Friday, January 30, 2009

Teller Courthouse requires no time machine


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, 2-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,” wrote Levine.
The Teller County Courthouse has changed very little in the last century. Fortunately for us, we all have opportunity to step back in time to 100 years ago, with a quick visit to 101 Bennett Avenue — no-time machine equipment required.
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Lesher had faith in silver



In 1873, the nation’s currency was placed on the gold standard. By 1893, the U.S. Government stopped buying silver all together. The price of silver plummeted as a result, and Colorado’s economy fell, head-over-heels down a mineshaft.
With the destruction of the silver market, came the rise of Populist-Democratic politics in Colorado and the advocacy of return to bi-metalism via the free-silver movement.
Joseph Lesher, a veteran miner of the silver camps of Georgetown, Central City, Leadville and the Silver San Juans, had by a stroke of fortune, switched metals at just the right time. But he wasn’t happy about it.
Lesher invested in infrastructure and real estate in Victor and the Cripple Creek area in the early days of the “world’s greatest gold camp.” And he had become, according to the Victor Daily Record, “one of the monied men of the camp.”
But, noted the Record, “Mr. Lesher has faith in silver. He also has a sincere desire for its enlarged use.”
He also still owned a silver mine in Central City.
“Mr. Lesher had believed that it would be possible as well as beneficial for Colorado the coin its depreciated silver and use it to facilitate exchange and promote business,” said the November 13, 1900, Record.
To such ends, Lesher and others in Victor came to the following conclusion.
“Victor has everything any other city has. Denver has a mint, so a Victor man has established a mint also. The Victor mint will coin nothing but silver dollars and the dollars will be worth 25 cents more than the Denver product.”
Thus, the Lesher Referendum Medal was born.
According to research Adna G. Wilde, of the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs, between 3,000 and 3,500 of the Lesher medals of different types were struck. The research involved interviews by Farran Zerbe of Lesher himself in 1914 (when Lesher was 74 years old.)
Once again, as reported in the Record, “He calls them ‘referendum dollars’ because no one is compelled to take them against his will. In other words, they are referred to the people for acceptance or rejection.”
“Although Mr. Lesher is convinced that the intrinsic value of an ounce of silver is $1.29, he does not insist that everyone shall accept his valuation and is prepared to guarantee the parity of his dollars by redeeming each coin in lawful money of the United States. He keeps his cash at the Bank of Victor and expects to arrange with the cashier to cash the ‘referendum’ dollars in the same manner that checks are cashed.”
Today, examples of the first 100 Lesher ‘Referendum’ medals struck that first day in Lesher’s residence in Victor, grace such prestigious collections as the Chase Manhattan Money Museum at the Smithsonian and of course, the American Numismatic Museum in Colorado Springs. Adna Wilde, Jr. of Colorado Springs is the recognized world authority on Lesher dollars and an ANA Hall of Famer.


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

CCC Camp in the shadow of Monument Rock







Photos courtesy of Lucretia Vaile Museum/Palmer Lake Historical Society.

