Saturday, September 30, 2017

Thinking good things, recalling my old friend

By Rob Carrigan,

Out there on the green prairie, in the Akron Cemetery, there is a black and white marker, that says, among other things, "Think good things."

I remember the last time I was there. Though I don't think the marker was there then, yet. It was more than 20 years ago, at the end of August.

A young man's sons were turning loose balloons. They floated so, so slowly, up into that blue and grey prairie sky.

The green grass around cemetery, the man had watered and trimmed in previous summers. The people gathered that day, the man had somehow touched. "Loving husband, father, teacher, coach, fireman and friend," says the black and white marble.

Lynn Leavell was a great friend of mine, and I certainly 'think good things,' as I remember him today.

Over the years since his death, I have written a number of things about him.

And oddly enough, I have written about writing about him.

I think that is true because Lynn Leavell, the person,— and writing, the practice, are truly my two oldest and best friends.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything,” said Muhammad Ali.

Politically, I would not get along with any of you. Your definitions of right and wrong, generally don't completely fit my odd take on things.

But over the years, I have learned not to be concerned about that too much.

“All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others,” noted Douglas Adams, author of the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' series.

And some friendships are that way. Extraordinary. A great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported. My friendship with Lynn Leavell was such, I think.

To be completely honest, I never worried about what the man thought. I doubt if he concerned himself with my opinions. It wasn't part of the algebra.

Maybe Cassius Clay was wrong, and we did learn some of that in our own sort of "school."
Lord knows, we went to the same 'classes' — both in formal education, and by virtue of 100-feet difference of location and time frame.

Cassius Clay was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and began training as an amateur boxer when he was 12 years old. At age 18, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and turned professional later that year. By 1964, still just 22, he won the WBA, WBC, and heavyweight titles from Sonny Liston in a big upset. Clay then converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his "slave name," to Muhammad Ali.

Lynn Leavell was a big fan of Ali, whether he would say so, or not. His Grandfather Paddy, sure cussed him however.

But Paddy was pretty animated anyway, when there was a boxing match on. I remember him getting right up there, in any pugilist's face, when boxing was on the TV screen.

Strangely, I always thought Lynn Leavell looked a little bit like the Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. of old. The even, bushy eyebrows and strong jaw, and that faraway look in his eyes. The air of determination.

Because Ali was one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century, Lynn Leavell was sure to have an opinion of him, because, from the cradle to the grave, Leavell was nothing — if not a sports fan. He lived and breathed sports. He thought about it night and day.

He idolized Vince Lombardi. “Winning isn't everything—but wanting to win is.”
Unfortunately he also liked the Dallas Cowboys, but that was in the days Roger Staubach and Tom Landry, and that can be forgiven.

By virtue of a weird, lagging birthday, Sept. 15, 1962, he was unable to play Little League baseball as soon as most of his classmates, despite being the biggest kid, most of his way through grade school, junior high and high school. By his last year in Little League, no one wanted to pitch to him, because he would knock it over the snow fence in center field, at about three out of four "at bats."

The last time I saw him, back in 1997, was that summer before he died, and Rusty Hector and I made a road trip up through that green prairie country of Washington County. It is hard to believe he's been gone that long. It is sometimes hard to believe the rest of us are still here.
But maybe it is good to get right up there in any pugilist's face, when boxing is on the TV screen.

"Think good things," the stone says. It is right there, written in the stone — in black and white.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Honoring Tim Watkins’ pure and gentle soul

He truly was a legendary figure

By Rob Carrigan,

There are no words that anyone can use to really express how senseless and tragic the murder of Tim Watkins was. As time goes on, and still no answers, frustration and pensive sadness deepens.

Without exception, the people I talked to that knew him, described him as a pure and gentle soul. Folks that had wandered into Watkins' Balance Rock Bike and Ski, his shop that was at various locations in Monument and Woodmoor, ended up with years of stories of kindness and respect. Those that had met him only a few times -- same story.

In the realm of the biking community, locally, nationally, and maybe beyond that as well, he truly was a legendary figure.

Many of the bike trails near Monument, Palmer Lake, Southern Douglas County, not only were created by him, but bore the marks of decades of Tim Watkins maintenance.

John Crandall, owner of Old Town Bike Shop where Tim had been working since July, described the biking community as unique in this area, always willing to help out, and Tim Watkins seemed to be the poster child of that attitude, he said.

Crandall said he had the good fortune of knowing him for years, prior to hiring him for his shop on Tejon that has been in business since 1976.

