In the very early 1950s, Hollywood was rocked by several scandalous incidents involving some of its leading actors and actresses and their personal lives. Mainstream America, which tended to idealize the stars of that time, was appalled at the shenanigans of those they so deeply admired, and that outrage was not lost on the publicity teams in the movie industry. As a response, Hollywood organized a tour of actors to travel around the country and reassure the public that the movie industry was going to embark on making better movies and reflect the reigning values of the public.
Amazingly enough, small-town Craig — with a population of less than 3,000 — was included on one of the tours in October of 1951. On Oct. 10, the newly formed Craig Jaycees held a parade and other festivities in honor of the small group from Hollywood which included the well-known actress Anne Baxter. The excitement was not lost on little 9 year old Sally Terrill, who still remembers today, the stir caused by the actress’s visit to Craig.
“I think there was a parade for Anne Baxter in the morning,” she recalls. “We rode our bikes all around town just for fun. Even though the photograph was taken in the afternoon after the parade was over, we were probably still just out riding around. It was a big day to have all those Hollywood people in town.”
Museum Director Dan Davidson commented that Shorty Newell, the Craig photographer who took this photo, had a real eye for capturing appealing subjects on film. The image of Sally with her dog Taffy is no exception. In the image, Sally casts a winsome look from beneath a curly shock of bangs, as she is stopped at the intersection of Yampa Avenue and Victory Way. With her dog straddled between her shoulders and the bicycle seat, she must have felt very important to have her photograph taken on a day which had been so filled with important people and activities.
When contacted about the photograph for this story, Sally laughingly explained that she always named her pets after her mother. “Taffy Lou Terrill was the dog’s full name,” she said. “And you can ask my brother Billy about the dog! He trained her to ride on the bike like that!”
Sixty-two years later, a single image captured by a local photographer, can tell a whole raft of different stories. This image tells the story of a child’s life and lifestyle in a quiet, rural town on a Saturday afternoon in the 1950s. It recalls a momentous occasion for that small town when Hollywood dignitaries came for a visit. It reminds us of the efforts at community improvement and civic pride by the new Jaycees group. The image shows in the background some of the buildings still in use today. We see the West Theatre sign, the restroom sign for the gas station on the corner and the sign for the Brown’s Café across from the theater.
So much can be learned from just one photograph. But of great significance is the look in Sally’s eyes, with her dog on her shoulder. It gives us a glimpse into innocence and into a lifestyle many of us long for and can still have in our rural community. It reminds us of who we are — a community a little apart from the rest of the world and still capable of living the “good life” of simplicity and openness.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado loves to look at old photographs and hear family stories. They teach us so much about our history and offer us so many clues and ways to document our history. If you have a photo or story to share, drop by the museum and visit with the staff. You can also visit the museum’s website at www.museumnwco.org and see more local history stories. Remember, “Your Story” is “Our Story” and is “HiStory!”