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People of the Times

Bill Herron (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)
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Editor’s note: People of the Times, past and present, fill part of our pages on alternate weeks. These vignettes are written by various locals and assembled by the Aspen Historical Society to remind us that history is more than bricks and documents.

Bill Herron was an Aspen-born, lifelong silver miner who staunchly believed that the mining glory days in his beloved hometown would return.As a newcomer in the early 1950s, I first saw Bill and a few old-timers clustered around the brass spittoon wisely provided by the postmaster, Alton Beck, in the post office (now Amen Wardy’s site). They were peering through the steamy window, watching skiers on Aspen Mountain. They used the P.O. as a warm place to meet and talk. “Look at them crazy snowsliders. You ask me, they got rocks in their heads, messing around like that!”That was Bill Herron addressing his cronies. It was mystifying to them that these strangers were paying money to play in the snow, on the same steep mountainside that all the miners had to climb to get to work during the “good old days.”I met Bill at his mother’s home on Main Street (now Herron Apartments). He lived with Cassie, his 85-year-old mother, but his real headquarters was the Red Onion. Since our family’s bed-and-breakfast inn was across the street, I’d visit with Cassie often and hear the latest gossip.Bill and his pals took comfort in “Beer Gulch,” sharing pitchers and moodily recalling how things used to be before the music people and snowsliders discovered Aspen. Beer was the drink of choice, unless someone stood them to something a bit stronger. It was beer, and Bill’s fondness for it, that was undoubtedly the reason the town marshal took Bill’s driver’s license away: “For his own good and that of the rest of town too.” His ancient Ford was retired among Cassie’s lilac bushes, between the rhubarb patch and the woodshed. “When are you going to get rid of that thing?” she’d ask. Bill would shrug, “Don’t know, maybe when I get my license back.” Almost every night, Bill would carry a hot meal home to his mother. He’d get the cook to wrap up the Onion’s special, and he’d walk clear across town with it, through stormy weather, if need be. It would always be a surprise meal for Cassie, because she never knew when he’d arrive or what he’d bring. His Irish charm and inborn gallantry was a delight. There was always a slight bow, a tip of his hat and a flattering word when we met. He complimented our children and our “lucky husbands.” He was a gentleman.Bill moved to a boarding house in Glenwood Springs when Cassie died in 1962. We’d see him down at one of the riverside bars, where his portrait hung on the wall and he still held forth with a diminishing group of old-timers. He’d insist on buying us a beer, and we’d try to satisfy his curiosity about Aspen’s goings on. When we asked about him a few months later, a grizzled old man mournfully shook his head.”Old Bill has gone and died – left us for good.”- Jony Larrowe

Tracing her family to the Queen of Denmark in the 1700s, Catherine or Kate Lindvig became a queen in her own right. In a time when women lived with their maiden families or husband, she made a decision to try it on her own in Colorado, rather than go through with her intended marriage in Nebraska. After a battle with typhoid fever, the scourge of the mining camps, Kate came to Aspen. She ran a boarding house until the crash of silver in 1893, then took a trade in land for an unpaid room bill and started her famed Snowmass Falls Ranch.With a well-learned and quick mind, as well as a lively personality, what she couldn’t do herself she would find ways to make happen. Like a queen, she ruled her ranch and the men who worked it and never wanted to bring a king into the picture, although many offers were presented. Kate knew her mind and didn’t always see eye to eye with others, even taking them to court when she felt they weren’t living up to their end of the lease or agreement. The queen usually won.- Anna L. Scott

It is hard to write printable stories about my first real boss in the ski industry; so many would have to be censored. Lefty Brinkman was the true character at Aspen Highlands for many years. Many thought he would never slow down, until cancer entered the door. A consummate ski and tennis pro, he was singularly responsible for many years of high-volume skier visits at Highlands. A public relations master, he convinced Fred Iselin to bring GLM (graduated length method) and Clif Taylor to the mountain. He was the one who influenced many ski pros early on to make the move to the Highlands Ski School, with ideas such as “let’s hire all the lodge owners and managers so they will bring their clientele.” His leadership of the public-relations team of Highlands, with the direct support of owner Whip Jones, kept the Highlands family very competitive with the Ski Company across the valley. Those were the fun years with the greatest après-ski bar in town, the Christian Endeavor. Multicolored buses brought the skiers from town. The resort taught two “learn to ski” methods: the French Technique, as interpreted by Fred Iselin and team, and the GLM method. It was a fabulously diverse mix of instructors with the bronzed Lefty leading the way.After Fred died, Lefty continued as spokesman for the four supervisors who inherited the ski school in Fred’s will. Lefty, along with Bob Card (Cardo as he was called), Ed Lynch (still a regular at the annual Old Timers picnic) and Dave Farny (of the defunct Little Annie ski area dream) were called the BCFL Corp. They ran the ski school until Whip fired them all. Then Whip came up with his own ski school, and it was Lefty he called upon to run the operation.One of the big coups of Lefty’s many years at Highlands was a package called “Airline Weeks.” Big discounts for lodging, lifts and ski school, plus a party every night, drew huge numbers of airline pilots and crew to Highlands, all due to the networking of Lefty and his crew, along with the Interline group. Lefty had picnics at Cloud Nine with the Highlands Ski Patrol performing their jumps over the picnic tables. He allowed freestyle to flourish by throwing a Hot Dog Contest every Friday, with prize money put up by Whip, and luring the burgeoning freestyle movement to Highlands, with big events during the mid-’70s. Even a couple of World Cups happened: In 1976, a woman’s GS and a Men’s Slalom introduced Aspen to Ingemar Stenmark and the Mahre brothers. He encouraged Bob Beattie’s World Pro Racing series, staged on the Jerome side of Highlands, which brought crowds of racing fans to the base area. Lefty’s lasting legacy is that he helped put Aspen Highlands on the map. Whatever Highlands is today is a direct result of those crazy fun years under the wing of Whip Jones, Fred Iselin and Lefty Brinkman.- Andy Hanson

She seems like such a shy and quiet person. But as a world-famous car racer, Janet Guthrie has nerves of steel. In the 1970s she was the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, and she won honors. But Janet not only held her own on the track – she had to face the ridicule and downright meanness of the male racers and sportswriters who just couldn’t accept that a woman could be an auto racer. Growing tired of trying to find sponsorships in 1983, she came to Aspen to write a book about her experiences. The book, “A Life at Full Throttle,” is finally finished and published, and Janet has spent the past year going to book-signings around the country. Hailed as a hero who broke down prejudices against women participating in sports, she wrote, “If I contributed some small bit to the changing perception of women’s abilities, I am glad of that. It was not the reason that I did what I did. I drove race cars because I could not do otherwise, because it was an obsession and a passion.”- Mary Eshbaugh Hayes


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