“I knew him for 20 years at least, before he worked here. I think he was working at Criterium when I first met him, but also worked with him a lot when had the shop in Monument area,” Crandall said.

“What I noticed, was a lot of mutual respect between him and mountain bikers in the area. It was like a reunion, whenever long-time bikers came into the shop and saw the Tim was working here. He was always very helpful, and very humble.”

Jeff Tessier, of Tessier Custom Bikes, (and also works at stamp engineer at Johnson & Johnson Synthes here in Monument), designed and built the bike that was found about 40 feet from Tim’s body.

“I think it was the third or fourth bike I built,” Tessier says. I build very custom bikes designed with a person specific geometry. I sought him out when I started building them because he was so well-known, such a legend. I hoped he would let me build him a bike for him.”

Tessier said he knew him, at least since high school at Lewis Palmer, having graduated in 1980, and working on Space Shuttle parts in a Denver operation, before signing on as Synthes 28th employee in 1981. Tim also was an Lewis Palmer Graduate, and Watkins father was the librarian there when he went there, said Tessier.

He said overtime, in addition to Tim’s custom Titanium framed bike, he machined special parts for Tim when he owned the bike shop, first located in Woodmoor Center, then west of JJ Tracks on Third Street in Monument, and finally over on Second Street and Beacon Lite.

“We would always ride, talk about how bikes work, and what trails to ride. I don’t know how many times I have been out riding and come up on Tim out there working on the trails,” Tessier said.

Sam Kimball, General Manager of J.J. Tracks Tire and Wheel, remembers him the same way, “Friendly, easy-going, always a smile and always willing to give advice on bikes or skiing to the guys working here.”

James Barows, who has known Tim for more than 30 years, recalls the time in Moab when Watkins and Mark Covington waited with for three hours prior to a helicopter ride out of the desert, when he broke his leg. Barows who also works at Johnson & Johnson Synthes, says he and Tim also shared the same birthday.

Kalan Beisel, who organized the ride in honor of Watkins in Red Rock Canyon Open Space on Monday of last week, called him “Happy-go-lucky always” and was planning on doing the “Airplane Ride” soon, which takes off near Palmer Lake, on through difficult terrain, into the site of a downed airplane.

Beisel says there is a lot of concern now for public safety. “It is creepy. I am afraid I will have to think twice before going out, especially on Rampart Range Road, Old Stage Road, and Mount Herman.”

Jon Severson, a friend of Tim’s and fellow trail rider, says that is where part of the real tragedy lies.

“That would break Tim’s heart I think, him knowing that, because of one maniac, or whatever really happened, people had to look over their shoulders, and no longer felt safe on the trails he passionately rode and maintained for decades.”

Of course, the hope is that law enforcement quickly finds out whoever did this, says Tessier.

And gradually, we can then try to begin to find some solace with what has happened.

I guess it is vital to understand we have a legal system, not necessarily a justice system. For some, the only justice would be to have the legend Tim Watkins back on his bike, on the trails, always with a smile, helpful and humble. Acceptance is a process, or a ride we are on, that we must experience. Not a final stage, with an end point.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mostly legal, since September, 1933

