The Freedom Train

One of the first larger projects our Pikes Peak by '76 undertook , was to land and host the national Freedom Train, which was scheduled to visit every State.

Our Bicentennial committees were beginning to form and organize, so I looked ahead. When the news was printed in the Denver Post that the Denver Mayor's "Committee of 19 for '76" withdrew its invitation for the Freedom Train to come to Denver, the State Capitol City, and there were only about 5 weeks before it would have to reach Colorado or not at all, I grabbed the phone and acted. Denver had complained it would cost too much for the host city to sponsor  it.

After learning that the Train, sponsored by a non-profit organization which charged $2 for adults and $1 for children would refund to the host committee 10% of gross ticket sales for the 4 days, I grabbed it and invited, on my own authority of the Chair of the Committee, the Train to Colorado Springs for October 2d to 5th, 1975. We might have some off duty police security costs, but I knew we could get volunteers for the rest if it were parked on the tracks at the old Denver and Rio Grande Passenger Station, which was now a popular restaurant - Guseppie's  with parking, and with a large grassed park across the street.  

I just knew we could get a large crowd from the city and county and others  from afar in Colorado, to buy such cheap tickets since this would be the only visit of the Freedom Train to the State of Colorado.

It was a smashing success  Over 56,000 people visited it, while 2,000 volunteers hosted it. And in spite of the mixed press it got coming across the country, when the press polled 1,500 who saw it and went through its inside displays, 1,356 said it was 'worth it.' It was not only a hit in Colorado Springs, but it helped rescue the Train's national reputation from glowing press reports its visit to Colorado and Colorado Springs engendered.

Our committee gained $8,000 from the 10% of ticket sales - which was the first money in our budget for other events. The city fathers sat up and took my committee's plans and work seriously after that. Governor Lamm came down from Denver to see it, and thanked me for saving Colorado's reputation by hosting it, lest Colorado would have been the only state in the nation which it did not visit.

You can see photographs of the train and the Colorado Commission's report on the PDF file below. Just click on the name.

The Freedom Train

The Celebration Medal

We had to get moving on design, production, and circulation of an appropriate Medal for the occasion. The State of Colorado already had its Medal sets in circulation.

Once more, a volunteer - this time in the form of an active duty Air Force Sergeant - stepped forward. He offered to do the design, get bids for its production and see the project through to completion. He had been involved with another medal project years before. He knew exactly what to do.

In the design we had to have our occasion name "Pikes Peak or Bust by '76' an image on one side and honors to the 1776 Nation's Bicentennial plus Colorado's 1876 Centennial on the other. And we wanted it, as a fund raiser, in gold (plate), Silver, and Bronze. Separately and as numbered sets for both purchase and presentation.

The sergeant came through. Here is a photo of one medal, front and back.

I decided that we could invoke the call to action motto that was coined in 1858 when Gold was first discovered in Colorado Territory - "Pike's Peak or Bust"

So we branded the entire dual State and Country celebration, the "Pike's Peak or Bust by '76" celebration. And put that on our Medal. 

Perfect. The up side struck the exact Centennial Image. The backside not only got the Bicentennial AND Centennial names with flag images and years on it. They were silver dollar sized, and gave one the feeling he had something solid in his hand.  

I think it was the best designed medal in all Colorado.

Its been a very long time and I don't have the records any more, but as I recall we struck at least 3,000, with the Bronze going for $5, the Silver for $15, and the Gold $25. And the numbered, mounted - in a blue case -  set for either $75 or $100.

They raised money for our other activities.

And of course Set 1 went to the City of Colorado Spring, Set 2 to  El Paso County, with others at the state and national level accordingly.





The Obvious Celebration for Colorado's 100th Birthday

Our Pikes Peak or Bust Committee happily continued to sponsor, create, or support a wide variety of Bicentennial and Centennial events - such as organizing a fund raising 'Settlers Ball' in the old 1909 County Courthouse that was being turned over to the City by the County to permit the Pioneer's Museum to move from it small quarters, and fund the refurbishment. I pushed it with publicity, and it was a grand success.

It was the summertime by this time, when Coloradoans climb the mountains they love. That was in full swing when I got a call from George Barrante - the executive director of the State Centennial Commision. He said that the idea of the Commission backing a Centennial climb of Colorado's 14,000 Feet Mountains was not getting the support they thought they would from Colorado's 'Climbing Community.' They may have to cancel it. They asked the world class Colorado Mountain Club from Boulder to support, even organize, it. They refused, citing the danger unless only accomplished climbers were permitted to join the effort. And the bad publicity, and maybe law suits that would come if anyone got injured or killed would not be worth it. They said they didn't think they could recruit enough climbers to climb all 54 peaks on one day.

