Ryan Summerlin October 29, 2007
The former workers at Toros of Aspen, a longtime eatery in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, held a reunion Sept. 21-23. Attending were past employees and customers of one of the most popular restaurants of its time. Does anyone remember the No. 4 combination plate? How about the margarita pitchers for two or four?It’s been more than 30 years since Toros opened, and people came from Oregon to Florida to reminisce. Toros was conceived by Tony Canino in 1966. The name was changed from Ticos, due to a business name conflict in Denver. Prior to that, the establishment was known as Sonnie’s Rendezvous, and the current restaurant in the space is DishAspen on the Hyman Avenue mall.The first reunion event was Friday night at Kurt Wigger’s Buffalo Valley restaurant. Everyone enjoyed a buffet dinner, accompanied by a music sound tract from the ’70s era made by Missy (Sears) Barris’ son, Andrew Barris. A large table was set with hundreds of old photos and memorabilia, including a memorial to those who have passed away. More than 40 people attended the Buffalo Valley event.
The next evening saw nearly 60 people at the home of P.J. and Jo Johnston in Missouri Heights. P.J. now owns Back Door Catering, and he (a Toros cook himself) and his staff cooked up some of Toros’ famous Mexican recipes, including chili verde with pork and egg-roll-style chili rellenos. Bobby Mason played music and the crowd danced into the night. Missy Sears (a waitress in the 1960s) started the reunion with inspiration from Susie Wasson, while Bill Knapp (manager of Toros in the ’70s) and John Tindall (bartender in the ’70s) assisted in organizing – with a large contribution of help from the Internet. Steve Gray (owner in the ’70s and ’80s) attended from Minneapolis with his friend Blyth Brookman and his father, Dick Gray Sr. Those still living in the Roaring Ford Valley include Bob Burns (manager in the ’80s), John and Susan Tindall, Bill and Willow Knapp, Kathy Hill Baker, Mike McGarry, Chuck Ristine, Dave Word, Mike Word, Sandy Hollehan, Mia Williams, Paul Lovell, Kent Bigelow, Pat O’Bryan, Bruce Meyers, Billy Bob Graves, Barry Bromka, Don and Dana Higbie, Joe Kistner (pharmacist upstairs at Aspen Drug), Vicki Grenko Peterson and husband Chris, Jan Fox (who recently returned to Aspen), Leslie Hull, Bobby Mason, Marsha Carman and husband Eric, and Jo and P.J. Johnston. Word spread to Toros’ sister restaurant, Little Annie’s, so Tommy Elder, Mary Johnson and Krissy Miller joined the party.
Attendees remarked that the event seemed more than a reunion. Several people said it seemed “surreal,” as you would not expect to ever see someone again and then watch them walk through the door 30 years later. Everyone took their cameras so the photos are from a bunch of people and compiled by Bill Knapp.Wednesday night was Halloween, and a group held their 17th annual Halloween party at the Aspen Square conference room. Hosts included Susan Capiel-Collin, Marilyn Carruthers, Peter and Barbara Elias, Sam Hill, Fanda Kladek, Bill and Lynda Meier, Sandy Murray and Steve Serna. Gigi Podolak, daughter of Charley and Liza Podolak, has just returned from the 9th Ward in New Orleans. She and her landscape architecture team from Colorado University have designed a park for the area. Gigi is a junior at CU majoring in architecture; she spent the summer working for Reno-Smith Architects in Aspen. Andrew MacCracken, of Aspen and a freshman at American University, participated in the Freshmen Service Experience, a community-service project in which freshmen students contributed nearly 10,000 hours of service at 37 sites around Washington, D.C. Andrew is a recent graduate of Aspen High School; American University is located in Washington, D.C. Maj. Jeremie Oates (AHS graduate 1988), Aspen native and son of Aspen residents Cherie and Leonard Oates, was recently awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Combat Infantryman’s Badge for service with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan from 2006-07. This was his second tour in Afghanistan. Oates is a Special Forces officer and currently lives in Pinehurst, N.C., with his wife, Sally (AHS 1986), and their children, Ellie, 7, and Florian, 4.The December 2007 issue of Victorian Homes magazine includes a long article titled “A Blue Ribbon Mansion” that describes the Victorian mansion in Milwaukee, Wis., that was built in the 1800s by Capt. Frederick Pabst. Pabst started the Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer dynasty, which is still operated by the family and includes: the late Harold Pabst, who was mayor of Aspen and published the Aspen Illustrated News; Nick Pabst, who was editor of The Aspen Times during the 1970s; and the Brumder family (Mrs. Brumder was a Pabst), who owned a house on Bleeker Street from the 1940s until last year.I put a “Save the Date” in last week’s column about the 2007 Freestyle benefit for the Aspen Art Museum and forgot the date. It is Friday, Dec. 28, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the St. Regis Aspen. Call 925-8050 for reservations.Featured in the November-December issue of Colorado Homes & Lifestyles magazine is the publication’s “House of the Year,” which is located in Snowmass Village and was designed by Cottle Carr Yaw Architects.Undercurrent … going to the post office and visiting with friends is one of Aspen’s few remaining small-town rituals.