Return of booze welcomed back years ago

By Rob Carrigan,

Drinking Coloradans, of age, haven’t worried about being on the wrong side of the law for the last eight decades now. Angel’s Share or the Devil’s Cut, there is no need to call for the police. Thanks to the Repeal of Prohibition, we have been mostly legal since Sept. 26, 1933.
A few of the breweries survived prohibition (Coors, for example.) Others reopened (Tivoli) and craft brewing, in last 20 years, has taken on new life here in Colorado. More than 10 percent of the nation’s craft breweries can be found in Colorado — impressive, given that the state is home to less than 2 percent of the country’s population. Colorado may have as many as 300 breweries. Additionally, we have wineries, distilleries, meaderies and gin joints.
“Locally produced moonshine — known variously as Sugar Moon, so named because it was cooked up from Colorado’s plentiful supply of sugar beets, and inexpensive, cask-conditioned Leadville Moon, made, it was rumored, using black powder and old miners’ overalls — was readily available, literally on many street corners. Newsboys for the News and The Denver Times (owned by the same management) offered customers their illicit products so openly that their pro-dry rival, The Post, was moved to complain in a headline: “A Bottle of Booze with Every News.”
But if distillation and filtration are done improperly, it can contain highly toxic methanol or traces of lead from the still. Symptoms include abdominal pain, anemia, renal failure, hypertension, blindness, and death,” wrote Denver Post bloggers in The Spot, on the 80th anniversary of repeal.
“Moonshine’s physical dangers aside, voters had a love/hate relationship with Prohibition. By the mid-1920s, public attitudes favoring Prohibition began to change. There was an increasing realization that Prohibition was costing the country jobs and tax revenues.
By early 1932, it was becoming clear to the public and to bootleggers that Prohibition was on its way out. The dry spell ended with 3.2 beer, a tentative preamble to the coming of total repeal. At 12:01 am on Friday, April 7, 1933, the first cases rolled out of the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado, marking the end of years of “drought” for American beer drinkers. Full repeal loosed a tidal wave of consumption of full-strength beer in December 1933. It was as though a booze dam had burst, it was reported in The Spot.
Prohibition or “the long dry spell’ came early to all of Colorado, and in some communities here, booze was illegal even before that.
"Along with six other states, Colorado passed prohibition three years before most of the rest of the nation, led largely by a crusade of religious leaders and women voters,” wrote Michael Madigan in “Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters: 150 Years of Front-Page Stories from the Rocky Mountain News."
“It was estimated that 1,615 saloons and dramshops and 12 breweries were immediately put out of business.”
Personally, I don’t think I could ever forgive such nonsense, and perhaps, like thousands of others, would have sought “alternatives.”
But other “dry” cities struggled with the question long before that. Colorado Springs for example outlawed liquor from day one.
“City founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer had forbidden liquor from being made or sold anywhere in the city,” noted a Dave Phillips of the Colorado Springs Gazette in an article a few years ago.
“Palmer wanted to create an attractive, orderly city that would appeal to new settlers, as opposed to some of the wilder communities in the West with there saloons,” the Gazette article quoted Matt Mayberry of the Colorado Spring Pioneers Museum. “But people still want their alcohol and will come up with inventive ways to get around the law.”
Enter the practice of using booze as medicine.
With a prescription from a doctor, a ‘patient’ was allowed to buy a quart of whiskey.
According to most reports, many a resident in the town suffered from ‘snake bite’ and required a dose from the pharmacy.
“More people are bitten by snakes than in any town of this size I know of,” noted a writer for the Pueblo Chieftain in the 1880s of its Northern neighbor. “It is a little remarkable with what facility a man can get a prescription for snakebite in such a temperance town.”
By the turn of the century, many of the local pharmacies in Colorado Springs had dispensed with the formality of a doctor’s prescription and were quietly pouring drinks at fountain counters. Perhaps you would be required to order a ‘nectar’ or ‘wild strawberry’ by code word but the concoction was generally familiar and refreshing when it arrived from the ‘jerk.’
The profits involved allowed pharmacy owners to pay any steep fines, or legal fees to keep the business rolling and the liquor flowing in most cases.
But by the first of January, 1916, the entire state was once again legally prohibited from selling spirits.
“Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Cripple Creek and all the mountain and other towns went dry at midnight without ceremony,” according to the front page of the Rocky Mountain News. “Most saloons closed their doors before the final hour.”
And in Denver proper. “Toward midnight an immense throng gathered on Curtis Street and other streets in the downtown business section, tooted horns and in other ways welcomed in the New Year.”
The same article observed however that some folks were prone to skirt such laws.
“Meanwhile, the citizens who were loath to break ancient habits with the stroke of the clock were well provided. For days gurgling packages have accompanied the homeowner to the legal security of his cellar.”
The “honor” of being the first drunk arrested on January 1, 1916, belonged to either John Hanson, forty-nine, a laborer (he was The Post’s nominee), or Charles Robbins, thirty-eight, a farmer from Longmont (chosen by the News). Hanson drew a round of applause from other prisoners when he was led into jail. Three young men, taking advantage of an exception in the law that prohibited drinking in public places but not on public sidewalks, sat on the curb at Sixteenth and California streets in the heart of downtown and shared a large stein of beer, reported the Spot.

Photo info:
1. A man sits near a moonshine still in Anton Herbenich's home in Pueblo, Colorado. The still consists of a covered metal container, pipes, and barrels. Bottles and jars of liquor are arranged on a counter.

 2.  A group of men wearing suits and hats stand near a large still and barrels of liquor near Greeley (Weld County), Colorado. One man leans his arm on a pile of sacks with labels reading: "100 lbs, Cerelose, Product Refining Co., New York, U.S.A."

