Tony Vagneur: Guido and Bert are important piece of Aspen history
It was a nice fall day in the 1970s as we sauntered into a bar on Honky-Tonk Row (Broadway) in Nashville. My buddy Buck Deane and a lady friend were giving me a tour of the place and after hitting a friendly stop or two, the next one was perplexing.
“We don’t serve people like you in here,” said the bartender. “Is there a reason?” we asked. “Like I said,” replied the bartender, “we don’t serve your kind in here.”
To this day, we don’t know the reason and can only conjecture.
Unlike Guido’s Swiss Inn in Aspen, where it was abundantly clear why you might not get served, bar or restaurant. “No Beatniks Allowed,” in the beginning, and then as the town changed, “No Hippies Allowed.” The sign painter was Sepp Uhl, Gretl’s husband.
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Late-comers to Aspen (late ’60s, early ’70s), unaware of the history, couldn’t figure out why the sign said beatniks. In the early ’60s, there was an influx of a group of ski bums generically called at the time “beatniks,” after the Beat Generation, undesirables in the estimation of some, particularly downtown businessmen. General lack of money seemed to affect those folks and most didn’t like them coming into their establishments.
Naturally, in the evolution of Aspen, beatniks faded away like early-morning dew on the grass, replaced by an even more curious group rapidly taking their place. “Hippies” was the generic term for this group at the time, men with long hair, beards and mustaches, women without bras, clothes painted with peace signs, the sometimes potent smell of patchouli oil, and a general attitude of “f— the establishment.” It never seemed to occur to some of them that many townspeople were saying, “F— the hippies.”
To many late- or new-comers who arrived, Aspen seemed to be a nirvana, just waiting for their own personal arrival. It was time to “drop out” and live a new philosophy, which is fine, but as mentioned, they seemed to be unaware of the effect of their presence on the small town. Whether intentionally or not, they brought their brand of mental baggage with them, putting a sometimes-unwelcome brush on the canvas.
Men like Guido Meyer and Bert Bidwell had spent years building profitable and well-founded businesses, were supporters of Aspen’s locals and its tourism trade, and feared this new group of young people might be giving Aspen a bad name.
Bidwell, a 10th Mountain vet, had seen good and bad in Aspen; Guido came here in 1950. They did their level best to protect what they had built up over the years. Either one of them would help you, if you asked. Bidwell donated the 10th Mountain Division statue in Gondola Plaza.
Guido had his sign changed to “No Hippies Allowed” (why waste a good sign) and Bidwell used a powerful hose to clear malingerers off the wall out front of his establishment, across the street from Guido. Both acts fit the senses of humor of both men, and if their right to protect their property, by legal means, offended you, that might be your own personal problem.
What else you may not know is that Guido and his wife, Trudi, got out of the restaurant business in 1971, leasing the operation to Hermann and Lulu Gasser, who kept the name and the sign. They stayed until 1988.
So, if you arrived after 1971, you really have no complaint about Guido, nor do you have a complaint about the sign, for Hermann and Lulu never turned anyone away, regardless of the length of their hair. Some people, to this day, think Hermann and Lulu were Guido and Trudi, a tragic case of mistaken identity.
Yes, Guido was the justice of the peace for a time, and his sometimes seemingly heavy sentences dumbfounded some of the newcomers’ sense of what nirvana should be about, but he had a large constituency, larger than the group of ever-growing newcomers.
Guido was a member of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, since probably before fire was discovered, selflessly protecting the citizens of the town, no matter the length of their hair, and retired firemen such as Romeo Pelletier remember Guido always fed the volunteers after every meeting, at Guido’s expense.
Don’t get me wrong — a lot of good people moved here in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. I even married a couple of them. Many are still here, keeping Aspen great.
But think about it: It’s been 50 years or more since the “No Hippies Allowed” sign went up. When it came down, no one knows for sure, but Geezus, the time has come to quit bashing Guido and Bert at every opportunity. Our sensitivities will survive.
And besides, we all should be more creative than that.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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