Bridger Gile 1999

 

Bridger Gile 1999present

Hi, my name is Bridger Gile. After being featured in two Warren Miller Films, winning a NASTAR national title and skiing 80 days a year, I am finally attending kindergarten. At first I was worried that school was going to squeeze my ski time, but like any true Aspen local, I think I’ve figured out a way to get in plenty of vertical half-time kindergarten and the new Deep Temerity lift at Highlands!

I can’t wait for winter, although summer hasn’t been so bad. I’ve been playing soccer, golf, competing on the swim team, riding my bike, and working on my cliff-hucking (jumping the punchbowl at the Grottos). I even got to go to France to see Lance Armstrong win the Tour. That was exciting!

Wax up those skis and I’ll see you on the hill soon.

(written by Bridger 2005 – with a little help!)

Bill Heron – 1897 to 1970’s

 

Bill Herron 1897circa 1970s

Bill Herron was an Aspen-born, lifelong silver miner who staunchly believed that the mining glory days in his beloved hometown would return.

As a newcomer in the early 1950s, I first saw Bill and a few old-timers clustered around the brass spittoon wisely provided by the postmaster, Alton Beck, in the post office (now Amen Wardy’s site). They were peering through the steamy window, watching skiers on Aspen Mountain. They used the P.O. as a warm place to meet and talk. “Look at them crazy snowsliders. You ask me, they got rocks in their heads, messing around like that!”

That was Bill Herron addressing his cronies. It was mystifying to them that these strangers were paying money to play in the snow, on the same steep mountainside that all the miners had to climb to get to work during the “good old days.”

I met Bill at his mother’s home on Main Street (now Herron Apartments). He lived with Cassie, his 85-year-old mother, but his real headquarters was the Red Onion. Since our family’s bed-and-breakfast inn was across the street, I’d visit with Cassie often and hear the latest gossip.

Bill and his pals took comfort in “Beer Gulch,” sharing pitchers and moodily recalling how things used to be before the music people and snowsliders discovered Aspen. Beer was the drink of choice, unless someone stood them to something a bit stronger. It was beer, and Bill’s fondness for it, that was undoubtedly the reason the town marshal took Bill’s driver’s license away: “For his own good and that of the rest of town too.”

His ancient Ford was retired among Cassie’s lilac bushes, between the rhubarb patch and the woodshed. “When are you going to get rid of that thing?” she’d ask. Bill would shrug, “Don’t know, maybe when I get my license back.”

Almost every night, Bill would carry a hot meal home to his mother. He’d get the cook to wrap up the Onion’s special, and he’d walk clear across town with it, through stormy weather, if need be. It would always be a surprise meal for Cassie, because she never knew when he’d arrive or what he’d bring.

His Irish charm and inborn gallantry was a delight. There was always a slight bow, a tip of his hat and a flattering word when we met. He complimented our children and our “lucky husbands.” He was a gentleman.

Bill moved to a boarding house in Glenwood Springs when Cassie died in 1962. We’d see him down at one of the riverside bars, where his portrait hung on the wall and he still held forth with a diminishing group of old-timers. He’d insist on buying us a beer, and we’d try to satisfy his curiosity about Aspen’s goings on.

When we asked about him a few months later, a grizzled old man mournfully shook his head.

“Old Bill has gone and died left us for good.”

Jony Larrowe

First Grade Fears in 1914

First Grade Fears in 1914

Yore Aspen


Washington School in Aspen’s West End. (Willoughby
collection)

Click to
Enlarge





Tim Willoughby
September 29,
2007




Starting school is a tough transition for children. The prevalence
of preschool has eased the transition between home and school, but the first few
weeks are still a challenge for 5- and 6-year-olds.

Kindergarten teachers tell hundreds of humorous stories about the
distorted perceptions and fearful experience of first-timers. The student who
asks, “Is it lunch yet?” a half-hour after the day starts. “Did I eat my lunch?”
asked a half-hour after the PB and J was consumed. Finding their lunch, knowing
what to do with an unpeeled orange, and the buckets of tears shed over the
slightest deviation from a home routine round out those long first days in
school.

When my mother started first grade in 1914 there were more
ominous challenges.

For one, it wasn’t until the 1970s that there was a
larger first-grade class. Aspen was a shrinking-but-still-large town in 1914.
The Panic of 1907 had cut the population of the county by 25 percent but in 1910
it was still 4,600, about half the size of Albuquerque at that time. The 1914
first grade was the last big class. In 1917-1918, Aspen’s largest mine, the
Smuggler, shut down over an electricity rate dispute and the influenza struck,
reducing Aspen’s population an additional 30 percent.

Like most cities
of the time, Aspen was proud of its schools. Aspen had three elementary schools:
Lincoln, Garfield and Washington. In the beginning they were multi-grade
schools, each located in a different section of town. When the Washington School
opened in the West End in 1890, they began separating students by grade rather
than by location. First through fourth grades were located at the Washington
School.

There was no kindergarten in Aspen’s
schools until 1955, so my mother entered school in first grade at the Washington
School. Most students in those days did not make it through high school, leaving
after eighth grade. The Washington School was a large, permanent brick structure
with big windows and Victorian flourishes, larger than the high school and still
a “modern” model, but it had one component that confounded my mother.

In
1914, indoor plumbing was rare. Children like my mother were used to using an
outhouse. Her term was “the chick sail,” a name popularized from a play about an
outhouse builder written by Chick Sale. Cold in the winter, smelly and always
too far from where ever you were, they still served their purpose. Spiders and
bees were a bother, and children always feared they might fall through the hole
into the gaping pit below.

The Washington School had a more modern
facility, an indoor one. It was located in the basement and had a whole line of
holes. What filled my mother with fear was that instead of the usual pit there
was a continuously running torrent of water running below the holes, a kind of
partially open sewer. Further complicating the situation, the holes were not
calibrated for first-graders; they were adult size. At least they seemed that
way to a first-grader.

“I was so afraid I would
fall through and be carried off to God knows where,” my mother told me.

She remembered little else from her first year of school. A 6-year old’s
nightmare aged into a senior’s amusing remembrance.

Tim Willoughby’s
family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while a teacher for
Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his
native town, he views it with historical perspective. He can be contacted at redmtn@schat.net.