Read about the “Ghosts of Denver” and more in local books this June
“The Ghosts of Denver: Capitol Hill,” by Phil Goodstein (New Social Publications)
Flipping through Phil Goodstein’s “The Ghosts of Denver: Capitol Hill,” you can’t help but ask, “Where did this guy get all his information?” The book is crammed with thousands of names, addresses and dates. I counted 48 on one page.
But the amazing thing is, Goodstein blends them all into a readable narrative of who lived where and when on Capitol Hill from the 1860s to the present day. Interspersed are tidbits of Denver history and, of course, there is Goodstein’s wonderful sense of outrage at one-way streets, the loss of historic buildings for parking lots and bland apartment buildings. While Goodstein talks about the haunts that inhabit the structures, it is the buildings themselves that are often the hosts.
Goodstein writes about the well-known mansions along Grant Street, known as Millionaires Row, but he also includes lesser-known facts about buildings on Capitol Hill. Colfax Ave. A and B (just behind Tommy’s Thai) dissect a block horizontally to add more dwellings. The idea was residents would ride the trolley so didn’t need garages, which means parking is a problem today.
There are also old-time favorites that may be short on historical significance but long on childhood memories, like Russell Stovers’ bungalow and Collins bike shop.
The original volume came out in 1996; Goodstein has cut some parts, expanded others and updated it. One conclusion: Hippies aren’t the threat they were 25 years ago, but there is a “civic schizophrenia” in Capitol Hill today, caused by the many directions in which it is pulled.
“On the Plains, and Among the Peaks,” by Mary Dartt, edited by Julie McCown (University Press of Colorado)
When a friend chastised Martha Maxwell, the naturalist and taxidermist, for killing so many birds and animals for her displays, Maxwell responded to her carnivorous friend: “I leave it to you; which is more cruel? To kill to eat, or kill to immortalize?”
Maxwell immortalized a great number of antelope and elks, buffalo and cougars, and almost every bird that flew in the Colorado skies. She mounted and displayed them in realistic settings in museums and exhibitions. She kept a porcupine as a pet and found it amusing when rats stole her supply of dried apples. When she found the apples hidden under the floor, she retrieved them and placed them in a secure place in the pantry.
Maxwell was well-known in the 1870s when her half-sister, Mary Dartt, wrote “On the Plains, and Among the Peaks,” a biography of Maxwell. Dartt was well aware of her half-sister’s accomplishments — and of the sexism she faced. An exhibition visitor asked Dartt, “Can it be possible anyone wishes to believe a woman did all this? Did she kill any of the animals?”
Indeed, she did. All of them. Maxwell faced not only the incredulity but the disdain of those who felt that hunting was not woman’s work.
Nearly 150 years after it was written, “On the Plains, and Among the Peaks” is an eminently readable biography of Maxwell, well written and filled with 19th-century humor. Editor Julie McCown adds some 150 footnotes clarifying and expanding the original text.
“Life Is A Game,” by G.K. “Joe” Guennel and Flint Whitlock (Cable Publishing)
Shortly after World War II, G.K. “Joe” Guennel, an interrogator with the U.S. Army, organized soccer teams made up of GIs and displaced persons. Guennel was stationed at a POW compound in Germany, where German POWs watched the games from their windows and applauded the plays. A field marshall sent word thanking Guennel for the entertainment. Guennel shot back: I didn’t start the soccer games to entertain you and your fellow prisoners.
“Life Is A Game,” written by Guennel with the help of Colorado author Flint Whitlock, is an autobiography of Guennel and his years as a World War II interrogator and later a soccer great and member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.
Guennel tells of being at Berchtesgaden shortly after American troops arrived. Another time, while Gruennel was taking a walk, he was approached by a German captain and 30 members of his company who wanted to surrender.
Guennel was born in Germany and came to the U.S. as a boy, so he was a native German speaker (as were most of the interrogators he worked with). Among the prisoners who Guennel interrogated were the mistresses of Dr. Robert Ley and Heinrich Himmler. Hedwig Potthast, Himmler’s mistress, told Guennel that Ley obtained poison for many top Nazis. (Ley’s poison was confiscated, and he had to use a piece of towel attached to a pipe to hang himself.)
Following the war, Guennel promoted soccer in the U.S. and in Colorado, after moving to Littleton to work for Marathon Oil, in 1961.
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