History La Plata

Page 1

May 2023, Vol. XXVIII


A publication of the La Plata County Historical Society

The 1920s The Decade

That Roared

The Roaring 1920s Change La Plata County

The decade of the 1920s neatly bookends the end of World War I in 1918 and the start of the Great Depression in 1929. Like other rural counties in Colorado and the American West, La Plata County faced out-migration as farm families moved to town, but new immigrants and settlers also moved to the county because of the Homestead Act of 1862. It allowed enterprising, hard-working families to “take up” a piece of government land for free if they stayed five years, fenced it, farmed it, and built a house 12 by 14 feet. Homesteading on Florida Mesa, Fort Lewis Mesa, and beyond Breen finally ended with passage of the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934.

Coal mines west of Durango provided needed coal for both domestic heating and for the railroad. Farmers who had done well with rising prices during World War I often built new houses and barns on their property in the 1920s. La Plata County remained rural and remote with few paved roads and dependence on the Denver & Rio Grande Western, but a “good roads movement” was under way. With the success of Mesa Verde National Park and a burgeoning middle class ready to take their families and their new Fords on vacations, the county began to embrace tourism.

Though Mesa Verde had been declared a national park in 1906, the National Park Service itself did not exist until 1916. The vibrant, enthusiastic Park Service director Stephen Mather pushed for better roads connecting national parks and by the 1920s auto tourism brought visitors to La Plata County. The slogan promoted “See America First.” Visiting national parks became a patriotic duty, part of our “essential democracy” to visit our public lands. But motels had not been invented yet. There were hotels in towns like Durango and the beginnings of tourist camps. Coleman had invented its famous camp stove, but much camping equipment remained heavy and clunky including canvas tents with wooden poles and collapsible cots for sleeping on.

Agriculture had done well during the war and sheepmen in particular had profited from rising prices for wool used in the U.S. Army’s uniforms and blankets, but by the late 1920s commodity farm prices slid. Prices for eggs, cream, meat, and wheat began to fall. Rural families in La Plata County waited eagerly for electricity and had to keep cleaning the thin glass chimneys on their coal oil lamps used at night. The first gasoline-powered tractors began to replace plowing and planting with teams of draft horses. County residents demanded better and broader county roads with fewer mud and potholes and more gravel. The 1920s, however, is mostly remembered

for the loosening of social restraints, bootleg liquor sold in protest against prohibition, and young women cutting and bobbing their hair and shortening their skirts. Movies with soundtracks or “talkies” were a big hit along with the purchase of home radios in large wooden cases with tubes that hummed and radio broadcast stations that crackled until good radio reception arrived primarily after dark. The 1920s represents the birth of advertising and celebrity culture: aviator Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic Ocean, Babe Ruth knocked out homeruns, and Greta Garbo entranced movie-goers. Baseball teams flourished as did cigarettes for men and women alike. After the ravages of World War I the nation turned inward, became isolationist, and despite the frivolity of dances like the Charleston and “flapper” girls gaily dancing in unbuckled rubber galoshes, racism against African Americans, Catholics, and immigrants increased. Colorado elected politicians-including a governor and U.S. senators--closely aligned with the Ku Klux Klan.

But if racism spread across the state and appealed to small-town businessmen fearful of competition from catalogs freely mailed by Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, (the pages of which often substituted for toilet paper in outhouses), Congress finally did the right thing for Native Americans. Because American Indians had fought hard and with honor in World War I, in 1924 Congress granted citizenship to Native Americans who could now vote, serve on juries, and defend themselves in court.

In the 1920s new bank lending policies included the novel idea of buying “on time” or on credit. Americans splurged on vacuum cleaners,

refrigerators, radios, and cars. The stock market surged ahead and average Americans thought they could make a fortune by buying expensive stocks “on margin” or paying upfront only a fraction of the stock’s price. Too much farmland had been plowed up for the war effort. As agricultural prices dropped, farmers reacted by planting even more acres of crops. The Great Depression, drought, and the dismal “dirty thirties” would end the Roaring Twenties with a whimper, not a bang. n

Andrew Gulliford is a professor of History and Environmental Studies at Fort Lewis College. He can be reached at gulliford_a@fortlewis.edu

ON THE COVER: Joe T. Dwyer, son of Marshall Robert Dwyer, takes advantage of the latest in 1920s transportation. He is pictured ca. 1925 next to his coupe automobile.

Gerald, Richard, Phyllis, and Jean Yeager are enjoying an older style of transportation, Snowball the horse. They are pictured in Animas City (today’s north Durango) ca. 1922.

As you enjoy this visit to the 1920’s issue of History La Plata, welcome to the Animas Museum’s world...the world of history, a view of the past, context to understand the present and a vision of what the future might be. Staff and volunteers spend their time seeking and interpreting La Plata County history and sharing its story through exhibits, pictures, tours, webinars, book talks, events, and this publication. We hope you will take the time to come visit the Animas Museum and explore our galleries and fun historic buildings. I encourage you to visit our website animasmuseum.org, where the events section has online exhibits, our extensive webinar series and walking tours of Durango and Animas City. It is our pleasure to serve as the area’s only museum preserving the culture and history of La Plata County. The area was described by The Durango Wage Earner newspaper in 1909 as “the most beautiful town in the most glorious country the sun ever kissed with his golden beams.” n Gay Kiene is President of the LPCHS Board of Directors.

The Fort Lewis School girls’ basketball team is pictured in 1927. As an agricultural school, Fort Lewis boys’ athletic teams were known as the Farmers. The girls’ team was the Farmerettes. Their sporty uniforms would have been considered scandalous in an earlier decade.

Digital copies of images found in this publication are available from the Museum for $15 each. Contact the Animas Museum for more information. photo

Images from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 89.19.47, 14.18.2, 03.14.63

FROM THE President
The citizens of La Plata County and the entire San Juan Basin are in a celebratory mood in this Sanborn image of a parade in downtown Durango in the 1920s. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 91.22.8 credit :
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared 2 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org

1920s: Transition Time for the Narrow Gauge

This summer the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad celebrates the 100th Anniversary of three locomotives built in 1923. They have been in regular use between Durango and Silverton for well over 70 years. The arrival of these class K-28 American Locomotive Company (ALCO) locomotives was only a small part of the noteworthy events and acquisitions on the narrow gauge portion of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad throughout the 1920s. It’s not a stretch to acknowledge that the decade of flappers and jazz brought changes to our little railroad which are appreciated today on each trip between Durango and Silverton.

The original Denver & Rio Grande Railway (D&RG) was founded in 1870. By 1921, it had been through 50 years of rapid expansion, court battles, and receiverships. It had earned a dubious reputation by the early 1900s related to safety issues that had resulted from deferred maintenance. In the early twentieth century, railroad magnates, bent on growth elsewhere, fleeced what could have been the D&RG’s capital improvement funds. This resulted in a railroad with a poor and increasingly decaying reputation due to track, equipment, and facilities neglect on this narrow gauge line.

When the railroad reincorporated in 1921 as the Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW), it was apparent that the narrowgauge lines linking Salida to Gunnison, and Alamosa to Durango would need some heavy capital infusion to survive. The Rio Grande’s revenue opportunities and corporate growth were focused on the standard gauge Denver to Salt Lake City mainline. The remnants of the old “baby railroad” would need support to allow it to operate into at least the next

decade or two. A considerable amount of effort was spent replacing worn, and by then irrelevant, 1880s era locomotives. Major rebuilds were launched on hundreds of 1900 era railroad cars. Heavier rail, much of it from the old standard gauge line, was laid along the narrow gauge mainline portions between Salida and Gunnison, and Alamosa to Durango. The Silverton branch north from Durango would not see significant rail improvements until the 1980s under its new ownership. Some of the capital improvements from the 1920s (and into the 30s) included the purchase of 20 new, larger, and more modern steam locomotives and 10 rebuilt standard gauge locomotives converted to narrow gauge. Hundreds of boxcars and livestock cars were completely rebuilt. Most of the “mainline” was rebuilt with 70-pound rail (a 3-foot section weighs 70 pounds). Terminal facilities were upgraded as needed to accommodate these changes.

