Flipping and clicking through the (virtual) pages of the present, I’m reminded of pages from my past. Last week, I surfed the Vail Daily’s headlines, attempting to reacquaint myself with a valley I left nearly 20 years ago. Granted, I grew up in Minturn and experienced its transformation from an afterthought of the mining and railroad boom to a reinvented resort community situated on the cusp of two of the world’s premier ski destinations. However, considering the transient nature of resort communities, I figured many — if not most — of the characters comprising my childhood had moved on. Indeed, a dynamic person who inhabited my youth and the town of Minturn had moved on. Bessie Lucero’s published farewell in the Vail Daily informed the valley — and those of us removed from Eagle County in both distance and time — of her passing. Another star dimmed. Another character of Minturn’s stellar cast relocated to some distant and celestial constellation. Another Minturn resident who, not unlike the town I grew up in, now exists as memories in the minds and hearts of those who knew, enjoyed and loved them.
Lucero’s importance and influence extended well beyond her immediate family. For many in the harried and hurried Internet society, communal personalities reside in an ephemeral neighborhood governed by Web 2.0 technologies instead of a town council; communities designed and traveled through networks and servers rather than sidewalks and streets. Physical and permanence both seem a quaint antiquity. Growing up, “real time” meant face-to-face contact and conversation. A smile rather than a symbol indicated a “like” following a spoken (rather than posted) comment. A thumbs up was made with a digit, not a keystroke. Storefront retail enabled and encouraged real world exchanges of currency and conversation.
Several years ago, I stumbled across an ad placed by a Minturn merchant, marketing exotic inventory to upscale clients. The ad compared the town to a European village. No one would mistake the Minturn I grew up in for a European village. But, then again, no Minturn merchant back in the day catered to upscale clientele with exotic inventory. The town’s stores and stations served more plebian needs and customers. The goal was to fulfill basic needs, not to satisfy exotic wants.
Those basic needs included goods and services that weren’t merchandise — namely conversation and company.
Tony and Bessie Lucero participated in the mom and pop proprietorship rarely encountered today outside televised reruns like “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffin Show.” The Luceros were successors to the entrepreneurial efforts of the Meyers, the Leidys, the Williams and the Clarks, all of whom owned and operated rustic businesses with the idiosyncrasies peculiar to small town America. The service station, the hardware and drug store, the cafe and liquor store, and the grocery store composed Minturn’s business district and social life. Digital marketing practices involve online entrepreneurs interacting with target markets, supplying peripheral information and offering interesting asides and tidbits alongside merchandise and mission statements to attract and engage virtual customers. Small town merchants had that practice down pat. Small talk was the stock and trade of their operations. The Luceros maintained the tradition long after specialty shops and restaurants responded to Minturn’s transformation from town to tourist trap.
Rockwellian flashbacks of old school Minturn spur ample fodder for nostalgic longings. But living in the past is worse than myopic. As I learned in my professional life, it’s a waste of time. I’m not mailing this column. It arrived via servers and networks, delivered instantaneously to an electronic inbox rather than via snail mail to yesteryear’s post office next to the Minturn Mercantile. I’m not only grieving the memory of Lucero, but also the memory of the times, traditions and town she so indomitably exemplified. She joins many of the departed who populated my town and youth. Here’s a fond farewell to Lucero and yesteryear’s Minturn. Rest in peace, dear ladies.
Wayne Trujillo, director of communications for the Chamber of the Americas, is a Minturn native and Battle Mountain High School graduate. His family moved to Eagle County nearly a century ago. His uncle, Oscar Meyer, was the Eagle County sheriff gunned down by James Sherbondy on Tennessee Pass in 1937, and his Aunt Ollie Meyer was Eagle County superintendent of schools. His grandparents Irene and Ralph Meyer moved to Minturn in the 1940s and owned and operated Meyer’s Garage. He currently lives in Denver.