When Aspen was simpler
November 22, 2006
Winter is fast approaching and there’s a flurry of activities to remind us of the complications of its arrival. Job descriptions are handed out, meeting times posted and e-mailed, speeches given and sometimes listened to, new schedules and protocols to absorb, names to add or delete from mailing and phone lists, attitude adjustments for some of us, and the lists go on.It wasn’t that long ago, a man in New York could address a letter to “Joe Blow, Aspen, Colo.” and fully expected the addressee would receive the envelope in a timely manner. College administrators couldn’t believe I didn’t have a Woody Creek street address. A certain black man in Corpus Christi, Texas, by the name of Arthur, a chauffeur in those days and a humorous guy, sent a letter to his employer’s son, addressed “Aspirin, Colo.” The letter got here without delay.Dial-up phone service didn’t arrive until late, it didn’t seem, but the numbers were easy to remember. Just four digits – 1234 – dial and talk. Everyone shared the line with two or three neighbors. The day came when we were informed that our “new” number was WAlnut 5-1234, or whatever, but the WAlnut 5 (925) was about as useful as a bikini in Greenland and no one used it for years. Everyone important to me had simple four-digit numbers, such as 3661 or 2550, until finally, the dilatory but astute businessmen in town raised hell and got the easy to remember numbers assigned to them and people like my elderly grandmother were coerced into accepting discombobulated digits that required thought – the consequence of dealing with a large corporation, I suppose.We talk today about the Red Brick Arts Center, but at one time, that was the entire public school system in Aspen. First through 12th grades, and we got along fine. Most kids in town walked to school and Matthew Drug (now Carl’s Pharmacy), with the soda fountain and sandwich shop, was a popular hangout. Throughout the day, kids left the building on school-sponsored business and hoofed it up to the library, or played a game of baseball in Paepcke Park, or took a field trip through the Aspen Times or around Hallam Lake. It was a big thrill when I didn’t have to leave town on the school bus and could walk some gal home in the lazy afternoons of spring or fall, carrying her books.Later on, watching the young kids cross Main Street, either on their way to school or back home again, or on other sundry missions, gave us all a sense of community, a realization that, indeed, there was something solid happening here, a new generation was coming up that would stick around to enjoy this place for whatever it had become. Clearly, when the kids left town for the present campus, located on land generously donated by the James E. Moore family, a lively chunk of the heart of this town went with them.There wasn’t much to do, but whatever there was, it was BIG. We’d usually spend Friday nights at the Isis Theater, under the watchful eye of Jimmy Parsons and his daughter, Marjorie Jenkinson, with Luds Loushin selling tickets from his small, glassed-in booth, and then run up to the Sweet N’ Snack Shop (Cooper St. Pier nowadays) for sodas or burgers, games of pool and pinball, maybe meet up with the girl of our dreams and jump in the car, necking in the back seat while our best friend drove.Perhaps it all remains uncluttered and I’ve just changed my vantage point, but I don’t think so. Still, winter is for skiing and that’s what I do. It’s that simple.Tony Vagneur would apparently like to see more kids and fewer cars in town. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to email@example.com.
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