Another event during the 1920s involved the conversion of the line between Durango and Farmington to narrow gauge. Built in 1905, that branch began at Carbon Junction (near the highway bridge crossing the river south of Durango) and extended down the banks of the Animas River to Farmington. The early 1900s D&RG Directors and Executives were worried that other major railroads might build lines from the south toward Colorado’s valuable coal country. They built the line as standard gauge in an attempt to thwart potential competition. Thereafter struggling to resolve the unique infrastructure problems and the occasional headaches that accompanied blending both the narrow and standard gauge equipment, facilities, and track. By the early twenties, it was apparent the previously feared competition was no longer an issue. Additionally, all efforts made by the D&RGW to consider standard gauging the entire narrow gauge system had been formally studied and rejected. The Farmington Branch survived until 1968. All track was removed by 1970 along with the mainline from Durango to Chama.

While our treasured narrow gauge tradition in Durango is naturally geared to evoke the old west look and feel of our history, an irony remains. Many of the D&SNG railroad locomotives and the upgrades from the 1920s, (often brought about by an almost desperate need) serve as the mainstay of our infrastructure to operate daily service between Durango and Silverton. We can easily thank this pre-depression and

carefree decade of growth for leaving us with a fleet of iconic locomotives and equipment. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad remains beloved by rail enthusiasts and is treasured for its ongoing service to our Southwestern Colorado communities. n

Jeff Johnson is an emeritus member of the La Plata County Historical Society Board of Directors and is the General Manager of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. One of the 1920s era K-28 locomotives is ready to roll from the Durango roundhouse in this 1952 photo by Robert Heinich. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 00.48.36
55 Years Mountain Bike Specialists have been committed to serving the Durango cycling communit y for over 949 Main Ave Durango, CO 81301 (970) 247-4066 mountainbikespecialists.com www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 3 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII
The same K-28 locomotive, #473, is still rolling in the 21st century and is shown here on the wye track in Silverton in a photograph by Robert McDaniel. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 23.14.1

Durango’s “Indian Curio” Trade in the 1920s

Located on the rim of the Great Southwest, La Plata County includes or lies near to Ute, Navajo and Apache reservations. The Anglo attitude toward these Native American groups in the decades before 1920 was ambivalent. They wanted to reduce or extinguish their reservations, suppress their cultures, and force them to assimilate into white society, yet they held a certain fascination for those indigenous cultures. That fascination was clearly evidenced by the desire to collect Native American craft arts. It was fashionable in some circles to decorate Victorian-era homes with Native American crafts, and the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century only strengthened that trend. Durango attorney Clayton Clark Perkins, for example, had an “Indian Room” in his home decorated with weavings, baskets, pottery, and beadwork.

Traders such as J.B. Moore at Crystal Trading Post and wholesalers like C.N. Cotton in Gallup promoted this trend. Both published mail order catalogs that made it possible to order Navajo rugs, jewelry, baskets, and other crafts direct from their establishments on the reservation. The catalogs included illustrations and helpful suggestions on how to decorate your home with weavings and other craft arts.

Inspired, no doubt, by Fred Harvey’s success in marketing Indian “curios” along the Santa Fe Railroad, Durango businesses such as Graden Mercantile and TaylorRaymond Jewelers developed “Indian Curio Rooms” during the 1910s and 1920s. Newspaper ads from the 1920s show rooms in these establishments full of Native American arts and crafts.

Durango Drug Co. offered Navajo rugs for $1.00 per pound, and the Willis Martin

Co. sponsored ads beseeching men to “Take one home to the wife.” Jeweler C.L. Taylor employed Navajo silversmiths in his Main Avenue store and boarded them in a guest house at his home on Third Avenue. His ads showed the Navajo silversmiths working in a room draped with Navajo rugs.

Local residents like Judge William Searcy and his wife, Helen, who collected Navajo weavings and Pueblo pottery, were likely the main customers for these businesses. Increasing numbers of tourists, however, also sought “Indian curios” as souvenirs from their trips. As Mesa Verde National Park became more accessible and popular, interest grew in Pueblo pottery, Native-made jewelry and Navajo weavings.

The onset of the Depression probably put an end to Indian curio rooms in Durango’s mercantile establishments. The necessities of life were difficult enough to afford. Over time, however, those “curios” from the 1920s became valued additions to private and, eventually, museum collections. The Animas Museum’s rich collections of Native American arts and crafts attest to that. n

Robert McDaniel is a fourth generation La Plata County resident and an avid collector of Native American arts and crafts.

This pottery jar represents some of the finest work produced at Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo in the post-World War I period. The bird figures, in particular, are exceptional for Kewa Pueblo pottery. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 90.17.109

Weavings depicting Navajo Yei figures are adapted from sandpainting images used in Navajo chants. Weavings with multiple Yeis became popular in the 1920s. This Lukachukai-style Yei weaving depicts female ceremonial figures. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 90.17.1
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared 4 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
Navajo silversmiths worked in the public view at Taylor-Raymond jewelry store in the 800 block of Main Ave. In addition to jewelry, Taylor-Raymond also sold Navajo weavings and baskets. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 92.21.185

Graden’s richly furnished Indian Curio Room is featured in this Durango Evening Herald ad from July 30, 1926. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection

This large Navajo “storm pattern” rug is patterned after J.B. Moore’s Plate IX, issued as a loose-leaf sheet between the publication of his 1903 and 1911 catalogs from Crystal Trading Post in New Mexico. People used Navajo weavings like this one as floor rugs in their homes in the 1920s. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 90.17.2

This large pottery jar from Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico was likely made around 1925 for the art market. It exhibits little or no actual use in the pueblo. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 90.17.96

www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 5 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII


Ignacio Chieftain December 23, 1921

While the automobile was invented in 1886 and manufactured by many small companies over the years, by the 1920s Ford, General Motors and Chrysler were the predominant American car companies. Packard, Willys-Overland, Hudson, Nash, and Studebaker were also popular. Henry Ford’s innovations in mass production saw the rise in popularity of 1908’s Model T Ford. This four-cylinder, 20 horsepower car was easy to drive and repair. Nicknamed Tin Lizzies or Flivvers, a Ford could be purchased for $300 in the mid-20s. Another innovation was the ability to pay for a car “on time” with installment payments contributed to the popularity of the automobile. Ford ended Model T production in 1927 and began manufacturing the Model A, an entirely different, much more stylish vehicle which could be obtained in colors other than black. This automotive advancement was

so significant that it was the subject of a popular song, “Henry’s Made a Lady Out of Lizzie.” By the end of the decade, Chrysler had introduced the DeSoto and the Plymouth. Another automotive “innovation” that is familiar to modern motorists was the introduction of advertising focused not on the mechanical attributes of the Model A but on its emotional appeal.

No matter the make or model, the enemy of the 1920s automobile was mud. Roads were not well-developed. In 1913 Colorado passed laws to license and register autos and in 1919 became one of the first states to levy gasoline tax (one cent per gallon) to fund road construction. The Federal Highway Act passed in 1921 accelerated road building and navigation. East-west routes received even number designations, while north-south roads were odd numbered.

Wolf Creek Pass opened on August 21, 1916. It was a one lane, gravel road, 12-16 ft wide with turnouts for passing. Its steep grade was tricky for automobiles with only partially filled gravity-flow gas tanks so occasionally drivers would drive backwards up portions of the road. The road over Red Mountain Pass was improved in the early 1920s, offering a route to La Plata County from the north. Roads remained largely unimproved until the economic programs of the Great Depression which brought funding for regrading and applying oil to county roads.

