Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum, Colorado

Because I had such a great experience exploring Broomfield Depot Museum, I’d had the intention to visit their more-or-less sister museum, the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum. I didn’t even know about it at the time, but the museum director, who’s in charge of both sites, informed me and invited me. Since I had such a great, welcoming experience at the Depot, I looked forward to seeing the Veterans Museum as well.

I finally got my ducks in a row a few weeks ago and ventured out. It’s a few minutes from the Depot Museum and actually a few minutes closer to my apartment. It’s in a strip-mall type of area but in a standalone building. There was no mistaking the place; look at all those flags!

I was greeted by one of the volunteers who had the tasty name of Bill Bacon, himself a veteran of Guantanamo Bay and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He explained that the museum building itself has an interesting history. It was built in 1963 to house the Broomfield library, which had been in donated space since it was established in 1960. The building was renovated to its present 7,224 square feet in 1975. When the library moved into its current location, which is even closer to my home, the old building became offices for city departments. Incidentally, the library’s name is the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library. I’ve learned that she and her husband, President Dwight D., spent lots of time in Colorado, and Dwight himself was an investor in the project to build Broomfield in the 50s and 60s.

Anyway, it wasn’t until later that the Veterans Memorial Museum came to be and came to be in this building. The museum website says that GIs and their GI bill money from WWII were a large part of the homeowners in those early days, so the museum is quite relevant. And it contains LOADS of memorabilia donated by local veterans.

I really liked the layout of the place. Each room or area of a room contains artifacts from different wars and conflicts. They are organized in chronological order, though I warn you I might present these pictures out of sequence.

First room: Civil War:

I never thought of the Civil War as having much impact on the western states, but I’ve learned differently. When the war was imminent, this area was part of the Kansas Territory. Politicians in Washington were arguing over whether new states carved out of the territories should be free states or slave states, or if they should be allowed to choose on their own. As soon as the representatives from the South left DC in a huff to head back home to prepare for secession and war, Honest Abe and his band quickly mapped out the western regions and declared them free. It’s a little muddier than that, but you get the idea.

Anyway, there was quite a lot of Civil War stuff there, including personal diaries of some local Civil War vets:

Frontier forts and Spanish American War display:


Here’s Bill in front of a rotating display area:


I’m just gonna let you read this horror story for yourself:

A flag from WWII before Alaska and Hawaii entered the Union:

You may have caught my post about Vail’s museum, where I learned about the Tenth Mountain Division:

A few Nazi spoils:

Denver celebrating the end of WWII:

Women in the military were given their due – I totally want one of those bomber jackets!

There was lots about the domestic situation in WWII as well:

Of course, I liked the recipe book:

Although it wasn’t ready yet, the museum is working up a fallout shelter display:

And who remembers hiding under one of these desks during the “atomic bomb drills”?

Now it was time to cross the hallway into the more modern era. In the hallway were two great displays. One was a pictorial history of American solder uniforms in chronological order. Opposite that is an exhibit about each branch of the military.

At the end of the hall is an account of Colorado’s Medal of Honor recipients. They’ve wasted no space!

Once we crossed the hall, there were items that were more familiar to me:

Remember the deck of cards from the Gulf War?

New fact for me: this fabric foils night-vision goggles!

And they had this poignant display in honor of those who didn’t come home:

The Hands-On Area is where the school kids get to try on uniforms, flak jackets, Kevlar vests, boots and such. I would have, but Bill was watching! Just let me tell you how heavy those vests on the floor were!

I was pleasantly surprised at the extensive collection on display there, and of course I didn’t include everything here. The Korean Conflict, Vietnam War and Iraq War were some things I saw but didn’t post. And Bill told me there was much more in the preparatory stages. Although the museum is open only on Thursdays from 10am-2pm and Saturdays from 9am-3pm, it’s definitely worth a visit. Admission is free, though I recommend a generous donation to keep this important piece of history open to the public. They have speaker series and other events, too, such as Q and A sessions with local vets. I’m so impressed with the dedication to local history and the way it’s presented as relevant.

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame, Vail

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On the way from Dillon to Vail recently, my husband and I were driving along I-70 on a very dark night. I wouldn’t recommend this drive, but at least it wasn’t snowing. There wasn’t much to see, including the lines on the road, but, as we passed Vail Village, I saw a lighted image projected onto the side of the mountain. Shaped like a badge, it had a V in the middle, but also looked like crossed skis or swords; it was maybe 50-100 feet high, but I couldn’t be sure. The purpose wasn’t clear, and I was left with only questions.

As luck would have it, the answers came in spades the next day! While touring Vail Village, one of the first things we passed was the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. It was closed when we arrived early that day, but I saw a photo shoot in progress through the window. The subject of the portraits was an elderly man in a military uniform.

