Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The first fifty of the Courier, and more



The Ute Pass Courier announced the winners of the Man of the Year Contest in the Jan. 7. 1965 edition of the paper.
"We were rather dubious about anyone taking it seriously," wrote then publisher Agnes Schupp at the time. "Would any votes reach the Courier office?"
She answered in the next graph.
"Yes, indeed! The Reverend Micheal Kavenagh voted into first place unanimously by a flood of votes. We asked for a 'reason.' Perhaps the best one found lying on the desk one noon;"
"Us kids want Rev. Micheal Kavenagh to be The Man of the Year. We waited in your office but you wasn't here. We got to tell you why. Well — We like father Kavenagh because he is him."
Right behind Kavenagh, is Pete Brown for "going right ahead, not caring if people agree with him or not. He believes is progress and growth of this area and he wants everyone to prosper — not just himself," the paper reasoned.
Not far behind was Bert Bergstrom, of which it was noted "Bert has lent a helping hand whenever and wherever it is needed. Bert never cause much commotion — he is just a good guy."
The paper offer congratulation to these men but identified a possible improvement in the project for coming years. "I still think there should have been a Woman of the Year — and our votes would have been cast for Mrs. Hunter Caroll."
Strangely, this was only Publisher Schupp's first year of year of running the Ute Pass Courier and she was willing to try new things.  In fact, it was within the very first year of existence of the Ute Pass Courier.
That's right, the paper is now in its 50th year. We plan to mark that accordingly.
The first edition of the paper hit the streets on July 23, 1964.
"A morally bankrupt publisher, who was printing the short-lived Woodland Park paper called the Eagle, skipped town with the subscription money from local residents after 10 issues," according to later articles in the Courier.
"Manfred (Monte ) and Agnes (Ag) Schupp saved the paper from scandal and early demise," reported the Courier at the 25th anniversary of the publication. "About one month after he stole out of town, the Schupps put out their inaugural edition of 500 copies. Staff included Tom Bonifield, then owner of Woodland Pharmacy, and M.E. "Pete" Brown, who owned the Browncraft Steakhouse. He was later instrumental in establishing Langstaff-Brown Medical Center."
The paper was first printed in La Junta and was taken there by bus and returned Thursday mornings for distribution.
"The driving force behind the Courier, Agnes (also a mother and free-lance writer) often used her kitchen table as the production room for the paper," the paper reported later. "She suffered from a heart condition which was aggravated by the area's high elevation, and during her failing health she sold half interest to Maureen Jones in the fall of 1965."
Agnes Schupp died of heart attack June 19, 1966, and Manfred and Jones sold full interest to Roy and Carol Lee Robinson Sept. 1, 1966. Publisher, editor and reporter for 12 years, Roy Robinson received many honors and awards from Colorado Press Association for the paper's overall progress. During his tenure, the Courier was published in Cripple Creek along with Cripple Creek Times, then owned by his father, B.G. Robinson.
The paper, later published by notable mainstays of Woodland Park, Gene and Carol Sperry,  and others, (a complete linage will follow in coming editions as we gear up to celebrate over 50 years of serving Teller County and the Ute Pass region). The publication has many locations over the years, finally residing in the building it is in now, since 1984.
The Courier became the Pikes Peak Courier View as the Cripple Creek Gold Rush was merged with it in 2007, and recently View was dropped to reflect its longtime roots. The Gold Rush (with ancestors of the Times, Record, Citizen, and others) traced it roots all the way back to Cripple Creek Crusher, born Dec. 4, 1891, of which this year marks 124 years. To most locally, we have always been the Courier.
Look for details of our first 50 years of history here on the flanks of Pikes Peak, and the businesses, sources, readers, advertisers, and friends who helped make it possible in coming editions.  And  we will offer clues on where we are going for our next 200 years. Yes, indeed!



