Cookies, Charcoal and Erie History – Longmont Times-Call


Liz Wise Kessell makes room in her fertile mind to reflect on the role history plays in culture. Specifically, she wants to see her fellow Americans embrace the past, for better or for worse. But rather than taking wider strokes with her brush in order to spark interest, she takes bites – think the size of a lump of coal, perhaps.

Anthony Glaros / Longmont Lessons

Her hometown of Erie, she said, serves as a good springboard for the next Cookie Day. The 21st edition is scheduled for Saturday, September 17 in downtown Erie. The event will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until noon, “or until we run out of cookies.”

As usual, the popular gathering will feature vendors and entertainment to accompany freshly baked cookies, sausage and gravy. “It’s a very busy place!” she enthuses. “We are really trying to push. »

Wise Kessell paused to dispel a misconception. “People think it’s sponsored by the city. It’s not. It is sponsored by the Erie Historical Society,” of which she was a member for five of her 68 years. Erie was incorporated as a town in 1874. The first Cookie Day was a few years before the town was founded, she said.

On the first Biscuit Day, the cookies were accompanied by steaming bowls of mulligan stew. Three or four bakers made the bakers. “The ladies ate for free.” The stew has since been discontinued.

Granted, I’m still kind of a stranger on this side of the country. I have a lot of history to learn about life along the Front Range. I am a work in progress.

When I first heard about Biscuit Day, I took it for granted that cookies were what crunchy miners included in their daily diet. Therefore, the tradition was dedicated to the men who worked in over 25 coal mines operating in and near Erie. We the people must honor these brave souls and the work they did in the depths, darkness and danger.

In fact, the tradition was designed as a gateway to autumn while marking the return of workers to the mines. This part surprised me. Mining bituminous coal during the summer, Wise Kessell explained, was unnecessary because its consistency was such that it would crumble in hot weather. This meant that mining was done from autumn to spring.

But lest you assume they applied for unemployment benefits to help them through the dry months, don’t assume. “Miners worked on farms, on railroads, probably just a variety of things,” she noted.

But back to the importance of reflecting and contextualizing the past. As we spoke, it was clear to heed Wise Kessell’s pragmatic sensibilities. Yet if history books are doomed to languish on the shelves of schools, libraries and homes, gathering dust from the darkness, the retired graduate nurse is not about to descend without ringing the bell. alarm.

The name Wise has long been familiar to Erie. Sarah Wise, Wise Kessel’s aunt, said it was in 1869 that his great-grandfather, Oliver Wise, moved his wife, Adeline, and their three children from Wisconsin to Colorado. Their home, one of the oldest frame homes in Boulder County, now serves as the Wise Homestead Museum. Also, according to her niece, it was Sarah Wise who helped found the Erie Historical Society. “She was the engine and agitator to get it started.”

With her family ties to Erie so deep, it makes Sarah think about the course the story will take in order to keep it fresh and relevant. At 99, she remains compelling and engaging as she follows the arc of the past. “It stimulates people to remember this or that,” said Wise, a former college professor with a doctorate in medical science. “In some way, history has to be preserved or recognized as important to the state,” she added.

Overall, the changing face of Erie, with its approximately 30,000 residents, cannot afford to limit its association with the past to local businesses named Miners Tavern and Taphouse, and Mini Miners Pediatric Dentistry. They must dig for answers.

“How do you get people who live in Erie to want to go out and find out about this? The story just doesn’t come,” in ordinary conversation.

Wise Kessell curates a vault of poignant Erie memories. From seventh through 12th grade, she attended Lincoln School, which now serves as the town hall and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She remembers the old-fashioned drugstore downtown and the “periodic” meetings with some of the 50 students in her graduating high school class. One of the meetings brought together nine classmates and their spouses, where they spent fruitful time walking in the past.

Even as coal-fired power plants lose their luster in the specter of a warming planet, Wise Kessell remains fearless in his crusade to enshrine the steps involved that have brought us to this moment. “How do we get people to say, ‘Wow! Great stuff!’” How indeed.

Author James Baldwin has the final say: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”

Anthony Glaros is a DC native and longtime reporter for numerous publications. He taught in high school English in suburban Montgomery County, Md. His column, Longmont Lessons, appears in the Times-Call.


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