Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Effort hopes to honor Buffalo Soldiers for helping tame the West

This weekend I was asked to drop by a fundraising event at Jim Wider's Southwinds Fine Art Studio at Roller Coaster Road near where Hodgen and Baptist road connect.

Being historically inclined, three things captured my attention.

One, the invitation concerned a fundraiser for the Buffalo Soldier Community Memorial Project, which has a relatively obscure, but important impact on our history locally, and Colorado generally.

Two, the invite promised that the site would also have several fascinating Ute Indian Prayer Trees located on, or nearby, the property.

And three, the invitation came from former El paso County Sheriff John Anderson, who has just finished a book about the significance of local Ute prayer trees and is working on another historic account of El Paso County's first sheriff. Anderson began the book in the interest of preservation of remaining prayer trees after the Black Forest Fire.

This event was raising money with the expressed purpose of building a memorial (bronze statue) to Buffalo Soldiers in the northeast corner of Memorial Park in 2016, in time to mark 150th anniversary of Congress authorizing the establishment of the Negro regiments.

Host Jim Wider, gallery owner and a nationally recognized artist, displayed several outstanding paintings of the Buffalo Soldiers and artwork of other local artists, including a few of John Anderson's oil paintings and art photography.

"After the Civil War, Congress authorized the establishment of six Negro regiments in the summer 1866. They recognized the military merits of blacks by authorizing two segregated regiments of black cavalry, the Ninth United States Cavalry and the Tenth United States Cavalry and the 38TH, 39TH, 40TH and 41ST Infantry Regiments, " says Dennis R. Moore, working on the project since inception. "Orders were given to transfer the troops to the western war arena, where they would join the Army’s fight against the hostile Native Americans. In the 1869 troop reduction the 38TH, 39TH, 40TH and 41ST Infantry Regiments were consolidated into the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. The 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments Soldiers were called Buffalo Soldiers by the Native Americans, some say because of the tenacity with which they fought, some say it was because of the texture of their hair reminded them of the Buffalo."

Moore notes that elements of the 10th Cavalry were stationed at Fort Lyons, and troops of the 9th Cavalry were at Fort Garland Colorado. These largely unknown soldiers assisted civil authorities in controlling mobs, pursued outlaws, cattle thieves, and even Mexican revolutionaries along the U.S. Mexican border. Additionally, these soldiers served as the first US Border Patrol, rode “shotgun” on stage coaches, and delivered mail longer than the Pony Express. Their outposts were located in Arizona, Colorado, both Dakotas, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Buffalo Soldiers were also involved in numerous confrontations with hostile Native Americans. Among the most famous confrontations are: Beecher’s Island in Yuma County; Milk Creek in Northern Colorado; and the White River Reservation.
Several Buffalo Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in combat, Moore says.

Buffalo Soldiers Community Memorial Members as of July 3, this year include the following:

Willie Breazell, CWO3, USA, Ret., Captain, USAR, Chair, former, School Board member, D-11

Henry Allen, 1SG, USA, Ret., Vice Chair, Pres. Colorado Springs NAACP

E. Jim Mason, COL, USA, Ret., Vice Chair, School Board, D-11

Bob, Null, COL, USAF, Ret., member, School Board, D-11

June Waller, member, spouse, community activist

Dennis Moore, USAF, Ret., GS-13 USAF Civil Service Ret., community activist

Dawn Elliott, member, social media POC, (Washington DC)

Mark Knight, US Marines, Pres Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle club

George Payton, CSM, USA, Ret., Buffalo Soldier living history presenter

John Register, SSG, USA, US Olympic Center

Cheryl Blanton-Chisholm, member, spouse, community activist

Mel Elliott, LTC, USA, Ret., member, Assist Secretary NAACP

Ed Jones, USA, member, former Colorado Senator, and El Paso County Commissioner

Artist/Sculpture: Rob Mench Studios LLC, USA (Captain)

Moore says the mission of the organization is to honor those soldiers who helped tame the West but are largely unknown and almost totally ignored by writers of American history and our public education organized materials.

Photo Info:

Top: Former El Paso County Sheriff John Anderson and Jim Wider, owner of Southwinds Fine Art Studio.

