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Archive for January, 2009

Imagine if Powell’s Books (or Tattered Cover or any of the old greats) only had 800 sq ft to work with. It’s like that in there. Everything’s old, but impeccably clean. Wood floors, a dog,  and staff that understands about books and what makes a rich life.

I hear it’s been closed for most of the past 3 weeks. I hear it opened for a day last weekend. I’ve been hearing worse things, too.  So, if you go by, take a good long look in the window. If you find it open one day, go in and stay until they throw you out. 

cornerbook

Old Corner Book Shop, 216 Linden, Fort Collins

 

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donut-cup1 [For Meg]

We had an adult doughnut shop around 1989.

Located on the northeast corner of I-25 and Highway 14, it survived only a few months.

 “Sheriff Jim Black was gunning for the owner of that place from the day it opened,” says my friend whose name I won’t say because he was a regular there (and somehow he remains my friend anyway). 

“And the local Bible thumpers hated it too,” he says. 

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t popular. Truckers from all over the country packed the parking lot every night. The local men stopped by after work.  Even Geraldo came out and did a story.

They came out to pay $2.25 for ordinary cups of coffee served by topless women.

The women weren’t as comely as the one on the coffee mug. Rather they were a little more “gravitationally challenged” than your average college girls, and Sheriff Jim Black felt sure they were selling more than coffee, I’m told. 

“So how were the doughnuts?” I asked my friend, the regular.

“I don’t remember,” he says.

But he does remember the day the sheriff finally busted the owner on a drug charge. “I called my brother and said, ‘guess what? Sheriff Jim Black closed Debbie duz Donuts today’.”

“That sonofabitch,” he replied.

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“… And how about that guy who lived in a car?”

When I first read Chuck’s comment in response to an earlier post, I thought, “there was no guy who lived in a car.” He was making fun of me. Had my interest in low-brow gone too far? 

Could be.

Then I heard about  Wesley Young–a Laporte resident, sometimes called The Hermit of 287. 

Only Wesley didn’t live in a car. He lived in two cars: a 1947 Plymouth and a 1957 Ford, both parked in a field owned by family along old Highway 287.

wesley-young

In a bigger city, Wes would have been a nameless homeless guy, an addled WWII vet with an inconsistent story.  But this is Fort Collins, so the papers wrote his story and people worried about him.

He told the Triangle Review that he started living in vehicles (a sheepherder’s wagon in Bellvue) after his father died.  But some say his father had the gas station just down the street in Laporte and outlived Wesley. 

In some articles Wesley says that homelessness was not his choice. In others he says he’s an ecologist following a “higher part of life,” refusing charity and welfare. People said he was the original hippie.

You could see him walking along Highway 54 between the American Legion and downtown Laporte throughout the 1960s and early 1970s–always against the traffic. He lived on candy bars and milk.

 “A man needs inspiration to recover from the beatings [life] gives you,” he said. “And I just haven’t found it yet.”

I hear he died in the late 1990s. He would have been near 80 years old.

(Special feature: Click on the street scene to take a virtual walk in Wes’ shoes down Highway 54.)

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The National Western Stock Show in Denver is a 100-year-old trade show for ranchers. With Rodeos, livestock judging, tractors, and such, it’s like a big state fair, but without the carnival or baked goods.

The press releases and tour guides can tell you all about it. But here are a few things they don’t highlight so much:

Freaks: The two-headed calf
In the Coliseum, skip the big rodeo/Wild West show/whatever, and go to the Paddock. You’ll find a row of kid-oriented displays. Our own Colorado State Vet School has a table of preserved animal parts, including the two-headed calf.

It’s a great way to show the budding veterinarian in your family that animal husbandry is more than watery-eyed puppies and Bryer horses.

2-headed-calf

As an added bonus, the brains are still in tact. You’ll have to go see it.

Hoaxes: The crowd goes wild?
As long as you’re at the Coliseum, stick around for one of those big shows. Sometimes, after a particularly exciting horse trick or famous singer you never heard of, the crowd explodes. Flashes go off all over and the screaming!

But look closer…nobody around you is screaming or taking pictures. And don’t all those people know flash pictures don’t work from way up in the stands?

Look even closer and you’ll see the camera flashes are a lighting effect.  And maybe the roaring crowd noise is piped in as well.

HiTech Wonder: The Televac 86000
The organ grinders and piano-playing chickens are gone now. But the Televac 86000 endures after 40 years on the fair circuit.

