Last night's History Channel episode of "American Pickers" was titled "Mountain Mayhem," starring Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe. These professional pickers travel the earth picking through treasures covered with dust and rust from age, and love every minute.
As the episode begins, the guys are in gorgeous Colorado when Danielle calls to give them a lead for an old opera house. Mike lived in Colorado years ago and is familiar with the place and the area. Traveling on the mountain roads, Frank sees how the weather can change in an instant and as Mike drives almost care-free, Frank is one uneasy passenger. As they get stuck and Mike hears the litany of I-told-you-sos, a kind person stops with a four-wheel drive vehicle to turn them around.
When they finally make it to the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Mike tells owners, Sharon and Bill his recollections of 1983, when he lived there. Sharon was in college back then, but her mother ran the place since she was twenty-years old. The opera house was scheduled to be torn down in 1955, and she fought to preserve it. Now her daughter and husband have the same fervor for the historic site and are doing what they can to see it thrive.
If they can find someone who wants to preserve it, they will gladly sell it. Her mother also was a collector of anything and everything. They will not sell the items that are indigenous to the opera house, but there are a lot of items her mother collected from people who were moving and could not take with them. As they toured the opera house, they stood on stage and opened the trap door used by Harry Houdini. John L. Sullivan also boxed there in the 1880s.
As they started picking, Mike found a door with words “Stage Entrance," and Mike wanted it and got it for $300. They went through secret doors and hiding places among the wall of the place. They found some advertising pieces, an old quartoscope which is a machine that shows pictures in succession and was invented prior to motion pictures. So Frank sent several photos to a friend who will give them an estimate of its worth, and if it can be repaired. Suddenly, they pulled a lever and the machine worked, but with the needed repairs, they got it for $725.
Mike found an old water-damaged poster announcing a baseball game in Leadville against a Negro-League team from Iowa. Mike got it for $25.
They discovered a number of William Henry Jackson, survey photos that Sharon had framed. Mike was thrilled to find these photos by this famous photographer of the American West. Mike got one photo that he absolutely loved for $4,000. It depicted a locomotive trudging through Pike’s Peak as the surrounds were covered in snow. They wished them luck keeping the opera house alive for future generations to appreciate and were on their way.
Frank remembered a friend who lived in Colorado Springs, who they hoped to see while there. He always wore a Crocker tee-shirt, and Frank knew him from motorcycle swap-meets. When they arrived, Pete was busy in his junkyard of old cars and things from ages ago. He came from the Washington, D.C. area and always had a curiosity for how things work. He loved the Smithsonian, and his natural curiosity carried over to his adulthood.
They immediately spotted a graveyard of old Volkswagen busses and had no idea Pete was a specialist. The bus Mike was interested in was not for sale. Pete quoted many prices for the guys that were way out of range. Frank tries to negotiate with Pete, and finally breaks the ice with a few porcelain signs; after all, it is a long drive from Iowa, to Colorado.
Then went outside to check in another area, Mike found cast iron legs from an old sink; he got them for $50. Frank found a vintage Texaco sign with the original bracket and got it for $500. Mike found an old bent up metal city bus bench and was able to get it for $250, along with an airplane engine he wanted for $3,600 and a fun time meeting with someone who loved history as much as them.
As the altitude starting getting to the guys, they thought of a new enterprise; an oxygen bar where people in need of oxygen can refresh their bodies in high-altitude locations … maybe the next new thing!