Early drug warnings, historic highways and Earth Day, circa 2000
Editor’s note: Newspaper journalism has often been described at the first draft of history and it’s always illustrative and entertaining to go back and riff through the archives. Summit Voice correspondent Jennifer Brancaccio has agreed to comb through the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection to compile a weekly look back at stories from the days of yore.
Compiled by Jennifer Brancaccio
The Curse of Opium
Drug awareness education is not unique to the modern era, As early as April 28, 1910, the Eagle County Blade was reporting on the dangers of opium. Elliot Flowers described the story of a successful man who was building a career and climbing the social ladder. Upon developing an opium habit, he fell into a life of crime, “borrowing” items to feed his habit. His brother took care of him, helping him to break the habit. Though he was free of it, opium still ruined the man’s life. He was seen as a ‘tragedy’ and a pathetic man. He died miserable and with nothing.
Flowers went on to explain how opium was a taxed import, used to create morphine, to help with a patient’s pain. Smugglers would sneak in opium, in order to avoid the tax, to supply opium dens and addicts.
Some addicts came to form an addiction unknowingly through morphine use, injecting the drug intravenously while others smoked it intentionally for the high. All become desperate for the drug, exercising any means possible to obtain it. Sometimes, an addict would use cocaine to ease the withdrawal from opium, only to engender a new addiction. The cycle would continue, leaving the addict desperate and bereft of hope.
Flowers revealed through interviews with police from different cities that it’s impossible to “hit the pipe” and not become addicted. Physicians and businessmen were often the most vulnerable to the drug followed by ministers. “No crime great or small is beyond the reach of the person surrounded by such conditions.”
The author closed his article with another story, one about a couple happily engaged. The fiancé developed an opium addiction and his fiancée, a devoted and loving woman, stood by his side when he confessed his addiction and went through treatment. Though he beat his habit, the husband fell back into it and his new wife was so devastated that she also fell to the addiction. Together they ran an opium den, feeding the addictions of others until their arrest. It’s interesting to see that a version of a public service announcement condemning drugs and notifying the public of their dangers was available in the early 1900’s. If you’re on the home page, there are more stories after the break …
Colorado’s new Battle Mountain Road
While modern-day Coloradans battle over a roadless policy for national forests in the state, early residents had their hands full just trying to get around the rugged high country terrain. In 1928, the Eagle County News reported on the history of Battle Mountain Road, between Red Cliff and Gilman. In its day, the road was part of a transcontinental route between New York and San Francisco.
Pike’s Peak ocean-to-ocean highway was an old road winding through cliffs that overlooked Eagle River. Motorists affectionately knew the road as a “waterloo.”
Trains and rivers below looked like toys and ribbons below and it wound narrow and steep, making hard for motorists with six and four-cylinder engines to climb the steep grades.
Battle Mountain Road was constructed between the towns of Red Cliff and Gilman. Red Cliff was a popular gold mining town and Gilman known for its mines rich in zinc and manganese. Though the towns were only hundreds of feet different in elevation, a motorist was required to climb over one thousand feet in order to scale the cliffs. Battle Mountain was a part of the trans-continental highways between New York and San Francisco.
Many contractors shied away from the project because they figured it would be too costly and companies would lose money and have to pay for property damages. The construction of Battle Mountain Road was treacherous, requiring workers to change their construction methods. The most economic way construction companies built roads in the mountains was by blasting, blowing the boulders clear of right of way travel.
With this project, small charges were used and rocks were meticulously removed by steam shovel or diverted into crevices in order to keep them from falling onto the railways below. Watchmen were paid to walk the rails and remove whatever missed the barriers. Construction was long, tedious and dangerous however those responsible were praised by the paper for “putting good workmanship and safety above the desire for profit.”
A child of Earth Day finds optimism
Columnist Rocky Barker wrote about how Earth Day for the Colorado Springs Independent on April 27, 2000, describing how the day helped create an environmental awareness in the United States, helping the public to “adjusting their lives to fit into the limits of nature.”
Barker reminisced about activists burying cars, Guerilla Theater, and “teach-ins” to educate people on pollution and ecology. When he attended Northland College, in Wisconsin, Barker picked up litter and, though the contribution to the “cause” was minimal, he expressed pride in taking part in some of the first ecology, economics and land water use planning classes ever offered. Earth Day has inspired the creation of environmentally related degrees that lead to jobs where executives are in a place of power to change how we treat our land.
Barker followed the practices of a former teacher, Sigured Olsen as he led a fight to preserve the Boundary waters Canoe Area in Minnesota who, in 1972, exclaimed that citizens “cannot abandon technology, but we can and must seek a balance between it and ecology.”
Over the years, Barker had grown optimistic about the effects of the Earth Day movement. He wrote about how the Edwards Dam was breached allowing the Kennebec river in Maine to flow freely, restoring 17 miles of river to the Atlantic salmon and sea bass. In 1995, wolves were released into Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return wilderness. A month later, Barker said he was one of the first people to hear the howls of free roaming wolves in Yellowstone National Park.
In closing, Barker states that our nation has a long way to go to bring about all the changes Earth Day has sought to accomplish, though improvements, like the Peregrine Falcon being taken off the endangered species list in 1999, are being made gradually as time passes. Its imperative that the public is made aware of what they can do to improve their planet.
No Tourists wanted
In April 1918, the Fort Collins Weekly Courier reported on the repercussions of World War I.Due to the strain of World War I, Europeans shunned United States travelers. Food and fuel rationing had made natives of England and France reluctant to share with tourists. Passports were rarely issued at the time unless there was a military or business reason seen as acceptable to the U.S. government. Though many Americans wanted to visit the war zone, most respect the feelings and requests of the “Old World” and do not travel abroad and support in any way they can the allied war effort.