Bottom: Jim Wider’s Southwinds Fine Art Studio at Roller Coaster Road near where Hodgen and Baptist road connect.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dee Breitenfeld: It was all about the history

Many years ago, I think I first encountered Dee Breitenfeld at the first meeting of the Teller County Centennial Committee, way back before the most-recent turn of the century, in the fall of 1998.
Liz Hook, working for the County at the time, pulled together a ragtag group of local notables that included, among others, Dee, Greg Winkler, Ed and Jeanette Zupancic, and several others, including myself. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, was to mark, and call attention to, the county's 100-year birthday. 
Within, a few moments of that first meeting, I recognized one self-evident truth.
Dee Breitenfeld, in all her years with the Ute Pass Historical Society and other organizations, her residency in Teller all of her life, and an innate understanding of the area —was markedly more valuable in this endeavor than any three to five, of the rest of us.
Marion Vance recalls Breitenfeld's energy for preserving history, as a member various coalitions, the Ute Pass Historical Society, Teller County Historic Advisory Board and the county's Centennial Committee. 
“In so many ways Dee was the heart of the volunteer community,” Vance said. “She really had a long-term creative vision.”
Breitenfeld's take on history was somewhat like Winston Churchill's, only without the arrogance.
“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it,”  Churchill said at one point. 
Dee efforts were similarly driven, but without the selfish bend and concern about her place in that history. She wanted to get all down — it was important — no vital — but she didn't suffer a lick from self-importance.
Tiring of having to go all the way to Colorado Springs to register land, mining, and other official documents, and seeing their tax dollars travel down the hill, mine owners and others pushed hard for the creation of Teller County is the 1890s. Teller County was created out of western El Paso County and the Northeastern tip of Freemont on March 23, 1899.
The property where the Courthouse now rests, at 101-105 West Bennett Avenue, was at one time owned by the Stanely brothers who sold it to Stewart McDougall shortly after the fires of 1896 destroyed wood structures that once resided there, according to Brian Levine’s book “Cripple Creek: City of Influence.” Levine was Historic Preservation Director for Cripple Creek at the time of writing the 1994 book.McDougall built a 100-foot wide, two-story brick building that the Palace Hotel leased and after Teller County was established, county offices resided. 
In 1900, the county purchased the property and proceeded on plans to build a grand courthouse building. Architect A.J. Smith of Colorado Springs designed the building and general contractor J.E. Devy was hired to build.
After being finished in 1904 at a cost of $60,000, the Courthouse proudly displayed the following features: gilt chandeliers, oak paneling with mahogany trims, skylights, gold standing electric fixtures (the building originally required 400 electric lamps to light it), standpipes with hose nozzle attachments, public drinking fountains, two 75-horse power boilers for steam heat, a Skinner high-speed engine with 110-volt dynamo for electricity, hardwood floors, and marble counters. 
Teller County, right from the start, developed a proud vision of what it was to become. Dee, of course, understood that.
By March of 1999, 100 years after the creation of this county, we stood on out there on a windy hill in Cripple Creek at a dedication ceremony one Saturday, and with Breitenfeld's uncomplaining guidance, knowledge and understanding of importance, marked the notable passage of time. 
But to her credit, and garnering all of respect possible from such a group of people, it was never, for an instant, about her. Despite having lived a great part of it, recorded it for years, listened intently to family and friends talk about and tell stories about it, with Dee, it was all about the history.
History will be kind to someone like her, who managed such great effort to preserve it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pushing 126, and still up for the challenges