3. View southeast over the Adolph Coors Company brewery plant, Golden, Colorado, shows multi-story buildings, dark smoke pours from the tall smokestack, railroad freight boxcars and rooftop sign: "Coors Pure Malted Milk." Coors was the world's largest producer of malted milk during the Prohibition era. Slope of South Table Mountain shows on right.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Embrace the automatic compassion response

Connecting with all the people that are alive

By Rob Carrigan,

I have always lived locally, but at times, think globally. Every now and then, in this world that can isolate us from other forms of human kindness, we need to embrace the automatic compassion response that usually kicks in for a country beset by tragedy, disaster and discord.

“There’s been so much ugliness, division and fear on our screens and in our hearts over the past two years that it was getting hard to imagine how we’d ever stitch the country together again.,” notes Time magazine columnist Susanna Schrobsdorff. “Then a once-in-a-thousand year storm hit.” Referring to Harvey. And the acts of kindness followed.

“They are a reminder of something we feared extinct: that aspect of America that brims with compassion -- the kind that doesn’t discriminate.”

Locally, we have seen folks come together in trying times. Think only of the firestorms of Waldo Canyon, Black Forest, and even Hayman, the flooding and destruction of Fountain Creek in the Ute Pass, Manitou Springs, and along Colorado Highway 67, and out in the burn areas in the forest.

But remember as well, the response, the compassion and the humanity shown as local folks and others rose to the occasion. And are still rising, because there are still things to do.

The fire in Cripple Creek last week that left folks without. Anything. Earlier disasters, large and small, here close to home and abroad, we have suffered through.

Born of floods, following fires, one local organization philosophically and metaphorically, has held up like a three-legged table, the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (or CUSP), now serves as a model, and has for years ... statewide, nationally and internationally.

Through the three legs: economic sustainability, community values, and cooperative efforts of the stakeholders; CUSP seeks to protect the water quality and ecological health of the Upper South Platte Watershed, that began after the Buffalo Creek Fire and Flood (which did more than $35 million in damage resulted in two deaths) in Jefferson County 1996.

Black Forest Together (BFT), an organization formed about four years ago, also has a three-pronged strategy of compassion: recover, rebuild, restore.

It will likely be sponsoring its Annual Fundraising Event in October, at the Black Forest Community Club (NW corner of Shoup Rd & Black Forest Rd). The event commonly includes a BBQ dinner, activities for the kids and music.

The purpose of the fundraiser is to raise operating capital to pay the expenses related to BFT’s community projects of recovery, mitigation, preservation, preparedness, and education. In order to hold a successful fundraiser, they need a number of volunteers to assist with the event, serving food, setting up and cleaning up and other tasks. If you have any questions, about that effort, please call the office at 495-2445.

In the meantime, if you need help, Do you have trees blown over from our recent storms? Burned property still requiring cleanup? Out of control slash you need help with? If so, Black Forest Together (BFT) is taking applications for this season’s projects. Project focus will be continued post-fire cleanup/restoration and mitigation to reduce the risk of another wildfire. Although they don’t have the capability to cut down trees, we can help with chipping, slash piling, cleanup of debris, seedling planting and other restoration work and offer neighborhood chipping projects.

Certainly other local organizations (too numerous to name) share in that uplifting effort.

The fires in Montana, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado are everyday reminders of the need for vigilance, and the truth that we may one day need help again. The recent national tragedies in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands drive that message home.

Empathy is an important and motivating response for us. Perhaps pain and heartbreak are all part of the human condition, and such suffering might seem unprecedented, but at the same time, as James Baldwin suggests, it connects us with all the people who are alive -- all the people who have ever been alive.

Photo information:
1. Fighting the Black Forest Fire in the first few days of July, 2013.
2. Coalition for the Upper South Platte with a winter-time controlled burn in 2015.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Diamond Jack: Local gangster and cowboy


Gangster alternates between 

ranching, rum-running, and gang gunning

By Rob Carrigan,

Though it would be tough to go through prohibition once again, modern newspapers, perhaps unfortunately, don’t deal justice out in the type galleys, quite like they once did.

Take us back to the days of Diamond Jack Alterie, who ran Moonridge Round Up Ranch out on Highway 67, not far from Rampart Range Road, just north of here, in southern Douglas County, as reported in the new book by Castle Rock Writers, Images of America, Douglas County, published by Arcadia Press.

Alterie, a.k.a. Two Gun Louie, Leland Varain, Kid Hayes, and several other aliases, spent his adult life alternating between Chicago gunman and Colorado rancher and cowboy.

