Letter from The President
Greetings Ghost Towners,
This year Carl and I will be spending the holidays at home, just the two of us with our 2 kitties. We plan to visit family on Zoom. It is so different this year as I remember all the past years spent with family and friends. I recall childhood Thanksgivings when Mom would get up at 6 AM to get the turkey into the oven. Later my Dad would start breakfast and we would have an assembly line of making toast, scrambling eggs, frying up Spam and pouring juice. After breakfast the big kids would bundle up and Dad would lead them on a 2 mile hike down to Little Falls Park on the Mississippi River to get out of Mom’s way. My sister and I would stay and help Mom with cooking and tend to the little kids. There were 11 of us siblings at the time; number 12 came 5 years later. I remember there was a monument down by the river, a WWI memorial erected in 1923, which was the same year our house was built and also the number of our home address at 1923 Portland Ave, St. Paul, MN. By the time the crew got back, the house would be filled with the wonderful aromas of turkey dinner, sides and pies and we would be ravenous. We would sit around the table and Dad would say grace and each of us would take turns saying what we were thankful for. After dinner with a fire in the fireplace Dad would read a humorous poem “When Father Carved the Turk” from Uncle Charlie’s Poems by Charles Noel Douglas published in 1906. I was privileged to inherit this book.
I wonder what stories our children and grandchildren will remember of this year? I wonder what the history books will document of the year 2020? This was a year of unprecedented economic, environmental and epidemiological disasters, and political divisiveness. I mourn for all the lost lives, the financial, physical and emotional toll these disasters have taken on our families, healthcare workers, our democracy and our planet. But I am grateful for many blessings and I have hope that in the end we will come together and recognize our need for unity to heal our nation, build back our economy and realize that we can overcome adversity so can once again be one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.
~ Shirley Miller, President
Greetings Ghost Towners,
November will be our Annual Meeting on Zoom and I will be asking for a motion to approve the continuation of the officers, board members and committee chairs through 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic interruption. We had discussed this at previous board and Zoom meetings and those involved were in agreement as to continuing their positions pending a vote at the Annual Meeting. If anyone involved has had a change of plans and feels they cannot continue their positions, please speak up now so we can recruit and nominate replacements.
As the holidays approach I am sure all of us are feeling apprehensive about gatherings with our families and friends. The virus is not simply disappearing just because we are tired of it, but is spreading at an alarming rate. As I have mentioned in a previous letter, I work in a lab that is doing COVID-19 testing. Just a few weeks ago the positivity rate for asymptomatic patient screenings was around 5%. This week it has climbed to 9%, and this is just for seemingly healthy individuals that are planning travel, surgeries, and returning to work or school. You may be a carrier, not have any symptoms, and still infect others. It is astonishing to me when I see newscasts of crowds at conventions with no social distancing and few wearing masks. The virus is not going to go away if people keep giving it a place to live. While the virus itself is not alive, just some biological molecules, it needs live cells to propagate. Tiny droplets from people merely speaking allows it to transport to the respiratory tract where it invades the cells, hijacks our DNA mechanism and uses it to replicate itself thousands of times while causing destruction of lung tissue. Too many people with risk factors such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, COPD or just being a senior citizen, have died horrible deaths in isolation from their loved ones. Heartbreaking!
As scary as this sounds, there are ways for businesses and churches to open and people to congregate safely by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, frequent handwashing and sanitizing surfaces. The field trip to Stumptown and the picnic at Coffey’s are examples of how this can be done, and hopefully we can also have our banquet safely in April. Having to wear a mask is not an infringement of one’s freedom, but a moral obligation to protect each other from this scourge. So if everyone uses common sense and safe practices, we can enjoy the holidays with a sense of peace and not dread. Forgive my ranting but I just had to get this out as I see this happening every day. Wishing everyone safe and blessed celebrations this year.
~ Shirley Miller, President
Coming Attractions (or “How I Spent My Shelter-In-Place Vacation”)
By Ethan Knightchilde
Earlier this year we started packing and getting ready to sell our house. It was on the market for about a week when the COVID hit the fan.
