Friday, January 28, 2011

Fort Collins Stories

Today’s stories about making a living in early Fort Collins are excerpts from “Talking About Fort Collins: Selections from Oral Histories,” a joint project of The Friends of the Library and the Local History Department of the Fort Collins Public Library (1992). (Transcripts of the oral histories are also available at Fort Collins History Connection. )

“Father and mother Tedmon came to Fort Collins in 1878. After a short, and bad, experience ranching, father bought the little hotel known as Blake House that stood on the corner of Jefferson and Linden. Then father built the Tedmon House there, finished it in ’80. He sold that place in 1882, I believe for $17,000. Made quite a profit on it. Just think of it—three stories high, and every floor had a bathroom! That hotel stood there until 1910.”
--Bolivar S. Tedmon, Jr. 1975

The Stover Drug Store and The Tedmon House Hotel at the corner of Linden and Jefferson Streets, circa 1887.

“My father, John M. Hoffman, came to Fort Collins in 1887, and worked as a miller for B.F. Hottel. In the 1893 panic—that’s what they called it in those days, and I guess it was really rough—they wanted to cut his wages, and he said no, he’d worked too long. He was getting three dollars and a half a day then as head miller. When you look back on it, that was kind of nervy to do in the middle of a depression.

“I don’t know where he got the money, but anyway he dug a ditch and built a dam and a little feed grinding mill, and he ground grain for the farmers. At that time Mulberry stopped at Riverside, and he was just across Riverside. He said that at the end of the first year he had $1800 in the bank, more money than he’d ever had before. So he stayed with that and later built a flour mill there.”
--Milton Coy Hoffman, 1978

Mystery Photo
Last week's photo was taken at the Shields Street entrance to the Cathy Fromme Prairie.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Week 24: Senior Prom

Confession time: I did not attend my senior prom. My then-boyfriend-now-husband is a year older, and I went to his senior prom. (With him, of course.) The next year, when mine rolled around, I had a case of “been there, done that.” But that was before proms became more elaborate than the coronation ceremonies of many small European nations, and if I had to choose now, I might do things differently.

Last Friday, I had a chance to return to my former high school for a senior prom. No, I didn’t hit my head and have a Peggy Sue Got Married experience—that would have made for a different blog post entirely. Instead, I volunteered at the 11th Annual Elderhaus Senior Prom.

Elderhaus, and its partner facility Mindset, provide a host of services, both mobile and on-site, for seniors and special needs adults age 18 and older. Founded in 1980, Elderhaus was the first adult day program in Colorado and has since expanded to enrich the lives of well over two thousand people. Much of what Elderhaus does—including direct care, nutrition assistance, mentoring and counseling, and deciphering Medicare benefits—helps keep its clients out of nursing facilities and in their own homes.

And once a year, Elderhaus hosts a senior prom at Poudre High School.

I experienced a bit of déjà-vu as I returned to my old stomping grounds, though the school has changed a lot, having been expanded and remodeled some years ago. When I arrived, the PHS students, many from IB student council, were busy hanging lights and snowflakes to transform the cafeteria into a winter wonderland. I spread tablecloths, put out a few dessert trays (that’s some nice creampuff arranging, if I do say so myself), and in general tried to look more helpful than I actually was.

The musicians from the Glenn Shull Big Band took the stage, and suddenly, it seemed, the room was full. (Mr. Shull was the band director when I was at Poudre, and he’s provided the music for all 11 Senior Proms.) Seniors tend to be a prompt group, and people arrived right on time and ready to eat. Students from the PHS catering class were on hand in their chef’s whites to serve the food, some of which they had also prepared.

After dinner, Elderhaus and Mindset crowned their prom queens, and children of all ages shared a dance with parents and grandparents. The evening was fun, festive, and very well-attended. Poudre High School and the Elderhaus staff and volunteers obviously put a lot of hard work into this free, intergenerational event. I’m sure it’s the highlight of the year for many people, and it showed me that no one is ever too old—or too young—to attend a senior prom.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five

Even when January gets bleak, there's plenty of color downtown thanks to the Art in Public Places program. Follow this link to find the locations of these transformer cabinet murals (and many others) and learn the names of the artists.

