2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Colorado Springs couple’s life plays like ‘Love Story’ on piano

    Sun, July 27, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    George King describes his 51-year career by the 15,000th piano he has tuned in his shop, King's Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014. King's "biggest reward. . . is knowing [his] tuning customers are satisfied with what they get." Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

    George King describes his 51-year career as he stands by the 15,000th piano he has tuned in his shop, King’s Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014. King’s “biggest reward. . . is knowing [his] tuning customers are satisfied with what they get.” Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

    All these years later, George King vividly recalls the exact moment he knew he had become a piano tuner.

    It was 1963 and he was a young apprentice trying to learn the craft from a relative.

    “To tune a piano, you have to tune the beats out, smooth it out,” King explained as he demonstrated with a tuning hammer on a near-century-old Steinway grand piano.

    “I was sitting with my hand on the leg of a piano as he was tuning it and I felt the tuning beats through the wood of the piano,” King said, choking at the memory. “I felt it in my hand. It was like it all clicked for me.”

    It’s an emotional memory because that moment changed the course of his life.

    At the time, he was 24, married with a child and with no clear idea how he was going to support his family.

    He’d studied music in college but left without a degree or teaching career, as he originally planned. And joining his family cotton farm in central California was not working out, either.

    So he left his wife, LeAvice, with their son and traveled to Cañon City to learn piano tuning from her uncle. It was an intense six months and he’d worked long hours every day trying to grasp all the intricacies of tightening wires until they produce the exact note intended when struck with a hammer connected to an ivory key.

    George King places a temperament strip between the piano strings to demonstrate a tuning technique on the 15,000th piano he has tuned in his shop, King's Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014.  Julia Moss, The Gazette

    George King places a temperament strip between the piano strings to demonstrate a tuning technique on the 15,000th piano he has tuned in his shop, King’s Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014. Julia Moss, The Gazette

    But he was frustrated.

    In fact, earlier that day of his revelation, King said he’d prayed for divine guidance.

    “I said: ‘Lord, if you want me to do this, you have to open my ears,’ ” King said, stopping to compose himself.

    “That day, he did. The Lord has been very gracious and provided everything for me.”

    The memories came flooding back as King finished tuning the Steinway and prepared to ship it to Idaho.

    This was a special piano and not just because it dates to at least the 1920s and perhaps as early as the 1880s. And not just because he appraised its value at upwards of $40,000. (It would cost $150,000 to buy a comparable new piano.)

    This Steinway was special because it was the 15,000th piano King had tuned — by ear, mind you — since his revelation in 1963 launched him on a lifetime of stretching wires, cranking them tight, working from the middle of the keyboard out until all 88 keys are striking perfect notes. (That’s about 300 pianos a year, if you are keeping score at home.)

    LeAvice King stands in her husband's shop King's Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014.. The couple is closing the shop in September. She always enjoyed playing rare pianos her husband, George King, repaired.  Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

    LeAvice King stands in her husband’s shop King’s Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014.. The couple is closing the shop in September. She always enjoyed playing rare pianos her husband, George King, repaired. Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

    Remarkably, each of the 15,000 is documented. Every job — from common $18 tunings to more expensive cleaning and reconstruction work — was logged in hand-printed ledgers until he converted to a computer around 1998.

    Early on, it took him an hour or more to tune a piano. Today, he can knock one out in 30 minutes or a little more. His prices also have changed over time, with a common tuning now running $85.

    But none of that matters much anymore because there won’t be any milestone Steinways in King’s future. Just golf and softball umpiring and other diversions.

    This 15,000th piano, it turns out, marks the beginning of the end of King’s tuning career. King, who turned 75 in May, is starting his transition into retirement.

    He is shutting down his shop, King’s Piano Sales & Service at 989 Wooten Road, in the coming weeks and hopes to have his inventory of refurbished pianos liquidated by September.

    He will continue to service a few long-term customers and corporate contracts. And he’ll do appraisals and odd jobs.

    But there will be no more ledgers to fill.

    No more uprights, Steinways, Spinets or Baldwins. No more stopping to buy pianos spotted for sale at garage sales or on someone’s porch to be refurbished and sold.

    King and his wife of 54 years, LeAvice, can hardly believe it.

    “I had no idea I’d ever get to 15,000,” he said. “I’d never ever though about this kind of work. It was the furthest thing from my mind.”

    Heck, King didn’t even play piano. Still doesn’t. Can’t even play “Chopsticks,” he said.

    George King describes his 52-year career by the 15,000th piano he has tuned in his shop, King's Piano Sales and Service Thursday, July 24, 2014. King's "biggest reward. . . is knowing [his] tuning customers are satisfied with what they get." Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

    Piano tuner George King doesn’t play piano but that didn’t stop him from spending 51 years tuning and repairing them. He knows a few chords, which he plays repeatedly to be sure a piano is in tune.  Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

    “Not a note,” he laughed.

    He does play a series of chords, over and over, to make sure each piano is tuned.

    But he does have help, in LeAvice. She plays beautifully. Even taught piano for 10 years.

    In many ways, she’s the perfect partner for King, who played trombone in his Tulare, Calif., high school marching band and had the honor of performing in Dwight Eisenhower’s 1957 inaugural parade.

    As it turned out, King was the mechanic and LeAvice was his test driver.

    It was my privilege to see them both in action on Thursday.

    The Steinway still had one bad key. He used his tuning hammer to adjust the tension on a tuning pin. Then she sat down and made the instrument sing.

    King looked on with pride as LeAvice’s hands glided across the keys, playing “Love Story.”

    Watching them, I knew it was the perfect song.

    LeAvice King plays "Love Song" on a Steinway Grand piano her husband, George King, just tuned and refurbished. Gazette photo.

    LeAvice King plays “Love Song” on a Steinway Grand piano her husband, George King, just tuned and refurbished. Gazette photo.

  • Time capsule a gift to future residents of Colorado Springs’ Old North End

    Fri, July 25, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The dining room table of former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese is covered with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors for inclusion in a time capsule, made of PVC pipe, in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The dining room table of former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese is covered with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors for inclusion in a time capsule, made of PVC pipe, in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The dining room table in Vic Appugliese’s Old North End home is covered with the history of the neighborhood north of downtown Colorado Springs.

    There are dozens of photos and typed stories of neighbors past and present.

    Former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese holds a time capsule that he is filling with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule, made of PVC pipe, will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese holds a time capsule that he is filling with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule, made of PVC pipe, will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    On the floor, by the table, is a six-foot-long PVC tube that Appugliese is filling with similar photos and stories.

    On Saturday, the tube will be sealed inside a stone pillar that is part of a new entry sign being unveiled at 5:15 p.m. by the neighborhood.