Feed it your signature and mysterious computer processes involving dozens of lights and dials divine things about you even you didn’t know.

televac

It’s not a popular attraction, but  certainly the oldest along the sales halls. And that makes it worth noticing one more time before it disappears.

Ghosts: The Live Stock Exchange
This is what I really wanted to show you. Get past all the shows, hucksters, displays, cages, and work your way back under the railroad tracks to the historic stock yards. They’re outside to the west of the National Western Complex.  You’ll see the Live Stock Exchange Building:

stock-exchange

Virtually unchanged since 1916, the Live Stock Exchange Building faces the railroad tracks, not a street.  All its business came by rail in the old days, just like the cattle for the Stock Show (that’s why they auction cattle by the “car load.”)

It’s a dream for historic building fans–no remuddles, no perky tour guide, no long lines, and an unlocked side door. Go right in.  And even with all those thousands of people at the stock show, you’ll be about the only one in there.

stock-exchange-hall

Side entry hall

stock-exchange-stair

Staircase.

I won’t show you everything. But make sure you look in the bathrooms. They’re not for public use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t open the door and peek in on the marble walls and tile floors. And make sure you get up to the second floor to see the old exchange board.

You could spend an hour in this building and the cool 60s building next door (go upstairs to the Hall of Champions). And then lose yourself for another hour in the old stock yards or in the nearly hidden bar behind the Stock Exchange.

They’re largely lost behind the hype of the modern event, but these stockyards, train tracks, and buildings are why the Stock Show is here.

stockyard2

Acres and acres of splintery livestock pens

stockyard3

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Here’s a little something about us for those of you who aren’t from here. Or aren’t from here anymore:  We agree to disagree. Every single Saturday, at 12-1pm.  For the past 7+ years.

If you’re against war (but certainly not against the troops), you take the NW corner of College and Mulberry in front of the old Safeway.

leftists

If you’re for the troops (but certainly not  for war), you take the NE corner of College and Mulberry in front of the new Safeway.

rightists

If you’re too busy on Saturday, you can just honk for your side on your way to Home Depot. 

I don’t really have a side. But I sometimes count how many people protest on each side as a barometer of local leanings. So far, it’s usually about even.

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In the next few years,  expect one of downtown’s largest 100-year-old buildings to meet with the wrecking ball.  Few will notice or care.

Here’s how the once-grand 140 E. Oak became disposable:

bigymca

Y.M.C.A. 1910

1908: The Y.M.C.A. builds 140 E. Oak , with 34 sleeping rooms, swimming pool, state-of-the-art gymnasium, and raised jogging track.  Designed by Ft. Collins’ premier architect, Montezuma Fuller.

1938: The Elks buy the building from the ailing Y.M.C.A. and redecorate in art deco style. Few of Fuller’s original elements remain visible. Note change in porch, roof,  and window decorations (below).

elks_blows

Elks after 1977 explosion

1977: Building explodes. 113 downtown businesses report damage. Cause believed to be a leaky gas pipe in the basement.  Felt as far away as Timnath.

elks

BPOE 2008

1979: Building reopens. Modernized again to resemble a bunker. Club includes bar, pool hall, bowling alley, and sauna. Elks exalted ruler says the remodel provides a fresh image.  The Elks is no longer “an old owl’s club,” he says. Membership soars to 2000+.

elk_bowl

Bowling alley 2008

2008: Fraternal clubs everywhere suffer aging and shrinking membership. With bar as center of club activity, BPOE no longer stands for “Benevelant and Protective Order of Elk,” some say, but “Booze Poured on Everything.”

Elks sell out to the Downtown Development Authority and begin move to old Moose lodge on highway 14 (East Mulberry).  DDA planned convention center in the location. But plans remain unclear. Many expect building’s destruction within few years.

2008: Alley behind Elk’s club named for Montezuma Fuller.

fuller-alley

Disclaimer

I wrote this to make a point about trendiness in remodeling and how our tastes change.  It goes on everywhere. I don’t mean to single out or disparage the Elks. All the evidence is that within a few decades we may come to miss our 1970s architecture and curse those so eager to tear it down in 2009.

Over the past 100 years, Elks have made significant and generous contributions to Fort Collins and were kind enough to give me an impromtu tour just for showing up at the front door.  I wish them all the best!

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