New Steamboat whistle stirs memories
About 20 on hand for inaugural blasts in revival of city tradition
November 24, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs' new noon whistle blasted off Wednesday with a softer sound than its downtown predecessor.
About 20 people gathered at the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department building on Howelsen Parkway, where the new whistle is located, for a brief ceremony commemorating its inaugural blasts. The new whistle is reminiscent of old trains and steamboats and will sound every day at noon. On Wednesday, it blew once at noon and once more about 10 minutes later — "just for fun," Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said.
The old whistle was taken down from its spot near Eighth and Oak streets in October 2008 because of structural concerns. Downtown business owners also expressed concerns about the piercing volume of the old whistle, which served as an air-raid siren during the Cold War era, among other uses.
But Barnett said an outpouring of public support for a new whistle spurred Mainstreet's efforts, which included raising $5,500 in two years for the new whistle.
Tom Simmins, chairman of the design committee for the new whistle, especially thanked Central Electric and Peak Mechanical Services for their contributions to the community effort.
The new whistle has a blast of 100 decibels and can be heard from two to five miles, depending on weather conditions, Barnett said.
Its sound very likely is less intrusive than the previous whistle. Denise Hitchcock, of Zirkel Trading, for example, said she didn't hear the whistle at the store on Seventh Street downtown.
"But now, I'll know to be listening for it," she said Wednesday, expressing pleasure at the whistle's return.
"It'll be nice to know when to eat again," she joked.
Yampa Valley native Katherine Gourley was on hand Wednesday and reminisced about whistle blasts Jan. 24, 1939, when the historic Cabin Hotel burned down on the site now home to Bud Werner Memorial Library.
"We could hear that whistle blowing and blowing and blowing," Gourley said, noting that it was a "cold winter morning, just like (Wednesday)."
Gourley lived in Sidney at the time and said she was 12 when the landmark hotel burned down. Whistle blasts often got more people than firefighters up and running in those days, she said.
"There wasn't a lot of recreation at that time, so a lot of people went fire-chasing," Gourley recalled.
Tyler Gibbs, director of city planning and community development, said the whistle's revival is a positive thing for Steamboat.
"I think it's terrific," Gibbs said. "I think traditions are very important in any community."
Sydney Shelton, the 10-year-old daughter of Steamboat residents Philo and Debbie Shelton, attended Wednesday's ceremony with her family. Philo Shelton is the city's public works director. Sydney Shelton said, in her opinion, the new whistle sounds more like a train than a steamboat. She and her brother, 9-year-old Philo Shelton IV, agreed that they'll be happy to hear the noon whistle every day.
With one exception, young Philo noted.
"As long as I'm not standing right next to it."
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