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Miners' Union Hall somewhat disfigured, but still in the ring









In July, after a being struck by lightning, the historic Miners' Union Hall in Victor was nearly destroyed in a fire that started around 2 p.m. July 26. Fire crews from Victor, Cripple Creek, Four Mile, Divide and Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District helped battle the blaze this summer.
Barbara McMillan owns the building and began restoring it once again in October. Built in 1899, after the devastating fire that destroyed much of the town of Victor, the union hall is a critical piece of the town’s history.
On Monday, June 6, 1904, the Union Hall first found it's place in history when two men were killed, three others were gravely wounded, in the lot below the Gold Coin shaft house across from the Union Hall.
A fight broke out that afternoon as Clarence Hamlin, of the Mine Owner's Association called for chasing "these W.F.M scoundrels out of the district," after the bombing of the Independence train platform killing 13 non-union miners that morning, and injuring at least a dozen more. What began as fist fight, escalated into gunfire and some of the fire seemed to have come from the windows of the Union Hall.
"The militiamen surrounded the Union Hall. Sheriff Ed Bell and Postmaster Danny Sullivan entered the club and told the W.F.M. members to come out," wrote Marshall Sprague, in "Money Mountain."
They refused, he reported and "The militiamen aimed their rifles and poured volley after volley into the rooms, wounding four men. The rest surrendered and were led off by the militia. Berserk civilians rushed into Union Hall, wrecked the walls, smashed furniture, ripped curtains, and destroyed membership ledgers. Afterwards, this gang and other gangs roamed the gold camp for W.FM. members and wrecked every union hall and union store. About two hundred men were imprisoned."
Altogether 225 union members were loaded on trains and deported under guard to Kansas and New Mexico locations.
Because of the dynamiting of the Independence, the W.F.M. became extremely unpopular, and mine owners were able to force them out of the district, according to Sprague.
Years later, the Union Hall served a different, yet noteworthy, purpose.
Margaret Whitehill Geddes, in her book Gold Camp Indian Summer, recalls her husband Kenneth being named the new high school principal of Victor in the late1920s. Kenneth and Margaret later became publishers of the Cripple Creek Times-Record, a merger of the Cripple Creek Times and the Victor Record newspapers and an ancestor of the Pikes Peak Courier.
"He was not only the new principal, but we were to have the apartment in Miners' Union building which had been recently remodeled (roughly) to be used as a gymnasium," wrote Geddes.
"Oh that apartment! The second floor of the building was reached by a long staircase with swinging doors halfway up. On the right at the top were tow doors, one leading to the kitchen, one to the dining room. In front of these were the bedroom and living room. Glass partitions divided the dining room and living room, and the kitchen and the bedroom. Each room was square and there were full length windows in the two front rooms. The windows had been replaced but the marks of the bullets of the miners' strike in 1904 were still showing in the bricks and plaster around them," Geddes wrote.
"Outside the apartment a hall led to the big auditorium, sometimes gym, with a stage at one end. The auditorium was heated two stoves at the far end. Two boys came after school to make the fires. Soon after I'd hear the clump clump of feet on those steep stairs as the basketball boys came up for practice. (Not until later was there a football team, and basketball went on for most of the school year)," Geddes said.
"Besides the games, at least twice a year there were plays staged in the auditorium," she noted.
"The plays produced were not the cheap no-royalty shows, but productions that had been successes on the Broadway stage, probably some time before, but legitimate hits, and they were popular and drew good crowds. The Victor Opera house sadly had been torn down about two years before and people said they appreciated having something to take its place, even if it was only a high school play with local young people taking the parts."
After the lightning strike and the fire this year, McMillan expressed dismay and sorrow, citing not only the potential loss but the lack of funds. “I’m out of money,” she said in July.
In October, however, McMillan submitted a plan to the city to start the cleanup and remodel.
The plan includes repairing holes in the wall, removing the flashing as well as the unstable and damaged bricks. “They’re going to monitor that to make sure the walls aren’t moving,” said Deb Downs, Victor’s city manager.
Soon after McMillan submitted the plan, the contractor, Daniel Halbrook Masonry, pulled permits from the city and started work Oct 3. 

Photos: #1 Front, after fire on July 26, 2014. #2 This photo of the Western Federation Miners Union Hall in Victor was taken just a few months before fire nearly destroyed the building in July. #3 Historic photo of the Union Hall early in the 20th Century. #Historic photo taken shortly after it was built. #4 Back of the building after the recent fire. #5 Front window after July fire. Bullet holes are still visible from the 1904 strike violence.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lessons learned, and same as it ever was