    Written on the tube are instructions that it should not be opened for 100 years, after July 26, 2114.

    The time capsule and the rock-and-steel sign, erected on North Nevada Avenue at Lilac Street, are just a couple examples why I admire the folks of the Old North End.

    Every neighborhood could learn a lot from this neighborhood, bordered by Uintah Street on the south, the old Rock Island Railroad ditch on the north, Monument Valley Park to the west and Wahsatch Avenue, roughly, to the east.

    I think it’s great they are erecting entry signs. (This is the second sign they’ve built.) A lot of neighborhoods display their pride and sense of place with similar signs.

    But what’s unique about the signs of the Old North End is that they added PVC tubes with artifacts and photos and histories of the residents and homes and even their pets to create a treasure for future residents.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association built this entry sign in 2013 at Nevada Avenue and Uintah Street. A new entry sign, several blocks north at Lilac Street, will contain a time capsule filled with the photos and family histories of neighborhood residents. File photo.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association built this entry sign in 2013 at Nevada Avenue and Uintah Street. File photo.

    The first sign contained one tube and the sign being unveiled Saturday will contain two history tubes.

    This bunch really thinks ahead.

    And it has been doing so since 1957 when the neighborhood first organized its association.

    Over the years, the neighbors have united to fight wholesale invasion by developers who threatened to change the character and charm of the neighborhood, which boasts wide, tree-line streets and century-old homes in a wide range of sizes on large lots.

    Neighbors have worked with Penrose Hospital to prevent its expansion from overwhelming and ruining the neighborhood’s north edge. Same for Colorado College on the south border.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association has battled with the Colorado Department of Transportation over the widening of Interstate 25 to protect residents of noise, to lobby for rubberized asphalt and to negotiate for replacement of hundreds of trees removed during construction a decade ago.

    (The neighbors say CDOT still owes them hundreds of trees and they still want rubberized asphalt, by the way.)

    The dining room table of former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese is covered with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors for inclusion in a time capsule, made of PVC pipe, in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese displays an artist’s rendering of a new sign.  Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And now it’s preserving its history for future residents.

    Appugliese is a great example of why the neighborhood association has been able to stay relevant all these years.

    He’s a former soldier, a Gulf War veteran, who has a passion for history and his neighborhood.

    Since moving to the Old North End in 1999, he has volunteered on committees and even served as president of the association four years.

    Today he remains active to the extent he spent the Fourth of July holiday with a couple neighbors building the sign.

    “This is a great community of people of all sorts of backgrounds,” he said. “People here share a passion for our neighborhood. It’s an old-fashioned community and we hope it always will be.”

    Besides writing his own history for the time capsule, Appugliese prepared a history of past association presidents.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association has championed the neighborhood north of downtown Colorado Springs and led efforts to add distinctive touches such as these historic street signs it began erecting in 2011. File photo.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association has championed the neighborhood north of downtown Colorado Springs and led efforts to add distinctive touches such as these historic street signs it began erecting in 2011. File photo.

    “These are people who stepped up and made a lot of personal sacrifices on behalf of the neighborhood,” he said. “They faced a lot of challenges and worked hard to keep neighborhood momentum going. We want to honor them.”

    Also included is a copy of a “Presidential Order No. 17” that Appugliese signed on Feb. 1, 2013, symbolically banning fracking in the Old North End.

    “I wanted to make a statement,” he said, unapologetically.

    The neighborhood school, Steele Elementary, is well-documented along with beloved Fire Station 2, which carries an Old North End logo on its truck.

    And there are photos of houses decorated for Halloween and Christmas and of several of the Old North End’s dogs of the year. That’s right, they annually elect a “dog of the year.”

    I asked Appugliese what he hoped would happen to the time capsule in a century.

    “I hope they will open it and then fill it with their own stories,” he said.

    Several volunteers, including former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese, Ed Rinker and Chuck Martin, spend much of the Fourth of July building a new neighborhood entry sign on North Nevada Avenue. It will be unveiled Saturday evening. It was built using grates salvaged from a historic neighborhood home and rock similar to that used in homes there. Courtesy the Old North End neighborhood.

    Several volunteers, including former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese, Ed Rinker and Chuck Martin, spend much of the Fourth of July building a new neighborhood entry sign on North Nevada Avenue. It will be unveiled Saturday evening. It was built using grates salvaged from a historic neighborhood home and rock similar to that used in homes there. Courtesy the Old North End neighborhood.

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  • Trash-raiding bear in Manitou Springs signals more aggressive eating by omnivores

    Wed, July 23, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

     

    Sybil Knighten shows where a bear has pushed down a fence behind her Manitou Springs home as it routinely cruises the neighborhood searching for food. She says a bear pulled down a piece plywood and ripped two large boards in half to get to trash she had stored in a shed outside her home in Manitou Springs on Saturday. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Sybil Knighten shows where a bear pushed down a fence behind her Manitou Springs home as it routinely cruises the neighborhood searching for food. She says a bear pulled down plywood and ripped two large boards in half to get to trash she had stored in a shed outside her home in Manitou Springs on Saturday. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Sybil Knighten was lying in bed Saturday night when she heard a noise outside the century-old home where she lives in Manitou Springs.

    It was a smashing sound she recognized as a bear rustling through the neighbor’s trash.

    “I listened to the crashing and banging and knew he was out there,” Sybil said of the bear.

    Sybil Knighten says a neighbor routinely leaves garbage in her trash cans, attracting bears that knock the cans over and spread garbage around her Manitou Springs neighborhood. She said the neighbor, ironically, posted a sign to warn others not to leave their trash outside because bears frequently visit. Courtesy photo.

    Sybil Knighten says a neighbor routinely leaves garbage in these trash cans, attracting bears that knock the cans over and spread garbage around her Manitou Springs neighborhood. She said the neighbor, ironically, posted a sign to warn others not to leave their trash outside because bears frequently visit. Courtesy photo.

    She figured her neighbor had left trash in bins along the street creating kind of a bear smorgasbord.

    072314 Side Streets 6Except that this time, the bear wasn’t getting into her neighbor’s trash.

    The bear was feasting on Sybil’s trash.

    This was a problem because Sybil doesn’t leave her trash out. Sybil keeps her trash stored in a locked shed.

    “The bear ripped down a sheet of plywood we had nailed up and tore out two big boards,” Sybil said as she showed me photos. “He broke them in two. Then he got inside and was tearing our garage up.”

    Sybil wasn’t telling me to complain about the bear, or to get it hunted and trapped by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials.

    Like me, Sybil enjoys having bears around, even if they get into the trash once in a while and make a mess.

