Good afternoon, Montrose.
Butter Side Up……The Museum of the Mountain West is featured in the current (January 2021) edition of True West magazine. It’s the annual “Best of the West” section where historians, judges and readers call out favorites and “must-see” attractions. Richard Fike, founder-owner of the Museum of the West, was winner of two Reader’s Choice Awards.
• Best Western History Collector: Fike was cited for his personal collection of more than 500,000 artifacts at his museum.
• Best Preserved Re-Created Pioneer Town: Fike’s efforts have no doubt saved 29 historic buildings from a landfill. They include the Carriage Works Building which was owned by the Diehl family of Montrose for generations, a 1913 German Lutheran church which was located on Park Avenue, and many others from all over the West. (Incidentally, inside the Carriage Works Building is where a young boxer named Jack Dempsey trained before becoming world champion heavyweight.) In all, there are 29 restored buildings.
The awards are not the first time Fike has been recognized by this nationally circulated magazine which celebrates everything Old West. In 2018, the Museum of the Mountain West was on the True West list of “15 Museums Not to Miss.” The museum has earned similar awards dating to 2011. It first opened in 1995, added buildings three years later and got seriously into exhibiting business in 2000.
“I’ve been collecting stuff since I was four,” said Fike, 80, Tuesday morning. “My family was living in Skagway, Alaska. I had my first museum at 8.” Fike worked professionally as an archaeologist and with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah before relocating to Montrose. He’s got a fine ear for the smaller nuances of Old West history.
I mentioned Charles Leerhsen’s new book about Butch Cassidy, for example, and Fike went into story telling about Harry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid), how there were two Etta Places; a story about Cassidy’s relatives in and around Circleville, Utah, the outlaw’s home. Some of Cassidy’s descendants have presented programs at his museum over the years, as have Bob Boze Bell, the editor and publisher of True West magazine.
Business has been pretty good this year, said Fike, despite a global pandemic. The big loss, however, was the absence of foreign tourists.
“We get visitors from about 50 counties a year, some from countries whose name I can’t pronounce,” said Fike, with a laugh. “There’s always great interest in our Western history.” Too, typically tourists from all 50 states visit as well. The museum is operating with self-guided, socially distanced tours. The number of docents providing information has declined, Fike said, citing the age of this group and the vulnerability to the virus.
The museum became a non-profit organization in 2005 and has a board of directors. Gary Ellis, the former Montrose County commissioner, was president before relocating to Sheridan, Wyoming, a few years ago. Carol Harris-Fike is the current president. She was an assistant superintendent of schools in Durango.
The museum’s winter schedule – Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. – is in effect. It’s located at 61689 Miami Road. Phone: 970-240-3400. Website: museumofthemountainwest.org.
Dept. of Incidental Info……The first national root beer brand? Hires. Charles E. Hires, a pharmacist by training, founded the soft drink company and presented it at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia as an alternative to alcoholic beverages. Hires (1851-1937) is credited as one of the first U.S. businessmen to aggressively advertise his product, pouring his first 10 years of profit into advertising and was one of the first to regularly purchase full-pages of newspaper advertising. “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark: you know what you’re doing, but nobody else does,” wrote Hires.
RIP, Tommy Lasorda……Tributes for the great Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda were on both sports and news pages last week following his death at 92. He famously said how he bled “Dodger Blue,” beginning his association with the team in 1949. He won two world championships as a manager and was a front-office executive. His success as a manager didn’t translate as a pitcher and he joked about it always. His lifetime record was 0-4 with an ERA of 6.48. Asked why he didn’t have a better career as a player, Lasorda told a reporter: “Because my curve ball had a hang time like a Ray Guy punt.”
Winning Police Blotter…… “A Flintlock Ridge Road man said he saw a bear in his backyard. Police could not find a bear when officers arrived. Police said it was possible that the man saw two turtles.” – Lewisboro (New York) Ledger