I laughed. Once again I had more faith in Colorado's ordinary people - not 'experts' that the elites, especially from Boulder, did. I knew tens of thousands Coloradoans and visitors climbed Colorado's mountains every year, and the number of reported deaths or serious injuries was very, very small.

Once again time was short. August 1st, 1976 - Colorado's 100th Birthday was only 5 weeks away. But I saw that date was also a Sunday, which meant many working stiffs who wanted to climb would be able to so over that weekend. The pool would be bigger.

 I thought fast while on the phone and discussed how it could be organized - by once again, appealing to the Colorado masses, and not try to recruit climbers one of a time.

I said that if the Commission got all the media in Colorado - especially the Sunday issues of the Denver Post - which is read all over the State - to know about it, and invite everyone to join, I was sure we could recruit at LEAST one two-person climbing party for every one of the fifty four 14,000 feet or higher  peaks in Colorado. 108 climbers. If the Commission did that publicity our Pikes Peak or Bust by '76 Committee would organize and sponsor it. 

It was a deal. (George Barrante, as a Lt Colonel, had worked under me at Fort Carson, Colorado back in the early 70's before we retired. I trusted him to be able to convince the other Colorado Centennial Commisioners to go along. He did.)

I followed up with The Plan. By this time in the Centennial year I had wrangled from a Denver developer named Anshutz, who was buying an empty store space in downtown Colorado Springs to let us use that easily accessible room for the Committee's office, sales counter,  display windows, and small meeting space. For at least the summer months. He agreed. We installed four telephones inside.

The newspaper publicity would invite anyone across Colorado  to join the Great Colorado Centennial Fourteener Climb for August 1st, 1976.  Each climbing party had to have at least two climbers, could nominate which Colorado 14er Peak they wanted to climb, and give our Committee evidence that they had the technical ability or experience to climb the peak they wanted. We would then either approve or not their climbing team's request for specific peaks. If approved they would be recognized as one of the official Centennial 14er Climbing parties.

There would be a kick-off at the Governor's Mansion in Denver on Sunday, July 23d, when each Climbing Party would be recognized and given a packet.  (The packet would have a simple sheet of instructions, A small Colorado state flag to wave on top, one shoulder patch (Centennial Fourteener over the Colorado Centennial logo) for each member of the party. A requirement that they take a photo on top, write a simple story of their party and the climb, and to bring down a small stone from the top) And turn those things in so we could publish a book about it.

They had to contact us by mail or by visiting our Colorado Springs Centennial office, or by telephone call.

The  Mountain Climb Gold Rush  

I woke up on Sunday the second weekend in July, and glanced through the Denver Post, where the public announcement, and our Commitee's address and telephone number were printed. It occured to me, many might first want to call, so I drove downtown since our hard working volunteer staff had that Sunday off. Before I even took out my key to open the front door of the office at 9AM I could see through the glass that ALL four lines on our roll-over numbered telephones were lit up!

I went in, and did not get out of that office until after 7 that night! EVERYBODY wanted to make that Centennial Climb! True Colorandoans. And those who did not get through on the telephone by afternoon drove all the way down from Denver and beyond to get their bid in for a Mountain! By the end of that one day every one of the 54 peaks had been asked for!  Many popular peaks were asked for twice or three times! By the end of the day over 70 groups had called in or came in. Within a week 300 groups representing 2,000 climbers applied!

So I made another decision. And that was where my Enjoy Colorado files (which had comprehensive information of ALL Colorado, and my understanding of Coloradoans  paid off. For while I have climbed in the Colorado mountains all my life, I was not an expert climber. But I knew that at least 10 Colorado 14,000 foot peaks were very difficult - and potentially dangerous to climb. So many people wanted to climb that I ruled that I would approve only ONE technically qualified climbing party on the 10 most difficult peaks, but TWO parties for the other 44 easier and less dangerous peaks. I didn't want two parties technically climbing the tough ones at the same time, endangering each other by falling rocks or route disputes.

So we had 100 recognized climbing parties. Even then we ran out of peaks for just two small parties each, so many of them combined into one larger group climbing at the same time. By the time the August 1st date came, we had over 645 'recognized' climbers in 55 rather than 54 groups. The '55th' Peak was added and recognized by a Dr Cougar with his family after he, failing to get one of the original peaks, telephoned me long distance from Europe that his family had researched the fact that in Grizzly Peak HAD BEEN recognized in 1876 at over 14,000 feet high but it had been downgraded by the Geological Service as being only 13,988 feet high. He argued that for a CENTENNIAL climb shouldn't that be recognized? I laughed and said yes - so that made Grizzly the 55th Peak climb we recognized.

And here generally are where those 54 14ers are in Colorado.

