Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Historic Markers

Whether you're on a road trip or exploring your own neighborhood, roadside markers and "point of interest" signs are a fun way to learn about our state's history, and establish a connection with events that happened on a particular spot so long ago.

The mid-twentieth century was the heydey for the creation of historical markers in Colorado.  Many markers were installed in the 1930s as WPA projects, such as one in Lakewood near Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  Many other markers were installed in the '50s and '60s.  In 1972, the Colorado Historical Society published a guidebook listing all of the state's historic markers.  This guidebook, Point of Interest, has been digitized and can be viewed online via our library.  It's an illustrated listing, divided by county, with interesting facts about the marker and/or the event it commemorates.  This guidebook is also a good historical resource because many of the markers listed are no longer very visible, or even still in existence.  For example, the guidebook lists a marker having been placed at the site of Camp Adams, a military camp during the Spanish-American War (see page 28 of the guidebook).  The site is now Denver's City Park Golf Course, and the marker is nowhere to be found (even before construction on the golf course began this winter).  Other markers still exist, but are quite hidden due to changes in landscaping, urban infrastructure, etc. 

Another fun thing about the old markers is that often times they commemorate events that have long been forgotten.  Where was the old stage stop known as "Fort Wicked?" Which Colorado county claims to have "the oldest oil field in the West?"  On which Denver block can you find the marker erected in 1950 to commemorate the city's streetcar system, which was retired that year?  Take a look at Point of Interest to find these and hundreds of other interesting sites.

Finally, it's not just the events these markers commemorate that make them so special.  Often the markers themselves are works of art -- bronze plaques and sculptures, folksy wooden signs --
with their own historical and/or artistic significance.  The guidebook lists the medium for each marker, and identifies the parties responsible for creating, funding, or installing them.  So next time you're out exploring, take a look at some of these markers (and the many that have been erected since), and get to know our state a little bit better.


How to Use Express Lanes

With more and more people living -- and driving -- in the metro area, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been adding express lanes to many highways.  Some of these, like those on US36 between Denver and Boulder, are open; others, including new express lanes on I-70 and C-470, are yet to come.

The purpose of express lanes is to help ease traffic congestion on highways and interstates.  To be able to use express lanes, you must obtain a special ExpressToll pass.  There are also some different configurations and rules that make express lanes different from regular highway lanes, so if you want to participate, CDOT has several resources to help you.  They have created a series of videos that explain how to use the special lanes -- whether you're a commuter, a carpooler, or a transit rider.  CDOT's Express Lanes website also includes FAQs, fact sheets, information on upcoming construction, and links for obtaining ExpressToll passes and receiving alerts.  Avoid confusion before your trip and check out these resources before you hit the road. 


Test Your Home for Radon

January is National Radon Action Month and YOU should test your home for radon.  It doesn't matter whether you live in an old building or new construction; radon "can enter homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings and can accumulate unless properly mitigated," says the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).  The invisible, odorless gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and is responsible for more than 500 lung cancer deaths in our state each year, according to the CDPHE.  You can find everything you need to know at the state's official radon website, coloradoradon.info, including where to buy a test kit; how to find a contractor if mitigation is required; the laws concerning radon and real estate transactions; health information and data; mitigation financial assistance for low-income households; and more.  Our library also has many resources that can help you learn about what radon is and why it so important to test your home or other property for radon:


Time Machine Tuesday: College and University Histories on Film

Over the past couple of years several of Colorado's public higher educational institutions have celebrated milestone anniversaries.  Others, while perhaps not celebrating a formal anniversary, are still proud of their past.  Whatever the reason, each of the following colleges and universities has put together short films documenting their past and their people:
A still from Arapahoe Community College in the 1960s.

Arapahoe Community College has produced two videos that look at specific decades through photographs:  Arapahoe Community College in the 1960s and Arapahoe Community College in the 1970sThey have also produced a series of oral history interviews with retired faculty and staff.

