The following is first-person oral history from Jim Hewitson as told to David Nicholas. It is the fourth article in an occasional series on Jim Hewitson’s life.
The first article of this series covered my family’s multi-generational heritage working in Park City’s mines, while the next two articles discussed a memorable classroom setting during my junior year at the University of Utah. These next two articles will provide an overview of my first official mining job – the impetus fueled by a combination of family legacy, career goals, and economic reality.
The summer preceding my junior year I faced two dilemmas – one academic, the other economic. The former was easy, while the later was more problematic. The easy challenge: I needed to declare my major. I chose mining engineering and was accepted to the University of Utah’s Mining Engineering Program. No surprise there. Now for the more vexing issue.
Although I received a generous annual academic scholarship of $1000 (courtesy of the William C. Browning Endowment) my total costs attending the “U” exceeded $2000 (tuition $1000, books/ equipment $500, living expenses $600). The harsh reality was that I needed a well-paying job that simultaneously provided flexibility to continue my education full time.
Auspiciously, United Park City Mines (UPCM) was looking to hire a weekend watchman. Specifically, they needed a person to work the weekends from 10pm Friday to 10pm Sunday with a break on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and which was a non-union position. The hourly wage was $3.00, almost double the Federal minimum of $1.65 at the time. Securing this employment promised both relief from financial stress and continuation of a family legacy. Limited weekend relaxation and recreation plus a further squeeze on my school, life, and work balance represented the collateral damage. No problem. In keeping with the culture of multi-generational Parkites – one needs to do what one needs to do! I applied for the position.
Family connections, personal references, and my chosen major enhanced my eligibility (at least I hoped so). Another factor, the grind of working 32 out of 39 hours over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday dissuaded a plethora of applicants. I received notice from UPCM to report for an interview on Tuesday, October 1 of 1968 at their main office building in Keetley, the former mining community now acting as a local Atlantis underneath the Jordanelle Reservoir.
My family was unequivocally supportive. Preparing for the interview released doubts previously unthought: the burden of following in the footsteps of three older siblings, my Dad, my uncle and my grandfather. Would I be worthy, would I be good enough? Besides that pressure, let’s not underestimate the demands of maintaining academic excellence while pursuing a full-time degree in mining engineering. Such were my mental musings as I drove to the interview set for 2 p.m.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this story.
The Park City Museum and Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History are hosting an in-person lecture titled “Progression of the Mining Industry in the Park City District” given by local mining engineer Mark Danninger on Wednesday, January 11 from 5-6 p.m. The lecture will take place at the Museum’s Education and Collections Center located at 2079 Sidewinder Drive. Register to attend here.