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Chapter #320: C.Proietto - Cattolica, Cafe Eden Roco - January 24, 2015


The "Little Venice on the Ellerbach" area of Bad Kreuznach, in an old photograph - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com

Newly Identified Costantino Proietto Paintings of Bad Kreuznach, Germany and Cattolica, Italy

In late 2012, I wrote about a newly discovered oil painting by artist Costantino Proietto (1910-1979). On the back, the red felt-tipped inscription read “Bad Kreuznach”, which is an ancient town in Germany. In 1964, the artist had sold the painting to Ms. Marion Fortune, an American working in Germany at that "Bad Kreuznach", by 20th century artist Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.comtime. Her heir, Ms. Shelly Jenkins had recently received the painting and had planned to keep it. In early 2014, Ms. Jenkins changed her mind and sold the painting to me.

Upon its arrival, I gently cleaned the painting and then added a new custom frame. Otherwise, it looked as it did when Tino painted it, fifty years ago. Still, there was mystery surrounding the painting. With its depiction of a river scene and prominent buildings, I assumed that someone would know more about the setting. As I have learned, if I put C.Proietto images out for the
Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann in an undated photo - Click for 2013 image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)world to see, someone will write and help me identify a particular scene.

In July of 2014, Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann of Frankfurt, Germany wrote to me regarding the location featured in my newly acquired C.Proietto painting. At that time, she wrote,
“The two pictures show a place called ‘Little Venice on the Ellerbach’ in Bad Kreuznach (I’m born in Bad Kreuznach). The painting shows the place where the small river ‘Ellerbach’ is flowing into the larger ‘Nahe’ river. It is an historical place, where the skinners lived during the last century. Due to several floods, they were allowed to fix there balconies high over the river. Because of the heavy smell from their work, it was not the best place to go. Still, many poor people had lived there for hundreds of years. Today, animal processing is no longer allowed, but these kinds of balconies still hang over the river ‘Ellerbach’.

In the early 1960s, Bad Kreuznach was a very big American Army base; nearly 10.000 soldiers were there. So maybe, Mr. Proietto was there for an exhibition, sold paintings and then painted “Little Venice” in Bad Kreuznach. Maybe not … Who knows? One more mystery.”


Confluence of the Ellerbach and Nehe Rivers in Germany - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Ms. Tursky-Hartmann then explained that her mother may have purchased her own Costantino Proietto original oil painting while on her honeymoon in 1960, when she was twenty-eight years old. She went on to say, “Maybe, the artist had an exhibition in Bad Kreuznach at that time (1960-1964) and my mother bought the picture of Eden Teraza to remember her honeymoon? (This is pure speculation, but then, the date inscribed, 14360 would fit).”

In a subsequent email, Ms. Tursky-Hartmann provided details that are more accurate about her mother’s C.Proietto original oil painting. Its title is "Cattolica - Terraza Cafe Eden Roco Italia". “Yesterday, I visited my mother in Spabrücken, close to Bad Kreuznach, where she lives with my sister.

"Little Venice on the Ellerbach" section of Bad Kreuznach, Germany - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)I told my mother about your email. She was interested to hear what I read to her, as I translated your email.

My Mother told us, that she started to work in 1952 and went to Italy for holidays during the late 1950s. At that time, she was working as a clerk for the local Court in Bad Kreuznach. In 1959, she accompanied my father to Riccione and Cattolica, where they stayed in the Hotel Moderno.

During her earlier tours, she travelled by bus, with a group. She always had an interest in Italien Culture. In the 1950s, many Germans travelled to Riccione-Cattolica and Rimini. She liked, that the osterias and hotels were close to the sea and that dining and drinks were very cheap, and that the climate was warm.

It was not so easy for Germans to travel through
Artist Tino Proietto painted scenes in, Cattolica, Italy around 1960 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Europe after World War II. However, Italiens, she said, had no problems with the Germans, because of Mussolini’s friendship with Hitler. She said that the Germans could have good parties at Rimini.

Once, while in Cattolica, at the Terraza Cafe Eden Roco, she said she saw
a painter - maybe C.Proietto. There were several painters close to the beach offering there paintings. She remembers that this painter painted three pictures on three easels at the same time and with very high speed. With the same colours, he painted each picture.