In 1919, there were 6.7 million cars in the United States. By 1929 there were more than 23.1 million. Those cars were motoring about on some 852,000 miles of roads by

1929, nearly double the amount of 1920. Auto camping became a fad, with millions of motorists taking to the road for family fun and to see the countryside. A plan to create a highway linking the National Parks of the American West never came to fruition. The Ignacio Chieftain did report in May 1923 that road conditions would allow automobile tourists to access Mesa Verde from Denver via Grand Junction, Montrose, and Dove Creek. The roads were said to be in generally good condition, with just a few rough spots. It was hoped Wolf Creek would soon be passable. The increase in auto tourists was a boon not only to tourist sites but to businesses that supported the industry such as garages, filling stations, campgrounds and cafes along the routes.

…Have you seen her, Ain’t she great?

She’s something you’ll appreciate, I’m sure you understand just what I mean, Ev’ry body, Everywhere, is falling for her now, I’m talking bout the new Ford and boy it’s sure a wow! When you see her, You’ll agree, She’s just the one for you and me, She’s everything that anyone could ask…

“Henry’s Made a Lady Out of Lizzie”, the popular song by Walter O’Keefe and Robert Dolan. n Carolyn Bowra is an Animas Museum volunteer and road trip enthusiast.

Durango’ ’s strater.com | 800.247.4431 LIVING HISTORY MUSEUM
“No man who has an automobile needs a hobby to occupy his leisure time.”
C.R. Beers and his touring car enroute from Mancos to Mesa Verde around the 1920s. The chains on the rear tires do not appear to be much help in the muddy mire that is the road. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 15.48.12
6 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared

Durango Goes to the Movies

Movies were wildly popular in the 1920s so the film industry blossomed. While some companies still operated in New York and New Jersey, Hollywood was becoming the center of this new and growing industry. There was a high demand for movies. They were silent with accompanying music provided by pianists, musical groups, or gramophone disks. Rooted in vaudeville, this new entertainment thrilled audiences with tales of swashbucklers, gangsters, romances, and comedies.

Years before the Durango area became known as “Hollywood of the Rockies” for the many movies filmed here, audiences could still see the region on the silver screen. Durango’s film debut was a locally produced feature, “Small Town Vamp.” The film was produced in 1917 by Durango Film Production Company, owned by J.W. Jarvis, proprietor of the Jarvis Garage. The film took a day and a half to shoot and cost $200. The Durango Evening Herald noted, “This comedy is the first attempt of Durango in the movie life and the patrons of the theatre are awaiting the production with a great deal of anticipation.” It starred local talent plus

the finest horses in the area, featuring “good roping, good riding and peculiar situations.” The movie starred Jarvis and the “vamp,” a red-headed damsel in distress. Residents of Durango found themselves in the movie. One gentleman began escorting the beautiful woman as she strolled along Main Avenue. He quickly left the scene when he noticed the camera. As she walked up Main, folks’ reactions (planned or not) were captured by the camera. The heroine was kidnapped by the villain. Using his trusty lasso, the hero saved the day and rode off into the sunset with the heroine. “Small Town Vamp” was a B-movie, a short film which was played before the feature production. It premiered in Durango on November 27, 1921 before Charlie Chaplin’s “The Idle Class” and a tworeel Western drama.

Durango Film Production Company, on East 2nd Avenue, also produced “Snow Wonderland” (1918), “Scarlett West” (1918), the educational film “Mesa Verde” (1919), “Burlesque Bull Fight” (1920) and “Love of a Navajo” (1920). Founding the film company at the age of 41, Jarvis later said he figured if Hollywood producers could make films, “So could I.”

The short “Snow Wonderland” lacked a plot. It featured local railroad workers attempting to keep the tracks clear of snow on the line from Durango to Silverton. The trip/film ended at Trimble Lane but did feature some beautiful shots of that year’s impressive snow amounts (5-6 feet). “Love of A Navajo” was written and produced by Jarvis. This 90 minute 3-act drama premiered in Durango on April 27, 1922 at Ed Bluck’s Gem Theatre. It received a standing ovation and was also well-received in Denver. The next year it went on to play in major cities between California and Boston. A major movie distributor offered Jarvis $20,000 for the film but he chose to lease it for royalties. Jarvis was offered a multi-film production deal but chose to focus on his other business interests.

Major Hollywood studios not only produced movies but built opulent “picture palaces” where their movies were shown. These theaters could accommodate large crowds, as well as full orchestras which could accompany films. By the end of the decade, there were over 20,000 movie theaters in the

U.S. Durango residents could see movies at the Gem Theatre (1001 Main Avenue). The Gem underwent a change in management in 1925 when Tom Marshall and Rod Day took over operations. The occasion was celebrated with a Vitagraph Special Production Redeeming Sin, the cartoon Felix Finds a Way, and a two-reel comedy My Hero. Other local theaters in the 1920s were the Rialto at 1053 Main and the Isis Theatre at 857 Main. Admission was 25 cents for the 7:30 show and 10 cents for the 9:00 show. In 1928 the former Durango Trust building was remodeled to become a 600-seat theater. A contest was held to choose a name for the new establishment. Mrs. James Shaffer submitted the winning name, The Kiva, and received a ten-dollar gold piece for her effort. The Kiva Theater opened on June 21, 1928, with the movie “Ramona” starring Delores Del Rio, with music by the Kiva Grand Orchestra. Durango’s first “talkie” was shown at the Kiva Theater a year later. n

Carolyn Bowra is an Animas Museum volunteer.

The concession area of the Gem Theatre in 1921. While the Coca-Cola advertising and candy selections are familiar to modern movie fans, the cigar case and brass spittoon are not. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 05.25.3
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The Gem Theatre, at the northwest corner of 10th Street and Main Avenue, around 1920. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 89.38.17

A Revolution in Fashion

By the 1920s, it seemed that almost overnight women stopped wearing traditional long skirts, long sleeves, and corsets for hourglass figures. The iconic figure of the decade was the flapper, a young, thin woman with bobbed hair, who wore a straight, short, dropped-waist dress, and a closely fitted cloche hat. There are several contenders for the origin of the term flapper, one being the word for a young duckling just learning to flap its wings. The image of a young woman

dancing the new “Charleston,” wearing a short, sleeveless dress certainly fits this description. The fashion revolution was on, and even in remote La Plata County women never looked back.

In fact, the revolution in clothing had been slowly developing through the 1910s. The Great War (World War I) had a huge influence on women’s fashion. During the war, women had to step into roles previously held by men. They served in military positions, wearing uniforms tailored on simple lines. Skirts were

shortened so women could move around more easily. Many women even dared to wear pants and found them comfortable and practical. Fabric was often scarce during the war, so the yards and yards required for a long, full skirt were just not available. Even metal for corset bones was in short supply. When the war was over, people longed to return to “normal” but that was not going to happen. Women especially enjoyed the taste of independence and freedom they experienced. They embraced clothes that reflected that spirit.

The revolution started from the inside out. Instead of layers of undergarments— chemises, corsets, corset covers and multiple petticoats, the fashionable woman of the 20s might wear only a newly invented brassiere (to flatten the chest) and a one-piece step-in chemise. Corsets which had created the shapely figures of the 19th and earlier 20th centuries were now out. The androgynous flat-chested look was “in”. These new undergarments were available not just in white but in a palette of soft pastel colors.

Short skirts, dropped waists, bobbed hair, and strappy shoes at Ft. Lewis’s old campus in the 1920s. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 03.14.2 Ladies taking a dip in the Pine River in their wool bathing suits in 1928. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 92.19.71 Motoring in style. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 00.05.8
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared 8 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
Abenilde Alvarez captures the flapper spirit in Allison, 1928. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 02.09.9

Stockings even came in flesh-tone colors. Soft fabrics including rayon or artificial silk were most popular.

