It’s About Time column: Some information about the Navy’s time at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs
It’s About Time
A writer never knows if the words he puts on paper will connect with readers. For me, I often question if I’m genuinely in the flow, in the zone or on point.
Will the spark I felt inspire anyone else to read the space I live in? What difference will it make?
The answer to these ponderings came after last month’s column.
The little room in the basement of the Hotel Colorado, the brig that I wrote about last month, suddenly came back to life.
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One call came from a friend I’ve known for years, J.O.* Turns out he knew an electrician who worked at the hotel when it was leased to the Navy for the convalescent hospital in the ’40s. One of the stories J.O. heard is the following:
The cells in the brig were mostly occupied by German prisoners of war (POWs) who worked on the grounds and around the hotel. A couple of cells were reserved for rowdy sailors. One of the POWs used a wire from the light over his cell to connect to the door in such a way that whoever opened the door would be shocked enough to allow escape.
Good theory. But the scheme didn’t work.
Another reader emailed me: “I used to go to church in the basement of the Hotel Colorado (1971-74). At that time there was still one room that had the original bars on it. I actually got locked in the room. … There was also a framed-in section of wall. … It contained drawings which the inmates had done during their imprisonment. In 1974, both were intact.”
The stories that could be told about not just the brig but the day-to-day happenings during the Navy occupation, are equally interesting.
Dorothy Bale of Salt Lake City called me after someone sent her last month’s column.
A Glenwood native, Dorothy said she was in high school when World War II broke out, and after graduation went to work as a typist at the hotel. She fell in love with a sailor at the hospital, and after they married, they moved away.
In case you missed a photo of Dorothy in the Wednesday, Jan. 23, edition of the Post Independent, the 94-year-old recently celebrated 25 years working at Arby’s as its oldest employee.
D.L. called me, and said that after the Navy left he ended up with 20 feet of the Quonset hut that covered part of the Hot Springs where physical therapy was given.
My favorite contact was from a local rancher. She came to the museum to inform me that I was wrong about one thing in last month’s column and she came by to set me straight. Lord knows I need it. She said she was living proof that not all the Navy personnel left after the Navy pulled out because she was brought into this world by one of the doctors who had been stationed at the hospital.
This stuff is what Glenwood is about — stories that bring history to life. Real, living, breathing people, who for a while appeared on the stage of life during a war, and then faded into memory.
All that is needed to bring stories to our attention is the recounting of them, even second-hand and passed down to someone who bothered to listen.
The historical society has a chance to bring these stories out of the dust bin and into the present — front and center — if someone is willing to play the part.
Anyone for portraying a World War II Navy nurse, doctor or sailor and lead “ghost” tours at the Hotel Colorado?
This is what living history is all about.
*Initials are used when permission has not been granted to use their full name.
Bill Kight writes a monthly column about Glenwood’s history and is currently looking for volunteers to resurrect characters from the past. He can be reached at 970-945-4448.
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