The new president didn’t waste any time. “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,” went the inaugural address on March 4, 1933. Within the first legendary ‘hundred days,’ Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a cooperating Congress let loose flurry of legislation that included such bold strokes of the like of a ‘bankers holiday,’ weakening prohibition by permitting the brewing of 3.2 beer, and the creation of the ‘forest army.’
Before the end of the first month, in fact, the forest army materialized in the form of the law creating the Civilian Conservation Corps.
From 1933 until 1942, Company 2124 CCC Camp F-60-C, Monument, Colorado, operated in the shadow of Monument Rock. The ‘F’ in the designation stood for forestry and the ‘C’ for Colorado. Other camps in Colorado tackled such notable projects as building facilities at Red Rock Amphitheater in Morrison, road and dam construction, National Park facilities, early ski areas and much more.
“At the end of March the Civilian Conservation Corps Reforestation Relief Act became law,” notes David F. Burg in his 1996 book The Great Depression: An Eye Witness History. “In creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the act provided for one of the New Deal’s most popular and memorable programs.”
The CCC invited young men between the ages of 17 and 23, to work on projects and learn new skills. “The enrollees had to agree to allot the majority of their pay to their families. The usual enrollment was for a six month term while the maximum term of service was two years,” according to the Colorado State Archive. Standard wage was $30 per month but with $25 sent home to the family.
The program was designed to “Save the soil, save the forest, save the young men,” as the motto suggested.
“I think it saved the country,” says Farris “Red” Dozier, 88, who spent two years in the CCC in Oregon and Texas starting April 1, 1937. Dozier is retired from the Army, and St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver and now lives in the Old Soldier Home in the Northwest part of Washington, D.C. His daughter, Mary Meyer, lives in Palmer Lake.
“All these different kids learned how to do something, maybe drive a dump truck, or caterpillar, maintainer,” he said.
Dozier himself escaped desperate conditions in Texas. “I was leaving behind a chance to pick cotton, starve to death, and die early.”
“The U.S. CCC did an awful lot of good.” For him personally, he was able to improve his situation markedly. After a full two years in the program in which he even improved on the $5 per month disposable income provided by the CCC by becoming an officer’s orderly (bumping earnings by $6 per month), he returned home. “I got lucky and got a job washing dishes and then another as a chuck wagon cook for a construction company because of what I had learned in the CCC.”
Then along came WWII and he went in the Army, worked his way up the ranks becoming a mess sergeant and eventually switching with training to a laboratory technician. After the army, he continued on in the medical field.
Longtime Monument businessman Bob Kuhlmann, 90, who owned and operated Kuhlmann’s Cash Grocery from 1940 to 1964 but now lives in Albuquerque, N.M., recalled the young guys that visited his store from the Monument CCC camp during their time off, and said, “I think it did a lot of good.”
“They worked on the roads and out at the nursery, did a lot of work on Mt. Herman Road and Rampart Range Road, and I think on projects out in the Black Forest.”
He said the nursery itself also provided income in tough times to local men that worked there giving the example of Walter Schrader, the first superintendent of the government nursery.
Schrader, according to Lucile Lavelett’s book Through the Years at Monument, spaded up the first 50-foot square patch which became the first seed bed in 1907 and worked for 36 years as superintendent, retiring in 1943, shortly after the CCC camp was closed when war broke out. The nursery closed in 1965, and moved to Basalt, Colo., where there was more irrigation water.
“The CCC’s had a large camp at the nursery,” writes Lavelett. “It was established in 1933 and was a camp for young boys who, in the depression, had no work. They were paid for working at the nursery, also given schooling. Most of the boys came from Texas and Massachusetts. The camp was abandoned when WW II was declared.”
The nursery, she wrote, was established to reforest 15,000 acres of timberland left by a disastrous Mt. Herman forest fire in the 1880s. That reforestation was completed by 1926. The nursery shipped two million trees a year in its heyday, and 25 million seedlings would be growing at once. In 1938, the nursery required 60 men to operate.
After the war broke out, the site was apparently converted for conscientious objectors, according to blogger Michael I. Smith, who produces the blog Forest Army.
“My grandfather was working out of the Monument Camp when we entered the war. He wasn't at the camp in Monument, but at a side camp on Pike's Peak (working to establish a water supply for Glen Cove). I don't have any of his letters from after the Monument camp was converted for use as a camp for conscientious objectors - at least none of them mention C.O.s. He does mention in a letter from early 1942 that they have finally been allowed to have light bulbs again (a reference to the post December 7, blackout regulations, I would guess). The Monument camp was one of the last CCC camps to close in Colorado if not the last. Many of the last of his Forest Service letters talk of liquidating equipment and foremen scrambling for the few remaining jobs in the system. Family lore tells that he left the Forest Service shortly after the CCC was disbanded because he didn't think the conscientious objectors worked as hard as the CCC boys did.”
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