As evidence, the Chicago Daily News story of Alterie’s death, written by editor Robert J. Casey, began: "'Two-Gun Louie'" Alterie came out of the shadows of the alky racket long enough to die. He was shot down — in the technique he himself had done so much to perfect."

A sidebar by Clem Lane, a legendary city editor for the same paper, began: "This it the story of 'Two-Gun Louie' Alterie, one-time pugilist, one-time policeman, one-time robber, one-time lieutenant of Johnny Torrio and Dion O'Banion, erstwhile rancher and union business agent, and today the subject of a coroner's inquest as to who shot him and why not sooner."

Alterie was born Leland A. Varain in Northern California, in Lodi.

The Oakland Tribune on July 20, 1935, reported his death like this:

“Louie (Two Gun) Alterie, Chicago gangster was slain by gunmen there, Wednesday night, as he left his apartment, was a former Lodi youth. Alterie, then known under the correct name of Leland Varain, attended Lodi Schools. He left Lodi about 1918, and since that time has been connected with Chicago gangs.”

The son of French ranchers, Alterie moved to Chicago as a young man. He eventually joined the predominantly Irish North Side Gang, headed by Dion O'Banion. Other prominent North Siders included Earl "Hymie" Weiss, Vincent "The Schemer" Drucci, and George "Bugs" Moran. Alterie was a Western enthusiast who wore a ten-gallon hat and two holstered Colt .45 revolvers and owned the ranch near Sedalia, as well as another near Gypsum, Colorado. In addition, he was a top gunman for the North Side Gang, and he also formed the Theatrical Janitors' Union and used his position as union president to extort money from theater owners across the country.

“He wore diamond jewelry and gave diamonds as gifts. In 1922, Varain was arrested for stealing $50,000 in jewelry . Thus, the nickname “Diamond Jack.” As a member of the O’Banion’s gang, he battled rival Al Capone’s Chicago thugs, before being gunned down on the sidewalk outside his Chicago apartment, while waiting for his wife in the car.

Before that, in 1924, Alterie bought the Round Up Ranch property near Highway 67, and invited his gang leader and friend Dion O’banion for deer hunting and rodeo. O’Banion was gunned down in his flower shop in Chicago in 1924.

Incensed by O'Banion's murder, Alterie publicly challenged his killers to a shootout on State Street. North Side Gang members, including “Bugs” Moran convinced him to spend a cooling off period in Colorado, to avoid unwanted attention from both rival gangs and Chicago officials.

However, he had real trouble, staying out of trouble in the wild, wild west of Colorado.

In November 1932, after a long night of drinking moonshine, Alterie became involved in a shooting in the Hotel Denver in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and in February 1933, as part of a sentencing agreement, Alterie agreed to leave Colorado and not come back for a period of five years.

“Diamond Jack,” as he was known here, got into a fight with prize fighter Whitey Hutton, and before the evening ended, beat up the hotel porter, and accidentally shot two traveling salesmen for International Harvester. One of salesmen later died, after sentencing for “Diamond Jack,” that required he leave the state.
Photo information:
1. Louie Alterie, president of the Theatrical Janitors' Union, from the Al Capone Museum, Chicago.
2. At the Round Up Ranch, about 1924, "Diamond Jack" cools off in Colorado, with deer hunting and rodeo. Gang leader and friend Dion O'Banion is third from left in the front row, cap in hand. O'Banion was murdered in his flower shop in Chicago shortly afterward. Alterie (a.k.a. Leland Varain) is three down, taller fellow in center with his arms crossed.
3.  Following Dion O'Banion's murder, Alterie publicly challenged his killers (including Al Capone) to a shootout on State Street. North Side Gang members, including “Bugs” Moran convinced him to spend a cooling off period in Colorado, to avoid unwanted attention from both rival gangs and Chicago officials.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The technology of living with machines