After studying the map of 14'ers, select "Next" to go onto some stories about that Climb and my family's Experience on Mount Sherman.


Below in one PDF file are 19 of the 32 pages of the Program with great art, and history, as well as the program itself.

The Bicentennial Air Show Program



Flap About a Baby Climbing

About a week before the climb a Denver radio station called me to check on the progress for the Climb. I told them the oldest climber was 75 year old Jerome 'Bud' Weiser who would climb Mt Harvard. And the youngest would be Lee Remick, 10 weeks old whose parents would carry her up Mt Sherman.

A political uproar happened as many women called Governor Lamm's office and claimed they would be killing the baby, etc, etc. The Governor called me. I told him the Remick's came in wanting to climb simple Mt Sherman, they were experienced climbers and the baby was healthy. But I said I would get other advice. Once again Enjoy Colorado's resources saved the day. For I looked up the names of top Colorado Mountain Climbers who were ALSO Pediatricians. They said that if the baby is healthy, does not stay on top more than an hour or two, there should be no problem if the parents are well prepared.

They were. So I stuck to our guns, and little Lee Remick climbed with her family as the B team on Sherman. The story and picture is below. All went well.

And on several cases of very technical climbs being necessary and I had any doubts about the qualifications of the climbing party - I was able, using Enjoy Colorado's lists to consult with top climbers, such as several from the Ad A Man Club, who certified all of those attempting the hardest 10 peaks.


My Family's Climb of Mount Sherman

While I was so busy getting everybody else hooked up to a mountain, I almost forgot I wanted to climb that day too, with my two sons.

But since I had to be in Colorado Springs by 2:30 PM that same day to preside over a Centennial event I had to pick a 14er that was both close enough to drive to the start point before and drive back over no more than 3 hours, and climb up and down in 3 to 4 hours. So I picked 14,036 foot Mount Sherman, that was just south west of Fairplay, only about 70 miles away.

I thought I would just take 13 year old Edward and his older brother David up, take the picture, as the A Team for Sherman, and get down quickly. I was still quite fit, so that would be no problem, and the boys were fit, though Edward had never climbed a 14er before.

But then everybody else got into the act and a number of local men and one woman wanted to climb, and join my team.

US Senator Gary Hart wanted in, as did several prominent businessmen. One Colorado Mountain Club member, a stockbroker, told me all Club members were prohibited from representing themselves as 'CMC members' if they climbed. He climbed.

Then a local television station wanted to go with us and film up on the climb and on top.

By the time everybody was aboard there were 17 in my team.

With all the other teams we met at the Governor's Mansion in Denver to get our 'packets'. I had designated young Edward at Mt Sherman "A" Team Leader. Here he is with Governor Lamm and I. When the picture was taken we had only 4 members signed up with us. That balooned to 17 by the climbing day.




As it happened the television cameraman who begged us to include him was NOT in shape, and the rest of us, especially strong son David Jr  had to trade off carrying his camera gear while he struggled up to the top.

After the Centennial we put together a Book consisting of one typed page for each Climbing Party, describing their climb, and including a photograph of their party on top.

It was printed, and at a gathering again at the Governor's Mansion all the parties came together again and each got a copy of the printed "GREAT COLORADO CENTENNIAL FOURTEENER CLIMB" 

Here are the pages from the Centennial Fourteener for both Sherman climbing parties. 


These write ups were typical of the 80 written stories with photos we got and printed in the book.

The Great Big Thompson Flood Tragedy.

As bad luck would have it, a great rainstorm covered all of Colorado on the evening before that August 1st day. Near Estes Park the Great Thompson river crashed down killing 144 people, destroying much property and grabbing ALL the state AND national attention.

But the Centennial Climb's Success

In SPITE of that tragedy, and REAL hard rains all 100 Climbing Parties with over 645 individuals, set out, some having to reach the remote peaks and camp out two days before. In spite of rain all night before, and rain during August 1st climb EVERY team but two made their Summit! Both on peaks - El Diente and Snowmass - lightning was so severe near their peaks, there was too much risk in getting struck. But 98 of 100 teams succeeded! Even the ones on Longs Peak in Estes Park where the great flood took place! There was only ONE injury on one mountain when a falling rock lacerated a climber's leg, but a doctor was in the team and he got patched up! So much for the dire warnings by the Colorado Mountain Club.

Then, when the 92 page Book about the climb was printed, all the teams were once again invited to the Governor's Mansion and everybody partied on the large garden lawn, and everyone was given a copy of the book. The Great Colorado Centennial Fourteener Climb was a smashing success - and all the predictions of doom were proven wrong.

Below is some of what I wrote in the preamble to the book, that justified my faith in Coloradoans good sense.