Meet our featured senior: Lyman Allen


PREVIEW Columnist

SHIP (Medicare counseling) will be moving back to the Senior Center on April 1. Please call 264-0502 to make your appointment to meet with one of our experienced and talented SHIP Medicare counselors.

Who’s who

at the Senior Center

This week it’s all about Lyman Allen. I want to thank him for his time and patience in sharing his story. What a delight.

Lyman is a native of Providence, R.I., the youngest of three children. He received his A.B. degree in American literature from Middlebury College in Vermont and M.A. degree in American civilization from Brown University in Providence. However, Lyman was fascinated by geology, and, in 1951, he snapped up a chance to take a summer job with the U.S. Geological Survey studying the glaciation history of the La Sal Mountains in Utah.

While in the La Sals, Lyman’s work took him into Castle Valley, close to Moab. Castle Valley has two rock spires, the tallest about 100 feet high. His job on his first day was to walk around the south side of the taller of the spires while his boss and cousin, Gerry Richmond, circled it on the north side, each of them studying and noting whatever seemed to be of special interest.

“I was about half way around my side,” Lyman says, “when I noticed a greenish rock on the ground. I picked it up and said to myself, ‘My God, it’s uranium.’ The Atomic Energy Commission was in the southern La Sals tearing apart the landscape in their search for uranium. Completely blown away, I had been studying my rock for several minutes when my supervisor, Gerry, came around from his side. I showed him the rock, and he said quite calmly, ‘Yes, that’s uranium.’ Then, ‘Look there,’ pointing to a broad stripe of uranium about 18 inches wide, from the top of the mesa down to the valley floor. It was obvious, and it was stunning. A dirt road from the west into the valley passed the spires on the south side, and so view of the spires was blocked.

“Trying to be cool, I said, ‘Shouldn’t we go into Moab and stake a claim?’”

Gerry replied, “Maybe not. Let’s talk this over at supper.”

Over supper in Miners’ Basin, directly above Castle Valley, Gerry said, “It’s a big strike, no question. But if you claim it, it will change your whole life. It will be your whole life, and I don’t think you would be very happy. You will have to live in Moab to effectively defend your claim, and the U.S. government, above all, might say that they got there first. They didn’t, but if the AEC is spending so much time and money tearing these mountains apart looking for uranium, they are not going to concede that you beat them out. Besides, Lyman, I don’t see this life as right for you. I see you as a teacher, and that’s how you see yourself too. I think you are better off letting the whole thing go. The AEC will be here and claim this strike soon enough.”

“I did let the whole thing go,” Lyman says. “Gerry was not only my cousin, he was very high up in Geological Survey, and I knew him to be impeccably honest. He was not going to claim the strike for himself. Three weeks later I was back in Rhode Island on the seashore when I picked up the Providence Journal, and there on the front page was an article headed, ‘Atomic Energy Commission Makes Biggest Uranium Find Yet in Utah.’ It was, of course, my find. But — case closed. I remained friends the Gerry until his death in 1991.”

Now it was time for Lyman to turn back to his graduate degree. He had to write a thesis. A lover of classical music, he had been excited when FM (Frequency Modulation) radio came on the scene in the 1940s, but, he says, “By the time I began my graduate work at Brown, FM was on the decline, dropping from about 700 stations in the U.S. to about 300. What FM offered was static-free reception and a quality of sound that reproduced everything in the range of musical sound. For music, it was nothing short of perfection.”

He decided to research the reasons for FM’s decline and to write his M.A. thesis about what he found.

“I sent out a questionnaire to every some seven hundred stations—even those that had failed. I told them the purpose of the study and promised a free copy to every station that replied. All but a very few did reply.”

He had the material he needed for his book, “What Makes FM Succeed,” and duly sent to all responders and to the magazine “Hi Fi Music at Home,” for whom he had promised an article.

“Within a year of the publication of my book and article,” Lyman says, FM did start to turn around. “Hi Fi (high fidelity) and a burgeoning interest in hi fi sound reproduction had burst on the scene, and for radio, only FM could meet its standards.

