MAYDAY Cloth-bound, faded and dog-eared, this ledger is showing its age. Although it cant actually talk, it tells a fascinating history.
Line after line, its notations speak about peoples lives and hopes and dreams.
And if you have the right interpreter that would be Lorraine Taylor, the record-keeper and owner you can dive into Durangos past and learn volumes.
You learn, for instance, that in 1970 there was an Ernies Texaco in Durango. It was on the northwest corner of 11th Street and Main Avenue, where by the 1980s you would find Discovery Travel. Today, that space at 1101 Main is taken by Downtown Smoke Shop.
Gas station to travel agency to bong shop. If you need a lesson about how nothing lasts forever, there it is.
The ledger, held together with duct tape, its fraying papers loosening from the wilted spine, is a record of the businesses whose windows Taylor has painted at Christmastime.
Taylor began painting windows of Durango buildings not long after she moved here in 1966. The first of those windows was on the auction house that she and husband Charlie ran at 636 Main Ave. When others offered to pay her to decorate their businesses at Christmas, she was happy to oblige. It fit with the motto of Charlie, who lived it until he died in 2009:
Do anything you can to make a dollar and never have to go to work.
She started at Christmas 1970 and, abetted by helpers along the way, she hasnt stopped.
The record book lists banks, bars and restaurants, doctors offices, florists, music stores, book stores, beauty shops, gift shops, liquor stores, grocery stores, auto dealers, petroleum dealers, Realtors, motels.
In some years, the list includes 100-plus businesses. Its the Yellow Pages without the addresses and phone numbers. For that, one must travel to the Durango Public Library, which can supply the curious with old-time phone books.
Ernies Texaco in the 1972 directory is officially Ernies Triangle Service Station, which offered on the car spin balancing.
Gas stations, appliance stores and saddle shops all had their place on Main Avenue in 1970 downtown Durango.
At 1401 Main once stood Kerlees Shell Service Station. It offered a tiny go-kart track for kids, who still rule there with Burger Kings play area.
The southern wall of the Taylors auction house at 636 Main was the northern wall of a Phillips 66. The Taylors would auction junk (antiques, they called it) every Saturday night. Half of the auction house later became a bar and restaurant, Father Murphys, which lasted into the mid-1990s. Now at 636 Main you find Ken & Sues restaurant.
Restaurants and bars are particularly fleeting.
Rosewaters Deli, which made Taylors list for 1991 (she didnt charge; apparently she got a lunch or two out of the deal), is now Ninis Taqueria, 552 Main Ave.
The name Rosewaters from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and most of the menu items were based on Kurt Vonnegut novels. Nothing against Ninis, but some of us miss Rosewaters its literary theme and its style. Taylor misses its tomato bisque soup.
Some buildings change tenants but not business type.
For example, the Plaza Luncheonette, precursor to Oscars Cafe at 18 Town Plaza along Camino del Rio. In that place at one point was Hamburger Choo-Choo, where, Taylor recalls, a miniature train would chug down the counter to deliver your hamburger.
The family-owned motels of the 70s arent all gone, but almost.
The Sleepy Hollow Lodge, a regular in Taylors ledger, took both BankAmericard and Master Charge, the Yellow Page ad tells you. Travelodge has since taken its spot at 2970 Main. (If youre a youngun, you may not know that BankAmericard became Visa and Master Charge became Master Card.)
The dirt-stained ledger has much more to tell about the rise and fall of Durango businesses during the last 40 years. Its an honor to hold it, to open it up, to look and listen.
By now, many businesses have washed off Taylors Christmas 2010 paintings, the holly and poinsettias and wreaths and skiing Santas. It is a transitory world, after all.
We know this by looking at the book.
firstname.lastname@example.org. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.