Brown Palace cold soup
Part: 5 FINAL SERIES
One last story about one of our major and best acquisitions, the Breckenridge Summit County Journal. It was purchased from Frank Brown Jr., a native son, with his parents elected county officials. Frank was a sophisticated smart lawyer who had returned home to work for Climax Molybdenum and had purchased the newspaper from Round’s Lumber Company which was developing Breckenridge real estate. As I recall, he drove to a mine office in Leadville but had a short love affair with the Journal as publisher.
I first met Frank through an editorial written by one of our greatest superstars, Nick DeLuca, who was once a young coal miner at Mt. Harris. His brother was injured in a mine accident and told Nick, “get out of the mine.” So, Nick went to work at the local lumber company keeping the equipment operating with his brilliant mind and mechanical talents. He just needed a new opportunity.
I had stuck my neck out endorsing a political candidate saying, “I will eat my hat” if the candidate lost. He did lose, and in the mail, from Craig resident, Nick DeLuca came packages of mustard and ketchup for me to dine on my hat. In the letter, Nick said he had always wanted to be a photographer and dreamed about taking pictures. To make a long story short, I hired him as our newspaper photographer, pressman, and dear friend, and in time moved to nearby Hayden when we started the Hayden Valley Press with Nick as editor. He was a crucial man in all departments. Nick won countless photo awards in Colorado Press contests and was a talented writer, placing two awards in the National Hall of Fame editorial contest.
Going back to Frank Brown, Nick and his wife Ruby, Gerri and I, along with other staffers, always went to Denver in February for the Colorado Press Convention and trade show held in the historic Brown Palace Hotel. During the Friday banquet in the exquisite ballroom, we had Vichyssoise, pureed potatoes, onions, and cream, served chilled in little cups as a dinner appetizer. Back home and writing about the program in his column about going to Denver and having cold potato soup for lunch at the Brown Palace hotel. He was sincere, but the cold soup was elegant French cuisine. Colorado Press picked up the comment, and sophisticated Frank Brown, in Breckenridge, wrote what a dumb “hick” Nick was from Hayden. Nick, as a hobby, rode bulls at rodeos. This started a friendly dialogue with Frank, Nick and me and resulting a friendship that lasted for many years, including the purchase of Frank’s Summit County Journal several years later.
We operated the Journal for 10 years, covering the growth of the Dillon Dam, the Eisenhower Tunnel, and the rapid growth of the ski industry. We printed the newspaper in Craig and shipped it to Kremmling, where the paper staff would pick up the papers every Thursday morning. We had an office in a Rounds Lumber Company leased building on Main Street. Behind the walls of the remodeled newspaper building were the old presses and newspaper equipment stashed away behind the walls.
I sold the newspaper to John Lanan and his daughter in 1974 for five times what I had paid for the newspaper. The newspaper eventually became part of Swift newspapers and The Vail Trail. I took the proceeds and bought out my competition in Craig, finally owning the Craig Empire Courier. We continued to operate the newspaper, and I hired the owner’s brother, Joe Stoddard, to work in our ad department, where he was a talented graphic artist.
Can I describe “cold potato soup” as manifest destiny or divine providence? Either way, I loved going to Breckenridge and dining with Frank at some of his favorite restaurants in those early ski days.
He introduced me to artichoke hearts, and we probably had cold soup with much laughter.
With every newspaper, there are stories, I’ve told a few, and there are many, many more. Newspapers are about people, places and events. I envy retired Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton who owned large newspapers across America, papers that I could never have owned or operated. Dean is Colorado’s greatest newspaper publisher and should be honored as a legendary newspaper figure while he is still alive.
I’ve enjoyed remembering some of these stories and hope this gives some personal insight into the newspaper’s evolution and some of my experiences.
Today there are young entrepreneurs buying newspapers by the dozens across America. They see a future in putting ink on paper and the broad digital world without borders or boundaries. If younger, I would be joining them.
Print lives on mightier than swords or missiles.