When we think about Colorado summers in the 1950s, work isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe it’s families piled into paneled station wagons. Or perhaps canvas pup tents scattered amongst trees, closer to the stars than most other places in the U.S. of A. Palisade peaches and Olathe sweet corn served at picnics next to beans and weenies certainly deserve a mention here, as well. But Colorado wasn’t just the favorite vacation destination of millions of Americans (including President Eisenhower), it became home for those moving here in the postwar boom. Along with Frontier Airlines, Rocky Flats, Vitamin Cottage, Ball Aerospace, and the Anschutz Corporation came the need for new communities—and people to build the homes, schools, and markets that would populate them.
Local No. 720 of the Hod Carriers Union were the laborers who carried the bricks, stone, cement, and plaster to construction sites, and in 1945, they marched in Denver’s Labor Day parade to remind attendees: “We carry your home on our back.”
No matter how you celebrate Labor Day this year—with camping and a hot dog or in a cineplex with the latest blockbuster—take a moment to thank someone (or yourself!) for being one of those folks who “carries” Colorado with their labor.
—Dr. Rachael A. Storm, Curator of Business & Industry, History Colorado Museum
Thank You Lyons Quarry Workers
Lyons would also like to thank the quarry workers over the past century who worked hard to break out the sandstone and ship it worldwide… making Lyons world-famous for its hard red sandstone. The workers started early in the day, and quit soon after noon, as the sandstone absorbs the heat and radiates it back. Plus the quartz-like sandstone dust was breathed in, causing many of the early workers to die at an early age, often in their 50s.
Today, local stone yards use the federal H2A visa program to bring in temporary workers from Mexico, many of whom return to Lyons year after year. The quarry owners found most Americans who they hired found the work to be too hard, and they would soon quit. Loukonen Stone started in the early days, around 1890s, with Finnish immigrants; and Blue Mountain Stone started around 1950s, with workers of Mexican descent.
The Lyons museum staff are working on an exhibit of the Lyons quarries, which will open in 2024, thanks to a grant from LCF. They will be combining existing artifacts with researched text.
AVAILABLE at the Redstone Museum
==BOOK: “A History of Lyons Sandstone Quarries” by Al Pace. $14.95
Describes the quarry history from 1890s to 2000’s, with many photographs and some maps.
==DVD “Lyons Sandstone; rocks gather no moss” — history of Lyons, with segments of oral history from the local families who started and/or progressed the sandstone industry $19.95
==DVD “Lyons Geology” — interview of Denver Museum of Nature and Science geology curator, and aerial views of the quarries and Front Range. $9.95.
BOOKS “Double Gateway to the Rockies” and “Piecing a Town Together” cover the entire history of Lyons (includes the quarries and much more). $24.95 each ~ and the early history of Lyons in “Birth of a Quarry Town” $24.95