Monday, April 24, 2017

World's largest aircraft manufacturer operated locally

Alexander Film and Aircraft impacted Pikes Peak area

By Rob Carrigan,
At one time, from 1928 and on into 1929, the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world operated right here locally.
Even today, as you wander through Denver International Airport (DIA) you can still see a reminder of the once successful Colorado plane company hanging at the west end of Concourse B. An Alexander Aircraft Company 1930 Model A-14 Eaglerock that the Antique Airplane Association of Colorado took 25 years to restore, resides there in the upper reaches of the airport to greet air travelers from all over the world.
“The Eaglerock biplane, made famous by barnstormers during the 1920s, was manufactured in what is now downtown Englewood, Colorado, and later in Colorado Springs, by the Alexander Aircraft Company. Barnstormers landed the Eaglerock in farm fields across rural America in the 1920s and '30s, giving rides in these ‘new flying machines’ to the brave souls willing to take the risk of flight. Ten-minute rides sold for 50 cents to a dollar,” wrote Ronald E. Newberg, exhibits manager at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in SWAviator in 2000.
An older Model 24 Alexander Eaglerock aircraft also can be found at the Wings Over The Rockies Air and Space Museum, (also rebuilt by the Antique Airplane Association).
The Alexander brothers, J. Don Alexander and Don. M. Alexander (sometimes referenced as S. Don Alexander), first business venture was in selling street advertising, and after a brief detour in the chicken business, they established the Alexander Film Company which focused on big screen advertising. As the business grew, they relocated to Englewood, Colo., from their home state of Washington in order to be more centrally located.
“It was J. Don Alexander who came up with the idea of equipping his growing sales force with airplanes. This would serve two purposes: first, it would attract attention, and second, it would expedite distribution of the advertising films. The first plane, purchased by older brother, Don M. Alexander, was a 1920 Laird "Swallow," powered by an OX5. When the Swallow arrived in Denver it landed at Lowry Field, located at 38th and Daliah Streets in Denver. The next additions to the Alexander aircraft fleet were Longren biplanes,” according to Newberg.
“J. Don Alexander wanted to purchase some forty to fifty planes for his salesmen. However, no one, not even the government, was buying that many aircraft in the 1920s, so the existing aircraft manufacturers would not take Mr. Alexander’s proposal seriously. This prompted him start his own aircraft manufacturing company,” Newberg said.
The company built more than 900 planes in 1920s and 1930s and by 1928, it needed to expand again.
“Forced out of the Denver area by a landowner’s refusal to sell the land needed for expansion, Alexander Aircraft relocated to Colorado Springs,” Newberg said.
Steve Antonuccio, in his presentation last week at the Palmer Lake Town Hall, noted that is was for a darker reason that added to the Alexander decision to leave Denver.
Though the decision to move to Colorado Springs had been announced in 1927, a fire that killed 11 workers in their Engelwood plant in April of 1928, shortly after a site visit by flying great Charles Lindbergh, did great damage to the company.
Alexander brothers faced manslaughter charges in relation to the 1928 fire in Englewood. Charges were dropped and Alexander Industries were fined $1,000.
Antonuccio is a Pikes Peak area writer, producer, and videographer. He was a 1991 Heartland Region Emmy nominee for "Everybody Welcome: The Story of Fannie Mae Duncan and the Cotton Club" and 2000 nominee for "The Treasure of the Cripple Creek Mining District."
Antonuccio also observed that local historian and publisher Leland Feitz who passed away February 10, 2013, worked for 18 years for the Alexander Film Company, a Colorado Springs firm prominent in the field of movie advertising. Feitz as a young man held top jobs in the agencies of New York City and Chicago. Feitz’s real interest was history and in 1967 at the advice of a friend began to write and publish concise history booklets about Colorado people and places. His Little London Press was established in 1973 and published over forty Colorado history booklets by various authors.
Twenty of the titles were written by Feitz himself, several about the Cripple Creek Mining District. In the early 1950s, he fell in love with the area around Cripple Creek and meeting many of the older residents began to write about the history of the mining towns. “Cripple Creek” “Cripple Creek Railroads” and “Myers Avenue” were early favorites of tourists to the area, which was in decline at the time. Other Colorado titles included books on Victor, Creede, Platoro and the Conejos County.
Over time Feitz owned several homes in Cripple Creek, the first one purchased for $500 dollars. He was a member of the board of trustees for the Cripple Creek District Museum, and in the 1980s he proudly served as its director for eight years.
“The Alexander Aircraft Company went on to build the unsuccessful "Alexander Transport," a high wing, seven-passenger monoplane. However, other more successful models followed. In the 1928 - 1929 time frame the Alexander Aircraft Company was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, with the capacity of manufacturing eight airplanes a day,” according to Newberg.
In 1927, J. Don Alexander wrote “Some fifteen months ago we of Alexander Industries began construction of a new light commercial airplane. The new ship’s performance was exceptional and price quoted in Denver was less than manufacturer’s costs on the first fifty produced. Therefore, as Emerson once said, ‘the world should have made a beaten path to’ the manufacturer’s door. But careful and expectant watching showed no signs of such a movement. We soon saw that we would have to carefully survey the path, pave it, and put signposts up along its course before the public would even look in this very right direction.”
That same year J.Don noted that only a year earlier, the company could only produce one ship per month but now were producing one per day and were still behind. “At this writing, we are forty-one ships behind sales.”
But not all reports were positive.
"One area manufacturer of planes about that time was the Alexander Company in Colorado Springs, which produced the Eaglerock plane. These aircraft...had more than their share of crashes. It got so bad that people made crude jokes about them such as: They call the planes Eaglerocks because they fly like an eagle and fall like a rock. Their track record finally became so bad that, as I understand, the authorities in charge of flying regulations banned further manufacturing of the Eaglerock," wrote Robert Esterday in his 1993 book “A Kid’s-Eye View of Early Greeley.”
Unfortunately, because of the depression, the company was forced to liquidate in the early 1930s, though remnants of the company lived on as Air Mechanics Inc., and even designed a five-seat low-wing monoplane in 1934.

