JIM Volunteer Docent and Board Member
The frigid winters of Beaver Dam, WI, were an early childhood memory, but that lakeside community was a great place to grow up. After graduating from Wayland Academy, I held a few jobs before I gave in to my love for The West and moved to Colorado Springs, working my way to manager of a building center in Woodland Park. In the early 80’s I headed further west to Durango, where I managed a wonderful hardware store, which I later bought. We worked hard to maintain it as a leading store in the chain, and I was proud of our standing in the community when I sold it in 2005 and retired.
I’d always been a bit of a hiker, explorer and historian. And we’d traveled the Western Slope quite a bit. So when it came time to finally settle down, Montrose just seemed like the perfect fit. There was something special about it. It just felt like “home.”
As a western history buff, my curiosity led me to The Museum Of The Mountain West. What “got” me wasn’t just the incredible collection of world-class artifacts and the history that was here. It was a presentation beyond anything I’d ever seen before. A collection of downtown buildings you could walk into and experience. Tour guides who knew so much about the Dentist’s and Doctor’s offices, the Pharmacy, the General Store, the Saloon, and more. It wasn’t behind ropes. It was real. We walked in and experienced it. For a history buff like me, it was truly “magic.” I decided I had to become a Tour Guide.
What I really like about giving tours is that I get to take my passion and knowledge, and add it to the incredible things that are here. Things we walk among. Stores we walk into. Half a million historical artifacts which, as a collection, have no equal. And when I give a tour I get to take all that and present it to visitors who come here looking for an experience like no other.
Whether our visitors are Americans or foreigners, the tours are always entertaining, with lots of questions asked and answered, and laughs shared. And when locals take our tours, they often have additional knowledge about the area, about families that lived here, about farms, ranches and history that helps us increase the knowledge we get to share with future visitors. It never stops growing.
Of all our indoor stores and outside buildings, I think my two favorites are the General Store, where everyone can relate to something and the Q&A gets lively, and the turn-of-the-century Montgomery Ward Blueprint House. You ordered your home’s blueprints from MW, then built it yourself, plumbing and wiring included. It reminds me of my grandparent’s home back in WI.
I’m Jim, and I give really great and fun tours. Come let me take you through The Museum Of The Mountain West and let me share my passion for Western History with you.
Apart from my beard, the thing most people first notice about me is my Texas accent. I was born and raised in Dallas and I guess there’s still a touch of “down home” in my voice. DeSoto High School was followed by the University of Texas at Arlington. Majoring in Accounting, I eventually became a CPA and worked for a Fortune 100 company in Texas’ growing energy field. After I retired, I spent a second career working in Government.
Hunting, fishing and hiking are passions, as is an interest in western expansionist history (basically, the “Mountain Men” era). So, when my Mom, who had lived in Ridgway for 40 years, needed some help, we moved here to assist her, as well as be close to our 3 grandkids, eventually settling in Montrose. We were immediately comfortable in the Rockies.
My first exposure to the Museum Of The Mountain West was to take a tour. There were all these great historical buildings outside. But what got me was when I saw there was also an “inside” Museum with recreations of the kinds of Main Street businesses typical of all western towns, like a general store, pharmacy, doctor and dentist’s offices, and more. And that we actually got to walk INTO them with a personal tour guide and experience them up close. That really hooked me. It was educational and it was fun. I look at history as much more than just dates and places. It’s the dreams and aspirations of people who have come before us. Getting so close to this at the Museum, it all becomes very personal. Our visitors love it and I love making it all come alive for them.
Before our personal tour was done, my wife told me that I’d be a great Tour Guide for the Museum. In fact, I think she volunteered me before I volunteered me. I love all of the town businesses, but I think my favorite is the Dry Goods Store. Through the scope of products and apparel in the store, I can tell you about the society, economy and trade as The West transitioned from a mere primitive life of survival to one of more modern sophistication.
Outside, of the Museum’s 28 buildings, the Carriage Works isn’t just historical to the west, but specifically to Montrose. Not only does it show the advances in transportation (like John Deere wagons and Studebaker carriages), but the upstairs has its own incredible history. World boxing champion Jack Dempsey trained for many of his fights up there. Most people don’t know that his mother ran a soup kitchen in town while his Dad and brothers worked on the Gunnison Tunnel down in the Black Canyon. It’s all part of Western History, and that specifically is Montrose history.
I’m Doug and I’m a Tour Guide at The Museum Of The Mountain West. Come take one of our great tours, have fun and share our passion for history and the West that surrounds us all. You’ll be amazed.
If you would like to join our volunteers please contact Kathi at the Museum at (970) 240-3400