Last year Colorado Mountain College celebrated their 50th anniversary.  They put together this video to commemorate the event.  It includes interviews and lots of old photos and artifacts.

Aims Community College also celebrated their 50th anniversary last year.  They created this video to tell the story of their college.

2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Metropolitan State University of Denver.  Check out their series of commemorative videos here.

The University of Colorado - Colorado Springs celebrated their 50th in 2015.  They also created a series of videos and interviews for the event.

For their 80th anniversary in 2013, Pueblo Community College created a three-part series commemorating the event and the college's history.

Colorado School of Mines has captured the oral histories of some of its alumni from the 1960s and '70s.

Community College of Aurora interviewed some of its founders for this video.

Fort Lewis College has produced "history of" videos for their Environmental Center's 25th Anniversary and their Community Concert Hall's 20th.  For the history of the College as a whole, check out the book Rich Heritage, Shining Future:  Fort Lewis College 1911-2011 from our library.

The nursing school at the University of Colorado created A Legacy of Innovation: History of the University of Colorado College of Nursing, which can be checked out on DVD from our library.


Colorado Public School Enrollment

You might be surprised to find out that in spite of the recent population boom in our state, the number of public school enrollments in 2017 showed the smallest increase since 1989!  According to figures just released by the Colorado Department of Education, public school enrollment only grew by 5,261 students in 2017 over the previous year.  Denver Public Schools is still the largest school district in the state, but showed markedly slower growth than many other districts.  Jefferson County Schools, the state's second largest district, actually showed a small decrease.  You can find all of the numbers by viewing the department's 2017-2018 pupil membership webpage. This includes breakdowns for race/ethnicity, free/reduced lunch, special education, online schools, English language learners, and more.  For a summary, see the department's press release.


2017 Population Estimates Released

Colorado's State Demography Office has recently released their analysis of new Census Bureau estimates for 2017 population figures.  According to this press release from the Department of Local Affairs, which houses the Demography Office,

The U.S. increased by 2.3 million people between 2016 and 2017 to reach an estimated population of 325,719,178.  During the same time Colorado increased by just over 77,049 to reach 5,607,154 ranking 8th in total growth and 9th in percent growth of 1.4%. Colorado remains the 21st largest state with Wisconsin ranking 20th at 5.795 million.  The southern U.S. reported the largest growth at 1% followed by the Western U.S. at .9%.  The Northeast and Midwest reported the slowest growth.

Colorado's growth has been a hot topic lately as the state's strong economy attracts many new migrants.  You can find more Colorado population statistics on the Demography Office's website, including an interactive map gallery; also, search our library's online catalog for information from past years and decades.


Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado License Plates

Did you know that before the introduction of license plate validation stickers in 1976, you were required to get a new set of plates each year?  From 1913, when the first Colorado license plates were issued, until 1957, the plates had an entirely new color scheme every year.  Then, in 1958, the current colors of dark green and white were adopted -- but they still didn't have the stickers, so instead, each year the color of the plates alternated between green letters on a white background, and white letters on green.  A red, white, and blue plate was issued for the Centennial/Bicentennial in 1975 and with a validating sticker for 1976.  In 1977, plates were returned to green and white and starting in 1978 no new color schemes were introduced; instead, validating stickers were issued in a new color for each year.  The plates underwent one more color change in 2000, when the colors were reversed from white letters on a green background to green letters on a white background.

So what color was the first Colorado license plate?  What year were Colorado plates red and beige?  Or black and orange?  You can find out with this list put together by the Colorado Department of Revenue.

You can learn more about the history of license plates in Colorado by viewing the digital Colorado Session Laws.  For instance, you can view the original law from 1913 establishing a license plate system in Colorado; the 1974 law that allowed the issuing of validation stickers; the 1998 law that required the new plate style beginning January 1, 2000, and others.

The red, white and blue license plate commemorating the state Centennial in 1976, with validation sticker. Courtesy Wikipedia.


