Sunday, July 28, 2013

If I were born 100 years ago

How many times have you said something like "If only I were born 100 years ago?"
Mrs Dorothy King —  fervent Los Angeles Dodger and LA Laker fan, artist, world traveler, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother — was born more than 100 years ago.
And now, she has a lot of things to say about it.
King celebrated her 100th birthday recently at the Inn in Palmer Lake. Family and friends flew in from all over the country.
To give some perspective, when Dorothy was born in the Van Nuys area of the Los Angeles basin, there were only 8,000 cars in entire United States, and only 144 miles of paved roads. Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee each were more heavily populated than California, (with 1.4 million residents, California ranked twenty-first in the states at that time.)
Her father, a pioneer in the Van Nuys area, worked as a machinist at an organ factory, creating organ pipes for theaters showing silent movies.
"You know,  the organ would play music faster,  and faster, until the wagon would go over the cliff," recalled Dorothy.
She remembers going up Hill Street in Los Angles on the street cars to visit her grandmother's grocery store there.  She remembers going to many movies herself,  "It cost 5 or 10 cents then."
and she remembers the orchards around their house.
"Walnuts, citrus, apricots, and there were chicken ranches."
Today, the L.A. County Courthouse Annex is there.
She also had to ride the cable cars into the city to get real silk stockings when they were rationed during the war (World War I and World War II.)
When she was very young, she decided she wanted to be an artist.
"There were always movie magazines around, and I started to color them even then."
Her passion was transformed into drawings, and sketches, and later...  art training at Frank Wiggins Trade School, and later still...  a job at an agency, tinting sepia-tone prints into color.
All the while, raising a son, and two daughters. Her husband was a butcher, and provided the Van Nuys area the very best in beef (it was coming from Utah, at the time, she recalls), but she found herself widowed at age 57.
"My dad built me a desk in the house."  The house where she continued to tint photographs in days prior Kodachrome, and then restored and repaired memories and prints from times past, until her retirement at age 94.
Her father, also lived a long life, traveling around the country, visiting the country's capital, including the Pentagon, White House, and Smithsonian (where he recognized most of the legacy tools), finally passing at 97.
Dorothy enjoys travel herself, having seen the sights in Europe, Honk Kong, Hawaiian Islands, though she recalls and misses the heyday of commercial flight.
"They used to dress so well on planes. And the food was good."
But today, with five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, along with the Dodgers and the Lakers to keep up with, it is sort of hectic. Especially when the seasons overlap.
"She will be watching the Dodgers on the big screen, and have the Lakers on her I-Pad," says her daughter Sheryl. "That is why we had to get a special cable subscription, so she doesn't miss a game."


Dorothy, in an earlier time. She used the color from a table cloth as inspiration on this tint.


One of her daughters, lovingly tinted from a sepia-tone print.






