Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Five

Today’s Friday Five is a selection of local history books I enjoy. All of them are available through the Poudre River Library District, or check the local section of your favorite bookstore.

Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs (Barbara Fleming and Malcolm McNeill) – Mark Miller moved to Fort Collins in 1905, at the age of 13. In 1910, he began work as a photographic apprentice and opened his own studio in 1914. He left a collection of more than 70,000 images, decades before digital photography came along.

Fort Collins Highlights: The last fifty years (Nancy Hansford) – The ups and downs of Fort Collins from 1950 to 2000.

Streets of Fort Collins: A History of Fort Collins, Colorado Through its Street Names (Charlene Tresner) – If you’ve ever wondered how a pre-1977 local street got its name, this collection of information originally published in the Triangle Review has the answer.

101 Memorable Men of Northern Colorado (Arlene Ahlbrandt) – Interesting profiles of notable citizens and colorful characters—even if they are all men.

Fort Collins & Larimer County: an illustrated history (Thomas J. Noel with Ron D. Sladek) – Pictures and history of the town and surrounding areas.

Mystery Photo:
Last week’s photo was of the entrance to the Senior Center.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Week 50: Larimer County Genealogical Society

Everyone—even the brand-spankin’-newest baby on the block—has a story. That's because a great many of our stories come to us through our families, cultural versions of our inherited physical characteristics such as eye color, high cholesterol, and whatever that second-toe-longer-than-the-first thing is called. And like genes, stories can go unexpressed for years, even generations. When that happens, it takes some serious detective work to uncover them again.

The Larimer County Genealogical Society has been aiding and encouraging family-history-seekers for 37 years. The group was formed in 1974 by six women from the Fort Collins DAR chapter and had twenty-two charter members. The society has been going strong ever since, with monthly meetings, classes, outreach, and the production of the local Geneaology Quest™ TV series. Six times a year, the LCGS puts out an informative newsletter with additional resources, regional programs, and member stories. They have also indexed “eight local cemeteries, Larimer County Marriage Records from 1858 to 1950, Divorce Applications from 1825 to 1950, early Land Records, and the 1885 Colorado State Census.” Whew.

I visited the July meeting/ice cream social and heard local author Karen Schutte speak about how her interest in her German-American ancestry inspired her to write a novel based on the true story of her great-grandparents’ immigration to Lovell, Wyoming in 1906. As the oldest grandchild, Karen felt an obligation to keep her family’s stories alive for her four sons and their children. She collected notes and files for years and initially sought only to record the information. But then the project, as projects so often do, took on a life of its own. A self-described fearless farmgirl, Karen decided she would jump right in and write a novel. And she did. And it’s called The Ticket.

Karen shared slides of old family portraits, maps, ship’s manifests, and other public records from back in the days when everyone who knew how to write had perfect penmanship. Geneaology, she says, is a treasure hunt. Start by talking to relatives. Listen to their stories. Rifle through their dusty boxes of pictures. If possible, visit ancestral places. And jump on the internet and research, research, research.

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking in itself, but I imagine that writing historical fiction about one’s own family is even more so. Crafting a compelling story while remaining true to the facts and being respectful of the opinions of other family members is a challenging balancing act. But Karen found it to be such a gratifying process that she’s still writing. Her second novel, Seed of the Volga, comes out next year, and she’s begun work on her third.

That’s enough to make me want to shake my own family tree and see who or what (Nuts? Monkeys? Captain Jack Sparrow?) falls out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Fun Facts

I hope you all stayed cool this week! (The twilight swim at City Park Pool is a great place to do it.) Here are some random Fort Collins facts for your Friday:

Founding father Joseph Mason was a French Canadian whose original name was Messier.

Canyon Avenue, once used by timber and stone haulers, was the most direct route from old Fort Collins to Spring Canyon.

The Tafts, for whom Taft Hill Road is named, were distantly related to President Taft.

The old Post Office was built on a military burial ground.

Thurman “Fum” McGraw was CSU’s first football All American (1948) and went on to play for five years with the Detroit Lions.

Architect Montezuma W. Fuller was a Mayflower descendant.

A public resort for fishing, boating, and swimming opened at Lindenmeier Lake in 1908.

William Danforth, for whom CSU’s Danforth Chapel is named, founded the Ralston Purina Company.

