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One of 19 display cases in the the museum at the Old Colorado City History Center, this exhibit discusses mining in the region and includes artifacts from the Golden Cycle mill, which processed gold ore that had been mined in the Cripple Creek area. The museum exhibits were featured for the Old Colorado City History Center's Holiday Open House Dec. 5.

About 200 at OCC History Center for first-time Holiday Open House

Charlease Elzenga demonstrates a spinning wheel during the Holiday Open House Dec. 5 at the Old Colorado City History Center.
       An estimated 200 people visited the Old Colorado City History Center for the first-time Holiday Open House over a five-hour span Dec. 5.
       The event spotlighted the center's 19 display cases, varying from mining mementos to pharmacy paraphernalia to railroad remembrances. And wassail and treats added to the occasion.
       Adding perspective to the setting were numerous costumed Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) members, who offered background on the exhibits or even, in the case of Charlease Elzenga, provided demonstrations on a type of spinning wheel that was commonly used through the 19th century, even while the Industrial Age was mechanizing the process.
       One of the event's lead organizers was Marilyn Lee, who oversees the display case arrangements for the all-volunteer OCCHS. A former printing worker, she moved here with her husband from Kansas 2 ˝ years ago. They attended a program together and decided to volunteer, with Lee choosing to help with the displays.
       Many exhibits have been added or refreshed under her leadership, commented past OCCHS President Joanne Karlson.
       Adding to the praise was Dave Hughes, a co-founder of the Historical Society in the early 1980s, who described the upgraded exhibits as “tasteful, informative and classy.”
       “I've always enjoyed museums,” said Lee, who was decked out in a full gown of 19th century style. “If we can tell a story through an exhibit in an enjoyable and interesting manner, it might encourage someone to go on and learn a little more.”
       Lee also credited fellow OCCHS volunteers Shirley Ewing and Jay Hatfield for helping put the displays together.
       During her demonstration, Elzenga explained how the flyer wheel replaced the earlier spindle wheels in about the 14th century. Scandanavian families brought them to the New World, and in Colonial families, women (typically) used them to create yarn for clothing, she said.
       Elzenga, a spinning enthusiast who owns eight wheels in all, also does demonstrations at times for the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Pioneer Fiber Workshop.
       At the mining display case was Werner Karlson, dramatizing his interpretive role by wearing a mining helmet. Noteworthy in front of the helmet was a bright, flint- activated calcium carbide lamp - an innovation in its day that was “the next step after candles,” he said.
       The Holiday Open House replaced a previous December tradition in which people would pay to visit the interiors of historic buildings, with proceeds going to the OCCHS. The new event was free and open to the public, although donations were requested.
       Susie Schorsch, the OCCHS treasurer, said the event was successful not only from the standpoint of attendance, but from the increased involvement of the society's membership. The OCCHS has more than 300 members, but only a fraction of them typically volunteer time at the center. But all were contacted before the open house, which led to more contributions, which the regular volunteers appreciated, she said.
LEFT: Marilyn Lee, a History Center volunteer who leads its museum display efforts, was dressed for the occasion at the Holiday Open House Dec. 5. RIGHT: Don Hansen, who worked in the pharmaceutical business for more than 30 years, with much of his career as a civilian employee at Fort Carson, played the part of a pharmacist from the old days for the open house, standing next to a related exhibit.
A History Center display case shows artifacts from the Midland railway that was once headquartered on the Westside. Two buildings still remain from that era, most prominently the Roundhouse at present-day 21st Street and Highway 24.
LEFT: Werner Karlson (in the miner's helmet) answers questions about the display case discussing mining and milling (see close- up photo of the display at the top of this page). He said the helmet, which he bought a number of years ago, is actually the type worn by West Virginia coal miners. The lamp uses calcium carbide for its power. RIGHT: Wassail and various cookies were among the refreshments provided at no charge to attendees at the free event.

Westside Pioneer article and photos (except the "treats" photo by David Swint)
(Posted 12/9/15; Community: Old Colorado City History Center)

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