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

Al S. Lamb – 1855 to 1940


Al S. Lamb 18551940 by Buzz Cooper and Larry Fredrick

In late 1886 or early 1887, Al Lamb, a pharmacist, decided to cast his lot with the new silver boom at Aspen. The Lamb Drug Store became the center of community affairs, and Lamb himself became a powerful influence in local government.

He won high regard for his integrity, enterprise and good citizenship. A good businessman, Lamb became well-known all over the state and his store was a genuine landmark. Many remember his old-fashioned soda fountain. To this day, there are old-timers who would have no remedies other than old “Doc” Lamb’s prescriptions.

Lamb was an active and early member of the Benevolent Order of Elks and the Lions Club, and a member of the State Board of Pharmacy. His active public spirit served not only Aspen, but the county and the state.

He loved the mountains, fishing and hunting, and he loved horses and dogs. It is said that his favorite spaniel died within 15 minutes after his beloved master. Lamb was so fond of his champion hunting dog Max that when Max died, Lamb had him stuffed. His granddaughter Peggy (Rowland) recalls that when she visited her grandfather, her errand was to dust off Max.

Aspen State Teachers College

Dr. Slats Cabbage “The Dr. of Fluid Mechanics” (aka Marc Demmon) 1951present

Slats was the manager for the Aspen Mine Company and announced “this will be your headquarters for the new mall construction.” He told me about the Aspen State Teacher’s College and immediately dubbed me the Dean of Destruction. I think the “Cabbage Racing Team” was the spark that made the college a reality. Slats and I walked into City Market and he was carrying a 6-inch bolt in his hands. He walked up to the produce manager and said he wanted a big cabbage.

“How big?”

“One that will fit on this bolt!”

It became the hood ornament for the “Screamin’ Eagle” No. 137 race car.

ASTC was one of the cleverest ideas in America, and Slats and Al together were a formidable, hilarious team to watch. “Who the hell is Slats Cabbage?” Those who don’t know him have really missed something!

Big Jim Furniss, ASTC alumnus

Al Pendorf “Dean Fulton Bagley 1938present

What can I say? It was the ’70s. I moved into an apartment with Jack the Butcher and a third “mystery roommate.” I lived there for weeks before I ever met this other guy, but we left notes trying to figure each other out.

Finally, we bumped into each other in the hall and I met Al Pendorf, a man on the go (and it was not just work). As the offseason waned (there really was an offseason then), we looked at each other one fall evening and decided to go into town to check out the “freshman class” of new winter season arrivals. Ah, thought Al, we had a freshman class but no school.

That was the start of it all: Aspen State Teacher’s College, a spoof in which “the whole town is the college. Classes are taught everywhere.”

Al was in the printing business (not to mention a very strange puzzle contest “business”). It was a natural fit to produce a handbook and a school paper called “The Clean Sweep.” Al, known as Dean Fulton Begley, teamed up with Slats Cabbage and Aspen State Teachers College became very real (including T-shirts, a marching band, a football team that always won by default) to all of us “students of the ’70s.”Don’t miss the ASTC alumni reunion at the Elks on Oct. 8. We are still trying to find someone who actually graduated.

Maddy Lieb, Class of …

Crystal Palace Not Always So Palatial

Crystal Palace Not Always So Palatial

Yore Aspen

The Crystal Palace in 1962, with the Owl Cigars
advertisement on the side. Aspen Laundry was in the one-story white building to
the left. (Frank Willoughby/Willoughby collection)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
September 22,

Imagine dump trucks inside the Crystal Palace, staying warm so they
could start on cold winter days to haul miners up the backside of Aspen
Mountain. Before Mead Metcalf started his dinner theater there, the Midnight
Mine had its headquarters in the building. It reeked of old timber molds,
carbide lantern fumes, rock dust and machine lubricants rather than today’s
captivating aromas of broiling prime rib and uncorked merlot.