Selecting one, she liked this picture very much from the first moment. She then bought the picture from the artist for 400 German Marks. The painter rolled the picture in a stovepipe, because she was travelling by bus with a very small suitcase. When back in Bad Kreuznach, she went to the Bechter Gallery, where they put the frame around it.

When I asked her about the year, she did not remember exactly. However, the inscription on the backside of the picture indicates
Pro 14360. If this is true, the picture was finished in March 1960. I was born on June 5, 1960. Therefore, in spring or summer of C.Proitto "Terazza Cafe Eden Roco" painting in the Tursky home in Germany, 1962 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)1960, she was definitely not in Italy for holidays. My younger sister was born on November 17, 1961, so maybe Mama was in Italy in early spring 1961.

In the photograph, you can see that the Proietto is hanging in our living room on November 17, 1962. That was during the family celebration of my younger sister’s first birthday. Mama then said that it is not important, exactly when she bought the picture. More important is, that she has the picture to remember her most beautiful moments of freedom, for her Grandmother was very strong!


"Cattolica - Terraza Cafe Eden Roco Italia" original oil painting by Costantino Proietto (1910-1979) - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)After mentally digesting everything that Ms. Tursky-Hartmann had written about her mother’s C.Proietto painting, I stopped to think about another C.Proietto I had purchased a year earlier. It too was of a seascape, featuring a prominent pergolato, with a shoreline receding into the distance. Until then, I had no clue as to its location. In his earlier works, Tino Proietto used only his signature to authenticate his own work. Later, in the 1960s and beyond, he applied a wax seal to the corner of a sticker, which authenticated each new painting.

After reviewing the details of the Tursky-Hartmann C.Proietto, I recognized certain elements contained within it. For instance, the distinctive latticework wall and the potted plants were almost identical to the ones in my mystery
Right-hand view of Terazza Cafe Eden Roco in Cattolica Italy, by artist Tino Proietto matches the left-hand view above - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)painting. If Costantino Proietto stood near the shore at Terraza Cafe Eden Roco, painting the same scene from three different angles, the result would be a tryptic, showing the broader scene.

Although painted later than mine, the Tursky-Hartmann painting would form the left panel of the tryptic. The author’s painting would form the right panel. Where, I wondered, would I find the middle panel? I surmised that it would show the scene, looking straight out to sea. As happens so often with C.Proietto paintings, they provide some answers to aspects of the mystery. Likewise, each new C.Proietto painting brings new questions with it.

Proof that both paintings are of the same scene is seen in the potted plants and lattice-work in the wall - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With his self-designation as a “kunstmaler” (meaning production painter, in German), it could only have been Costantino Proietto at Terraza Cafe Eden Roco simultaneously creating three paintings. Why paint only one masterpiece when, as the “master of impasto”, you can paint three at a time? That would be the consummate artist, Tino Proietto, in his mid-century prime.

I offer my thanks to both Ms. Petra Tursky-Hartmann and her mother. First, they identified the location of the Marion Fortune C.Proietto as “Little Venice” in Bad Kreuznach. Then, they went on to explain the history of both known
Costantino Proietto "Terraza Cafe Eden Roco" paintings, being theirs and my own.


By James McGillis at 06:48 PM | Fine Art | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #319: Hollywood: "Violence is the New Sex" - January 20, 2015


RKO Radio Pictures combined the concept of radio and motion pictures, helping popularize movies as a visual and sound medium - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Hollywood and Big Media Discover that "Violence is the New Sex"

As we begin the year 2015, it is appropriate to reflect upon what has changed in our lives. In addition to our self-centered musings, we might stop and remember our roots. Although there may be loners in our midst, from ancient times most humans lived in tribes. Because of real or perceived threats from the “Other”, defenses were created, battles fought and foes vanquished. In the past year, many tribes in this world have reverted to the ancient vortextual cycle of affront and subsequent revenge.

Is there a unifying theory that explains our current sad state of international affairs? As a contrarian, the “theory of negative creation” comes to my mind. As your mother once said, “If you do not have anything nice to say about someone, do not say it”. In 2015, many tribes again believe that confrontation and “fighting against” is the best way forward.