It depends where the light bulb is


A new year reminds me of the process of changing a light bulb. Out with the old, in with the new. Simple. That is, depending on where the light bulb is, and how you have to change it.
Many years ago, at one place I worked, the light fixtures were dropped three feet on swinging wire from 25-foot ceiling. There was a balcony all the way around the long narrow building at about the 12-foot level. That balcony had a four-foot rail or banister all the way around with top of that being made from a regular 2-by-6”.
To change a light bulb in that place, we had to stretch out a homemade cross platform across from banister to banister. The platform was made from two 12-foot, 2-by-4s” with a 3/4”plywood base in the center between them. A person had to shinny out on the platform and unscrew the large glass globes to get to the bulb.
So there you were, 20 feet up from the hardwood floor, on a narrow platform made out of two boards and a piece of plywood, with one hand holding the exterior globe, one hand to hold on to the platform, and one hand trying to change the bulb (yes, I know that is three hands) and customers and other employees below — all with ample measures of advice and cautionary description of what you would look like if you fell from that height.
Amazingly, you eventually reached a comfort level where it didn’t really bother you to change those bulbs. Or you didn’t bother to change them.
Such is memory. Warren Kliewer wrote, “Time passes and you accumulate a storehouse of memories. More time passes and you discover that looking up a long-lost friend is as interesting as making a new one, that revisiting a dreary neighborhood where you once lived is as stimulating as exploring a new place…I used to marvel at older people. ‘Why do they wallow in nostalgia?’ I wondered. I no longer regard it as frivolous.”
In the New Year, I wish you good memories — and good luck with any light bulbs you must change. May the next year be all at ground level and a simple exchange — out with the old, in with the new.
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A thought, a time, a soul


A photograph, well done, can capture a thought, a time, and a soul.
Looking at the black-and-white image transported me back there to isolated northwestern Colorado in1895. The three Shaw brothers lounge in hard backed chairs, rifles in hand; out in front of a rustic cabin as a deer carcass hangs from the crown beam in front of the door.
An alternately dark-and-light colored dog (its name could easily be spot) rests in front of one of the gun-toting brothers, another white bulldog occupies its own chair, and a black cat independently, and disinterestedly, stares off into space in the corner. A buck saw, several pack frames and other miscellaneous tools hang from the outside of the cabin.
The three brothers all wear narrow-brimmed hats, suspenders and riding boots. The Shaw brothers’ homestead on the Williams Fork near Craig was part of the last area of the state to be settled. The relatively famous shot of my great, great uncles is not the only image in my mind that says Colorado.
A photographic comparison of the southwestern Colorado town of Dolores in 1893 and then again in 2000, in John Fielder’s popular coffee table book “Colorado: 1870-2000” shows the main street with many of the same buildings. Sometimes things don’t change much. The one building I note as missing, I can remember well the night it burned.
In a Monument office where I once worked, several photos hang on the walls that I recognize as Bill Kezziah’s handiwork during his 19-year tenure here as editor and publisher of the Tribune. One of those, a photo of the Westcliff School down in the southeastern part of the state caught the attention a visitor one day. “Hey, I know where that is. I grew up near there.”
“Does it still look like that,” I asked.
“I have no idea. I haven’t been back there in 25 years, but that is how I remember it.”
Maybe that is why it is important what pictures we take today.
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Stuffing the wolves back in the bottle



