Locals 2020: Picking Pete Pleasant’s brain about Craig’s history
Pete Pleasant rings with numbers he doesn’t recognize more often than yours. Sometimes, it’s those dang-blasted marketers trying to sell him something. But many times, it’s someone wanting to pick his brain about Craig.
Pleasant was born in Craig in 1939, and save for college and a brief stint in the military that ended when his football injuries sent him home (honorably), he spent his whole life here.
“I’m not smart enough to leave,” Pleasant said.
Pleasant likes to say things like that because he likes to joke a lot, but he will also admit that he likes his status as one of the town’s historians. He didn’t plan on being that, but his memory, sharper than a paper cut, left him with no choice. He hasn’t written anything down or taken photos. It’s all up in his head. He can, for instance, walk downtown with you and tell you every single business that was there in the 1940s and 1950s. He can remember someone in a photo from a 1950s carnival. He can remember someone and help friends or distant family members find them, either because he knows where they are now or because he can name a family member who can help.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Pleasant said of his memory.
He hasn’t really researched much of anything either: What he knows is what he’s lived. But that kind of background is important, said Dan Davidson, the director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig.
“He’s a great person to understand what was actually happening at the time,” Davidson said. “It wasn’t all stuff that made the newspaper. It was just the events and the activity and the people.”
That’s especially important this week, Davidson said, as COVID-19 and old age works its way through Craig.
“This has been the worst week for losing people” in his 31 years of working at the museum, he said. Pleasant keeps the fabric of the community strong, instead of allowing it to fray, as it might under the friction of the pandemic.
“These people are a huge part of the fabric of what makes Craig, Craig,” Davidson said. “They understand the people and the place and the time. It’s that connection to people.”
Sid Pleasant, an attorney and Pete’s father, was Davidson’s first resource, but Pete became one after he worked for his grandfather’s insurance business and then took it over until Pete retired in 2012 or 13 (ironically, he doesn’t remember the exact year). Pleasant married Madge, who died 21 years ago, and raised two boys, Jeff and Dan. Jeff gave him two grandsons, and Dan gave him two granddaughters. He spent many days with all of them fishing and hunting, and Cody, the oldest, still lives in Craig, not far from Jeff, who lives in Grand Junction.
Pleasant’s love for the outdoors, for hunting the area’s trophy elk and fishing the great Colorado streams and shooting small game, convinced him to stick around.
“I had opportunities to go elsewhere,” Pleasant said, “but you don’t have any freedom in Denver. You could go in your pickup and drive five minutes and be out in a field shooting rabbits. You can’t drive five hours in Denver and do that.”
He made a good living because he knew practically everyone, and he remembered their kids and businesses and lives. That helps keep clients. He still has more than 90 percent of their numbers in his head.
“I’d like to think that helped,” Pleasant said.
Pleasant enjoys the phone calls from strangers or old friends or residents, and they run in spurts.
“People now are calling me to ask about people and their condition,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a learning lesson for me because I didn’t know someone was sick. It’s a different world we are living in now.
“Of course I think it’s important. It keeps me going.”
That memory remains a vault of Craig, and along with Albert Shepherd and Louie Wyman and the efforts of the museum to write some of it down, he said, the town’s history should be preserved a little while longer, regardless of what COVID-19 tries to do to wipe it out.
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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives in Moffat County.