Of things past
October 11, 2007
Fall can bring feelings of both melancholy and nostalgia. It is in the air, I guess.But these last few days, last few weeks actually, have been astonishing in their beauty, and any sense of melancholy has been blunted by the shining sun and the sparkling leaves.Still, thanks to a project, I have found myself looking to the past, at old newspaper clippings on microfilm in the Pitkin County Library and in dusty files cataloged in the bowels of the annex at the Wheeler-Stallard House, which is home to the Aspen Historical Society. And an overwhelming sense of nostalgia permeates everything. Even though the period I’ve been looking at was before my birth, I feel the mood, the attitude, the time in every clip.The time frame I’m researching is 1946 to 1956. It is just after the end of the Second World War and optimism reigns. The Paepckes have just started to put money into town and are beginning to implement their dream of creating a utopian environment for intellectuals and athletes here in Aspen. The names in the papers are familiar, as they are the pioneers of modern Aspen: Benedict, Berko, Brown, Marolt, Magnifico, Litchfield, Stapleton, Knowlton, Durrance. All are gone now, but they live on in their magnificent youth in the frames of microfilm and the files and folders found in the basement of the annex. In the words of an old Simon and Garfunkel song: “Time it was and what a time it was it was,A time of innocence, a time of confidences.Long ago it must be, I have a photographPreserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.” I long to have lived here then.The memories are gems, and the Wheeler-Stallard House is the perfect little jewel box to preserve them. Under the auspices of the Historical Society and the leadership of Georgia Hanson, the past has a safe and appropriate resting place.Not that the staff of the Historical Society rests much. When I went to the annex this week, it was abuzz with activity. Donated skis, boots and poles mingle with wooden school desks, ancient ballot boxes and assorted other paraphernalia of the past in the upstairs room, while downstairs the curator archivists, docents and volunteers busily tag, file and find the photos, magazine clips, letters and other items of our town’s rich history.My particular interest was in viewing the trail maps for Aspen Mountain dating back to, well, the beginning. They are all there, and when you pick up and read those early maps, you can just imagine the powder days of the 1950s as people discovered skiing Ajax for the first time.The Aspen Historical Society depends on donations from the public to keep its work alive. If you would like to become a member, it is just $50 a year for an individual, or $125 a year for a family. You can call 925-3721, or go online at http://www.aspenhistory.org. Or you can simply stop by the Wheeler-Stallard House on West Bleeker Street.It will be a trip back in time.
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