A hundred and twenty-five years seems like a long, long time.
When the town of Palmer Lake was incorporated in 1889, and its first mayor, Dr. William Finley Thompson, was elected that April,  Benjamin Harrison had just replaced Grover Cleveland as U.S. President. The Wall Street Journal had just started publishing. Coca Cola was incorporated, and the Brassiere was invented, that same year.
Thompson served only one year before feeling the financial strain of building The Rockland Hotel, which was completed in 1890, and left for Mexico.
In the coming years, the town watched the rise and fall of the Rocky Mountain Chautauqua movement, the emergence of recreation community of Pine Crest, the creation of the Little Log Church in the 1920s, the inception of the Yule Log tradition in 1934, and at about the same time, came the idea for creating the 500 foot star of Palmer Lake that was built in 1935 and enhanced in successive years.
At the celebration of Palmer Lake's Centennial in 1989, then President George Bush noted, "As you well know, Palmer Lake is more than a collection of buildings, it is more than a place on the map. From its earliest days, it has nurtured the lives and accomplishments of countless individuals — individuals united through years by a common love for the place they call home.  That deep sense of community, of responsibility toward one's neighbor and the common good, resonates through all cities and towns across America. This milestone gives you a splendid  opportunity to reaffirm that community spirit, taking just pride in the past and rededicating yourselves to the promise of a bright future."
Then Colorado Governor Roy Romer also joined in praise of the town's spirit at the milestone.
"Palmer Lake's history is characteristic of the rich heritage that makes Colorado a great state. Colorado appreciates the spirit of community and the American values that you aim to preserve," Romer wrote.
It really is the spirit of notable figures like Lucretia Vaile, who visited here every summer with her family as child from Denver, and in the 1950s built a modern home, only to donate it, and much of the rest of her estate, later to the town.
Grace Best had that spirit as well, when she help arrange for additional funding, and made it possible to build the library and museum.
The same spirit held for people like Charles Orr, who was affectionately known as "Mr. Palmer Lake" and had lived there for more than 50 years until his death at 101 years in April of 1988. He was a 1908 graduate of Colorado College and had piloted "Jennies" during World War 1.
Elanor Romak had the spirit, living there in Palmer Lake all her life at the time of the Centennial, and remembering the days of only a few cars, with one resident owning a Stanley Steamer that had to be backed up hills to get enough power to get it going. She also remember how the place grew, first a one-room school, doubled to two. 
"There were four pupils per grade, and everyone in town knew each other," Romak recalled in the late 1980s.
Challenges have come and gone over the years. Often they were dealt with directly, deftly handled and the community moved on to new challenges.
There in lies the lesson, I think, for future challenges.
A hundred and twenty-five years seems like a long, long time.

Photo info: William H.Walker, photographer.
Summary: View of Palmer Lake, El Paso County, Colorado, shows tracks of the Denver & Rio Grande, water tank and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, railroads and depots.
Date: [between 1889 and 1897], Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Take a picture, it lasts longer

The thing is, I have a photographic memory.
That is not exactly what you think, however.
I remember things as images, and quotes, and snap shots of time.
Sometimes that memory is accurate. Other times, not so much.
Depends on which lens I see things through. What chemistry I use to process. Focus, and lighting, camera and enlarger, paper and vacuum board, resolution and file storage, pixel depth and display material, image software, exposure time, and color saturation. And about a million other variables.
For as long as I can remember, I have looked at the world that way.
My first trip to an emergency room was the result of sticking my thumb through a blown Speed Graphic flash bulb. I have photographed probably everything from space shuttles and U.S. presidents, to pets of the week and my own thumb.
I love the old photographs and the new ones. Positive and negative. Color and black and white. Big cameras and small.
I think the smallest camera I have ever operated was one of those microscopic surgical jobs they sometimes check your heart valves with, and the largest — was a process camera for shooting newspaper page negs and had a room of its own, and was on rails.
Cameras are my best friends.
Yes, I have favorites. But they might not be what you think.
An old two and quarter, two and quarter, Dualflex III Kodak with a Kodet lens, (amazing depth of field), the range of Speed Graphics, a Nikon FG 35 mm I bought in J-school, a Kodak Easy Share 195 14 megapixel with 5 x Aspheric lens ($60), Canon EOS 60 D (I shoot most stuff with now) and the first camera I probably ever snapped, a Spartucus "35 F" 400.
Some of my best friends and heroes are behind cameras.
Hector, Pleasants, Oguz Nayman, Jimmy, Perry
Ansel, Jackson, Yousuf, Capa, Dorthea, Ulesman, Gyula, Liebovitz, Duffy, Cartier-Bresson, Maisel, Poley, Chione.
My enemies take photos, and try to capture my soul.
Eidetic memory is the ability to recall images in great detail for several minutes. It is found in early childhood (between 2% and 10% of that age group) and is unconnected with the person's intelligence level. The ability usually begins to fade after the age of six years, perhaps as growing verbal skills alter the memory process.
Perhaps I have never progressed beyond that six years, but some of my most vivid images are nearly 50 years old now.
"It is difficult to disentangle memory abilities that appear early from those cultivated through interest and training. Most people who have exhibited truly extraordinary memories in some domain have seemed to possess them all their lives and honed them further through practice," says Barry Gordon, a professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a recent Scientific American article.
Regardless, I need to keep up my image.
“I am not an angel,' I asserted; 'and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me - for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate,” wrote Charlotte Bronte in "Jane Eyre."
My memories are photographic, but that is not exactly what you think.

