Remembering the Onion
Dear Editor:Thanks for the chance to share some gray and foggy remembrances of the days when Aspen was still a small Western ski town and not yet evolved into a chic, upscale and wealthy international resort. My first encounter with the “Onion” was on a spring break ski trip (April 1958) from California to Alta, and on to Aspen. My friends and I got to the old bar late evening to meet a resident friend, whose floor we hoped to sleep on for four to five nights. What a fun place! We met many locals, sipped a few beers, asked about the best ski runs and tips on skiing cheaply. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful, encouraging us to stay longer and to return again.More than a decade later, as The Red Onion bar manager (1969-1977) working for Werner Kuster and Jim Perry (then owners), I worked with Kurt Wigger (head chef) and Dieter Grieser (restaurant manager/wine steward) and many other wonderful, interesting folks from all walks of life. During those years, the Onion was possibly the busiest food-and-beverage establishment in all the Rocky Mountain ski towns. It seemed so, with two dining rooms, two bars, nightclub and saloon, as daily we served an average 800 to 1,000 meals (in season) along with huge numbers of draft beers, drinks and wine. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, family dining, live entertainment, dancing – almost anyone could find something to their taste.In November of each year, a Saturday night was set aside for the annual hospital benefit dinner. Kurt and his kitchen staff prepared veggies, side dishes, salads and cooked wild-game entrees (often donated by local hunters). All the front employees donated their tips for the night, and all the proceeds of the very tasty and reasonable meals ($8 to $12) were given to the Aspen Valley Hospital to purchase a new piece of medical equipment. It was always a huge success and the clientele were mostly residents from up and downvalley, who could be assured of a great meal, fun times and meeting old friends not seen in a while.Many other memorable evenings took place at the Onion, often with entertainment provided by John Denver, John Sommers, Vic and Jan Garret, Bobby Mason and his band, The Hazy Osterwald European Showband, Freddi/Henchi Boulder Band and Aspen’s first wet T-shirt contest.I hope that I can safely say that most of those employees, customers and visitors of the Onion I knew spent some very pleasant and memorable times in Aspen during those years. My admiration and congratulations to Wabs and Iggy Walbert and their staff for keeping the tradition of the Onion alive for 21 years. In this age of most modern bar/restaurants having a shelf life of five to seven years before change or demise, the survival of The Red Onion, since 1892, is truly remarkable, and is an accurate measuring timetable for Aspen history. What a shame if such a landmark is lost to Aspen.Rick LindnerAspen resident, 1965-1999Anthem, Ariz.Anthem, Ariz.
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