    Trash was strewn across Sybil Knighten's driveway after a bear pulled down a piece plywood and ripped two large boards in half to get to trash she had stored in a shed outside her home in Manitou Springs on Saturday. Wildlife officials say it's the time of year bears start packing on calories and stress the need to secure garbage in bear-proof bins. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Trash was strewn across Sybil Knighten’s driveway after a bear pulled down plywood and ripped two large boards in half to get to trash she had stored in a shed outside her home in Manitou Springs on Saturday. Wildlife officials say it’s the time of year bears start packing on calories and stress the need to secure garbage in bear-proof bins. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    “We had trash scattered all over the place,” she said.

    She doesn’t mind having to clean up the presents the bear left for her, either.

    “We had a big pile of bear poop and it was full of plastic bags,” Sybil said.

    She doesn’t mind even though she has to sleep with the windows closed out of fear a bear might decide to enter the house in search of food.

    Even if a bear climbs up and swats down a hummingbird feeder hung high on the house, as her Saturday night visitor did.

    “He’s just hungry and wants something to eat,” she said. “We’re in their territory, after all.”

    Sybil’s experience is a good reminder, officials say, that bears are beginning to pack on the pounds in preparation for the coming winter’s slumber.

    And it illustrates the need to secure garbage in air-tight, bear-proof cans or bins.

    “We see a surge in this kind of activity in the spring,” said Abbie Walls, spokeswoman for Parks and Wildlife, as bears awaken from their winter sleep. “Then things quiet down until the end of July and early August when bears start getting into trouble again.”

    Typically, black bears eat fruits, berries, nuts, roots and grasses. They’ll also eat insects and even small animals that they stumble upon. They are omnivores and opportunists and will turn to trash or anything that will fill their bellies.

    Sybil Knighten says a bear pulled down a piece plywood and ripped two large boards in half to get to trash she had stored in a shed outside her home in Manitou Springs on Saturday. Wildlife officials say it's the time of year bears start packing on calories and stress the need to secure garbage in bear-proof bins. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Sybil Knighten says a bear pulled down plywood and ripped two large boards in half to get to trash she had stored in a shed outside her home in Manitou Springs on Saturday. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Still, I was surprised a bear would tear a door apart to get to a bag of trash.

    I wondered what Sybil might have thrown away that so excited a bear to spend all that energy ripping 2-by-6 boards apart.

    “We had melons in there,” she said. “Canteloupes. And we had some chicken. And canned dog food. If our dog doesn’t eat his food, we’ll dump it in the trash.”

    Sounded like she was reading from every bear’s list of favorites. (Just below “pic-a-nic baskets). Wildlife officials routinely warn folks in bear country (That would be us) to secure their garbage, take down their bird feeders and hummingbird feeders at night, lock up their pet food and force bears to stick to their natural menu.

    Seems they have a real hankering for birdseed.

    And especially dog food.

    “Bears have really sensitive noses and they can smell food five miles away,” Walls said. “They can certainly smell trash cans full of delectables on the other side of that door.”

    Sybil Knighten has many photos of bears visiting her Manitou Springs home and garage over the years. This photo shows bear paw prints on the hood of her car. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Sybil Knighten has many photos of bears visiting her Manitou Springs home and garage over the years. This photo shows bear paw prints on the hood of her car. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Raiding trash cans in one thing. When a bear starts channeling its inner Hulk and starts busting down doors, it may have crossed a line.

    “That behavior definitely is concerning,” Walls said. “This bear may have come to identify humans as a food source. And bears are very powerful animals. Bears can get in houses. They can easily pop out a screen and find their way inside.”

    There’s not much difference between the door to a shed and to a house.

    “When they start breaking into homes or cars, it can lead to dangerous behavior,” Walls said.

    Typically, house-hunting bears get identified as nuisance bears and are subject to being tagged and possibly relocated to a less-urban environment.

    And if a nuisance bear is caught a second time, the bear may be euthanized, Walls said.

    But Sybil doesn’t want any wildlife officers poking around their place. She’s content torepair the door and live and let live.

    “They were here first,” she said. “He has never come into the house or banged on the windows or tried to get in the door. We’re the intruders.”

    For now, anyway. And I hope it stays that way.

    Sybil Knighten has many photos of bears visiting her Manitou Springs home and garage over the years. This photo shows bear paw prints on the gravel near her home. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

    Sybil Knighten has many photos of bears visiting her Manitou Springs home and garage over the years. She said this photo shows bear paw prints on the gravel near her home. Courtesy Sybil Knighten.

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  • After 50 years, time for truth about Pikes Peak Hill Climb wreck

    Sun, July 20, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Dean Yowell holds a photo showing the aftermath of a spectacular wreck on the Pikes Peak Highway on June 30, 1964, during a practice round of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Yowell was riding in a Jeep stationwagon that collided, head-on, with a Corvette racing up the mountain at about 75 mph. Yowell suffered serious injuries in the wreck, which occured at a time the mountain was supposed to be closed to racing. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    Dean Yowell holds a photo showing the aftermath of a spectacular wreck on the Pikes Peak Highway on June 30, 1964, during a practice round of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Yowell was riding in a Jeep stationwagon that collided, head-on, with a Corvette racing up the mountain at about 75 mph. Yowell suffered serious injuries in the wreck, which occured at a time the mountain was supposed to be closed to racing. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    Dean Yowell wants to set the record straight.

    Once and for all.

    After 50 years.

    So here goes.

    He and his best buddy, Emil Knoepke, did not cause the head-on wreck with race car driver Tommy Jamison on the Pikes Peak Highway on June 30, 1964, that injured four and sent Yowell and the racer to the hospital with serious injuries.

    There! Any questions?

    072014 Back Pages 1Yowell only brings this up because a brief item on the wreck surfaced recently in the Back Pages feature of The Gazette on the 50th anniversary of the incident.

    Ironically, the item appeared on the same day as a banner headline on the front page blared “TRAGEDY ATOP PEAK” with stories and photos of motorcycle racer, Bobby Goodin, who crashed just beyond the finish line and died during The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on the previous day.

    The Back Pages item inside told a similar story.

    “Disaster stalked race car trials on Pikes Peak today, with five men injured, four of them in a shattering, head-on collision midway between Crystal Creek and Glen Cove. Thom Jamison was driving his Sting Ray racing vehicle up the highway on a practice stretch when he collided with a Jeepster passenger car driven by Emil Knoepke, 14 S. Garo Ave., who was driving down from Glen Cove.”

    That item didn’t assign blame. But it has always bothered Yowell that similar reports over the years implied he and Knoepke were driving on the highway when they should have been parked.

    Not true, said the 85-year-old retired telephone company line man.

