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Paper of record

Resting on the bottom shelf of a large bookcase in my office sits a small cedar box, held tightly closed with a gold, heart-shaped padlock. Inside are mostly tears, cried by generations of my family over the deaths of various members – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives. It is impossible to know who put this box together and why it was felt necessary to keep it locked, but there it is, starting with the murder of Alcide, my great-grandfather’s brother, near Basalt and ending with …? Perhaps a young girl, suddenly without a mother at the age of 11, or my grandfather, mourning the loss of his young wife, decided to gather up the obituary clippings from The Aspen Times and keep them in one place. As time passes, the history within becomes more potent. The one constant in the wooden container, other than the reports of transitions, is the newspaper that printed the obituaries and attendant articles – the Aspen Times. At first blush, it would be easy to think that, for our family at least, the Community Church played a role in most of those family happenings and perhaps has a record almost as detailed, but I doubt it. Each announcement cut from the Times adds a little more depth to the still unfinished painting of the family canvas – a little detail here or there that was previously uncovered, or had been forgotten. Of course, we’ve saved lots of other clippings from the past to commemorate items of interest – weddings, births, sundry events including birthday parties my siblings and I had as small children – and which are saved in many boxes of historical articles, pictures, folders, etc. I’ve been fortunate to make the cover of the Times twice, once as a wild horse race competitor at the W/J with Keith Patterson and Johnny Chiodo, battling the toughest horse we ever took on, and we’d faced a few. It was an incredible photo, taken by Neal Blue, one of probably only one or two black people ever to work at the Times. I think Blue’s official title was janitor. The other time, Mary Hayes and Chris Cassatt did an in-depth story on the purchase of a new team of Belgian draft horses (Pete and Pat), bought from the Amish.In an odd sort of way, the newspaper was, and is, the epicenter around which our lives are lived, the tome that records significant changes in our existence and in that of our families. Big events almost always get covered, such as deaths, weddings and births, but a lot of the little stuff doesn’t see print anymore, simply because we’ve outgrown our ability to keep such close tabs on each other.Interestingly, my paternal grandmother, Grace Prindle Vagneur, worked for The Aspen Times in her younger years (after marrying my grandfather), as a roving reporter from Woody Creek to Snowmass. I cherish a couple of columns with her byline on them. The Times was there to report my birth, and in some ways, I feel like I more or less grew up with the newspaper. Dan Ringle, son of a former owner, was a friend of mine, and we followed the ski racing exploits of Judy Ringle, Aspen Ski Team member, with fervent interest. School friends looked forward to Thursday afternoons and the opportunity to make a little money selling the Times on the street. There were no marble games, no jumping on the tramp, no BS, on paper day – those kids became captains of their own destinies and hustled uptown to do their thing, young entrepreneurs all. So, what can you say? One hundred twenty-five years of keeping tabs on all of us and the events surrounding our lives has been a monumental task, but done in a way that has endeared The Aspen Times to those who know her. Keep up the good work! Tony Vagneur looks forward to the 250th. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to ajv@sopris.net


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