Fond memories of Carl’s
I was happy to read in the Jan. 6 Mary Eshbaugh Hayes column of Carl and Katie Bergman’s recent honor by Sojourner magazine (“Sojourner Salutes”). In addition to their dedication to Aspen history, this couple has done so much to preserve the humanity of Aspen in the manner in which they conduct their business, the way they treat their staff, and in service to the community. The Bergmans are as spirited, yet down-to-earth as Carl’s famous antique calliope. It was my privilege to work for Carl throughout my college years.
The story below is a recollection from my first summer when Carl had just purchased Matthew’s Drug. Then as now, Carl gave staff opportunities, encouragement and freedom to grow. Every free-spirited Aspen character and many celebrities came to Carl’s. It was such fun! I cherish the memories.
Early one June morning as I stood at the front register of Carl’s Pharmacy, preparing to open for the day, I was startled by an elderly German man frantically rapping on the window, shouting about an emergency. Carl signaled from the pharmacy to unlock the door and let him in. I was a new employee, eager to please Carl and the customers.
“Quick, girl, hurry and get me some Som-in-ex,” the man ordered breathlessly. “I’m running late!”
I rushed to the sleep products section. “Do you want regular or large Sominex?” I asked.
“I just vant regular,” he replied with irritation. “Don’t vaste time, just put it in a paper bag for me ” here’s five dollars; keep the change.” He left, slamming the door. Clearly sleep deprivation had taken a toll, I thought.
Half an hour later the man stormed in again, red-faced, furiously waving his brown paper bag aloft and yelling, as he headed toward me. “You! Shop girl ” you gave me sleeping pilz!”
“Yes,” I replied “that’s what you asked for.”
“I did not” he shouted angrily. “Stupid girl, you vasted my time ” now I’m late for Bazalt. They’re running on the Frying Pan and I’m paying my guide by the hour.”
Coffee counter patrons, including Georgie Leighton from the Times, quietly swiveled on their stools. Jovial counter clerk Dick Sturdivant paused from pouring java to size up the situation. Customers across the aisles stared shyly. I wondered what Carl would think of this public scene in his store. I asked the man to show me what he wanted. Storming over to the sporting goods section, he pointed to rows of glass jars, filled with small, bright, red spheres. It was bait. “Here, dis is vat I vant ” salmon ex ” you idiot!”
Embarrassed, I handed him the fish eggs and apologized. Carl, Dick, Georgie and the guys at the counter never let me forget it!
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