Big Media now serves up a steady diet of death, doom and despair, disguised as news or information - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As of 2013, worldwide population was about seven billion. Of that, 31.5% are Christian and 23.2% are Muslim. Hindu (13.8%) and Buddhist (6.77%) are the only other religions scoring more than one percent of the total population. Surprising to me was the Jewish religion at only 0.22%. Fighting against the “Other” is a prominent theme in the Old Testament canon of the Christian Bible. The roots of the Old Testament are in the Tanakh, which is the ancient Hebrew canon. Early in the seventh century CE, yet another Abrahamic religion, Islam, codified its various stances against the “Other” in the Quran.

Together, the two largest religions, both of which had their roots in nomadic or herding cultures, encompass almost 55% of the current population. During their pre-industrial rise as mega-religions, Christianity and Islam often prescribed severe, even barbaric punishments on criminals and non-believers. Today, most self-identified Christians, Muslims and Jews disavow honor killings, revenge killings, stoning and mutilation. However, some radical Christians and Jews abide by ancient concepts of “religious war”, just as some radical Muslims countenance Jihad. Energy bridges connecting to the ancient days of each religion seem stronger now than ever before.

U.S. Representative Gabby Gifford was shot by a disaffected, mentally unbalanced young man who saw her as the enemy - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Like a stick of dynamite near a flame, it takes little or nothing to set off violence toward the “Other”. In recent weeks, a series of irreverent humor magazine covers were enough to incite terrorist acts in France. Soon after the smoke in Paris had cleared, a series of cyber-attacks followed. The cyber-attacks mimicked the recent North Korean hack of Sony Pictures, which was in revenge for release of the lowbrow satirical movie, “The Interview”.

What is “negative creation” and why does it matter? Because of our cognitive abilities, most humans believe that we are superior to any other species. Many people extend such negative thinking to other human “tribes”, religions, political and ethnic groups. Our lizard brain, which is at the core of our cognition, has great power to both project and react to fear. If we allow the rich or powerful to do the “creating” for us, their stake in power over others will skew toward negative creation.

Other than nation states and Islamist insurgencies, whom do I identify as the rich and powerful? Often, they are the top managers of our largest media conglomerates. After several decades of mergers and acquisitions, there are fewer Media Giants than ever. However, the remaining few now dominate theatrical movies, TV, internet products and old-fashioned print media.

CNN is owned by Time Warner, which also owns Warner Bros. Studios, the creator of many top-grossing, violent films - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Charlie Hebdo, the profane humor magazine that recently lit the spark of radical Islam was a small publication. Since the attacks in Paris, CNN (owned by Media Giant Time Warner) has focused the bulk of its news reporting on terror, terrorists and the risk of terror attacks in the U.S. What used to pass for regular news on CNN now appears only on the “news crawler”, at the bottom of the TV screen.

As public corporations, the main focus of Media Giants is profits, as derived from box office receipts, internet streaming revenue or TV ad sales. In the worldview of Media Giants, we, the audience should observe, absorb and consume a steady diet of visual and auditory fear mongering. Although they may still show some public service messages from time to time, fear and terror are still the best sellers at CNN and Fox News and many other Big Media outlets. Look no further than Fox News publicizing Muslim neighborhoods as supposed “No-Go-Zones" in Paris, France. In their zeal to promote Rupert Murdoch’s version of an anti-Muslim “religious war”, Fox News has discredited itself as a legitimate news organization. Even after Fox News apologized for their error, Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal doubled down on promoting the concept of "No-Go-Zones" in both France and Great Britain. When a supposedly rational elected official goes off the deep end of an argument, as Jindal has done, he discredits himself and by association, the people he was elected to serve.

Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California is responsible for making many of the top-grossing violent movies in recent history - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Before any readers get bored, I will skip to my punch line. It is this: “The Media Giant’s covert and overt promotion of gratuitous violence, internecine war and cyber war risks destroying civil society as we know it.” Warner Bros. Entertainment’s released “American Sniper” on the Friday before Martin Luther King weekend 2015. In director Clint Eastwood’s sly way, the movie avoids gratuitous violence in favor of patriotic, “justifiable violence”. In a direct affront to the non-violent ways of Dr. Martin Luther King, the movie posted a record January weekend opening of $105.3 million in box office receipts.

