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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Cunningham Corner Band plans reunion

A couple months ago, Lost Fort Collins posted a story about 1970s band Cunningham Corner. That article sparked “a lot of e-mails and phone numbers … exchanged from countless friends of the band,” says Kevin Donnelly.

Now, the band plans a reunion! Probably in Los Angeles, probably Spring or Summer, says Donnelly.

According to Doug White, the following members are already on board:
Kevin Donnally
David Fuog
Scott Galbraith
Jimmy Davenport
Craig Karp
Jim Thompson
Tom Buckman
Pete Wasner
Don Kuhli
Lee Rabacheck

But that’s not everybody. The band is looking for anyone who ever played with the group. If you know any former members, White says contact any of the members, or write Doug directly at imdoug at comcast.net.

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Lost Louis Armstrong

If you’re new in town, you might not know about Louis Armstrong.  He was a life-size statue on the stage in Old Town Square. Rocked off his foundation, he disappeared one night in 2001.

What became of him? Still missing. I’m only bringing him up now because he came up in a conversation a year ago, and I couldn’t find a single picture of him online. Then the other day I found this in my photos:

Have you seen this? Maybe in the attic of your frat house?

Until we get Satchmo back, only statues that are too big or too ugly to be stolen will be allowed in Old Town Square….

[Become a fan of Lost Fort Collins on Facebook]

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Cunningham Corner is a condo complex on the corner of Horsetooth and Shields in Fort Collins. It’s also the name on the barn that sat at that corner before the condos (the barn has since been declared a historic landmark and moved elsewhere).

And in the early 1970s, it was the name of one of the hottest bands in Fort Collins.

Kevin Donnelly, founding member of Cunningham Corner, the band, sent the Lost Fort Collins blog the story. With pictures:

CUM CORNER1

Cunningham Corner plays CSU

I was the only band member who lived on the [Cunningham Corner] farm, but the band rehearsed there all the time and it became a haven for the local artistic community which at the time consisted of painters, [such as the legendary "Gorpf"], musicians, sculptures, poets and writers.

I don’t know if “hippies” would be the right word to describe the group of people who lived there.  We were just young kids, mostly from the city, who discovered a new way of life in Colorado.

At night, at that time, the area was very quiet and peaceful and all our musician friends would sit around the campfire in the garden and play music into the night.  The area is not quite so isolated nowadays, is it?

CUM CORNER3

625 Remington

In later years, the band all moved into the same house together along with various other artists and musicians.  We built a recording studio there …

There was a “Der Weinerschnitzl” across the alley and we lived off of those dogs! There wasn’t a lot of money, but all we really needed was to make sure that our guitars had new strings on them by opening night!

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Outside 625 Remington Street,2005

Early band days at CSU

Scott Galbraith and I  started playing our acoustic guitars in the common area at the Student Center.  That was the beginning of Cunningham Corner.  There used to be this area where students could stretch out on couches and tables. It became an area where musicians could just bring in their instruments and play for everyone.

CORNER 4

Playing at CSU

The sound, the scene, and the Jade Urn

It was the time the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Poco, Randy Meisner, Pure Prairie League, John Denver, Michael Nesmith and Michael Martin Murphy. Cunningham Corner had 4 part harmonies but the band was more than that.  It was more like an experimental orchestra.  We played many instruments and all original music that crossed over from jazz to rock to country rock and rhythm and blues and to funk and to even classical and show tunes.

A good friend of the Cunningham Corner band at the time was the poet and musician Charles John Quarto who was a mainstay in Fort Collins and who wrote the lyrics for  “Geronimo’s Cadillac” for Michael Murphy.  Charles was kind of a spiritual advisor of the band and even used to read poetry before our sets at the old Jade Urn coffeehouse.

…I have great memories of playing all night at the Northern Hotel in Fort Collins and then walking home in the cool evening to 1625 Remington Street.  Fort Collins was at the time, and I understand still remains, one of the best places to live in the country.

Cunningham Corner [toured throughout the southwest and] was the only non-recording act to headline multiple times at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, which was one of the best music venues at the time. [The home of Willie Nelson].  We also played various fund raising and charity events in Fort Collins.

There were other popular hometown bands as well, and twice a year we would all rent out a couple of ballrooms at the student center and hold a big concert where all the bands would play on stage together.  It was a very tightly knit community of musicians.

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Publicity for Spring Jam

After the Spring Jam, we all gathered at “The Town Pump” which was then owned by our good friend Ron Heard, and played music all night.  Ron also had an ownership interest in the Rams Inn.  Back then, if you wanted a really good hearty breakfast the Rams Inn was the place to go.  I don’t imagine it is still in business.

RON (1)

Ron Heard at Town Pump

Where are they now?

The members of Cunningham Corner eventually landed in Los Angeles and pursued musical careers.  There were many successes and countless stories.

