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Man releases DVD about Marble

Stina Sieg
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent
ALL |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” David Showalter once received one of his best compliments during a visit to this valley.

He’s not sure the name of the town, but he remembers that one of its librarians was completely impressed by his work.

“You’re probably the only man I know who can tell stories for four days and never tell a lie,” she said.



Being a documentarian, that must have made him smile.

“I’m just real, and I don’t make it up, and I don’t have to,” he said, recalling that day.



Telling it like it was, it seems, is his trademark. For 38 years, the tall, slim, cowboy-looking guy has traveled across Colorado and filmed all the relics of the past he could put his eyes on. Even before that, he was documenting the state in still photographs. He describes his work as “pioneer, mining and railroad” history. His stuff isn’t flashy or heavily funded ” or even scripted.

But it’s personal.

“This is a real person in a regular vehicle and he’s going out and finding out all these neat things to do and see,” he said.

As he sees it, that’s the sort of thing people like. They tell him so.

Since 2005, he’s released four of his documentaries on DVD. His latest, “The History of Marble,” shows off the tiny town and that famous white rock that still flows from its quarry.

“It’s a fascinating place, and I wanted to tell its story,” explained Showalter, 64. “It’s just that simple.”

Like his other films, “Marble” is half history lesson and half travelogue ” all shot by Showalter himself. Viewers follow the Canon City resident as he rides in his truck, as he talks with Marble old-timers, and as he discusses the long history of the town’s quarry. He details its opening in the late 1800s, its closure in World War II and its rebirth in 1990. Surprisingly, this one-man show also provides the kind of images people can’t get anywhere else. When he descends into the white, deep crevasse of the mine, the smooth walls and dizzying drop-off are breathtaking.

To Showalter, however, his crowning achievement is the footage of the marble slated to be used in the new Tomb of the Unknowns. The first tomb was built in 1931 with marble from, yes, Marble. When it was decided, several years ago, that it needed to be replaced, the quarry went through four years of searching for that special slab.

After a few close calls, it was finally found. Everyone at the mine watched breathlessly as a longtime employee checked the giant chunk one last time for imperfections. And Showalter was there to capture it on camera.

“It’s just like the world just stopped when that happened,” he said. “It’s something you can’t describe almost, when you’re watching history in the making.”

It’s that brand of excitement that Showalter is enamored of. He’d have to be. Just to make this one movie, he spent five years filming and editing and taking 171 trips to Marble. Over the course of his career, he estimates he’s been in about 4,000 different mines. He’s been granted access to film in such dangerous, off-limits sites as the long-closed Alpine (train) Tunnel. He’s had his ear talked off by probably thousands of people, eager to discuss history for the camera.

He’s also having a grand time.

“I’ve literally seen things that no one else has seen,” he said, with pride.

He thinks this all started because he wanted to preserve history, he felt that people “didn’t know what was in their own backyard.” Now, he can’t imagine not being so steeped in the past.

Even after nearly four decades, “It still fascinates me,” he said.

It doesn’t mean, though, that his line of work only has happy stories. He sees history disappearing all around him, and he’s locked in a battle against that. Sometimes things he’s deeply vested in disappoint him, too. For example, that “perfect” slab of marble, set to go to the Tomb of the Unknowns, is still caught up in red tape and has been so for several years. An individual was going to donate it to Arlington ” until he found out they cannot accept gifts. Showalter seemed saddened by this turn of events, but not shut down by them. History, after all, has little to do with perfection.

And he still plans to go on documenting it as long as he can.

In his words, “It’s just all I ever wanted to do.”


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