Way We Were: Jim Hewitson’s Unique Education – The Park Record | Team Cansler

A miner inspects a vein of ore at the Mayflower Mine, circa 1940s. | Park City Historical Society & Museum, Beryl Ott and Tura Holm Springer Collection

The following is Jim Hewitson’s first-person oral history as told to David Nicholas. It is the second article in an occasional series on the life of Jim Hewitson.

Welcome back to my next article detailing the unique classroom environment. A brief summary before proceeding. I was the third generation of my family to work the Park City mines. I followed the example of my grandfather, my father and three of my five older siblings. When I was introduced to underground work for the first time, my professional destiny was set.

After graduating from Park City High School in 1965, I enrolled at the University of Utah (U) and majored in math and science. Because of my Abitur grades, I qualified for a partial scholarship. That being said, I had to work to cover the total cost of attending the U. This topic will be the subject of a future article.

When I got into junior year, I had to declare my major. I chose Mining Engineering and switched to Mining School at US In the sophomore, junior year, Underground Surveying was emerging as a required course. Including myself, six students signed up for the course. However, there was a problem – the university laboratory was not available. Don’t worry – the U made arrangements to conduct the course at the Mayflower Mine (exit 8 eastbound on what is now US Route 40). Our classroom would be at the 1,630 foot level of the mine.

The Mayflower Mine was the last mine in the Park City area to open (1929) and the second to last to close (1972). The mine’s heyday was short – eleven years. These “glory years” resulted from the formation of a joint venture between New Park and Hecla Mining in 1961 and the discovery of significant gold deposits. Hecla was, and remains, a technical and financial powerhouse. The Mayflower was non-union and solidly profitable until it closed. It was wet like other mines in Park City, but unusually hot. Operations below 1,800 feet required air conditioning.

Besides the benefit of learning in a real scenario, there was another bonus: Prof. John Cone would be our lecturer. He was a legend in the US mining program—both as an exceptional instructor and as a leader. Prof. Cone earned the equivalent of a master’s degree from the Colorado School of Mines, one of the most respected institutions in our industry.

At our first meeting (January 21, 1969) he did not disappoint. Four handouts were distributed. The first explained what he expected of us and the challenge and opportunity of doing laboratory work in a producing mine. Passing this compulsory course requires knowledge of the following disciplines:

  1. How to perform an underground survey.
  2. Flawless execution of survey calculations (under adverse environmental conditions).
  3. Mastering the techniques to present the results on a map.
  4. The ability to take detailed and durable notes (with the understanding that such data could prove invaluable in a litigation and/or other civil proceeding).
  5. Adherence to mine safety protocols – no exceptions tolerated.

The second list listed the equipment and/or equipment required to conduct a class in a working mine:

  1. Bagger (waterproof outerwear and thermal underwear)
  2. hard hat
  3. safety goggles
  4. Rubber boots with steel toe cap
  5. Cap Lamp (Miner’s Light)
  6. Battery pack of the top lamp (at least eight hours charging time)

The third list defined the basic requirements for teaching:

  1. Textbook “Fundamentals of Mining Surveying”
  2. Transit (scope on a tripod)
  3. 100 feet of steel tape
  4. Eight feet of steel band
  5. plumb bob
  6. Hard lead pencils
  7. Field Notebooks

The fourth and final list defined where the above equipment and teaching materials could be obtained. For List #2, workwear was available from either Sears and Roebuck or JC Penny; for the remaining items the Mine Safety Appliance Store (MSA) in Salt Lake City. List #3, Items 1, 6, and 7 were available in the US bookstore. The rest of the equipment came courtesy of the US Department of Mines – also known as the “Cone’s Cache”.

Professor Cone ended our introductory session by stating that if we were having difficulty getting the materials needed he would be happy to let him know as he would be happy to help. For the next three months, we met six Saturdays at 7:30 am at the Mayflower Mine for four hours each. Our first lab session was scheduled for February 1st.

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