Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Palmer Lake Fire Dept. benefited from WPA

Colorado workers received highest wages in nation paid by WPA

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his trusted adviser on the program, Harry Hopkins, purposely crafted a route to economic recovery while at the same time, lessening the importance of the “dole.”
Colorado, perhaps more than many other states, benefited heavily from the Works Progress Administration (WPA)  projects.
Locally, the fire station in Palmer Lake was built through a Work Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1937. The new structure, of Pueblo design, was said at the time to be one of the most up-to-date buildings in the community.
An addition was completed in 1970s, according to information from the Palmer Lake Historical Society.
The first, volunteer fire department in Palmer Lake was organized by Byron Medlock.  As Chief, he purchased the first fire engines. And, according to former firefighter Harry Krueger, even an elk, bagged around 1944 by Byron Medlock, and named Bosco, began hanging then on the fire station wall.
“The Works Progress Administration (WPA) had the most impact on the landscape of Colorado than any other New Deal program. By the time the WPA ended its projects in Colorado in December 1942, it had employed an estimated 150,000 people statewide and spent more than $120 million in construction,” according to PBS.org.
Throughout the state, the WPA built or improved more than 9,400 miles of roadways, 3,400 bridges and viaducts and 21,000 culverts. The new roadways were built with the intention that the state could take better advantage of its tourist and recreational potential. The roads also helped in the recovery of Colorado's agricultural and ranching economy, especially in the Eastern Plains.
In addition, the WPA helped build 1,347 public buildings, 494 schools, 110 parks, 195 playgrounds and athletic fields, 32 wading or swimming pools, 78 utility plants, 279 miles of water distribution pipes and mains and 224 miles of sanitary and storm sewers in Colorado.
The WPA, one of many 1930s New Deal relief and recovery programs, was to put people to work, according to History Colorado.
“Most projects were designed to spend a majority of the funds on labor, not materials.  Additionally, few projects used powered machinery in order to allow for hiring more men.  Therefore, WPA buildings and structures in Colorado are marked by a high degree of craftsmanship, albeit untrained, provided by primarily unskilled labor.  The quality of masonry work varies widely, undoubtedly reflecting not only different teams of workers, but also the growing skills gained by the men.  The use of local materials in order to keep costs low is another hallmark of WPA projects.  This resulted in some similarities of appearance within a region.  WPA projects in eastern Colorado were simply designed, often by the local sponsor or occasionally by the regional WPA engineer.  The buildings were influenced either by local traditions or were based upon contemporary styles.”
“It is interesting to note that WPA service projects in Colorado employed women. Many rural women were given jobs gardening, canning, sewing, distributing commodities and serving hot school lunches. There were also projects related to adult education and the arts,” says PBS.org.
The program was not, however, without its critics.
A Senate committee reported that, "To some extent the complaint that WPA workers do poor work is not without foundation. ... Poor work habits and incorrect techniques are not remedied. Occasionally a supervisor or a foreman demands good work."
The WPA and its workers were also sometimes ridiculed as lazy. The organization's initials were said to stand for "We Poke Along", "We Piddle Around", "We Putter Along", "Working Piss Ants", or the "Whistle, Piss and Argue gang". These were sarcastic references to WPA projects that sometimes slowed down deliberately because foremen had an incentive to keep going, rather than finish a project, according to information provided by David A. Taylor,  in Soul of a people: the WPA Writer's Project uncovers Depression America (2009).
But according to historians, more than 88 percent of WPA funding went directly to wages. Colorado workers received the highest wages in the nation paid by the WPA, ranging from $40 a month for non-skilled labor to $94 a month for skilled workers. The agency also spent more than $1.6 million in Colorado for service projects providing goods and services to the needy, producing more than 6.7 million garments, 5 million quarts of preserved food and 22 million hot lunches.
"The Work(s) Progress Administration was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 6, 1935, as a reaction to the Great Depression, to provide relief work for unemployed persons through public work projects.  The WPA provided jobs to unemployed workers on public projects sponsored by federal, state, or local agencies; and on defense and war-related projects. Between 1935 and 1943 the WPA provided almost 8 million jobs at a cost of 11 billion dollars, and created a legacy of public welfare that has become monumentalized through their still used buildings, roads, dams, schools, indexes, oral histories, and art.  The Work(s) Progress Administration was abolished by an executive order on December 4, 1942,“ according to the Colorado State Archive.
Photos: Fire station, shortly after it was built, in 1938. And with the first firetruck. WPA sign, now on display at a new WPA and CCC presentation for the Lucretia Vaile Museum by  Palmer Lake Historical Society. Finally, the fire station today. Historic photos courtesy of the Palmer Lake Historical Society and Vaile Museum.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Newspapers and gold seem to go together