The Great Western Sugar Company sugar beet refinery, which began operations in 1904, was built at a cost of $1.2 million.

The first street paving—College Avenue from LaPorte to Oak—began in 1916.

The Rolling Stones performed at Hughes Stadium in the summer of 1975.

Mystery Photo:
Last week’s photo was of the median crosswalk on Elizabeth Street in Campus West.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Week 49: Sawtooth Wind Art

We have our share of wind in Fort Collins. Whether it’s the biting January kind that takes your breath away or the hot August kind that shrivels everything it touches, wind is a four-season occurrence here. It’s the bane of soccer parents and contact lens wearers, and many a frustrated sleeper has cursed its midnight howl.

But the kinetic sculptures of local artist/craftsman Larry Pryor turn wind into something beautiful. Sawtooth Art, Larry’s studio and workshop, is located a mile west of Taft Hill Road on Harmony/CR38E. I saw his sign advertising “Wind Art” last week as I was headed up to Horsetooth and wanted to come back to see what it was all about. At the last minute, my boys decided that it wouldn’t kill them to join me, so they came along for the ride.

When I turned into the driveway and saw the small grove of copper sculptures rotating in the gentle breeze, I was immediately glad I had come. Larry came right out to chat with us and show us around his property and shop. He’s a friendly Fort Collins native who began as a woodworker and added sculptor to his resume about fifteen years ago. Through trial and error, he’s discovered which designs stand up to our strongest winds—and which designs go crash in the night.

Larry's wind art process begins with pristine sheets of copper. The individual leaves are cut, shaped, and coated with an acrylic that keeps them shiny on the concave side. The other side is treated with a salt solution, which gives the copper a grayish-green patina. As the sculptures turn, sunlight plays off the contrast of matte and shiny in a way that is reminiscent of the shimmering quake of real aspen trees. It really is a beautiful effect.

One of Larry’s sculptures welcomes visitors to the Gardens on Spring Creek. He also does custom pieces and was at work on a wall-sized commission featuring cattails, dragonflies, and a fountain. And for anyone in the market for a full-sized windmill, Larry does those, too.

Besides being his own boss, one of the things Larry loves best about his job is that no one is ever in a bad mood when they visit. I certainly found that to be true. Not only that, but my boys were glad they had come with me, which is when I know I’ve found something truly cool.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Field Trip: Horsetooth Swim Beach

Because of the high water level, this spot is almost more swim than beach these days. But it's still a beautiful place to cool off. Have a great weekend!

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the fountain on the Rio patio.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week 48: Cartoons at Lyric

I have to confess to a little bit of parental hypocrisy: there are things I did as a child that I won’t let my kids do. Case in point, I spent quite a few Saturday mornings parked in front of the TV, watching Scooby Doo and eating my way through a big bowl of sugary cereal. In my defense, that was before cartoons were available 24/7. If we missed them on Saturday, we had to wait a week until we had another chance. Actually having to wait for a show? Man, that makes me feel old.

But just because my kids don’t watch cartoons while they eat their breakfast (mainly because I can’t stand to have the TV blaring on a Saturday morning) doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten that cartoons and cold cereal are as much a part of childhood as grass stains and Silly Putty. The Lyric Cinema Cafe knows that, too, because they show classic cartoons from ten until noon every day but Sunday. Admission is free, and for a mere five bucks, a kid can belly up to the all-you-can-eat cereal bar.

After filling bowls with their favorite magically delicious cereals, my boys got comfortable on one of the Lyric’s front-row sofas. I skipped the cereal but hung around for the entertainment. I have nothing against cartoons and could probably watch The Simpsons until my eyeballs bleed. But those dysfunctional Springfielders aren’t always a great choice for family entertainment, and, as luck would have it, Donald Duck opened the morning’s show. No offense to DD fans, but that pantsless, mean-spirited fowl has never been one of my favorites. When his spastic, unintelligible quacking wore thin (after about seventeen seconds) I was tempted to scoot on out to the lobby to see what else was happening. But, as a dedicated blogger, I stayed put in the theater.

Half an hour and another bowl of cereal later, Looney Tunes continued the fun with…Daffy Duck. What is it with the ducks? Also wardrobe-challenged and speech-impaired, at least Daffy’s heart seems to be in the right place. Though how both Donald and Daffy could have misadventures with substandard aircraft on the same day is beyond me.

