25-50-100 years ago | AspenTimes.com
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25-50-100 years ago

Compiled by Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Weekly
George McLaren hauls 5 tons of Burbank potatoes from Thomasville to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in May 1919. He used a team of horses and two hand cars to transport the 1918 crop. Potatoes were a major agricultural product in the Roaring Fork Valley for many years, hence a stop by a train of potato experts in Aspen in 1910. Courtesy Aspen Historical Society.
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“Eight towns go ‘dry,’ ten towns go ‘wet,'” reported The Aspen Democrat-Times in a 1910 story datelined Denver. The article was, ostensibly, about municipal elections, but we think it had something to do with booze. The newspaper reported:

“Wets” and “Drys” in a score of Colorado towns engaged in a battle in yesterday’s municipal elections. Returns show ten towns voted “wet” and eight “dry.”

In the “wet” column appeared all the mining towns in which the saloon was an issue, along with a sprinkling of agricultural communities, while the “dry” contingent won only in the agricultural districts.

The real storm centers of the fight were at Rifle, Buena Vista and Brighton, all of which are credited to the “wets” by a small margin. …

At Rifle, the activity of the “drys” almost provoked open rupture. The “drys” carried their voters to the polls in carriages, this being objected to by the “wets.”

Returns showed the following in the “wet” column: Rifle, Grand Valley, Carbondale, Palisade, Brighton, Eldora, Ward, Nederland, Gunnison and Buena Vista.

The “drys” claim Lamar, Edgewater, Akron, Evans, Basalt, Monument and Marble.

• • • •

The potato special was not on the menu a century ago, it was on the tracks. The Aspen Democrat-Times reported:

What shall we do about the Agricultural College and the Rio Grande potato special? Most of our farmers say they lost money on their potatoes last year, and we believe them.

This reminds us of the merchant who, in selling a suit of clothes, explained that he had lost an even dollar on each suit. The customer asked how he could live that way and the merchant replied: “I sell more of them.” The Pitkin County farmer must brace up and plant “more of them,” as next year they may sell again at $1.50 to $1.75, the same as last year.

The fact is that no one can grow better potatoes than our farmers, so we say let’s ALL BOOST the potato special.

Aspen has never taken a back seat on such occasions, nor will we this time. Let every citizen arrange to meet the train promptly. …

Some of the prominent businessmen have taken the matter in hand and will see that extra papers and special invitations are sent to each farmer, so Aspen and Pitkin County will get the full benefits from this potato train with its staff of experts.

The Aspen School District recently named a local district official as its next superintendent. Such was the case 50 years ago, as well. The Aspen Times reported:

After considering the qualifications of 87 applicants from Colorado and a number of other states, the school board chose a local man as superintendent of schools.

Appointed by the board of education at its regular meeting on Wednesday, April 6, was Earl J. Kelly, present principal of the Aspen High School. Kelly will assume his new position in June when Ira Ralston leaves the post to accept a scholarship at Stanford University.

• • • •

Plans are under way to expand Aspen Valley Hospital. Fifty years ago, plans were in the works for what would be a new county hospital. The Aspen Times reported:

With the execution of the last needed deed to the county, plans are now being made to let bids for the construction of a new Pitkin County Hospital within two weeks, it was announced Thursday evening, April 7.

The action was made possible by the donation of a small plot of ground by Mrs. Ruth Bisel. Her deed to the property was received by county commissioners the preceding Wednesday.

If technical matters can be settled with the state in the next few days, bids will be let at the commissioners meeting April 18, it was stated at the joint conference of the commissioners and hospital board on Thursday.

A local man scored a new car in what was termed a “suspenseful raffle” 25 years ago. The Aspen Times reported:

Norm Sattler is one happy dude this week. He won a 1985 four-wheel-drive Subaru wagon in an end-of-the-season raffle for High Alpine Restaurant employees Wednesday evening at Dudley’s Diner.

Actually, High Alpine Restaurant owners Gwyn and George Gordon originally won the Subaru, in a raffle that took place in March as part of the Aspen Winternational. The Gordons thought giving the car to one of their 90 employees would be “an extra way to say thank you.”

The Gordons purchased 200 tickets during the Winternational raffle, with the original intention of giving two to each employee in their next paychecks. But after mulling it over, Gwyn Gordon said they decided to make it more suspenseful by waiting and doing another raffle of their own.

• • • •

The success of the newly renovated Wheeler Opera House was proving problematic – at least to those who worked there – 25 years ago. The Aspen Times reported:

Operation of Aspen’s historic opera house was a huge success during its first post-renovation year, but success also breeds problems, the city council was told during its regular meeting Monday.

Making the report and requesting funding for three additional people to help solve the problems were members of the Wheeler Board and the Aspen Council for the Arts.

A major problem, according to Wheeler Board Chairperson Eve Homeyer, is the inability of the three-person opera house crew to keep up with the workload.

She and board member John Stanford asked the council to permit the board to add two people to the opera house staff and to hire a third for the arts council as a box office administrator.

They pointed out that during the first year of operation, the opera house had been open seven days a week for up to 18 hours a day and the staff had worked 50- to 60-hour weeks.


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