Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clara Bow: A 1920's Actress

In the 1920's going to the movies was the thing to do. Approximately half the U.S. population attended movies weekly. And one of the most famous 1920's actresses was Clara Bow, who starred in mostly silent films.

Born in the slums of New York and rising to stardom, Bow became the idea of the flapper during the roaring twenties. It was her spunky spirit and her willingness to defy convention that gave her this title.

Copyright MovieGoods

With a star cast including Clara Bow, a silent movie filmed in the southwest corner of Colorado certainly drew attention as is demonstrated in this article of the 1925 Durango Evening Herald:


The “Scarlet West” the picture which was made at Dolores, Colo., was originally called the “Pony Express” or “The birth of the West” but was changed to “The Scarlet West” by the First National, one of the largest distributors in the world. The picture depicts the pioneer days of ’59 and ’61 and was sponsored and financed by the Colorado Manufacturers and Merchants association. This stupendous and dramatic film with scenes that vividly portray early western life was shown recently to capacity attendance at the Colorado theatre in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Salt Lake City, Ogden and other cities have also contracted for this film. It is understood that it will be shown in Durango in the near future.

Dolores was selected as the ideal location for the production of such a picture and Mr. Carroll the producer was successful in securing an all star cast from Hollywood to take leading parts in “what we believe to be on of the greatest outdoor moving pictures ever filmed.” Notable amongst these actors and actresses are Robert Frazer, Clara Bow, Robert Edeson, Walter McGrail, Helen Ferguson, Gaston Glass, Johnny Walker, Ruth Stonehouse, Martha Francis and Florence Crawford. Several well known San Juan basin residents are also shown in the picture.

Durango Evening Herald
Sat. August 15, 1925

With news like this, I knew I needed to include a little bit of Clara Bow in my 1925 Historical Fiction, Moonshine Murder. Below is a scene from the novel:

Lenora glanced back. Several feet away, Rusty watched.
“Come on.” The officer prodded her in the back.
She swiveled around and tramped along beside him to his idling car and stepped onto the running board, then into the leather backseat. The officer cranked the gears and they drove off.
“I’m with Mr. Strickson,” she said.
“Sure, and I’m dating Clara Bow.” He slapped his chubby hand on the steering wheel.
Lenora tugged against her handcuffs. If she could just reach the door handle, maybe she could jump.
“People have died bailing out of moving vehicles.” The officer studied her in the rearview mirror.
“Better than your company.” She glared at the back of his balding head.
The officer snorted. Lenora slouched back in the seat.

Moonshine Murder isn't the only novel that cites Clara Bow. Janet Fox, in her newly released Young Adult Historical Fiction novel, Sirens, often makes references of the famous Clara Bow. Jo Winter, the main character in Sirens, "could've been a star. Another Clara Bow. She had the looks for it. And the smarts."

To learn more about Moonshine Murder visit my website. And come back and visit in a couple weeks to learn more about Janet Fox, author of Sirens.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing Moonshine Murder

This Friday, January 11, I will be a guest blogger over at a fellow Women Writing the West member's page. Heidi Thomas is published by Treble Heart Books as well, and won the WILLA Literary Award for her YA novel, Follow the Dream.

Stop by and find out a little bit more about Moonshine Murder and my writing routine.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing in the 1920’s

“Many wise ringworms are ready to mortgage the old homestead on Harry Greb, if the “Windmill” get a crack at Georges Carpentier’s light heavyweight crown.

Greb beyond all doubt is the best his weight and a real freak but he would have a battle against the hard hitting Frenchman.

Tom Gibbons and Gene Tunney will vouch that no fighter who has to set himself to punch is going to whip Greb. Carpentier who, can hit on the fly, looks to be the only one outside of Dempsey who has a chance to flop the Pittsburgh boy and he would get mussed up before he succeeded.

Some dirt is always spilled before a big fight: Whispers are now going up and down “Tin Ear Alley” that the Leonard-Tendler lightweight championship fight is going to be “one of those things” (Durango Evening Herald, June 28, 1922).

Boxing was a popular sport in the 1920’s as is attested to in this Durango Evening Herald excerpt. In rural areas, like Durango, Colorado, many were not able to attend boxing matches. They were, however, astutely listened to on the radio.

The photograph below is of Jack Dempsey from Manessa, Colorado. He was known as the “Manassa Mauler.” Here, he is fighting Andy Malloy in the Gem Theatre on the corner of Tenth and Main, Durango. Jack Dempsey went on to win the National Championship in 1919, and held it for five years.

Photograph copyright Center of Southwest Studies

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Prohibition in Colorado

On January 16, 1920, the “Noble Experiment” went into effect. This was an attempt to outlaw the manufacturing and sale of alcohol. The government was unable to regulate the sale and or reduce the consumption even though they closed down nearly all alcoholic beverage companies. Only a few companies stayed running, Coors being one of them, producing alcohol for medicinal use only as well as soft drinks.

