The Saratoga Sun -

History is always important


This is probably to seem like it is going to be about one topic, but then it goes in another direction. It will tie together, I promise.

Last week, Milton Ontiveroz, University of Wyoming Communications Specialist came to the office of the Sun. After a bit of time we realized we had met before at my restaurant/bar in Laramie. He said some great things about my place and our drinks. Milton made me feel proud of what I had done in Laramie even though it is gone now. A key component to the success I had was I served classic cocktails taken from historical bar books.

Bartending in my early years was a way to make money in around the globe. Sometimes it was extra income, other times it was my only income.

In 2005, I came across my first book on 1930s cocktails. I had just opened a bar in Taiwan and was doing some classic drinks. This book introduced me the “Shanghai Buck.”

This precursor to the Moscow Mule, created in Shanghai in the 30s, was so popular more Bacardi was sold there than any other place in the world.

The drink disappeared when the Japanese shut down Chinese nightclubs in WWII.

That set me on a quest to find out as much as I could about this drink because every place I put this drink on a menu, it became the biggest seller.

This led me to start collecting old bartending books. I now have over 200 from before 1930. I found myself becoming a bar historian. Next thing I know, people are asking me questions on bar history and it became a mission to be able to answer.

I have always enjoyed history, but to become specialized in a subject not everyone else is can be emotionally rewarding.

When I took this job at the Sun, an amazing, enlightening thing happened, I will be thankful for until the end of my time.

Interviewing local historians I discovered they are incredible and deserve recognition.

That is what I am going to do in this column in the order I met them.

Chilly Rollison

Chris (Chilly) Rollison was one of the first people I met when I came to Saratoga. I can say now, I took for granted his knowledge on native Americans for way too long. His understanding of the different tribes that lived in Carbon County and Wyoming is that of any history professor I could imagine. However, it was not until I heard Chilly speak on a trek for the Hot Springs in Saratoga did I realize his depth of knowledge on Native American cultures, battles and circumstances. Anyone who wants to be blown away by Native American cultural facts needs to find him. The guy is a jewel.

Dick Perue

Dick Perue used to come in for the coffee klatsch that met at the Lazy River Cantina in the mornings when I worked there a few years ago. I had no idea this man was a historian in the Valley until I started working at the Sun. This man’s trove of knowledge is remarkable. He is generous with imparting historical information to the public. He writes articles, sets up walks and lectures. He is comprehensive on historical data with intricate knowledge of places, people and events. Occasionally Dick comes into the Sun and I always look forward to learning something new from the man.

A favorite memory of Dick was when I asked him how far the Hot Springs Trek was. His reply? “I walked it yesterday and it was about 20 gallons of sweat.” I cracked up and got insight to the crackerjack historian and his sense of humor.

Jeannette Fisher

Jeanette Fisher has guided me to stories on many occasions. This woman knows the history of families who have lived in Carbon County, specializing in the north. She was a reporter for two papers in Wyoming and knows interesting stories. I can honestly say, if she tells me there is something to pay attention to, I do it because she has been “on” every time. A favorite memory of her, is when I was coming to cover Bow Days. I met her at a prearranged destination only to find her waiting for me with several sheets of information about places, people and dates of people and events in Medicine Bow. She did all this handwritten work to give me perspective on the families still in town. It was amazingly detailed and I still refer to it. I spent a couple hours at her side and she introduced me to great people who had stories that fascinate me. I have spent years driving by the town of Medicine Bow going to Laramie, never appreciating what the people and the town had to offer. I cannot thank Jeanette enough for taking the time to share.

Christy Smith

I have loved Grand Encampment Museum (GEM) since the first time I was brought to it by my friend Darby Doll. I have seen a lot of museums all over the world and I love them all (really) but I tell anyone who cares about my opinion that GEM is the best small town museum ever. The museum in Dixon/Savery is close though.

Christy Smith, the Encampment museum director, has impressed every time I meet her. I should qualify: These meetings are usually events she has set up with volunteers, speakers and the town of Encampment. I have learned much about the Valley near Encampment because of these shows. Going to GEM is great and I do it a couple times a year—but I am grateful, as someone who likes history, that Christy does her job well. I feel lucky the Sun assigned me to cover what I have and I look forward to learning more. I don’t think it can be overstated that Christy has picked out interesting topics and people that should not be forgotten as time goes by.

Nancy Anderson

Nancy Anderson, I met for the first time was when the “Living Legend,” train number 844, came to Hanna. We talked briefly but I was talking to a lot of people and I was on a deadline, so Nancy didn’t stand out other than being the retiring Hanna Museum director.

I heard often about her being an authority on much of the the history of Carbon County, although she was supposed to be the most specialized on the north of Carbon County.

When I finally had an opportunity to interview/talk with her, I realized I was truly in the presence of a living legend herself. Nancy gave me two hours of her time and taught me about “coal culture and ranch ways.” I felt like I was in a masters class on Carbon County history.

Her personal background was just as absorbing as the history she told me about. She is delightful and riveting with her grasp of the many facets that made Carbon County what it is today.

Sharon Biamon

Sharon Biamon is the director of the Medicine Bow museum. While I was in Medicine Bow for Bow Days, we talked at several intervals. I could tell she was committed to the museum in the town and I listened to all she had to tell me. The museum is not large, but it is interesting and probably a bit eclectic in what it has on display. Sharon is always pleasant and makes time for my questions (I seem to have a lot). As I learn more about Medicine Bow, I am secure in knowing Sharon will answer any questions I have.

Kassell and Talbott

Michael Kassell and Starley Talbott are historians I was fortunate to meet a couple of weeks ago. When it comes to aviation history in Wyoming, these two are more than enlightening. They reminded me why I love history. The information they gave me will come soon enough in a story, but I walked away from the interview a smarter person about a subject I always liked.

And others ...

I have met directors at the other Carbon County museums and volunteers who give their time to inform visitors and none should take slight. I have not gotten to know these people yet ... give me time.

... and we’re history

I know it seems trite that history is valuable. The more specialized a person becomes on a subject, the less chance of it being forgotten. I am going to be someone that won’t let people forget how important the bar culture was to our country and I take some pleasure in that.

I take more honor in getting to know the historians who keep the flames of knowledge in Carbon County and Wyoming alive.

We are lucky to have them amongst us.


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