Pick and Sledge

Curious Stories from the American West

100 Years Ago Today: Forest Service Issues Booklet for Vacationist

Steamboat Pilot, January 22, 1919

As late as the 1860s, the noun ‘vacation’ was used almost exclusively to describe the time in a school year when class was not in session. It was a time when the schoolhouses and universities were literally vacated. The other use of the word was to describe when an elected official left their position, e.g. ‘a vacation of the senator’s seat.’ But it was not used to describe the leisure time that the working class scheduled into their year.

Wealthy people took vacations, though they might have called them “excursions,” as Cindy Aron describes in her book, Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States. By 1919, however, due to the rise of the middle class and unions fighting for workers’ rights, a vacation was something that more and more people — this article calls them “vacationists” — could participate in.

This article and the booklet it’s promoting (full booklet here) also illuminates the transition of Colorado from a destination for miners in the 19th century to a destination for tourists in the 20th century. It’s a kind of re-branding of the state that its economy continues to thrive on today.

Vacationists from Denver wouldn’t have been able to get to the beautiful destinations in Routt National Forest if it weren’t for the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad route, aka the Moffat Road (now known as Rollins Pass Road), as well as newly built automobile roads that traversed high mountain passes like Rabbit Ears Pass, which had just been completed in 1919.

Berthoud Pass was one of the other routes to Middle Park and North Park near Routt National Forest. In 1919 it was a difficult wagon road that some automobile enthusiasts would attempt. However, this soon changed when the Colorado State Highway Department and the Forest Service agreed to build a 16-foot wide automobile road over Berthoud Pass, which was completed in 1920. The road was paved in 1938. It’s open year round, and is now one of the most frequently traveled high altitude passes in the state.

This article also raves about the photographs in the booklet. My favorite picture is of Carl Howelsen, a legendary ski pioneer/ambassador and ski jump champion, who helped bring skiing across Colorado. Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs is named after him.

The photo in the booklet doesn’t include Howelsen in the caption, so we’ll have to take the article’s word for it.
Here’s Carl Howelsen skiing at Berthoud Pass. Bonus pic not from the booklet, just because he’s my hero.

I also love this picture of the conical Hahn’s Peak with an early auto enthusiast driving by.

100 years ago today, the Forest Service plugs Routt National Forest as a hot destination for a new segment of the rising working class known then as vacationists, who finally had enough money and time off work to play tourist in the beautiful state of Colorado in which they live.

%d bloggers like this: