Saturday, November 5, 2005
No, that wasn't the latest solution to work-force housing you saw in the window of F.M. Light & Sons this week.
True, Mike Fuller had a cozy bedroom set up in plain view of passers-by at Steamboat's oldest retail store. And yes, he drifted off to sleep there four straight nights (albeit with the curtains closed). But the arrangement isn't permanent.
Fuller is a radio personality with KRAI-FM who agreed to spend 100 straight hours in a virtual fish bowl to promote the 100th anniversary of F.M. Light & Sons, the Western clothing store that first opened for business Nov. 5, 1905. For Fuller, who was promoted to program director this year, it was a chance to pull off the kind of radio stunt he's always longed for but thought he might never get to do.
"I've always wanted to do something like this, but I didn't think I would get a chance in a small market," Fuller said. "The closest I'd come was once when I went up in an airplane with Joe Birkinbine when he was teaching (pilot training) at CNCC in Craig. We flew along U.S. 40 from Craig to Steamboat and back, and I did a traffic report. It won an award from the Colorado Broadcasters Association."
F.M. Light & Sons can rightfully lay claim to its status as the pioneer retail establishment in Steamboat. The store has spent much of 2005 hosting historically themed special events. Store owners Del and Ty Lockhart commissioned the production of a historical DVD, published a special newspaper, created a photo archive, hosted a downtown block party they intend to make a tradition and even brought a Wild West show to Steamboat's rodeo arena. Del and Ty's mother, Annabeth Light Lockhart, has written a book chronicling the family's history -- giving up a life as Ohio farmers to take up retailing in a frontier town.
Del Lockhart said the intent behind the year-long series of events goes beyond drawing attention to the store -- though they certainly have served that purpose. In addition, he said the Light/Lockhart family wants to gather and preserve some of the history of the entire community on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.
"It's about capturing the sense of community," Del Lockhart said. "That's what's important in our lives."
In keeping with the historical theme, Fuller spiced his hourly live remotes on KRAI with interviews with local historians. Jan and Nadine Leslie of Hayden talked about their book devoted to the history of post offices in the region. Others interviewed included Bill Fetcher and Sam Haslem. Candice Lombardo, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, shared the history of Steamboat's founding family -- the James Crawford family.
"I've learned a lot having been in this window for just 25 hours," Fuller said Wednesday, when he was just one-quarter of the way into his 100 hours of confinement (yes, he got to leave the window long enough for bathroom breaks in the back of the store).
On Thursday, Lockhart was looking forward to Friday's interview with Angelo Iacovetto, who had promised to tell the story of how his eight brothers and one sister emigrated from Italy to South Routt County and created a life for themselves. Iacovetto was expected to confirm that even among family members, there is no agreement about how to pronounce the family name.
Fuller's domestic situation in the store window is another matter. Fuller was looking forward to a Thursday visit from his wife and four children to celebrate his daughter Rheanna's 6th birthday. They planned a birthday dinner courtesy of the Steamboat Smokehouse and a birthday cake courtesy of Safeway. The entire family planned to squeeze into the confined window area for the party.
Fuller's home away from home was furnished with a bed piled high with handsome Pendleton blankets. There also was a small TV on a nightstand and plenty of DVDs to distract the nine-year radio veteran between live broadcasts. He also had a lime green Xbox and a thick Stephen King novel.
"I'm just finishing 'The Dark Tower -- Volume VI,' and I brought Volume VII with me. It's highly interesting to me," Fuller said.
Fuller wasn't the first Yampa Valley personality to be confined to the display window of F.M. Light & Sons for an extended period. Institutional memory of the promotion is fuzzy, but it's thought that in fall 1975, on the occasion of the store's 70th birthday, a woman named Ziggy Zam spent an entire week knitting a scarf in the window. Customers were asked to guess how long the scarf would be when Ziggy finally emerged. The customer with the closest guess won a prize.
Fuller got his reward at 6 p.m. Saturday, when he planned to exit the store window and head home for a shower.