Basic tools to disrupt the disrupters

By Rob Carrigan,

The simplest form of technology is the development and basic use of tools.
We have a whole lot more, and different tools in the toolchest, since I was a kid.
Old guys like me lounge around and tell stories about the early 1990s, when there was no world wide web, and very limited internet, drones were still bees, libraries still used card files, and phones hung on the wall. They were not that smart.
That is why I marvel at how fast disrupters are changing things on us. I have been through alot.
Also, that is why I am not that surprised to hear some of those same disrupters have hacked baseball.
Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to the New York Times.
“The baseball inquiry began about two weeks ago, after the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, filed a detailed complaint with the commissioner’s office that included video the Yankees shot of the Red Sox dugout during a three-game series between the two teams in Boston last month,” the Times said.
The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox’ stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout. The trainer then relayed a message to other players in the dugout, who, in turn, would signal teammates on the field about the type of pitch that was about to be thrown. Investigators agreed.
As you can see, us old guys are starting to try to disrupt the disrupters.
Another example, also having to do with Apple, I am afraid, has farmers and the company fighting over the toolbox.
Farmers say that part of the problem is that equipment manufacturers like Deere & Co, maker of John Deere tractors, make it difficult for consumers and independent repair shops to get the tools needed to fix today’s high tech tractors and other machinery, which run on copyright-protected software, according to Time Magazine. “Instead, customers must work with company-approved technicians, who can be far flung and charge expensive rates.”
My dad worked as line mechanic for International Harvester, and then Chevy, and Ford dealerships all his life, and he started complaining about the required thousands-of dollar tools required to work various models and makes of cars and trucks, back in the 1990s. It was no longer easy to work on those vehicles. In fact, it got really aggravating for the old guy.
But interestingly, the technology migrates.
Personal computers were once reserved for institutions like the military, and academia, then filtered down and became affordable for wealthy clients, and finally, to almost everyone. That cycle happened even faster with the use of smart phones. Not so much yet on the rights to repair, however. Apparently, forces out there think we can’t be trusted to fix those same phones or modify them. But being able to pop the hood, so to speak, and change the spark plugs, adjust the fuel delivery system like the old-fashioned carburetor, is a basic human need in some cases. Open it up, take a look, and take care of it. Without having to have a million bucks worth of tools in the tool chest. Sure, we need rules that keep us from trying to steal signals from the catcher unfairly. But if everyone has access to those tools and rules, then, what is unfair? The simplest form of technology is the development and basic use of tools.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself

“Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism…”
__ Richard Kluger

  A small voice but a strong one

Ralph L, Carr cut his teeth in the news game in the rough and tumble streets of turn-of-the-century Cripple Creek. At the same time, he matched wits with friendly competition and rivalry of the caliber of Lowell Thomas. You would think that the publishing business would have been his legacy.
Carr became more famous for his politics.
But it didn’t affect his friendship with world-renowned newsman Lowell Thomas. The two were steadfast buds up until Carr’s Death in 1950. They became pals in their days as rival newspaper editors, covering much of the same news.
Carr edited a rival paper in Cripple Creek, The Times, at the same time Thomas was at the Victor Record and News.
But, between 1939-1943 Colorado had one of the most courageous and independent governors ever to be elected, by many accounts. Ralph Lawrence Carr was born in Rosita, Colorado and educated in the Cripple Creek school system. After receiving his LLB from the University of Colorado, Carr moved to Victor, Trinidad, and then Antonito where he practiced law and became a publisher. Carr served as a county attorney of Conejos County, and then as Colorado Assistant Attorney General. The apex of his legal career occurred when he became a United States District Attorney. As a Republican, Carr lost this influential post when the Democratic "New Dealers" began to dominate national politics. Despite this loss he was able to stay in the public eye by becoming a powerful and prominent water/irrigation lawyer.
In 1939 a struggling Republican Party supported Carr as their gubernatorial candidate, and won. Within the first half-hour of his term, Carr proposed a plan for a balanced budget by transferring state income taxes from public schools to the state's general fund. These immediate fiscal measures helped to save our state from imminent bankruptcy. Also due to Carr's leadership, the Legislature passed the State Reorganization Act, which greatly increased the efficiency of state government. As a result, Carr is one of the few governors known for making the Colorado bureaucracy more operative.
While Carr's policies were aimed at dismantling the expensive bureaucracy of the New Deal, Carr still supported Roosevelt's foreign policy and favored American entrance into World War II after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The war with Japan initiated a chain of events that bred discrimination and intolerance toward Japanese-Americans. In 1942 an estimated 120,000 Japanese-Americans were stripped of their property and possessions. These displaced citizens were resettled in land-locked states by the War Relocation Authority so that the supposed "yellow peril" could be contained. The question on many Coloradoans' minds was not whether American citizens of Japanese decent should be stripped of their rights and put in internment camps, but where the camps should be. The overwhelming opinion of the populace was typified by a series of highway billboards proclaiming, "Japs keep going."
In other states, the Governors took aggressive stances against allowing relocation camps in their States.
The Governor of Wyoming went as far as saying:
“There will be Japs hanging from every pine tree.” If the Federal Government tried to relocate West Coast Japanese Americans there.
One of the few voices of reason during wartime was Governor Carr, who continued to treat the Japanese-Americans with respect and sought to help them keep their American citizenship. He sacrificed his political career to bravely confront the often-dark side of human nature. 
At one time, the New York Times consider him as being on the path to become president of the United States.
"If you harm them, you must harm me. I was brought up in a small town where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened the happiness of you and you and you." Carr's selfless devotion to all Americans, while destroying his hopes for a senate seat, did in the end become extolled as, "a small voice but a strong voice."
A recent book: The principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story by 9News reporter Adam Schrager, has brought new attention to the forgotten hero and as recently as 2008, they renamed U.S Hwy 285 from Denver to the New Mexico state line the “Ralph Carr Memorial Highway.”

