Monday, June 21, 2010

Crested Butte Revisited

We took a Sunday drive on Friday and went to Crested Butte. It's been about 35 years since I lived there. I worked for my college buddy at his outfit, Hickock Construction, a vibrant firm of three people. It goes without saying that there have been lots of changes to the town, however Crested Butte has managed to retain some of the funkiness, well, a lot of it actually, that it had when I lived there. Back in the early 70's the town was in a state of transition. It had been a mining town and was populated by old-timers riding out their lives either on a pension or with struggling businesses, most of them with funny Slavic names. I'm sure Obrassler, Mihalic and Yanklovich weren't funny names to them, but they sounded funny to me. The newcomers in town were a bunch of construction types and some stoned out hippies trying to forge a way of new life in a small town. One was a fellow named Monte whom I had art classes with down the road in Gunnison. He was as mellow and stoned as guy could be and still function (barely function). I'd see him sitting on a bench on Elk Avenue occasionally and try to talk to him, but he just sat there with a dreamy look on his face. Monte was a great walker and regularly hoofed it several miles home from town. One day in the late fall he took a walk without telling anyone. They found his body in the spring halfway over Kebler Pass.
The town has fully transitioned from mining town to vacation resort, ski resort and all around groovy place. I didn't check the names in the phone book, but I imagine the Slavic names are few and in a definite minority. But, as I said the place has retained some of the old time charm. This is one of the buildings in town that was burned into my memory. It used to be a garage. Some old-timer used to hang his used licence plates on the outside every January when he got his new ones. They are still there, along with a few additions from volunteer licence plate collectors. Today the building is a nightly rental and one of these days I'm going to rent it for a weekend.
To give you some kind of idea what kind of town it used to be I'll leave you with this image and you can fill in the rest. When I was attending college, we used to go up the "the Butte" and take in a movie at the Princess Theatre. I guess it had 50 to 75 seats. It was small, to say the least. In the winter you would be watching a film and without warning, a guy would walk in front the screen, loaded down with firewood. He'd open the screeching door of the pot-bellied stove and in the darkness you could see the glow and the sparks from a healthy fire. He'd load up the stove, slam the door, and go back where he came from. The theatre would be infused with a smoky, piney scent for awhile, and the crackling and popping of the firewood would compete with the movie soundtrack.

Below, is a small sign in the Gothic General Store. About all they sell is t-shirts and some refreshments, nothing I'd consider general merchandise. Now, I don't ever remember buying gas this cheap, but I remember gas selling for around 30 cents a gallon. I reckon this sign is from the early 60's, perhaps the 50's. For reference, a couple of summers ago, gas was approaching $4.00 per gallon. (Click on the pictures to bigify em'.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That gas price sign took me back to my childhood when they used to have "gas wars" in Indiana...and the prices would be in the low $.20s. It's kinda of depressing to be old enough to remember such things...but there's nothing I can do about that!

I do fancy those bright red double doors...I love almost anything red!

Happy Summer Solstice! Luke