Since then, I’ve occupied part of my time with a couple of projects for future GTC meetings. The work at times has felt like a herculean task, considering the screen real estate of a 15” laptop and that most of my resources—books, printed files on western history and ghost towns, computers, large screen monitors, etc.—remain in a tightly-packed storage unit. However, I’m pleased to say that work has been progressing on a two-part program about the greatest Old West historic district that never was. It is tentatively called “Lost Cities of the West: The Rise and Fall of Bodie and Aurora.” And yes, you read correctly—it will be presented in two parts.
Bodie, California, and Aurora, Nevada, are two of my favorite ghost towns and huddle toward each other on their respective sides of the state line. Their histories are colorful and very much intertwined. Rather than just give an overview of the buildings that remain or repeat unfounded folklore about 10,000 residents or the Bad Man from Bodie, the presentation will provide some hints on what it was like to live in those towns during their heydays as well as through their declines, and illustrate the fates that befell them using historical and contemporary photographs.
The second project would return us to some of the more interactive programs from the club’s early years. It’s called “Boom Town Bingo”—and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.
From Colorado Public Radio, Colorado Matters by Shanna Lewis with CPR’s Ryan Warner
October 31, 2018 – There Are 700 Ghost Towns In Colorado, And Ron Ruhoff Has Visited Many Of Them
What do we do?
The Ghost Town Club of Colorado was founded in 1958 by two Denver teachers, Jack Morison and Bob Brown. Together with several other people who shared an interest in Colorado history and historic preservation, they created a group focused specifically on ghost towns – their history and preservation.
Ghost Town Club of Colorado (GTC) holds monthly meetings featuring guest speakers on a variety of topics related to western history, ghost towns, Colorado history and relevant historic subjects. Past presentation topics include: the adventure, danger and romance of Colorado’s railroads, Denver’s great mansions and the people who inhabited them, and the unusual opportunities and challenges of living in a fire observation tower. There is something for everyone in this group of enthusiastic lovers of Colorado history!
Members also plan, organize, and lead many field trips to ghost towns and/or historic sites. These include day-trips to local sites such as old Fort Lupton to learn about and observe reconstruction of the fort, as well as to the ghost town of Dearfield to explore a hundred-year-old African American agricultural community on the arid high plains. Our excursions may include leisure driving, four-wheel driving, and/or hiking to our destinations.
Our field trips also include weekend excursions such as a motorcoach tour to Nebraska and the Lincoln County Historical Museum depicting a WWII canteen serving more than six million soldiers traveling by train through North Platte.
We also organize longer tours traveling to several states and parts of Canada, visiting significant historical sites and monuments, national parks, and local historians along the way.
And lets not forget about historic preservation. The club collects money throughout the year in a preservation fund to distribute at the end of the year to nonprofit historic sites in need of finacial support. Also, we will often help by doing actual preservation work with hands-on labor.
Who are we?
We are a diverse and active group of people with a shared sense of and reverence for history. We honor the significant contributions of many people through our strong desire to study, learn from, and preserve ghost towns and the memory of the people who built and lived in them. Perhaps most importantly, we are a group of friendly people who enjoy getting out, socializing, learning, and having a lot of fun.
How do we operate?
We are a volunteer-run organization. Our board of directors consists of six members who are elected to two-year terms. The president and other officers are elected for a yearly term. Subcommittees plan and execute special projects such as the yearly banquet, preservation fund awards, volunteer coordination, or outreach activities, to name a few.
Snapshot of GTC History
During the first three meetings of the Club back in 1958 when organizers were trying to decide on a name for the club, one lone stranger kept insisting that “toll roads” be added to the name. Finally Ghost Town Club of Colorado was “railroaded” through. In December 1963, the Club was legally incorporated with the Secretary of State.
First dues for the Club were $1 a year. In 1979, dues were $5 a year. Slowly postage, printing, insurance and rent have caused minimal increases. It’s been many a year since we had to raise the dues, and as Dick Ramsey says, “It’s still the best bargain in town.”
We invite you to attend a monthly meeting to learn more about us. Our membership dues are $30 per year. Join GTC today! Costs for field trips vary based on distance and length.