How, you might ask, did we get to the sad point where profit-making corporations drive and often determine what the public sees and comes to believe is true? in 1887, the original Media Giant, Randolph Hearst and his ubiquitous Hearst Corporation started its rise with his taking control of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. Not ironically, the first motion picture cameras were under development at that time. By 1910s, Hearst was producing newsreels for theatrical release. In the 1930s, with the advent of “talking pictures”, the rise of the Media Giants accelerated. By the 1960s, the mad dash for Media Giant supremacy was well underway.

Before the U.S. Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC) took full effect in 1934, nudity and sex were acceptable subjects within Hollywood movies. Not ironically, federal laws stopped the legal sale of marijuana by the mid-1930s, as well. By 1934, with the Great Depression in full swing, moralists of every stripe tried to stop drugs, alcohol and “dirty movies” from reaching consumers.
Since 1970, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic, equal in detriment to heroin.
The NBC Universal Building at Universal City, Los Angeles, California now has the name "Comcast" added to its already crowded sign - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
When I reached adulthood, in the 1960s, “Hollywood” dumped the old
MPPC, reintroducing nudity, sex, and light drug use into their movies. In 1967, Hollywood distributed the Swedish movie “Elvira Madigan” to U.S. audiences. Although considered quaint by today’s standards, the nudity and sexuality portrayed in the film were previously unheard of in mass-market movies. The same year, “I am curious (Yellow)” hit U.S. audiences with even more overt sexuality. My curious mother-in-law attended a screening, wearing a disguise that featured a scarf and dark glasses. Later, she reported, “They had sex in a lot of places; even in a tree.” Reviewer Roger Ebert wrote, "Forget it. It's a dog. A real dog".

In 1970, the movie "M*A*S*H” featured on-camera marijuana smoking. Mash did set a gentler tone with drug use than the "stoner movie" genre, which soon followed. Unlike cocaine, which Hollywood continued to treat as the road to ruin, marijuana soon made its way into mainstream consciousness as naughty, but acceptable entertainment. With the Baby Boomers coming of age in the 60s and 70s, Hollywood soon discovered that depiction of soft drug usage helped to sell movie tickets.

In 1969, Sam Peckinpah's movie, "The Wild Bunch" advanced screen violence to blood-spurting new levels. Slow-motion gunshots jerking bodies, fraying clothing and splaying the flesh of both villains and heroes guaranteed the movie’s artistic acceptance. Soon, Hollywood would realize that violence sold more movie tickets than sex and drugs combined.

The 1970 movie M*A*S*H was an unwitting precursor to the "Stoner Movie" genre, as exemplified by Sony Pictures "The Interview" - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) débuted its new movie rating scheme. An "X" rating was reserved for films deemed unsuitable for minors. Overt sex, drug use or gratuitous violence were enough to earn an "X" rating. As the years went by, "X", in the form of sex sold less well at the box office. If the public wanted to see graphic sex, they could view “XXX” movies. With the advent of home video and later internet pornography, “X” for sex and “XXX” moved to third tier producers and distributors.

By 1990, with the old “X=sex” formula fading, the MPAA eliminated that moniker and created a new "NC-17" designation. That new rating meant “No children, seventeen or under admitted.” Since MPAA ratings were voluntary, a distributor of a questionable film could either accept the dreaded "NC-17" rating or distribute the film as “unrated”. Either way the vast majority of theater operators would screen such a film. Art houses and secondary outlets make far less money for the Media Giants. If you need proof, just look at the abysmal $5.7 million in box office receipts for the first three weeks of the “biggest buzz film of 2014”, “The Interview”.

If you group the MPAA’s three children’s movie ratings, “G”, PG” and “PG-13”, there is sizable potential profit for the Media Giants. A “PG-13” rating admonished parents that “some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers”. Even so, millions of tweens flock to the edgier films. To them, “PG-13” is almost as good as an “R” rated movie. In theatrical release, an "R" for “restricted” means “Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian”. Few parents will accompany a pre-teen to an “R” rated movie, but the same parents might ignore the rating if viewing an “R” rated video in their own home. After all, children do not pay attention to TV, do they?