Over these foundation garments, dresses were basically simple tubes that ended at or just below the knee. The straight styles were perfect to feature geometric Art Deco trims and motifs. During the day, simple tailored styles were popular for work. For evening wear, flappers loved fringe and bead ornaments which accentuated their dance moves. Waist shaping disappeared as the waistline dropped, often accentuated with decorative sashes at the hips. Even wedding dresses were short and straight. Only the veils were long and flowing.

Perhaps the most lasting change in fashion was in sporting clothes. To achieve the requisite thinness for the new dress fashions, women turned to dieting and physical activity that required outfits which allowed for movement. Specialized clothes for popular sports like tennis and golf appeared. There were even unique outfits for motoring in the new-fangled automobiles. Bathing suits went from costumes with long skirts, sleeves, and drawers to a tight-fitting, short tube of knitted jersey.

Shoes also dramatically changed. Until the ‘20s, women wore boots which either laced or buttoned up. But once ladies’ feet were on full display when worn with knee length skirts, low cut shoes with heels and Mary Jane straps or ribbons were deemed more attractive. Shoes were available in a multitude of colors, materials, and styles.

To top everything off, hats were still a requirement in public for the well-dressed and the cloche or tightly fitted bell-shaped hat was the style of choice.

In Durango the fashionable set could buy the latest attire at Stein’s Mercantile at 8th and Main or McKinney Clothing Store. Part

of 1920s revolution was possible because the simpler clothing styles could be easily mass

crash sobered society up in many ways. Hemlines lengthened, although not to the

the youthful flapper style left a mark on American culture. n

Fashionably dressed ladies pose outside the Gem Theater around 1928. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 88.17.37 Teofila “Dorothy” Sanchez Herrera photographed in her wedding dress. The groom, Marcelino Herrera, is in the second row on the right, along with an unidentified couple. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 04.27.9
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Interior of Stein’s Mercantile offering the latest 1920s fashions and Navajo rugs. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 89.14.5

Dancing Away the Blues

Durangoans wanted to put World War I and the flu pandemic behind them. Colorado went dry in 1916 ahead of National Prohibition. Pool halls and soft drink parlors replaced saloons and establishments serving liquor. Public entertainment included motion picture shows, vaudeville theatre, traveling circuses and … DANCING!! Public dances had always been popular in La Plata County, but the Jazz Age fostered greater interest in the latest music and dances.

The new dances and clothing styles scandalized some older residents. Certain religious leaders condemned the new trends, preaching against what they perceived as moral decline driven by jazz. “Marvel Upset About ‘Carryings On’ At Marvel Dance” read a Durango Democrat headline on June 28, 1924. A deputy was sent to the next dance after complaints reached the sheriff. Bootleg liquor may have exacerbated the problem. Baptist and Methodist Churches prohibited dancing, but the Grange Halls and schools continued to hold regular social dances in rural La Plata County.

The Hermosa House Hotel dance pavilion at Trimble Springs was a popular spot. Rod Day’s mother, Victoria, had operated the Hermosa House and Trimble Hot Springs for many years. She hosted dances at Trimble on a regular basis. Trimble always put on a huge 4th of July celebration that featured dancing in the pavilion.

One of the most popular spots in Durango was the Masonic Temple at 146 E. 9th Street. When the Masons leased the ballroom to the post office, the last public dance there was scheduled for November 19, 1923 as a fund raiser for the Red Cross. The post office opened in that new location on January 1, 1924. The town welcomed a larger post office

but lost Durango’s largest dancing venue. Bayfield had a notorious dance hall east of town that was shut down for liquor infractions. It was eventually torn down by the Free Methodist Church, and the salvaged material was used to build a tabernacle for revival meetings on 14th Street in Durango. A new garage building on Mill Street included a dance hall on the second floor. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground after a New Year’s Eve dance soon after it opened. In Ignacio, the Ute Theatre featured dances several nights a week after the movies.

Dancing became so popular that new venues were created to meet the demand. During the summer months, Rod Day of The Durango Democrat and T. H. Marshall, a lumber dealer and contractor, operated an “Aerodome” tent structure with wooden dance floor on vacant lots on Main Avenue. Day and Marshall also remodeled the second floor of the Democrat building at 1128 Main Avenue to create the Democrat Dance Hall which opened on December 3, 1924.

Pinkerton-In-The-Pines Hot Springs resort also featured a dance pavilion in the summer months. Music was provided by Nels Simpson & His Musical Doctors and other local and traveling orchestras.

The Strater Hotel’s new management announced it would remodel part of the basement to create the Strater Ballroom. It opened on December 15, 1923 to rave reviews. The nearby Red Lantern Inn opened on November 20, 1926, as Durango’s posh dining spot. It offered live music during dinner hours, Sunday afternoons, and on holidays.

Owners of the Isis Theatre, located across Main Avenue from the Strater, remodeled the second floor to create the Isis Dance Hall. It opened on January 31, 1925. Later, it became known as the American Theatre and

Dance Hall with new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Essert. They were musicians with The Green Garden Orchestra and played regularly in Durango.

On February 12, 1926 the Belmont Dance Hall opened at 15th Street and Main Avenue. This new building was designed with a “sprung” dance floor and featured a house orchestra, The Ambassadors. It was the newest and largest dance hall in the San Juan Basin. The Belmont offered public dances three nights a week, along with private dances, parties, and Saturday afternoon dancing for children. One of the first big events held there was a Colonial Ball put on by the local Daughters of the American Revolution. The Durango Herald advertised a Marathon Dance at the Belmont commencing

on Wednesday, March 7 at 9 P.M. sharp. Admission was $1.00 and a prize was offered for the couple who continually danced the longest. The American Legion Post 28 and B.P.O. Elks Lodge #507 also used this venue for dancing and fund-raising events until they built their own buildings.

Throughout the twenties, there were travelling orchestras passing through Durango from California and the East who played at area dance halls and theaters. However, there was plenty of local talent to satisfy the Jazz Age dance craze. n

Charles DiFerdinando is a local history buff and employee of the Animas Museum.

History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared 10 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
The jazz dance band “The Syncopated Five” photographed at the Masonic Ballroom in the 100 block of East 9th Street in the 1920s. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 94.22.1


On November 5, 1914 The Durango Democrat report of election results announced, “COLORADO DRY BY 10,000 MAJORITY.” Colorado had voted to adopt prohibition long before the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act made prohibition national in 1921. Many states, including Colorado, had attempted to go dry by banning liquor but the issue was usually defeated. This question seemed to come up each election cycle. The national “Anti Saloon League”, “Women’s Christian Temperance Union”, and the Ku Klux Klan pushed for prohibition.

When national prohibition became the law of the land, Colorado already had laws in place governing prohibition. So if you were arrested for violating the Volstead Act, you could also be charged with violation of Colorado prohibition laws. You could not be charged for the same crime such as producing liquor, but you could be charged by the Feds for liquor production and the state for liquor possession or intent to distribute by gift or sale. Cities in Colorado could also adopt ordinances that had penalties for violation of prohibition, so an offender

could be prosecuted at three levels and levied fines or jail time. Durango adopted a Prohibition Ordinance when they felt the state and federal laws weren’t enough to deter citizens from breaking the law.

Durango and the San Juan Basin were hot spots for bootlegging activity because of the high demand for liquor. Before national prohibition New Mexico was still wet, allowing liquor. Bootleggers located across the border transported liquor into Colorado to a ready market in the surrounding mining districts like Silverton, Eureka, Rico, and Telluride.

The first bootleg case in La Plata County was tried in March 1916 and was a test case for Colorado Senate Bill 80. The second case was on March 22, 1916. Both defendants were found guilty. Vigorous enforcement and prosecution didn’t seem to deter people from bootlegging, There was too much money to be made. Many who were prosecuted were repeat offenders who always had cash to post bond and pay for legal defense.

