25-50-100 years ago…
“Four killed in wreck on the Midland” read the front-page headline in The Aspen Democrat-Times a century ago. An engine and 25 freight cars crashed outside of Leadville, according to the newspaper. The Midland connected Leadville and Aspen via the Hagerman Tunnel and Basalt. The report:Yesterday morning about 4 o’clock, an eastbound train ran away down the grade from Busk to Leadville, leaving the track just above Turquoise Lake and dashed down the embankment, a distance of 200 feet, leaving the caboose and one car of coal on the right-of-way. It is said that while going through the Hagerman tunnel, Engineer [Henry] Forrest lost control of his train, owing to the fact the air did not work and he could not hold his train. The freight gained momentum with every yard down the grade and left the mouth of the tunnel at a terrific speed, passing Busk at a speed of 60 miles per hour … Engineer Forrest was hurled through the air a distance of 160 feet and it is a miracle he escaped with his life. His right leg was broken and it is feared he was injured internally.Fireman [Marsh] Rich was buried beneath his engine, his body cut in twain. Conductor [H.C.] Smith was found dead in his caboose. His neck was broken, probably from the whip-like concussion when the train left the track. Edward Davenport, one of the tramps aboard the train, was buried in the wreckage of coal, timbers and twisted iron. H.D. Fair, head brakeman, was found buried in the wreckage.
Two ski champs challenged each other to a slalom race at Buttermilk 50 years ago. The Aspen Times reported on the upcoming contest: Two of the world’s most famous skiers have challenged each other to a slalom duel at the weekly challenge race on Buttermilk Mountain at noon, Sunday, Jan. 24. The two, Stein Eriksen and Toni Spiss, represent the area’s two competing ski schools and are advocates of different ski teaching techniques. Eriksen heads the ski school at the Aspen Highlands. Possessor of one of the best racing records in history, he was a gold medal winner at the 1952 Olympic Games in Norway and won three gold medals, slalom, giant slalom and combined, at the 1954 FIS World Championships in Sweden. Although never a gold medal winner, Spiss has earned one silver medal and one bronze medal in world title slaloms and has won many of the top European races. In addition, he served as coach for the hot Austrian team. Aspen High School was set to host an unusual basketball game 50 years ago. The Aspen Times reported: Animal lovers, basketball enthusiasts and those who seek comic relief should all be satisfied next Sunday when the Aspen High School seniors present a donkey basketball game. The novel contest between the senior squad members and a pick-up group of All Stars is scheduled for the school gym at 8 p.m. The donkeys, on a tour through the western states, come from Crescent, Oklahoma, and are rated to be among the most highly trained of their species.Although the animals have not been taught to dribble or shoot baskets, they are reported to be experts at open court running and under-the-basket fighting. The Senior Class team will be composed of Don Stapleton, Dick Scheig, John Barbee, Dan Glidden, Rex Carson and Mike Baar. … According to Dick Scheig, senior class official, the donkeys will wear special padding on their hooves so as not to mar the gym floor and are reported to be housebroken.
The current beetle outbreak that has decimated Colorado forests is nothing new. Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Forest Service was preparing to selectively cut down infested trees. The Aspen Times reported: Pine beetle infestation is beginning to encroach on Pitkin County forests and the U.S. Forest Service says it will launch pre-emptive strikes against the bugs during the next two summers. The infestation, which has plagued Summit and Eagle counties for four to five years, is now becoming noticeable in a 50,000 square-foot area five miles east of Ruedi Reservoir, according to Forest Service public information officer Matt Mathes. About a third of the trees there have become infested in the last two or three years, he says. Mathes says the White River National Forest has allocated an extra $400,000 to fight the blight. Most of the money will be spent on the harder-hit Summit and Eagle stands, but some will go toward nipping Pitco’s problem in the bud.A trip to Hawaii put the sheriff in the spotlight 25 years ago. The Aspen Times reported:A 26-day trip to Hawaii has resulted in controversy for Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast since he is billing the trip to county taxpayers to the tune of $1,497.61. Kienast met with members of the board of Pitkin County Commissioners Tuesday, where he was chided for an apparently extravagant expenditure. Commissioner Michael Kinsley … led the attack, questioning whether Kienast’s expenditure was appropriate in light of recent county budget constraints that have led to several layoffs. Kienast is claiming the 1984 trip was taken for training purposes in the martial art of Aikido, a self-defense technique said to be less dangerous than other martial arts. Kienast told the Times Thursday that training is a top priority in his department. He said the reason he went to Hawaii stems from the fact that Honolulu is a world center for martial arts. – compiled by Janet Urquhart
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Oral family history provides context that textbooks lack. Tying personal experience to collective events renders them relevant. Most of us have family oral history going back only a few generations, but that spans more history than you might think.