Sunday, January 26, 2014

Building flood protection on lessons learned in our past


It is no solace, but floodwaters have raged here before.
When the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and El Paso County recently removed 260 dump truck loads of gravel, sand, muck and other material, they were working on top of flood structures originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Works Progress Administration also contributed to work on flood control projects in the area nearly 80 years ago.
Where there is steep, narrow canyons, there can be, and eventually probably will be, severe and dangerous flooding. And for at least 100 years, we have been cleaning up after one flood or another, and trying to mitigate the next ones.
In looking through records of the National Weather Weather Service in Pueblo, floods in August of 1904 washed away a train near there, killing 89 passengers in a local watershed. Again in 1921, more  deadly flooding.
"Thunderstorms and heavy rainfall causes flooding in Cripple Creek and Cripple Creek Canyon. Damage estimated at $30,000 in Cripple Creek alone," the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association reported a July 15, 1923 storm.
Then again, on Memorial Day in 1935, 18 people are killed on bridges and structures in downtown Colorado Springs when Monument Creek washes through.
In May, 1949, heavy afternoon thunderstorms caused a landslide in the Ute Pass sending nearly 400 tons of rock and mud into Highway 24.
Wait a few years, June 15, the first of 15 days of rain and flooding on both Monument and Fountain Creeks, washing out bridges all the way to the Kansas border, and destroying much of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
And I guess, floods are not the only thing we should worry about. The day before Independence Day in July 1966, A tornado rips through the Victor business district damaging the Baptist Church and the Masonic Hall, among other places.
Another tornado in June of 1979, can opener-like, tears the roof off a gas station and rips up trees by the roots in Manitou Springs. Nearly a million dollars in damages was reported.
Then, there is always the possibility of a microburst like the one north of Woodland Park that leveled 35 acres of trees in the summer of 1981.
Still, we haven't even really talked about the snow, as in the storm on May 18, in 1995 that dropped 18 inches in few hour on Woodland Park and rain in the Springs, not only flooding low-lying areas there, but closing the Highway 24 corridor in the Pass with a landslide then. Another storm in June of 1997 closed U.S. Highway 24 again and flooding much of Manitou Springs. Just two years later, in July, 1999, a group of teens were stranded while hiking Waldo Canyon and in another weather event that Nov. 21, 17 inches of snow buried Green Mountain Falls.
We can and will get weather around here. And not to make light of it, but as Dr. Suess says, “The storm starts, when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping, then the storm starts stopping.” 
And our hope is, of course, that all of our mitigating, and other measures, are built on what we have learned from our past.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

It will turn up, if I press the issue




It is a mystery that probably will eventually will be solved. But like such mysteries, it might take some time, and pulling some threads, and listening to a yarn or two.
I am talking about figuring out where several tons of printing iron went.
The old flatbed press I knew in my ink-stained childhood. Namely, six thousand pounds of magic, that I first caught copies off of the Dolores Star on Thursday afternoons back in the late 1960s, and folded for a half cent each.
I grew up next to the folks that owned the Star and their son, Andy, was a few months younger than me. Pleasants gave me an opportunity to learn elements of a disappearing craft at the last of of the hot type era.
Printing is sort of like voting for me. Do it early and often, if you can.
Larry Pleasant and Filbert 'Shorty' Lobato were the masters of the craft.
"Larry and Shorty continued with hot metal and the old press for a few months while I made the switch to offset. The press was still there when I left in '80,"according to Lewis McCool, who purchased the Dolores Star from the Pleasants.
Larry and Shorty continued on with a job shop in Dolores, running various smaller offset presses.
The topic came up the other day when Ellis Miller, who folded a paper or two in his own day, mentioned I might know something about the old press from Dolores. 
"I remember it from when my Uncle Tom Johnson was editor of the Star, but that was a long time ago," Miller said. "Shirley Dennison might also have some idea."
Indeed she might. 
I sent Shirley a message, and she was unsure of what might have happened to the old press, but had acquired a wealth of stories about when it was running, including one where the job required so much time and attention, that it was actually possible (but dangerous) to fall asleep while operating the beast. 
She suggested I try Larry's son Tim, or possibly Dean Coombs in Saguache. 
"I have a picture of it loaded on a flatbed trailer, but don't know where it was taken. Sorry, by that time, I was in the Marine Corps, and wasn't around to see and know," Tim tells me.
On to Dean Coombs, who I know from my time at the press association. Dean is running the last hot-type newspaper operation in the country, and probably the world. Saguache Crescent ... Last of a kind, a hold out in techno-adapted planet... so strange a being, that news organizations all over the world report on how he reports on the little burg of 500 in the San Luis Valley. 
"Yea, I'm supposed to be on CBS Sunday Morning sometime this month," he said. Along with with being featured by the LA Times and Al Jezeera, he adds.
"I bought some of Larry's stuff but I don't have that press," Coombs   says. 
"I have parts of one that he had in the shed there. It was kind of sinking down into the dirt. But it was a smaller one, like what I am printing on now. The parts are interchangeable. I got an old Ludlow (typograph device that casts bars, or slugs of type) from him. Seems like if I bought anything, Larry would always throw something else on the truck when we were getting loaded up. He was generous that way."
Coombs wasn't sure either where the larger press went. 
"Seems like it went to museum or something down in New Mexico," he said. "Though with so few of us running, I probably should have kept track." 
"It will turn up," I told him confidently. It will turn up.