The Feds assigned federal prohibition agent W. E. “Bill” Lukens to the San Juan Basin and later an assistant Samuel

Bowman who had jurisdiction in Colorado and New Mexico. They along with La Plata County Sheriff Ed Painter and the sheriffs of surrounding counties attempted to enforce both Federal and State Prohibition laws. There was a continual cat and mouse game between law enforcement and those who produced, distributed, and consumed bootleg liquor. Both sides employed informants to stay ahead of each other. Whenever Lukens boarded the train for Silverton, someone would call ahead and warn them he was on the way. He finally started travelling by car when the roads were passable hoping for an element of surprise. This helped increase the number of arrests. During one Silverton raid in October 1927, he and thirteen federal agents netted eighteen arrests including eight women and over 791 gallons of liquor. Those arrested had to be transported to Durango to be jailed and arraigned before Federal Commissioner Henry G. Berri. n

Charles DiFerdinando is descended from La Plata County pioneers and is an avid supporter of local history.

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Accused bootleggers might find themselves coming before a judge in the La Plata County Courthouse. Built in 1891, the imposing building is shown here in a photograph taken by W.R. Rowland around 1920. This courthouse was demolished in 1964. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 92.22.167
www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 11 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII

Examining the Photograph

seen along the riverbanks. The other principal riverbank occupants seen here were industrial, including the power plant, lumberyards, a flour mill, and the smelter.

Another well-known building in the foreground is the Amy Mansion at 3rd Avenue and 13th Street near the high school. Built in 1888 by Ernest Amy, the son-in-law of the smelter owner, it was the largest and most lavish home in Durango. Amy, the smelter manager, constructed the three-story home in order to persuade his wife to leave New York City and settle in Durango. Modeled after mansions in Rhode Island, it was the first Durango home to have electricity. The third story contained servants’ quarters. Today, the mansion is Hood Mortuary.

Prominent in mid-photo along Third Avenue to the left of the Amy Mansion are four churches that still exist today. The First Presbyterian Church is a block south of the Amy Mansion on the corner of 12th Street. At the other end of that block sits the Methodist Church, now the Adventure Christian Church. The First Baptist Church is across the street diagonally and Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church is at 10th Street.

Lorenzon’s panoramic photo of Durango is astonishingly clear when enlarged. Signs, buildings, streets, and flora are seen in clear detail. Horses are visible in the field just south of the Western Colorado Power Plant (today’s Powerhouse Museum) seen directly below Perins Peak. One remarkable aspect of the photo is the almost complete absence of human activity. Some cars are seen in the streets but only a few people are evident on the sidewalks. We speculate that this photo was likely taken early on a Sunday morning. In 1922, Sunday was truly a day of rest and most people stayed home, only venturing out to attend church. The telephone pole shadows indicate an early morning time frame. The time of year is likely mid-April to early May as there is no snow on the ground, and the bare trees are tinted a spring green.

The two most prominent buildings in mid-picture are the Central School and Durango High School. Central School, originally built as the High School in 1892, also included grades 1-8. It burned in 1950. The Mason Center is now located at this spot, on 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues.

Other prominent buildings are the old La Plata County Courthouse, built in 1892 and demolished in 1964. The Italianate-style Central Hotel, also constructed in 1892, houses today’s El Rancho Tavern. It is seen along Main Avenue not too far from the courthouse.

One interesting aspect of this photograph is the view along the Animas River. The city started utilizing Florida River water instead of Animas River water in 1906 due to pollution from mine tailings around Silverton. Informal barrios are

None of the streets were paved when this photo was taken in 1922. Within two years, however, Main Avenue was finally paved, and most other streets in the photo were paved in subsequent years.

The large steeple visible on the photo’s right marks St. Columba Church which is still thriving today. The large school building along Main Avenue to the left of the steeple was the Northside or Whittier School, built in 1885-86 for elementary students living north of the Main Avenue Bridge. Today a large two-story brown office building sits at this site on the corner of 19th Street and Main Avenue. n

Ed Horvat is a third generation Durangoan. His four grandparents all came to La Plata County between 1905 and 1911.

12 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared


The earliest overview photographs of Durango were taken from Smelter Mountain looking north. In the 1880s Durango’s residential and business districts were mostly located toward the south below Smelter Mountain. As Durango grew northward, photographers began taking images looking west from what was then called Reservoir Hill (now Fort Lewis Hill).

Because Durango is in the Animas River Valley with mountains on all sides, its growth was confined to the narrow river valley. Thus, it was difficult to take photos showing the length of town from south to north. In 1922 photographer John V. Lorenzon set out to take a photo looking west over the city that was all-inclusive. The photo shown here is the result.

Lorenzon was a Silverton resident, and it seems his career in photography was short. In 1917 he was working the Venus mine near Gladstone. A year after this photo was taken, he was among a dozen Silvertonians arrested for bootlegging. Winemaking may have been his best talent as the federal agents credited him with making the best pure grape wine in the area. His product was said to be the equal of any wine from France. His reputation, however, did not

keep the Feds from ruining his product by adding kerosene to several hundred gallons of wine and over 2000 gallons of grape mash.

The following year he was one of two dozen Silverton citizens whom The Durango Democrat characterized as “victims” due to their mistreatment by Colorado prohibition officers during another raid. By 1926 he apparently changed professions and was the local salesperson for a Denver cigar company, Chiolero Importing. In mid-1928 he secured the lease on the Trimble Hot Springs. After operating the resort for a few years, he sold the lease in 1930. Shortly after returning from a trip to his homeland in Italy, he died in December 1932 at the age of 68. His obituary stated he was the Italian Consul stationed in Silverton at the time.

For this photograph, it is thought that Lorenzon took a series of photographs and “stitched” them together to form one long panoramic image. The image was then hand-tinted to create the vibrant color image we enjoy today. n

Ed Horvat grew up half a block away from today’s Animas Museum. He maintains a strong devotion to local history.

Brennan Oil has b e en in business in D urango, Colorado since 1923 and is the nation s oldes t p etroleum wholes aler Five generations of Brennans have worke d with the comp any over the las t 9 9 year s, mak ing them the lo cal foremos t e xp er t s on f uel and lubricant s Brennan Oil was founde d by M J (Mike) Brennan in 1923, where original dis tribution b e gan at a warehouse situate d along the southern se c tion of the truck route (Camino del Rio), approximately where Alb er t son’s is to day D eliver y of pro duc t s to Brennan Oil was initially made by train where it was shipp e d down f rom D enver, Colorado M J Brennan built Lighthouse Te xaco (pic ture d) near the present site of a f ueling s t ation at Main and 17th . W ith gravit y res t aurant the Lighthouse provide d complete ser vice in 1923. Eventually Mike’s son, Ed, assume d s tewardship of the business until it was hande d down to his son, Charlie, in 19 65. Even at the age of 8 8 , Charlie could s till b e found other Brennans and their relatives ke eping things going at Brennan Oil Charlie s children Judy (retire d), D ennis (deceased), Kelly, Kevin Charles, Ke gan, and grandsons Jason and Kolten are par t of the op eration providing ser vice to the Four Corner s area Five generations af ter M J Brennan op ene d his do or s, Brennan Oil is proud to b e ke eping with the pione er spirit and provide a f riendly, f amily value d ser vice.

