People of the Times
I first met John Litchfield when I was helping with the Ski Co’s 40th anniversary celebration. My job was to help coordinate the 10th Mountain Reunion and what a reunion it was! We rode buses from Aspen to Snowmass for a gala, singing “100 pounds of rucksack” and other dittys. John was an enthusiastic raconteur that week, sharing stories about World War II and old Aspen.
We crossed paths again when John contacted the Historical Society to discuss a donation. After the war, John returned to Aspen along with many other 10th Mountain veterans. He was one of the original ski school founders on Aspen Mountain. He bought a restaurant on Cooper Street and renamed it The Red Onion. John has “a billion” stories to share about the early Red Onion days and can keep his audience entranced for hours.He had one steady customer, Snuffy O’Neil, who often had a tab he couldn’t pay. Snuffy was a caricature artist, and he worked out a deal with John to do caricatures of regular customers in exchange for drinks. These portraits donned the walls of the Onion for years.Several years ago, John brought the Aspen Historical Society most of these classic portraits – only a few are still missing. He also gave us scrapbooks and pictures from his days in Aspen allowing us to fill in a gap in the archives with his generosity. John is a gallant and thoughtful gentleman who I am honored to call a friend.- Georgia Hanson
Without a doubt, Tukey Koffend embraced the term “hostess with the mostest” with a passion. In fact, one of her parties was chronicled by noted documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman.
Over the years her dinner parties became legend in Aspen. Tukey, who in her youth had worked here for Walter Paepcke, moved back to Aspen with her three sons in the early 1970s. She was the doyenne of a fabulous store, Uriah Heeps, in the Hotel Jerome.Tukey, stylish and urbane, delighted in hosting dinners for visiting luminaries in town for the Design Conference, Music Festival and Aspen Institute. Over the years her guest included designers George Nelson, Ivan Chermayoff and Milton Glaser, writer John Simon and composer Virgil Thompson.One evening, while presiding over a lovely meal of her famous “pigeon pie” and crème brûlée, Tukey noticed that her favorite diamond pin, a family heirloom, was missing from her dress. Leaping up from the table and interrupting the ongoing chatter, Tukey demanded a halt to dinner and playfully, though a bit panicked, demanded that everyone begin searching. Famous heads began ducking under the table and chairs in a desperate hunt for the treasured pin.What a relief when an enterprising guest happened to open the dishwasher to find the pin lodged in the cutlery basket!Without missing a beat, the dinner and snappy repartee resumed.- Cathy Cook
Bobby Forrest was born in Quebec, Canada. He worked for the Canadian National Railway and on weekends for almost 10 years went to a weekend ski house in the Laurentians.After touring almost 4,000 miles, Bobby arrived in Aspen and became a cleaning man at Aspen Highlands. For the next 28 years, he led the life of a quintessential Aspenite. He taught kid’s ski school at Buttermilk where the kids loved him because he was such a kid himself. He was on the ski patrol at Snowmass. He was a bartender at local hot spots, including Pinocchio’s, La Cocina, Cooper Street Downstairs, and Pour la France at the airport. The offseasons found him in some warm locale. He once took a bus all the way to Mexico, only to find out the bars were closed for Easter week.Bobby was generous with his friends and loved to play tricks, even if he was the recipient of his own mischief. His friends once filled his ski boots up with water and left them outside overnight to freeze, rendering Forrest unable to work on the ski patrol the next day.- Kathryn Koch
William Tagert’s parents moved to Leadville in 1879 when he was 6 years old. At the age of 9 William left home and found himself selling newspapers and doing odd jobs in Aspen. Fearing his parents may come looking for him, he headed farther downvalley and befriended Sam Williams, a rancher in the Snowmass-Capital Creek area. For the next 10 years Billy, as he was then called, worked several ranches in the area and became quite skilled in all matters of working with livestock.Billy married in 1895 and moved to Aspen where he and partners took over a co-op store. They sold hay, grain and farming implements. After a few years Billy purchased a livery stable and later started a stage line to Ashcroft in 1905. The stage line later extended the route over Taylor Pass to the camp of Dorchester and included a mail contract.The mail contract became problematic when the roads became impassable during severe winter conditions, and the postmaster of Dorchester misused the mail to haul cumbersome supplies. Billy, being resourceful, went to Dorchester one evening and plied the postmaster with sufficient libation to allow him to gather up all the post-office equipment. He delivered it to Dan McArthur, the postmaster at Ashcroft. Not having a proper post office to deliver to, the problem for Mr. Tagert was resolved.Billy Tagert eventually gave up the stage line and the livery business and bought up various parcels of land including a sizable piece toward Independence Pass, which was formerly a stage stop and eating house owned by Mr. Curtis. He improved the existing beaver ponds and created a sizable lake which became known as Tagert Lake.- Larry Fredrick
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