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Seriously wide streets

Fort Collins currently uses the tag line: Where renewal is a way of life. We’ve also used Fortunate Fort Collins and Fort Collins…..Midst Colorado’s “Horn of Plenty”

But if you’re an old timer, you know the real tag line–the unofficial and enduring Fort Collins, Wide Streets, Narrow Minds

That’s because, until recently, this town was hell on the enlightened.

Nobody articulates the cultural oppression of mid-century Fort Collins better than the unfortunate Bertram Wyatt Brown, a Baltimore academic who took his first job in 1964 at Colorado State University:

 The Fort Collins restaurant scene consisted primarily of the International House of Pancakes (“IHOP”) and a Chinese establishment run by a Jewish New Yorker. 

It gets worse …

Hotels? I cannot recall a single major chain or first-class set of accommodations.

Much worse.

While pontificating about the rationale for the American Revolution … I was somewhat disconcerted by the seemingly endless parade of Union Pacific Railroad freight cars rattling and screeching under the lecture-room windows. Crossing campus, the passerby could sometimes hear pigs squeal as they were getting slaughtered in a nearby Ag building. 

Class sizes sucked. The pay sucked. The CSU library sucked. Only one thing didn’t suck:

On some weekends, we junior historians … took R & R trips to Denver’s Brown Palace …. The excursions, sometimes through heavy snows, helped momentarily to shake off the parochialism of Fort Collins. There the churches far outnumbered the mediocre eateries and movie houses.

But Wyatt Brown just didn’t get it. While he was sulking in Denver, we were figuring out that we could park 17 cars, side by side, across College Avenue. Look!


Wide streets, narrow minds. Seriously wide streets

Wide streets, narrow minds. Seriously wide streets

11 comments to Seriously wide streets

  • goyishekop

    Just as the Englishman measures a vegetable by how closely it approximates boiled Brussels sprouts, there are Americans who measure open-mindedness by how many hotel chains lie within eye-shot.

    Of course, that was long ago. Now the same folks measure it by how many local radio stations carry NPR.

    Apostolius said, “The wolf changes his skin, not his attitude.”

    Of course, he said it in Greek.

  • When I was in college a professor of mine who had been a student at CSU in 1969 said that “the” place for college students to hang out was the McDonalds on College between Prospect and Drake.

    Not only that… way back then, that was “way out of town”! 😛

  • catfc

    You know what’s incredibly ironic about students hanging out at McD’s in the 60s? Today, old timers say there’s not good lunch counter for them to assemble downtown, like the old days. All the restaurants are too fancy. So, they hang out at that McDonalds and the one on Laurel and Shields.

  • nisperos

    Wow! That guy! He captures his younger self perfectly! Still, the Eastern establishment arrogance remains. I feel a great ambivalence as I read the description because I’m aware that historically Fort Collins appeared to many confining and cramping it both attitudes and amenities. What bothers me, however, is that this guy is an academic and not just any academic, but a historian.

    Local history might not have been his interest, but while he can take time to write about Southern Honor and it’s pervasiveness in that culture, he seems to be clueless regarding the work ethic of those with the heritage of Germans from Russia; “work renders life sweet” and “come work, I will devour you”. He seems clueless about Hispanic concepts of vergüenza , their religious values, and families pulling together for the honor of the family and social standing.

    It might be interesting to read his book, because I imagine that there’s both parallels and divergences from attitudes and values embedded in local heritage, but even his pseudo mea culpa about the current faculty and current Fort Collins rings hollow and patronizing; still so sure of his stuffy ivory tower and sophistication.

    He could come to town in a bottle-green Volkswagen Beetle (with Volkswagen’s Nazi heritage) and didn’t even give us points for being pioneers of the Peace Corps. Frankly, I prefer our progressive heritage to that of the East Coast.

  • catfc

    I think your experience speaks volumes about our history. I bought several years of Colorado Wonderland magazine from the 1950s. Great find. But Fort Collins and Loveland barely exist at all. Maybe that’s why occasionally you’ll hear someone say that Fort Collins is the capital of Wyoming.

  • catfc

    Based on what’s in and what’s not in that book, I’m beginning to get suspicious of who funded that book and who the audience was. In Colorado Wonderland, they mostly made stories of their advertisers. Every issue had something about dog racing, for example. And a special feature on raising Chinchillas!

    The only mention of Loveland is an article on the Stone Age Fair. There’s a brief nod toward CSU in a larger article about universities in Colorado. But all the writers/editors/advertisers were in Denver/ColoSprings. Which explained all that.

  • nisperos

    Out of curiosity, I wish someone would tell me what happened to Cornish, Colorado on 392, the road from Windsor to Briggsdale. It was where the first Stone Age Fair was held before it was moved to Loveland. Cornish doesn’t even seem to exist on my current Colorado map, but back in 1935, it was a growing concern and even received national attention with the Stone Age fair: http://www.stoneagefair.com/historicphotos.htm

  • Jim Burrill

    The only thing I know about Cornish was the relationship to Union Pacific. It was located on the branchline to Briggsdale, Colorado which was abandoned in about 1960. The rail line existed to provide service for sugar beet transportation along Crow Creek; I think UP referred to it as the Crow Creek branch. I drove the route a few years ago looking for railroad items left after the abandonment and there were very few. I didn’t know there was a school there, thanks for the reference to the pictures.

  • nisperos

    Thanks Jim

    … I guess all ghost towns or ghost hamlets weren’t mining towns.

  • Jim Burrill

    Almost all the Weld County ghost towns were related to the great speculation for agricultural development around the turn of the century. A number of Weld County towns on the prairie had rail service until the 60’s or 70’s. My brother was talking to someone who knows people in Gill, Colorado that say there are people over there still living in sod roofed homes. Gill was also on the line to Briggsdale.

  • nisperos

    Yeah, Gill I’ve heard of, but didn’t know they still had some houses with sod, although if you look around you can find houses with additions where the house started out with sod.

    Gill’s actually off Co Rd 55 which is below 392, so I presume the UP followed along Crow Creek?