From the 1950s, each of us remembers a different Aspen home
Legends & Legacies
For those of us who grew up in Aspen during the 1950s, home held different meanings. We shared the same town, attended the same school and skied the same mountain. But the places where the city’s children rested their heads on a pillow varied and, therefore, each of us had a unique Aspen home. Mine was Galena Street.
The Mace children lived at Toklat and woke up to the isolation of Ashcroft. Their sled dogs howled at the moon. What a splendid moon at that high elevation, especially on a cold winter’s night! No school bus carried kids to Ashcroft back then. Castle Creek road offered a narrow, bumpy, gravel ride all the way to Highway 82.
Tom and John Marsing rode a similar journey to school from the opposite direction. A long gravel road from Lenado wound down the Woody Creek Valley from their family’s logging mill. Aspen rested literally on the other side of the mountain.
Christine and Susie Wirth slept inside the Sundeck at the top of Aspen Mountain. Imagine skiing to school and taking the chairlift home. Their 360-degree views of the Elk Mountains etched an incomparable memory of home.
My Aspen home experience lay a good distance from theirs. I lived in the Cowenhoven Building at the heart of Aspen’s busiest block. All of Aspen’s traffic, although considerably less than now, passed by my front door. Every Aspenite stopped by the post office on the next corner, where they greeted fellow residents. Many dropped in at Aspen Drug to pick up a newspaper and prescriptions. Visitors looked in my living room windows with hopes to find a tourist-oriented retail store. Instead, they saw the simple interior of a family home.
Mill between Hyman and Hopkins ranked as the only block as busy as mine. There, locals bought food at Beck and Bishop. They purchased everything else you might need, other than clothing, from Aspen Supply.
I journeyed to school as a pedestrian. The trek varied, but my favorite path headed down Galena Street past the Post Office, or Elks Building. I walked past the display windows at the Kalmes clothing store, and checked out new merchandise. Then I would cross Galena, head down Hopkins, and survey the Isis Theater movie posters. Then I would head down Mill past Henry Stein’s office, currently the Cantina, to gaze at his Frederic Remington bronze cowboys. I would cross Main and saunter alongside the Hotel Jerome. I made sure not walk too close to the walls where metal grills covered the basement floor window wells, in fear they might collapse if I stepped on them. After Mathews Drug I made a quick turn down Monarch Street, where it jogged left by Fred Glidden’s restored Victorian house. A few more yards landed me at school, now the Red Brick Arts Center.
On my return route I might head up Mill to the library at the Opera House and continue homeward on Hyman. Some days I travelled through the alleys and counted pigeons. Winters I would gawk at two-story icicles, formed on the shady sides of downtown buildings.
But if I returned home by my preferred route, the same one I took to school in the mornings, I would walk up Galena. There I would see a scene similar to the one in the accompanying photo. In the winter back then, no gobblers removed the snow. Over time, the snowbanks grew taller than I, and blocked my view of passing cars.
But when the sun was right I could see, as in the photo, the Little Nell T-bar lift and the Veteran Ore Bin.
The snowbanks narrowed Galena, the highway through town. And infrequent, haphazard plowing left passages covered with white stuff for long periods of time, perfect for youngsters like me to boot-skate our way home.
We each had our own Aspen. I close my eyes and remember every detail of mine.
Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while teaching Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Every summer there comes a particular hike on a particular day when you know you’re seeing the best wildflower display of the year. It is a magical, and bittersweet, day.