    “The way I read it, it sounds like we were just coming down the road and had no business being there and caused the wreck,” Yowell said. “We were officials. I was official on the Hill Climb for nine years. We were clearing the road. It was supposed to be closed.”

    It’s important to remember that race officials were communicating by two-way radios and sometimes things get garbled in transmission.

    It could explain how, miles below, Jamison was allowed to roar away from the starting line for his practice run while Knoepke and Yowell were still driving down, getting spectators to move their cars off the track and clearing boulders.

    072014 Back Pages 2It seemed Jamison never saw the 1958 Jeep stationwagon.

    Yowell estimates Jamison was going 75 mph when he rounded a curve in his Corvette and plowed straight into the Jeep, going about 25 mph. It was a spectacular collision.

    “My head went into the windshield,” Yowell said. “It split my head open and I was bleeding heavily.

    “The engine came back into my legs and busted my ankle.”

    The impact and injuries left Yowell unconscious. He has a photo of the aftermath showing the smashed front end of the Jeep with a shattered windshield.

    And Jamison’s No. 10 car, sponsored by Speedometer Service Co., an unrecognizable mess with its wheel turned underneath and the fiberglass front of the Corvette torn away.

    Yowell is seen lying on the ground next to the Jeep as others attend to him.

    “I heard them saying: ‘Dean’s losing too much blood. He’s going to die. He’ll never make it down,’ ” Yowell said. “A priest gave me last rites. And then I remember waking up at Penrose Hospital where a neurosurgeon sewed me up.”

    This photo shows the aftermath of a spectacular wreck on the Pikes Peak Highway on June 30, 1964, during a practice round of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Dean Yowell was a race official riding in a Jeep stationwagon that collided, head-on, with a Corvette racing up the mountain at about 75 mph. Yowell suffered serious injuries in the wreck, which occured at a time the mountain was supposed to be closed to racing. Courtesy photo

    This photo shows the aftermath of a spectacular wreck on the Pikes Peak Highway on June 30, 1964, during a practice round of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Dean Yowell was a race official riding in a Jeep stationwagon that collided, head-on, with a Corvette racing up the mountain at about 75 mph. Yowell suffered serious injuries in the wreck, which occured at a time the mountain was supposed to be closed to racing. Courtesy photo

    Jamison also suffered severe injuries.

    “Tommy lost his right kneecap when the emergency brake flew off,” Yowell said. “But a year later he had twin boys so he didn’t lose everything.”

    Dean Yowell can be seen lying in the road as people come to his aid after the wreck.

    Dean Yowell can be seen lying in the road as people come to his aid after the wreck.

    The memory is vivid in his mind 50 years later. In fact, Yowell remembers the names and details of most events in his life as if they happened yesterday.

    In his Shooks Run home, Yowell can recount his life, starting with his family’s relocation here in 1937 after giving up on farming in Kansas.

    In fact, he has lived most all his life within a half block or so of the family’s original Shooks Run home, including the last six decades in the house he built with Mary Frances, his wife of 59 years and counting.

    Yowell reels off names and dates so fast it’s hard to keep up.

    He started Dec. 22, 1947, with Mountain Bell and spent much of his 35-year career on line gangs erecting poles, stringing wires and doing repairs across Colorado and the Midwest.

    “I’ve climbed every telephone pole from 30th Street to Manitou Springs,” he said with pride.

    But that’s not all. He was on crews who installed lines across the prairie, from Denver to El Paso, Texas.

    And he worked in the high country, stringing phone lines on steep rocky mountainsides.

    He describes how Mary Frances held the family together after the wreck left him disabled for weeks. And how her father, a coal miner in the Pikeview Mine, warned them not to buy a house above the honeycombed hills of Rockrimmon fearing eventual subsidence would wreck neighborhoods.

    He has a thousand great stories, such as how he suffered a severe leg injury while serving in the Navy during the Korean War when his ship, the USS Frontier, came under air attack. Gunfire from a plane caused a cable to snap, whipping across the deck and catching Yowell in its deadly whiplash.

    Or there was the time he was attacked while working as a security guard at the old St. Francis Hospital in the Hillside neighborhood.

    Or how he visited the Cotton Club with a friend, who was black, and received a kiss on the cheek from owner Fannie Mae Duncan welcoming him.

    But Yowell really only wants to talk about the wreck. And how the road was supposed to be closed. And it wasn’t their fault.

    “The good Lord was riding with me that day,” Yowell said of his survival. “And I had my seatbelt on.”

    I’m glad he did.

  • Village 7 Swim Club finally open after weeks of frustrations

    Fri, July 18, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    After weeks of frustrating delays, the pool is full, the pumps are running, the heater is on and it's open for swimming. A grand reopening party is scheduled 4 p.m. on Friday, July 18, at the pool on Nonchalant Circle South. The party is open to the public for a $7 fee. Courtesy photo.

    After weeks of frustrating delays, the pool is full, the pumps are running, the heater is on and it’s open for swimming. A grand reopening party is scheduled 4 p.m. on Friday, July 18, at the pool on Nonchalant Circle South. The party is open to the public for a $7 fee. Courtesy photo.

    For 42 years, Rose Rook taught children to swim in her Village 7 Swim Club pool.

    Two years ago, she retired and sold the pool she had run since 1970.
    Or so she thought.

    Rose Rook coached the Village 7 Swim Team in Colorado Springs for 42 years until she retired in 2012 at age 84. She is seen in a June 15, 2007, Gazette file photo.

    Rose Rook coached the Village 7 Swim Team in Colorado Springs for 42 years until she retired in 2012 at age 84. She is seen in a June 15, 2007, Gazette file photo.

    As she approaches her 86th birthday on Monday, Rook once again finds herself going to the pool every day. But she’s no longer teaching kids to swim.

    Instead, she’s teaching adults how to run a swimming pool.

    She’s done such a good job that the Village 7 Swim Club finally is celebrating its grand reopening on Friday evening and Rook will be at the pool to join in the festivities.

    The party — burgers and hot dogs and waterproof glitter paint and all — is free to members and open to the public for $7 apiece.

    “It’s not easy to run a pool and take care of everything,” Rook said Thursday. “I just have to teach them.”

    Jacque Thurman, owner of the Village 7 Swim Club pool,  waited for the water level to rise in this June 28, 2014, photo. After weeks of frustrating delays, the pool is full, the pumps are running, the heater is on and it's open for swimming. A grand reopening party is scheduled 4 p.m. on Friday, July 18, at the pool on Nonchalant Circle South. The party is open to the public for a $7 fee. Courtesy photo.

    Jacque Thurman, owner of the Village 7 Swim Club pool, waited for the water level to rise in this June 28, 2014, photo. A grand reopening party is scheduled 4 p.m. on Friday, July 18, at the pool on Nonchalant Circle South. The party is open to the public for a $7 fee. Courtesy photo.

