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People of the Times

Ted Cooper, left, in the Durant Mine (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)
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Not too long ago I started up a conversation with the fellow next to me on the airplane. For some reason the town of Aspen came up, and my traveling partner said, “Oh, yes, that was a famous silver-mining town, wasn’t it? I collect postcards related to mining and mining towns. I think I have one taken in the Aspen area. It’s a picture of a fellow standing near a waterfall inside a mine.”My reply: “You have a picture of my dad.” How did I know? Well, it was almost certain for several reasons. Dad’s business, the Cooper Book and Stationery Store, was the only store which sold such pictures. The odds were very high that no one else had ever taken a flash picture inside the Durant Mine. And my dad is clearly in the picture. This picture may have been taken by a camera using a glass plate (and a timer to take his own picture).Another very good reason why the picture was of and by my dad is that he was only one of two Aspenites I knew who acted as town photographers over the years. Another fellow, named John Bowman, produced lots of pictures and did developing for the town’s folks, but it was the Cooper Book where locals and tourists came for photos of the area.Also, let me note that most of Dad’s later pictures were taken on a Model B-4 Kodak camera, one with the last patent date of 1919. It produced postcard-sized negatives, film size 122. I have the (working?) camera at my fingertips as I write this.There are dozens of Dad’s historic postcard pictures in various files, including many in the Aspen Historical Society’s archives. A major enlargement of one of his postcards is part of the historic photo display at Wagner Park – an Aspen scene looking toward the ski mountain. The white lettering on the postcards makes them readily identifiable.By the way, Dad let me use the same camera when I took pictures on my treks to the tops of all the fourteeners in the state (my brother, Ted, and I were the 29th and 30th persons to climb them all).- Stirling (Buzz) Cooper, born in a log cabin near Aspen in 1931

I’m not sure when it was, but I know that it was some time ago and Albie Kern was still a single man, as was I. We didn’t know each other from Adam, but typical of the old days, I knew who he was just from seeing him around town, driving an old red Jeep, pipe hanging out of his mouth and looking like an important lawyer. I had become enamored of a neighboring woman, older than me, but a looker for sure, and went over there one Sunday afternoon to see if I could perhaps gain a step up with her favors and calm my teenage hormones. We had just poured a drink and were settled in on the deck overlooking the Roaring Fork River when a canoe pulled up to the shore. With a certain flair, out stepped Albie, looking debonair and handsome, and thirsty, and my short-lived affair with the neighbor lady was shorter than even she had imagined.-Tony Vagneur

Bob Lewis was a man of place, and the place he chose as his home and haven centered on two acres of woodlands and riparian riverfront on the Roaring Fork near Aspen. Bob found his place while fishing in 1950, when he caught a couple of small rainbows and headed up the riverbank to build a fire and roast them on a willow branch.”I came up from the river and saw this gorgeous property on an alluvial fan with chokecherries, sedges, aspens, cottonwoods, blue spruce, serviceberries, engelmann spruce and ponderosa pines. I knew Jim Smith, the rancher who owned the land, and I asked him if he would sell me a couple of acres. This place has been a source of learning, enrichment and inspiration for me in everything I do.”Bob was a 10th Mountain trooper, a skier, and a student of nature. But first and foremost, Bob was a teacher of conservation, an ethic he derived from biologist Aldo Leopold, who said that if you teach people to understand nature, they will grow to love it, and if they love it, they will protect it. As founder of the Independence Pass Foundation, Bob took those words to heart.- Paul Andersen



Born in Iowa and attaining a good education, including a degree in engineering, Clarence Doolittle was hired as the manager of the Aspen Electric Company in 1886. Mr. Doolittle retained his managerial position with the newly formed Roaring Fork Electric Light and Power Company when it merged with the Aspen Electric Company in 1887. Considered the first such application in mining, Mr. Doolittle helped to design and install an electrical hoist at the Veteran Tunnel. He also oversaw expansion of the Hunter Creek power plant on the banks of the Roaring Fork River (today’s Art Museum) and the completion of a second plant on Castle Creek (the City Shops building today). Clarence also invented the Doolittle Differential Governor, which was considered a major technological advance in hydroelectric power. This device controlled the water stream against the Pelton Wheel, thus regulating a constant amount of power being generated. Apparently shortly after the turn of the century, Mr. Doolittle traveled to South America to oversee construction of a hydroelectric plant for a copper-mining operation. He returned to Aspen shortly afterward and continued to work for the local power company.Mr. Doolittle retired in 1923, and the family moved to California. For more information about Mr. Doolittle and seeing a Pelton Wheel once used in Aspen’s former hydroelectric plant, visit the Holden-Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum. – Larry Fredrick


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