Lifelong Minturn resident Darla Goodell, who ran Turntable, passes away
Celebration of Life
A celebration of Darla Goodell’s life is scheduled for 2 pm., Oct. 18, at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy gym, in Minturn’s Maloit Park.
Editor’s note: We sat down with several people in Minturn’s Turntable restaurant to talk about Darla Goodell. These are some of their stories. Memorial service arrangements were still pending when this edition went to press. Look for announcements soon.
MINTURN — If there’s a rock ‘n’ roll heaven, and there is, Darla Goodell is dancing with Elvis.
Darla ran Minturn’s Turntable restaurant and motel for longer than most of us can remember. Earlier this year she had beaten cancer and was declared cancer free. She died at 2 a.m. Friday of complications from pneumonia.
Home is where she stayed
Darla K. Goodell was born March 28, 1947, in Minturn. She grew up there, got married and moved into a house three doors down from her mother Betty Sanders’ place. Darla’s dad was a railroader, but died when she was young.
Some of the physical elements of her life might have been contained in a 1,000-yard radius, but her love reached to heaven and beyond.
Not much will change around the Turntable. The train is still running. The place is still packed with Elvis and Denver Broncos memorabilia. Darla tinkered with her green chili recipe for years, and won the region’s Best Green Chili four years running. The salsa still wins championships.
Nicknames and knick knacks
Darla was a collector of memorabilia and people.
The Turntable is a shrine to all the things she loved: Family, friends, the Denver Broncos, Elvis, old people and babies, old rock ‘n’ roll, and feeding people. The order will be a matter of friendly contention for years to come.
Today’s Broncos game is the first one she will have missed, practically since the team kicked off in 1960, one of eight teams in the upstart American Football League.
There are T-shirts on the wall from the annual Minturn Reunion she ran for years, attracting people from all over the country. There’s a kid-sized cheerleader outfit with an M emblazoned on the front.
“We weren’t her employees, we were her family,” said Judy Trujillo, Darla’s kitchen manager for eight years, explaining Darla’s loyalty to her staff. “She was so easy to work for, and she hated changing employees.”
By the way, Sam Medina, one of Darla’s long-time Turntable hands, came up with this story’s opening line about Darla dancing with Elvis.
Her employees’ kids were her grandkids, and she treated them like it, calling them her “Turntable Babies.”
She’d call her Turntable Babies into her office, and they’d emerge with a doll or stuffed animal, and an enormous smile.
She’d give them nicknames and jobs around the restaurant. She taught one 6-year-old girl, Bethy Boo, to count and balance the cash drawers.
There was this guy, a nice guy with a huge beard. The beard was a little off-putting to some kids, but there was this one little girl who walked right up to him, pursed her lips and planted a big ol’ smooch right on him.
He was, and shall forever be known as “Smooch.” Darla nicknamed him that, so of course it stuck.
She brought the breakfast burrito to Eagle County. On the Turntable menu it’s called the Boos Burrito, named after a guy on whom she had hung that nickname. Speaking of hung, the Boos Burrito has helped lift the fog on innumerable hangovers.
Home is home
Darla had her own daughter, Audrey Hanson, and two granddaughters who she made every attempt to spoil.
Those granddaughters would call on a Saturday or Sunday and ask grandma to help them make brunch. Darla scooped up gallons of her award-winning green chili, hash browns and everything else she thought those granddaughters might need, packed it all in an Elvis cooler and headed to Denver.
She bought Girl Scout cookies practically by the carload … train carload. Minturn is a railroad town, after all.
Darla and friend Debbie Gustafson went to school in the one-room Red Cliff schoolhouse. Battle Mountain High School was in Minturn’s Maloit Park, so that wasn’t much of a commute either.
Her mom, Betty Sanders, is 93 and living in Denver. Betty still has a valid driver’s license.
Her brother Frank Sanders lives in Minturn.
It’s home, that’s why, and there really is no place like home.
Welcome one and all
One of her cooks had what we’ll call some domestic upheaval. Darla put her and her two kids in the motel until they could get back on their feet.
She did that all the time. People would wander in, a little down on their luck, or referred from some local agency, and she’d find them somewhere to stay, usually under her wing. Most would pick themselves up, some wouldn’t. She welcomed them all.
She handled every wedding, every funeral, everything she was asked.
“She never said no to anyone,” said Hawkeye Flaherty, her cousin and Minturn mayor.
The Turntable free Thanksgiving dinner is one of the valley’s quiet, yet treasured traditions. Every year, she’d feed whomever showed up, because … Darla.
Sometimes the seniors in Minturn had their lunches in the Turntable, sometimes Darla delivered lunch to them at the senior center in Maloit Park.
There was the time she hosted a concert at the Turntable with a couple Elvis impersonators, a Beatles tribute band, and a Frank Sinatra impersonator. Whether it made money remains irrelevant.
It was fun, and that was the point.
A little historical perspective
The Turntable was originally built to accommodate railroad crews. James E. Simon traveled the Rocky Mountain region building similar restaurant/motel buildings.
For the newbies among us, a turntable is a massive round plate — like a table — on which locomotives were parked, turned around and sent the other way.
There used to be one on the Turntable parking lot. Hence the restaurant’s name, The Turntable.
Before the restaurant was the Turntable, it was the Whistle Stop, then Rocky’s Café.
It became the Turntable around 1980 when Darla leased it all from the railroads she loved so much.
There was that one time we saw Darla’s fightin’ side, when either the motel’s management company or the railroad — there’s some disagreement about which — wanted to level the buildings. Darla won, and we’re all the better for it.
She actually started in the restaurant business at Williams Café, where Magusto’s is now, about a block from the house in which she grew up.
That management company liked the way she ran the Turntable, and started sending her all over to train other people. Traveling got old pretty quickly and she headed back to Minturn.
She knew where home is.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.