Hollywood of old is remembered as the home of glamorous stars, not explosions and gratuitous violence - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Over time, an “R” rating became the kiss of death for all but the most adult-oriented movies. In order to reach a broader audience, Hollywood modified many “R” rated films to earn a “PG-13” rating. “The Dark Knight,” “Terminator Salvation”, “Inception”, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”, “The Avengers”, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Taken 2” were all released as PG-13 movies. The meta-theme of all these movies is violence, not sex. For the Media Giants, orange is the new black and violence is the new sex.

When I reached adulthood, the average eighteen-year-old had seen 16,000 humans shot to death on either a movie or a television screen. Soon, Hollywood downplayed simple gunplay, exploiting instead the visceral feel of large-scale explosions. The concept is that as long as you are killing “bad guys”; it is acceptable to graphically eviscerate any such lowlife, “sub humans” as might appear. Now, we the people can stream “The Interview” at home for the whole family to see. Note that it is an "R" rated film (for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence). When its producers explode a puppet-head representing Kim Jong Un onscreen, the whole family is supposed to laugh and cheer. In late December 2014, at least two congressional representatives suggested that that the U.S. government should invite Sony to screen that violent stoner movie at the U.S. Capital. Was it a freedom of speech issue or because poor Sony Pictures was losing tens of millions of dollars on its ill-timed release of "The Interview"?

Random violence bullet-damage to the rear-view mirror of the author's pickup truck, obtained on a Los Angeles freeway - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Young Adam Lanza, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass murderer, stayed home for years playing "first-person shooter" video games. His gun-toting mother taught him how to shoot at the local gun range. Steeped for years in violent video games, admitted Aurora, Colorado mass murderer James Holmes went to the local multiplex to carry out his heinous acts. Violent video games often became the subject of popular Hollywood movie franchises and vice versa. Psychological studies have long shown that young males are susceptible to internalizing (and later externalizing) what they see repeated on movie or television screens. Whether it is violence toward women or the explosive violence of action movies, weak or disaffected habitues are ever more likely to act out their dystopian fantasies in the real world.

Only when parents wake up and stop allowing a violent aural assault on their children by Hollywood and the Media Giants will our culture return to the spirit of the recent holiday season, which once was, "Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men". Only when parents and children vote with their dollars for non-violent entertainment will the Media Giants forsake their addiction to violent box office hits and the obscene profits that they produce.


By James McGillis at 03:58 PM | Current Events | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #318: 2014 Spanish Valley Vineyards - November 22, 2014


With the dramatic La Sal Range in the background, the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery sign, as seen from the Stocks Drive entrance - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

New Owners at the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in Moab, Utah

In 2009, when I first visited the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, I must admit, the place was hard to find. Apparently, the State of Utah does not consider its only surviving estate winery worthy of a cultural information sign on U.S. Highway 191 South. Therefore, I took several wrong turns prior to arriving at the vineyard. At the time, the Dezelsky family owned both the winery and vineyard. Along with a neighbor who had taught them the The Moab Rim, as seen from the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis)art and science of viticulture, the Dezelsky’s had spent decades developing both the vineyard and the winery operation.

When I returned to the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in the fall of 2013, a sign on the tasting room door indicated that the property had sold and was in escrow. Disappointed that the winery closed, I drove away. In October 2014, I again visited the vineyard and winery. To my surprise and delight, the place was again open for business.

Mr. Curt Stripeika, the new proprietor and winemaker greeted me and invited me on a tour of the place. Although it was mid-October, the vines looked lush
and green. The few visible clusters of Riesling grapes looked healthy on their Curt Stripeika, owner and winemaker at Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)vines. What I did recall was that in December 2013 and into January 2014, Moab had experienced a deep freeze.