When the first editions of USA Today hit the streets in the fall of 1982, I was taking my first college journalism classes. Many of my professors in J-school made fun of it — initially.
Al Neuharth, chairman of Gannett at the time, and the father of "Nations's paper," recalled a less-than-warm reception.
"Most media critics brushed us off quickly. Linda Ellerbee, then a popular late-night news commentator on NBC, paraphrased our "non-smudge" ink promotion with this sarcastic comment: "USA TODAY doesn't rub off on your hands or your mind." Many critics compared us to McDonald's, as the "fast food of journalism."
Neuharth, however was vindicated and the paper, by its 30th birthday, had the largest print circulation in the country and second largest total circulation at 1,817,446 (1,701,777 print and 115,669 digital). It trailed "The Wall Street Journal's"  2,118,315 (1,566,027 print and 552,288 digital) at the time.
As Neuharth noted in 2012, "The fact is more people across the USA and around the world want more news and information today than ever before. They also want it in different ways — in print, on the air, on the Web. As long as news providers give it to them when they want it, where they want it and how they want it, they not only will survive but also thrive. That includes newspapers, if they also adapt to new ways of distributing the news, which they generally gather more professionally than any other media."
Always, there is the struggle for relevance. In the San Juans of Colorado (where I grew up) the arrival of a newspaper meant the town had also arrived. Creede, for example, in the 1890s started out with four newspapers. Telluride had as many six papers operating in the heyday. And locally, there was as many as seven different papers practicing the craft in Cripple Creek District, at least two of them as daily publications. But, just as today, nothing is guaranteed. 
"Rico, for instance, during the first twenty years of its life had ten different newspapers, only one lasting longer than six years, " notes John L. Ninneman and Duane Smith in their recent book "San Juan Bonanza."
Mining areas, though desperate for service provided by a newspaper, often struggled for the technology to catch up. Boomtown Fairbanks in Alaska, with about 1,000 people, and only 387 houses either finished or in the process of construction, six saloons, and no churches in 1903, had one of the most expensive newspapers in the world at the time, at $5 per copy for "The Fairbanks Miner."
The editorial policy of The Fairbanks Miner was straightforward, wrote Terrance Cole in his book "E.T. Barnnette" about the founder of Fairbanks.
"Published occasionally at Fairbanks, Alaska, by a stampeder who is waiting for the snow to melt and the ice to go out in the rivers... If you don't like our style, fly your kite and produce your 30-30,"  wrote Judge James Wickersham, who started the "Miner" to raise cash to finance a trip to climb Mt. McKinley. Wickersham and a public stenographer named G. Carlton Woodward, who had brought a small Empire green-ribboned typewriter with him from Dawson in Yukon territory, typed the entire issue. They made seven copies, and three were put in the saloons and one was mailed to Senator Charles Fairbanks. Only one issue of "The Fairbanks Miner" was published because the ice went out, just as they were going to press. 
The landscape for newspaper survival outside the mining districts was not much better.
The first newspaper in Monument was established by A.T. Blachly in 1878, and called the "Mentor." It only lasted until 1880, but the Monument Journal picked up the torch  briefly. By 1885, another paper, called the El Paso County Register was going and survived until 1889. In 1890, another publication, the "Monument Recorder" lasted less than a year, but about the same time, the "Monument Messenger" arrived and lasted until 1911.  A replacement didn't hit the scene again until "Preacher Sam," who lived near Monument Lake created the "Lake View Press" in the 1950s. The "Columbine Herald" appeared on the scene about the same time. Then in the 1960s, our forerunner, the Monument Palmer Lake News, which later included the Woodmoor News, was first published by George Kobolt of Castle Rock. This year, we will celebrate our 50th year.
Critics of print in general, and our paper specifically, brush us off as relic of some not-to-distant past. They talk of a bygone era where the country editor might lead varied life, with useful knowledge in every subject,  good debater, good listener, and instructive talker; generous to the limit of his ability.
"He had been from devil up to pressman in a printing office," wrote M.V. Atwood in "The Country Newspaper" describing this individual. 
"He could sweep floors; clean cuspidors, set type; make up forms; run job press, cylinder, stitcher, binder, or engine; could repair them all if they got out of order; could write news, or editorial; correct proof; and sell papers on the street. He learned all he knew in the office. The modern efficiency and 'specializing' methods have eliminated this relic of olden times, but there is just as much to be learned in the printing office, as there was then," wrote Atwood in 1923.
Don't count us out in the innovation arena, and be careful of, and perhaps show respect for, the idea that there is just as much to be learned in the local paper today— as there ever has been.
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