Across from the museum was this statue, which is larger-than-life-sized, or else it could be mistaken for a real person:

That guy showed up everywhere that weekend!

The statue stands in tribute to the 10th Mountain Division, a fabled light infantry army unit based out of NY state. It started as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943 and was redesignated as the 10th Mountain in 1944. The brigade fought during WWII in rough alpine terrain in northern Italy. The unit has been deactivated, reactivated, and redesignated a few times over the years, but it’s still active. It’s the most deployed unit in the US military.

How does it relate to Vail? The training for WWII soldiers of the 10th Mountain took place at Camp Hale, just 14 miles from Vail. Many veterans of the 10th founded or helped found and run at least 60 ski resorts after the war, too, including Vail. Lots of credit is given to these vets for starting the US ski industry in general.

This particular weekend, the town was conducting Vail Legacy Days to honor this unit and their vets. The person I saw in uniform through the museum window was one such vet.

So, on our way out of Vail Village that day, my husband and I visited the museum. It’s free for a donation, and it is very impressive. I’ll start with the 10th Mountain exhibit.

That illuminated badge on the mountainside I’d seen the night before appears in this museum plaque. Note the crossed skis which also look like swords.

Here’s the layout of the winter gear the soldiers wore in WWII:

The goggles were especially interesting. They are made of aluminum with tiny slits to see through. This reflected and reduced the bright light of the snow. The plaque said the goggles were not army issue, but that they were worn by the soldiers as the best eye protection before the high-tech goggles of today were invented.

Here’s a dress uniform from the old days:

I found the display of personal letters from the soldiers in Europe especially touching:

In this one, the typed part recounts, in more detail than I thought the censors would have allowed, the activities of this guy’s unit and how they fended off Axis forces, captured enemies and so on. He says he “began to get yellow eyes”, which I took to mean jaundice, and now he’s in the hospital. The handwritten part at the end says, “There is more I could add, but it would have made a very bulky letter. One thing I’m adding, though, is I love you.” I’m not crying; YOU’RE crying!

But the 10th exhibit was only half the museum. The other half was the permanent display of the history of snow sports.

Check out these old skis and boots:

And how functional is this ski dress?

Snowboards, of course, are also represented:

Here’s a picture of an early snowboard. Notice the rope on the front to guide it, with a stick to drag along behind like a rudder – think canoe paddle.

There was lots more to see in this small but well designed space. I learned more than I thought I could about snowsports in a very short while, not to mention a good intro to the 10th Mountain. My hat’s off to them!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

The Archway Museum in Kearney, Nebraska

I’ve described more than a couple of sights on a roadtrip through Nebraska from the Denver area, such as the Morton Mansion and Lee’s Chicken Restaurant. My husband had a business trip there and I got to joyride along with him.

Of course, Nebraska is one place where our great country gets fed by the noble farmer. Most of the roadtrip looked something like this:

But there was one thing that broke up the flat landscape dramatically, and that was The Archway in Kearney, Nebraska:

That archway houses a pioneer museum directly over the traffic! We saw it on the way to Lincoln and, fortunately, we had enough time and good weather on the way back to manage a rest stop there.

The outdoor area has log structures that look like a fort, complete with bronze buffalo:

and seemingly abandoned covered wagon:

A quite gruesome statue stands outside the main door:

A plaque explains that these two Martin brothers (Robert, 12, and Nathaniel, 15) were gathering hay with their father in 1864 when a Native American tribe attacked. The brothers fled on horseback but were struck with four arrows, one of which pierced both of them. They were left for dead, but they actually survived and lived into adulthood. What a grisly thing to present to our children at this “family-friendly” place.

There was also a replica of a locally famous Hammer Motel, which was located on the nearby historical Lincoln Highway. Unfortunately, now it’s a parking lot, but it was apparently a big deal back in the day. There’s a good article on it here.

The main entrance of The Archway looks like this:

I wanted to show you the inside of the place, but I can’t find those photos ANYWHERE! I swear I took some, but I’m flipped if I can find them. Oh, well, sometimes it happens.

In any case, I found a blog with a photo of the dramatic escalator you see as you walk through the door. There are ambient sounds of horses and wagons and people that enhance the experience. The escalator takes you to the actual archway over the interstate. There, according to the period-dressed ticket-sellers, you can see the settling of the Old West by the pioneers. We didn’t go that day, because I think the 1.5-hour tour time seemed too long at that juncture. We wanted to get home. However, we did spend a few minutes in the gift shop, where, of course, I got a pin for my travel collection.

Adult tickets are $12 each and the tour is self-guided audio. Hours differ according to the season, so check their website. You can even book an event or school trip there. Plus, the outdoor campus is free and is a great picnic area if you want a break from the road for a while.

Ok, is anyone else thinking Archway cookies right now?