Sunday, July 14, 2013

Teller County forgery, cattle theft, possible murder, overshadowed by war


The threat of being drawn into to World War II was hanging heavy over the United States when Divide rancher Sumner Alfred Osborn went missing in October of 1941.
The first indication that something was terribly wrong surfaced when Sumner Osborn's mother, Mrs. A.H. Osborn, 215 South 11th Street, called Sheriff Sam Deal's office. Undersheriff  Roy Glasier investigated and was told by Mrs. Osborn that on the night of Oct. 16,  a man she did not know, came to her house and requested  S.A. Osborn's mail, saying that he had been instructed by Osborn to pick it up. There was no mail that day, so he returned the next, and she gave him a letter: She told Glasier that the letter had not been sealed properly and she looked in it, seeing a check made out to Sumner Osborn for $55.62, according to a 1962 account related by Carl F. Mathews. Mathews worked on unsolved crimes as superintendent of the Bureau of Identification in the Colorado Springs Police Department for years before he retired in 1952.
"The man told her that he and Osborn had sold a load of posts to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the check was in payment, Glaiser investigated further and found the check had been made out for the sale of four horses to the zoo: the check was traces and endorsement was found to have been forged by one of the trio (George Marion Betts, John Cahill and Lester Cahill, brothers, all of Divide) and cashed at the Broadmoor Garage on Oct. 17," Mathews related in his paper about unsolved crimes.
Sheriff Deal was immediately in touch with Sheriff Cecil Markley at Cripple Creek and a trip was made to Osborn's ranch. The last time that Sumner Osborn was seen was Oct. 16, when he walked to neighbor's ranch and asked if someone could take him to the highway as he wanted to go to Colorado Springs to report that four horses had been stolen. Unable to get ride, he continued on foot.
"Betts in his confession admitted he went to Mrs. Osborn's home and obtained the check after Lester Cahill brought him from Divide. He said Johnny Cahill endorsed the check but that he and Lester stayed in the auto while Johnny went into into the garage to get the money."
The Cahills also, according to the confession, drove the herd of 14 Osborn cattle to the the Cahill ranch, loaded in a truck, and took them to the stockyards in Denver and sold them for $599.99.
"Betts declared the check was made out to 'Earl Osborn' and the two Cahills went to a Denver bank and cashed it. He asked the Cahills where Osborn was and they said they didn't know."
A heavy snow covered the region and made a search for Osborn difficult. By Nov. 2, Sheriff Markey had made the determination that foul play had occurred. A $100 reward was offered.
By Nov. 4, Lester Cahill indicated that he wanted to plead guilty to the cattle rustling, and authorities had been questioning both the Cahills, but they insisted that did know what had happened to Osborn. Lester admitted selling the cattle, but John denied any involvement.
By Nov. 6, Sheriff Deal, acting on a hunch, surveyed an abandoned mine pit called the Little Annie. the 300-foot shaft had the reputation of being a 'bad hole' and full of water at the bottom and plagued by deadly gas fumes in the bottom. The tried to lower a miner down into the shaft in a bucket but abandoned that effort when more bad weather arrived. a second attempt later, using more equipment, including a portable winch. George Gotham went down to 110-foot level, but declared the effort useless with such a short cable.
The next day, another experienced miner, Andy Kuhlman, was lowered to 250 feet, but said he found no gas, no water, and no body.
"He reported he descended to a point where the old timbers had fallen from the top and closed the lower part. The next day, Frank Mayes, deputy game warden, his nephew Fred, Willis White, nephew of Osborn, and Andy Kuhlman explored and ice cave east of Midland some 60 feet deep, known to but a few residents. And also and old mining tunnel, 600 feet deep, but without results. They reported the area was full of abandoned workings, many of which had not been touched for years," wrote Mathews in his unsolved crimes paper.
By Nov. 15, the Cahill brothers were willing to plead guilty to the horse and cattle theft but when questioned repeatedly on the whereabouts of Osborn "they had nothing to say." By the end of the month, they were charged, as was Betts, who was only involved in the horse theft.
"On Dec. 5, Harry Sollo, a real estate agent and self-styled 'student of psychic phenomena' said had received a 'message' which 'told him within a half-mile of where Osborn's body was lying.' He said he would leave an envelop, sealed and not to be opened until Monday, giving the location so the accuracy of the message could be proved after the search," according to Mathew's account.
That following Sunday, a procession of about 70 cars that included Sollo and four sisters of Osborn, was taken to a spot five miles east of the Cahill ranch, but the 'student of psychic phenomena' claimed they were taken to the wrong spot. And while they were, the body was being removed.
According to a message left at the Gazette and Telegraph office later, "the body was in a well five miles east of the Cahill place; Sollo also claimed that he had received information giving the actual location, and that Osborn had been shot with a revolver and beaten to death."
From that time on, after the dry psychic hole, the Osborn case was overshadowed by news of the war, and in effect, moved to the back burners of local investigation.
At their cattle rustling trial in February, the state Brand Inspector Earl Brown, testified that one of men selling the cattle, filled out paperwork that the car they were driving belonged to Alf Coulsen, a former Teller County Commissioner, and that the driver was "Earl Osborn," a brother of Sumner Osborn, who had been been dead for a year or more at the times the crimes were committed. The case went to jury, and the Cahills were sentenced to terms of eight and 10 years. Betts, only involved in the horse theft, received probation. The Cahills served their terms at the Colorado State Penitentiary, and were later released.
Sumner Alfred Osborn's body was never found.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ghosts of populations past in Teller County