Ducks aside, spending an hour watching cartoons in a dark theater, sheltered from the growing heat of a summer day, was actually very enjoyable. While listening to kids laughing at cartoon tomfoolery and crunching on cereal, I found it nearly impossible to fret about the many fret-worthy things in the outside world. As we were leaving, my boys asked if we could do it again sometime, and I told them we will. But I might hold out for some Wile E. Coyote.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fort Collins Stories

I can’t remember the first time I saw a train come through downtown, but I doubt it compares to this excerpt 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.

“I remember the first time I ever seen a train. I was eight years old the first time I ever went to town…A passenger train come through there on Mason Street, heading south, and he blowed the whistle for that crossing. Of course, it was a steam train, and it scared (the) team, but it didn’t scare them near as bad as it did me. We had a big old high wagon seat, and I got off that seat; boy, that was the biggest thing I ever seen. If it had been coming down the street sideways, it wouldn’t have looked no bigger to me. Boy, I remember that.

"Well, we got squared around and started home and got almost home, about half a mile from a hill we had to pull, and dad had to stop and rest the team. I got off and I run the length of that thing to get home and tell the folks I seen a train. I never will forget that.”--Earl “Red” Miller, 1974

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of artist Joe McGrane's Red Pony (2000), which is found at English Ranch Park.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Week 47: The Mineral Cache

I was driving down College Avenue a couple of weeks ago when I glimpsed a sign advertising live glass blowing. I thought it sounded like a fun thing to do with my boys, so I made a mental note to check it out. In fact, I was so gung ho about it that I wouldn’t let my family go to the glassblowing studio in Estes Park the last time we were up there. So, imagine my consternation when, with boys in tow, I discovered that the Fort Collins glass blowing establishment in question you know where this is going?...a pot shop. Uh, yeah…I guess they’re not making Christmas ornaments. Good thing the sign on the door read “Must Be 18,” or I probably would have blundered in anyway. (How exactly does one explain that field trip to one’s husband?)

But what might have been a “wasted” trip for some turned into the discovery of hidden gems—literally—when we instead ventured into The Mineral Cache next door. The store is the current tenant in what I’m pretty sure was the long-ago home of the Tattersall children’s store. (Help me out, fellow natives. Anyone else remember that place?)

My boys love and collect rocks, and we were immediately impressed by what we found. Being Coloradoans, we were interested to see the great selection of native rocks and minerals, including calcite, pearilte, barite, jet, yellow garnet, beryl, amazonite, and something called a septarian nodule (which sounds like a medical condition). In addition, the collection includes the Colorado state mineral (rhodochrosite), the Colorado state gemstone (aquamarine), and sizeable chunk of Colorado amethyst. The Mineral Cache has many specimens from more far-flung places, too, including okenite from India. Inside geodes, this mineral forms into little white clumps that look and feel like cotton balls. I almost thought they were a practical joke, along the lines of the granite-looking sponge “rock” my geology professor once used in a lab exam.

One of my pet peeves is being the only customer in a store and having the employee either pretend I’m not there or give me the Single Nod of Extreme Disinterest and then return to a semi-comatose state. Well, this was not the case during our visit. Store employee Brian removed all kinds of stuff from the cases for us to examine, he didn’t mind me taking pictures, and he knowledgably answered every one of our questions. His family owns the “Thank You Lord Mining Claim” on Mt. Antero, a Colorado fourteener known for its plentiful aquamarines, so he was also able to tell us what it’s like to be a working miner. (Contact the store for information about their mining tours.)

So even though my activity for Week 47 didn’t turn out as I planned, it was still a fun experience and reminded me that: a) Fort Collins is full of interesting people and places, and b) for every pot shop door life (thankfully) closes in my face, another door is opened.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Field Trip: Scandinavian Festival

Happy July! Summer is cruising right along, bringing with it lots of festival fun. Last weekend, we celebrated my husband's Swedish heritage with our first visit to the Estes Park Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. Music, food, crafts, Vikings...and no admission fee. It made me want to say Uff Da, even though I have no idea what it means.

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the cool sign at the corner of Mountain and Howes, at the old Steele's parking lot.

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