    Her pupils include new owner Jacque Thurman, who bought it from Rook in 2012, and pool manager Eileen Fink, whose own children took swim lessons from Rook and worked for her over the years.

    “Rose has been so great,” Fink said, describing how Rook drops by each morning to make sure the pump is working and the water chemicals are adjusted properly and all systems are functioning.

    “She knows where everything is and how everything works,” Fink said. “She’s been wonderful.”

    In fact, Fink credits Rook with helping resolve a crisis that delayed the opening and threatened to keep the pool closed.

    I wrote about the pool in March when Thurman had put the pool back on the market after personal circumstance prevented her from getting it open in 2013 and caused her to reconsider owning it. I wrote about it again in June when Thurman decided to chase her dream of pool ownership and started scrambling to get the pool open by mid-month.

    Village Seven LogoBut her dream became a nightmare as one problem after another delayed the opening day of the pool, located on Nonchalant Circle South, near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.

    The frustration was obvious as Thurman posted updates about the pool on her Facebook page.

    She was laboring to repair extensive vandalism done to the pool and bring back to life systems that had sat dormant for two years.

    Then there were issues with the plumbing, and the wiring and the sauna and showerheads and the heater.

    Finally, the pool was filled but a new pump simply wouldn’t run.

    Pool professionals and electricians came and went. A desperate plea for advice on the Facebook page made it clear the season was in jeopardy.

    Finally, someone figured out the pump wiring was backward.

    The popular Shack Shack at the Village 7 Swim Club in March 2014. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The popular Shack Shack at the Village 7 Swim Club in March 2014. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “Now we have the most perfect water I’ve seen in a while,” said Fink, a longtime city parks employee who also works at the YMCA. “We have lifeguards. The Snack Shack is open. We’ve started giving lessons and we’re taking reservations for parties.

    “It was a ghost town pool. But now it’s back. It’s great.”

    There’s still plenty of work to do to get it back to Rook’s standards.

    Volunteers continue to paint and weed and rake and other jobs. Fencing needs to be fixed along with other cosmetic work.

    But the place is open . . . on days when monsoons and lightning don’t drive everyone for cover.

    Hopefully, Friday’s weather will clear and allow a well-deserved celebration.

    “Had I known some of the obstacles I faced, I don’t know if I would have taken on the project,” Thurman said. “But I’m really glad I did. I’m not regretting my decision at all.”

    While much of the summer is gone, Thurman said many former members are coming back and new members being signed and she’s confident 2015 will be a great season.

    071814 Side Streets 3

    Thunderstorms and lightning have disrupted swim operations at Village & Swim Club many times since it opened July 6, 2014. Courtesy photo.

    “I see all this as preparation work for next year,” she said. “I’ll be ready to go for 2015. It should be a pretty simple process.”

    And for that, she thanks Rook.

    “Rose is here most every day and we talk most every day,” Thurman said.

    Best of all, she said, is that neighbors and former members are coming by to see Rook.

    “There have been a lot of happy reunions when people see Rose here,” she said. “I hope they will come to see her Friday night.”

    Rook is looking forward to the event.

    “I enjoy it,” she said. “I enjoy watching the kids. I do care about the place.

    “It has been my thing for 42 years. It’s not so easy to let go of that.”

    That’s a good thing for Thurman and Fink and all the people who love the Village 7 Swim Club.

    I just hope they save me a burger Friday night!

    The secluded entrance to the Village 7 Swim Club on Nonchalant Circle South. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The secluded entrance to the Village 7 Swim Club on Nonchalant Circle South. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Buffalo Soldiers deserve hero status in Colorado Springs

    Wed, July 16, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

     

    An artist mock up of a proposed memorial statue honoring the Buffalo Soldiers.

    An artist mock up of a proposed memorial statue honoring the Buffalo Soldiers.

    Black soldiers, many of them freed slaves, played a huge role in opening the West after the Civil War.

    But since most were illiterate, there is little written record of the so-called Buffalo Soldiers.

    Few know of their cavalry regiments that valiantly fought Indians, Mexican revolutionaries, outlaws, gun smugglers and protected pioneer families.

    And largely forgotten are their infantry regiments assigned to dusty outposts across a dozen states including Colorado to build forts and roads and telegraph lines, guard stage stations and watering holes, escort supply trains, survey parties and mail routes, and perform other less-glamorous work of settling the Wild West.

    A group of Colorado Springs people, most black and former military, wants to raise the profile of the Buffalo Soldiers, get their stories told in classrooms and honor them with a statue they hope to erect in Memorial Park near the corner of Union Boulevard and Pikes Peak Avenue.

    They have organized the Colorado Springs Buffalo Soldier Memorial Committee and launched an effort to raise $200,000 and commissioned a local artist to design a nine-foot-tall bronze of a cavalry soldier on horseback.

    Willie Breazell, 2006 file photo

    Willie Breazell, 2006 file photo

    The group, led by Willie Breazell, former Colorado Springs School District 11 board member, plans a fundraising breakfast Aug. 20 at the Antlers-Hilton Hotel and already is targeting a June 15, 2016, dedication ceremony.

    Breazell said he was inspired to honor the Buffalo Soldiers after recalling boyhood trips to see the ruins of Fort Selden about a dozen miles north of Las Cruces, N.M., where his family lived. He remembers his father talking about the heroism of the black soldiers stationed in places like Fort Selden, along the Rio Grande River.

    Recalling those visits, Breazell said he started researching the soldiers a year or so ago but information was hard to come by.

    Even the history of their nickname is murky. Some say Indians dubbed them Buffalo Soldiers because they respected the way the black soldiers fought with the intensity and bravery of a cornered bison. Others say their soldiers’ thick, curly black hair reminded them of bison.

    Regardless, the soldiers built a reputation for skill with horses and bravery in battle from the time Congress commissioned the all-black cavalry in 1866 and infantry regiments until they were disbanded in 1951 as the Army was desegregated.

    And since then, they’ve largely been forgotten. A few statues exist on Army posts, like Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas, and in a handful of cities like Junction City, Kan., home of Fort Riley. But few other places honor the soldiers.

    Dennis Moore

    Dennis Moore

    In Colorado, Buffalo Soldiers serve at Fort Lewis, Fort Lyons, Fort Logan, Ute Pass, Pagosa Springs and Fort Garland, among other places, said Dennis Moore, longtime neighborhood watch volunteer who joined Breazell’s committee to build the monument.

    “They did more than fight Indians,” Moore said. “They escorted surveyors during the marking of the Colorado-Utah state line and many projects like that.”

    He noted that more than two dozen Buffalo Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for valor in combat.