Wildlife management must be a lot like trying to stuff a genie back in the bottle. Consider the recent suggestion of reintroducing wolves to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The suggestion comes on the heals of the “elk problem” there — with the current elk count estimated to be over the number the ecosystem can comfortably handle in that habitat. That, in turn, causes the herd to be unhealthy and vegetation in the park and in surrounding areas to be negatively affected.
Scientist studying the reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park claim the returning natives have benefited the park there. The last wolf prior to reintroduction was killed in 1926. The wolves, reintroduced in 1995 have grown in number to 250 to 300 and have begun hunting and eating elk.
“The elk leftovers provide food for animals such as ravens, eagles, and bears. Wolves also scare elk from the streams. With fewer elk near the water, plants that grow there, such as willows, can grow taller,” according to the National Geographic Society.
“Benefits of the this new plant growth include more habitat for birds and more plant food for beaver,” according to William Ripple, a forest ecologist at Oregon State University as quoted in National Geographic.
Naturally, stockgrowers in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana are not real fond of the reintroduction (understatement, understatement, understatement) as they see them as a threat to livestock, household pets and perhaps even humans under certain conditions.
One of the most interesting aspects to this complex matrix is that Elk, were nearly extirpated from Colorado in 1900.
“Through restoration with Elk from Wyoming and progressive management, Colorado’s elk population is estimated to have increased to about 300,000 animals in 2002. Elk are likely at carrying capacity the habitat in some areas,” according to Colorado State University’s Cooperative Extension website.
The same source suggests that elk cause damage by browsing on trees and shrubs in orchards, shelterbelts, nurseries, ornamental plantings, etc...
“The increased population of elk are having a significant impact on regeneration of aspen seedlings, especially in areas such as Rocky Mountain National Park. The Colorado Division of Wildlife paid $90,000 -$190,000 annually from 1996 to 1998 for compensation for damage inflicted by elk,” notes the Cooperative Extension site.
So it appears we managed the elk so well that now we have different problem. It makes me wonder if 100 years from now, if we might not be pining for the good old days of the beaver trappers, free-ranging, hostileUtes, Comanches and Arapahoes, and devastating wildfires. Maybe we already are.
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Kids today don't know about hard up


"We are not free to use today, or promise tomorrow, because we are already mortgaged to yesterday," ___ Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1858
Barbara Spencer, the longtime postmaster in the Ouray mining camp, recalls her husband's newspaper business in various mining camps in the early twentieth century in recorded oral histories compiled in “The Way It Was, A Historical Narrative of Ouray County” by David Bachman and Tod Bacigalupi.
Don Spencer took over the paper in Ouray after his parents retired and his brother left to start a paper during the uranium boom in the Moab area.
“I wont live long if I keep this up,” Barbara said her husband commented. “It was hard for him. He could put out a newspaper but it was a lot of work for both of us. Joyce Jorgenson has a picture up at the newspaper office that is called ‘Hell on Thursdays.’ I can understand and agree with that title. Many times worked all night to get that paper out and to the post office by Friday morning.”
“The paper wasn’t as big as it is now, just four pages and a two-page insert sometimes. But Don and I had to fold all the pages by hand, set all the type, and Don had to set all the heads and then run the press. One of our big stories was the Idarado fire. There were birth and death announcements and there was always a personal column. We subsisted on legal publications from the county and what ads we could get. That’s the reason we had to close the Oak Creek paper and come home. The war had started and could not get advertising. People wouldn’t put ads for refrigerators when they couldn’t get refrigerators, cars, or anything,” said Barbara Spencer in Bachman and Bacigalupi’s 1990 book.
In the same book, Rosie Halls noted that it wasn’t just the newspaper business that was tough. She worked for boarding houses, hotels and on the ranch.
“Sometimes I thought it was a hell of a life. I know what it is to be hard up. Kids today don’t know what to do if they are hard up. During the Depression, we didn’t have enough to eat. My folks didn’t have enough money to send us to school and pay for clothes, and eats, and shows. If we wanted to do that, we had to do it on our own. Then we couldn’t do it all the time because we couldn’t afford it. That was why I worked all the time.”
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blast in to the past



“Language is the archives of history”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

People in the newspaper industry may be predisposed to care more about language and usage than the average Joe or Jane.

I consider myself one of those people — particularly as it pertains to obscure language.

Some of our ink-stained terminology of yesteryear and historic industry jargon is in danger of being lost forever because we have abandoned many of the processes from which it spawned.

As a personal contribution to historic preservation efforts, I feel it is my duty as an aging veteran of hot type production and photochemical typesetting to pass on some of my favorite slang and jargon.

To that end, the following obscure terms and definitions offer a glimpse into the strange, twisted world of mid-20th century backshops and printer dens of my misspent youth.


From the hot type pressroom:

Form — Type matter of a page or several pages ready for the press.

Chase or Turtle — Steel frame in which a form is made up.

Printers furniture — Any piece of metal or wood used to make up a form.

Wrong-face — Type of a different font than is desired.

Dirty case — Type matter in which wrong-face letters appear.

Pi — Tangled mess of type.

