Pieces of the Past

Book dealer Linda Lebsack specializes in books on regional history, but she's also been on a Denver-history-collecting tangent, partly because there was a market for it. "There wasn't much more to be said about the Gold Rush," she notes, "and young people just didn't care about it anymore." So she started stockpiling books, menus, pamphlets, postcards and other ephemera. Curiosity, after all, is a great impetus: "Anytime I think I've seen it all, I find something I've never seen before," Lebsack says.

Her pile of nostalgic memorabilia, some of it old and some of it not so old, will be the focus this weekend of Denver Day's, an exhibit and sale at Lebsack's well-worn nook in the Denver Book Mall on South Broadway. And what a field day that'll be for local folks who enjoy peeling away our fair city's historical layers.

Much of Lebsack's antique booty -- from an engraved 1889 invitation announcing the grand opening of the Little Windsor restaurant to bound copies of Denver Municipal Facts, a weekly civic magazine lauding Denver architecture during the "City Beautiful" Speer regime, circa 1911 -- dates back to times beyond our collective memory. But there are also plenty of items to tickle a baby boomer's sentimentality: Elitch Gardens ride tokens, "Cookie Club" pins once awarded to schoolchildren who donated pennies to the Denver Zoo in the name of famed resident elephant Cookie, a treasury of matchbooks for Denver old-timers with restaurant nostalgia, even a 1952 book of Denver street plans (fifty years ago, T-Rex wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's politically ambitious eye).

Old hippies will enjoy graphic artist Tom Fowler's framed 1980 Capitol Dill Pickles Fair underground cartoon ("Let's go over there, Doris, and get a macramé sandwich"), but Lebsack says her pièce de résistance is a red plastic 1950s salt-and-pepper shaker from Bob's Place, the long-gone folksy Colorado Boulevard gas station known for its "Howdy Folks!" sign and "A bobcat for service" motto. Interest in it is so high, she plans to auction it off -- vintage salt and all -- and donate the proceeds to Urban Peak.

One thing's not for sale, however: Lebsack's old staff photo from the bygone Denver Dry Goods department store. "No one wants it anyway," she says. But you never know.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd