"My Breckenridge’ is a trip down memory lane
I must admit I expected a few more skeletons to fall from the pages of Ray McGinnis’ book “My Breckenridge.”
After all, the man has lived here for more than 40 years. He’s seen the transformations, the characters, the shady deals. He was instrumental in surveying the town boundaries, the ski area lift lines and land owned by Breckenridge Lands, at one time the largest landowner in the valley other than the U.S. Forest Service.
He must have stories to tell. Maybe the statutes of limitations have yet to run their courses.
Nevertheless, “My Breckenridge” is a fun look at the evolution of the town he calls home.
McGinnis, who spends his summers in Summit County and the winters in San Diego aboard his boat, the Equinox, rolled into Breckenridge in 1962 to play a gig at The Mine, a bar in the 300 block of South Main Street.
Like many, he never left.
McGinnis and his wife, Kay, raised their three children in a house on the corner of Watson and Main streets. They sold it to Bernie McMenamy; it’s currently occupied by Ridge Street Wines.
McGinnis spent most of his career surveying for the ski area, Summit County Development Corp. (now Breckenridge Lands) and the town. He remembers when the town tried to enlarge the old reservoir on Peak 9 and when Robin Theobald developed the town of Blue River and the Goose Pasture Tarn. He watched the growing pains, as the Porter and Rounds lumber company tried to wake the sleepy burg and transform it into a ski town.
McGinnis outlines, in detail, the evolution of the popular businesses in town: Andrea’s Pleasure Palace – a place of “horizontal refreshment,” he writes – became Whitney’s Steak House. It’s now the Hearthstone Restaurant. Minnie Thomas’ house is now occupied by Creatures Great and Small; the Jarvis house is now the Bay Street Co., and the Perrin house evolved from a residential unit to Tapp’s Antiques and, now, a bed and breakfast.
He remembers when the town minted its own coin for Ullr Fest – and the feds descended upon the town to stop it. He was there when Gov. John Love was crowned King John I, the first royal monarch of the Kingdom of Breckenridge. He remembers the Devil’s Triangle, that infamous section of Ridge Street bounded by Shamus O’Toole’s (now the Breckenridge Theatre), the Angel’s Rest (now Bubba’s Bones) and Fatty’s.
McGinnis drops names throughout the book – Sigurd and Carol Rockne, Trygve Berge, Jim Beck, Robert and Lois Theobald, Mike Jarvis, Frank and Theta Brown, Jim Nicholls – making the read a pleasant one, especially for people who know those who are still around.
No book about Breckenridge is complete without stories about the bars: the Ore Bucket, the Roc Mine, the T-Bar and the Gasthaus – and some that still do: Fatty’s, the Gold Pan, the Briar Rose.
McGinnis recalls when the then-Breckenridge Inn – now the Breckenridge Mountain Lodge – had a bowling alley. When the Blue River was little more than a gash through the center of town. When there were three gas stations on Main Street. When dogs slept in the street – or chased sheep up Baldy Mountain.
Throughout the book, it’s apparent that the more things change, the more they remain the same – like the Bergenhof Restaurant on Peak 8. Ullr Fest photos from 1965 look much the same as they do today. So do townfolk, pictured at gatherings throughout town.
There are stories about the Breckenridge Navy, McGinnis’ efforts at mining and tidbits about his family.
There isn’t really a plot to this 109-page book, and the writing is more list-like – then this happened, then this happened – than lyrical. But it’s fun to flip through the pages and read about the antics of a town trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.
Everyone should have to write such a book. And they should open some doors and rattle some skeletons.
“My Breckenridge” is available at Hamlet’s Bookshoppe. McGinnis will sign copies of his books from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 5 at Hamlet’s Bookshoppe in Breckenridge.
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