Aspen Thumbing Station sign goes MIA
December 8, 2008
ASPEN ” Aspen has lost what some considered a sacred part of its soul, an old bit of painted wood that hung on a metal pole like a parking sign, with the words “Thumbing Station,” on Main Street next to the former Cortina Lodge.
The sign showed the image of a fist with a thumb sticking up, and offered those without a car of their own ” or a bicycle, bus pass or other means of getting somewhere ” what seemed to be a safe place to hitch a ride without being busted by the cops.
It had been there for decades, and was “a rogue sign that somebody put up a long time ago,” according to Stephanie Desaro, spokeswoman for the Aspen Police Department, who was quoting another city employee on the matter.
The earliest mention of it in The Aspen Times was by columnist Paul Andersen, who in 2003 wrote of his first ski trip to Aspen in 1970, and included the fact that he used the Thumbing Station to get out of town after a short and not entirely happy stay.
But this week an irate valley resident called the Times to demand an explanation for the fact that the sign is now gone.
“It’s just another sign of a decaying culture in Aspen,” said Matthew Franzen, who said he has used that sign as a hitching haven many times in the past 20 years and last saw it standing in October.
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Franzen, 48, has lived in the Aspen area for about five years, and once lived without a personal vehicle for 26 years in the Boulder area. He said he has traveled and skied throughout the region for two decades, and expressed the hope that the city will resurrect the sign.
“That’s gotta come back,” he said. “If that goes away, it’s like, ‘C’mon, Aspen.'”
Others feel the same, although there is some disagreement over exactly how long the sign has been gone.
“Something like six months ago,” said Kyle Kroupa of The Wine Cellar at Carl’s Pharmacy, from which the sign used to be visible. “I just noticed it was gone. I remember thinking, It’s the end of an Aspen era.”
Greg Schoenstein, chief engineer at The Hotel Jerome, which owns the Cortina, located at 230 E. Main St., said he had seen the sign many times, but was not aware that it was missing until a reporter called.
After thinking about it for a moment, Schoenstein said, “I want to say I saw it during the summer. I bet you somebody saw it and thought it’d be a nice souvenir. I thought it was unique.”
One city official said he had no knowledge of the sign’s whereabouts.
“I have no clue,” said Randy Ready, assistant city manager, noting that the sign was “something that we pretty much just allowed to be.”
Ready and others recalled that about a dozen years ago, when the city was working on street signs in general, there was some talk of tearing out the Thumbing Station sign.
But the City Council at the time decided it was unique and should be preserved.
“They didn’t use the ‘H’ word, for historic, but it got a new coat of green paint and stayed up,” Ready remembered, adding that a city worker might have removed it. “If we see it, we’ll certainly get it back up.”