    In fact, Buffalo Soldiers have a distinguished history for courage under fire and played a key role when Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged up San Juan Hill in 1898.

    One eyewitness wrote: “If it had not been for the Negro Cavalry, the Rough Riders would have been exterminated.”

    A computer drawing of the proposed Buffalo Soldier memorial.

    A computer drawing of the proposed Buffalo Soldier memorial.

    I think it’s a great project and hope Breazell and his group can reach into enough deep pockets to get the statue built.

    Even though no Buffalo Soldiers were never stationed in the Pikes Peak region, they deserve to take their place among the heroes we honor given our military roots. It makes sense to tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers here.

    I admit I didn’t know much about them until I talked to Breazell and Moore. The more I read about the soldiers, the more impressed I became.

    “These were men coming out of slavery, poorly educated, unable to read or write, who contributed significantly to American history,” Breazell said. “But just like old Fort Selden, their history is in the process of disappearing and unknown. How do we give them their due? That’s all I want. Let’s give them their due.”

    Proposed location in Memorial Park, at the corner of Union Boulevard and Pikes Peak Avenue, of the Buffalo Soldier memorial .

    Proposed location in Memorial Park, at the corner of Union Boulevard and Pikes Peak Avenue, of the Buffalo Soldier memorial .

  • Angels among us enjoy relaxing night out without stares

    Sun, July 13, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Vivianna Stewart, 13, reacts after feeding a giraffe at the Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Thursday, July 10, 2014. Stewart, who has muscular dystrophy, enjoyed the zoo with about 600 other NTSOC clients and employees at the private event. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Vivianna Stewart, 13, reacts after feeding a giraffe at the Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Thursday, July 10, 2014. Stewart, who has muscular dystrophy, enjoyed the zoo with about 600 other NTSOC clients and employees at the private event. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Clad in a ballcap and fashionable tennis shoes, Vivianna Stewart breezed from the giraffe exhibit to the meerkats and then to the elephant enclosure, pausing between text messages on her phone to admire the animals before moving on to the next exhibit.

    In many ways, Vivianna was like any 13-year-old on an outing with her brothers and her mother, Vicky Stewart.

    Most teens, however, who visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo don’t use a motorized wheelchair to get around or rely on a constant feed of oxygen and a nurse, as Vivianna does.

    But Thursday night was different.

    It was Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the zoo. The NTSOC is a nonprofit founded in 2001 to provide home nursing and occupational therapy for children with severe disabilities. It also provides financial guidance for parents and pursues federal funding and grants for clients.

    NTSOC children have a variety of medical and behavioral issues ranging from muscular dystrophy to multiple sclerosis to autism to Down syndrome and more.

    So when NTSOC rents the zoo, it is filled with kids like Vivianna who use wheelchairs, crutches or walkers.

    Vivianna Stewart, 13, who has muscular dystrophy, heads toward the giraffe enclosure during the Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The NTSOC rented out the zoo for about 600 clients and employees to enjoy the exhibits  Thursday, July 10, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Vivianna Stewart, 13, who has muscular dystrophy, heads toward the giraffe enclosure during the Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The NTSOC rented the zoo for about 600 clients and employees to enjoy the exhibits Thursday, July 10, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    And the difference Thursday from the typical zoo crowded was vivid to Vivianna.

    “On an average day here, it can be difficult,” Vivianna said as she looked around at the other children in wheelchairs, or walking with assistance of parents or crutches, and those on oxygen or ventilators.

    “People walk around and they won’t let me through in my chair. It’s hard to get past people sometimes. And sometimes they stare at me. I ask them: ‘What is there to stare at?’ Then I ignore them.

    “But on a night like tonight, you see people like me everywhere.”

    That’s exactly the reaction Vicky was hoping for when she arranged the zoo night. Not only is Vicky the parent of a special-needs child, she is human resources director at NTSOC, located on West Woodmen Road near Peregrine neighborhood.

    Her special relationship started seven years ago as she sought therapy services for Vivianna’s muscular dystrophy.

    “Seeing what they did amazed me,” Vicky said. “When they had an opening, I took the job.”

    Today she helps coordinate services for NTOC’s 500 clients and its staff of 300 or so certified nurses aides, nurses and therapists.

    Vicky said it’s rare for many of the families to get a night out in public where they can relax and enjoy everything around them.

    Places like the zoo typically mean long lines and crowds and staring eyes.

    “We’ve found they don’t tend to have as good a time in places like the zoo when the general public is there,” Vicky said. “It’s hard to have wheelchairs there. Or deal with children with behavioral issues. But this way, they are surrounded by people who understand and they feel a little safer.”

    That point was echoed by others Thursday including Lisa Dozier, who brought her family, including 14-year-old son Robbie, who also has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.

    “This is a great thing they do,” Lisa said of the NTSOC’s second annual zoo night. “It’s awesome. The kids get to take their time and see everything. And everybody understands.

    “For the families, it’s relaxing. We don’t have to worry about anything or about the mainstream public.”

    I wondered why the agency picked the zoo for its annual event.

    Ryan Janus, left, holds his son Tyler Sargeant, 7, as he reacts after feeding a giraffe at the Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Thursday, July 10, 2014. Janus and Sargeant joined about 600 other NTSOC clients and employees at the private event. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Ryan Janus, left, holds his son Tyler Sargeant, 7, as he reacts after feeding a giraffe at the Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado night at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Thursday, July 10, 2014. Janus and Sargeant joined about 600 other NTSOC clients and employees at the private event. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    “The connection between the children and the animals is special,” Vicky said. “Many of our children are non-verbal. But you will see some of them trying to speak when they get close the animals.”

    The zoo provides a complete change of scenery for kids whose lives are typically limited due to disabilities.

    “Children with behavioral issues tend to calm down around the animals and focus more,” Vicky said. “Others are so excited and happy. And that’s not typical for these kids, given what’s going on in their lives.”

    Making the children happy drives many of the NTSOC staff, including nurse’s aide Ashley Wozniak, who patiently walked with Vivianna through the zoo.

    “I like putting a smile on their faces,” Wozniak said. “Events like this make the kids happy and feel important. That’s why I do it. I want to make them happy.”

    Like Wozniak, many of the NTSOC staff spend their free time with their clients.

    Many NTSOC staffers were among the crowd enjoying the animals.

    “Our staff is completely vested in this mission,” Vicky said. “They have special relationships with their clients.

    “We are about the children and helping them to progress as far as possible or have some comfort in their lives. Our staff is completely bought into our mission. Many do things with the children on their own time for no pay.”