California was left briefly without a newspaper, as reporters, editors, typesetters, and printers sought their fortune in the placers

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

In what turned out to be one of the major false alarms in mining history, the ‘Pikes Peak Gold Rush’ was cause enough, to start the first newspapers in Colorado history. I say newspapers, because both William Byers and John L. Merrick each came to Denver City in 1859 with that expressed purpose.
Merrick arrived first, and then four days later, Byers showed up. The race to get the first copies on the street was on. And bets were place among the town’s people on who would win. Each of the two faced trouble that included down-pouring rains, leaking roofs, temporary canvas press rooms, and floods.
Byers won the race on Saturday night, April 23, 1859, with the first copies of the Rocky Mountain News. Twenty minutes too late, Merrick delivered his first copies. The loser sold his press and left to seek his fortune in the gold fields.
It was a similar deal apparently in the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp” (a.k.a Cripple Creek), in 1891.
Earnest Chapin Gard, with support from W.S. Neal and editor Bert Pottenger, beat William McCrea to the punch in this district by four days, by moving a press from Palmer Lake to publish the first edition of the “The Cripple Creek Crusher” on December 4, 1891.
The first Crusher was printed with gilded ink – a layer of gold over the regular ink. McCrea’s “Prospector” sported a vermillion headline that said, “New Gold Field.”
The current Pikes Peak Courier View is a descendent of the Crusher and no less than a dozen other news products and consolidations, including the Teller County Times, The Victor Record, Cripple Creek Times Citizen, The Gold Rush, The Ute Pass Courier, The Woodland Park View, Cripple Creek Banner, and The Daily Press. Over the years, more than 20 titles have operated in the district and many of them were absorbed by others.
Those papers have been the stomping grounds of such notable icons of journalism as Lowell Thomas, Jr., in 1910 and 1911, Ralph Carr, who later become a controversial governor of Colorado during World War II, (editor in Victor in about the same time frame as Thomas), Charles G. Ross, who later served as press secretary for president Harry S. Truman, and Irena Ingram, who became Colorado’s first female district judge following a stint as an editor and re-writer for papers in the district.
 But gold and newspapers seem to go together, usually.
Newspaper workers abandoning their stations but eventually returning, seems to be a common problem in other areas.
In January of 1848, California Star Editor Ed Kimble was completely unimpressed when a boatload of men from New Helvetia landed in San Francisco with stories and sample gold flakes from Sutter’s Mill.
Kemble was reportedly more concerned with how many acres of wheat John Sutter would plant in the spring and put that in the paper, and many more issues to bed, without reporting the gold strike.
When he finally did on March 18, 1848, newspaper workers abandoned their presses and left for the gold fields forcing Kemble’s Star, and virtually all papers in California to fold or suspend publication. In effect, California was left briefly without a newspaper, as reporters, editors, typesetters, and printers flocked to seek their fortune in the placers. Eventually, many returned to the news industry to carve out a more dependable living. By the mid-1850s, more than 60 different newspapers operated in and around Sutter’s Fort.
In Nevada Territory in 1862, after being less than successful in the gold fields, a disappointed and broke Samuel Clemens went to work for W.L. Jernegan and Alfred  James at the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City. He worked there for the next two years and it was here that he first wrote under the name Mark Twain.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Only we know what the phrase means to us

In 2012, while going through the Waldo Canyon Fire, five people, most of them  from Woodland Park, died in a two vehicle head-on crash outside of Thermopolis, Wyo., on a Saturday morning. The group was returning from Boy Scout trip to Yellowstone. Paul Kekich, 16, Nick Naples, 17, and Alex Ragan, 17, all boy scouts and students at Woodland Park High School, were among the victims from the crash, Richard Kleiner, identified as a troop leader, and 3-year-old boy also died in the accident. As we experienced more fires, and in the wake of the tragic deaths in Thousand Oaks, Calif. and then devastating fires following shortly after,  and tragedies in the years since, I considered, again and again, the often-uttered phrase.