Lyman did get his M.A. degree, and he also got an offer from a Boston FM classical music station to become its business manager.

He accepted the offer and moved to neighboring Cambridge, Mass., to live.

“But the business angle of classical music was not really my dish,” he notes, and when he saw an ad in the Boston Globe for an assistant to the director of public relations for Polaroid Corporation, he applied for the job and was hired. “It wasn’t teaching high school kids,” Lyman says, “mostly it was about familiarizing some three hundred Polaroid supervisors with the revolutionary business philosophy of Dr. Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid ‘picture-in-a-minute’ camera and the founder of the Polaroid Corporation.”

After three years with Polaroid, Lyman heard about Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale and applied for a teaching position there. He was hired. “At CRMS the kids really helped build their school. While the kids at other schools were out playing soccer and football, at CRMS they were building their own dorms.”

He stayed with the school for seven years, leaving in 1967 and going to Denver University to get his public school teaching certificate (accepted in all states) in order to be eligible for high school teaching.

Lyman’s first wife, Nancy, died of heart trouble in 2004. They had two children: Katherine, born in 1958, and David, born in 1960. Kathy, married to a New Zealander, has two daughters, both now graduated from the University of Washington, while David remains single, running his own landscaping and grounds management business and living on a boat in Seattle harbor.

Lyman moved to Vermont in 1968 to take on the job of curriculum coordinator of English at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., supervising nine teachers with a high school total of 2,500 students. He and his new wife, Ros, bought an 1854 post-and-beam house on the Vermont banks of the Connecticut River.

“The whole house required plenty of work,” he says, “but we did it — in the end living in Vermont for 38 years. “Lyman taught ninth, 10th, and 11th grade English — but not all those grades in any one year.

“I loved it,” he says, “although it was more than enough work.”

Soon after moving in, Lyman heard of the plans of New England Power Company (NEPCO) to build a nuclear power plant in northern New Hampshire. Waters to cool the operation of the plant would make up some of the flow of the Connecticut River as it flowed past his home.

“And so,” he says, “it became time for us to bone up on nuclear power.”

Right off, he and Ros founded an environmental organization, For Land’s Sake, committed to protecting the Connecticut River environment, and they discovered that New England Power had not built fish ladders, as required by legal agreement, at any of its seven dams on the Connecticut River from northern New England to the Massachusetts border. He says, “We decided to protest their efforts to get a new license. We were advised, ‘You don’t fight New England Power,’ but we did fight them.

Shad and the noble Atlantic salmon had been throttled in their migration patterns for the previous 100 years, this preventing them from reaching their spawning grounds in northern New England and no doubt greatly accounting for their declining populations on the Atlantic coast.

“When we brought these facts before the Vermont legislature,” he says, “by God they listened, even voting to refuse NEP a renewal application until they built those fish ladders, and in the process declining New England Power a permit to build a new power plant in northern New Hampshire.”

Lyman cites it as an interlude in his career when he decided to run as a Democrat for the Vermont delegation to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. “I had to get 400 Vermont votes. I drafted an energy efficiency resolution to bring to the floor — before some 400 Vermont delegates, and I stated — to lots of hooting — that I would get Walter Cronkite to mention it on the air. (I did not tell them that I had already met the Cronkites: Nancy Cronkite, their daughter, was a student at Rocky Mountain School.) The Vermont candidates hooted at me loudly: I don’t blame them. But I did bring my resolution to the floor. To my great relief, one the 3,000 delegates from another state rose to his feet and called for a vote by the whole delegation of 3,000 that all individual delegate resolutions be tabled. That passed by voice vote. I was to be the next one up, and I was greatly relieved. However, I had made it up to Cronkite’s booth. And he did mention my resolution.

When the New England Power completed its fish ladder seven miles south of Lyman’s House in Wilder, Vt., he was invited to see it through a viewing window.

“The unbelievable happened; while I was watching the water crashing through the ladder, an Atlantic salmon passed by on its way upstream to spawn. It was among the most joyful and rewarding experiences of my life. We had not only won a legislative battle, we had also done all we could to save a prized and beautiful species of fish.”

