Laine with local badass author Esther Greenfield

Laine with local badass author Esther Greenfield

Esther Greenfield

Esther Greenfield was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the shadow of the Capitol, enjoying the experiences typical of that city. She is a retired Federal employee whose experience includes a two year training program sponsored by the White House to train personnel specialists for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since retiring to Durango, CO, she has had many historically oriented stories and travel articles published in the Durango Herald, Colorado Magazine, and Colorado Country Life Magazine.  She is the author of "Tough Men in Hard Places," a collection of vintage black and white photographs portraying the men who brought electricity to the southwest, and  "Reading the Trees:  a curious hiker's field journal of hidden woodland messages" which documents some of the 1300 historical aspen tree carvings she has found in the area.  Both books are available locally at Maria's Bookshop and at the Durango Coffee Company.

 

 Laine and Kay Niemann in front of what was once Salone Italiano; a building her grandfather built.

Laine and Kay Niemann in front of what was once Salone Italiano; a building her grandfather built.

Kay Niemann

Kay Niemann was born in Durango, Colorado and graduated from Western State Colorado University with a degree in music education.

Growing up in Durango, her interest in family history was inspired by her maternal grandparents, the Baudinos. She made three trips to Italy before age 30, staying with her grandfather’s family, the Narettos, in Rivarolo Canavese near Torino in northern Italy. Years later, when 150 old letters from Colorado written 1903-1940 were discovered in the Naretto family attic, she became the recipient. These letters became the basis for her first book, Salone Italiano. This chronicles the lives of Italian immigrants who first find work in the dangerous mines and then progress to building and running saloons in the boisterous environment of the old west.

As a child, Kay was fascinated and spent many hours with her Italian grandparents as part of the Italian community in both Durango and Silverton. In her second book, Rocky Mountain Italians, she records the history of many of the early buildings in these communities as told to her by local Italian families. Many of these buildings stand today. This study initiated a common interest and a desire to preserve the difficulties and accomplishments of the first generation of immigrant Italian Americans.

These historical projects inspired her to write music reflecting the feeling of the stories. Music of Salone Italiano was first performed by the Sydney Mandolin Orchestra in Australia and later by the San Juan College Orchestra in Farmington, New Mexico. In 2008, she recorded a CD of the music with professional musicians in Santa Barbara, California.

After her first trip to Italy, Kay wished to continue her life abroad. She was hired by the United States Department of Defense to teach music to American dependent children in Okinawa, Japan. She later transferred to Incerlik Air Base in Turkey where she met Jon Niemann. They married in Durango in 1972. Kay and Jon continued their life together as corporate gypsies, moving to seven different states and two foreign countries. They now live near Los Angeles, California.

 

 Duane Smith: local legend and expert in all things relating to Durango's history.

Duane Smith: local legend and expert in all things relating to Durango's history.

Duane Smith

Duane Smith received his academic degrees from the University of Colorado and completed his Ph.D. in 1964. That year he began to teach at Fort Lewis College where he was a Professor of Southwest Studies. His areas of research and writing include Colorado history, Civil War history, mining history, urban history and baseball history. He was an extremely popular professor at Fort Lewis, and he is the author of over thirty books on a variety of subjects including Rocky Mountain Mining Camps: The Urban Frontier; A Colorado History; Horace Tabor: His Life and the Legend; Silver Saga: The Story of Caribou Colorado; Colorado Mining: A Photographic History; Fortunes Are for the Few: Letters of a Forty-niner; Rocky Mountain Boom Town: A History of Durango; A Land Alone: Colorado’s Western Slope; Song of the Hammer and Drill: The Colorado San Juans, 1860-1914; Mining America: The Industry and the Environment, 1800-1980; Mesa Verde National Park: Shadows of the Centuries; The Birth of Colorado: A Civil War Perspective; and Sacred Trust: The Birth and Development of Fort Lewis College.