Saturday, October 11, 2008

Remembering beacon light

Blogger's note: This and the following comment was originally written as newspaper column in 2007.

“Be as a tower firmly set; Shakes not its top for any blast that blows.” __Dante Alighieri

It is often true that you don’t miss something until it is gone. Sometimes you don’t even miss it then. That may the case with the beacon light, of Beacon Lite Road fame, here in Monument.
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. Perhaps you can help?
Zagorski, who has lived in Palmer Lake since the 1960s, says she thinks 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.
Other than that, it is all I have. Any additional information, stories and other recollections would be greatly appreciated. I would like to find a definitive date and know a little more about the film in which it appeared. I am also curious about when it was constructed and for what use.


1 comment:

___ Restless Native said...

I have received quite a few interesting responses in answer to my recent query regarding the beacon light of Beacon Lite Road fame.
Harry Blout, a former soaring instructor at the Air Force Academy who now lives out in Black Forest, was kind enough to bring in a 1930 Department of Commerce “strip map” that identified the beacon and other beacons along a low-point route along the Front Range. Blout said he acquired the map and other maps after noticing a bulletin-board ad in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1986.
Blout himself, gave up flying a year ago in December (at age 75), but still has a wealth of aviation stories to tell of his Academy days and experiences with T-29s and C-47s. After retiring as a Lt. Col. in 1971, he spent many years as the regional manager for Piper in addition to other prominent positions in other aviation concerns.
Blout says the beacon was used to illuminate the lowest points on the route set up for flyers to follow when it was necessary to fly without instruments. He says another one of the beacons on that route, a structure known as Beacon #9, once located a bit south of Denver and northwest of Castle Rock, was removed by helicopter and now resides in Pueblo near the airport at the Weisbrod Aircraft and International B-24 Museum.
Marianne Zagorski, of Palmer Lake, who originally set me on to the beacon’s trail, also sent me a note.
“When I read you article I realized I was remiss in not making the location clear, forgetting you would not know. So by now you will have heard it was across Beacon Lite (Light back then) Rd., about opposite the road where we now have lived for 27 years. Yes, it was in the vicinity of the present cell towers, and “Beacon” because it had a light or two. My understanding is its main purpose was to warn pilots flying the 85-87-25 corridor of the high point of the west divide. I’ve no recollection of an airstrip, though one of the Higby’s was lobbying for one in the past but we voted him down,” says Zagorski. She also related a wonderful tale of living in the old “Pickwick House” that perhaps we can revisit at a later date.
Norma Lavelett, daughter-in-law of noted Monument historian Lucile, wrote to me as well. She and her husband Ralph live in Grand Junction, Colo., now but recall the beacon.
“Ás kids living around Monument, Ralph and myself, 1925 to 1950, and living around the area until 1998, we can remember the beacon light flashing, especially in foggy weather,” she wrote. Lavelett was told it was a warning for planes that needed to avoid Ball Mountain and the Divide.
She also said the film referenced in the first column might have something to do with Alexander Film Company which was on the north end of Colorado Springs and also made and flew small planes. “Alexander Film Company made trailers for many of the movies through the years,” Lavelett said.
Bob Kuhlmann, former owner of the Fox-Kuhlmann Cash Grocery (building now belongs to Sy Sibell), called me from his home in Albuquerque, N.M., and recalled that the light as a bit of a brilliant nuisance when he was kid growing up on a ranch at the top of Monument Hill. “I don’t remember if it was a complete circle or a semi-circle but the light, which was on the old Charlie McCann place showed in the windows our home,” he said.
He wasn’t sure if it was there when he first arrived in the area as a teen-ager in 1935 but did remember a crew working on it sometime between 1933 and 1939. Kuhlmann ran the Grocery, feed and general store in Monument from the mid 1940s until 1964. He also had fascinating stories about the local area from that era including selling 21 carloads of coal one week and moving a store building from the old town of Husted into Monument and remodeling it as a residence. That residence is still here just west of St. Peter Catholic Church’s Education Center. Bob Kuhlmann was 89 last month and he and his wife Pauline will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary on June 3.
“We are both still in pretty good shape,” he notes.