Monday, March 21, 2011
Michael Cleverly, VIle's Aspen Bureau Chief
Submitted by: Editor

Original Company Town - Part 3

“Company Town” traces the evolution of the influence of the industries that have driven Aspen’s economic life from its boomtown silver and gold mining days to its growth into one of the premier ski resorts in the world. It also traces the changes in Aspen society, from its mining days, when basically no one had any class, to the freewheeling 70’s when the place was so democratic as to be a classless society, to today, when the entire town is essentially a gated community. The gates are not made of steel, they’re economic, and the society now is far from classless.

The 70’s and serious fun in the old mining town

By 1970 Aspen was known around the world and was becoming a Mecca for hippies and ski bums of every stripe. They cavorted and partied with movie stars and other celebrities and there was absolutely no sense of class distinction. Rich trustfunders and people who were household names strove to be accepted as “locals” by the dishwashers and ski instructors with whom they were spending long nights in serious debauch. It was that year that journalist Hunter Thompson ran for Sheriff on the Freak Power ticket and escaped being elected by the skin of his teeth.  

Things weren’t completely idyllic in those sunny mountains. Like the rest of the country there were those who weren’t too crazy about the longhairs and their pot smoking, free love, hippy dippy ways. Crusty old ranchers had a hard time and folks like the legendary Guido Meyer had no problem demonstrating his feelings on the matter, and wanted to give the hippies the Ute treatment. Meyer posted a “NO HIPPIES” sign on his restaurant, Guido’s Swiss Inn, and he and pal Burt Bidwell who owned a business nearby, would never miss an opportunity to hose down hippies who loitered on their properties. Also a police magistrate, Guido would hand down exceedingly harsh judgments to anyone with long hair and maintained, “Nobody should hire any vagrant, beatnik or just plain dirty bum walking around town. Nobody should give them a place to stay or feed them,” an unsettling attitude for a man who was an immigrant himself. The hippies responded by printing “EAT AT GUIDO’S” t-shirts that they wore with great pride day in and day out until the garment reached a state of putrescence.

Occasionally the animosity could go the other way. These new Aspenites were fiercely anti-development and when a subdivision “Holland Hills” began to spring up ten miles down highway 82 from Aspen they took it none too well. In 1970 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reported, “ Local vigilantes have already dynamited the windmill at Holland Hills, a rising subdivision designed like a quaint Dutch village. A local journal, The Aspen Wallposter, reports that police investigation of the dynamiting has been “hopelessly complicated by the vast number of good leads and suspects. So many people have been threatening-for so long- to either burn or blast the windmill that when somebody finally got around to doing the deed, half the town panicked for lack of alibis.” Aspen City Councilman Ned Vare says he is not dismayed by the $30,000 damage done to the windmill: “I think it’s a much bigger crime to build that stuff than to blow it up. A lot of people hope that it will be blown up again.”

Part 4: Looming carpetbaggers

Posted by Editor on 03/21/11 at 11:26 AM •  (0) Comments

Tags:  wealth, aspen, cleverly,

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