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COBWEB CORNERS: World War II paused tour car business

By Mel McFarland

Dec. 20, 2017
       In the 1930s, when this area exploded with tourists and cottage camps, another industry started. Driving the visitors to the various scenic locations became big business. Some of the bigger camps, and later the motels, had their own tour drivers.
       Before I start into this, I need to cover something else: cars and altitude. Before the days of modern computer-controlled engines, thanks to air pollution needs, most cars had carburetors which had to be adjusted for our high altitude. Gas stations were infamous for that service, sometimes charging big bucks just to turn a little screw on the carb. Other people were afraid to drive on our mountain roads. They parked their cars and rode in the sometimes nicely padded tour cars.
       The remnants of the numerous tour companies can still be seen in Manitou and Old Colorado City. Usually there was an office at or near a motel, where the cars could be parked.
       Young drivers, as well as some "old timers," drove these cars for the tourists. Some were limos, some were station wagons. You would see Cadillacs, Lincolns, even Packards, but most were Caddies. A visit to the motel office would get you into a tour with a big Gray Line or one of these smaller outfits.
       However, mid-September 1942, it all came to a stop. It was big news here when it happened, though it had been rumored for some time. The war had brought shortages. Although the gasoline shortage was not severe here in Colorado, it hit the eastern cities really quickly, as most of the oil was going into making aviation gas and providing other needs for the military.
       The state put out the word that the tour cars had to stop, even though we were, for a while, still getting tourists. Curiously enough, even during the worst of the restrictions, many of the local attractions were kept open. They were needed to entertain the troops stationed here.
       Once the war was over, the tour cars came back. It was not until the 1950s that they slowly died off. A few small companies survived into the 1960s. You could occasionally spot one or more of the caddy limos in Manitou parked, never to take tourists again.

(Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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