People of the Times
Growing up in Aspen, Mike Garrish (nee Garich – teachers at the Lincoln School changed the spelling to Garrish) worked on farms, on the railroad, in the mines … and served with the Army during World War II.Mike became a lifetime gardener of renown. “Our father died young of miner’s consumption,” he says, “and we had to garden to have something to eat in the winter.”Carrots and potatoes we could leave in the ground all winter and they stayed good to eat. If you marked the row you could dig down through the snow and find them.”Mike served on City Council for 12 years then became mayor in 1960. “When I got to be mayor things happened fast. We paved the streets [the dust and mud problem had grown to be horrendous]. We upgraded the electric and water systems.”Years later Mike was a little less excited about the improvements happening. In 1992, Mike sold his cottage on Gibson Avenue and moved downvalley.”The town is worrying too much about the values of being a wealthy and popular community. It’s forgotten that the biggest priority is people,” he said. “If they’d just quit holding dozens of festivals every weekend. Everybody has a gimmick to make a buck, and Aspen is the victim.” Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, “The Story of Aspen”
Werner Kuster arrived in Aspen to act as the new Hotel Jerome chef in 1949. Almost immediately, city clerk Louise Berg drafted him into the U.S. Army so a local boy wouldn’t have to go. “But,” she assured him, “you’ll be an instant citizen.”Because his feet were too small for regulation army boots, he rousted 10th Army Division mules in his own brown and white cordovans. Other recruits, thinking he was German, made the “damned Kraut’s” life miserable.Later, as owner of the world-famous Red Onion, he hosted kings and tycoons, movie stars, down-on-their luck miners and free-loading ski teams with equal aplomb. When Steve Knowlton’s Golden Horn floor show threatened his business, Werner imported a monkey and a parrot. The parrot, Gertie, lives on, ancient now. The monkey, Jo-Jo, broke into the wine cellar, cracked open bottles and drank himself to death.Werner’s pockets and his heart were as big as he is small. He gave to every cause, served on many councils. Today he’s an inimitable raconteur of old times in Aspen. He could take his act “on the road.” Martie Sterling
At Gretl Uhl’s Victorian house on Hallam Street, the teapot was always on and there were always homemade German goodies to feast upon. Gretl seemed to be everybody’s best friend because you couldn’t stop by for afternoon tea without having half of Aspen show up. This hospitality and the good things she cooked eventually became famous at Gretl’s restaurant, which she ran in Tourtelotte Park on Aspen Mountain from 1966 through 1980.Born and raised in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Gretl picked up cooking skills from her parents, who had a restaurant within the Olympic ski stadium. At first all Gretl could think of was skiing. She started racing in 1941 and was on the German national team until 1951.In 1948 she married ski racer Sepp Uhl and in 1953 they emigrated to Aspen. For years they were both ski instructors, but when offered the restaurant on the mountain, she eagerly created the most-talked-about mountain restaurant. She ran it differently. Instead of the usual ski mountain fare, she served gourmet meals, splitting the menu half-Bavarian and half-American. And for dessert, apple strudel, which became the signature dish for Gretl’s (now Bonnie’s).When Gretl finally retired, you could be sure the teapot was always on. Mary Eshbaugh Hayes
Like all early mining camps, Aspen in summer 1880 had little more than hopes and rumors of possibly becoming a successful mining community. But the ever-optimists would eventually arrive and begin a variety of businesses. It must have made a curious sight when 5-foot, 2-inch Julius Berg entered the city with a really large dairy cow.A confectioner by trade who had worked in a bakery in Leadville, Julius noted the demand for milk and dairy produce from prospectors returning from the Roaring Fork Valley for supplies. The lack of a single cow in Pitkin County sent the enterprising gentleman on his Aspen adventure.Julius arrived early and benefited from the success of Aspen’s mining boom. J. Berg Confectionery occupied a false-fronted building on the 400 block of Hyman Avenue. Over the years Julius practiced his trade and became highly touted for his candy Easter eggs, lemon drops and producing 100 gallons of ice cream for the Fourth of July celebrations.Historians are indebted to his daughter Louise and her many taped radio interviews with George Madsen reminiscing of a life growing up in Aspen during a quieter time. Larry Fredrick
David “Scooter” LaCouter was born in Methuen, Mass., and taught skiing at Cranmore, N.H., and Glen Ellen, Vt. He arrived in Aspen in 1967 with wife Ellie and son Gary. Their daughter Laura was born in 1969. Since then, Scooter has taught and skied on Ajax with the famous, the infamous and numerous locals, many of whom have become lifelong friends.At the end of his first Aspen season, Scooter competed for the U.S. Demonstration Ski Team and made it, along with fellow Aspenites Kenny Oakes, Lavelle Saier and Craig Jacobi. Scooter qualified for the next three national demo teams, in 1972, 1976 and 1980, thereby showing he was consistently one of the best ski instructors in America.During the 1970s, when ski techniques were becoming complex, Scooter simplified matters, saying, “Turn the mothers!” That simple instruction struck a chord and turned up on hats, T-shirts and bumper stickers. Scooter can do more than ski; he was once a disc jockey at the Blue Tooth, a Sugarbush watering hole; he shot a hole-in-one at a golf tournament a few years ago; and he’s the inventor and well-known consumer of the “Wandering Minstrel” cocktail, a combination of a Stinger and Black Russian.Scooter remains dedicated to sharing his knowledge and love for skiing on Ajax Mountain. Gail Nichols
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