Editor’s note: This blog welcomes one more terrific writer to growing the Telluride Inside… and Out family, and introduces a new column, “Homegrown,” by Werner Catsman, to our pages. Werner was indeed home grown: he was born and raised in the Telluride region.

Growing up in Telluride in the 1970s provided a childhood experience. We were free to explore, fight, bike, hike, and raise the kind of hell that would have made an 1890s miner smile. The type of freedom we had as youngsters doesn’t exist anymore.

On weekends, our parents would typically be sleeping one off from a party the night before, and so we would rendezvous with our friends, ride our bikes out to the mine, hike up Bear Creek to roll rocks off the cliffs, head up Cornet Creek to see if we could find Rudi’s (a local Vietnam vet who lived in the woods) hideout and get into all kinds of mischief. We became comfortable in our outdoor playground, skilled enough to cross the icy and swollen San Miguel River or post-hole through deep snow to reach a favorite sledding run. Our winters were spent getting to ski on Thursday and Friday afternoons, which was followed by skitching on the back of car bumpers and throwing snow balls at tourists or, for that matter, any unsuspecting adult.

The various alleys in the town provided a network of escape roots and hideouts. If you grew up in Telluride in the 70s, you need only close your eyes to remember the stench of decaying organic matter: dog and cat poop, dank bricks, coal fuel and tailings dust. A unique aroma for sure.

One of the places most coveted by a child growing up in Telluride was the hallway leading to hotel rooms and restrooms from the Sheridan Bar. The passage contained a cigarette machine! A pack of Marlboro Reds could be purchased from the machine for a whopping 75 cents. All we had to do was beg, borrow or steal the 75 cents, and we had a pack of smokes. The Telluride Times newspaper machines were easy targets because they lacked the security one would expect to find today, and there were always some quarters on hand. If for some strange reason we couldn’t come up with enough quarters, the cigarette machine offered an even more important tool—a large white button labeled “FREE MATCHES.”  The free matches provided every child in Telluride with the means to pursue one of our other favorite pastimes: starting dumpster fires.

The school system put K-12 in one building (where the present-day High School is located). We had senior science classes in the same rooms where we were taught to read and write and we often had the same teachers, who instructed us for 7 or 8 years.  There was a gravel playground where at least once a week somebody got hurt.

The incredible environment we grew up in and small classes sizes resulted in very tight-knit friendships that last today.

  • Jesse James McTigue
    Posted at 14:41h, 04 February


  • Julian Hebron
    Posted at 11:53h, 10 February

    Laughed out loud on the ‘Free Matches’ comment. Great piece.

  • Dylan Brooks
    Posted at 12:22h, 10 February

    In a town that wasn’t exactly focused on child-rearing, we were all hoodlums, mostly left to our own devices. Possibly, though, you and Gardy were hoodlum-ier than the rest…