Town Revives Noon Call

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Steamboat Springs is bringing back an old tradition. It’s noon time whistle. As Colorado’s Public Radio’s Zachary Barr explains, it’s a new sound that won’t make you duck and cover.

Zachary Barr: For decades an air raid siren ripped through town every day at 12 o’clock sharp. Resident Tom Simmons says locals set their watch by it. But out-of-towners did not.

Tom Simmons: You know a lot of people ducked when it went off, particularly when they were in a downtown store or restaurant. But It definitely took newcomers by surprise, I would say.

Barr: The noon siren signaled lunchtime. But more importantly, it was always there to warn people of potential danger. During the Cold War, that could have meant enemy bombers approaching. Or far more likely, a house was on fire. Other small towns still crank up their outdoor warning system everyday at noon. Like in the eastern plains town of Las Animas.

Sound of air raid siren.

Barr: The old Steamboat Springs siren sounded a lot like this one, and faithfully served since the 1920s or 30s.

Simmons: It wasn’t the most pleasant thing to hear, that’s for sure. But it was part of our heritage and it would go off every day at noon.

Barr: A couple years ago the siren fell into disrepair and was taken down. But some residents missed the tradition. So they pooled their money to buy a new noise maker. West Virginian Mike Daugherty made the new whistle.

Mike Daugherty: It can be heard, in those mountains, I’ll guarantee you for two to three miles.

Barr: It is loud, but it’s a mellower sound than the original siren. Residents wanted it that way, and, they were tired of frightening tourists. So Daugherty found and copied an old whistle that was once used by the Illinois Central Railroad.

Daugherty: It's a three chime riverboat sounding whistle. And, you know, it’s just to let everyone know it’s Steamboat. That’s what they’re doing.

Sound of the new whistle.

Barr: The new whistle resumes its noontime call sometime in the next few weeks.

I’m Zachary Barr, Colorado Public Radio News.