As we walked around the estate, Curt explained that the vineyard had experienced killing frosts during two of the last three winters. Within his newly acquired vineyard, however, there was a redeeming feature. The vines at Spanish Valley Vineyards had their root balls planted well below ground level. In the Spanish Valley's well-drained and sandy soil, the crown of each vine and its shoots had enough insulation to survive all but the hardest of freezes.

Although his vines survived both hard freezes, most of the previous year's new
Riesling grapes on the vine at Spanish Valley Vineyard & Winery, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)wood froze and died. Since grape clusters normally occur on second year growth, there were precious few flower buds capable of supporting a 2014 vintage. Wine grapes are available to vintners from both the Western Slope of Colorado and from California. With those reliable sources, Curt did not expect any shortfall in grape supplies over the next few years. Still, we both hoped that Moab and the Spanish Valley would not experience another hard freeze in the coming winter.

During our tour of the vineyard, Curt pointed to a new storage and bottling building that was going up on the site. He also said that Grand County would soon approve his plans to develop a Bed & Breakfast adjacent to the vineyard. With a view of the vineyard and the spectacular Moab Rim, to the south, it
Legacy Cabernet and new varietal wines from Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in 2014, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)looked like the perfect place for accommodations to me. With acres of the vineyard acting as a natural buffer to the property, we had an unimpeded view of the Moab Rim at its highest point. With the vineyard's quiet, bucolic feel, I could image harried city dwellers coming here for peace, quiet and a glass of fine wine on the veranda.

After our vineyard tour, Curt and I repaired to the tasting room. Although Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery makes white wines and even fruit wines, that day I was interested in tasting Curt’s hearty red wines. First, I sampled the last estate wine produced by the Delsky family. It was a 2012 Utah Cabernet Sauvignon, grown, produced and bottled at Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery. As such, the wine was a
View similar to the MoabWine.com live Spanish Valley Vineyards webcam - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)thoroughly enjoyable, right down to its legacy label. Soon, I predict, this rare Utah wine will become a collector’s item.

Next, I tried the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery Syrah, Tempranillo and
Zinfandel, all made with California grapes. All three wines had good structure, which hinted at their aging potential. Even with similar robustness, each wine was a good representative of its varietal essence. With its brown-accented label featuring the new “logo lizard”, my favorite of the three wines was the Zinfandel. Immediately, I bought a bottle of each red wine. Looking back now, I wish I had doubled-up on my purchase.

The live webcam at Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery is located at MoabWine.com (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During the tasting, I sat on a stool at the small bar and stared out the window to the North. As I looked along the rows of vines, I could see some tall trees along Stocks Drive. That road serves as the entrance to the vineyard from U.S. Highway 191 South. Beyond the trees, I could see the famous Moab Slickrock, gleaming in the sun. Spontaneously, I said to Curt, “We need a live webcam here”.

After explaining that I had just lost access to a webcam at an RV Park down the highway, I proposed that we reposition it there, at the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery. I went on to explain the easy setup of a webcam in the window of the tasting room. With that, Curt readily agreed to the plan. The next afternoon, I installed the webcam and published it on the homepage of
MoabWine.com. The results were spectacular, showing the vineyard, its surrounding topography and any weather approaching Moab from the Curt and Alesia Stripeika, the new owners of the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)northwest.

While I was testing the webcam, Curt’s wife and business partner, Alesia arrived home from her work in Moab. To commemorate the occasion, I asked Curt and Alesia Stripeika to pose for photos in their new vineyard. Looking now at those pictures, the Stripeikas seem like a modern-day pioneer couple. They also appear ready to take their Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery to a new level of winemaking excellence. In that noble endeavor, I wish them well.

 


By James McGillis at 03:45 PM | | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter #317: Durango & Silverton Railroad Story - November 11, 2014


Locomotive No. 478 at rest in Silverton, Colorado in 1965 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Ride the D&RGW Narrow Gauge Rails with Twentieth Century Railroading Legend, Engineer Steve Connor

In 1965, my father, Dr. Loron N. McGillis and I visited Durango, Colorado. There we rode on the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) to Silverton and back. No longer a freight or ore hauler of any distinction, the narrow gauge steam trains were quaint, yet powerful. During our stopover at Silverton, my father and I photographed the waiting train and visited with its engineer.