That reminds me of a story

 “All I know is what I read in the papers.”
__ Will Rogers
“Good evening everybody.!”
That is how a favorite Colorado Newspaper character opened his trademark reports for decades.
Lowell Thomas, former editor of the Victor Daily Record and Victor News, died of a heart attack in 1981, two weeks after last visiting his boyhood hometown in the small Colorado mining hamlet of Victor.
Both of those Victor newspapers eventually merged into the Cripple Creek Gold Rush, a 1,000-circulation, paid weekly that I once published.
After viewing one of Thomas lectures, or Television or radio reports, listeners often experienced a sense, or distinct feeling, that they were listening to a very eloquent friend, telling stories that actually happened to the storyteller personally.
He would often break into a yarn in some fascinating exotic location as if was telling about something that happened to him that morning, and maybe it did.
“That reminds me of a story,” he would say.
Thomas was the Forest Gump of the 20th Century. The man was everywhere.
In 1900, when Teddy Roosevelt was campaigning in Victor for William McKinley, who was not very popular in a state that supported the free coinage of silver and William Jennings Bryan.
When Roosevelt appeared in Victor, the crowd was polite for a while, but the future president was forced to cut his speech short as catcalls and taunts from “democratic hoodlums” escalated into almost a full-scale riot at Midland Terminal.
Roosevelt, his pince-nez knocked from his face, was blinded to the onslaught.
One of the “democratic hoodlums” picked up a wooden two by four and swung at Roosevelt’s head.
“That is where I first advise a president,” said Thomas on several occasions. “I pulled on his coattail and told him to duck.”
Actually, a guy by the name of Danny Sullivan, blocked the two by four’s arc from cracking the future president’s head. He reportedly received a red sapphire ring as a token of Roosevelt’s appreciation on the train ride out of the mining district.
Back to Thomas, however.
Born in Woodington, Ohio, in 1892, Thomas moved to Victor at the age of eight and as a boy of 10, joined the newsboy union. He first folded and delivered the Victor Daily Record but later began hawking The Denver Post in the gambling halls, red light districts and saloons of Victor and Cripple Creek.
He also worked as a gold miner, range-rider, waiter, short-order cook, milker and pitched hay on the Ute Mountain Indian reservation to help finance his education.
In 1911, at age 19, he became the editor of the Record. In 1912, he moved over to the Victor News, but left shortly afterward to become a reporter at the Chicago Journal, where he worked until 1914. During his stint at the Journal, Thomas attended law school, where he also taught oratory.
“The ability to speak is a short-cut to distinction. In puts a man in the limelight, raises him head and shoulders above the crowd,” Thomas is frequently quoted as saying.

