Birthday excursion to Glenwood | AspenTimes.com

Birthday excursion to Glenwood

Tim Willoughby
Aspen Times Weekly
Courtesy Aspen Historical SocietyThe pool slide beckoned visitors to Glenwood Springs in the1900s.
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Daily commuters from Glenwood Springs might find this silly, but in the 1950s driving to Glenwood from Aspen was an exciting excursion because it was a route rarely taken. A family might travel to Glenwood en route to Denver, to buy a car, or to take the kids to the pool. If you needed something that an Aspen retailer did not have, you did not go to Glenwood for it; instead, you went to Aspen Supply and Tom Sardy pulled out the catalogs and you ordered it. A Sunday drive, which was a common custom back then, could take you to Ashcroft or Maroon Lake, but Glenwood remained a town too far.

I remember few childhood trips to Glenwood, but one occasion is deeply embedded in my memory: Peter Droste’s birthday party. We were in third or fourth grade and the class was still small, so all the boys went. We may even have all fit in the same vehicle. The purpose of going to Glenwood was to see a movie – not just any movie, since Aspen’s Isis had plenty, but “Old Yeller.” (Was there ever a better movie for boys?)

The combination of a drive to Glenwood plus “Old Yeller” was more than anyone could dream of, but there was more: stops at two stores Aspen didn’t have: the Five and Dime, and the Army Surplus Store. Aspen had no store full of plastic stuff. Just to look at counters of primary-color gizmos was energizing. At a time when boys played war, the Army Surplus store was heaven and Mrs. Droste bought each of us surplus army helmets too big for our little heads and we wore them all the way home.

Fast forward to the 1970s. After Super Bowl weekend, I was talking to the fourth-grade boys in my Aspen Country Day School class about the game. Within just a few minutes, I discovered that we had not seen the same game. They had seen the game in New Orleans; I had watched it on TV. It was Lessing Stern’s birthday and the Stern family had taken the boys (another very small class) to the game, flying there in their private jet. Still holding dear my childhood excursion to Glenwood as my example of excitement, I shared that story with my students. In the process I discovered that Lessing had never been to Glenwood; his trips to and from Aspen had all been by airplane.

When my father was a fourth-grade boy, an automobile trip to Glenwood was a two-day excursion – one day to go, one to return. You could make the round trip by train in one day, but there would not have been a reason to do it. Glenwood was not high on the list of places to go, because Aspen was the larger town and offered more amenities, except for the Glenwood pool. With my grandfather, Father journeyed between Aspen and Hotchkiss via Glenwood. They scheduled a swim, a most memorable event in Father’s childhood.

Forty miles can be a world apart.


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