Museum of Northwest Colorado: Locavores —1950s style
Chet Klock’s “Familiar Faces” column ran for almost half a year in The Empire-Courier newspaper in 1956 and 1957. He highlighted local businesses and their owners with a caricature of the person and a brief description of the business and the owner’s interests and activities. Klock’s column about Chuck Crosthwaite, when read in light of today’s economy, shows how easy it was to be a “locavore” 60 years ago before food production was overtaken by big agri business and international interests.
Fourteen-year-old Chuck Crosthwaite came to Craig with his mother and stepfather in 1926, when they took up a homestead on Black Mountain. Chuck graduated from Craig High School in 1931, and three years later he married Luella Blevins, daughter of Lay homesteaders. The newlyweds settled in Meeker where Chuck was the manager of a creamery. In 1945, the Crosthwaites moved back to Craig and purchased the Yampa Valley Dairy, which was located on Breeze Street in the building now housing Samuelson’s Hardware.
The dairy, started in 1926 as Moffat County Creamery, was a valued outlet for local ranchers and farmers who had milk and cream to sell. The dairy products, produced locally, met the needs of an equally local market throughout the Yampa Valley. What was an unremarkable marketing strategy back then would seem the epitome of epicurean delight for today’s “locavore” who strives to consume only locally grown or produced food.
The Crosthwaites were rightfully proud of their dairy’s Grade A qualification and kept their operations up-to-date in order to maintain that prized industry status. They offered a daily home delivery service, as so many dairies did in that era, and delivered milk to people who subscribed to the service. The jingle of glass bottles rattling in the early morning darkness was a familiar morning sound that woke many households during the mid-twentieth century. When Chuck and Luella retired in 1967, they sold out to Highland Dairies of Utah, a larger company, which dropped the convenient delivery service.
Highlands Dairies operated in Craig for less than a decade before closing the door of the dairy in the mid-1970s, signaling an end to Craig’s locally produced dairy products. As was the case with most of Craig’s business people, Chuck and Luella were active in numerous civic organizations and regularly supported Craig’s sports teams. Chuck was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club and a long-time member of the Elks and Masonic lodges. The Crosthwaites’ lives as well as their business were an intricate and invaluable part of the life and well-being of the community. After retiring, the couple moved to Arizona in 1980, living there until their deaths in the late 1990s.
Chet Klock, with his cartoons and columns, left a record of the many business people who contributed to the texture and character of our rural town in the mid-1950s. It is a rich heritage, which many of our local business people carry on today. For displays and information on the history of local businesses, visit the Museum of Northwest Colorado in downtown Craig. The Wyman Museum of Craig and the Hayden Heritage Museum in Hayden are also great places to learn more about our local businesses and their varied histories. The Museum of Northwest Colorado is open Monday through Saturday and as always, admission is free.
Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar at the Museum of Northwest Colorado.