Dance Hall Days

In Smeltertown, the historical epicenter of partying, dancing, eating and socializing is one particular building. Located at 7595 CR 150, it’s currently serving as a tango dance studio and private residence. Before that it went through more than 80 years as a buzzing hub for the town and the region serving as a restaurant, nightclub, 3.2 bar and fraternal hall.

Its owners have been long-time Salida locals, some of whom still remain here. Countless patrons, once barely old enough to be served, and now grandparents, remember the good times in the building and sometimes stop to tell the current owners how much fun they had.

During the heyday, hefty paychecks from mining, railroading, trucking and Western commerce created an atmosphere of good times and prosperity.

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Nature’s Resurgence

Back in 2007, Salidans Merry Cox and her husband Erik Hvoslef were seeking rural property close to town. Merry was hoping to find several things: a new home, land that had studio space where she could create artwork, and vacant property where she could grow “a perennial food forest.” What they found was 1.5 acres of industrially-zoned land for sale just off the main road, CR 150, through Smeltertown. The land belonged to Ann Shine, whose family dates back to the earliest days of Smeltertown. The property included several old houses in various stages of disrepair and the couple decided to enlist local builder Greg Walter to construct an energy-efficient strawbale home on the property for their residence.

Merry considers herself an “object maker” sculpting art from found-objects and is one of the many recent newcomers who is breathing new life into the funky old worker’s town on the north bank of the Arkansas River.

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Growing Up in Smeltertown

Rich Shine was born and raised in Smeltertown. His father, John Shine Sr., and his wife Doris were deeded 25 acres of farmland in Smeltertown, near CR150 and Colo. 291 in 1936 by his father, Frank Shine Sr. and his wife Frances, both immigrants from Austria. Frank Sr. worked the mines in the region and bought the land in 1909, several years after the opening of the smelting plant. The name Shine is actually derived from the Austrian name Sajn and was changed at Ellis Island upon entry to the U.S.

Frank Sr. and Frances had a daughter Frances and three sons, Frank Jr., Ralph and John Sr. who worked for the Denver and Rio Grande RR and later for the Chaffee County road and bridge department. He was also a horse trainer and farmer.

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Just north of Salida, above the banks of the Arkansas River sits a small community with one foot steeped in the past and another stepping firmly into the future.

The town of Kortz, named for J.C. Kortz, then president of the Ohio and Colorado Mining and Smelting Company, was established around 1902 to house the workers at the smelter operation. The smelting plant sat on about 80 acres obtained by the Salida Board of Trade, an organization similar to todays Chamber of Commerce. Construction of the facility required about 300 men as did the regular operation of the plant. The original residents of the community came from Europe; primarily Greece, Italy and Austria. Of the early families who settled in the town; names like Struna, Floransic, Pahole, Argys and Shine, some of the ancestors still reside in the Salida area. Workers at the plant were paid an average of $2.50 to $4.00 a day. In the twenty years of operation the plant yielded silver, gold, copper and lead, processing on average 1,000 tons of ore daily. A school, which still stands today, was built by the smelting company for the children of the workers.

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Standing Tall: A Monument to Environmental Protection

By Ed Quillen

Editor’s note: Back in April we asked Ed Q. if he’d like to write about the smokestacks, knowing his particular interest in Salida history, especially its sooty, grimy, industrial history. We regret his passing before it finally went to print.

As the saying goes, “The solution to pollution is dilution,” and that’s the reason for a Salida landmark, the big smokestack that sits west of town.

The 365-foot-tall chimney was built in 1917 to carry toxic fumes far away from the smelter, so that the Ohio & Colorado Co. facility wouldn’t have to keep paying off local farmers for damaging their crops and livestock. You could call it an early monument to environmental protection.

The surviving tall stack replaced two shorter flues at the smelter, and to understand why the company decided to erect it, we need to consider the process of smelting, which originated in remote antiquity, perhaps 8,000 years ago when humans began to use copper and tin.

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Walking in the Bleak September

  by Martha Quillen

A friend and I spent a Wednesday in mid-September hiking near Tincup. It was an Edgar Allen Poe sort of day – gloomy, gray and melancholy: “Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December.” Except, of course, it was September. On that rainy, cold September day, the brush was wet and the trails muddy. Clouds obscured the ridges, and mist shrouded the evergreens, but golden aspen brightened the slopes.