###




Sunday, January 19, 2014

S.K. Hooper created the business of railroad promotion

I have spent my entire life, of course, in the newspaper business. But if born 100 years earlier, it might have been the railroads, or both — like Shadrack K. Hooper.
Newspaper editor Tim McGuire says "Many people have heard the old story about the railroads and how they should have realized they were in the transportation business in the same way newspapers ought to realize they're in the information business. I heard someone says a few years ago that in fact the railroad people knew they needed to be in the transportation business. They just loved the railroads so much they couldn't make the change. There is a lot of that in our business."
McGuire is right of course, but Hooper knew how to made it work.
"Hooper was known as the 'father of railroad publicity' and his extensive advertising efforts on behalf of the Rio Grande made the railroad known throughout America and Europe," wrote my friend, Palmer Lake historian Dan Edwards in one of his papers. "Many prominent hotels, union stations, and ticket offices displayed pictures of scenery along the route of the Rio Grande that Hooper had provided. He arranged for the photographer, William H. Jackson and the writer, Ernest Ingersoll, to travel over the Rio Grande in special trains and record in pictures and words what they saw. Hooper popularized the Royal Gorge and the Black Canyon's Curicanti needle that served as emblems of the railroad. He also published several booklets on tourist spots and landmarks along the route of the Rio Grande."
Those booklets... works of a lost art, as far as I am concerned.
"For the convenience and information of the traveling public this booklet is issued," writes Hooper in the introduction of his most circulated one. "The attempt is made in as few as words as possible to inform those who desire information, how they may easiest, with least expense and inconvenience, visit any or all of the many attractions in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. A perusal of these pages will enable tourists to determine what points they visit, inform them of the attractions they will see while en route, and afford them much useful information."
S.K. Hooper, like so many in development of the railroads, had learned the trade in the Civil War. He worked for five different lines before becoming general passenger and ticket agent for the Denver and Rio Grande in 1884, a position he held for decades, scaling back duties at the end of his career, finally retiring in 1917.
"Major Hooper did not neglect Palmer Lake. He worked with Finley Thompson and to the officials of the Glen Park companies to promote Palmer Lake as a tourist destination and offer special railroad fares for Chautauqua travelers to Glen Park. Hooper bought a lot in Glen Park in 1887, and later spent time during the summers at 'Casa Pobre,' his cottage in Pine Crest. He vacationed at Palmer Lake as late as 1917. He died at Denver in March 1923," according to Dan Edwards' research.
Born more than 100 years earlier, I might like working for someone like S.K. Hooper. I might have found it hard to change over time. There is a lot of that in our business.




Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fading memories of Holiday Hills Ski Area near Woodland Park