Hell box — Receptacle for type and furniture that is to be melted up.

Quoin — Metal wedge used to lock up type in a form.

Stickful — Amount of type, about 2 inches, that can be set in a composing stick used in hand composition.

Leads — Metal strips, 2 points thick, used for spacing between lines of type.

Heel nick — “Feet” attached to the base of handset type that allows a typesetter, by feeling, to find the type’s bottom.


From the newsroom:

Boiled story — A rewrite of a longer story condensed to fit later editions.

Local room — The part of the newsroom devoted to gathering and writing news of the city in which the paper is published (now often called the city room).

Telegraph room — The part of the newsroom devoted to gathering and writing news from other areas of the state, nation or world (now called the wire room).

Fudge edition or plate — A printing method that uses a different roller on the press to print extra editions that contain late-breaking news, final scores or stock market statistics.

Ready prints or patent insides — A cost-savings method in which publishers or editors acquired from syndicates newsprint that already had one side of each sheet filled with feature articles and general material. Local news was printed on the blank side.

Widows and orphans — A widow is when a paragraph ends on the first line at the top of a page or column, leaving perhaps only a single word or syllable. An orphan refers to a paragraph beginning at the last line of a page or column.

Butcher — A copy editor lacking skill.

Bulldog — The early edition of the newspaper.


From headline writers:

Decks — The several parts or layers of a headline.

Banks — Less prominent decks between display decks.

Crossline — One-line headline across a column.

Dropline — Deck of several lines, italicized.

From graphics and photo desk:

Wood cuts — Pictures laboriously carved by hand in hardwood blocks; until the 1880s these were the only illustrations available for newspaper use.

Half-tone — Blackness of an impression, broken into contrasting tones by use of fine dots created through a screening in the photo process.

Ben Day process — Named after a New York printer, this is a printing method that imitates half-tone work in the background of line etchings by means of a special film that creates a stippled effect.

Mortises — Holes cut through plates for inserting type or smaller cuts.


Names for various type sizes:

Microscopique — 2.5-point type

Excelsior — 3-point type

Agate — 5.5-point type

Brevier — 8-point type

Bourgeois — 9-point type

Long Primer — 10-point type

Small Pica — 11-point type

Pica — 12-point type

English — 14-point type

Paragon — 20-point type

Canon — 48-point type


Phototypesetting composing rooms:

Hot board — Used to dry photo paper.

Ticker tape — Pulled off the wire feed and fed into a phototypesetter for Associated Press and United Press International stories.

Wheel — A typesetting device upon which flexible film-like strips of type were placed. The wheel would spin into position to highlight a selected letter. Light beamed through the film-like material to burn the letter on photosensitive paper.

Multirule — A slide rule-like tool used to measure type used in copy and headlines.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Taking printing for granted


Printing is one of those things you just take for granted. Yes, there are others — like being careful who you borrow money from, and waiting to adopt cutting edge technology instead of jumping on the bleeding-edge.
Johann Gutenberg is credited with invention of printing in the 1440s.
Drawing on earlier vocations of metalwork, gem-cutting and part-time teaching, he combined operations and equipment such as a wine press, wood engraving, brass molds and matrices to create lead type. He pulled these multiple processes together enabling completion of the first print job in 1455, in Mainz, Germany.
Delivery of that job comprised 200 copies of a 42-line Bible (number of lines per page) but because of debt incurred to get to that point, ownership of his press was transferred very shortly afterward to the man who loaned him the money.
Johann Fust, a lawyer and businessman, who had financed the last five years of Gutenberg’s work to the tune of two separate loans of 800 guilders each, won a court judgment against him. Fust then forced Gutenberg out of the business and engaged his foreman Peter Schoeffer as his partner. The partners went on to produce fine printing and created a regional recognition for Mainz as the cradle of the printing industry.
“Documented evidence of Johann Gutenberg (1406-1468)is scant and little is known of his equipment and methods of printing. But it may be assumed that he employed some sort of compartmented trays in which to store his type,” says Fred Williams, publisher of Type & Press in 1992 article. “Possibly the boxes were arranged alphabetically, but undoubtedly their lay underwent modification as some letters were used more than others, requiring larger boxes to hold more characters. These oft-used letters were placed nearer to the type-plucking hand.”
His type was cast from lead, antimony and tin and reportedly had 290 different symbols. Among the substances he used for ink included a concoction made from soot and boiled linseed oil.
It is not real clear what happen to Gutenberg after losing his press to satisfy his debt but records indicate that the archbishop of Mainz in 1465, provided him a pension involving food and clothing and tax exempt status until his death three years later.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

