Highlights from

The Herald Democrat

50 Years Ago

Potpourri...

June 15, 1971

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If there is any economic slump in the recreation field, it wasn’t apparent from the number of campers, trailers and automobiles on the highways and byways this long holiday weekend.

Now is the time when everybody behind the steering wheel must exercise caution. This incident which happened Saturday to a local motorist illustrates the point:

The driver started to pass a camper crawling ahead. Just as the driver started around the camper, the driver of the camper put out his hand as if indicating a left turn; there was a side road just ahead to the left. In a panic the driver burned off considerable rubber getting behind the camper again. Subsequent observation developed that the driver of the camper was pointing to one of the mountains along the way here, paying absolutely no attention to the fact that there was a car behind about to pass.

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Reminders that Father’s Day is Sunday:

Good grief, what do we get for the chief? Make Dad feel like a king! An ad seeking to interest gift-givers in an easy chair for old dad asks, “Where does Pop flop?” A clothing store advertises, “Sock it to him — belt him — tie him up!” Another clothier advertises, “Put your brand on Dad.” And still another clothier: “Let Pop tie one on this Father’s Day.”

Nothing Unites

Leadville Like a

St. John’s Eve Bonfire

June 24, 1971

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“East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet.” The statement may apply to world conditions, but never in Leadville.

Yes, at one time the east was east in Leadville and the west was west; but no more.

Nothing is more visible proof of this than the carrying out of the traditional bonfire which is part of St. John’s Eve.

European immigrants who settled in Leadville around the turn of the century brought with them the custom of lighting bonfires for St. John’s Eve. St. John’s Day is celebrated on June 24.

This was always a special occasion in any household where a male bore the name of John. Now one large bonfire under the sponsorship of the Leadville Knights of Columbus serves to unite the Toms, Dicks and Harrys, as well as all the Johns.

One of the largest crowds to date enjoyed the camaraderie that goes with an evening bonfire, music under the stars and plenty of refreshments. It was good to see so many young people take advantage of the gathering.

Quite a few of the old-timers came out to participate and enjoyed meeting with St. John’s Eve celebrants of other years.

The nationality line which had divided the town years ago when the celebrations began has definitely been wiped out. In fact, a casual survey of the crowd decreed that more east-siders were enjoying the occasion than west-siders.

Years ago when the blood of the Sixth Street Irish boiled at fever pitch, the fighting males took their lives in their hands when they crossed Harrison Avenue in either direction. “The fighting Irish” were named appropriately, as they usually did the crossing.

Like the midsummer night bonfires, the west side dances were noted for being patronized strictly by west side residents; an invader from the east side was expected to be in search of fisticuffs.

No fights as such are recorded on St. John’s Eve, however. It has a happy spirit about town, being only part of the west side for many years. Each family with a saint namesake had its own bonfire with refreshments, merriment and dancing. Some of the families would cooperate to build a big bonfire on a hilltop which would be visible from many parts of the city.

When there were many, many bonfires, Leadville was a beautiful sight on the south and west with the traditional observance.

As the town became integrated, a few hilltop fires appeared on the east.

The practice began to dwindle to little excitement. This is when the Knights of Columbus stepped in. As an organization, they have experienced the strength which comes from uniting the east and the west. So why not sponsor St. John’s Eve bonfires and furnish the refreshments and the popcorn?

This year’s great get-together was under newly elected Grand Knight William Adamich, assisted by immediate past Grand Knight William Skala.

In the yesteryears of Leadville, the most spirited celebrating took place in Stringtown. Seems there were more Johns in that section of town.

The Federation of Musicians plays an important part in this latter-day St. John celebration. Through a grant, the musicians are paid for playing during the evening.

The old-time sound of a saxophone in a dance band put out sweet notes in a balmy evening in the two-mile-high city of Leadville. This instrument was played by Joe Ambrose, while Joe Jakopic provided “Sam the Old Accordion Man” music. Both received excellent backing from musicians  Leonard Fuchhtman on the bass fiddle, Bill Powell on the guitar and Johnny Byers on the drums. Johnny should have made the drum resound on his namesake day, but he played in reserved manner.

Only in Leadville can a tradition like St. John’s Eve be carried forward to the younger generation who can’t let it drop. They will pass it on to their offspring.

Oh yes, ecology helped to make this year’s fire as well as last year’s much more pleasant. Only wood was burned, with an occasional paper carton thrown in. Nobody missed the thick, black smoke which was for a few years a part of the bonfire; old burning tires do not make pleasant bonfires.

Today’s Chuckle

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If times are changing so fast, how come we’re sitting around watching the same movies we saw 20 years ago?

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