Mystery Photo
Last week's picture was taken inside the Beach House Grill.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Week 23: Bald Eagle Watching

I for one was glad that our recent cold snap didn’t last any longer than it did. When temperatures drop that low, I do take some consolation in knowing it’s always colder somewhere else. In fact, for lots of migratory birds from up north, Colorado is perfectly balmy this time of year. I’m no birder, but even I can identify two of the species that come here during the winter: the Canada goose and the bald eagle.

There’s no challenge to spotting a goose in Fort Collins…in fact, it’s much harder to not see one. Hundreds live here year-round, and in the winter thousands more flock to our town like retirees to Sun City. The bald eagles, however, are more a bit more elusive. But they do have a few preferred hangouts, including Fossil Creek Reservoir, off of Carpenter Road just west of I-25. On Saturday morning, my family and I trekked out to FCR to learn about eagles and, hopefully, see the majestic birds in action.

Joann, the city volunteer naturalist on hand, was full of great information for the group of 30 or so eager birdwatchers. From her we learned that there are resident bald eagles in the area, but the ones at Fossil are a migratory population. They come to Colorado for the warmer temperatures, and also because they are diurnal birds and can take advantage of the longer daylight hours. I had always pictured bald eagles snatching up live fish the size of the Sunday newspaper in their powerful talons, but they're actually opportunistic foragers. They prefer food that is already dead, or close to it. (Me, too. From now on, I’m going to refer to grocery shopping as ‘opportunistic foraging.’ It sounds so much cooler.)

Unfortunately, the eagles didn’t cooperate with our plans to spy on them. Perhaps it had something to do with the overcast conditions or the goose hunters blasting away off to the east. Or maybe the eagles are also opportunistic nappers. Regardless, after an hour, my family and I decided to move on.

But that wasn’t the end of my weekend eagle quest. On Sunday afternoon, I went back out to Fossil Creek, hoping that sunnier skies and a different time of day would change my luck. I wanted to see a tree full of eagles, darn it. And I’m happy to report that I did. (You’ll have to take my word for it, but there are eagles in the tree on the left. I swear.)

With my binoculars, I could see the birds fairly well. (I’m grateful that their white heads make them so easy to locate.) And I met a very nice woman who let me look through her scope, which was even better. It was fascinating to watch the birds as they came and went, occasionally dropping down to the ice for a drink or, presumably, some sushi take-out. We also saw four coyotes hanging out on the frozen reservoir not far from the eagles’ tree, looking like opportunists themselves.

The eagles will be at Fossil Creek for a while longer, I’m sure. But they may be heading back north sooner rather than later this year. According to Joanne, the horned owls have already begun their mating calls, which means we’re going to have an early spring.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Fun Fact

Old Town Fort Collins served as a model for Disneyland’s Main Street (shown at left). Harper Goff, who worked for Disney, grew up in Fort Collins. In his words, “When I started working on Main Street, I had photographs of Fort Collins taken. I showed them to Walt, and he liked them very much. Disneyland's City Hall was copied from Fort Collins. So was the Bank building, and some of the others.”

Read the whole story at the Fort Collins History Connection.

Mystery Photo
Last week’s picture was taken at the Woodward drive-through Christmas display.

At which Fort Collins restaurant was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Week 22: All Sweets Confections

This past weekend was the first time, in my year of new things, that the activity I had planned was postponed due to weather. I will get to that activity another day, but in the mean time, I took the opportunity to drop in at a place I’d heard about but never visited.

Rumor has it that there are people among us—perhaps a coworker, a neighbor, your accountant—who appear perfectly normal but in fact lack a sweet tooth. These are the people who nibble on unsweetened carob chips, who have boxes of forgotten toffee in their freezers, who truly believe that plain ol’ fruit makes for a perfectly acceptable dessert. (Now, I love fruit. It’s nutritious. It tastes good. It has its own spot on the food pyramid. But it’s not dessert unless it is baked in a pastry or flambéed or blended with cream and frozen. I’m just sayin.’)

I firmly believe that a little candy now and then makes life sweeter. All Sweets International Confections proves I’m not the only one who feels this way. This shop, located in the retail strip west of Red Lobster, has been selling goodies from around the world for two years.

This is a great place to be a kid in a candy shop—or just feel like one. Even though my visit came after the Christmas rush and before the arrival of the new inventory, there was a sizeable selection to choose from. Chocolates in sparkling, brightly-colored wrappers are sold by the piece or by the pound, which provides the perfect opportunity for some creative mixing-and-matching. Russian, English, and German candies are the biggest sellers, but the adventurous shopper can also find Japanese Mochi Balls and Candy-Covered Chick Peas. (Whoever said the peanut is the only legume worthy of a candy coating? The modest garbanzo finally has its day!)

