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'.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 14, 1980, Manhattan, Montana

That's a young Doug and Nancy, 30 years ago in their back yard on their wedding day. I can't for the life of me remember what that is that Robyn is holding up in front of us. At least I had the incredible presence of mind to flash the peace sign over Nancy's head. We decided to get married in our back yard because neither one of us could remotely imagine a church wedding; neither one of had set foot in a church in years, and we haven't been to a church service since. Our hypocrisy meters would have topped out. And it was a good decision for us. It was cheap and fun, quick and totally without most of the trappings of religion. We decided to get married because we were already living together for a couple of years and now we owned a house together. It seemed like the logical thing to do.
That's my best man, Bill, on the left and my brother in law, Tony, on the right. Both visited us in Leran last summer. Just beside the beer can Bill is holding up is the front end of my old 1969 Dodge D-100 pickup. Bill, later on, got up on the roof and graced us all with a bright and shining full fmoon. I believe my other brother in law, Darrell paid him a couple of dollars for the performance, but Bill would have done it for free in any case.

Here we are sealing the deal with our witnesses, Bill and Susie, standing by as required by Montana law. On the marriage license, it was duly noted that I was a "White Man" and Nancy was a "White Woman". I'm not sure what would have happened if it had been otherwise.Here's my dad, Dwight, giving Nancy and I a hug, and as I remember bawling his eyes out, crying like a baby. He was rather an emotional man and he would burst into tears at moments like these. I remember stepping out the door, heading off to New York City in a 1962 VW Bug, on my way to Europe for the first time. Dad got up way before the crack of dawn to see me off, and he was crying buckets of tears as if I was shipping out to VietNam.

Here's the lovely couple toasting to wedded bliss. No rental tuxedo for me and no fancy wedding dress for Nancy as we were not going to go into debt on our marriage day. We could barely afford the keg, much less an expensive dress. However, please notice I'm wearing the beautiful paisley flowered tie that my sister had made for me. Nancy was wearing the lovely skirt that she herself had made for the occasion, and I remember that it had tiny holes in a pattern that she had spent many evenings hand embroidering the edges.

Here we are cutting the cake that Nancy's friend Betsey made for us. We bought a half a pig and barbecued the thing on the grill, we had a keg of beer on hand (darn near finished it), and friends brought salads, hot dishes, bottles of wine and whiskey. If you've been to a pot-luck wedding before or since, let me know. Nobody was really sober that afternoon. I think a good time was had by all (except for that cute, grumpy little girl). The rain held off and it was not too hot. A perfect day.
We shoved cake in each others faces as custom requires. That's my sister, Leslie, looking on.
Here are my siblings; from the left Peggy, Amy, myself and Leslie. Leslie's the oldest and Amy's the youngest and Peggy was in the middle just after me. The dog is Cisco with his ceremonial bandanna tied around his neck. We actually said our vows near Cisco's dog house, where nearby he had a large 5 gallon water bucket. Just as we were coming the the real serious, solemn part of our vows, where things are said barely above a whisper, Cisco chose that moment to go over to his water bucket, and behind me, all I could hear was "Glug, glug, slurp, slurp, glug, glug!!! The little fellow in the red pants harassing Cisco is my nephew, and Leslie's son, Andrew. I guess he's about 32 or so these days.
Happy 30th Anniversary, Nancy.