Photo information:
1. Alexander Film and Aircraft campus on Nevada Ave. in Colorado Springs.
2. Alexander Film in 1931.
3. J. Don Alexander.
4. Alexander campus in Colorado Spings.
5. Leland Feitz.

Land Speed Record

Crew will seek new levels at Bonneville Salt Flats this summer

Everyone knows Dr. Frank Puckett of the Monument Vision Clinic, as mild-mannered optometrist and mainstay of the Tri-Lakes area since 1978. But as motor-bike-riding, landspeed-record-holder on the salt flats of Bonneville?
“I started phasing myself out, and stop seeing patients Dec. 31,” Puckett said. But that doesn’t mean he has slowed down. In fact, he and his team is still looking  to set some land-speed records on his motorcycle at Speed Week at Bonneville the last week in August.
They are hoping to set records in as many as four specific classes with four different riders.
“We change the bike slightly, and compete in differents classes,” he said.
Puckett first began riding bikes as a youngster on the family cattle ranch in Montana. Now, he and his team meet every Tuesday, or Wednesday, and sometimes both, in preparation for Speed Week in Bonneville Aug. 26 to 31. “We camp out there all week,” he said.

  1. Team picture with Dr. Frank Puckett, Dan Roberts, Jim LeFebvre, and Lenny Spall in order.  

2. Dr. Frank Puckett, on 100cc salt flats racer.  “The one we are building this year is a 1971 Triumph 250cc that will be in the modified, partially streamlined, pushrod, supercharged class,” says Puckett.

3. Jim LeFebvre at the start line ready to run our Honda 100cc bike down the course, with Dan watching and helping.

4. Jim LeFebvre, Maria Gerber, Dr. Frank Puckett, and Dan Roberts last Tuesday in the shop working on late summer entry for Bonneville. Lenny Spall, who has 40 years experience in  aircraft mechanics, could not attend that day.

5. Newest member of the crew, Maria Gerber, has only joined the team this year but has been interested since she was a young girl watching her grandfather work on European bikes in his shop in Hungary. Living for years in Alaska, she has built her own modified Jeep and says learning about bikes and speed records were on her “bucket list.”

6. Jim LeFebvre, a crew member for three trips to Bonneville already, worked in the defense industry for 40 years with computer code, and first started riding bikes in Panama when he could license there sooner than one to drive an auto. 

7. Dan Roberts, a retired electrical engineer, remembers his first bike was a Honda 90 cc when he was 16, and when the dogs chasing were able to catch him, he progressively moved to larger and faster models.

8. Puckett already is already has acquired a land speed record at Bonneville at 2016 speed week. “That’s an expensive trophy,” he says. 

9. The salt flats of Bonneville have been home to speed development for more than 102 years.

10.  A Norton engine looks almost like a trophy itself but like many British engines were known for vibrating and leaking.

11. A new Triumph, is the ride of choice for Jim LeFebvre, and the team maintains membership in the British Motorcycle Association of Colorado.

Local Photos by Rob Carrigan.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Old Mose, with missing toes.

