Friday, August 17, 2012

Incredibly Busy Summer--Part 3

Around noon while I was working in the Recorder of Deeds Office in Aspen, IT Prof came by, rather reasonably, to see if I was ready for lunch.  Increasingly anxiously aware that this was my one day in Aspen and that I hadn't even finished with the grantor and grantee indexes, I disappointed IT Prof in order to keep working.  I think he walked to the Pitkin County Library to see what it was like.  However, the women who worked in the office were impressed that I was willing to skip lunch in order to spend more time where they had to work.  They couldn't imagine missing lunch in order to spend more time with deed books.

The Recorder of Deeds Office closed at 5:00 p.m. IT Prof came back to meet little-old-obsessed me, and we went for a late lunch. As far as I was concerned, there was only one place we could eat lunch, and IT Prof generously agreed. When Dad took us to Aspen to ski back in the 1960s, we would often eat spaghetti for dinner in a restaurant called the Red Onion. While the Red Onion later developed a reputation for less than a family atmosphere, I never noticed it.  Of course, some say that I am oblivious.

The first difference from what I remembered was that the Red Onion is now on a pedestrian mall; in the 1960s, the Red Onion was on an Aspen city street.

As IT Prof and I walked in, we were asked whether we wanted to eat inside or outside.  I immediately answered, "Inside."  This seemed to disconcert the poor young man, for it was a beautiful sunny afternoon.  However, when I ate at the Red Onion as a child, we always ate inside (since it was during ski season), so, any trip down memory lane had to be replicated as much as possible.  Right?
The first surprise I had upon entering was that the restaurant had contracted to about half the size it was in the 1960s. I remember the dining room being much bigger.  IT Prof sat with his back to the restaurant in order to give me a better chance to reminisce.

The food tasted much better, too.  No doubt America's fascination with better-tasting food is a national phenomenon.  While the spaghetti always was just OK, my BLT was delicious.  I had previously checked on the Internet, so the BLT was also the Monday special and hence not priced too outrageously.

When I was finished eating, IT Prof took my photo with the Red Onion's well known (and original from 1892) bar in the background.  The bar didn't matter much to me since it hadn't affected me a bit when I was a child, but I'm fairly certain that I remember the copper ceiling above the bar.  If this is a false memory, it shouldn't be because it makes the story much better.


I didn't remember the sign above at all, but the restaurant employees kindly moved aside in order to allow me to photograph it.  I was impressed by look of the sign; the employees are still probably laughing about the crazy old woman who had to have a photo of the sign.  No doubt they believed that the sanity level in the Red Onion increased exponentially after I left.

IT Prof and I walked north on the pedestrian mall.  At the end of the mall, we encountered a street magician.  The magician kindly agreed to let me photograph him after I explained that our son-in-law, The Clown, is also a magician.


Don't the children in the photo look interested in what the magician is doing?  There certainly weren't any street magicians in Aspen when I had been there as a child in March or April.

IT Prof and I continued walking back to the parking garage to fetch the car.  On the way we passed the Hotel Jerome.  It has been famous almost from the time of Aspen's founding.  It is also not a hotel IT Prof and I could ever afford to stay in, so it was enough to photograph the exterior.

The car wasn't far from the Hotel Jerome.  We got out the map and headed toward Ute Cemetery.  I have wanted to go to Ute Cemetery to stand by Alexander Cruikshank's grave ever since I saw the photos of the grave that my father had.  Also, there was a birthdate on the tombstone I wanted to decipher.  Ute Cemetery is at the base of Aspen Mountain not too far from the downtown in a beautifully situated spot.

Once we arrived at the cemetery I knew there would be problems.  Do you see all the aspen trees behind the monument?  Those trees are volunteer trees covering the cemetery, not too mention all the shrubs and brush.  Ute Cemetery is a disgrace.  Tombstones have crumbled and disappeared, and, except for a narrow gravel path through the cemetery, it's like a Rocky Mountain jungle in there.  I was extremely disappointed but not yet defeated.

Just beyond the entrance to Ute Cemetery are two markers listing the names of those the local historical society is sure were buried there.  Alexander Cruikshank's name is not on the markers.  This made me mad because I have seen two photographs taken years apart of Alexander Cruikshank's clearly carved tombstone plus read the contemporary newspaper accounts of his burial in Ute Cemetery.  His death in 1886 actually received quite a bit of press coverage because he died in a buckboard accident.  This was front page news for two days.

I began to walk through the wilds of the cemetery in a systematic manner in hopes that I, who was motivated, could find the tombstone.  Almost as soon as I started, a man walking on the road just outside the cemetery fence saw me and asked me whether I had lost a dog.  What he really meant was, "What on earth are you doing in that cemetery, especially since you're not respectful enough to stay on the path?"

The man became much friendlier as soon as I explained that I was trying to find my great-great-grandfather's grave.  When the man realized that my ancestors had lived in Aspen at its beginning as a city, all of a sudden I belonged.  We had quite a nice chat about Aspen history while IT Prof looked at me and wondered what mistakes he had made in order to have found himself present in Ute Cemetery that evening.

After the man continued on his way, I resumed my search.  It did not go well.  Here are two photos of now-unmarked graves which looked sort of like what I remember from the tombstone photos.

I tried poking at the brush with a stick, but I couldn't find any indication of who was buried in either grave.  If I had had a shovel, maybe I could have found more, but then IT Prof would have died of embarrassment and/or annoyance that we stayed in Aspen until after dark.

Besides, we had another cemetery, Red Butte Cemetery, on the other side of Aspen to check out.  My relatives there for the most part did not have tombstones, but a very kind groundskeeper helped me find their unmarked graves.  (My father would have been disappointed to find out that Aunt Lottie has no tombstone, so I'm glad I can't tell him.)

The groundskeeper and I ended up chatting about Aspen history.  He had heard of the Aspen relatives I have who still live there but have no idea I even exist.  The groundskeeper's helpfulness sort of made up for the terrible condition Ute Cemetery has been allowed to deteriorate into.

IT Prof drove us back to Glenwood Springs.  Wasn't he a good sport considering he had to spend an entire day on my genealogy?  Oh, yes, in case you're wondering, I got to see Mount Sopris again.

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