As for myself, I developed an interest in the law.  I have been practicing law for the last twenty-five years in Los Angeles.  In 2000, I married the love of my life and we now reside in Redondo Beach CA.

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Jimmy Davenport, David Fuog, and me

We lost some friends along the way.  Our original drummer, Gary Brittingham, who is seated next to me in the Cunningham Corner barn photo, was accidently electrocuted while working at the old pickle factory in Fort Collins about 1972.

Our  piano player, Rod Seeley, who I understand remained a musical staple in the La Porte and Fort Collins areas until
recently, passed away a few  years ago.

Another great singer and songwriter who lived in Fort Collins at the time and a good friend of the band, Scott Bruning, passed away some twenty years ago.

Peace, Kevin

CUM CORNER5

Final version of the band. 1973. Chester Terwey, David Fuog, Jimmy Davenport, Scott Galbraith, Richard Lee and Kevin Donnelly.

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Mural Beavers Day 1

Work began today on a new mural for Beavers’ market.

Artist Chris Bates, who’s painted transformer boxes (pdf) and other murals downtown, plans several panels along the west parking lot wall.

Mural Chris Bates

Bates says he wanted to paint the street-facing east side, but quickly realized that the snow plows on North Shields Street leave piles of snow and splash salts several feet up the side of that wall.

When this first panel is finished, it will look something like this:

Mural sketch

Bates says he hopes to finish the mural “before it starts snowing.”  For Fort Collins, that’s often around Halloween.

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If Hugh Everett was right, and I have parallel selves who fork every time I make a decision–somewhere, I hope one of me lives like Polly Brinkhoff.

I imagine a life with more sun, music, sweat, and trees than money. I imagine a life of self-reliance, feral family, and urgent inspiration. A difficult life, but one that never lets you forget you’re alive.

Polly was a mountain woman living in Skin Gulch, between Rist and Poudre Canyons. Without electricity or indoor plumbing from 1953 until her death in April 1999, she raised 4 kids, carved gun stocks, repaired the roof with cast off license plates, raced donkeys, chilled her food in a cave, harvested pine boughs to sell in town at Christmas, and played harmonica and guitar.

She also liked to paint, and for her everything was canvas.

“One day, she asked me to leave my door unlocked,” says Norm Cook, one of her neighbors. “When I came home, there was a landscape on the piano.”

You might have seen her work up Rist Canyon, beside a curve in the highway. There, she saw a sea creature where anyone else would have seen a cracked boulder:

Whale Rock

Whale Rock

The whale became a landmark, so that the bend in the highway and a nearby spur road are named for it. 

 Skin Gulch wasn’t far from the rock if you count miles like a mountain person. And that’s how Polly thought of herself, swearing that a remote life was the only way she could stand to live. 

from the Fort Collins Museum Archives

Brinkhoff house from the Fort Collins Museum Archives

Initially, she and her husband, Rattlesnake Jack, a WWI vet with a reputation in town, settled in the gulch as a mining claim. He died in 1970, and Polly stopped maintaining the claim. But it didn’t matter; the US Forest Service agreed not to notice, and Polly agreed  to return the land to its natural state when she moved on.

Brinkhoff painting on piano

Brinkhoff painting on piano

The Fort Collins History Archives can give you her particulars. But Norm can tell you stories and show you pictures.

Like about the time a cow broke into the house and ate dessert.

Or about her television, something she acquired late in life. It ran off a car battery, using a coat hanger for an antenna, and received one channel out of Cheyenne.

Or about how Polly died when her truck went off the edge of the Poudre Canyon, almost exactly 10 years ago. She ran off a road she must have driven for nearly 50 years.

Friends thought she was transporting a chicken that day. “But nobody ever found it,” Norm says. 

Still, it led to a hunch, and a relative checked her truck more closely the day after. He went to the impound, pulled the seat forward, and found a small shivering dog.

As for her house in Skin Gulch, to fulfill her obligation to the Forest Service, her children burned it to the ground and barricaded the access road with rocks and earth.

Polly Brinkhoff

Polly Brinkhoff carving gun stock

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city-drug

City Drug, 1967

City Drug, on the corner of Mountain and College since 1967,  is the best kind of anachronism. Not a horse-drawn carriage, striped sticks of candy by the refurbished antique cash register kind of anachronism.

The other kind.

The kind that never changed out the pastel pink and green signs, even after the Jean Nate and Noxema moved on:

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The kind that displays that which Wal-Mart Pharmacy wouldn’t dare:

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The kind that keeps its most extraordinary item of all behind the counter where you can’t see it.

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City Drug is the oldest business in Fort Collins (since 1873), occupying several downtown locales over the years. My guess is that this safe has been hauled around with the business since some time before 1891, the year safe maker Mosler and Bahmann left Cincinnatti (if you clicked the photo a time or two,  you’d see Cincinnati painted on the safe).