The bear, with its signature missing toes on its back paws, was credited with killing at least three men and over 800 cattle. 

By Rob Carrigan,

Nothing is more dangerous than a holdover from times past. Refusing to change, such a relic is bound and determined to do things the way they always have, according to his or her own rules and will not go peacefully into the here and now. Which brings our story to the noble life and violent times of Old Mose, ‘King of the Colorado Grizzly Bears.’
In the area surrounding Black Mountain, west of Guffey in Park County, the 1,130-pound ‘Mose,’ the last known grizzly bear recorded in the South Park area, preyed on so many cattle that ranchers set and left standing a $500 reward for his hide for over 35 years. The bear, with its signature missing toes on its back paws, was credited with killing at least three men and over 800 cattle.
In 1884, Jake Radcliff and two other hunters by the surnames of Seymour and Cory went hunting for deadly bruin, but Radcliff finished the hunt on the wrong end a bear claw. His companions were able to get him back to a ranch house and call for a doctor. But when the Doc tried to transport Radcliff’s mauled body to Fairplay, he expired enroute. Two other cowboys and ‘would be hunters’ trying to collect the reward also became the ‘hunted’ according to legends of the day.
“In 1904 a bear hunter from Idaho came after the famous Mose,” notes Virginia McConnell Simmons in the 1966 book “Bayou Salado: The Story of South Park.”
“Together with a local rancher and their hunting dogs, they finally brought Old Mose to bay after two months. It took six shots then to kill him. When the carcass was cut up, it was discovered that nearly one hundred bullets had found their mark in the old rogue’s body,” wrote Simmons.
Jack Bell, recounted the story of the great bear’s death in a famous piece for “Outdoor Life” in 1904.
“He died befitting his rank and lay down in his last sleep with imposing grandeur. Just think, after being shot through and through times without number, baited with every device and cunning known to trapper; chased by demon posses of cowboys an ranchers bent on his extermination, and in all this he has met them with superior generalship, cunning unexcelled, knowledge supreme.”
The four dogs used by professional bear hunter J.W. Anthony (who had killed at least 40 bears prior to tackling the Old Mose case) were apparently an oddity and object of curiosity to the bear that had eluded hunters and trappers for nearly four decades.
“His taking away is due solely to the years of training of a pack of incomparable bear dogs, who know their quarry, his habits, mode of attack, retreat, as well as this animal itself. He was handicapped by this band of intelligent trainers and knew not their circling, pinching, running away tactics. All this was new to the old monarch — the talk of the dogs brought him to a standstill with wonder and amazement. He did not even strike at them, but sat and seemed to ponder and try to unravel and untried quality that he never before been called upon to meet. So he sat and looked and looked, without a growl or even a passing of the murderous paws,” according to Bell’s magazine account.
As the dogs preoccupied the bear, Anthony shot him with a .30-40 carbine — at least six times, in the jowl, the left shoulder, the face, through the shoulder, and the shoulder again, and perhaps again.
Anthony was then forced to reload.
“Looking steadfastly at the man refilling the magazine of his rifle for a few seconds, he at last made up his mind that it would be policy to first kill him and then pursue his uninterrupted analysis of these strange dogs that had the courage to snap at him and tear bunches of fur from his incomparable coat. Slowly he started toward the hunter, never leaving the awkward slow walk of his species. His eyes burned as with fire, and his coming was terrorizing to any but the seasoned bear killer. When at about sixty-two feet away he lowered his head with an unsounded challenge, and as his head was bending low, the hunter drew a bead at the point between the ears, and taking a long breath, gently began pressing the trigger. Slowly as the mountain pine begins to fall under the woodman’s axe, Old Mose, the terror of all, man and beast alike, began to settle down. Slowly, slowly and with neither sound nor quiver, the massive king gave up his life as he had lived it, in blood and violence. He met his death with honor, willing to the last to measure his great strength and cunning in mortal combat with that of the hunter, who dared to stand before him and dispute his reign,” Jack Bell wrote.
According to a 2012 story by of The Denver Post, the hide may have survived and is hibernating in California.
And so ends our story. More than a decade ago, in 2007, after several years of fundraising by the Adams State College Alumni Association and ASC Grizzly Club, the Grizzly Courtyard project was completed in Alamosa. The crowning glory of the project is a 12-foot bronze statue of Old Mose, the most dreaded grizzly bear in the entire United States.