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www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 13 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII
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Durango’s Harold Lloyd

Harold Lloyd was one of the highest paid movie stars of the 1920’s silent film era. Some of his iconic scenes remain film classics to this day. Lloyd was born on April 20, 1893 in Burchard, Nebraska. His father, J. Darsie Lloyd, was a struggling salesman. Seeking success, the family moved frequently throughout Nebraska and eastern Colorado. After a brief residence in Denver, Harold and his mother, Elizabeth Fraser, moved to Durango to live with Harold’s grandmother and uncle in 1907. The family lived at 752 Third Avenue. His mother worked as a milliner for Issac Kruschke’s Dry Goods store, where Harold worked as an errand boy. He peddled The Durango Evening Herald on street corners and once worked as a runner delivering from the telegraph office to a saloon, the round-by-round accounts of the famous Jeffries-Johnson fight in Reno, Nevada.

Durango residents recalled Harold as being energetic and although mischievous, quite likeable. A former neighbor, Alva Lyons, later recalled that Harold would climb up the ridge poles of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and dare his friends to follow him. Harold was known as a trickster, often performing magic acts and skits. His preferred venue for these performances was the barn behind his grandmother’s house. The price of admission was a gunny sack, which he would then sell to the feed store for five or ten cents. His magic tricks

baffled his friends which he used in a scheme reminiscent of Tom Sawyer’s fence painting plan. Tasked with cleaning his aunt’s yard, he recruited friends to do the work. In exchange for a stint of work, he would explain a magic trick.

Harold attended Central School, located on East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues. He was a better than average student with good attendance. He also boxed, a skill he learned in Denver. Lyons recalled games of kick-the-can and going for a dip at the swimming hole on Lightner Creek. Lloyd was the instigator of fun and mischief with his neighborhood gang of boys. The neighborhood girls however were generally not included. One of the girls was planning an afternoon social and made a large freezer of ice cream for the occasion. Harold and another boy stole it and shared the dessert with the boys. They then returned the nearly empty container.

Harold moved to San Diego in 1911 and he graduated from school there in 1913. He went to Los Angeles to seek his fortune and soon made the acquaintance of legendary producer Hal Roach. He starred in their comedy series “Willie Work” which was not successful. He later developed the bespectacled character that made him a star. He was so wellknown for his round glasses that they were imprinted many years later, along with his hand and footprints, in the cement of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The glasses were a prop, as his vision was fine.

The physical comedy of Lloyd’s movies proved popular. His character of a meek, innocent man from the lower or middle

class with an ability to overcome a variety of obstacles to succeed was just what audiences wanted. Harold became one of the highest paid actors of the silent era, even appearing with Babe Ruth in the 1928 movie, “Speedy.” Although wealthy and famous, he remained loyal to his family and Durango. He hired his uncle, William Fraser, to be his business manager. The former manager of Durango’s Gem Theater became his bookkeeper. When he incorporated his production company, the officers were family members.

Lloyd’s career was nearly derailed in 1919. During a publicity photo shoot a prop bomb exploded in his hand. He was temporarily blinded and lost his right thumb, index finger and part of his palm. For the remainder of his career, he wore a flesh-colored glove over his hand prosthetic. Shots were arranged to feature his left hand, or a hand double was used. In photographs his right hand was usually in his pocket. A July 21 ad for the Gem Theatre in The Durango Evening Herald that year billed Harold Lloyd as “Durango’s Own Star.”

Lloyd appeared in over 200 films and successfully navigated the transition to “talkies”, although his movies with sound never reached the popularity of his silent films. He made his final movie in 1947. After retirement he took up many hobbies and maintained his ties to Durango. He visited for the last time in 1965, saying, “I put on my first pair of long pants in Durango.” He passed away in 1971 but his films live on as classics of the silver screen. n

www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 15 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII
Durango residents recalled Harold as being energetic and although mischievous, quite likeable.

INVISIBLE EMPIRE The Ku Klux Klan in La Plata County

Awave of prejudice and intolerance rose out of the ashes of World War I and, to a certain degree, came to characterize the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan, which had been dormant since the 1870s, came to life again, marching into Colorado in 1921. Within three years, the Klan became a formidable political force in Colorado, its candidates winning state and local races, including the U.S. Senate and governors’ races.

By 1924, the KKK had gained a stronghold in southwest Colorado, including active chapters, or Klaverns, in Bayfield and Durango. By the mid-1920s, Bayfield’s population was nearing 250. The Pine River Klan listed 118 members in good standing in 1925, a number of whom came from the surrounding rural area. Bayfield’s Klan may have been the largest organization in town.

Durango’s Klan membership wasn’t as robust per capita, and its members likely came mostly from the DurangoAnimas City urban areas. The Durango chapter was every bit as active as the Bayfield chapter and even published its own newspaper, The Durango Klansman. The August 1925 issue broadly stated the Klan’s objectives:

“It is unselfish in its objects and desires. It believes in ‘America for Americans;’ it believes in just laws and their enforcement; it believes in the purity of women of this country; it believes in white supremacy; it is not politically ambitious, and it is not a political organization.”

The Klan’s overt political activities the previous year belied that last statement. A closer look at the Klan’s goals reveals that it was strongly Protestant and anti-Catholic; it supported Prohibition and opposed bootlegging (an activity many associated with Catholics); it believed that native-born white Americans were the “true” Americans, and it opposed immigration and foreign-born residents.

Klan members seemingly came from all walks of life –“just ordinary guys and a few professional people” as one Durangoan remembered. Separate “clubs” existed for women and children. More members meant more revenue because the Klan, without question, was a money-making scheme in a variety of ways.

Since La Plata County had a very limited African American population, the Durango Klan’s venom was largely directed at Hispanics, most of whom also happened to be Catholics. Interestingly, there is little evidence that the local Klan groups targeted Native Americans.

While the Durango Klan directed threats at St. Columba

Catholic Church, it focused its invectives on Sacred Heart Church, which was predominantly Hispanic. In response to a Klan threat to drive the nuns out of the convent and burn it, St. Columba’s Father Kipp bought a shotgun and posted notices in the newspaper that, if necessary, he would use it. To punctuate its efforts at intimidation, Durango Klan members burned crosses on Smelter Mountain. Occasionally crosses were also burned at Greenmount Cemetery and near the train depot. Max Gomez, however, remembered Klan

members being somewhat cowardly. In one instance, a group of young Catholic men disrupted a Klan parade, routing the hooded marchers.

The Klan in Colorado faded almost as quickly as it arose, its leader leaving the organization under accusations of tax fraud. Having hit its high-water mark in 1924-25, the Colorado Klan organization shattered shortly thereafter. Somewhat surprisingly, the Bayfield chapter remained active well into 1928, sponsoring a big Fourth of July picnic that year that attracted a large crowd of people from the surrounding areas. Ultimately, factionalism and jealousy within the organization, and public and press opposition from without spelled the end of the Klan in Colorado and locally. Looking back, some locals remembered that the Klan caused “quite a lot of trouble.” It created enemies, hurt business, and “didn’t do the town a damn bit of good.” n

Robert McDaniel is a fourth generation La Plata County native and the retired founding director of the Animas Museum. Masthead from a rare copy of The Durango Klansman. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 89.40.1 Durango’s Klan organization often burned crosses on, or around, religious holidays. The date of this Pennington Studio image is likely April 12th (Easter Sunday) or perhaps April 22, 1925. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 03.58.43
16 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared

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1920s Slang Jaw Like Gals & Jobbies

and Ankle Around Durango

[talk like 1920s women & men and walk around Durango]


The 1920s, much like the 2020s of today, saw people breaking with old traditions and embracing new ideas. It may have been a time of change in America but one thing hasn’t changed. Much to the bewilderment of their elders, young people developed their own slang terms. Let’s have a look at 1920s Durango and see what those keen Janes and Macs [young men and women] might have been up to. It’s duck soup [easy]. Got a few clams [money] to spare? Maybe vist Graden Mercantile Company in the 700 block of Main Avenue, for the latest in hotsy-totsy [excellent] flapper wear. If you know your onions [know what you’re doing], you might save some lettuce [money again] on some glad rags [outfit] that are the cat’s meow [best].