The current owners are moving the business north of Old Town soon, and they say they don’t want to take the safe with them.

What do they plan to do with it?

“Tell your readers to make us an offer,” they said.

Okay. But I hope it’s our readers at the museum who get there first.

Update 10/3/2009

The safe was sold just before City Drug moved. The new owner, a manager over at Ace Hardware, took delivery via forklift, restored the safe, and has begun the meditative task of trying to guess the combination…it seems nobody remembers it.

By the way, I just noticed another Mosler safe in the window at Silver Grill ….

Credits

Reader David Newman suggested Lost Fort Collins look at all the left behind bank vaults in town. He told me about three of them (upcoming post). In my research for that post,  I found this safe at City Drug. Thanks David!

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In a recent letter to the Lost Fort Collins blog, Karen Schaefer, a reporter in Ohio and a former Colorado resident writes:

One place I recall was an old hotel downtown.  I think it may have been a railroad hotel originally.  There was an amazing glass dome in the lobby and one of those old round, red plush sofas sited squarely underneath it.  When we were there sometime in the late 1960’s, it had just been re-opened and the dome uncovered for the first time in years …. Is it still there?

I LOVE letters from people who used to live around here. They have snapshot memories of Fort Collins–freezing people, places, and events that we locals  overwrite with newer images everyday. Two of these former residents remembered the dome to me recently, though it seems current Fort Collinites hardly know about it.

Originally, the dome was part of the Northern Hotel’s ballroom, just south of the lobby:

Dome at Northern Hotel Ballroom

Dome at Northern Hotel Ballroom

Over the years, as Karen implies, it was hidden, rediscovered, and later renovated. It hovered over restaurants, and more recently, little boutiques. Today, it’s an elaborate skylight for the Mountain Shop. To see, go here (100 block, N. College):

mountain-shop

Here’s the dome today, amid prayer flags and pup tents:

dome1

And how about a detail view from the new camera?

Dome focus point

Dome focal point

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Rejected by Denver, “negotiated” away from City Park, and all but absent from the internet. Our bitchen 1936 WPA fountain deserves better. Lostfortcollins dedicates a whole page to it here.

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Grotto

I have worked places that gave us nice amenities on the grounds: Volleyball nets,  jogging tracks, etc. 

But nobody does grottos anymore.

People used to get them; for example, if you worked at Fort Collins municipal power plant (420 N. College) around 1930-something, you had one.

Complete with a pool, streambed, and stone gardens. It must have felt like taking every cigarette break right in the middle of a Maxfield Parrish painting

Here’s a picture of the power plant today (sans smoke stacks):

Powerplant photo by PlasticDollHouse (see her Flickr stream at right)

Photo by PlasticDollHouse (see her Flickr stream at right)

The building is leased from the city by CSU (here’s a pdf of the 1999 application for historic designation, includes a few more factoids on the site)

And here’s the grotto today.  

Grotto stream bed

Grotto stream bed

My photo misses its beauty and scale. All the more reason for you to veer off the Poudre River Trail some warm afternoon, sit under one of its trees,  and pretend you’re taking a break from a hard day at work.

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im001162

Real pop art in Fort Collins? You betcha! An Andy Warhol soup can is now on display right in front of the old high school on Remington.  See? We’re not a bunch of hicks.

Here’s how we got the lawn art:

“The soup can was part of a (1981) exhibit of Warhol’s work at CSU, and was painted by university student  Bruce Conway,” says the University Center for the Arts. “The artwork was painted onto sections of donated construction pipe following Warhol’s specifications that it look like something ‘right off the supermarket shelf.'”

Then Warhol showed up and signed it.

im001160But Warhol brought more than his pen to Fort Collins. He also brought big city artistic irony–way before that kind of thing was everywhere.

I wonder who “got it” when he agreed to come to Fort Collins only on the promise of getting to stay with John Denver. Or invited a cow to come to the signing. Or showed extra fascination with bovine semen extraction methods at CSU.

Hey! Was Andy Warhol implying that we’re a bunch of …?

warhol-and-can

Warhol in Fort Collins, 1981

Visit his can on the lawn of the University Center for the Arts (Formerly Fort Collins High School) on Remington Street for a close up look. And for gawd’s sake, change out of yer Carhartts before you go.

Credits

This story is largely a retelling of Museum Cache, a weekly broadcast from the Fort Collins Museum that airs on KRFC 88.9 every Monday during the news (7:30 am and 5 pm). The museum folks just handed the script over to me. All I did was edit and take photos of the can.

I’d like to point out that museums and history associations in every town are not always thrilled about these “lost” city blogs. That’s why ours is the best ever–they treat their archives and knowledge like a community resource/service so anybody can become a local historian.

A shout out also to Beth Flowers of FlowersontheTable, who first told me about the soup can.

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