"The Rocky Mountain Regions's newest ski facility, the Holiday Hill Ski Area is now open," proclaimed the ute Pass Courier on January 21, 1965. The paper attributed the news to the owners Harlan and Kay Nimrod.
I spoke to Kay Nimrod last week about her family's experiences running the area from 1963 to 1972.
"It was a lot of hard work. Didn't know how complicated it would be before we got into it. Things like finding insurance — we were down to only being able to find two companies, Lloyd's of London, and Capella, that would even consider writing a policy. You get older, I guess you smarten up," Kay said.
But she did have fond memories related to their experience.
"Some days, we would be swamped. Our three children worked there. People would come up from Colorado Springs and Pueblo. We didn't make snow, so it wouldn't be icy. It gave the kids growing up a chance to work outside. And I always enjoyed skiers. They are not picky. If we were out of root beer, they would drink a limon-lime soda. And their checks didn't bounce.
"Located three miles west of Woodland Park on U.S. Highway 24, the ski area development was started in the fall of 1962," says the Courier article. "Signs on the highway direct enthusiasts to the easily accessible area. There is ample parking space provided at the site. Nimrod, who developed the Holiday Hills subdivision, and is now selling acreages for mountain homes in the area."
The 1965 account says, "Ski trails have been bulldozed and hand raked to clear rocks and stumps from the skiing area."
"The ski tow at the site is a J-Bar type nearly 2,000 feet in length, and is enhanced by a nearly complete A-frame lodge equipped large moss-rock fireplace. It is planned to serve refreshments in the lodge."
Kay and Harlan Nimrod, both 83 now living in Colorado Springs and have for the last 22 years. They sold the lift equipment years ago and dissolved the corporation. At its peak, the area had three lifts, rope tows, and nearly seven miles of trails.
"But we were a lot younger back then. And you had to depend so much on the weather. I have sympathy for farmers. Nature is not always cooperative."
Kay said they had a contract with the Air Force Academy at the time to run a ski school to teach cadets the basics.
She had done extensive research on temperatures and rainfall in that watershed before opening however, and they were fairly comfortable that they would have enough snow to open. During the years of operation, they were not disappointed.
"We were closer than most areas, not as icy, and families could afford to ski there," Kay said.
The price for tow tickets in 1965 was $3 per day and $1.75 for a half day. The area was open from 9 a.m. until the 4:40 p.m. closing.
"The property borders the Colorado Springs watershed at an altitude of 9,600 feet. Vertical rise of the ski run is nearly 400 feet and the rise in the tow line is 280 feet. The other tow services will extend to the lower area next season," reported the Courier in early 1965. "The owners have announced that Mr. and Mrs. Sam Bleam of Woodland Park will help with the operation and supervision of the facility."
Her caution for modern ski entrepreneurs, "You would have to be well-capitalized, for things like insurance (which was difficult back then) and have a lot of energy."



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Walk in town's street, and spirits of the past



The manifestation of a spirit, a ghost, something that you couldn't quite see, or taste or smell — but sensed was there, nevertheless. Perhaps you felt it. You might walk down Central (or Main) between Fourth and Fifth Street back then, when the buildings were still there. Conversations from the past, tracks from memories, a phantom where a town once lived... walked with you.
"Dolores was the scene of a deplorable tragedy Wednesday when Mrs. Almeda Majors was shot and almost instantly killed by a shotgun blast fired allegedly by Mrs. Ruth Baldy, a resident of this place," read the front page of Dolores Star that week, June 4, 1948.
"Mrs. Majors, whose husband was killed almost two years ago by the Cortez town marshal, was employed in the office of H.V. Pyle, a local real estate and insurance man at whose office the shooting occurred."
The Del Rio Hotel building still rises three stories above the sidewalk, across the road from Flanders Park.
"Mrs. Pyle and Mrs. Majors had returned noon from a business trip to Cortez and drove to the office. Mrs. Majors went up the street where she did some shopping and returned to the office. In the meantime Mrs. Baldy had met Pyle near the office where some words were exchanged. The two went to the office and into the inner office where there were more words and Pyle lay down on the couch. Mrs. Majors came in the office and to the door leading to the inter office. Seeing Mrs. Baldy with the shotgun, a single barrel 410 gauge, she remarked jokingly that it was a "nice gun." Realizing that the situation was serious, according to a statement by Pyle, she started to leave and got to the front door of the office. Pyle, who is recovering from an operation and illness, said he was unable to rise quickly, but heard the shot," the Star account said.
Apparently, so did much of the nearby town, as several eating lunch at Green Frog recalled later in personal accounts.
"Mrs. Majors was struck in the back and the charge, fired at a short distance, passed through body in the region near the heart. She called for help and said she was shot and staggered to the alley adjoining the building and collapsed. She died within a few seconds," reported the Star.
"The Ertel ambulance and Sheriff Frank Weaver arrived within a a few minutes and took Mrs. Baldy into custody, and Mrs. Majors body to Cortez. Ben Caylor, who lives across the street from the Pyle office said he heard the shot and looking out saw what happened and called Town Marshall Edward Lockett and Dr. E. G. Merritt," according to the paper's account.
"Mrs. Ruth Spurgeon, who lives near the Pyle office ran out and saw Mrs. Majors lying on the sidewalk struggling to rise.
"District Attorney Byron Badford came in and investigated the case, and stated that as far as he knew at the time first degree murder charges would be filed against Mrs. Baldy. The trial will not called before the fall term of the district court," reported the paper.
But according those familiar with the case's history, Baldy served no time.
"Mrs. Majors, formerly operated the Green Frog cafe and recently took a short business course in Grand Junction preparatory to taking over the work in Pyle's office. She was the mother of two small sons," the Dolores Star said.
In the center of the town, phantoms, memories, tracks in time, conversations from the past, a spirit, a ghost, something that you couldn't quite see, or taste or smell — but sensed was there, nevertheless.