Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Prohibition in Colorado

Homemade moonshine distillery on display at the Notah-Dineh Museum in Cortez, Colorado.
Photograph copyright Erin S. Gray.
On January 16, 1920, the “Noble Experiment” known as Prohibition went into effect in the United States. This was an attempt to outlaw the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Ultimately, the government was unable to effectively regulate the sale of alcohol or reduce its consumption, even though officials closed down nearly all alcoholic beverage companies. Only a few companies stayed in business. Colorado’s Coors was among them, as Coors produced alcohol for medicinal use as well as soft drinks.


Instead of teaching morality, which was one of the government’s goals, Prohibition created lawlessness in the form of illegal alcohol (often referred to as moonshine) and illegal bars, known as speakeasies. Because these illicit businesses were unregulated, gangs sprang up to distribute moonshine in a process called “bootlegging.” Crime rates increased as well as deaths related to alcohol. Often the home-brewed drinks were unsafe, containing high lead content from old carburetors converted to stills. Wood alcohol, methanol or other noxious materials such as household cleaners were sometimes added to speed up the process and save money. Blindness was not an uncommon occurrence after drinking “bad” moonshine.


The biggest “booze” raid in the history of Colorado took place in Denver in 1922, when 73 agents of the U.S. government — 55 from the ranks of the Colorado Rangers — made simultaneous raids on 25 hotels, rooming houses, cigar stores, soft drink parlors and private homes, most of them in the heart of the city’s business district, looking for evidence of violations of the national prohibition law (The Denver Post, March 17, 1922).

On the southwest side of Colorado, many of the gold and silver mines in the San Juan Mountains were closing down because of the lack of minerals. This provided the perfect location for stills. Moonshiners would hide a still back in a closed mine shaft and brew their moonshine without being caught. They would then ship the product out to surrounding areas. One method for peddling moonshine in Durango was to paint milk jars white, then fill the jars with the disguised liquid.


Though many citizens made their own brew, moonshine was a relatively good business toward the end of the 1920s and in the early years of the Depression. The Eighteenth Amendment making Prohibition legal was repealed on December 5, 1933.


Erin S. Gray writes historical fiction for adults and young adults. She backpacks through the very mountains about which she writes and was inspired to begin her novel, Moonshine Murder, after stumbling across an abandoned cabin during a trek deep in the San Juan Mountains. Erin is the 2013 president of Women Writing the West, and an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in English, she lives in southwest Colorado with her husband and two young sons. For more information about the author, visit


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

California History – Pasadena’s Millionaires’ Row

Around 1900, Pasadena, California, was a famous winter resort.  The town had more bicycles per capita than anywhere else in the country, most likely because of the wealth of its residents and the pleasant climate.  Railroads whisked vacationers from the East and the Midwest to six large seasonal hotels, where they enjoyed winter sunshine, views of tall mountains, and natural beauty right outside of town.

Orange Grove Boulevard, the starting point of the Rose Parade, was Pasadena’s Millionaires’ Row, the location of between fifty and fifty-five mansions until the 1930s.  Homes on the west side of Orange Grove Avenue, as it was called back then, overlooked a wooded stream valley, the Arroyo Seco.  These homeowners spent the cooler months in Pasadena and left for their other mansions during the hot part of the year.

Some of these homeowners’ names are familiar from the products they or their family manufactured that were the source of their fortunes. Three homes that still stand are the Bissell House (carpet sweepers), the Wrigley Mansion (chewing gum), and the Gamble House (Procter & Gamble soaps).  The Bissell house is now a bed & breakfast.  The Wrigley Mansion, pictured here, is the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses, which presents the Rose Parade. 

Wrigley Mansion

The Gamble House is an architectural treasure that is open to the public.  This National Historic Landmark, designed in 1908, could not be more different than the Victorian architecture of a decade before.  This is about simplicity, blending with natural surroundings, and bringing the outdoors in. 

The Gamble House (photo by Pam Tartaglio)

It was designed by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, who also designed almost all the light fixtures and furniture.   The style is Asian-influenced American Arts and Crafts.  The craftsmanship is amazing – the manner in which the wood is joined and fastened is the decoration in the home.  Here’s a link to a photo of a staircase.  Screws are covered by “pegs.”

This stairway is just inside the front door and panels, which has art glass in the design of a tree. 