Although we walked for hours, we didn’t pass a single other person afoot, which was understandable. It was perfect weather for settling into a cozy armchair in front of a crackling fire to read a gothic novel. But it was far too beautiful to stay indoors.

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We’ve Got Issues!

Last month Colorado Central ran a reader’s survey and I wanted to thank everyone who responded. We’ll be compiling the data and selecting the winners of our prizes right after the end of September. It did occur to me that we left off an important question, one that speaks to our coverage of the region, not just Salida. By nature of where the magazine was founded and where we are based, Salida naturally has greater representation, both in advertising sales and in editorial content. This issue, with an emphasis on Smeltertown, might easily come across as very Salida-centric.

The fact is, the largest majority of our subscribers are in Salida, followed by Buena Vista and other parts within Chaffee County, but, we also have many subscribers in other parts of Central Colorado including: Gunnison, Hillside, Moffatt, Leadville, Parlin, Howard, Fairplay, Westcliffe, Alamosa, Coaldale, just to name a few. Within Colorado we send of bunch of magazines to, not only the Front Range, but towns and cities as remote and diverse as Black Hawk, Idledale, Estes Park, Montrose, Dolores, Paonia, Silverton, Grand Junction … the list goes on.

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Waste Not, Want Not

By John Mattingly
I heard recently on the radio that U.S. consumers waste about 40% of the food they purchase from restaurants, supermarkets, and box stores. At first I wondered how this statistic was gathered. There must be a lot of dedicated “garbologists” out there, running various waste proxies and decomposition algorithms on their laptops.

Coming from a family of clean plates, leftovers, bulk-buying, and a general respect for the food placed on the table, I doubted the 40% figure, but not the observation that people in this country waste quite a bit of food. Part of this stems from the fact that, despite sensations to the contrary, food is actually cheap in the U.S. when expressed as a percentage of citizen income, and especially if we look at the cost of food, not processing, packaging, and preparation.

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About the Cover Photo

Robert Martin Stein was seven years old when this photograph of him was taken in 1919 in front of the 365-foot tall brick smokestack near Salida, built for the long-since defunct Ohio and Colorado Smelting and Refining Company.

Robert is wearing his first suit, which happened to be homemade, and is posing in front of “his rock” which he used to leap from as a child. His father helped in the construction of the smokestack, which is still standing in 2012.

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Regional News Roundup

Sheriffs’ Deputies win Case

LEADVILLE – Nine current and former Lake County sheriff’s deputies won a pay-dispute lawsuit brought against the county totalling $33,030.

The suit claimed the defendants – the sheriff’s office – the county clerk and the county commissioners, violated federal law by failing to pay wages due and violated the deputies’ constitutional right to due process, according to The Leadville Herald-Democrat. The period in dispute was from October 2007 to November 2010. Deputies claimed they were not paid per hour but as salaried employees and that they were not compensated for extra hours worked. The suit was filed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

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Down on the Ground with the Good Things in Bad Climate

By George Sibley

We continue to slog through the ordained stations on the way to the selection of our American Idol for the next four years. We’ve done the primaries – and it is hard to imagine a more entertaining cast of characters than the raft of Republicans who played out that version of the “Survivor” show. Now, as I write, the conventions – all theater-with-no-drama – are behind us, and aside from the barrage of daily coverage that might occasionally turn up some kind of a “47 percent” bonanza, we have only the debates-with-no-discussion to look forward to having behind us. Oh, and the voting of course.

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A Run to Remember

By Hal Walter

Over the years, running has been the vehicle for some amazing experiences. Some of them I’ll never forget, like running the Boston Marathon or facing down a mountain lion during a trail run, finishing fifth in the 5-day 100-mile Kokopelli Supermarathon, stepping on a rattlesnake, and thousands of other experiences I’d have missed if I’d chosen a more sedentary lifestyle.

Now I have to add to my lengthy list of unforgettable adventures a recent run with two Raramuri or Tarahumara runners – Miguel Lara, 22 and Arnolfo Quimare, 32. Miguel is the recent winner and record-holder for the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. And Arnolfo was featured in the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.

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Of Cabbages and Kings

 By Slim Wolfe

Wolves, tigers, and Tasmanian devils at the door, and an elephant in the room: presidential election campaign 2012. The elephant is the slow-witted public, ready to blame the incumbent for everything unpleasant since the war of 1812; whose main skills seem to be brand-name recognition and arrogant instant gratification. The elephant candidate is the one with a three-syllable name, handy for voters with short memories.