Friday, August 29, 2014

National Carvers Museum whittled down to splinters and memories

Ornate totem poles, jutting skyward 20 feet in air, once marked the turnoffs from the field at the corner of Baptist Road.
Tourists, from all over the nation (and in fact the world) would stop to view the carvers' craft gathered on 11 acres — and more than 7,000 wood carvings from every state in the union.
Then one dark day in April, 1990, the ornately carved doors were closed to the public, forever.
"The National Carvers Museum, which hosted carvings from around the country for 15 years, is probably closed for good," leads the Tribune, in the April 26, 1990 edition.
"Unless we can find a rich widow willing to give us a million dollars, I don't see us opening again," the Tribune article quotes Rich Wetherbee, president of the board then.
Board members and those associated with the museum, said that bonds and loans issued to build and maintain the facility south of Monument, and high operating expenses drained the museum's treasury.
The board also canceled the May printing of 'The Mallet,' the museum's monthly publication that went out to 3,200 members. There are also 1,200 honorary life members, according to the Tribune article.
The museum had grown from its incorporation in 1969 to one with 7000 articles in it worth nearly $1 million, according to one of the founders.
Harry Meech, who was one of the founders of the museum, reacted with bitterness toward the move.
"I ran it for 15 years, and then in six months they file for bankruptcy," said Meech who had retired in the previous October. 
However, John Corff, the museum director at the time of closing, indicated after taking over for Meech, the museum faced a long financial road.
"He cited $800,000 in bonds that needed to be paid off in 10 years, omitting at the same time any interest payment. Interest on the bonds run as high as 16 percent on some of the bonds that are unsecured with any property, the paper reported.
"Bond holders are already getting uneasy, with two suites against the museum, one for $35,000 and the other for $7,000. There is also an $185,000 mortgage on the building that costs the board $2626 per month," Tribune said.
"Corff told the membership that the board needed over $400,000 in income to 'keep the doors open."
Revenues in 1988 were just over $280,000. In addition, the board has just over $300,000 in notes that were secured by certificates of deposits, or CDs, reported the paper then.
In taking the bonds and notes, the board is facing payment of $1.4 million though 1994 if it paid off bonds and interest on notes, a reconstruction of records showed. Even with payment of the $1.4 million, the $300,000 in notes would remain after 1994.
In trying to keep the doors open, Corff and the board devised subscription plans that changed the life-time membership arrangement of many members who paid $100 a few years ago to assure them a free mallet subscription.
Life membership went to $150 with the Mallet subscription going to $15 per year after the first year. Life member were required to pay an additional $50, but less than $1,000 paid the additional amount, said one board member at the time.
"There is just not enough carvers to go around to support a national museum," said board member Fred Clark, who moved to Monument from New York to be near the museum.
But there was some bitterness from some of the board members, too, citing bad business practices of selling bonds and getting the museum in over its head. 
Meech said the bonds were sold before the museum opened as a way of financing a dream. 
"People kept telling me it was possible to sell bonds. We got an attorney and received a license to sell the bonds," he said.
Meech and Lawrence Martin of Chicago, acquired the acreage just off Baptist Road and said at one point, he personally acquired 600 of the carvings. The museum building was built in 1973. Later, an educational building, named in honor of Meech and his wife Vivienne, was also constructed.
Meech was working at a Chicago electric utility until he moved to Colorado to work at the museum, according to an earlier Tribune article six months prior to the closure. 
"He served as administrator, publisher-editor of "The Mallet" and elected to the board seven times. His wife worked as member director for nine years without compensation," the article about Meech's retirement said.
"I just feel personally sad, After all these years, now we tear it down." 
But they didn't tear it down. 
Today Wood Carvers Properties houses NavSys and the Tri-Lakes Business Incubator. Alison Brown is the CEO of NavSys and president of the Incubator, and said the property was purchased from the banks in the early 1990s using a special loan program though the Pike Peak Regional Development Authority.
Brown donated the ornately carved doors to the city of Monument, and several years ago, when the new town hall was constructed, the doors were used in Board of Trustees Chambers.
Brown said for about 10 years, after the closure of the museum, people still came by asking about it. 
"It didn't help that the Denver Post listed it for several years following in the Top 25 Things not to Miss in Colorado. "
For many years, a sign designated the National Carvers Museum, along with the altitude, though Brown, who is an international expert in GPS systems, noted that altitude was wrong. "I think it was several thousand feet off," she said.
Today, editions of "The Mallet" and memorabilia of the long-lost museum are sold and traded on E-Bay, and a photographic tour of the facility as it was in 1984 is available at http://www.richardstamats.com/NCM/index.html.