With Prohibition it is easy to be a wet blanket [not fun] and forgo looking for some giggle juice [alcohol]. You wouldn’t want to get zozzled or spifflicated [drunk] so you can remain steady on your gams [legs]. A better choice might be the Annex Restaurant at 963 Main Avenue and if you’re not down on your uppers [broke] get a stack of wheats [pancakes] and a cup of joe [coffee]. After you blouse [leave] from that joint, it might be fun to head to the south end of Main to the depot to watch the rattler [train] come in. Maybe they will red light [eject from the train] an egg [obnoxious person]. The Denver and Rio Grande Western [D&RGW] was known as the “Dangerous and R apidly Growing Worse” line in local slang. Anyhoo, that’s no phonus balonus [nonsense]. Now you’re on the trolley [you’ve got it]! n

Manufactured toys were the rage during the 1920s. George Herrington’s “Spring End Hopping Stilts”, (later the “Master Pogo”) set off a Pogo hopping fad. Pedro Flores started a fad in California with the re-introduction of an ancient toy of wood discs on a string. He named it the Yo-Yo, his native Philippine words for come-come. Boys sought pressed steel and tin airplanes, trains, cars, trucks, bicycles, pedal cars, coaster wagons, and guns. Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927 inspired toy “Spirit of St. Louis” airplanes, the “Lindy Hop Off” game, and the “Our Lindy” doll. Girls treasured dolls of all kinds. Two sold by the Ideal Company were Flossie Flirt whose eyes winked, blinked, and moved side to side. Flossie came with a comb and mirror. The doll Snoozie Smiles and Frowns had two faces; one with painted eyes and tears, and one with sleepy eyes and a smile.

Popular table-top games featured the exotic “Mahjongg” game from China which was played with tiles. “Carrom” and “Crokinole,” were new versions of games in which discs were flicked onto playing boards. “Coppit” and “Sorry-Sorry” were “Parchisi” take-offs where players attempted to capture opponent’s game pieces or thwart their strategic moves. n

Megan Reid is an Animas Museum volunteer researcher and retired museum professional.

Fergus Pingrey in his baseball uniform is pictured ca. 1920 ready to take a swing. No matter what toys and games were “in fashion” baseball was always popular. photo credit :

Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 92.21.216

No doubt, pedestrians and motorists enjoyed Durango’s newly paved streets and the new streetlights pictured at 9th Street and Main Avenue in a 1925 Pennington Studio photograph. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 90.16.26
SU PPO R T LO CA L JO URNA L IS M E S T . 18 8 1 DURAN GOHE RA L D.C OM/ SU B SCRI B E 970 - 3 7 5 - 4 5 3 0 History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared 18 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org

Food That Roared Into The 1920s

The 1920s introduced the Baby Ruth candy bar, Wonder Bread, Popsicles, Hostess Cakes, Kool-Aid and Velveeta Cheese.

A typical dinner in the 1920s would look similar to today: pork chops or roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and bread. Meat would have been well done and vegetables overcooked by today’s standards because of sanitation concerns. Meals were blander, since there were fewer spices available other than basics like salt and pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, horseradish and mint.

Gas was replacing wood and coal stoves. Durango began converting to natural gas in the fall of 1929.

Refrigerators were not yet in every home. However, Clarence Birdseye found a way to quick freeze foods in 1922 for consumers. Most families still canned at home or bought canned vegetables like corn, peas, beans and tomatoes. Research into vitamins had people eating more fruits and vegetables. Vegetarianism became more popular. Calorie counting was introduced as a way to diet. Sweets were very popular so Jell-O, cake or pie could end the meal. Baked goods would have been similar to today’s. n

Gay Kiene in an Animas Museum Volunteer and La Plata County Historical Society Board President

Promotional cookbook with 42 pages of recipes using baking powder. It contained recipes for cakes, savory entrees, crullers, and many tasty dishes to appeal to families in 1928. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 02.49.5

This recipe from the Dr. Price’s Cook Book also appeared in The Durango Democrat on November 22, 1922 in a Dr. Price’s Baking Powder advertisement. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 02.49.5

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Curious Crazes of the 1920s

The new 45-hour/5-day work week and increased wages of the 1920s created more purchasing power and idle time which ushered in many social crazes. The health and fitness movement promised happiness and success and prioritized weight reduction through numerous potions and devices. Physical activities, like taking auto tours and camping, were encouraged. Those who were more energetic engaged in walking or dance marathons. During a dance marathon singles or couples remained upright and moving as long as possible. Winners received cash prizes and often nationwide fame.

One hardy soul opined there was no better way to recuperate from a dance marathon than to climb and sit upon a flagpole, trying

to break a different record. The pole sitting craze was credited to stunt actor Alvin Kelly and was blamed for causing cricked necks for those viewing this pastime.

King Tutankhamen, palm trees, scarabs, cats, sphynxes, pyramids, and hieroglyphic motifs were plentiful. New styles of architecture, interior decorating, jewelry, art, literature, films, textiles, clothing, furniture, and even haircuts abounded. Women bobbed and marcelled their hair enhancing it with elaborate head dresses, increasing the need for more beauty parlors everywhere. n

The well-coiffed ladies of Durango would have visited the Catchpole

for the latest hairstyles.

salon interior is pictured in this ca. 1920s postcard. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 01.27.22


Durango society cheered the news about the construction of the Elks Lodge at 901 East 2nd Avenue. Local papers closely followed the project, reporting on June 3, 1925, in The Durango Democrat that the estimated cost for the new building would come to $60,000. Word arrived in August that local contractor Jack McKinnon would excavate the foundation and stonemason Caesar Jacomelli had started quarrying granite. M.J. Wicklem received the contract in September to erect the framing. A substantial crowd turned out to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone on Armistice Day, November 11, 1925.

The fervor over the construction was easily eclipsed by the celebrations that marked the grand opening of the building. The Durango Evening Herald reported the Elks would hold a banquet and a ball that “… will be one of the “peppy” affairs for which the Elks are famous. …word comes from Alamosa that the 50-piece Scenic Club Band has been practicing some snappy specialties for their visit to Durango…” Tickets sold at $5 per couple and 600 revelers were expected to attend after the building’s dedication on Friday, July 30, 1926.

Unlike the jubilant opening of the new Elks Club, the Durango Post Office opened

quietly and just a few months before the stock market crash on October 28, 1929.

Under the direction of Colorado Senator Lawrence Phipps, a request for bids to construct the new Durango Post Office at 1060 Main Avenue appeared in The Durango Evening Herald on March 24, 1928. The project had a budget of $150,000 to construct a two-story building with a full basement. Post Office operations were located on the first floor. The nine large rooms on the second floor were reserved for federal government agency offices. Known locally as the Federal Building, the new building was a symbol of prosperity since a post office had to collect a minimum of $10,000 in annual receipts before the Federal Government would consider authorizing funding for a building. Smaller and less prosperous post offices rented space in privately owned buildings. The Durango Post Office moved into its new, grand quarters in July of 1929. It remained in that location until the construction of its current building on West 8th Street in 1979. n

Jill Seyfarth is a retired archaeologist and historian and long-time supporter of the Animas Museum.

Megan Reid is a retired museum professional and Animas Museum volunteer researcher. Beauty Salon at 128 East 9th Street The With construction engineer F. M. Beaudreau in charge, construction of the new Post Office is well underway in this progress photo for January 1929. photo credit : Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 16.29.20
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La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared
www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 21 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII

Durango Editors Duel in Words and Deeds... One Editor Dead

It started with harsh words exchanged in editorials between Rod Day, editor of The Durango Democrat and William Lyon Wood, city editor of The Durango Herald , regarding prohibition views. Unfortunately this escalated to a street quarrel and death.

On April 24, 1922, the two editors met in front of the Kent Barbershop on Main about noon. An argument occurred, then fists flew. Finally, Rod Day drew a .25 automatic and shot Wood, killing him.

