Italian car club pays a visit to the Gilpin History Museum
By Patty Unruh
Several members of The Maserati Club and The Alfa Club of the Rockies buzzed up from the metro area on July 27 to investigate the Gilpin History Museum. Ro and Andy Katz, organizers of the junket, said that besides getting together to enjoy a trip with other Italian car enthusiasts, the main purpose was to learn more about Colorado’s rich mining history. Although the Katzes are members of both clubs, they said it was the first time the two clubs had joined for an outing.
About 30 club members in 14 cars from the Denver-Boulder area met in Golden at the Colorado School of Mines, where they toured the Geology Museum, viewing minerals and gems from all over the world. Then they drove up Highway 46 in Golden Gate Canyon to the Gilpin History Museum in Central City for an educational tour of Gilpin County from the 1860’s to the present. They also visited the Hidee Gold Mine in Lower Russell Gulch to learn about the area’s geology, mineralogy, and history. Following the museum and mine tours, the group went on to Leadville to enjoy a one-night stay at the historic Victorian-style Delaware Hotel.
The Katzes explained that the rally was a “seek and search” competition to glean knowledge in a fun way. Members had to find certain items in the museums; they also received rally books with questions they had to answer about the locations they toured. They were to turn in their rally books in Leadville, where fun prizes were awarded to those who found the most items and came up with the most correct answers.
Some of the items the people were to find at the Gilpin History Museum were two stuffed chickens and “Nemo,” an orange and white clown fish. They also were required to purchase a seventy-five cent piece of stick candy; the color of the candy would get them a certain number of points, which only the event organizers knew.
The first and most popular stop in the museum was the submarine room, which displayed “The Nautilus,” the famous sub that sank in Missouri Lakes. The folks had to locate information in the display and find the answer to year of the Nautilus’ maiden voyage (1898). Other questions included “Who was the second territorial governor of Colorado” (John Evans) and “What is Emmy Wilson best known for?” (“The Fanny on the Ceiling” painting).
Alan Demers, the gregarious museum guide, gave the visitors interesting tidbits about the museum’s history. “It used to be a school house from 1870 to the 1960’s,” he stated. “The school was started only 11 years after John Gregory found gold here in 1859.”
Learning Colorado’s history has become an important part of the auto trips. Ro and Andy noted that during past outings, club members didn’t stop to see anything. Now, they see the sights and learn the history of places they used to pass by. For example, Ro pointed out that they had an archeological theme a few years ago, when they made stops to learn about dinosaurs.
“And, in the past,” Andy Katz said, “the prizes we gave out were just for fun, kind of pointless, like a Barbie car glued to a wooden base.” This year, the prizes were more meaningful souvenirs: a geode housing a miner’s figure, a plastic miner’s helmet with a light, iron pyrite (fool’s gold), and the book Central City: The Richest Square Mile on Earth.
One doesn’t necessarily need to be wealthy to afford the Italian cars, which were sought after as race cars and status symbols for movie stars in their heyday. “Some Maseratis are just two to four thousand dollars,” Andy advised.
“We’re just people who love cars and fun,” Ro commented. “The people are very social and nice.”
“Except when they’re competing,” Andy laughed. He noted, “Some of them will have some angst about winning, and the women want to win more than the men.”
The folks truly were intent on finding their items and learning some valuable nuggets of information about Colorado history, but some were willing to share about their outings and the day’s events.
Rally participant Vicki Walker noted that she and her husband Scott try to go on several short in-town outings and one three- to four-day outing each year. Scott is the president of the Alfa Club of the Rockies.
Barbara Wilson was touring with her son George Wilson. “The museum was wonderful,” she smiled. “I have been here before and would like to come back. Just seeing it tells you that you ought to come back.”
The Hidee Gold Mine was fun, too. The club members chipped out rock with gold in it for their bags. “Loveland Pass was fabulous,” Ro added. “There was even a wedding at the top that our people got to see!”
Special cars, friendly folks, and fun surprises – what could make a Colorado summer’s day any better?