    Jen Hanson gives a big kiss to Stephanie Ciano-McGee, while Hanson's husband, Air Academy High soccer coach Espen Hosoien, works with her during a therapy session on Tuesday, October 24, 2012. Ciano-McGee has cerebral palsy and was an assistant coach for the Air Academy High School. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

    Jen Hanson gives a kiss to Stephanie Ciano-McGee, while Hanson’s husband, Air Academy High soccer coach Espen Hosoien, works with her during a therapy session on Tuesday, October 24, 2012. Ciano-McGee has cerebral palsy and was an assistant coach for the Air Academy High School. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

    I know a few of the folks at NTSOC. In October 2012, I wrote about Jen Hanson, a nurse’s aide and case worker, and her husband, physical therapist Espen Hosoien, who also coaches soccer at Air Academy High School.

    I told how they cared for their clients, including one client they’d met who is blind, quadriplegic, suffers frequent seizures and uses a wheelchair due to her cerebral palsy. I described how they had virtually adopted her as well as many other children they’d come to know at NTSOC.

    Of course, Jen was there on Thursday, fist-bumping and high-fiving the kids and making sure everyone had a great time.

    I consider Jen, Ashley, Vicky and ther others angels on Earth. Same for the people I’ve met in the hospice world.

    In fact, we’re surrounded by people who care deeply and give completely of themselves. If you look around, I have no doubt you’ll find a few.

    I was privileged to see them in action Thursday night. Thanks for all you do.

    Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado Director of Human Resources Vicky Stewart, left, holds hands with her daughter, Vivianna Stewart, who has muscular dystrophy, as they walk through the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Thursday, July 10, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Nursing and Therapy Services of Colorado Director of Human Resources Vicky Stewart, left, holds hands with her daughter, Vivianna Stewart, who has muscular dystrophy, as they walk through the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Thursday, July 10, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

  • Side Streets readers grant Peggy Shivers’ birthday wish

    Fri, July 11, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Peoples United MethodistHallelujah for Side Streets readers.

    You made Peggy Shivers‘ 75th birthday one to remember.

    Let me refresh your memories.

    On June 6, I asked readers to give Peggy a birthday present to thank her for all she and her late husband, Clarence Shivers, have done for Colorado Springs.

    Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo. He posed with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988 honoring the black Air Force squadron of World War II. He trained with the squadron. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

    Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo posing with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

    Clarence was part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen black pilot fighter squadron in World War II. He was also a painter and sculptor.

    Peggy is a classically trained opera soprano.

    After the couple moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, they became active in the community.

    In 1993, they established the Shivers Fund to buy books and reference materials by and about African-Americans for the Pikes Peak Library District. The fund led to creation of the Shivers African-American Historical and Cultural Collection with an inventory exceeding 1,000 and an endowment of $100,000 or so.

    The collection chronicles the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts. And the fund distributes scholarships of $3,000-$4,000 to young people interested in studying the arts.

    Peggy Shivers in a March 2013 photo. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Peggy Shivers in a March 2013 photo. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Clarence and Peggy also launched the Shivers Celebration of music and the arts, hosting jazz and classical concerts by world-famous musicians along with workshops and master classes for young musicians every other year.

    Clarence died in 2007 and Peggy has carried on their work. This past Thanksgiving she announced she would no longer host the celebrations.

    It made me think it was time to thank her.

    So with her 75th birthday approaching, Peggy told me she didn’t want any presents but she’d love for her friends to join her for church services June 29 at Peoples United Methodist Church on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs.

    I asked you, Side Streets readers, to grant her birthday wish.

    And I’m tickled to report you made me proud.

    More importantly, you made Peggy incredibly happy.

    On a riverboat in Budapest, Hungary, I received an email from Peggy, who sounded ecstatic.

    Here’s what she wrote:

    “Just wanted to let you know that my birthday was WONDERFUL!! The church was packed with standing room only. It was FANTASTIC. Thanks again for helping to make my wish come true.”

    Her email made my day.

    So when I got back, I called Peggy’s pastor, Bill Gamble, to get the details.

    Pastor Bill Gamble preached to a standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014, as people filled it to help celebrate Peggy Shivers' 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    Pastor Bill Gamble preached to a standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014, as people filled it to help celebrate Peggy Shivers’ 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    “It was exciting,” he said. “It was successful in a big way. We typically get 50 people for Sunday services. We prepared for over 100 and we had more than 140 that day.”

    Many were friends of Peggy’s but some were strangers who simply wanted to say thanks.

    City Councilwoman Jan Martin was there. Same for longtime community leader Mary Ellen McNally.

    There were other pastors and chaplains who attended, Gamble said, and folks of other denominations who never had visited the 111-year-old church, which was founded by freed slaves who came to Colorado Springs with the daughter and son-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

    “It was very multi-cultural,” Gamble said. “It blossomed like a rainbow. It was a great worship experience.”

    A few even promised to come back and Gamble hopes they do.

    “I had a couple Catholics come up after the service and say they enjoyed it,” Gamble said with a laugh. “I said God is here, too.

    “Hopefully, they will come back. We were glad to have them.”

    Peggy was glad, too.

    Peggy Shivers, standing in center, thanks the standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014. People filled the church to celebrate Shivers' 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    Peggy Shivers, standing in center, thanks the standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014. People filled the church to celebrate Shivers’ 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    Overwhelmed, actually, Gamble said.

    And flattered, she told me.

    “It was just wonderful,” she said. “It was just everything I wished for and more.”

    In an email, she again stressed how happy the turnout made her.

    “I greatly appreciated each and everyone who came being there,” Peggy said. “I TRULY LOVED SEEING EVERY SINGLE PERSON that attended.”

    I was sorry I couldn’t be there.

    But I’m so proud of all of you who filled the pews. Thank you.

  • Safety can be achieved for bicyclists on city streets

    Wed, July 9, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Here are a couple videos offering great solutions for protecting folks on bicycles when they are in traffic . . . 

    DutchThis Dutch video really brings the concept to life:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151919524141983

    Dutch Roundabout

    This video shows the roundabouts and bikes:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhqTc_wx5EU

    Finally, I liked this Smithsonian video about protected intersections.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/if-your-city-had-bike-lanes-these-would-you-ride-more-1-180951812/#fVlUOOkZmrEh5Jbq.01

     

    Smithsonian

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  • A bike-sharing program would make Colorado Springs as cool as Budapest

    Wed, July 9, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    In case any of you were wondering, I spent much of the last two weeks in the Old Country, touring Europe by riverboat (imagine Huck Finn with a gourmet chef and flat-screen TV) and traveling within a few hundred miles of my grandfather’s village in Slovenia.

    I have so many stories to tell, but most will have to wait for a Life & Travel piece I will be writing.