After the fall elections of that year, some people were adding that we had also weakened Meldrim Thomson in his reelection campaign for New Hampshire governor. Thomson had opposed For Land’s Sake and was pro-nuclear. Up and down the New Hampshire, people were beginning to oppose him.”

Now For Land’s Sake had a new bill to fight for in New Hampshire; like Vermont’s law, it called for no new nuclear power plants without legislative approval. “As a Vermonter, I could not work for the bill’s introduction. But For Land’s Sake could work for it. What to do? We began reviewing the voting records of New Hampshire’s 400 or so representatives; a past vote for something like requiring energy efficiency ratings for appliances should indicate a liberal bent on the legislator’s part. When we had our list, we called them all. We got a New Hampshire representative to agree to introduce the bill. Meanwhile, Time magazine was reporting that nine states had rejected all similar bills. But when it was reported that something similar had passed in Missouri, we had to check that out.”

Lyman found the name of a Missouri woman who had fought for her state’s bill, and called her up. She sent him stacks of helpful material.

It took three New Hampshire legislative sessions for the CWIP bill to pass, but on the third year of its introduction, it passed in both the House and the Senate. Arch conservative Meldrim Thomson was facing serious competition from rising Democrat Hugh Gallen.

“I sat glued to my radio,” Lyman says; then came the report: “Gallen had won — an unbelievable upset, and then came the moment when the new administration marched into the State House in Concord, N.H. As they did, a chant went up: ‘CWIP. CWIP. CWIP.’ It is impossible to describe the joy I felt.”

Now Lyman had lived in Vermont for 37 years; he decided he had to plan for retirement. Vermont’s tax rate was sky-rocketing, and he was looking for greater economic security. He looked west and then flew here. He says he had passed through Pagosa Springs in the 60s and wanted to take another look.

He added “I liked the climate, the look and feel of the land, and I checked out the Senior Center, which I also liked.”

He bought a house here in 2006 and moved here in July of that year.

Lyman is a regular at the Senior Center. He is the first senior I interviewed for “Who’s who” and it was a, “Wow, this guy is cool, experience.”


Friday, March 14  Jane McKain, wellness consultant, spoke with seniors about nutrition.

Saturday, March 15, VITA Tax Assistance — IRS certified volunteers came to the Senior Center to provide free tax preparation. This was the only day the group could come to Pagosa Springs. If you need assistance and want to go to Durango, their answering service number is: 335-9776. Please leave a message and they will return your call. Thanks again to the VITA tax volunteers.

Monday, March 17 was our St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Joseph Porter sang “Danny Boy” and “Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” accompanied by Beverly Arrendell on the piano.

Coming soon — a new medical assistance program.

55 ALIVE with AARP

Sponsored driver training for seniors will be held Thursday, April 10, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center. Cost for AARP members is $15, non-members will be $20. Please call Lois O’Dell at 759-8232 for more information.

Membership sales

We are now offering membership sales Monday through Friday.


All meals include our supercalifragilisticexpialidocious salad bar. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Friday, March 28 — March birthday celebration: Crunchy baked fish with coleslaw, peas and carrots, a whole wheat roll and salad bar.

Monday, March 31 — Honey BBQ chicken with oven-browned potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, green beans, a muffin and salad bar.

Tuesday, April 1 — April Fools’ Day – Roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli/cauliflower, whole wheat roll, apple crisp and salad bar.

Wednesday, April 2 — Smothered stuffed peppers, potato leek soup, Italian bread and salad bar.

Reservations and cancellations are required. You can make a reservation at 264-2167 by 9 a.m. the morning of the day you would like to dine at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center. For your convenience, you can make your reservations in advance or have a standing reservation on days you know you will always attend. Please cancel if you cannot attend on your standing reservation days.

We respectfully wish to thank Archuleta County, the San Juan Basin Agency on Aging, the Town of Pagosa Springs, our clients and private donors for their continued support of the Pagosa Springs Senior Center.

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