Owned by the Midnight Mine, this
Coleman truck in 1927 used to park in the Crystal Palace. (Willoughby

Click to Enlarge

The pending change in ownership of
the Crystal Palace may alter more than names on the title, especially if Mead
Metcalf takes the stained glass and crystal chandeliers with him. His colorful
remodel in 1960 made the building more Victorian than it was in 1891 when it was
built. Victorian structures in Aspen, with the exception of St. Mary’s and the
Community Church, had simple windows of small squares of colored glass
surrounding plain glass rectangles. Most colorful and elaborate stained glass
was imported from New Orleans and Denver during the ’60s – the 1960s. The Palace
and other buildings were reinvented more than restored.

The Palace from
the mid-1930s to 1951 was the company office of the Midnight Mine, Aspen’s major
employer. It was the ideal building for three reasons. Like most commercial
buildings in the downtown core, it had a second-floor office area where the
company could accomplish its paperwork. It had a very large ground floor, big
enough to park and service its trucks and store equipment and materials.
Finally, it was just one block from general manager Fred D. Willoughby’s home.
He lived at the corner of Hyman Avenue and Aspen Street in the white house that
looks today like it looked back then.

In its
Victorian heyday the Crystal Palace was a commission house much like today’s
wholesale distribution warehouses. Goods traded hands on the ground floor where
ice cut from Hallam Lake cooled a walk-in meat storage box. E.M Cooper was the
proprietor in the early 1900s and in addition to White Owl cigars, as advertised
on the exterior wall, he sold produce grown in the agricultural boom areas of
Delta and Mesa counties.

The Midnight Mine acquired the building after
it had been abandoned for a number of years. The older roof was flat and in
desperate need of repair. The Midnight changed the pitch to shed snow, giving
the building the odd shape it has today.

The Midnight office accommodated
55 employees in the 1940s. Miners and mill operators worked both day and night
shifts, plus the building was the center of business activities and vehicle
repair. As Willoughby served as mayor of Aspen through many of those years, it
also doubled as an unofficial city hall office.

Aspen’s elevation is too
high for most fruit trees. Crabapples are one of the few species to prosper. The
Monarch side of the building provides great sun exposure with the brick wall
holding enough heat to incubate trees. Begun with an apparent toss of a plum
seed, a tree still grows there. The Midnight staff marveled at the seedling’s
survival and gauged the passing of years by the growth of the

Other than The Aspen Times and a few
lodges, it’s unusual for commercial buildings in Aspen to retain the same use
over the long term. Metcalf’s nearly half-century as the occupant of this
building has provided countless visitors with a unique Aspen experience. Old
buildings, especially the brick commercial-core buildings of Aspen, are hard to
maintain and to adapt to modern uses but their historical soul is a major
ingredient in the Aspen ambiance.

May the next occupant make the most of
the legacy.

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].

First Grade Fears in 1914

First Grade Fears in 1914

Yore Aspen

Washington School in Aspen’s West End. (Willoughby

Click to

Tim Willoughby
September 29,

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

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

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.

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 [email protected].

Made In Aspen

Made In Aspen

The Durant Mine fabrication shop could make almost
anything. (Willoughby photo collection)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
October 6,

Fifty years ago you would often encounter abandoned mining and
milling equipment around Aspen’s periphery. Many items had manufacturer’s names
and “New York, N.Y.” stamped into the thick cast iron with dates from
pre-railroad times.

How could heavy and often
large pieces of machinery have been moved so far? Although Columbia University
was a major mining and engineering school and its students did summer
internships in Aspen’s mines, that connection does not explain the mystery.

The explanation was a common practice in the earliest years. Aspen mines
made some of the equipment in Aspen using plans they bought from companies
headquartered in New York.

An example was the Durant Mine machine shop.
In its prime it could build almost anything. The blacksmiths and machinists
created from scratch, repaired, modified and assembled equipment delivered by

Mining and milling equipment was manufactured from very thick,
but brittle, cast iron that was prone to rapid destruction. In the clash of
metal against rock, rock often won. Mine machine shops battled to keep up with
repairs. Steam-driven equipment required boilers that developed leaks whenever a
rivet worked loose. Rock drills vibrated like present-day jackhammers, expanding
any metal weakness into fissures. Any metal part fractures under constant use
and the extreme weights that mining imposes.