There goes Muldoon, he's a solid man


As far as I know, world champion wrestler, boxing trainer and strongman William Muldoon never set foot in Colorado, but that did not stop him from being connected with the place.
Muldoon was a lot like many folks from Colorado in the 1870s and ‘80s -- hard-fighting, rough-and-tumble, confused about their origin, and perhaps prone to ‘improve’ their particular stories.
It was for Bill Muldoon, in fact, they chose to name a seven-foot-stone man, a "prehistoric human body," discovered near Beulah in 1877, according to many accounts.
Though Bill Muldoon’s nickname ‘the Solid Man’ probably originated from a song written by New York theater writer Edward Harrigan and first performed in March of 1874 in Manhattan.
The discovery was billed as the ‘missing link’ between apes and man and hucksters, including Soapy Smith, charged those interested 10 cents each to take a look. The 7-and -half-foot stone man was thought to be the "missing link" between apes and humans.
"There can be no question about the genuineness of this piece of statuary," said the Denver Daily Times at the time.
It was later revealed that George Hull, perpetrator of a previous hoax featuring the Cardiff Giant, had spent three years fashioning his second "petrified man," using mortar, rock dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood, and meat. He kiln-fired the figure for many days and then buried it.
A few months later, as the celebration of Colorado's year-old statehood approached, the statue was "discovered" by William Conant, who had once worked for the legendary showman P.T. Barnum. News of the find quickly spread to Denver and eventually New York. Displayed in New York, the "body" attracted large crowds until a business associate of Hull's revealed the hoax to the New York Tribune.
Harrigan’s lyrics for “The Solid Man,” go like this:

I am a man of great influence
And I'm educated to a high degree
I came when small from Donegal
On the Daniel Webster across the sea
In the 14th Ward [(or) Jersey City] I was situated
In a tenement with my brother Dan
By perserverance I elevated
And I rose to the front like a solid man.

CHORUS:
Then come with me and I'll treat you decent
I will get you drunk and I'll fill your can
And on the street every friend I meet
Says there goes Muldoon; he's a solid man.

To every party and every raffle
I always go, an invited guest
As conspicuous as General Grant, me boys
I wear a rosebud all on my breast
I'm called upon to address the meeting
Without regard to clique or clan
I show the constitution with elocution
Because you see, I'm a solid man.

