Durango Native (CO) - Live stories by locals who lived here for generations


5 Generations in the Making

John C Turner


John R. (Jack) Turner

Durango Native stories are video recording of multi-generational families in the area. The original programs (all pre-pandemic) were live and recorded at the historic Henry Strater Theater. Each story is about 30 minutes long and include numerous historic family photographs.

The series ceased live performances with the onset of the 2020 pandemic. The Henry Strater Theater has since been permanently closed. Our hope is to restart the series soon in a new location.


Ben Nighthorse Campbell (b. 1933)

Recorded July 14, 2023

Ben Nighthorse Campbell is an American Cheyenne politician who represented Colorado in the United States House of Representatives and Senate. He was the first Native American elected U.S. Senator. During his time in office, he was the only Native American in Congress.

From humble beginnings in poverty and a broken home, Ben Nighthorse Campbell lived an incredible life that encompasses heavy labor, military service, school teaching, the Olympic Games, truck driving, jewelry making, extraordinary public service, and more stories shown in this video with his wife, Linda, and daughter, Shanan. 

Bob Lechner (b. 1949)

Recorded August 4, 2023

The Lechner family immigrated from Austria to SW Colorado in the late 1800’s. Their extended family established ranches in the high alpine valleys north of Durango, CO where Electra Lake, Haviland Lake, and Rockwood are today. This is a fascinating story of pioneer family and generations of local history. Shot on location from the family ranch house.

ROD TURNER (b. 1931)

Recorded June 8, 2017

Rod Turner’s great grandfather, John C. Turner, was a member of the Baker Expedition that first explored the area in 1860-61. Six generations of the Turner family are from Durango. Assisted by his daughter, Laurel, Rod’s stories are told with his unique perspective and sense of humor.


Recorded June 20, 2019

Mary Jane Clark is a founder of Toh-Atin Gallery (est. 1957) focusing on Native American and Southwestern artworks, jewelry, and rugs.  Mary Jane was born at home in Blanco, NM (about 40 miles from Durango) where her parents owned the Blanco Mercantile trading post. Mary Jane lived in Durango in 1944, as a nursing student, and settled here permanently, working at Mercy Hospital, in 1945.

TOM & PENNI COMPTON (b. 1942 & 1943)

Recorded June 20, 2019

Tom & Penni Compton focused their lives on family, agriculture, and education.  Penni was born into the Lemon family, pioneer ranchers and the namesake for Lemon Reservoir.  In addition to operating their ranch in the Hesperus area, Tom taught biology at Fort Lewis College and served many community organizations including 9R School Board, LaPlata Open Space Conservancy and helped start Leadership LaPlata.

REY & CLAIR MARTINEZ (b. 1931 & 1933)

Recorded July 18, 2019

Rey & Clair Martinez are brothers, two of seven children born at home in Durango. Both men played football for Durango High School and then at Adams State College. Ray served in the Marine Corps and Clair was a Forest Service interpreter.  Both brothers taught in the local schools and coached sports for decades.


Recorded July 18, 2019

Prescott Blake moved to Durango in 1933 at age two when his father was hired as a linotype operator for the Durango Democrat newspaper. Prescott is a colorful jack-of-all-trades, hunter, fishman, and owned a local plumbing company for 30 years in addition to working with other contractors on major projects.


Recorded August 22, 2019

Amador Tucson is a descendent member of the Southern Ute Tribe. He’s the founder, musician, and singer for the Latino band, “Tucson y Los Amigos.” Amador is best known as the owner / operator of Tucson’s Barber & Styling (est. 1968) where he and his son Isador provide classic haircuts today.


Recorded August 22, 2019

The daughter of two homesteading families, Peryl Kelley eloped and married another generational local, Olga Little’s nephew, Ernie Schaaf, at age 15. Peryl’s work career started at age six as a homemaker for her family while her mother was away teaching at remote one room school houses. Peryl transitioned to a gas pump attendant at her father’s station during the war and eventually served as a Bank of Durango vice-president.

Jack Turner (b. 1955)
Recorded March 14, 2018
(courtesy of Durango Herald)

Local Ski History – Jack Turner is a 5th generation Durango local who learned to ski on Coal Bank Pass, which was popular for premier powder skiing before Purgatory Ski Resort was built. On Purgatory’s opening day in 1964, Jack and his family were there with other excited skiers, most of whom had never ridden a chairlift. Countless hours were spent at Hesperus and Third Avenue Ski Area (the original name locals used for Chapman Hill). Jack competed on the Durango High School Ski Team, was a 6-time NCAA champion and All-American at the University of Colorado, and a member of the U.S. Ski Team. He served as ABC Television’s expert commentator for Nordic skiing at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games and was the first person kicked off the Salt Lake Olympic Committee.

Durango Connect
Filmed 2012, Produced 2013

It seems the world is smothered in conflict and division, but in 2012 citizens formed a 7-mile human chain along the Animas River Trail to show unity. This documentary shares nuggets from the history of the City of Durango, the Durango Connect project, and the love of an incredible community.