Summit Old-Timer: Chick Deming
When Chick Deming grew up in Frisco, he said there were only 30 or 40 people living in town. There was a small grocery store, and L.A. Wildback opened the town’s post office in his home. The Colorado & Southern Railroad would come into Dickey, drop down into Dillon, then go on to Frisco.”It was a great place to grow up,” said Deming, sitting in the kitchen of Howard Giberson’s home in Frisco. “It was a tough place to make a living back then, but it was a good place to grow up for a boy.” Deming was born in Frisco on Nov. 22, 1918, to John and Nellie Deming. Deming’s grandfather came to Summit County from Nova Scotia in 1888 before the silver boom crash, and was followed by Deming’s father in 1890.
His grandfather eventually returned to Nova Scotia, but his father never did. He worked in the mines, then in timber. His father was mining on Chief Mountain in Frisco when he got pneumonia and died.Deming remembers well the early days of riding horses, ranching, hunting and fishing – the wide open country of Summit County. “We thought we were cowboys,” said Deming, looking back several decades in his mind. “I guess we were.”Deming said the Gibersons were always good friends and remembers ski jumping with Karl Knorr. “There wasn’t much in the way of downhill skiing back then,” said Deming, who thinks he was probably 3 or 4 when he first got on a pair of skis. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area didn’t open until 1945, but there were ski jumps in old Dillon, Frisco and Slate Creek in the early days. Deming said at one time a record jump of 218 feet was set in Dillon.
He went to grade school in Frisco, then over to Dillon for a few years and graduated in Breckenridge in 1938. He worked for the Gibersons and the Marshalls haying in the summer and building the Gore Range Trail for the Forest Service. “Ranching wasn’t profitable,” he said. “But it was better than starving.”He went to Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University) and studied forestry. “Long about then the war came along and my brother and I went to enlist in the Army Air Corps,” said Deming, but he wasn’t accepted because of a heart murmur.In 1944, he married Dillon sweetheart Lillian Ashlock, who he met at town dances. Her father was the county road superintendent. They are still married, “my wife of 60 years.” They had three children: Mike, a geologist in Bayfield, Sally, a school teacher in Parachute, and Steve, an engineer with Arizona Public Service in Scotsdale.
Deming was a surveyor for the state for a few years, then went on to the Bureau of Reclamation, where he worked for 33 years building dams all over the West. “We moved about 20 times in 33 years,” said Deming, reeling off a list of dams he helped build – Jerry Creek in western Colorado, Yamcolo in Steamboat, Taylor Draw in Rangely, Wanship in Utah, Pineview in Ogden, Utah, Vega in western Colorado, Lemon in Durango, Joe’s Valley in Utah and several others in Wyoming and Nevada.”It was during the dam building era,” said Deming, who realized early on how important water was in the arid West. “There was a lot of opposition by the environmentalists back then, but now we are back in favor.” Deming, who still owns historic cabins in Frisco, now lives in Clifton where he and Lillian retired. He still visits friends in Frisco, but likes to remember the Frisco of his childhood, when the country was still raw and wide open, and boys could still be cowboys.
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