Photo info:
1. Wharton Pigg and James Anthony are pictured with the carcass of Old Mose.  
2. 'Old Mose' at Adam State College.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Personality in search of remnants of another personality

Clay Jenkinson visits Victor in search of traces of Teddy

Famous in his own right, American scholar, author, educator and radio personality Clay S. Jenkinson followed in some famous footsteps recently, traipsing into Victor, April 8, in search of remnants and memories of Theodore Roosevelt 116 plus years earlier.

“The Theodore Roosevelt ‘footprint’ in America is almost overwhelmingly dense. He was everywhere. My goal is to visit every bonafide TR site, and to gather photos, news clippings, video, etc. If you want to help determine the TR footprint in your state, let me know: I was in Colorado Springs on other business, rented a car, and ventured to Victor, where TR was heckled and a little roughed up on September 26, 1900. But he did not back down. He would not have been TR had he done so....” wrote Jenkinson on his Facebook page. While here, he absorbed some of the local color.

“My new friend Sam Morrison in Victor, Colorado. You have to go see his store. He makes brooms, prints art on this small treadle press, makes and sells excellent beeswax candles, and knows a great deal about the history of the Victor/Cripple Creek sector of Colorado. But it is his store that I found most enchanting. I bought so much that I had to purchase luggage in Colorado Springs!” Jenkinson said. He is looking for help with his project all over the country.

“You can help us find individuals who want to fund aspects of our amazing $50 million+ presidential library. You can donate artifacts, documents. You can spread the good news via your social media. You can help me identify TR locations in your area: speeches, conservation properties, incidents, friendships, etc. My goal is to visit every TR site in America and to share my findings with everyone who is interested. We need media attention perhaps more than anything else. If you have contacts in the media, local, regional, or national, and are willing to point them our way, we'd be immensely grateful. I'm just barely getting started.... You can contact me at”

Jenkinson first achieved fame for his portrayal (first-person historical interpretation) of Thomas Jefferson and he was the first public humanities scholar to present a program at a White House-sponsored event when he presented Thomas Jefferson for a gathering hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. As co-founder of the modern Chautauqua movement, Jenkinson has also portrayed Sir Francis Bacon, Jonathan Swift, J. Robert Oppenheimer, John Wesley Powell, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Theodore Roosevelt, and Meriwether Lewis.

Jenkinson was born in Dickinson, in southwestern North Dakota; his father was a banker and his mother a schoolteacher. Jenkinson grew up mostly in Dickinson. He graduated from Dickinson High School in 1973 and then attended the University of Minnesota. He graduated in 1977 with a degree in English, and was then a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.

Jenkinson returned to North Dakota as a permanent resident in 2005; he resides in Bismarck. He is currently the Director of The Dakota Institute through The Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Chief Consultant to The Theodore Roosevelt Center through Dickinson State University, Distinguished Humanities Scholar at Bismarck State College, and a columnist for the Bismarck Tribune. He is James Marsh Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont.

Jenkinson's portrayals take the form of lengthy monologues followed by Q & A sessions as the character (in costume) featured for that performance. At the end of his performances, he steps out of character and answers questions as himself. Another performance variation is represented by his nationally syndicated radio show, The Thomas Jefferson Hour.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Richard Nixon as a 'green giant'


Rare convergence looks for common ground on Earth Day

In the current political and social environment, it is pretty hard to say anything without setting someone off. The Pandemic complicates the algebra even more.

As Bob Dylan lamented, “Well, they'll stone you when you're trying to be so good. They'll stone you just like they said they would.They'll stone you when you're trying to go home. And they'll stone you when you're there all alone.”

Stacks of stones may break my bones, and I do recognize I have a right to remain silent, but not necessarily, the ability.

Every year since 1970, people around the globe have marked Earth Day, April 22, in various ways.

Interestingly Climate Central wrote an engaging defense of an unlikely hero for the environmental movement years ago, that has taken on legs of its own.

The odd ‘green giant’ in this case — Richard Nixon. The organization sites their mission as: “Communicate the science and effects of climate change to the public and decision-makers.”

Odd praise indeed. In support of Nixon’s green efforts, they mentioned the following:

The National Environmental Policy Act(1969), which among other things required that all federal agencies produce environmental impact statements on the possible negative effects of any and all regulations. It also created the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

— The Environmental Protection Agency(1970). Self-explanatory. Amazing.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, 1970). Proposed by Nixon “...for better protection of life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment...[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources...” That's what he wanted, and that's what the agency does.

The Clean Air Act (1970). Before the act, America’s skies were filthy. Afterward, they weren’t exactly pristine, but they were dramatically better, and later amendments cleaned the air up even more.

Earth Week (1971). OK, something of a gimmick, but still, Nixon endorsed it to commemorate the first anniversary of Earth Day. He may not have sported Birkenstocks, but in some ways the man was practically a tree-hugger.