Repeat CHORUS

Different accounts also suggest that Civil War hero and outspoken newspaper owner, David F. Day, (himself from New York) named his legendary Ouray newspaper (which later moved to Durango) after either the wrestler, the statue, the song, or all of them combined.
Bill Muldoon, grew up in Belfast, New York, and became a soldier, serving in the Civil War (though this is disputed by American National Biography, which says it was actually his older brother that served in the Sixth Calvary) and then for the French army in the Franco-Prussian War.
It was there he was introduced to Greco-Roman wrestling. By 1880 he was the champion of the world, having never lost a match and defeating opponents all over the world. Also by that time, he had become a New York City Police Officer, rising to detective when he resigned in 1882.
Famous sporting writer, Al Spink, had this to say about him in the Reno Evening Gazette, Saturday, March 8, 1919.
“He became famous in a few weeks by throwing all opponents easily in the police tournaments held in the metropolis.
Sporting writers called him “the noblest Roman of them all," and he was, perhaps, the finest-formed man ever seen in an American arena.
He was so handsome that when Modjeska, the Russian actress, laid eyes-on him she fell in love with him and immediately employed him to take the part of Charles the Wrestler in the play of "As You Like It," in which she was then appearing.”
Spink goes on to tell tell of his own disenchantment with the sport of wrestling as it related to Muldoon.
“Of the entire company of great wrestlers at that time there was not one to compare with Muldoon in splendid looks, in wonderful stature and magnificent muscle and strength.
Bauer came nearest to him, but it was only in height that Bauer possessed an advantage. I recall a bout in which the two were the principals, and I thought they were doing their level best, but happening behind the scenes between falls I heard Bauer say to Muldoon:
‘If you want me to go on, Mul, you’ll have to throw me lighter than you did then. If you don’t, I’ll never go on with you again.’
Then, for the first time, I discovered that the entire game of wrestling was rotten. Later, I learned more about it, but this was my first awakening.
Of all the wrestlers in the world I had looked on as being worthy of esteem and confidence, Muldoon appeared in my eyes the worthiest and squarest of the lot. And now even that dream was shattered.”
Muldoon in later years went on to form the Olympia Institute that catered to celebrities and politicians. He also trained a number of professional boxers including Gene Tunney.
William Barclay “Bat” Masterson, himself with an extensive Colorado history, befriended Bill Muldoon and after waging an aggressive campaign in his New York Morning Telegraph columns against two successive New York boxing commission chairmen, was somewhat responsible for his appointment. The campaign had the desired effect, prompting the ousting of first one and then another when Bat was unsatisfied with the replacement. The governor of New York finally appointed William Muldoon, one of Bat's oldest and closest friends, as chairman in 1921.
Muldoon died in 1931 of prostrate cancer.
At the time of his death, The New York Times obit quoted retired boxing champion Gene Tunney, “All I know about training I learned from him…. His patience, intellectual courage and wisdom were inspirational.”
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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Listen to the oldtimers


“There is much good sleep in an old story,”
— German proverb


I like listening to old timers about the way things used to be — especially the way it used to be in Colorado. A few years ago, I got an old codger going on real estate in this and surrounding areas. To hear him tell it, all you would need to do make a bundle in land speculation is follow him around, buy his property after he’s given up on it, and then wait for the money people.
Before it was the exclusive Castle Pines residential area in northern Douglas County, it was his 400 acres of cow pasture. Before it was dozens of high-dollar, five-acre, gentleman farms near Franktown on Highway 83, it was his barely sustainable dairy with an unreliable water source. He even had good yarn about losing his brakes on a new truck in Ute Pass in the ‘40s and not running into a problem because they hit the only light on Platte Ave. in the Springs while it was green.
His luck, it seems, was not confined to Colorado. In World War II, he was stationed, and camped in the exact spot where the Chunnel resurfaces in England. A place he lived in Philadelphia for a few months later became a professional sports stadium. And so his stories went.
I joked with him, that in my own case, I have been able to eventually wreck almost every economy that I have been exposed to.
In the ‘70s working in a small town hardware store in Dolores, Colo., I was able to turn the boom of preparing and building McPhee Reservoir on the Western Slope into an early ‘80s bust when they finished digging tunnels, doing archeology, and clearing brush.
After college, I told him, the heydays of Wyoming oil exploration and exploitation began to fade almost as soon as I arrived. My first years up there, the schools had many of the grade school and high school students in trailers and other makeshift digs until they could get permanent schools built. By the time they were built, there were few students to attend.
In California in the late ‘80s, it was same, I said. Whole cities of 100,000 homes appeared in the desert north of Los Angles and in commuter towns of the Central Valley near the Bay Area. By the early ‘90s the value of those homes was dropping like a stone. Equity refugees and those trying to escape the wild fires, earthquakes, riots, taxes, regulation and other personal disasters made it almost impossible to rent a U-Haul headed out of the state.
Many of those refugees landed here, in Colorado. As the tech sectors and financial services ratcheted up, south Denver grew and grew. Colorado Springs stretched out toward Kansas.
But now things are really slowing, I said.
“It goes in cycles,” was his answer. “What goes around, comes around. What’s up, falls down. What’s down will rise.”
I like listening to the oldtimers, I thought to myself.

