Glenwood Springs’ Frontier Historical Museum registrars share a passion for the past |

Glenwood Springs’ Frontier Historical Museum registrars share a passion for the past

Stina SiegPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

“The most important thing in life is to live your life for something more important than your life.” – William James (philosopher and psychologist)GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Patsy Stark takes these words to heart. Recently, she found them, written across a note card, as she was sifting through her friend’s things. Her pal, fellow history buff Audrey Chader, had died, and Stark took the quote as an omen. Within a few days, she was offered her “dream job” as the Frontier Historical Society and Museum’s new registrar and archivist. She’s now replaced Willa Kane, who had the position for 15 years.When the two women talked about the museum, they used different words, but their gusto was the same. For both, that “more important” thing must be history.

“I think history keeps the soul of the town alive,” said Kane.When she first joined the society in 1990, she signed up to volunteer, but didn’t think they’d need her. Was she ever wrong. After three years of helping out, she moved into a paid position. Known then as Willa Soncarty, Kane’s work was all-encompassing. She’d greet people at the museum’s front desk, answer their questions, help them dig up information about long-lost relatives or historical figures. Among other things, she’d catalogue any antique pieces they might want to donate. Over the years, she’s also written about 500 historically themed “Frontier Diary” columns for this paper, too. While for many, being surrounded by the musty world of old clothes, toys and manuscripts might sound dull, Kane had absolute love in her voice.”I just wanted to know,” she said. “I’ve always had this desire to know about things that came before me.”

Each day at the museum was a new adventure in that. It wasn’t so much that she was attached to the artifacts, as she was to the people behind them. One time, she met a fellow whose grandfather was an Episcopal priest in Glenwood. She was able to show him the stained-glass window that used to illuminate his grandfather’s old church. Another day, she had to tell a curious guy that his grandfather had been a horse thief. (“He wasn’t surprised,” she joked.)”I just want people to be able to connect with the place they live,” she said, speaking about her museum experiences as though they were magic.”I have to tell you, I had one of the best jobs in Glenwood.”Then why leave?Simply, it was time. She turned 50, got married (to Michael Kane) and developed some health issues. She realized she needed more security – financially, that is. She also felt like the museum should have an influx of new ideas, some fresh blood. “When you have all these things come together, you realize you’re not always going to be here forever,” she said. “You realize you’re going to be history, too.”Now, she works full time in the business office at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood. She still volunteers at the society, and her column will continue, though only once a month (every first Tuesday). Some of her hands-on experience with history is ending, but her interest in people’s journeys doesn’t seem to be. Besides, who can tell what “matters more,” she asked: working at the museum or helping college students get an education? It’s all connection and, in a way, still history, as In her words, “I think it’s all important.”

At the museum, Stark gave a tour. She showed an antiquated pair of roller skates and a bed and dresser belonging to Horace and Baby Doe Tabor. There was a room dedicated to the Ute tribe, another one celebrating children’s toys. And Stark was smiling at it all.”It’s such a joy to walk into this home and be surrounded by the past and be able to offer it to people,” she said.She’s only been on the job a month, but her infatuation didn’t sound one bit fleeting. She called her new position “fabulous” – among many other enthusiastic adjectives.This curiosity about the past started back when she was a kid. She grew up on “Gunsmoke” and old Westerns and caught a yearning for the cowboy spirit. As an adult, she moved around, got jobs but never in history. Twenty years ago, when she was in her mid-40s, she came to Glenwood with her first husband, Bill Clark. Sadly, two years later, she was dealing with his death. Her friend, an older lady named Tillie Fischer, offered her a job, and Stark ended up staying on here. She made more friends and found her place in the community, but for years she worked office and sales gigs that didn’t light a fire in her. Already a society member, upon hearing that Kane was going, she knew she had to throw her hat in the ring. When she got the job, it just felt right.”It came into my life for a reason,” she said. “It’s not about my life. There’s a bigger picture.”For her, that means giving the people of Glenwood their history. She still meets locals that haven’t been to the museum, and she’s out to change all that. She wants the society “to shine,” she said, describing its upcoming events. Vintage Base Ball, a game played by 1860s rules with appropriate costumes, comes at the end of June. “How it Was,” a one-man show about Doc Holliday hits town in mid-August. The always popular Ghost Walk, with actors playing long-dead locals, will arrive just before Halloween. She imagines a future exhibit about all the vices (drinking and guns and gambling) that used to inhabit this town – whatever it takes to bring history to life for people. She was leaning forward, smiling and looking excited as she listed off all this.

“I love it,” she said. “Does it show?”She then brought out an old, yellowed copy of the Avalanche Echo, Glenwood’s newspaper of record long ago. She flipped through the pages, one of which told the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s recent bear hunt. She then pointed out several other old books and magazines in the society’s archives. Whenever she looks at this wealth of information, she admitted, she feels just like George Hearst in front of his Comstock Load.”Look at all that gold,” she said, sounding right at home.Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111ssieg@postindependent.comPost Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado

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