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Real Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Last week’s Longhorn Parade post kicked off an Old West run for this blog, with info about settlers, pioneers, cowboys and the like coming to you in the next few weeks. This will toggle back and forth from Italy in the Throwback Tuesday Posts (TBTP) each week.

Up next: the Pony Express.

On the way back from a roadtrip to Lincoln, Nebraska (see the NE posts about the Morton Mansion, its carriage house and Arbor Day FarmLee’s Chicken Restaurant, and a giant Paper Airplane Sculpture), my husband and I stopped in Gothenburg, Nebraska. It’s a very small but beautiful town, and it’s more or less halfway-ish between Denver and Lincoln, off I-80 at NE-47. But why did we stop there? Why, the Pony Express Station Museum, of course!

This actual Pony Express station originally stood a few miles away on the Upper 96 Ranch. It originally had two stories with one side open. The ranch owners donated the station to the city of Gothenburg in 1931. It was disassembled log by log and reassembled as a one-story in the wonderful little Ehmen Park. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

This rough-hewn log cabin was built in 1854 and used as a fur-trading post and ranch house. At maybe 200 square feet (my estimate), it was the original tiny house! From 1860-61, it served as a Pony Express station. From then on it was variously used as a stagecoach station, a house, a storage shed and a bunkhouse until its donation to Gothenburg in 1931. I’m amazed it stood for so long!

Of course it originally lay on the Pony Express trail, which, I assume, was mapped out to include the station. Middle school refresher course:

  • The Pony Express was a mail-delivery company whose route was between San Francisco and St. Joseph, Missouri, about 1966 miles. Riders left both cities on April 3, 1860, heading toward each other.
  • It took about 10 days on average for a letter to make it from one end of the route to the other. Add another 10 days if the letter came from the East Coast to Missouri. Letters sent via stagecoach or steamship took about a month.
  • The Pony Express was started as an attempt to get a federal contract to officially handle the US Mail. Alas, the company did not receive the contract after proving to be a most efficient service.
  • The company folded in 1861 without the federal contract, and also because coast-to-coast telegraph lines had been completed, eliminating the need for much of the mail delivery. While the telegraph lines were being built, Pony Express riders also carried telegrams between gaps in the lines. The Pony Express was a financial failure, with an ending deficit of over $200,000.
  • There were over 170 relay stations, positioned approximately 10 miles apart. Each rider rode one segment, or 75 – 100 miles, changing horses at each station. He would ride 8-10 different horses during his segment. Riders could change horses in less than 30 seconds. Average speed: 10mph
  • More than 200 employees included station keepers, stock or horse tenders, blacksmiths and cooks.
  • Eight riders were killed on the job: four by Native American war bands, one was hanged for murder after he drunkenly killed someone, one died “in an unrelated accident”, and two froze to death. It wasn’t easy out on the trail!
  • Job ad for a Pony Express rider: “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Gee, sign me up!
  • Wild Bill Hickok was a Pony Express rider and purportedly killed several of the McCandless gang during one of his rides.

Enough history. Let’s go inside:

Mail was carried in what is called a mochila (Spanish for “knapsack”), a leather cover that fit over the saddle and could be quickly transferred from one horse to the next:

The place was full of old photos and Old West paraphernalia.

Here’s a picture of Gothenburg back in the day – note the complete absence of trees on the prairie. All the beautiful green trees I saw that day had been planted by settlers and more recent residents.

The photo in the middle on the bottom row is the station as it stood in its original location:

Lots of stuff there was made from horseshoes, including souvenirs and this sign above pix of some of the riders:

The bugle in the pic below was used by a rider as they approached a station to alert the station manager to have a fresh horse ready. Some riders just shouted.

I was very excited to learn that the National Pony Express Association conducts a re-ride of the Pony Express route every year in June! I’m planning a road trip to see it this year. Can you imagine?? If you visit their website, you’ll see how to “Follow the Mail” during the ride (the mochila has a GPS in it) and even mail a letter to be carried by the riders! I’m doing it. Moreover, if you have a horse and are willing, you can even be one of the riders!

They also have lots of cool souvenirs in the station museum. I bought a very cool Pony Express Messenger badge to add to my collection. They had tons of interesting things to buy, as well as several freebies, like a newspaper about the Pony Express. I was encouraged to take as many as I wanted.

Admission is free to the museum, but it’s only open April through October (April: 9a-3p; May-Sep: 9a-7p; Oct: 9a-3p). I was lucky to have happened upon it before it closed for the season. You can always access the outside of it, though. It’s in an open public park. And I can’t say enough how wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable the volunteers were who we met that day!

Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Broomfield, CO, Depot Museum Interior Tour

Well, I hope you all voted for Pedro and that all your wildest dreams are currently coming true. On to the blog:

I previously wrote about the Broomfield Depot Museum in my post about Shep the Turnpike dog. I’m happy to say that the supervisor of the museum, Tara Templeman, saw the post and wrote to me. She offered a personal tour of the museum, which I gladly accepted. Now I’m able to bring you photos of the interior of the museum and some info about local history.

