Dates for a New Year
by Ed Quillen
Never have I been much of a joiner, but I do belong to the Salida Business Alliance and just got re-elected as its secretary. The SBA puts on the Parade of Lights on the night after Thanksgiving and organizes the community Independence Day celebration.
I didn’t join out of some burning desire to serve the community. When we ran this magazine, I sold ads. That meant connecting with local enterprises – “networking” if you will – and the easiest way to meet people is to join an organization.
Unlike Rotary, the SBA doesn’t sing at its meetings; indeed, it is blessedly bereft of ritual. Its president, Vicki Vigil, is an old friend from my Mountain Mail days. An added bonus is that the twice-a-month meetings start at 8 a.m. and have to end within an hour so that members (many of them are ma-and-pa retailers) can get to their shops and open on time. Thus you’re not stuck in some tedious session that seems eternal (once I had to cover a Salida City Council meeting that lasted almost to midnight with a discussion of what kind of light bulbs to buy for the sewer plant).
I’m not in business anymore, but I still belong to the SBA. Freelance writing is lonely work, and the SBA gives me a reason to get out of the house and see people on a regular basis. I’ve read that this helps one’s mental health – and there are days when mine needs some help.
Aside from encouraging members to do business with each other, the SBA supports downtown beautification. To raise money for that, the SBA publishes an annual calendar featuring local scenes. And a couple of years ago, we messed that up pretty well – January and February were off, and November had 31 days, etc.
That’s embarrassing. We have several people proofread the calendar these days, and so far, it’s worked. But it always seemed to me that a local calendar should offer some locally significant dates. I mentioned that once at an SBA meeting, and got told that if I’d compile a list, the information could go on the calendar.
But I never got around to it – until now. We can start 2011 by marking some of its days with anniversaries of local events (and if there’s an awful lot of railroad stuff here, well, Salida was a railroad town and I’m a railroad buff).
Jan. 2: Salida sets its record low temperature of -35º in 1910.
Feb. 5: Railroad truss bridge over the Arkansas, just upstream from the F Street bridge, torn out in 1985. It’s now the site of a boat ramp.
March and April: Nothing happened in these months in Salida during the preceding 131 years, either.
May 2: Last train over Marshall Pass arrives in Salida, 1955.
May 3: Start of Salida’s record snowfall in 2001. The Mail puts it at 60 inches. I measured 44 in the alley. It was a scary night. You didn’t want to go outside because tree limbs were snapping, but indoors, you wondered whether any roof in town had been built for that kind of snow load.
May 4: 1908, cornerstone laid for Salida Regional Library.
May 20: First train reaches Salida, 1880.
May 30: Small suspension bridge across the Arkansas at D Street collapses as women and girls threw flowers off for Memorial Day in 1904. At least six of them drowned.
May 31: Average date of last killing frost in Salida. That may seem late, but don’t complain; it’s June 19 in Leadville and June 27 in Gunnison. Also, Laura Evans, Salida’s most famous madam, was born on May 31, 1882.
June 5. First edition of The Mountain Mail published in 1880. The town was still called South Arkansas then.
June 12. In 1879, a petition began circulating to establish a school district to serve the Salida area before there was a Salida.
June 19: First FIBArk race, 1949. It ran all the way to Cañon City then.
June 20: Salida’s first church, the First Presbyterian, meets for the first time in 1880.
June 22: Last steam-powered train chugs through Salida in 1997, part of a special excursion by the Union Pacific. Otherwise, steam departed after 1956.
July 5: La Fiesta del Agua con Gato Muerto. Commemorates the day in 2006 when Salidans were told not to drink tap water for several days on account of a dead cat being found in a water line that was under construction near the courthouse. To participate, hoist a glass of whiskey, as we did then.
July 21: Last regularly scheduled passenger train departs Salida in 1967.
July 22: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, former U.S. president, visits Salida in 1880.
Aug. 23: Last through train across Tennessee Pass comes through Salida in 1997.
Aug. 28: Leading a party of 800 soldiers on a campaign against the Comanche in 1779, New Mexico Gov. Juan Bautista de Anza passes near or through Salida after camping at Poncha Springs the night before.
Sept. 17: Earl Warren, Republican candidate for vice-president and future chief justice, speaks in Salida in 1948.
Sept. 23: President William Howard Taft visits Salida in 1909, en route to the dedication of the Gunnison-Uncompahgre Tunnel near Montrose.
Sept. 27: Scrapping begins in 1984 of the Monarch Quarry Spur, Salida’s last branch line, because the CF&I mill in Pueblo had ceased primary steel production and no longer needed limestone from the quarry. Call this the Death Day for the old industrial economy here.
Oct. 2: Duke, the dog that greeted incoming trains, dies of asthma in 1902 and is buried under a monument next to Tenderfoot Hill. The brown water spaniel is the namesake for the Loyal Duke Dog Park and Loyal Duke Scottish Ale.
Oct. 7: Last visit of a president to Salida; Harry Truman in 1952,
Oct. 25: Smelter begins operation in 1902. It later gets the prominent smokestack that remains today.
Nov. 6: In the 1928 election, Salida wins the county seat from Buena Vista by a vote of 2,279 to 944.
Nov. 14: 365-foot tall smelter stack completed in 1917.
Nov. 24: Last run of the Shavano, a narrow-gauge passenger train over Marshall Pass between Salida and Gunnison, in 1940.
Dec. 6: Start of a blizzard that dumped 25 inches of snow on Salida in 1978 and plunged the mercury to -29º below, thereby freezing my water pipes when we had two small children in the house. We’d just moved here from Kremmling in April and everyone told us what mild winters we could expect in Salida. I quickly learned better.
Dec. 7: 1887, Salida’s first electric street lamps, illuminating the F Street bridge, are turned on.
Dec. 26: Capt. Zebulon M. Pike passes site of Salida in 1806.
Dec. 31: Major fire hits downtown Salida in 1886, getting much of what remained standing from a fire that March. Downtown is rebuilt in brick, much of it still standing.
And thus the desire to preserve and enhance the old downtown, and thus the reason for the calendar.Ed Quillen, now turned 60 and officially a geezer, once spent the better part of a week writing date-calculation software in the Spitbol programming language to manage the subscription list of this magazine.
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