succession quit the same position to enlist). There were increasingly limited options for making up for such losses as the war progressed. In late 1942, and again in 1943, Howe Sound secured furloughed soldiers as temporary workers, at least some of whom had worked as miners before enlisting. A government report stated that the soldiers were “proving very satisfactory workers,” but there is little or no surviving feedback on their performance from a Howe Sound point of view.78 As with any new workers, the company probably had to contend with a rise in safety hazards stemming from their inexperience.
It is possible, but difficult to confirm from the existing evidence, that a small number of German prisoners-of-war with mining experience worked in or around the mine near the end of the war. A former resident suggested this in a 1983 interview, but the section of the company files that focuses on wartime manpower issues only contains correspondence between the War Production Board and H.H. Sharp that mentions the use of German POWs “for surface operations” as a possibility. This correspondence is dated January 1945, which leaves only a few months during which POWs may have plausibly worked at Holden.
It is probable, however, that the company employed ethnic minorities in increasing numbers during the war. The former resident mentioned above referred to the presence of Mexican workers in the mine, while the correspondence between Sharp and the War Production Board refers to “the importation of Mexicans for use in surface operations,” adding “present indications are that their use in underground operations will be prohibited.”79 While, initially, Mexicans may only have been employed to work on the surface, it seems that at least a few worked underground. (A former miner who attended one of the reunions recalled a story about a Mexican worker who got into an altercation with his roommate, breaking the latter’s guitar over his head. Apparently, the Mexican was not dismissed over this incident, and later worked as an underground machine operator). While the long-term community was overwhelmingly white (the 1940 census does not list a single self-identified non-white resident) and American- or Canadian-born, the foreign-born workers included metallurgist Victor Zanadvoroff, who left his native Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution and traveled to the United States via China. He eventually rose to become mill superintendent.80
The end of the war opened the door for other foreigners to enter the valley, not as workers but as visitors. These were representatives of overseas mining companies or foreign government agencies who came to observe American mining methods. In 1947, Holden received visits from a Chinese government geologist and a Norwegian mine superintendent. In 1950, it even hosted mining engineers from Japan. Reflecting on their visit in a letter to Sharp, Curzon wrote: “We believe that a strong Japan is a necessity for our own safety, but it does seem strange to be giving away our methods and systems to a nation who were our enemies just a few short years ago…Service men like George Bailey and Gil Plimpton who were fighting them in the air…must experience mixed feelings when they meet them in this country again.” Curzon’s belief in the importance of a strong Japan was undoubtedly influenced by the outbreak of the Korean War. The conflict generated manpower difficulties similar to those that prevailed during World War II. Another letter to Sharp reflects Curzon’s concern about the possibility of the reservists among his employees, and especially the former officers on his staff, being called to active duty, but the correspondence does not reveal whether the General Manager was able to secure protection for these men.81
IX. The End of the Mining Days
The closure of the mine, which also meant the end of the Holden community as it had existed up to that point, did not come unexpectedly or without warning. In 1937, C.P. Browning was quoted as predicting that there were “30 years of ore ahead” for Holden.82 Although the operation produced concentrate for just under 20 years, not 30, the company and the residents knew all along that their community’s length of existence was dictated by the ore supply and the profitability of extracting it. Two primary reasons have been given for the mine’s closure. Firstly, it was getting more challenging technically to exploit the ore body, as those sections that were closest to the entry shaft had been exhausted by the late 1950s, requiring the ore to be lifted from deep within Copper Peak. The company did some exploratory drilling on Buckskin Mountain, the peak directly to the east of Copper, at the same level as the outcropping on the latter, but failed to find another deposit.
Secondly, the world price of copper was dropping, due in large part to competition from other low-grade mines in South America, where labor was cheaper. As Christine Plimpton noted in her thesis, the U.S. government bought half of the copper produced at Holden between World War II and the Korean War at 32 cents per pound. However, after the world price peaked at 46 cents in 1956, it dropped to 24 cents in 1957. Although the Holden operation may have been able to continue, it would have become less and less profitable to do so. In fact, the Holden operation was never hugely profitable to Howe Sound, due in part to the cost of transporting the concentrate all the way from the mine to the smelter in Tacoma. Holden’s demise foreshadowed the eventual decline of the American copper industry over the next two decades.83
Among the residents of Holden Village, there is a persistent myth that the closing of the mine happened overnight, and that the miners were given a very brief period, a day even, to pack their belongings and vacate their homes. In fact, in April 1957, the management publicly announced that July 1 would be the last day of work, which gave the community two months’ warning. There are stories about the surprising items left behind by the miners and found by the Lutherans a few years later, which gave rise to the myth. Some of these stories are true. Linda Powell Jensen believes that at least one family ate the last meal in their Winston home and left the dishes sitting on the table, and it is certainly true that Howe Sound left many things behind, including the giant coffee urns that now watch over the dining hall from the wall next to the dish-pit, and the black iron chairs scattered throughout the hall and other parts of the village.84
In any case, when the residents left, they had to make difficult decisions about how much of their homes they could take with them. While they could not sell the land or the houses as they were, they could salvage the material they used to build them. Private homes in Winston averaged $3,000. At least two families completely dismantled their homes and shipped them downlake; the company paid for transportation as far as the dock in Chelan. Other families only took building components, such as windows and shingles. Those who left their homes behind were able to claim them as losses on their tax returns, thereby regaining some of their value. According to Linda Powell Jensen, one woman unsuccessfully tried to collect the insurance on her house by torching it.85
The dissolution of the community, at least of its physical framework and foundation, had a deep effect on the departing residents. Former resident Gary Bannister was of the opinion that Holden was not an “idyllic situation,” but just a place where people came to work, and that “the mentality of the community was such that it never blossomed out to see what was here.” This sentiment is refuted by nearly every other recorded recollection of what it was like to live at Holden during the mining days, and how hard it was to leave. Jack Frye called his time there the best ten years of his life. Pat Schonders recalls: “I had the best life ever up there, and all the kids did.” Schonders’ family remained at Holden somewhat longer than other residents because her father, a carpenter, was a member of the shutdown crew, which did such things as remove usable mill machinery and winterize the townsite. After the family finally left, Schonders and her father experienced deep homesickness, and visited the site the following year. Jack and Betty Frye did the same in 1960. According to Schonders, some former residents, including her father and Hal Field, hoped that another company would buy the mine, allowing everyone to go back to work and home.86 Unfortunately, this was not to be.