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The following columns were written for the Estes Park Trail-Gazette in 1983 and 1984 on a mostly weekly basis and are reprinted with permission. I have not included all of them, so you are free to guess about the quality of those I have eliminated. Some were so topical that they are no longer applicable to anything. On the other hand, my complaints about telephones, along with those of many others, resulted in some real change. Mostly these are reminiscences. Much has changed in the intervening years. Many of the people in these pieces have moved, no longer come here, or have died. My mountains themselves, however, are unchanged, and that is reassuring. One piece, about the wild cat, appeared in the Allenspark WIND, but I did not have a regular column at the time, so I have not included it in that collection. I was paid, I think, $15 a month for these, and when I submitted a small want ad and was charged for it, I resigned and began the long and pleasant volunteer relationship with the WIND.
Driving up the Big Thompson I was stuck behind a motor home from Kansas. It occurred to me that this was a very fitting way for me to arrive. For more than 40 years I have been coming to my mountains a summer person. Now, after all those years, I am coming to them to stay.
I see all the changes, wrought by man and nature, in the few years since I was here.It is as though I have never seen the place before. l’m sent spinning into a sea of memories.
I can clearly recall taking the train from Union Station in Portland along with the family maid and my stuffed elephant, Elmer. I was four, the year was 1939, and my family had owned a piece of land on Big Owl Road since 1917. On the 160 acres my grandfather had entertained the great and near great for many years. Edna Ferber and Otis Skinner had been to tea on the banks of Roaring Fork. William Allen White and A.A. Hyde were frequent signers of the guest book at Steiner Acres.
In all the years I was growing up, summer meant Colorado, the Village, Allenspark and my mountains. There was mountain climbing and square dancing and glorious, if chaste, summer evenings with girls named Andree and Ellen and Alice. Now, after years of somewhat inefficient planning, I am doing what so many have threatened to do—I am going to be a full-time resident.
One of the first things a summer person does, especially if he has missed a year or two, as I have, is to check out the Village. What’s new? More important, for those of us who are middle-aged, what’s still here?
When I was a kid, Trout Haven was just as you came into town. Now it’s at the other end, and the Estes Park Bank has picked up its clock from the intersection and is opposite where the old Trout Haven was.
You could get dizzy from this.
Fortunately, some things don’t change, like Estes Park Hardware, the Plantation and the Indian Village. Older people need a sense of continuity. I get that from the Rock Inn. I was present at the creation, having just turned 18 when it opened, and “Rose Marie” was a big hit. I would drop in some night but I can’t stand being stared at.
The church is now shops. I can remember the funeral I attended in that church for Cathy Deever and Herb Miller; the place was jammed to the rafters with residents, wearing suits and dresses from the innermost recesses of closets for the occasion, while I lurked in the back, wearing a turtle neck sweater knitted by my mother.
Where is Connie’s, the garage across from what is now city hall? Connie, alas, died several years ago, but he gave me one of my first summer jobs. [I was wrong. He was very much alive and called from Arizona to tell me so.]
I also dug ditches for Barney Graves and waited on tables at Baldpate, Meeker and the Aspen Lodges, where Joe Droesser was constantly telling me to stop “shooting the rat.” Joe was from the old country—he checked the heat of the plates before they were served, and his Sunday buffets were extraordinary, as was his young wife. “Shooting the rat” turned out to be “chewing the rag,” and the waiters did a lot of it, which irritated Joe.
The mountains, of course, are still there, as they were before we arrived, and as they will be after we are long gone. I have climbed most of the familiar ones, including, the east face of Longs when I was l6, with Otto Von Almann. It may be true that you can’t go home again, but it is nevertheless good to be home.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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