    Bicycle sharing is an inexpensive and popular way for residents of Vienna, Austria, to get around the city. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles. Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, selected a bike from one of many solar-powered bike stations in the city in this June 26, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    Bicycle sharing is an inexpensive and popular way for residents of Vienna, Austria, to get around. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and  pay a deposit on the bikes. Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, selected a bike from one of many solar-powered bike stations in the city in this June 26, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    For now, I want to share a revelation that my wife, Cary, and I experienced in Vienna, Austria, and again in Budapest, Hungary.

    Bicycle sharing isn’t a fresh idea, I know.

    It’s been working rather well in Denver since then-Mayor John Hickenlooper oversaw the rollout of the nation’s first large-scale program in 2010, according to friends there.

    But it would be new to Colorado Springs, and I think it would work well if the powers that be can figure out funding.

    Bicycle sharing is an inexpensive and popular way for residents of Vienna, Austria, to get around the city. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles. In this June 26, 2014, photo, Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, cruised through a Vienna city park on a bike rented near a subway station. She rode it an hour before returning it to a solar-powered bike station several blocks away. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    In this June 26, 2014, photo, Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, cruised through a Vienna city park on a bike rented near a subway station. She rode it an hour before returning it to a solar-powered bike station several blocks away. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    As we toured Vienna, Cary and I kept noticing racks of bicycles parked at various places — in the heart of the city, around parks and retail corridors, and along the main routes leading from the Danube River, where our cruise ship was docked.

    With the help of an English-speaking Austrian, we registered, rented two bikes with a credit card and launched ourselves on a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of Vienna.

    Dodging cars was no problem as Vienna has well-defined bike lanes along its network of sidewalks.

    Dodging other bikes was another issue. Riders zoomed past us at dangerous speeds. At one point, I thought we’d stumbled into the peloton of the Tour de Austria.

    Once we adjusted to the pace, it was great. Best of all, when we were done sightseeing, we simply followed the bike lane toward the river. About three blocks from the Danube, we found a bike station, parked our bikes in the locking racks and walked the rest of the way to our ship.

    What an adventure.

    Gleaming new bicycles await riders in Budapest, Hungary, as the eastern European city prepares to launch its new bike sharing program. Solar-powered bike stations with kiosks were built at key locations thoughout the ancient city on the Danube River, offering residents and visitors an inexpensive way to get around. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles, which can be returned to any station in the city, as seen in this June 29, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    Gleaming new bicycles await riders in Budapest, Hungary, as the city prepares to launch its new bike sharing program. Solar-powered bike stations with kiosks were built at key locations thoughout the ancient city on the Danube River, offering residents and visitors an inexpensive way to get around. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles, which can be returned to any station in the city, as seen in this June 29, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    We saw dozens of gleaming new bikes in similar racks stationed around Budapest.

    But we could only admire them because that ancient city’s program is still in the testing phase.

    All we could think about was how great it would be if Colorado Springs had a bike sharing program for commuters and tourists.

    Of course, it would require better bike lanes and greater connectivity of the existing bike trails.B-cycle

    When I got home, I researched bike sharing programs and was surprised to find how common they are in the U.S. I was aware that Denver had a B-cycle program with 700 bicycles scattered across 80 stations.

    And I was not stunned to learn it exists in Boulder as well. But there’s a long list of cities, many I consider less outdoor-oriented than Colorado Springs, with bike sharing programs.

    Susan Edmondson, president and chief executive officer, Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs

    Susan Edmondson, president and chief executive officer, Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs

    So I called my friend Susan Edmonson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, to ask about prospects for bike sharing.

    She is a huge supporter of anything that enhances the quality of life in the Springs and has sponsored and promoted events such as fun downtown rides.

    Edmonson gave me hope but was honest about the challenges facing urban bikers in the region.

    First, she noted the city has hired a bicycle transportation coordinator to work on things such as trail connectivity and bike lanes.

    “For a bike sharing program to be successful, we need good bike infrastructure,” she said.

    That also means more pedestrian bridges and tunnels at intersections to keep cars and bikes safely away from each other. What’s important is that people are studying these issues and looking for solutions.

    Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler

    Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler

    One of the folks leading the conversations is City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler, who is pursuing a B-cycle program for the Springs because of all the benefits that spin off from a community that embraces pedal power.

    People who bike generally are healthier. Bikes don’t pollute or use fuel or sit and idle in traffic jams. But there are reasons cities such as Fort Collins have bike sharing programs and we don’t.

    “I live in the Patty Jewett neighborhood,” Gaebler told me. “My goal is to bike downtown twice a week. But it’s not as safe a ride as I’d like it to be. We need to make it safer to ride bikes on our streets.”

    So she’s attacking the issue on several fronts. For example, she and her advocacy group are working with city traffic engineers to identify core routes to be improved.

    “If you ride, you know there are 10 to 20 little junctions that need to happen to make this a really rideable city,” she said. “We need to get the inner-connectivity piece done well so they are safe and comfortable for people.”

    Gaebler also is looking at the best structure for a ride share program.

    “Our goal is to create a nonprofit organization to oversee it,” she said.

    Then there is the basic funding question: rely on user fees or find grants and sponsors to finance the program?

    “Relying totally on user fees just doesn’t work,” she said. “I think we’ll need sponsors who will sponsor a bike station, for example.”

    The advocacy group, which met Monday night, includes Allen Beauchamp, who describes himself as a diehard local cycling advocate. He came on board as a skeptic, but he talks like a believer.

    Beauchamp is a card-carrying member of Denver’s B-cycle program because he loves being able to drive north, park, get on a bike and take a 20-30 minute ride to his destination.

    But he worries if Springs residents will embrace the concept and pay say $50 a year to get access to the bikes.

    “It would be really nice for people working downtown to hop on a bike at lunch and take a ride without giving up their parking spot,” Beauchamp said. “Or to hop on a bike to ride to a meeting that is just beyond walking distance. Or to go to lunch.”

    The Denver program offers four options for access to the bikes: $8 daily, $20 weekly, $30 monthly and $80 annually. Members of the program then can ride any bike free for 30 minutes and pay only $1 for an hour.

    Rates for a Springs system are one of the things the group is discussing. Gaebler envisions a community conversation about the program once her group’s work gets further along.

    B-cycle 2But already it has identified logical routes to link key parts of the city.

    Bicycle enthusiasts hope to start by connecting downtown with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the North Nevada Avenue shopping district as well as Colorado College, the Penrose and Memorial hospital campuses, the Ivywild neighborhood to the south and Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs to the west.

    I’d add Garden of the Gods along with a route east to The Citadel mall area.

    How convenient would it be to rent a bike at Woodmen Road, ride it downtown, drop it off at a rack and know that another bike would be there when you want to leave?

    We’d be as cool as Budapest! 

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