How to put a post office back together
Vail CO, Colorado
In 1989 Frank suffered a heart attack that required open heart surgery. He recovered and gradually built up his strength and began his normal active lifestyle.
Next up for Frank came a call from Bob Mackelvain at Beaver Creek. “Frank,” he said, ” Vail Resorts took down the old post office at Avon several years ago and stored the logs up here in Strawberry Park. We don’t know what to do with it and wondered if the Historical Society would like that building?”
“I think we could use that building,” Frank said. “Give me a little while to make some calls and see what I can come up with.”
Bob replied, “OK, sounds great.”
Frank got off the phone and now wondered where in the world they could get the money to move another building. He thought about it for a few days and talked to a few people but did not come up with an immediate idea.
Then he got another call from Bob. “Hey, Frank, we are ready to move those post office logs out of here tomorrow. So I’m going to tell the men to leave them in the west parking lot. You guys from the Historical Society can pick them up there.”
“Great,” Frank replied, having no idea who or how anyone would pick up those logs. They needed a big truck and a driver and a fork lift. No one had the funds to make all that happen. Yet that old post office would be perfect to add to the Chambers barn at the Historical Park, and the building needed to be preserved. It seemed Frank needed a miracle.
That night Frank hardly slept. In the morning, with thoughts of the old post office logs lying in a heap in the parking lot with no way to move them, Frank rubbed his neck and tried to come up with a solution. Then the phone rang. It was Bob Mackelvain again.
“Hey Frank,” he began, “we’ve got the post office logs loaded.”
Frank groaned. He didn’t know what to tell Bob.
“Yeah,” Bob went on, “and we decided that since they are already on the truck we might just as well take them down to Eagle for you and off load them there. Where exactly do you want us to put them?”
Frank could only look outside at the clear blue sky and think: someone has been looking out for me today.
So the old Avon Post Office building, now just a pile of logs, was delivered to the Historical Society park in Eagle and there left in a pile. Frank had asked Alan Nottingham to be in charge of the erection of this building and Alan agreed, but Frank had no idea if Alan could manage the job. One more challenge to overcome was how to put this building together with no funds. Another challenge with this building was that the logs were not numbered. They were simply a pile of logs. How does one put a building together with no guide or plan?
‘These logs are yours’
The one saving grace to the situation was Don Simonton. He had taken pictures of the building in its original state. So Frank, with the great help of Alan Nottingham, had these pictures to work with in trying to put together the old Post Office. It was like playing advanced Lincoln Logs. The timbers were laid out on the ground and each one looked at in relation to the photos. Once a log was identified, it was painted with a number and so on.
Alan found people to donate time and materials to excavate the foundation and build the foundation, and with the help of a deputy and men from the jail, the foundation was completed, and the men thought they were on a roll. Then came a disastrous discovery. The two foundation logs were rotten. The two top logs which held up the roof were rotten. These logs simply crumbled when the men touched them. What to do?
Can-Do-Frank gave it some thought. He called the lumber mill down near the lava fields in Gypsum, found out the name of the owner of the place, and called the owner, who was in Texas. Frank explained the situation.
“OK, give me your phone number and you’ll be hearing from me.”
Frank put down the phone and thought he would never hear from that guy again. To his surprise, a few days later he got a call from the owner who said, “You go on down to the mill and tell the foreman I authorized you to pick out two 40-foot logs and two 20-foot logs. He’ll mark the logs and put them on the road for you and you can arrange for a truck to pick them up there.”
So the next day Frank and Allen went to the mill and with the foreman mucked through the ankle-deep snow, inspecting logs and finally found the ones that he wanted. The logs were duly marked and the foreman said, “OK. These logs are yours. I’ll put them out on Highway 6 tomorrow and you can collect them from there.”
Frank thanked the man and scratched the back of his neck. OK, I’ve got the logs. How do I move them?
Once he returned home, Frank picked up the phone again and called the Road and Bridge people at the county. “Hey,” he began after the usual chit chat, “you guys have a weekly run up the Colorado River Road don’t you?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
“And your trucks come back empty?”
“Well, how about having your guys stop alongside Highway 6 and pick up some logs that will be there and leave them at the Historical Park for me?”
“Sounds OK to me. When do you want them?”
“I’ve just come from the mill. Those logs should be on the road by this afternoon.”
“OK. We’ll pick them up tomorrow and you can have them then.”
Click. Another problem solved.
So the logs were delivered to the Historical Park. Allan Nottingham and Frank worked all summer to put that building together. Many of the logs, especially the new ones, required some fine hewing, and Frank did most of that work. More than once, someone would come by to check on the progress and see Frank with an ax in his hand, his shirt sweat-stained, and his Levi’s dirty.
“Didn’t you have a heart attack?” became a frequent question.
“Yep,” Frank replied. “But I’m over that now.”
Cross timbers were needed for the roof of the post office and Alan Nottingham found those in a building next to the old Nottingham sheep barn in Avon. The timbers were just about the right size and with a little more hewing they fit perfectly. Again, with the help of the sheriff and some of his residents in the jail, the post office building was erected in 1991. For finishing touches, Frank and Imogene toured antique shops from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico to find just the right things to put in the building to authenticate what it looked like some 75 years ago, including several shelves full of tin cans with the original paper wrappers on them. A tally at the end of their expedition, showed that Frank and Imogene spent all of $500 to furnish the building.
Well, Frank felt that he had put enough time and effort into the Historical Society at this point in this life. He was in his early ’70s now and wanted to go at a little slower pace, and he was not in the mood for moving more buildings or for any more “trash heaps that needed to be made into a golf course” events in his life. So he retired from the Historical Society in 1992.
However, he still continued his job as the storyteller at the Hyatt Hotel.
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