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In memory of Harold T. "Andy" Andersen.
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Water, development and the fight


Having reread Ralph Moody’s first book “Little Britches,” about his experiences over 100 years ago on his family ranch in what is now present-day Littleton and Englewood, I think it is a good time to reflect on how far we’ve come.
The ranch as near as I can figure from Moody’s description has probably been swallowed by development, in the vicinity of Wadsworth Boulevard and Hampden Avenue. It is interesting to note how “god -forsaken,” the country was described.
After unsuccessfully fighting (with bare knuckles, firearms, and in the courts) for years over their share of water that was supposed to travel down the ditch, the Moody family was forced to abandon their hard-scrabble existence and move to town. Moody’s father became a carpenter and foreman in the building trades there. If you can’t beat them, join them, I guess. The senior Moody died shortly after, when his weak lungs gave out.
But here we are, 100 years later, still fighting over having enough water and alternately embracing and rejecting development because of it.
Among the top 10 major findings in the 2003 Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI), The Number 1 finding was that “Significant increases in Colorado’s population, together with agricultural water needs and increased focus on recreational and environmental uses, will intensify competition for water.”
Duh. Tell us something we don’t know.
That same study pegged the South Platte watershed shortfall at 22 percent, one of the worst shortfalls in the state by the year 2030. Estimates for 2030 water demand by basin versus current anticipated supply were calculated by Colorado Water Conservation Board and the study was delivered to the State legislature in December.
“New and expanded reservoirs will play a part, as will conservation. One of the study’s major findings, however, is that taking water from irrigated agricultural land and converting it to municipal use will be a primary source of water for cities, one that will be increasingly more attractive if other projects fail.” says Headwaters, a publication of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education in its Winter 2005 edition. “
As many as 400,000 acres of Colorado’s irrigated agricultural land could be dried up by 2030, according to the study.
Where does that leave us. I guess somewhere very near to the place we were 100 years ago when Ralph’s dad had to bare his knuckles and learn to handle a sixshooter. As former songwriter Warren Zevon might have said.
“Send lawyers, guns and money.”
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Bing Irish Bowie at Christmas


Nothing says it is Irish Christmas time more effectively than a Bing Crosby carol.
“One of the more surreal moments in pop music history took place Sept. 11, 1977, when the leading American pop star of the first half of the Twentieth Century met and performed with one of the more innovative rock 'n’rollers of the last half of the century,” writes Steven Lewis of the Bing Crosby Museum.
According to Lewis, it was Crosby’s idea that he and rocker David Bowie would perform “The Little Drummer Boy” as a duet but Bowie felt the song did not showcase his voice very well. As a compromise they added “Peace on Earth,” which suited Bowie’s talent very well.
“The two musical spokesman of different generations met for the first time on the morning of the taping, rehearsed for an hour and finished off their duet in only three takes,” writes Lewis.
Crosby died a month later and the public did not get to see the performance until after his death. But of course, a lot of things Irish have roots in Christmas history.
The Celtic festival of Alban Arthuan celebrated the Winter Solstice on December 21 in ancient times. It is, according to lore, the ancient Druidic fire festival and apparently translates as “The Light of Arthur, in honor of legends that hold King Arthur was born on the Winter Solstice. It is also called Yule, derived from “Yula,” or “Wheel of the Year’ that marks the both the shortest day and the beginning of the return of the sun, according to Clans of Ireland, Registered Charity No. 11585. The custom of burning the Yule Log is perhaps the most familiar surviving Yule tradition.
But the Irish offer us other traditions that warm the heart and tickle the imagination. Among my favorites is the candle in the window.
A lighted candle is placed in the window of a house on Christmas Eve to welcome Mary and Joseph as they travel looking for shelter and to indicate a safe place for priests to perform mass as, during Penal Times this was a major concern. Another element of that custom was that the youngest in the house was to light it and only a girl named ‘Mary’ could extinguish the flame.
Also the placing of Holly on doors is directly connected to Irish history as it flourished during the Holiday season and gives the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings. According to Ireland Information.com, “All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand.
Finally, the Gaelic greeting for ‘Merry Christmas’ is ‘Nolliag Shanoa Duit’ which is pronounced as ‘null-ig hun-a dit.’
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