Blacksmiths turned out everything from hinges to intricate fixtures.
Even today in former mining locations you can find locally forged square nails.
In a few places you may see metal pipe that was made by curling longs strips of
thick metal and riveting it every half-foot to hold the edges together.

Until about 1890, San Francisco foundries were the major manufacturers
of mining equipment. With the advent of the continental railroad, eastern
companies began shipping equipment westward. Closer to western mines, Denver,
Salt Lake City and Butte, Mont., dominated the business. After trains reached
Aspen in 1887, and in 1888 when standard-gauge trains could haul heavy loads,
most equipment came from out of town. Cheap shipping methods, and the
development of steel for building, shifted many Aspen mine structures, like
hoisting head frames, from wood to steel.

Aspen was the first mining
town to replace steam power with electricity. One consequence was that there was
less boiler repair, but electric motors became the new shop activity. Aspen
Novelty Works, operated by the Blackburn brothers, on the corner of Hyman Avenue
and Mill Street, offered rewinding for dynamos and motors and other electrical
repairs. At another location they sold and repaired traditional mining

The 1890s were the height of American machinery. There seemed
to be no end to how powerful an engine could be or how huge a drive wheel could
be forged. Aspen used the biggest and best and manufactured some of its

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].

Jeep Brakes and the Wonderful Willys

Jeep Brakes and the Wonderful Willys

Yore Aspen

Jeanne Willoughby Englert sitting atop a 1950s
Willys in front of what later became La Cocina restaurant on East Hopkins
Avenue. (Doris Willoughby/Willoughby photo collection)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
October 13,

Recently a caller to National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” asked if
something could be done about his Jeep brakes. The Magliozzi brothers’ answer
was a derisive laugh. Jeeps are notorious for poor brakes. They became dangerous
when they put bigger motors in them so they could go faster than the brakes
could slow them down.

In the 1950s, Jeeps were the vehicles of choice
for anyone in Aspen who could afford one. They were the perfect match for
Aspen’s unpaved streets and the most reliable way to navigate deep snow in the
winter. The Willys Jeep, made by Kaiser in Toledo, Ohio, was not designed for
fast travel. Speeds over 45 mph could be attained only if you were traveling
downhill on pavement. At 35 mph on gravel washboard surfaces like Maroon and
Castle Creek roads, you signed up for a noisy, teeth-shattering

But if you wanted to tackle Aspen Mountain
you could slip the Willys CJ (civilian jeep) into four-wheel-low range and it
would purr straight up Little Nell. The low gearing enabled it to climb any
slope at any altitude, even with its low-horsepower, four-cylinder engine.

Coming down was more interesting. You could stand on the brakes and even
at slow speeds you might not stop, at least not for a long, nail-biting
distance. However, shifting into low range held your speed to a reasonable
crawl. Many Aspenites tell stories of careening down Aspen Mountain or Pearl
Pass, top to bottom, with no brakes at all. Not by choice, but because their
brakes had gone out altogether.

Then there was that other Willys

While going downhill with the gears holding back the speed, a bump
from hitting a rock (on four-wheel-drive roads that’s all there is) could throw
the vehicle out of gear. The law of unanticipated consequences ordained this
catastrophe when you were on the steepest grade, the sharpest turn and the
narrowest of roads with a precipitous cliff alongside as far ahead as you could

John Healy worked on all the Jeeps in
Aspen, making him the most likely the national Willys expert. He devised and
patented a device to keep jeeps from slipping out of gear, and installed it on
many Aspen jeeps. Who knows how many fatalities he prevented.

Some Jeeps
had a forward-facing back seat, but most didn’t. Children, or any other
passengers, sat facing sideways on the narrow metal benches above the rear
wheels. There was just enough room for a big dog and a small child, or a big
child and a small dog, and a couple bags of groceries.