DRG&W Engineer Steve Connor in the cab of Locomotive 478 at Silverton, Colorado in 1965 -  Click for larger image (http://jamesmcghillis.com)In December 2013, while writing about our 1965 excursion, I included an image of our engineer in one of my articles. In the original photo caption, I referred to him as “our unnamed engineer”. When I published his picture, I thought, “Someone must surely know who this man is and will contact me with his name”.

In October 2014, I received an email from Mr. Paul Connor, who is the grandson of our 1965 locomotive engineer, Mr. Steve Connor. Over the course of several emails, I learned more about the Connor name in D&RGW history.

Engineer Paul Connor and Locomotive 476 stopped at Ah! Wilderness while on the way to Silverton, Colorado in 1977 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As Paul wrote to me, “I am Steve Connor’s oldest grandson. My father, George Connor worked as a brakeman/conductor for the D&RGW. I spent the first twenty-one years of my career working for the D&RGW and Southern Pacific Railroad. After hiring out at Durango in 1974, I began there as a mechanical laborer/coach cleaner. In 1976, I started as fireman at Durango, and later worked out of Pueblo, Minturn, Alamosa and Grand Junction as a locomotive engineer/fireman. In 1995 I was promoted to Road Foreman of Engines and have held the same job since. After the Union Pacific merger with Southern Pacific, my title became Manager of Operating Practices, working out of Grand Junction.

All told, the Connor family currently has somewhere around one hundred and twenty years of railroading history in western Colorado. I say this because I am not certain of my great grandfather, Richard Connor's hire date. We think he started in the 1800's when the tracks were being laid into Durango.

Animas Canyon, near where John Connor was killed in a train accident in 1921 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The youngest of seven siblings, for many years of his career Richard Connor was the section foreman at
Hermosa. His oldest brother, Jim, retired as a locomotive engineer at Durango. His brother John was a fireman and was killed in a train wreck in the Animas Canyon in 1921.”


Regarding his grandfather, Paul Connor wrote,
“Steve Connor was born in the section house at Hermosa, just north of Durango to Richard and Julia Connor. He hired out around 1923 and retired in 1971 with forty-eight years, but was furloughed for many years during the Great Depression. At times, when they were short of manpower, he made trips on the Rio Grande Southern. As the narrow gauge dried up, he would work at Durango in the summers and work out of Alamosa in the winters. The Alamosa/Durango seniority rosters were combined during those years. I always joked that by the time he was number one in seniority, there would be only Author James McGillis waiting his turn to speak with Engineer Steve Connor in the cab of DRG&W Locomotive 478 in 1965 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)one job left on the narrow gauge.

As you might expect, there are a lot of photographs of Steve Connor around but few that are this good. Your father really captured a great deal of his personality and a nice moment in time for me.”


Regarding Steve Connor’s experience, Paul wrote,
“The locomotive 478 was my grandfather's favorite of the three used on the Silverton Branch in those years. I am not sure why, but if I had to guess it is because it rode the best, the whistle was not as shrill, and it was then equipped with power reverse (long since removed). Steam engines possess personality in the way they fire, steam, and run. For lack of a better word, I would call them quirks. In the years I worked there, I had no particular favorite of the three. As a fireman or engineer you had to work around each of their personalities.”

Each October 15 for the past three years, I have closed the season while staying at the United Campgrounds of Durango RV Park. In cooperation with the campground, I operate a live webcam that features the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. If a webcam viewer is lucky, they may see the steam train running either north or south through the RV Park.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Locomotive 480 traveling through the United Campgrounds of Durango RV Park in 2014 (http://jamesmcgillis.com)By October, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs only one round-trip train to Silverton each day. During the fall season, the railroad uses mostly their larger 480 Series or K-36 locomotives, so that they can operate a longer single train. By October, it is rare to see a smaller 470 Series or K-28 locomotive, with its lesser tractive power.

Still, if you visit Durango during the summer season, you might have the opportunity to see or ride behind locomotive 478, which was the favorite of twentieth century railroading legend and D&RGW Engineer, the late Steve Connor (d.1974).


By James McGillis at 01:16 PM | Travel | Comments (0) | Link

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