Preserving county history took work |

Preserving county history took work

Shirley Welch
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyA young Frank and Imogene Doll embrace for a photo.

Naturally, if you now understand the life and times of Frank Doll, you can understand how Frank can talk to so many people so easily. He can reminisce about his family filing a claim on a ranch in Gypsum and fishing the length of Deep Creek. He can talk about war, about living in different countries. He can speak a little Italian and Korean. He can tell you about the early days along the Eagle River and what Vail and Beaver Creek looked like before Highway 6 or 1-70. He can talk about skiing these mountains and hitting a golf ball in the thin air. For Frank, there is not much he can’t recall or have a story to tell.

Some of his stories revolve around his tenure with the Historical Society, which as you remember, started his path as the Hyatt storyteller. It was back in the 1970s when several people in the valley decided somehow, some way, the history of the Eagle County needed to be preserved. Some of those first participants were Rae Benton, June and Don Simonton, Dr. Steinberg, and Roy Robinson.

One of the first major projects to come their way was the donation of the old Chambers barn, which rested on its original foundation and needed to be moved. The county donated property along the Eagle River by the fairgrounds to the Historical Society. So Can-Do-Frank started the ball rolling. First of all, the Society had zero funds in its bank account, so Frank approached Jack Oleson and asked if Jack would be a lifetime member of the Society at the fee of $250. Jack agreed and tossed in another $50 just because he thought it a worthy cause. Now Frank had some money and put in some of his own besides, as did some of the others. So they managed to get the Chamber’s barn moved to its new location, but a new problem arose. Upon inspection of the barn, it was found that the foundation and floor of the barn was rotten. All had to be replaced. However, there were no funds for something this extensive.

A pow-pow was held with the executive committee, which consisted of Roy Robinson, Frank and Don Simonton. It was decided the only recourse was to go to the County Commissioners and ask for funding to complete the reconstruction of the barn. Rae Benton and the others organized a picnic at the town park and invited the commissioners to attend. At the picnic, the members of the Historical Society would outline the problem and plead for help. Well, the day of the picnic arrived and Rae was beside herself with worry. If this didn’t work, they might as well chuck the Chambers barn in the tash heap.

The three commissioners all arrived in their separate cars and carried a box lunch.

Frank told them, “We have a picnic provided.”

Dick Gustafson replied, “We feel better bringing our own.”

So the three commissioners ate their lunch while Roy, Frank, Don and Rae outlined the Chambers barn project and the problem with the rotten floor. When all was explained, the three commissioners retreated to their cars and huddled in discussion.

Rae moved close to Frank, wringing her hands. “What do you think?”

Frank saw the worry lines on her brow. “I see it two ways. If they get in their cars and drive away, we are dead ducks. If, however, even one of them comes back over here to talk to us, we have them.”

Just then all three commissioners walked back to the waiting group, a friendly look on all of their faces. “This is what we’ve come up with,” Dick said. “We don’t have a lot of available funds to give you but our construction crew is not busy right now. They don’t have a lot on their schedule until the fall. We can lend them to you to do the work on the barn. How does that sound?”

Rae about jumped out of her skin. Frank and Roy and Don nodded agreeably and shook hands with the men. Then the commissioners turned and went to their cars and drove away.

With the help of the construction crew and joint efforts with the sheriff who brought over men from the jail, the Chambers barn was completed, and today is a fine testimony to a group effort.

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