Thoughts and Prayers, Peaks and Valleys

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

Thoughts and prayers — I can just about guarantee you have heard that phrase in the last few weeks.  Though there might be real disagreement about what it means.
Sheriff Lou Falgoust, of Hot Springs County, Wyoming, called me last week.  He wanted us to know that our community was in theirs. 
“Your community must be incredibly strong.” I assured him it was.
“How much can one community take?”  He asked.
Both of us didn’t know, but figured, hopefully, we have been tested enough.
Sheriff Falgoust is a big man, shaved head, and grey ‘Hulk Hogan’ mustache.  His efforts to console were sincere.
How many of your friends and relatives have checked in with you and ended the conversation that way? How many briefings from firefighting leadership, official sources, and media have ended with that advisement?
But Joan Smith, British commentator of the international Independent, reminds us that the phrase can lose meaning.
“The conventional formula that the victims and their families are ‘in our thoughts and prayers’ exhausted its meaning a long time ago, so much so that, however well-intended, it sounds thoughtless and insincere. It's become an empty ritual, especially in a country where millions of people never attend a church, mosque or synagogue.”
“It's a testament to the human spirit that people perform these acts of heroism, and quite proper that their efforts are acknowledged. But a flat phrase such as ‘thoughts and prayers’ is not an adequate response. It invokes a nation that no longer exists, united in agreement about the role of religion both in social life and as the principal source of comfort in hard times, whereas many of us now find that comfort in the company of family and friends,” wrote Smith.
But back here in Colorado, and especially in our own community, disagreement.
"Like all good things, prayer requires some discipline. Yet I believe that life with God should seem more like friendship than duty. Prayer includes moments of ecstasy and also dullness, mindless distraction and acute concentration, flashes of joy and bouts of irritation. In other words, prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter," wrote Philip Yancey.  Yancey, of course, has climbed all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-plus-feet peaks.
Many of us have experienced our own version of peaks and valleys in the last few weeks.  Only we know what those ‘thoughts and prayers’ mean to us. 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Falling bear and making no difference at all

Death is weird thing to look at so closely

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

(Reuters) - A black bear made famous by an Internet photo of it falling from a tree after being tranquilized was struck by two cars and killed on a highway in Colorado this week, authorities said on Friday.
The 280-pound (128 kg) bear, which was tagged and relocated to the mountains about 50 miles from the city of Boulder last week, was killed on Thursday morning, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said.
Last week, the three-year-old bear was spotted in a tree outside a student housing complex at the University of Colorado.
Crowds gathered to observe the animal, and a photographer with the school's student newspaper captured a shot of it with arms and legs splayed as it fell from the tree after wildlife officers shot it with a tranquilizer dart.
The bear was not injured in the fall. The photo went viral on the Internet and "the falling bear" even garnered its own Facebook page and Twitter account.
Despite being relocated to the mountains, the bear returned to the city and was killed about two miles (three km) from the campus, having crossed greenbelts and irrigation ditches in search of food, Churchill said.
Colorado State Patrol spokesman Trooper Josh Lewis said both cars that hit the bear "were totaled," and one of the motorists was treated for minor injuries.