Photos 1,2, 3:
Alison Brown donated these hand-carved doors to the city of Monument when she purchased the the former National Carvers Museum property in the early 1990s. The doors display carvings of all 50 states and open into Council chambers at City Hall. The carver's signature, Tim Weberding, of Batesville, Indiana, is on one corner.

Photos 4,5,6,7
The gazebo at the former National Carvers Museum, though weathered by the years, still sports various carvings from the heyday of the internationally-known attraction.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Taking care of business with a button

“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”
― Pablo Picasso

Years ago, you couldn't talk to Merton Taylor on Monday afternoons.
He would hole himself up, back at the check-in stand, working on an order for Amarillo Hardware's truck coming in on Thursdays. Mostly, he would cuss the state of the nation, slur half the people in that nation, and then start in on the other half.
But the biggest problem with the world at that time, according to him, was technology.
Having experienced the turmoil he went through dealing with a microfiche reader, I can't imagine what kind of cussing would have went on — if he had to deal with the Internet.
Merton believed in technology. He just didn't like to deal with it.
Those were different days.
The Post Office and the Bank were on opposing corners of the center block of Sixth Street, and business was still a face-to-face affair in our little town. Every day, at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the entire population would converge between the two landmarks and do that business.
Though, Merton often sent a 'red dog' representative to conduct his.
Which means, one of his Irish Setters took the bank bag down and dropped it off with a teller, (slobber and all) with someone following to take care of the paper work.
But, back to the technology.
World War II was the last time any of this technology crap made sense, he said.
And to prove it, he would have you mark every one of any of the 40,000 common retail hardware items in Taylor Hardware, via black or red grease pencil, with his own secret cost code, that took employees about seven years to learn how to read.
That code had all kinds of blind alleys and blocks, repeaters and switches in it. It was similar to the one he used during the war, in the Philippines.
When I first worked there, the Amarillo Hardware salesman, carrying two leather-bound, foot-thick, catalogs (one in each hand suspended by tooled leather handles) into the store once a month, to take care of "problems."
Seems like there was always a "problem" or two to resolve.
The rest of the time, (weeks without a salesman) on Monday, Merton, after gathering up the seven or eight 'Want Books' off of counters throughout the store, creating a list, then would painstakingly look up and transpose numbers out of the microfiche cards.
Which was all well and good, as long as the 'fiche bulb didn't burn out. Or, the numbers matched up, or the quantities were acceptable, or the illustration correctly identified an item. All of whch, almost never happened.
But at least, at the end of the day, all five of the red dogs, and grey one, or perhaps a black one, would lumber out the side door after 5:30 p.m., load up in the old International Scout, frailest to most agile by order, and head home at the end of the day.
Ready to come back and do the same thing tomorrow.
Still, it is sort of like that today, with the use of computers, the Internet, and all business taken care of with a button. Maybe we haven't learned a thing in 40 years.
It is in this environment that I've have heard the common discussion among writers, and customers, sources, and co-workers, etc... the common discussion that goes something like this.
"You can't talk to Rob Carrigan on Monday afternoons. He'll cuss the state of the nation, slur half the people in that nation ... then start in on the other half.
The biggest problem in the world today is technology.
I have the answers.  What we really need ...  the questions.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beacon tower blown to bits after move from Monument