The Clean Water Act (1972). If this is beginning to sound like the green legislation hall of fame, it’s not just you.

— The Endangered Species Act (1973): Even if this was all Nixon had achieved, he would rank among one of our greenest presidents.

In truth, maybe it was the congressional staffs and perhaps as unlikely as Nixon, Members of Congress, who wrote all the bills.

“Men like Mo Udall, John Dingell, Pete McCloskey, Gaylord Nelson to name a few.

Nixon simply signed the bills into law, argues Helen McCloskey.

According the Earth Day Network, “The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a ‘national teach-in on the environment’ to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.”

Earth Day On April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. “Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values,” notes various historic accounts, including a history by the network.

The stars lined up back then on Earth Day 1970.

The event had proved to be rare convergence, supported from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban and rural, educated elite and blue collar folks that had become concerned that river could catch fire.

The legacy of that cooperation is difficult to argue with. If it sets someone off, (in a good way), here we go.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

High country signs of change

Made it through March

Spring has sprung in the Tri-Lakes area

In the 1972 Sydney Pollack film “Jeremiah Johnson” about how a war veteran, weary of society, enters the Rocky Mountains around the middle of the 19th century to become a lone mountain man. Civilization eventually catches up with him and he finds himself between all fronts.
The movie features one of the alltime best lines about spring in the area.
After a long time and near the end of the story, Bear Claw (played by Will Geer) and Jeremiah Johnson (played by Robert Redford) meet again in early spring after not seeing each other for a long time.
“March is a green muddy month down below, some folks like it. Farmers mostly,” notes the grizzled old mountain man Bear Claw.
Having recently made it through March, and on into April, folks here in the Tri-Lakes area have earned the right to celebrate the season. Farmers, or not.


  1. Snow on the Peak reveals why the Ute tribe called it Tava, or “shining mountain.”

  2. Traditional daffodils spring forth in Tri-Lakes, only to be covered by snow several times.

  3. The decreased risk of bad weather in the late spring allows livestock producers to let cows roam to find comfortable surroundings for parturition.

  4. April snow on the Scottish Broom is always a risk, however.

  5. Monument Lake sometimes opens up enough by April to try a hand fishing, without having to cut a hole.

  6. Lacrosse may have been developed as early as 1100 AD among indigenous peoples on the North American continent, but early spring practice in Dirty Woman, might mean snow banks locally.

  7. The pass through on the Santa Fe Grade along Old Denver Highway shows open water, but plenty of ‘spring dust’ for April fools.

An amazingly fresh and simple message this April

Lessons from living simply

“On the 1st of April it rained and melted the ice, and in the early part of the day, which was very foggy, I heard a stray goose groping about over the pond and cackling as if lost, or like the spirit of the fog. So I went on for some days cutting and hewing timber, and also studs and rafters, all with my narrow axe, not having many communicable or scholar-like thoughts, singing to myself.”— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

By Rob Carrigan,

To me, it is amazing how much a message in a book published in 1854, from a strange cat that took to the woods to simplify life, still makes sense. Here I am, 163 years later, seeking to apply lessons scrawled out in journal, in the candlelight of that cabin in the woods, observed in the days wandering near the pond and later, edited and edited, and edited.
Like Thoreau’s April goose, cackling as if lost, and the spirit of the fog surrounded by ideas of self-driving cars, North Korean possible acquisition of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and what to do if the robots take our jobs, I ponder not only my existence, but my children’s, and my children’s children.
Overwhelming, to say the least. I guess it is not what you look at that matters, however. It is what you see. The United States was new entity then. And Thoreau, and his friend, neighbor, employer Ralph W. Emerson tried to steer him toward ambition and purpose. In fact, if we are to drop names along with Emerson — Poe, Hawthorne, Whitman and Melville were all his near contemporaries. Some lived in the same town. Thoreau, however, kept to his own path.
New England still bore the marks of England itself at that time. And it was an England unconcerned with Brexit, or European Unions, or World Wars even. It was alive with unconventional ideas at the time, some foolish, some profound — not unlike our position in today’s world.
How to tell the difference between a fool’s game and wise, sage, erudite, astute, percipient ...
Thoreau wisely determined that the price of anything is the life you exchange for it. “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in the moment,” he said. And friends, he held, “They are kind to one another’s dreams.”
If we advance confidently in the direction of our dreams, and endeavor to live the life we imagine, we may just meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows

Is all that any body knows.

An amazingly fresh and simple message this April, especially if you consider the more than century and half it has wandered around the pond out there in the woods.