BWW Blog: Rommy Sandhu of THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN - To Understand the Present, Learn from the Past
"To Understand the Present, Learn from the Past."
There's an old adage that goes something like this, if you really want to know a person...walk a mile in their shoes.
Earlier this week, with Dick Scanlan as our guide, the cast took a road trip to where the stories of Molly Brown began. As our entourage rose to the 10,152 foot elevation, our ears popped and our eyes opened. Sure, most of us had seen mountains and valleys before. But none of us have had our breath taken away, literally, while doing so. Quickly now, close your eyes for a minute or so and imagine what a silver mine looks like. (Pause, go ahead...close them). Did you happen to notice what its surroundings were, and possibly how long it might have taken to get to the mine's entrance? A fairly large percentage of our pop-culture population has a clear image of Scooby, Shaggy and the gang's adventures through a dark forest and winding paths, eventually stumbling upon a hidden entrance. We were all surprised at how prolific these mines were. It would be akin to how quickly one Starbucks coffee shop might pop up across the street from another, that itself may have only recently opened.
After a quick refresh at the local coffee shop City on a Hill (friendly, delicious, non-franchised) and an even quicker debate on whether or not to buy a logo-souvenir (no dear...I didn't), we headed to the Matchless Mine. When I say that we may have overwhelmed them with our large group, I'm not exaggerating. Our tour guide, "KoKo", was an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable young man who in my estimation was up to the task at hand. As he led us into the past, we discovered what a hardscrabble existence these miners lived. They came from almost every corner of the globe. Speaking different languages and having differing belief systems or educational levels didn't matter to these men. The work was grueling, dangerous and sometimes fatal. The only "rule" or governance this brotherhood of miners had, was trust. And much like in theater, trust was the key to their existence and survival. If you could be trusted in the confines of the mine, you were in. Period.
Koko went on to explain that in this mining community, women weren't allowed near the mines. After some grumbling from our crowd, he further explained that the common belief (at least back then) was the miners needed to stay focused on what they were doing. A "gal" was thought of as an easy distraction. And with lives on the line, the risk was too great. This little nugget of information propelled many of us into reflecting upon Molly Brown's push for social change during her life. As this portion of the tour came to a close, we had the suspicion "Koko" had been auditioning to be one the Miner's. Thinking back, he had the right look...but we never heard him sing. Ah, well next time.
We next ventured to the Delaware Hotel to meet a silver-haired spinner of tales. Our new guide, Robert began the second leg by taking us to the Annunciation Catholic Church where "J.J.", James Joseph Brown and Margaret "Molly" Tobin were wed. As we took in the timeless splendor of the church and gathered in its pews, a spontaneous rendering of Willson's "May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You" overtook us. It was peaceful, heartwarming. Afterwards, we clambered into our SUVs whereby Robert then led us further on our adventure. Do you remember when I mentioned earlier that the mines were prolific? That was an understatement. Through winding unpaved roads, we discovered mine upon mine upon mine. Robert had us pause momentarily at a vista that overlooked what had once been called "Stumpville." Looking down into the smallish valley, we all had the sense that long ago this had been a bustling town. Walking the dusty roads put us all in awe of the men and women who lived and worked this existence. Driving further into the valley, we stopped at the remnants of what is believed to have been Molly and J.J.'s first home. Nothing is left there now but the stone footprint of the foundation and a smattering of broken dishware. At one time, Leadville Colorado had been considered the silver capitol of the world.
As we returned to Leadville proper, looking up from the valley we were once again reminded how the repeal of the Sherman Silver Act had decimated this once thriving town. Luckily for J.J. Brown (and Molly as well), his engineering efforts paved the way to one of the largest gold ore strikes of the time period. And thanks to "Koko" and Robert, we now had a sense of who these people were and how to fill their shoes. But before we leave Leadville for Denver, it's time for a trip back to 1879 at the Silver Dollar Saloon. Good food, great conversation and a round of "Belly Up to the Bar Boys" made for an incredible trip. Now it's back to the rehearsal studios with our connection to the past.
Overlooking Stumpville outside of LEADVILLE, CO. (Back Row LtoR; Constantine Germanacos, Jesmille Darbouze, Gregg Goodbrod, Omar Lopez-Cepero, Stephanie Martignetti, John Scherer, Keven Quillon, Burke Moses, Rommy Sandhu, Paulo Montalban. Front Row; Donna English, Dick Scanlan, David Dabbon, Kristie Kerwin, Karl Josef Co, Cameron Adams, Alex Finke, Michael Halling, Jason Lee Garrett, Patty Goble) Photo by Keven Quillon
Stumpville as it exists today.
The Company with Robert, our mine guide.
Mine carts at the Matchless Mine and our cast. Photo by Keven Quillon (and Koko, our tour guide.)
Burke Moses examining the model of the original mine.
â€œKoko" (in blue shirt and ball cap), leads us to the Matchless Mine.
The Matchless Mine, founded 1878.
James Joseph "J.J.â€? Brown and Margaret â€œCall Me Mollyâ€? Tobinâ€™s wedding certificate at the Annunciation Catholic Church in Leadville.
Annunciation Catholic Church, Leadville Colorado
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