Spring Ahead – Fall Back?

Spring Ahead – Fall Back?

Yore Aspen

Changing the time was a bit of work on this clock
gracing the lobby of the Hotel Jerome. (T. Willoughby)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
October 27,

phrase for remembering what to do with your clocks makes it easy to handle
daylight saving time (DST). It wasn’t always so simple in Aspen; you really
needed two clocks to track time.

Aspen has a long history of wanting to
pioneer new ideas. This was especially true in the 1960s. While the rest of the
state debated whether to go on daylight saving time, Aspen decided it was such a
good idea that it would go it alone.

Even though
daylight saving time had been implemented nationally during both world wars and
some European countries had been using it since 1918, the elderly, who tend to
be early risers and uncomfortable with change, complained. I remember my
great-aunt being most upset. She collected cuckoo clocks. It was always
interesting to visit her because they were not all set on the same time and one
clock or another would gong, clang or cuckoo every few minutes.

“I’m just
not going to change the time on my clocks,” she said.

The agricultural
communities of Colorado had the most influence in the state Legislature, and
they were unanimously opposed to daylight saving time. Local ranchers said,
“Animals run on sun time.” Feeding one hour earlier than “bright and early” was
just not going to happen.

The staunchest opponents to Aspen’s solo clock
change came from those who did not live in Aspen. What time would you run on if
you lived in Watson or Snowmass? Would the school bus run on state time or Aspen
time? People would come to town for an appointment and forget about the
difference in time. With doctors often being an hour behind schedule in the late
afternoon anyway, it didn’t always matter. Complicating matters, the post office
and state offices were required to operate on standard time.

Fishermen found fixing the time to be a great advantage. Aspen
stores for years had closed at 5:30 or 6 p.m. and, without DST, fishing after
work was limited. An extra hour on the streams saved more than time; it may have
saved the day.

Concerts at the often-cold tent were a bit warmer.
Working gardeners found more time to pull weeds even though the daylight saved
did not extend the growing season.

People outside Aspen thought the town
had gone crazy. They already believed people who lived there had “no common
sense” so Aspen continued to serve as the punch line for numerous jokes.

Aspen was saved in 1966 when Congress established a national time
standard. It did so because, between 1960 and 1966, some states, counties and
cities, including Chicago, had gone on DST while others had not. The Aspen
problem had gone national. By 1966, 100 million Americans used DST. The act
required each state to go “all on” or “all off.”

The statewide debate pitted the outdoor community against the
entrenched traditionalists. It’s hard to believe, but much of the opposition
arose because some people couldn’t figure out what to do with their clocks, and
many had no understanding about time in general. One opponent said, “The extra
hour of sunlight is burning up my yard.” Another said, “Government has no
business fiddling with God’s time.”

You would think that after 40 years
of DST the idea would have taken root, but in 2000 Mary Anne Tebedo of Colorado
Springs introduced a bill to take Colorado off DST. The legislation

The music group Chicago’s song “Does Anybody Really Know What
Time It Is?” was released just after Aspen’s DST affair. It really resonated
with anyone who lived through Aspen’s timely “experiment.”

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 [email protected].

Aspen bucked political fashion then, too

Aspen bucked political fashion then,

Yore Aspen

Republican headquarters, on Mill Street behind the
Wheeler Opera House, in 1900 Aspen. The photos in the window are presidential
candidate William McKinley and running mate Theodore Roosevelt. (Courtesy Aspen
Historical Society)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
November 3,

“Some unseen force is hard at work to hold back the figures until
they are right,” reported The Aspen Democrat the day after the 1906 election.
The charge was leveled against an official in Arapahoe County, where the vote
count for several judges was very close. Election fraud was as much an issue
then as now, and for good reason.

A century ago
Aspen still had a fairly large population, and Pitkin County’s votes accounted
for about 1 percent of the statewide tally. Pitkin County cast 1,979 votes in
1906 compared to 6,717 in 2006. However, in 1906 all but 338 of those votes came
from Aspen. Most of the other votes were from the Watson precinct (Aspen Village
area) and Redstone. Ashcroft boasted a dozen voters.

Republicans made a
clean sweep in 1906 but not in Pitkin County. As has often been the case, Aspen
bucked the state trend and voted for Democrats. In the governor’s race Democrat
Alva Adams garnered 40 percent of Pitkin voters while the winning Republican
candidate received only 29 percent, barely ahead of the Socialist Party
candidate. An independent candidate received about 10 percent. “Third party”
candidates enjoyed near parity with the major parties during this period,
especially the Socialist and Populist parties.

Alva Adams was one of
Colorado’s best-known politicians. He was elected governor three times with
breaks between each term. The Ute Uprising took place during his first term. At
the onset of his second term, in 1897, he had to deal with a miner’s strike in
Leadville. Miners, who had made a deal with owners pressed by the Panic of 1893
to lower wages, struck to restore $3-a-day wages. The National Guard had been
sent to defend the position of the owners. Just after taking office, Adams
removed the Guard and established the State Board of Arbitration to settle
future strikes.

Adams won again in 1904, the
most contentious election in the state’s history. Each side accused the other of
election fraud. In the Denver area, Democrats got more votes than there were
voters. Republicans were accused of forcing thousands of immigrant workers to
vote for their candidates or lose their jobs. The postelection fight continued
into the Legislature. After a bitter battle, Adams stepped down as governor, the
Republican runner-up was bypassed and another Republican, the lieutenant
governor, was appointed as governor. Adams’ streak of three victories ended with
his 1906 loss to Republican Augustus Buchtel, who during his two-year term
regulated businesses and built many bridges, miles of highway, and state

State office races got more attention than federal ones at the
turn of the century. Of equal importance were judgeships, especially the state
Supreme Court. During this business reform period, voters followed closely the
rulings of state judges as well as the battles between capital and labor. The
Western Federation of Miners, one of the first successful labor organizations,
was especially involved in judicial races. Candidates were recruited, groomed
and promoted by political parties. Every voter knew judges’ personalities,
partisanship and judicial preferences. Democrats’ only statewide victories in
1906 were Supreme Court seats.

Democrats swept local offices. The only Republican to win in Aspen was Henry
Beck, who joined the 75 percent Republican majority in the state Legislature in
electing Simon Guggenheim to be senator. Henry Beck immigrated to America from
Sweden, worked in the Lake Superior iron mines and moved to Aspen from Leadville
in 1892. He owned and operated a wholesale liquor business and invested in
mining. Henry was the patriarch of generations of Aspen Becks. Guggenheim served
one term and then moved to New York, where he assumed the presidency of the
American Smelting and Refining Company and became a noted

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 [email protected].