The owner, Hiyam, buys and imports directly to make sure he gets the best quality. (He was kind enough to give me a bag of samples, and everything I’ve tried so far has passed the test.) In chatting with him, I learned that big changes are coming to All Sweets. By the end of February, if all goes as planned, he will also have canned goods, meat and dairy products, bread, honey, and other imported items for sale.

But don’t worry, sugar fiends and chocoholics—there will still be plenty of candy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fort Collins Stories

What is it about kindergarten that makes it so memorable? I vividly remember my kindergarten days, but they weren’t quite like these. (Today’s stories are excerpts from “Talking About Fort Collins: Selections from Oral Histories,” a joint project of The Friends of the Library and the Local History Department of the Fort Collins Public Library (1992). Transcripts of the oral histories are also available at Fort Collins History Connection. )

“Fort Collins was a small town; we knew everybody in the schools and in the town. And we had good schools from the start. The first kindergarten west of the Mississippi River was started here in 1880 by Judge Jay Bouton.

I started to school in the Remington school building when I was four years old. They let us go at four and five years, so I went two years to kindergarten. I remember the school bell on a rope. The janitor would let me hang onto the rope and go up and down with the rope from the school bell. The Presbyterian Church was right across from the school, and when Auntie Stone died—she was almost a hundred years old—they tolled the bell, very slowly. That bell rang for about a hundred times. I never did forget that.”
--Edith Bair, 1975

“In the early 1900s, I went to kindergarten in the basement of the Remington School and when I failed to show up for class, my teacher would call my mother and tell her I wasn’t in school. Mother would hitch up her buggy and drive downtown to the harness shop—the leather shop where they were making saddles and harnesses. She would either find me there or across the street at the shoeing shop. She would take me by the ear and lead me out and set me in that buggy and drive me to school and set me in my seat.”
--Jay H. Bouton III, 1972

Mystery Photo
Last week's photo was the Northside Aztlan Center (way to go, Kerrie!)

Where in Fort Collins was this (seasonal) picture taken?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Week 21: International Hour for Peace

Even though I planned to do it, I was nonetheless surprised to find myself in my car at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, the last morning of the year and the coldest in recent memory, heading for the 25th Annual Fort Collins Area Observance of the International Hour for Peace. (I had mistakenly been thinking of it as the International Hour of Peace, or IHOP, which seemed like a great coincidence. Really, what could be a better pairing than peace and pancakes?)

I was surprised because I’m not a very touchy-feely person. Growing up, I always had the biggest share of the cynic, the skeptic, the critic. I don’t really commune. And nothing sends me scrambling faster than a big dose of woo-woo or holier-than-thou.

But I wanted to attend the IHFP because I was curious, and I love the idea of global synchronicity. (The only other occasion when I’ve experienced world-wide simultaneous participation was years ago at a Great Guinness Toast, which was a fun but admittedly less-worthy undertaking.) And I, like every parent, want my sons, and my eventual grandchildren, to live in a more peaceful world. If getting my butt out of my warm bed in the wee hours one day a year can help with that, it’s a small price to pay.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Observance, and it was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed hearing stories from the people who were at the first Fort Collins rally 25 years ago, though I was rather dumfounded to learn that there were also protesters at that event. And I appreciated the inclusiveness of the Observance, the complete lack of the spiritual oneupsmanship that drives me crazy. To emphasize the global nature of the day, pictures of observances from around the world would have been a nice touch.

The live music—harp and other stringed instruments—was unique and beautiful. But—and take this as proof of my unenlightenedness, if you will—chanting has never been my thing. I did it, but I felt trés awkward. And as for the meditation, by the fourth four-minute period of silence, all I could think about was the fact that my stomach was growling like Kung Fu Panda’s.

I’m glad I attended so I could see firsthand how members of this community come together in a gentle way to get their positive vibes out into the world. The Margaret Mead quote in the program summed it up better than I ever could: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." But when the IHFP rolls around at the end of 2011, I think I’ll probably skip the group experience. Instead, I’ll get up in the pre-dawn December dark, light a candle, and think peaceful thoughts. Then I’ll make some pancakes.

United Nations Flag Display