There was no
upholstery in a Jeep. The only hint of extravagance was a tiny glove compartment
where you could keep a spare fan belt. Early models, which lacked a keyed
ignition, sported a button you pushed to run the starter motor. That was OK in
Aspen because most people, even if they had keys, left them in their

Except for the brake, the Willys was
one of the most reliable and durable vehicles ever built. They started in the
coldest weather and required minimal maintenance. Because you wouldn’t take a
trip to Denver in one, and usually just used them to get around town, even the
old ones had low mileage accumulations.

Those blessed with having one
will never part with it. Admire them, but if you see one coming up fast in your
rearview mirror, then remember their brakes.

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].

Clearing the grizzly – mining’s most dangerous job

Clearing the grizzly – mining’s most dangerous

Click to

Tim Willoughby
October 20,

Blasting required careful handling of explosives. Drilling was a
silent killer from rock dust cutting up your lungs. But the really dangerous job
was tending to the “grizzly” – and that didn’t mean chasing bears

Mining is the business of moving quantities of heavy rock, and the
more mineral content the heavier the load. A pile of mineral-bearing ore the
size of a hay bale weighs about a ton. For this reason miners prefer to work
using gravity rather than against it.

mines drive tunnels below ore deposits and then work their way up. Using this
“caving” method, miners easily move tons of material from the ore source to
waiting mine cars for transportation out of the tunnel. The connection is like a
laundry chute, usually about 3 to 5 feet in diameter, and sometimes more than
100 feet long.

Ore dumped into the chute from above, because it was
basically in free fall, could do great damage if left to fall all the way to the
waiting mine car below. The grizzly was a large grate, made of logs or steel,
placed near the end of the fall to slow the flow.

Because the grizzly was
a grid of squares about a foot wide, larger rocks would get caught and
eventually block the flow of ore. Men were employed to keep the grizzly free and
to dislodge rocks stuck in the chute.

My father,
20 years old in 1926, decided to leave Aspen to “experience the world.” The
Depression had already begun in the West. He was a skilled miner, having worked
in Aspen’s mines in the summers and on weekends since he was 14, and he talked
his way into a job at the copper mine in Miami, Ariz. It was a swing shift
clearing the grizzlies, but he was lucky to find any work at all.

work, at first, was not too strenuous because the copper ore was soft compared
to Aspen’s silver-lead-zinc ore. It was easy to break up the rock using a
sledgehammer. It was hazardous because someone far above might push ore into the
chute to fall on the unsuspecting workers below. In earlier years ore was sent
down continuously; workers moved back and forth at the side of the grizzly,
dodging rocks. It was not unusual to have teens doing this work, and injuries
and fatalities were common.

Clearing the chutes was even more of a
challenge. The usual method was to climb up the chute, like bouldering today,
wedging between the sides, carrying an explosive attached on the end of a
10-foot pole. Once under the snag you could push the charges between the lodged
boulders. The explosive was 40 percent nitroglycerine in a gelatin stick form.
You set it off using electric primer wires. A day of blasting would fill the
tight air spaces with blasting fumes. At the end of the shift, pills were issued
to deal with the headaches from the explosive smoke.

Being young with no fear of death, my father’s partner was placing
the charges without using the pole. He would climb right into the tangled rocks.
No matter how you did this job, there was always the chance that while setting
the charges you might dislodge the rocks above you, many weighing much more than
you did, and they would fall on top of you and force you down the

One day his partner went up the chute to free a stuck chute door
from below. The door was in the middle, so after he opened it an unexpected
amount of material rushed past him and then got stuck on the grizzly below him.
There was no way for him to make his way up to the top of the chute, so he was
stuck there for 10 hours until the grizzly could be freed and the material
pulled out.

Fortunately, after a few anxious days working the grizzly, my
father was moved to tunnel timbering, a much safer and more skilled position.
Miners at the time worked six days a week and were paid $5 a shift. There was a
medical benefit, though: The mine had an unmanned underground medical station.
Your chances were not much better than if you had been attacked by a grizzly

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].