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News from the San Luis Valley

Cop Caught Stealing Care Packages

Grandpa sent you a care package that “disappeared” in the mail? Maybe someone else needed more care than you. Juan Jose Romero, 54, a former Adams State University police officer, was recently convicted of stealing a college student’s care package from the campus mailroom.

Granddaughter Samantha Sergent, a student at Adams State, never received Norman Cwicky’s care package from Phoenix, Ariz. Cwicky had sent a package through priority mail with a $25 Wal-Mart gift card, a roll of quarters, M&M candies, lip balm, lotion and other miscellaneous items to Sergent. When she told him she never received it, he contacted the Adams State police with the serial number from the Wal-Mart gift card, having kept it for his records.

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Colorado’s First Official State Song

Written and composed by A.J. Fynn, “Where the Columbines Grow” was adopted on May 8, 1915 as the offical state song of Colorado by an act of the General Assembly. While traveling by horse and wagon to visit Indian tribes in the San Luis Valley in 1896, Fynn received inspiration to pen the song after he came across a Colorado mountain meadow blanketed with columbine flowers. He dedicated the song to the Colorado pioneers.

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And now it is October in these mountains.

Here and there, a clutch of leaves

keeps glowing burnished gold.

Most blew down in that first storm,

crumpled browner on the earth

than earth that swallows cold, dry bones.

Yet somehow, and who knows just how,

those dead leaves still smell faintly of the spring.

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Book Review

If Not Joy Now Then When?
Barbara Hadley, M.A. & Fred Stultz, Ph.D.

Dog Ear Publishing, Paperback, 180 pp $15.95


Reviewed by Annie Dawid

The title of this self-help book, by Pueblo therapists Barbara Hadley and Fred Stultz, of the Pura Vida Voices Counseling Center, recalls the language of the scholar and theologian Rabbi Hillel (30 B.C.-9 A.D.): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

The language beneath the title tells the perspective reader: “This book is different. People are not broken. Change and growth are within each of us. It is time to reclaim and have joy in your life.”

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The Symphony is Coming!

By Mike Rosso

A chance dinner at a Denver restaurant has led to a commitment by Colorado’s premier symphony for a number of upcoming performances in remote Salida.

Colorado Symphony (CS) president and CEO Gene Sobczak was working with the CS board to develop a new strategy to branch out from the Denver metro area to become more of a statewide, and more accessible orchestra. Sobczak had met Salida resident and KHEN community radio volunteer Irving Kirsch several years earlier and contacted him about a meeting to discuss possible collaborative efforts. Sobczak, a huge fan of community radio, proposed to Kirsch an opportunity for the two entities to join forces in an effort to bring more of the highest quality classical music to Salida. Sobczak considers the collaboration a “laboratory experiment” reflecting on “how we could have a longitudinal, continual presence in the community.”

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Historic Architecture

by Kenneth Jessen

The adobe brick Garden Park Schoolhouse is located about nine miles north of Cañon City on the Garden Park Road leading to Cripple Creek. The area was settled during the late 1860s, not long after the Colorado Territorial Legislature established Fremont County. The attraction of Garden Park is obvious – a lush north-south valley with fertile soil and a good supply of water. It was perfect for a variety of crops, especially apple trees. Starting in the early 1890s, vast quantities of gold ore were discovered in the Cripple Creek area, spawning the last great gold rush in Colorado. The need for fresh produce was immediate, and a toll road was constructed from Cañon City through Garden Park to Cripple Creek in 1892. This substantially added to the agricultural business.

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CoZinCo – A Different Kind of Legacy

By Ann Marie Swan

Salida enchants visitors who enjoy riding bikes past quaint Victorian houses en route to coffee shops. The Arkansas Valley’s natural wonders and easy charm woo these tourists who appreciate the river, nice restaurants, and the many hiking trails that wind away from the city. Salida is so dang cute, they often say.

But Salida proper and its outlying neighbors, heavily laden with historical baggage, weren’t always so popular, green and eco-conscious. Residents of Smeltertown, a mile northwest of Salida, fought an arduous battle for 16 years for their right to clean soil, air and water. Dave Kimmett and Ann Ewing lived through this saga of poisoning. It wasn’t all that long ago.

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