It is often true that you don’t miss something until it is gone. Sometimes you don’t even miss it then. That may be the case with the beacon light, of Beacon Lite Road fame, here in Monument.
Many years ago, I received fascinating copies of undated newspaper photos about the Beacon from reader Marianne Zagorski of Palmer Lake, and ever since that time I have been trying to nail down additional details and information.
Zagorski, who lived in Palmer Lake since the 1960s, said at the time, she thought the tower was taken down in the early 1980s.
 “As you’re coming up a long upslope on I-25 from Greenland, look for the beacon light on the right. Turn before you go west to Palmer Lake,” was directions she provided me but I have heard from other sources that it was roughly near where the two existing cell towers are today.
The captions from the photos were the attention getters.
“Aviation hazard – Two members of “C” Company, 4th Engineer Battalion from Fort Carson prepare to demolish a 110 foot tower Wednesday by climbing its base and planting explosive charges. The structure, considered a hazard to aviation, was destroyed as part of a military exercise,” read the cutline that apparently appeared in the Gazette Telegraph, crediting John Morgan with taking the photo.
“Going, going, gone. A little plastic explosive went a long way as a 110-foot tower was demolished in an exercise at Fort Carson. The tower was obtained in Monument and reassembled for a film by the British Broadcasting Company in April. With the film completed, the tower was no longer needed, so members of the 4th Engineer battalion ‘disassembled’ it in their own inimitable way,” read additional caption that appeared on a different page.
“By then we lived opposite the beacon and were disappointed and insulted by this use of it. Such a waste,” noted Zagorski.
Longtime area resident Dorothy Sibell recalled that the tower was removed using a helicopter but was at a loss to give a definitive date. Others recalled it was originally used as a marker to help locate an early airstrip in the area.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled on to this article in the June 12, 1980, Tribune under the headline "Beacon Tower to Be in a Movie."
Bill Kezziah was owner and editor of the paper then.
"It used to be a beacon, lighting the way for planes that flew down the Front Range from Denver to Colorado Springs during World War II. But now the beacon that sat atop and 80-foot tower on Monument Hill is no more. It has won fame of a different sort and with an ironic twist," said the article.
The tower was used in a movie the British Broadcasting Company was making of the well-known physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.
"Some of the filming was made at Ft. Carson where the tower was moved and where it apparently will stay," the 1980 report said.
"The twist is that during the war, the tower and the beacon was a light to keep airmen from straying too close to the Front Range. But in the movie, the tower is the prop for the test of the atomic bomb. "
Jeff Tarbert, general manager of the Colorado Springs cable vision company that sold the Monument Hill tower to the movie makers is quoted at the time, "In fact, the tower is an almost exact replica of the actual test tower, although it is a little shorter."
The cable company purchased the land and the tower from Scott Ferguson in hopes of using it in the cable operation.
"Technical problems prevented its use for that, so when the broadcast company was casting around for a tower to be in the movie, a deal was struck."
According to the 1980 article, the movie production company was seeking buildings and other equipment to duplicate the Alamogordo, New Mexico site where Oppenheimer and the other scientists carried out their experiments. They found similar buildings at Ft. Carson.
"The production crew has moved from Ft. Carson, but an Army spokesman said the movie company donated the tower to Ft. Carson to be used as an observation spire."
Long-time Monument historian Lucille Lavelett noted the historical tie to the community in 1980 article, as the source for naming Beacon Lite Road, and recalled the name being changed in the early 1950s.

Top photo: The original beacon light was nearby where this cell tower stands today.

Bottom photo: Actually two towers, semi-disguised as tall pine trees, top Monument Hill and can be seen from the road.