Showing posts with label Ludlow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ludlow. Show all posts

October 31, 2018

A Coal Camp Ghost in Southern Colorado

Ruins of coke ovens at Cokedale. Coke is made by heating soft coal in an airless atmosphere,
so it is to coal as charcoal is to wood, sort of.
Today is Halloween, which means that newspaper editors are open to ghost-hunting stories.
In this case the ghosts are in a southern Colorado coal camp. The most infamous of those was Ludlow, the company-owned coal-mining town forever associated with the Ludlow Massacre of April 1914.

This ghost-hunting, however, takes place in nearby Cokedale (not to be confused with Coaldale, which is on the Arkansas River between Cañon City and Salida).
For the past several months, Light in the Dark Paranormal — a local group that specializes in ghost towns and mining sites — has focused its investigative efforts on the Cokedale Mining Museum, a onetime company store located in the heart of the former coal mining camp west of Trinidad.

These investigations, Paul Hill said, were prompted by reports of unusual activity from museum staff and even Cokedale's town clerk.
Cokedale's mining musuem.
"We conducted an initial investigation back in February," said Hill, joined by his wife Adrian and Louise Bosche in Light in the Dark Paranormal.
"And we discovered, quite readily and easily in a short time, quite a bit of evidence."

Evidence, Hill said, that included an antique wooden wire cutter mysteriously spinning around and Maglights turning on in response to questions.

That's all well and good. But I wonder if they would have the cojones to go ghost-hunting at Ludlow. Occasionally I visit the monument where the strikers died — the last time was in September — but I go only in the daytime, and the place gets under my skin even then.

April 20, 2014

100 Years Ago Today: The Ludlow Massacre and its Aftermath.

Funeral procession of miners' leader, Louis Tikas, in Trinidad, April 27, 1914 (Denver Public Library)

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the actual Ludlow Massacre, but the ambushes, gunfights, dynamitings, etc. started beforehand and continued for about ten days afterwards.

From the accounts  that I have read, the spokesman for the striking miners at Ludlow, Louis Tikas, was himself killed by Colorado National Guardsmen, no doubt "while trying to escape." He was born Ilias Anastasios Spantidakis in Crete.
Louis Tikas

I always heard—and this may just be urban legend—that the legacy of Ludlow is why there are no infantry units in the Colorado National Guard. I don't necessarily accept that as fact, but it is interesting as folklore.

Colorado Life magazine has a good article in their March/April 2014 issue, which can be ordered here.

Here is one summary from the official Ludlow Centennial website:
At the height of this conflict, on the morning of April 20, 1914, a skirmish broke out between striking miners and the Colorado State militia. This event, labeled the Ludlow Massacre, ended with the deaths of over 20 people, which included a guardsman, miners, and their wives and children. The death of children at the Ludlow Tent Colony thrust the Coalfield War into the media spotlight, with national scrutiny focused on the Rockefellers, who were majority shareholders in [the Pueblo steel mill and its mines] CF & I [Colorado Fuel & Iron]. In the aftermath of this tragedy, the Rockefellers and CF & I developed an employee representation plan that transformed industrial worker-company relations.
Stop by some time — Exit 27 from Interstate 25 north of Trinidad — and walk the ground.

But the fact is, even in Pueblo, not to mention the Denver-plex, 4/20 means something else these days.

April 19, 2014

The "Children of Ludlow"

One of my colleagues from the university recently referred to the students as "children of Ludlow, " claiming by analogy that they were being "massacred" by CSU system budget cuts.

It might not be the best analogy, though, if the reader has to look up the source that is unfamiliar. And I bet that 95 percent of Coloradans overall could not tell you what happened on April 20th, one hundred years ago.

The term "children of Ludlow" has a difference resonance for me.

For several years, a colleague in the History Dept. tapped me to be a judge on National History Day. Competing in different age classes, students from local schools might create posters-based exhibits, build dioramas, etc., and then they had to talk about them briefly to us judges as we came around. To quote the website, "NHD inspires children through exciting competitions and transforms teaching through project-based curriculum and instruction."

Imagine my surprise when I came across a sort of poster-triptych about the Ludlow Massacre, created by three middle-school boys. Something local, not another Martin Luther King, Jr., or other high-profile subject!

In talking with them, I asked if they had visited the site. It was only an hour-plus drive away but they would have needed a parent or someone to take them, being too young to drive themselves.

No, they had not. Learning the difference between primary and secondary sources was part of the project, so I said, "Look, the place is a primary source. You walk around on it and you see where things were — the tents, the machine gun, the railroad tracks where the engineer tried to move the freight train between the gunners and the camp . . . "

They looked at me like little birds. Maybe going there never occurred to them; maybe they felt unable to ask someone older for a ride, I don't know. Sometimes teaching in Pueblo was like teaching at the bottom of a well and wondering who would climb up and out.

To Be Continued

April 18, 2014

Taking the Hitchhikers to Ludlow

Ludlow Massacre monument (Wikipedia)
It was a summer day in the mid-1970s and I was driving my ten-year-old Ford pickup down Interstate 25, heading back from Denver to my summer construction job in Taos. (I had gotten a couple of days off; there was a lady involved.)

In my denim clothes and straw hat, I was feeling all southern-Colorado-native-ish, being about 20 years old and preoccupied with questions of authenticity and roots, even though — or because — for eight months a year I was also a student at a liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. (The old pickup had Oregon plates, even while I carried a New Mexico driver's license.)

Then I saw them: two young guys hitchhiking on the south edge of Pueblo, and I figured to pick them up before some cop got after them for being on the interstate. They were from New Jersey, as I recall, going to Santa Fe — and I could get them closer.

We went down the road, talking about their journey West, etc., and to them I was just this guy from Taos with a faint northern-New Mexico accent (courtesy of the crew I was working with). And I decided that they should see Ludlow as part of their Western experience.

We took the lonely exit, bumped over the railroad tracks and past the United Mine Workers billboard over a little rise to the memorial: the statues, the picnic ground, the plaques.

I did not have to play history guide: the story is there.

And now my memory breaks down.

Did I make up some story to leave them out there on the prairie between Trinidad and Walsenburg?

The quickest way to Taos would have been US 160 west over La Veta Pass, then south. But to get there from Ludlow I would have had to drive back north to Walsenburg first.

And I have a memory of coming down the west side of La Veta Pass, getting panicky because the oil pressure light started flickering— worrying that the oil pump was failing (they rarely do). And driving south through San Luis and Questa, heart in mouth, not wanting to break down, only to learn later that it was merely the sending unit going bad that caused the warning light to flicker.

Or was the whole experience an example of road-hypnosis hallucination? I've had several of those over the years.

To be continued.