I arrived at the museum shortly after it opened on a recent Saturday morning.

I saw the newly-renovated-and-painted-in-authentic-colors baggage cart:

I was greeted by Tara who put me into the capable hands of a thoroughly knowledgeable guide for the first part of my visit. I believe his name was Paul Tice (I hope I have that right – my apologies to Paul if it’s not). He provided an in-depth, unhurried and fun tour through the depot. I was very flattered by the amount of time he devoted to my visit that day – we combed every corner!

The other machine I saw on my earlier visit, the fanning mill, was missing from the yard. If you don’t remember it, check out my last blog post about the Depot Museum – there’s a picture I took and comment from Tara explaining it. Tara told me later it was out for renovation and would be returning to the museum soon.

But this post is about the interior tour. First, Paul led me into the station agent’s office:

This room is where the agent sold tickets and communicated with other stations to make sure the trains ran smoothly. I was very excited that they had the old telegraph machine! It was the method du jour of long-distance communication in 1909 when the station was built. I had to stop myself from tapping on it:

There was a typewriter for official correspondence:

And, of course, they had to keep the money safe:

and the people warm:

and the party line open:

Another com method was the message fork:

The agent would tie messages written on paper to the Y and hold it up so the engineer could grab it as the train passed. I remember seeing mailbags caught by trains on old cartoons – kinda like that, Paul told me. Thanks, Bugs!

When the depot was built, it was actually in a different location. It was not far from my apartment, actually. There are some old buildings left near the old location that I will post about some day (silos, Grange Hall). And the tracks are still there and used today.

The depot was part of the Colorado & Southern (C&S) Railway, and it also served a C&S subsidiary, the Denver & Interurban (D&I) Railroad. The C&S was a standard freight railway, while the D&I was a commuter between Denver and Boulder – and those commuters were electric! That fact surprised me. Also, I wish that commuter line was still running! They have plans to extend Denver’s modern-day commuter line to Broomfield, but that’s years away.

This depot was built with living quarters back of the agent’s office with bedrooms upstairs. That’s because, in 1909, Broomfield was a rural hamlet and had about 167 residents – compare to over 68,000 today. The living quarters provided to a station agent were designed to attract married men to the job – they thought a married man would be more responsible.

Of course, I saw all the rooms, but, also of course, I was most interested in the kitchen. Here’s a full view of that old stove I could only photograph through the window on my last visit:

And check out the old toaster on the top left corner of the table:

It’s an advanced version in which you could turn the bread slices to be toasted on the other side without taking the bread off the wire brackets! Uptown, Broomfield!

As a finale, Paul led me to the waiting room of the depot where they obviously entertain lots of school children. Here’s a table of hands-on items the kids can touch:

You can see the railroad spikes bottom right and a beekeeper’s smoker bottom left. And there is a rug beater above the broom. Most interesting to me was the bundle of dried straw in the middle. That is broom corn, the plant from which these types of brooms are made. It was broom straw that was grown extensively as a cash crop around here back in the day. Hence the name, Broomfield. Paul told me it doesn’t grow natively in these parts and, alas, there are no more broom corn fields left today.

In 1926 the D&I switched passenger service to a bus route and the railroad became exclusively C&S and mainly freight-only. In the 1970s the depot was scheduled for demolition. However, the building was ultimately donated to the Broomfield Jaycees who moved it to its current location in 1976.

After the tour, Paul led me to the office under the depot and handed me back over to Tara. That office area is being converted into a museum display area. What I came to understand that day was that the Depot Museum has a large collection of historical items not only from the railroad, but from Broomfield’s history in general. The plan is to put as much of it on display in an orderly manner as possible.

Tara took me a few blocks away to the collections building where the staff is in process of cataloging and preserving the entire extensive collection.

My organizational side loved seeing the progress they’ve made:

This is where I learned that Tyvek is inert and used in the preservation of artifacts! The project is going to take some time, but they have a very good start. In addition, I learned that Tara is also in charge of the Veterans Memorial Museum. So look for that post in the future!

FYI, the Broomfield Depot Museum is open most Saturdays from 9:00 to 3:00. You can schedule group tours at other times by calling them. I think every Broomfield fourth-grader has seen the museum on a field trip at least once. Also, the museum staff conducts a lot of community presentations, such as the annual Speaker Series and super-popular escape-room events, “Escape the Museum”.

I’m so grateful for the time the museum staff accorded me that day. They even lent me a Broomfield history book for my research! The more I learn about the history of this town, the more interesting it becomes. My sincere thanks for the info and attention from Paul, Tara and the whole team. Their preservation and education efforts are so important to this community, and I’m happy to be able to extoll the work they do via this blog.

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