2018 Legislative Session is Underway

The Second Regular Session of the Seventy-first General Assembly began Wednesday with speeches, ceremonies, and the introduction of many bills.  Among the bills introduced yesterday include hot topics such as:
And much more.  Many more bills will be introduced in the coming weeks, including legislation addressing state finances.  You can track all of the bills on the General Assembly's website, where you will also find information on Senators and Representatives; committees; legislative service agencies; and the legislative process -- including how you can participate.


Time Machine Tuesday: State of the State Speeches

The 2018 legislative session begins tomorrow, and traditionally the first week of the session includes a "State of the State" speech from the governor to the legislature as well as a "State of the Judiciary" speech from the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.  Looking back on historical speeches provides valuable insight on the economy, politics, and culture of the state at that time as well as on the processes of state government.  You can find many of these speeches online from our library.

Trivia:  Which Colorado governor said the following in their State of the State address?  (Answers below).

1.  "It's inspiring to stand here with you at the state of a new legislative session.  Actually, it's a little like fly fishing.  Fly fishing is about hope and possibilities.  Every time you cast a line, drop a fly onto the water or move to a new spot, there's a new opportunity for a promising return."

2.  "This is serious business which is committed to you and to me.  We cannot do it creditably unless we have sufficient breadth of view and strength of character to keep on terms of mutual respect."

3.  "Amid a storm of invectives such as no previous governor of the state has ever encountered, and which insisted that the present state executive should violate his oath of office and surrender his conscience into the hands of a moneyed aristocracy, a special session of the general assembly was called and held one year ago."

4.  "Balancing the books is not the sexy stuff, but if the budget is wrong, nothing else can be right.  Just ask Congress."

1.  Bill Ritter, 2009.  
2.  Henry Buchtel, 1907.
3.  Davis Waite, 1895.
4.  John Hickenlooper, 2014.


Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+)

Depending on federal budget actions, the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), a low-cost health plan for qualifying children and pregnant women, could be eliminated.  This month the Colorado General Assembly's Joint Budget Committee approved short-term funding that extends CHP+ at least until the end of February.  The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which administers the program, has set up a Future of CHP+ webpage that includes updated information as well as FAQs.  If you are a member of CHP+ or are considering enrollment, be sure to check this page often for updates.

The CHP+ program has been available to Coloradans for the last twenty years.  Search "child health plan plus" in our library's online catalog for hundreds of reports on the program, including monthly and quarterly statistics; annual reports; various analysis reports; member benefits information; statutorily required reports; and much more.


Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Farming During the Great War

A few months ago I wrote a Time Machine Tuesday feature about the state's efforts to increase farm production during WWII.  These types of efforts were not limited to the Second World War, however; the state had also worked to encourage greater farm production during World War I.

One hundred years ago today, on January 2, 1918, the Craig Empire published an article headlined "Rent Free Farms as War Measure: Plan to Add 100,000 Acres to State's Productive Area by Furnishing Tracts free of Rent to Capable Farmers," which you can read online courtesy of the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.  The article cites a plan from the Colorado State Board of Immigration and other agencies to encourage increased farm production for the war effort.  Under the plan, owners of non-cultivated land could turn over portions of their land to the Board for a period of two years or the duration of the war, whichever came first.  The Board would then find qualified farmers to cultivate the land, rent-free.  At the time of the article, "already nearly 50,000 acres of such land has been pledged, and the Immigration board is in touch with a number of experienced farmers who will lease it and place it in cultivation."

Much of the land to be cultivated, explains the article, was found on the Eastern plains where in many cases irrigation was limited and would require dryland farming techniques.  In the early twentieth century, after much of the state's best farmland was already under cultivation, the state had worked to encourage farming of some of the state's less fertile lands.  Dry farming would become a major contributing factor to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s; but during the first two decades of the twentieth century it was highly encouraged.  The State Board of Immigration issued several pamphlets during the World War I era that were meant to encourage and assist both dryland farmers and those that had access to irrigation.  These 1917-1918 pamphlets are available to read online via our library and give interesting insight into Colorado farm life a century ago:

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