Rod Day went into the barbershop to attend to his broken nose and await the sheriff. Day was escorted to the jail but released on $10,000 bond. Views of

the incident depended again on which newspaper you read.

The trial began December 7 with attorneys Willis Reese and Ben Russell defending Mr. Day against the murder charges. There were 51 witnesses but no two gave exactly the same testimony regarding the pertinent facts. However, all agreed Mr. Wood had thrown the first punch.

The defense made much of the fact that William Wood was a much bigger and fitter man who had made threats against Mr. Day that morning, which made this justifiable homicide.

The jury agreed...NOT GUILTY. Ending a tragic 1920s event in Durango. n


Throughout the 1920s, aviation was a major daily news item. Pilots who had flown in WWI promoted the commercial use of aviation. Charles Lindberg and others pushed the limits of aviation technology, setting new distance records and designing newer and better flying machines.

Boosters promoted the idea of airmail to speed up mail service, and crosscountry routes were in use by 1925. A limiting factor for commercial aviation was the lack of suitable airports in rural America. Durango saw airplane demonstrations as early as 1915 at the fairgrounds. Civic organizations formed

One of the special envelopes printed to commemorate the first airmail sent from the new Durango Municipal Airport in 1929. photo credit : From the Animas Museum’s Collection 01.35.1

aviation committees to seek a permanent airfield for Durango to meet the increasing demand for commercial air travel.

Experts believed wind currents at the fairgrounds made it a poor choice. Griffith Heights (now Crestview) was occasionally used as a landing strip for larger planes. An airport was proposed east of Durango on the Florida Mesa, but the lack of a good year-round road ruled out that site. The most practical site became Reservoir Hill overlooking Durango. The Durango Herald-Democrat reported on May 8, 1929 that the City Council voted to engage an engineer to survey for a new Durango Municipal Airport.

Work commenced, and the American Legion Post #28 planned a formal dedication. A two-day celebration was set for October 12-13, 1929. Pikes Peak Air Commerce, Inc. would showcase various aircraft from their fleet, including a large Ford Tri Motor 10-passenger plane. The inaugural day featured the dispatch of the first airmail from Durango, and a Ryan J-6 monoplane flew the mail to Pueblo. Special airmail envelopes were printed to mark the occasion. Everyone in Durango was urged to send an airmail message to mark this first flight. n

Rod Day (at left) and his attorney Ben Russell photographed on the front walk of the La Plata County Courthouse for Day’s trial in December 1922. Image from the Animas Museum Photo Archives 92.22.176
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared 22 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org

At the Museum H

istory at the Animas Museum is always roaring just like the 20s. We have transformed our entry lobby area into exhibit space. Stories now begin the moment you come in the door. Exhibits in the new space are fascinating “pop-up” exhibits that explore a variety of topics. Be sure to stop in to see our current offering, “Rosie the Riveter.” Learn about the vital work women did to aid the war effort during WWII, including Durango’s own “Rosie.” Learn too about the SS Durango Victory Ship and its connection to our community.

Our popular Second Saturday Seminar Series continues at 1pm on Zoom on the second Saturday of every month. Sign up for these wonderful presentations even if you aren’t able to view them live. They will be available beginning the next day for you to view any time. Check the Events page on our website for the latest schedule and to register.

June: “Colorado in the Civil War”, a new book by historian John Steinle

July: The Animas Museum’s Ancestral Pueblo Pottery project wrap-up

August: History of Electricity

September: Buffalo Soldiers

October: Learn about Durango’s historic funeral parlors

November: Durango photographers of the early 20th century

December: The La Plata Mining District

In July we will open a new exhibit of Pueblo Pottery in the Native American Gallery. The conservation and research results of a collections management project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences will be highlighted.

On Sunday, July 30 join us for an old-fashioned ice cream social at The Gable House. Enjoy a tasty treat and a bit of history in a charming setting.

History will really come alive Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17 when the Buffalo Soldiers Return to Animas City. A unit of Buffalo Soldiers from the military outpost in Pagosa Springs, the original Fort Lewis, was bivouacked in the Animas Valley just north of Animas City in 1879. Learn more about the history of these African American soldiers who served on the frontier when we welcome members of the Buffalo Soldiers of the American West. This dedicated organization’s mission is to educate

the public about the existence of the Ninth and Tenth United States Cavalry, all Black regiments. In addition to presenting the Second Saturday Seminar, reenactors will share stories of the Buffalo Soldiers and show visitors their equipment, uniforms, and supplies.

We are always adding new events and pop-up exhibits, so follow us on social media, visit our website, www.animasmuseum.org or join the La Plata County Historical Society to receive our latest news and schedules. Our history will continue to roar at the Museum! n

www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society n 23 May 2023 n VOLUME XXVIII


Jim Gillies, Eustis, Florida

Susan Holt Reese

Charles A. DiFerdinando

Ray and Carol Schmudde

Mary Jane Hood

Robert McDaniel

Michael & Cheryl Murphy

Ed & Sue Horvat

Clark and Caroline Kinser

Barbara & Greg Martin

In memory of Dennis H. Young

Kathy C. McKenzie

Megan Reid

Gail Downs

Diane Skinner

Carolyn Bowra

Les Goldman

Janet & Chuck Williams

Michael & Barb Bell

Donell and Dave Deane

Sheri Rochford Figgs

David M. Buchanan

Gary and Kathy Gibson

The Kiene Family

Nancy and Derrill Macho

Martha Fulcher Leonhardt

The Stone/Robuck Family

Dan and Cheryl Lynn

Jill Seyfarth

Kathy Szelag

The Hilton Family

Sandy Jones

Okay…Okay! So you have enjoyed reading this year’s excellent edition of History La Plata. Now let’s see what you know about becoming a member of this vital organization. Just complete the quiz below, check your score and find out if you qualify to become a member/continuing member of the Animas Museum/La Plata County Historical Society……here goes and good luck!

1. How do you join this illustrious organization? Mark the incorrect option.

a. Fill out the form on this page and mail or take it to the Animas Museum.

b. Call 970-259-2402 if you have questions and need assistance with filling out the form.

c. Visit the Animas Museum website and follow instructions for becoming a member at www.animasmuseum.org.

d. Forget about joining, use History La Plata to line the bird cage and go about your day. Question wasn’t hard enough?… okay, let’s up the ante…

2. What are some ways that you can support the Animas Museum?

a. Join as a member.

b. Donate your time to help with Museum projects.

c. Donate on a one-time basis or regularly… all donations are welcome.

d. All of the above.

3. Who can join the Animas Museum’s roll of wonderful members?

a. Only 4th generation residents of La Plata County.

b. Only those with incomes greater than your income.

c. Everyone (yes, EVERYONE) is welcome to join, and the Museum offers a variety of membership options.

d. Only those who have donated 10% of their annual income for the last 5 years.

Now check your score. 1.(d) 2. (d) 3.(c). Guess what? We don’t care about your score (now you can exhale). We just want you for a member! Please join. n

“Quiz” compiled by long-time Historical Society member and frequent Museum volunteer Helen Ruth Aspaas, who as a retired educator really knows her way around a pop quiz.


Gay Kiene, President

Sandy Jones, Vice President

Caroline Kinser, Secretary

Sidny Zink, Treasurer

R. Michael Bell

Nancy Henry

Susan Jones

Cheryl Bryant Murphy

Kathie Propp


Jeff Johnson

Duane Smith


Charles DiFerdinando, Visitor Services Manager

Mona Charles, IMLS Project Manager

Briana Paxton, Museum Conservator

This project is made possible by the City of Durango’s Lodgers’ Tax Arts and Culture Fund.
24 n A Publication of the La Plata County Historical Society www. ANIMASMUSEUM . org
History La Plata n The 1920 s: the Decade that Roared
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