“Past and Present with Pamela” is a blog celebrating the arts, history, and places, focusing on the late 1800s and the early 1900s.  In a brief departure from this era, Pamela is now posting her vacation photos of Rome on her blog.  Pamela Tartaglio, as 2013 Past President of Women Writing the West, chairs its 2013 WILLA Literary Awards.  She is writing a novel set in the 1890s in “the world’s greatest gold camp,” Cripple Creek, Colorado, and volunteers at the Pasadena Museum of History.  To read a very short story set in the present and published in the e-zine, see

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November New Releases

The Whip 
(Audio Book Release)

by Karen Kondazian 

Actress Karen Kondazian's critically acclaimed debut novel The Whip, based on the true story of nineteenth-century legend Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst, a woman who lived most of her extraordinary life as a man (she was also the first woman to vote in the U.S., doing so as a man), is now an audiobook, produced by Deyan Audio Services and released by, in November, 2012. It is recorded by the award-winning actress Robin Weigert, who played Calamity Jane in HBO's “Deadwood” series.

Check out the The Whip Audio Book Trailer at:

The audio book and a sample chapter can be purchased at:


Where the Heart Lives
A Milford-Haven Novel (Book 2)
By Mara Purl

Where the Heart Lives tracks wildlife artist Miranda Jones as she travels the California coastal map. From her home town of Milford-Haven on the Central Coast, she drives south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, then into the heart of Hollywood, then across the L.A. basin, over its adjacent mountain range and into the Mojave Desert.

Along the way, her adventures include visits to see the wildlife she’ll shortly be painting: the gray whales on their migration and the big cats at the Feline Conservation Center in its isolated desert location. And in the heart of the city, she’s invited—by the interesting man she’s starting to date—to the historic Hollywood Bowl to get a backstage glimpse of a major rock concert by the Doobie Brothers.
Thrilling though these adventures are, they serve as the legend to her emotional map. Having left the relative security of her privileged, city life and ventured forth to create a new life in her small town of artists and entrepreneurs, she’s remapping priorities and consulting her heart more than her head as to what she’s doing and where she is in her life.  
Free Prequel to Where the Heart Lives
These in turn are questions the reader herself is invited to consider. Where does our heart live? In her heart of hearts, where would we choose to live?

The novel is introduced by a free short-story prequel, When Whales Watch, that takes Miranda on a whale-watching trip with most unusual results. 

Book one of Purl’s series, What the Heart Knows, just won gold at the USA Book News’ Best Book Awards, and won the gold Indie Excellence Award. It became Purl’s first best-seller in May 2012. Mara recently completed a book tour through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and while in New Mexico was a panelist at this year's Women Writing the West annual conference.

Published by Bellekeep Books/Midpoint Trade

Where the Heart Lives can be purchased at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and IndieBound

The FREE prequel, When Whales Watch, can be downloaded at
Visit Mara at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wyoming Waitress


Point of Rocks, Wyoming, c. 1950.
Used with permission Sweetwater County Historical Museum

Next year is the centennial anniversary of the Lincoln Highway. The original transcontinental road was built in 1913 and was 3400 miles long, from New York to San Francisco. Today, most of the road in Wyoming is unpaved and a rough ride for anyone trying to drive it, although sections do exist as the business loops of a few towns along modern I-80, and a stretch from Laramie to Walcott Junction was incorporated as part of a subsequent route, US 30. But back in the day, a paved road was a welcome novelty and meant many more miles could be traveled in one day than previously. 
Typical 1950s diner layout
Used with permission Sweetwater County Historical Museum

As long as there have been people traveling, there have been businesses catering to the traveler. Longer journeys by car presented a need for places to stop for gas, and a diner alongside the gas station was a natural addition. And a pretty young lady was a boon to any business, but most welcome as she approached the booth in the diner with a smile and pad and pencil to take orders and serve a meal at the end of a day’s long ride in the car.
Edith Angeli, waitress at Point of Rocks, Wyoming, c. 1950
Photo courtesy Alethea Williams

The Sugar Bowl in Green River, Wyoming, c. 1950
Used with permission Sweetwater County Historical Museum

The Lincoln Highway and the iconic Route 66 gave rise to such phenomena as the motor hotel – motel – and quick stop dining that preceded today’s fast food. Classic diner layout of the 1950s included a counter with swiveling stools in front of a kitchen with a window for orders in and orders out, and booths lining the outer walls. Streamlined, clean and shiny were the order of the day. Chrome was a staple of the ‘50s diner, from trim on the Formica-topped tables to the chair legs to the paper napkin dispensers. Just drop a coin in the wallbox: each booth had a chrome jukebox control with rotating selection menu so patrons didn’t have to leave their seats to queue up a favorite song. The floor was tile or linoleum for easy mopping at the end of a shift.
Sandwiches, salads, sundaes and pastries were popular menu items, quick to prepare and quick to serve. A vintage Howard Johnson’s menu listed on eBay offered the lowest priced luncheon sandwich -- a ham and cheese club -- for 40 cents, through a mid-priced chicken salad for 65 cents, all the way up to a 75-cent lobster and bacon club on three slices of bread. Dinner specials generally ran about 50 cents for grilled “frankforts” and potato salad with apple pie to 95 cents for kidney lamb chops with French fries.

