25-50-100 Years Ago

Among the more eclectic pursuits of the local populace was racing cars, sometimes on the streets of Aspen, sometimes along local country roads and sometimes at a raceway built in the Woody Creek area. Here, Mrs. Jean Gaylord of Aspen goes through a trial run in a Sprite racing car, preparing for an Aspen Sports Car Club event at a track believed to be near the Aspen Highlands ski area. (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)

Although “civilization” was said to be overtaking the Wild West, there were still moments of extreme violence and gunplay, and newspapers duly reported them even if they did not involve local personalities. One example is the following brief account carried on The Aspen Democrat’s front page about an incident in a neighboring state, two days after it occurred.

Albuquerque, N.M., June 22 ” Edward Jones and R. M. Sallier, cattlemen, were both killed in a duel last evening; they were neighbors residing near St. Vrian N.M., two hundred miles east of here. The men had been friends but quarreled over a cattle trade, both were instantly killed on firing simultaneously. Both men were wealthy and highly respected.

The outcome of an earlier bout of violence, this one in Aspen, also made it onto the front page.

At 11:05 last night the [Frank] Kane jury came into court and rendered a verdict of “guilty of assault to do great bodily harm” [in a case that began a month earlier with the nonfatal shooting of Billy O’Donnell following a disagreement at a boarding house].

The very next day, Kane received his sentence from the judge hearing the case.

Judge Rucker, attorney for Frank Kane … withdrew the motion for a new trial … whereupon Judge Shumate sentenced the prisoner to one year in the state reformatory at Buena Vista, to pay a fine of $100 and all costs of the trial. Sheriff Begley left on last evening’s Midland with Kane for the reformatory.

Thus another of our tough characters … has received a proper dose of medicine, a dose that may do some good and serve as a warning to others not to be too ready with their shooting irons.

The paper commented on the problem of dogs in Aspen, which it seems was getting out of hand.

Yesterday afternoon, while passing along Hyman Avenue, a young boy was bitten by a dog. It is said this dog has bitten two or three children recently. Complaint was made and the owner of the dog promised to keep it tied up in the future. There are altogether too many dogs roaming the streets of Aspen ” in fact the town has much the appearance of an Indian village … it has gotten to be quite a fad for one to have from one to three or four dogs trailing him down the streets. It is impossible to walk a square even on the business streets without falling over or dodging half a dozen dogs and having several of them snapping at your heels. Because a license has been paid on a dog is no reason the animal should be permitted to become a public nuisance.

(Microfilm of The Aspen Times 1904-1909 is missing from the Colorado Historical Society’s archives. These 1908 excerpts are from The Aspen Democrat.)

Community unhappiness over the state of Aspen’s ancient and dilapidated water system was building to a head, as the city council prepared to either buy the privately owned system or take it over by legal force.

Once the appraisal is in their hands the aldermen will submit a purchase offer to owner Fred Hendy. If their offer is not accepted the city will begin condemnation proceedings [and] the purchase price of the system would be determined by the courts. At Monday’s meeting the aldermen also acknowledged receiving a report … advising them on the most pressing improvements necessary to the water system [including] new transmission lines from Hunter Creek. [It was noted] that present water rights owned by the Aspen Water Company on Hunter Creek are inadequate for future expansion [and] that the possibility existed of purchasing additional water from Fritz Benedict, who owns some early rights on Hunter Creek.

As Aspen’s cultural offerings continued to expand and multiply, the biggest of them, the Aspen Music Festival and School, was reporting record numbers of students from around the world.

Breaking all records, three hundred and twenty-five students from 10 countries throughout the world, as well as each of the 48 states, descended on Aspen last Saturday to register for the ninth annual summer season of the Aspen Music School. Armed with the instruments of their choice covering the entire orchestral range, these young musicians and vocalists arrived by plane, train, bus, private car and ” in the case of one budding flautist from New York City ” by motorcycle which, he explained, had afforded him the opportunity of stopping frequently … to practice so he could adjust easily to the increasing altitude.

As temperatures warmed up and the snows melted at the higher elevations, local officials warned that the spring runoff had not yet peaked in the area’s rivers and creeks.

As of Tuesday, some low-lying areas along the Roaring Fork River east of town were rapidly becoming swampland. Some locals have been forced to get to their cars in hip waders, and the North Star nature preserve in the Stillwater area is largely under water … Ruedi Reservoir, at the head of the Frying Pan River, is expected to reach capacity within three days … Grizzly Reservoir, at the head of the Roaring Fork, is expected to fill to capacity with runoff water within a week despite diversion projects [which send Frying Pan and Roaring Fork water under the Continental Divide to supply Front Range cities]. Water storage on the Eastern Slope is expected to reach capacity by the first of next week, when federal water officials will decide whether to continuing diverting water from the Western Slope … Normally, [Pitkin] county officials badger water diversion authorities about depleting local supply. Now, however, they want them to carry off as much as they can, “and the irony is not lost on us,” said [Pitkin County Environmental Authority Mark] Fuller.

A locally based ski manufacturer was eyeing the possibility of relocating to a less expensive area in a move to save money and improve its prospects for the future, but some wanted to keep the company operations at the Aspen Business Center.

The Phoenix Ski Company in Aspen may be in line for some assistance in firming up its future in Aspen, as well as its standing in the telemark ski market. The Pitkin County Commissioners are presently considering the ski manufacturer’s request that the county make available some $4 million in industrial revenue bonds to help finance a more permanent home in the ABC. The proposal was introduced to the commissioners by Commissioner Michael Kinsley … should the board endorse the action … it would signal a complete change of governmental heart. The commissioners have refused in the past to become involved in this type of industrial assistance [rejecting requests from] the Aspen Skiing Company and Sport Obermeyer. Kinsley, in supporting Phoenix’s proposal, said that Gunnison County officials had approached the company with a similar offer. He said Phoenix wants to stay in Aspen, but will relocate if it can get a better deal elsewhere.

Ever wonder how some of the area’s ski runs got their names? Here is an example involving two runs, one on Aspen Mountain and the other at Snowmass Ski Area. Only one run, on Aspen Mountain was initially up for naming rights in a celebrity-benefit bidding contest to raise money for The Aspen Foundation, which was the fundraising arm of the Skico and precursor to today’s Aspen Community Foundation. But the two leading bidders, Harland Adams of Aspen and Gene Reardon of Denver, agreed to make it a tie.

Adams [the winner of the bidding war] said that he really wanted to rename a run at Snowmass, where he lives, and Reardon agreed to match Adams’ bid of $40,000 … and $80,000 was raised. Kruezeck run on Aspen Mountain will now be known as Gene Reardon’s Run [after the bidder’s father] and Village Bound run at Snowmass will now be known as Adams’ Avenue.