Among the first things a modern day visitor notices when they first drop down into the bowl that is Cripple Creek, is the ghost, or "presence" of populations past. It is a similar feeling in nearby Victor.
At one time, about 1900, Cripple Creek was the fourth largest city in Colorado, and boasted a population of 25,000 people, along with a fair amount of dogs, and donkeys.
Today's population figures put it closer to 1,200. 
The mining district at the time, of course, also counted the camps of Cameron, Altman, Independence, Elkton, Anaconda, Midway and Gillett. Most estimates put the district at a population of nearly 50,000 at the height of the boom. 
Victor had a population of nearly 12,000 residents itself in 1900 according to the census. Today roughly 400 people live in Victor.
Goldfield, at the time, claimed 3,500 residents, and Altman and Midway combined added another 1,500. Independence counted 1,500 for its own. Anaconda, weighed in with 1,000, Gillett and Cameron each put forth 1,000. Even Beaver Park, (or Love, as it was also known), contributed 75 to the count in 1900. Elkton, which included Arequa and Eclipse tossed in another 2,500.
Of course, there was also the lumber town and health resort of Woodland Park. When it was incorporated on Jan. 26, 1891, 38 votes were cast in favor of incorporation and 14 voted against. The "City Above the Clouds," Woodland Park has grown some, tipping the scales recently at 7,200 residents.
Between Divide and Woodland Park, the settlement of Edlow had its own rail depot, school, and 10-room hotel. Estimates by the Ute Pass Historical Society a few years ago had nearly 2,000 residents living between Green Mountain Falls and Divide at the 1900-year-mark. 
Divide, itself was a stage stop, and a tent city for rail workers, as branch lines from the gold district joined the mainline of the Colorado Midland there. Florissant, had nearly 300 residents in in 1890s, but boomed as well by the turn of the century as it became a pathway into the camps.
Today, Teller County's population is estimated at about 24,000 residents. Just a little shy of Cripple Creek by itself, at the height of the boom around 1900.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cutting threads, making nipples in summer's heat


On slow summer days, when we ran out of specific tasks, central to the mission, it was time to make nipples.  
Make them in summer, when it is easy, or wait until winter, and do it the hard way.
Over in the far eastern stretches of the track warehouse, we would cut scrap pipe, less than 12 inches in length, into precise increments (12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3 -inch and close). When we had them the right length, we would oil them up, clamp them down in the vise, then cut threads on both ends to be used as nipples. 
When we had a number of them cut, we'd gather them up, and take them over and toss them in the plumbing bins, near the overhead heater, in the back of the main hardware store.
It sounded a lot sexier than it really was.
Though — there was that one woman that cornered me over there, one day, in the long, dark building— and asked me to make her two extremely close nipples. 

I refused, fearing I might damage the equipment.
Pipe salvage involved a whole lot of thread-cutting oil, elaborate die ratchets, more than a little muscle, some know-how. Patience, too. And warm weather was best.
Generally, seven or eight joints of iron pipe, (21-foot) in each size's IP diameter 
(inside, roughly), were laid out on the floor between bridge spikes hammered into the slab floor.  Common sizes, up to two-inch. Galvanized and black. Three-eighths, quarter, half, three-quarter, inch, inch-and-half, and two. Cut pieces toward the wall, full joints with a coupling to the inside.
Iron pipe size (IPS) standard came into being early in the 19th century and remained in effect until after World War II. Truth be known, it was still pretty common in our neighborhoods until at least the 1980s. The IPS system was primarily used in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the 1920s, the Copper Tube Size (CTS) standard was combined with the IPS standard.
During the IPS period, pipes were cast in halves and welded together, and pipes' dimensions were sized by reference to the inside diameters of the pipes. The inside diameters under IPS were roughly as we know them today, under the Ductile Iron Pipe Standard (DIPS) and Nominal Pipe Standard (NPS) Standards, and some of the wall thicknesses were also retained with a different designator. In 1948, the DIPS came into effect, when greater control of a pipe's wall thickness was possible.
Near the center of the east side of that track warehouse was the long, oily pipe bench - with a pipe vice on the west end, and a row of various dies lined up along the ridge down one side.
Across from the pipe, hanging on the wall next to the sliding door, a Rio Grande Southern Railroad schedule still was tacked to wall, though the trains hadn't run since 1952.
Why did pipe come in 21-foot joints anyway?
I am told that 21-foot length became the standard because of the old way pipe was produced using the bell and tongs method. 

A length of steel strip was heated (red hot - nearly melting)  and then manually pulled with a pair of tongs through a bell. Thus, the bell and tong method. The bell was used as both the forming roll and the welding roll. The 21-foot length could would still keep enough heat in the strip to produce a good weld. Longer, and a suitable weld was not possible over the entire length. Shorter, and the pipe would not have as good a yield. 
Why make nipples in the summer? Truth be known, you could cut threads in the winter, if you used enough oil, but winter oil was thick, the track was cold and dark, and it was easier to make mistakes. Better off manning the long handled ratchets in warm weather. Nice, even grooves for your threads then. Nice, smooth leverage on the pull downward. Nice, tight fit in the coupling.
That, of course, was something you had to learn the hard way, with mistakes in the winter. Nothing worth knowing is easy. You might be instructed on how to do something, but never learn from the instruction. Lessons learned well, however, always seemed to arrive after trying something the hard way.

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