Edith Angeli, Louis Kerlovich and unidentified woman
Probably taken in front of the Point of Rocks, Wyoming, cafe, c. 1950
Photo courtesy Alethea Williams
Most diners today are gone, although there are a few still operating along interstate highways and the main streets of small towns. Truck stops and fast food chains have taken over where the old-fashioned café left off, but one thing never goes out of style and is still appreciated no matter the business: a warm, welcoming smile.
Thank you, Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, Wyoming, for permission to use the photographs.


Alethea Williams is the author of Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award winner Willow Vale. Alethea writes fiction and nonfiction about Wyoming, where she has lived for more than half a century. Alethea blogs at http://www.actuallyalethea and

Friday, November 09, 2012

November New Book Releases

The Cowboy's Autumn Fall
By Shanna Hatfield

The Cowboy's Autumn Fall
(Grass Valley Cowboys Book 4)
Brice Morgan thought love at first sight was some ridiculous notion of school girls and old ladies who read too many romance novels. At least he does until he meets Bailey Bishop at a friend’s wedding and falls hard and fast for the intriguing woman.

Bailey Bishop attends her cousin’s wedding with no intention of extending her brief visit to Oregon. Married to her career as a paleontologist, Bailey tries to ignore her intense attraction to her cousin’s best friend, Brice. Ready to return home to Denver, Bailey instead accepts the opportunity to explore a new dig site not far from the family’s ranch in Grass Valley.
Can she keep her feelings for Brice from derailing her plans for the future?
As the autumn season arrives, love falls on willing hearts at the Triple T Ranch.
Visit Shanna at
The Cowboy's Autumn Fall can be purchased at:

Sunday, November 04, 2012

On The Edge

On the outskirts of Silverton, Colorado in Cunningham Gulch lies a historic wonder, the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House. This phenomenal structure is bolted with cables to the rocky crags of Galena Mountain 2,000 feet above the basin and main mine entrance below. Splintered wood, rusted corrugated metal, and a handful of memories in the form of a cook stove, a metal bedframe, and pairs of shoes are all that remain.

The pages of the Old Hundred’s story begin in 1872 with the Neigold brothers, who made their way from Germany to become prospectors. The three brothers were an odd and amusing bunch for those traveling on Stony Pass Trail leading into Silverton. Coming from an educated background, the brothers would often entertain guests with music, plays, and even opera. They were quite the contrast to the usual prospecting crowd.

Some color was found, the most likely profits at the level seven tunnel, 2,000 feet up the mountain. Not having the funds to operate the mine, the brothers sold out. The company who bought the mine spent the next several years and over a million dollars building the boarding house, a mill at the base of the mountain, and a tram—much like a ski lift today—to haul the ore and men from the boarding house to the mill below.

A legend exists of a mistress in the boarding house who loved to play piano, so a piano was hauled to the boarding house on the backs of mules.

Hundreds of miles of tunnels were dug searching for the rich veins of ore. Unfortunately, there was very little color found in the mine. In 1908 the mine closed down. A neighboring mine bought the Old Hundred for its mill.

In 2000, the Silverton Historical Society in conjunction with the Old Hundred Mining Tour preserved the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House on Galena’s peak. The task was completed with helicopters and brave construction workers operating on crumbling shell rock above Cunningham Gulch.

Today there is a trail to the old level seven tunnel, but to reach the boarding house, one must scramble 200 vertical feet over loose rock. Only experienced climbers should make the hike.

During the summer months, mining tours are given inside the mine, probably the most revenue it has had.

Photographs copyright Erin S. Gray 

Erin S. Gray writes historical fiction for adults and young adults. She backpacks through the very mountains about which she writes and was inspired to begin her novel, Moonshine Murder, after stumbling across an abandoned cabin during a trek deep in the San Juan Mountains.

Erin is the 2013 president of Women Writing the West, and an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in English, she lives in southwest Colorado with her husband and two young sons.