It is the most horrible story I have ever had to tell, I think.
Until now, I have tried to forget it ever happened. Don’t even know why I’m even trying to get it out now, except maybe it will quit torturing me.
A year or two out of high school, in a crisis of confidence, I guess, I began an emergency medical technician course in at the Vo-Tech near where I lived at the time. I was already going to college, studying, of all things, history, but having a down summer and just then figuring out the world was not as it appeared as senior in high school.
I felt betrayed by that. Perhaps you know what I am talking about. One minute, small school, big fish in tiny pond, rule of the roost, and world by its mid-section handle … then comes your education.
Not only do the rules of the real world not work like you think they do, you barely recognize the game anymore.
That isolating bit of knowledge led me to the idea of the EMT course. “To make a difference,” I told myself. If I have to flop around our here in the real world, the least I can do is try to make some kind of difference.
So several summer nights every week, and grueling all-day Saturday sessions, suffering though hangovers, and the general boredom that comes from being cooped up in a dingy, sweat box lecture hall, on everyone else’s day off, I skated though the classroom portion.
Then, in those days, for EMT Basic certification, you also needed 20 hours in the emergency room experience. I thought would be the easy part. Oh, they tried to prepare you, saying that you might see terrible, evil things in that emergency room, stuff that would be hard to bear.
Right from the start, I found it an ugly world, with some showing their best, and many at their worst. The first 16 hours, I saw heroes and cowards, survivors and victims of the world… predators and prey. Of course, the presence of so many children bothered and surprised me.
The darkness of those emergency room halls crept under my skin and affected me. I hated it.
With just a few hours left in my of what I began to think of as a sentence, rather than prescribed hours of service for certification, I was camped in the darkness of the hall on a bench, looking though the bluish green drapes when the ambulance arrived at the entrance and the paramedics busted through brightly-lit area (there was mostly darkness everywhere else) much like you see in the movies.
Of course, what followed was much different.
The kid on the gurney was alive, I guess. The vital signs gave that indication. The transparent green mask held to his face by one, another still doing CPR as he was wheeled in. Not very far to where the docs and nurses could work on him.
His long dark hair contrasted starkly against the bright white of the linens. A terrible purple and black area ringed his neck.
Continued chest compressions. The paramedic had kept it up all way from the jail, where they found him hanging in his cell. Arrested for some minor offense. Continued chest compressions. They asked me to spell the paramedic. Continued chest compressions.
For what seemed like an hour (but probably wasn’t) we traded back and forth.  Continued chest compressions. Last few trades, you knew, no one was there.
Gone. “Stop chest compressions.”
Death is weird thing to look at so closely.
I didn’t ever want to see it again.
Though, in the years since, I have seen it proceed in a dignified manner.
That night however, there was no dignity and it was horrible.
We … no, I, failed to make any difference at all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Appreciate you picking up the phone.

All the time I was growing up in a small town in southwestern Colorado, a strange, faceless phone with no dialing mechanism hung right on my dad’s side of my parent’s bedroom.  I think there might have been as many as eight of them (exactly alike) hanging in various locations (homes and businesses) around the small town of 800 residents.
All of them were the property of the local volunteer fire department.
Whether it be night or day, the loud, unremitting, urgent ring would sound continuously at the breakout of a fire -- until someone picked up and answered the call.
If the call was judged not to be a prank, or false alarm, then the lever on the black box next to the phone was shoved over, all the way to the right, and the fire siren down at the town hall would begin its mournful summons of the 25 or 30 volunteer firefighters in the area.
Later, of course, heavy, boxlike pagers were worn on volunteers’ belts and the siren (that also served as the noon whistle, because it was necessary to test each day), became obsolete. I am not sure what they use today in that town.
The volunteers serving on that department – all by choice – and all continuing to work their regular jobs or at businesses to pay the bills and feed their families, would drop everything when the siren wailed.
I considered that carefully this week, as we continued to evaluate how fortunate we are, and what a debt we owe, regarding firefighter’s response and effectiveness when called to serve. When everyone else is running out, they are unselfishly, and usually anonymously, running in.
Of course, this week we are lining the roads, making signs and remembering (quite correctly so,) to mark the firefighters recent efforts.
Wouldn’t it also be appropriate to also recall the locals, and on a regular basis, the efforts of people like Pineville Hot Shots Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso or Missoula smokejumper: Don Mackey, and McCall Smokejumpers: Roger Roth, Jim Thrash and Helitack Robert Browning, Jr., and Richard Tyler?
Or perhaps Oregon wildland firefighters: Zach Zigich, Retah Shirley, Jacob Martindale, Danial Rama, and Bart Bailey?
After all, it might be night or day, and they may have to drop what they are doing to hear our urgent ring.
Much like that faceless phone of my youth, we might forget about them for the most part, and never remember their names, or what kind of sacrifices they may have to make.
But local volunteers, paid professionals, and others who travel from across the country to help -- pick up, and answer the call anyway.