Priscilla Mangnall
Grand Junction Free Press History Columnist

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January 10, 2013
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THE WAY WE WERE: Digging up the past in 2012

I learned a thing or two about the history of the Grand Valley last year. Lord knows all that good stuff didn't come from my toiling away at the history files at the Museum of Western Colorado or the Mesa County Library.

No, by golly, it came from you, the reader. The phone call, the emails and the letters are what I find to be real history, living history. If I get a call, I may not be in a place to write it down and as good as my memory seems to be at times, I can't remember all the juicy details and implore you to write your remembrances and get them to me. It's good stuff.

The progress and events of our little town that happened 100 years ago are pretty much written in stone. Once in a while I'll find something that a past historian had claimed as fact might not have been just so. Not that they made it up or bent history, but new facts and knowledge emerge all the time. New photographs, diaries and hand-me-down tales are discovered every day at the Loyd Files Library. Grandma's house gets cleaned out and the family is mindful enough not to through away the scripts and scraps of paper that the folks had so carefully squirreled away all these many years for some darn good reason. Thank goodness.

We lost good historians this past year - Dave Sundal and Kathy Jordan. Dave's memories of growing up in downtown Grand Junction left us with so many finite details of the past that we all mourn his irreplaceable lost. Kathy Jordan, aided by her loyal husband, Teddy, was a tireless researcher; her writings will endure.

Thanks to Garry Brewer who contributes a GJ history column on the last Friday of the month which appears in the Free Press' Grand Living Senior Magazine; he practically lives at the Museum. He's continually telling me, "Hey, come look at this!" His keen eye and ability to tie together people and events astounds me.

Steve and Denise Hight who put together the Arcadia Press book on Fruita in 2010 have become collectors of local memorabilia and history. Someday, they tell me, they will pass it on to the museums, and Debbie Brockett just authored a new book about the seamy side of the Western Slope. Her archiving skills have gone where no other has dared to go.

But you my dear readers have given me the history that can't be found anywhere else. Sonny Chiaro has entrusted me with a giant shoebox full of images that he has snapped over the years of many of the vanishing landmarks, some notorious and some, our familiar forgotten neighborhoods.

You Know You're From Grand Junction When. . . is a Facebook page on the internet that people from all over the country chime in on with a variety of subjects. You ought to go there if you can, it's a baby boomers wonderland of the things they've remembered from "old" Grand Junction.

Legends of the Grand Valley Sculpture Project is another bunch of dedicated, "history-minded" individuals that in 2012, celebrated the 50th anniversary of "Operation Foresight" with another legendary installment at Third and Main Street, accompanied by a comprehensive book and a DVD of historical film footage. All can be found in your local libraries and Grand Valley Books.

The Mesa County Historical Society, of which I am proudly president, and the Museum of Western Colorado offer a monthly Oral History Program. Last year we learned about such diverse subjects as The Stinking Desert, the Loma Community Quilts, the Uintah Indian Reservation and the School District 51 Teachers Strike of the 1970s, to mention a few. If you have never taken the time to join us, please do, it's free and open to the public. The program takes place at noon, the third Thursday of each month. You can brown bag it or just come; there are always cookies and coffee involved.

In 2013 look forward to talks about the Little Bookcliff Railway, the history of veterinarians in western Colorado, and this month, on Jan. 17 will be David Bailey talking about his Western Investigation Team. You can visit the museum's website at or call me at 970-260-5226.

History keeps reminding of who we are and from whence we came. So many things in this old world are changing so fast and time clips along at such a pace that it freaks me out to think that the 1990s were 23 years ago! "Where does it go?," we all ask.

Don't wait another day to tell me your local history or share a photo. My address is 1406 Cedar Ave., 81501. You can always hand-write and mail me something. I prefer it that way.

Let's make some new discoveries in 2013. Let's dig up our past and tell our stories for our kids and grandkids; they sure as heck aren't writing it down anymore than we did.

Got a memory or picture to share? Call me at 970-260-5226, or email

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 10, 2013 03:38PM Published Jan 10, 2013 03:37PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.