Instead of teaching morality, which was one of the goals, Prohibition created lawlessness in the form of illegal alcohol, often referred to as moonshine and illegal bars, called speakeasies. Because there was no regulation of the illegal business, many gangs were created around moonshine and the process of selling it, called bootlegging. Crime rates increased as well as deaths related to alcohol. Much of the home-brewed drinks were unsafe, containing high contents of lead from using old carburetors as stills. Sometimes wood alcohol, methanol or
other noxious materials such as household cleaners were added to speed up the process and save money. Blindness was not an uncommon occurrence after drinking “bad” moonshine.

The biggest “booze” raid in the history of Colorado, took place in Denver 1922, when seventy-three agents of the United States government, fifty-five of them sworn in from the ranks of the Colorado Rangers, made simultaneous raids on twenty-five hotels, rooming houses, cigar stores, soft drink parlors and private homes, most of them in the heart of the city’s business district, looking for evidence of violations of the national prohibition law (The Denver Post, March 17, 1922).

Homemade moonshine distillery on display at the Notah-Dineh Museum - Cortez, CO

On the southwest side of Colorado, many of the gold and silver mines in the San Juan Mountains were closing down because of the lack of minerals. This provided the perfect location for a still. The moonshiners would hide the still back in a closed mine shaft and be able to make their moonshine without being caught. They would then ship the moonshine out to the surrounding areas. One method for peddling moonshine in Durango was to paint milk jars white, and then fill the jars with moonshine.

Though many citizens made their own brew, perhaps in a basement, moonshine was a relatively good business during the depression era toward the end of the 1920’s. The Eighteenth Amendment making Prohibition legal was repealed on December 5, 1933.
The author, Erin, and her son, Ethan

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Giving Back Gang Holiday Party: Local Authors Supporting Local Nonprofits

Come join me at Maria's Bookshop in Durango for cookies, contests, and Holiday fun!

For Details, click here.

Join us for a fun holiday event celebrating some of our most talented and generous local writers! Maria’s Bookshop will host The Giving Back Gang Holiday Party, a showcase of 18 authors who have each selected a local nonprofit organization to support by donating a share of the proceeds from the sale of their books between December 1st and 7th.

Please join us for this festive event, which will provide an opportunity to meet the authors, talk with them about their work, and learn about the regional nonprofits they're supporting. Holiday cookies will be provided by the authors, and the range of titles includes great gift ideas for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

Support local writers as they support local groups working to make our communities stronger and better!

Start: 12/07/2012 6:00 pm

End: 12/07/2012 8:00 pm

If you are unable to attend, I will be donating a share of the proceeds from the sale of my book to my nonprofit, The Animas Museum, from my website through December 7th. I will include a little something about The Animas Museum in the package.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On The Edge

On the outskirts of Silverton, Colorado in Cunningham Gulch lies a historic wonder, the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House. This phenomenal structure is bolted with cables to the rocky crags of Galena Mountain 2,000 feet above the basin and main mine entrance below. Splintered wood, rusted corrugated metal, and a handful of memories in the form of a cook stove, a metal bedframe, and pairs of shoes are all that remain.

The pages of the Old Hundred’s story begin in 1872 with the Neigold brothers, who made their way from Germany to become prospectors. The three brothers were an odd and amusing bunch for those traveling on Stony Pass Trail leading into Silverton. Coming from an educated background, the brothers would often entertain guests with music, plays, and even opera. They were quite the contrast to the usual prospecting crowd.
Some color was found, the most likely profits at the level seven tunnel, 2,000 feet up the mountain.

Not having the funds to operate the mine, the brothers sold out. The company who bought the mine spent the next several years and over a million dollars building the boarding house, a mill at the base of the mountain, and a tram—much like a ski lift today—to haul the ore and men from the boarding house to the mill below. A legend exists of a mistress in the boarding house who loved to play piano, so a piano was hauled to the boarding house on the backs of mules.

Hundreds of miles of tunnels were dug searching for the rich veins of ore. Unfortunately, there was very little color found in the mine. In 1908 the mine closed down. A neighboring mine bought the Old Hundred for its mill.

In 2000, the Silverton Historical Society in conjunction with the Old Hundred Mining Tour preserved the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House on Galena’s peak. The task was completed with helicopters and brave construction workers operating on crumbling shell rock above Cunningham Gulch.

Today there is a trail to the old level seven tunnel, but to reach the boarding house, one must scramble 200 vertical feet over loose rock .Only experienced climbers should make the hike.

During the summer months, mining tours are given inside the mine, probably the most revenue it has had.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Moonshine Murder Teaching Guide Now Available

The Moonshine Murder teaching guide is newly updated and available as a free download from my website:

For those of you who are teachers, Moonshine Murder is perfect for middle and high school students. View my website for more details.

If you know a teacher that may be interested, pass this on. And if you're a parent looking for fun activities to do with your kids--ages 12 and up--over Christmas break, this may be the perfect idea.