Aspen’s history: 25/50/100 years ago | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen’s history: 25/50/100 years ago

July 1903

You think today’s fireworks extravaganza is impressive? How about a display with words? The Times offered this detailed description of the opening fireworks planned for 1903,

Grand Opening Exhibition Device “Welcome”: Commencing with an illumination of crimson and green, mutating to the word “Welcome” in letters of variegated lancework, above which is an arch of brilliant colored jets and suns with golden rays, terminating with artillery salutes. …



Of course not all was fun and games on the Fourth. The Times offered these different warnings,




The Times wishes to warn the people to take extra pains to protect themselves against fire on the Fourth. There is always plenty of it flying about on that day. Boys are using matches recklessly. Fire crackers are thrown into heaps of rubbish and smoulder there. Fires are not difficult to start and they are extremely hard to extinguish at times. If your house and furniture is not insured already, have it attended to immediately.

At this period of the year more than at any other there are accidents of various kinds. The small boy is apt to lose his fingers, his eyes and other and various portions of his anatomy. The explosions of powder which are going on around his small but reckless person continually make a menace to his life and limbs that cannot well be avoided.

The noise frightens horses and runaways with their consequent damage and sometimes loss of life are present all the Fourth. …

Some men who have the idea that a celebration implies the necessity of drunkenness, always prepare for the Fourth by drinking all the red liquor in sight. They lurch and stagger to and fro, into fires and against decent people. …

And still more opinions related to the Fourth of July.

If a few people would quit spending their money elsewhere and kicking about home institutions the success of Aspen would be assured. … In Aspen there are several who for diverse reasons The Times will elaborate upon later, find it pleasant and perhaps profitable to combat every good move that is made by others. The Fourth of July committee has done its best. The Commercial Club is doing its best, and The Times is confident that the best these two organizations can do is considerably better than anything that has ever been accomplished or ever will be accomplished by the knockers. Quit hammering down the advantage others gain for your town.

A sure sign of summer: mosquitoes. Of course they were new to the valley 100 years ago, or so the Times said.

Mr. Mosquito has arrived in Aspen and has presented his bill to many of the people here. This is the first time in the history of the city, so it is said, that he has ever been in town.

July 1953

Town leaders had spent months wooing Hollywood types to Aspen, and their hard work was beginning to pay off. The Times reported,

For three days this coming week, MGM Movie Studios of Hollywood will shoot location scenery for the western movie, for which the working title is “Gypsy Colt,” in the Aspen area.

The director, Andrew Marton, the business manager, Charles Coleman, were here ten days ago picking the location and decided on Henry Stein’s ranch up Maroon Valley and forest land on Aspen Mountain. Mr. Stein is donating the rental price of his property to Pitkin County Hospital.

Bad locals. Bad, bad locals.

The local Police authorities report than one-fourth of all traffic violations on the Aspen streets are local cars. For example, out of the last thirty-two tickets issued by one officer, eight have been local. This is certainly a bad example for our citizens to set for our visitors.

Mosquitoes made headlines 100 years ago; 50 years ago it was ticks. The Times wrote,

A little shiny brown bug is stirring these days on the sunny slopes of Colorado’s mountains and in the warm, moist woodlands. He’s got a lot of legs on his flat body, and a bite that packs a terrific wallop. Most Coloradans know him as the wood tick rather than under his scientific name of Dermancentor Andersoni.

He transmits at least two types of disease: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can be fatal, and Colorado Tick Fever, which is not fatal, so far as is known.

“Gypsy Colt” might have been the movie being filmed in Aspen, but a band of gypsies was more on the mind of area residents. The Times reported,

The Better Business Bureau of Denver warns all Colorado residents to watch out for itinerant gypsy swindlers who are active in various parts of the State using a variety of methods to trick people out of their money.

This band of men, women and children are a part of the nationally famous Williamson gang, who travel about the country peddling near worthless merchandise and performing poor quality services.

Bureau director Dan Bell said that the women solicit door to door offering laces, linens and suiting material, offering fabulous bargains accompanied by a sob story to gain sympathy. The men contact institutions, manufacturing plants and business houses offering to do replating of silver items, or metal utensils. On other occasions the men claim to do boiler repair work. The men are also known to be soliciting from door to door offering to repair and paint roofs, or clean septic tanks, or sell a load of fertilizers. In all cases, the prices quoted to get the job turn out to be more, and the quality of the work and material to be near worthless.

July 1978

Just 25 years ago, the Fourth of July in Aspen was a non-holiday. The Times reported,

The spirit of rugged American individualism, independence, self-reliance will be the keynotes of this year’s Fourth of July celebrations in Aspen.

In other words, if anyone wants to celebrate it’s going to be up to them to work it out on their own, since the city will sponsor no official events in honor of American independence … except, of course, for the traditional fireworks displays in Aspen and Snowmass.

Originally, no events whatsoever were to take place, but at the last moment the city council appropriated $2,000 for fireworks and the pyrotechnic display was rescued from the oblivion to which the horse race, parade, picnic, and street dance of earlier years had all been consigned.

The rest of the festivities were canceled by the city as a result of an alleged out-of-control mob scene last year.

And if not planning a party wasn’t enough discouragement, the police offered this warning,

Assistant Police Chief Rob McClung issued a warning to all potential Fourth of July celebrants this week, stating that the Aspen Police Department will be out in full force during the holiday seeking out over-indulgers of one kind or another.

“We are going to try to eliminate the drunks and disorderlies, and will probably be arresting people who are creating disturbances of any kind.”

Some things never change, like the sound of bulldozers marking the start of summer in Aspen.

Summer’s here and as the snow melts and the ground thaws the Roaring Fork Valley’s constructions industry swings into action.

The city and county may have strong growth control policies, but while growth can be controlled (perhaps) it can’t be stopped and the growl of earth-moving diesels and the whine of power saws are the true harbingers of summer in Aspen and Pitkin County.

This week’s Aspen Times Weekly cover story focuses on the debate of growth in Carbondale. In 1978, under the headline “Slicing up Carbondale: boom or bubble?” the Times also wrote about growth in Carbondale.

Carbondale. A downvalley mecca. A land of opportunity where opportunities are everywhere and the land is cheap. Or so they say.

Carbondale. A magnet for Aspen’s excess population and excess cash. A chance for would-be homeowners and speculators who were too late or too poor to buy into Aspen.

It’s a chance to own your very own piece of the Roaring Fork Valley in a town where land values have been doubling at a shocking rate.

A good safe investment … or is it? …

The questions really is: is there anything in Carbondale to justify the level prices have risen to or have Aspen speculators, descending en masse, driven the prices well beyond what they ought to be?


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