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Aspen loses a link to its past

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen lost one of its true old-timers last week with the death of Angie Griffith, daughter of a silver miner and his wife.

Angeline Marie Griffith was born May 23, 1923, in Aspen to Joseph and Johana (Blatnick) Muhich, natives of Yugoslavia who met and married in Leadville in the early 1900s and came to Aspen in 1919.

A Rosary was held Monday for Griffith at St. Mary’s Church. A funeral Mass will take place today at 10 a.m. at the church.

She died Feb. 9 in Mesa, Ariz., where she was with her family. She is survived by stepson Larry Griffith of Redding, Calif., his wife Carolyn, and their daughter, Lorie.

Griffith was preceded in death by an older brother, Joe Muhich, who died in 1987, and two sisters who died in childhood in 1927.

For the past 30 years, Griffith spent her winters in Phoenix, but returned to Aspen each summer to the little yellow house on Walnut Street with the big yard and garden. Her family’s original home, a deteriorating Victorian, is still on the property.

Also nearby are two log buildings that Griffith and her husband, Roy, built in 1964. A number of local residents have rented the cabins, dubbed the “line shacks,” over the years.

Griffith was a member of the Eagles Auxiliary and the local literary society, but is best remembered as the owner of the White Kitchen, a Hyman Avenue restaurant were a pretzel shop now operates.

Griffith married Newt Klusmire in 1945 and opened the White Kitchen in 1947, according to her account of early Aspen published in “The Quiet Years,” a collection of stories assembled by Kathleen Krieger Daily and Gaylord Guenin.

She was married to Klusmire for eight years and then married Roy Griffith in 1956.

“The White Kitchen was the news center – all the gossip had to go through there,” Griffith recalled in “The Quiet Years.”

The restaurant was one of the few places that served three meals a day, all year round, recalls longtime resident Jim Hayes, who first met Griffith shortly after his arrival in 1949.

Working men who had no kitchen facilities or could not cook were regulars at the White Kitchen, Hayes said. While men ate breakfast there, Griffith would prepare sack lunches for them to eat at their job sites at noon, he recalled. Many would be back in her dining room for dinner.

“All my meals, unless someone invited me to dinner, were at the White Kitchen,” he said.

Griffith let her customers, including Hayes, run up a tab.

“Everyone who came here ran out of money very soon. Angie was an open account to all of us who came,” Hayes said. “The first payday, we’d go and pay Angie.”

Although Griffith and husband Roy left Aspen in 1959 for some 15 years, she leased the restaurant to another operator. Jon Busch, who lives across the street from the Griffith place, remembers eating there in the mid-1960s.

“It was the best place in town for breakfast,” he said.

Pies made from scratch were a staple when Griffith ran the White Kitchen, and Hayes remembers ordering a whole one, which he planned to shove into the face of a rival for a young lady’s affections. Griffith didn’t have a whole pie, but she assembled one of slices from several varieties.

Much of the town gathered to watch the fistfight that ensued right outside the restaurant after the multiflavored pie was delivered into the target face, according to Hayes.

“I went wham, right square in the face. He wiped pie out of his face and came up swinging,” he said. “The pie fight – that story was told for years and years.”

Griffith assumed her parents met at the boarding house where her mother prepared meals and washed clothes for miners in Leadville, according to “The Quiet Years.” Her father walked over Independence Pass to Aspen and then walked back to collect his family and bring them over via railroad, she related in the book.

Joseph Muhich worked a variety of jobs to support his family after silver mining waned, according to Larry Griffith.

The Muhiches tended a large garden and raised a couple of pigs and milk cows at their home on the east side of town, Angie Griffith recalled in “The Quiet Years.” Slop for the pigs was cooked in an old ore car her father rigged up so a fire could be built beneath it.

“When I was young, we had everything in our garden,” Griffith said. “My folks would make sauerkraut in a 50-gallon barrel, and we’d eat sauerkraut and potatoes, lots of potatoes.”

Slaughtering hogs for bacon and ham to sustain the family through the winter, planting potatoes on her birthday and delivering milk in lard buckets to local families who paid 10 cents a quart were among Griffith’s memories of childhood. So was slogging to school in knee-deep, unplowed snow.

In her later years, Griffith returned to her Aspen garden each summer.

“She loved her garden. She did that right up till the end,” said Larry Griffith. “She had a big berry patch out back. I think most of the old-timers got some of her raspberry jam.”

“She would give me a jar of it every year,” Busch confirmed. “Very good. Very good jam.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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