When The Persians Came To Price
December 8th, 2013

Go ahead and call me a peacenik, but for the life of me I can’t see what harm can come from not dropping bombs on Iran. Turns out I have some friends in that country, or at least I think so. Actually, probably no one living in Iran today remembers me; it’s been over half a century since I first became acquainted with Parviz Amiri, Karim Bagheri, Mastofa Golovar, David Darbani, Houshang Kashyadik and Ben-Hur Namatinia

This was way back in 1962, at a tiny junior college in eastern Utah that was within walking distance of the house where I grew up. At the northern edge of campus was a dormitory where the Iranians lived—seven thousand miles from their native country. We called them “camel jockeys” although their preferred mode of transportation was a 1958 Dodge Custom Royal with hooded headlights and rakish tail fins. A prime example of the so-called “forward look,” the car was designed to appear to be in motion when in fact it was standing still. Most likely, waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

At first I felt sorry for the Iranians. What on earth had brought them to Price, Utah? Clearly they could have afforded better. The main reason I was attending Carbon College was because I’d been granted a full-tuition musical scholarship—this in spite of the fact I can’t read music. What I’m good at is going through the motions, and so I soon found myself a member of the Golden Eagle Marching Band. From the band it was a short jump to the choir, where I lip-synched tenor.

Houshang Kashyadik was also a member of the choir, and the two of us had a lot of fun on tour. Here is a photo of Houshang, hamming it up with Richard Holdaway in a motel room in Evanston, Wyoming.


When he wasn’t on stage, Houshang excelled on the volleyball court as a member of an all-Iranian team. They called themselves “Persepolis.” I knew nothing about Persepolis, or the Achaemenid Empire. I only knew that Iran was once called Persia and that it has a storied history stretching back centuries. I hadn’t heard that the United States had been meddling in Iranian elections for years, nor could I have foreseen the 1979 Iranian Revolution that would result in a severance of diplomatic ties—indeed, an embassy hostage situation that would last for 444 days.

Sadly, over the past few decades there has been no Iranian presence in Carbon County. I’ve not heard a word from any of my former Iranian classmates. All I have are some pleasant memories, one involving an intramural chariot race that took place during halftime at a football game. One of the chariots was sponsored by the Freshman class and driven by—who else?—our rightfully elected Freshman class president, Ben-Hur Namatinia.

I don’t remember who won the race. What I do remember is that later that night someone got the bright idea to hitch the chariot to a pickup truck and drag Main Street. Presently, a police car pulled us over.

“This vehicle has no taillights,” said the officer. “And no steering wheel. Who, exactly, is driving this thing?”

Whereupon, Ben-Hur produced his provisional driver’s license, and a good laugh was had by all. Sometimes, a good laugh is the best you can hope for in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours.

-Richard Menzies