According to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans (HAADA), Thomas earned four college degrees, one each at Valparaiso University, University of Denver, Kent College of Law and Princeton University.
He also received 25 honorary degrees from other institutions. In addition to HAADA, Thomas’ achievements landed him in such varied institutions as the Radio Hall of Fame, Colorado Ski Hall of Fame and the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
President Ford awarded him the Medal of Freedom in 1976.
As pioneer of radio journalism, newsreel services and then television news, Thomas established himself as the voice of world travel and adventure in his long and prolific career. He wrote 52 books, many of them best sellers, was the first reporter to enter Germany following World War I, broadcast news during World War II from a mobile truck behind the front lines and flew over Berlin in a P-51 Mustang during the final battle between Russians and Germans.
President Woodrow Wilson commissioned Thomas to create a historical record of World War I battles.
His experiences in Arabia with T.E. Lawrence during that commission were the basis of a series of films, lectures and his book, “With Lawrence in Arabia.”
He wasn’t a fan of the film, however. “They only got two things right, the camels and the sand,” Thomas said.
Other journalistic firsts for Thomas include the narration, in 1925, of the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe; and his 17-year career at Fox Movietone News, heard weekly by nearly 100 million people.
Want more? He also helped pioneer the development of Cinerama, a film technology, participated in the first flight across Antarctica and hosted the PBS television series, “Lowell Thomas Remembers.”
He crammed a lot of things to remember during his 89 years on Earth. “After the age of 80, everything reminds you of something else,” Thomas said.
His son, Lowell Thomas Jr., who once served as the lieutenant governor of Alaska, produced the television series “High Adventure,” a weekly series in which Thomas appeared. The two also co-authored “Famous First Flights That Changed History.”
Of his travels and adventures, Thomas said his personal quest was “to know more about this globe than anyone else ever has.”
To learn more about Thomas’ life and achievements, I recommend you travel to Victor and visit the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum at the corner of Third Street and Victor Avenue.
The museum is currently raising funds to save the Reynolds Block, where the Museum has been housed since 1960. The Victor Improvement Association which owns the museum collection and the building, recently was awarded a $208,177 grant from the State Historical Fund.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Search for the truth depends on the storyteller

Preparing for a lynching, photo taken 1904.

Colorado National Guard soldiers prepare to lynch a man during the labor strike in Cripple Creek, Colo., throughout the room many hold rifles with bayonets. One National Guardsman holds the end of a rope that is slung over a light fixture and knotted around a man's neck. The victim may be Sheriff Henry Robertson. He stands on a chair with his hands behind back. Chairs are scattered throughout the room. Hand-written on envelope. "C-Military,Strikes, Cripple Creek, 1903-04."Colorado Historical Society, Original Photographs Collection.

Take a step back, look at passion involved

By Rob Carrigan,

This week, after marking the Labor Day holiday, it strikes me as important to step back and take a look at the passion involved in previous labor fights here in Teller County. The district was watched by the rest of world when violence broke out and martial law was declared early in the last century. Western Federation of Miners and labor strife at the turn of the century in Cripple Creek and Telluride became emblematic for labor unrest around the country, and the world watched.

But it is also true that you can’t take that look without the constraints and filters of considering who is telling the tale. As always, there is at least two sides to every story. That point was brought home to me by the attached photo.

Historian Marshall Sprague and others called it "the Black Time." Sprague referenced the events depicted above this way in Money Mountain:The Story of Cripple Creek Gold, after the dynamiting of the Independence rail platform killed 13 non-union miners and injured scores more.

"Clarence Hamlin, of the Mine Owners' Association, called a mass meeting at 3 p.m., Monday (June 6, 1904). As early as noon, gold camp resident began converging on Victor. Hamlin and others persuaded Sheriff Robertson, a W.F.M. sympathizer, to resign. Their persuasion was the threat to hang him. Ed Bell became sheriff."

Emma Langdon, of the Victor Record and author of The Cripple Creek Strike, noted that on Sunday, June 5, the day before, Sheriff Robertson had issued a statement outlining his objections to Governor James Peabody declaring martial law in the district.

From Teller County Sheriff H.M. Robertson statement, (before the threat of hanging by the National Guard soldiers):

"TO THE PUBLIC - The commission sent by the governor of the state of Colorado to investigate the strike situation in Teller county, called me at midnight Thursday, the 3rd inst. I went to the National hotel at Cripple Creek, and reached there about 12:30 a.m. Friday morning Sept. 4. I was with the commission about two hours and fully explained the situation. I stated to the commission I had the authority to employ all the deputies I needed; that I had the situation in hand; that I had made arrests and was going to make more; that there was no trouble. Within three hours after I left the commission, the members thereof departed for Denver. There is no occasion for militia here. I can handle the situation. There is no trouble in the district and there has been none. No unusual assembly of men. Saloons closed at midnight. The sending of troops here is a usurpation on the part of the governor. I believe the action of the governor will have much to do toward injuring the district to such an extent it will be a long time before recovery will be had. As sheriff of Teller county, I do solemnly protest against the militia being sent here at this time."

Robertson, not surprisingly, decided against continued service. Ed Bell became sheriff.

Colorado National Guard is posted with shielded Gatling Gun in front of the Mining Exchange Building on Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek during Western Federation of Miners strike in 1903-1904. Western History/Genealogy Collection, Denver Public Library.