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Soda fountain steps back in time for movie

'Six Wire Winter' film crew transforms Lyon's Drug

— Taking a break from classes, Jeni Lee Gardner and Dory Mylar walked into Lyon’s Drug and Soda Fountain Tuesday looking for candy.

Instead of candy, the Steamboat Springs High School students found a corner of the store turned into a 1960s restaurant with a red vinyl booth surrounded by a filming crew.

It took just a few minutes before the girls were coerced into dressing into retro coats fresh off the LIFT-UP racks, walking down Ninth Street and peering into the store’s windows.



The two were among the handful of extras that were used in the filming of “Six Wire Winter” on Tuesday. The movie is a coming-of-age story based loosely on the experiences of writer and director Peter Webb as a hired hand at the Fetcher Ranch in 1961.

Gardner and Mylar’s acting job was to peer into the window of Lyon’s Drug and catch the attention of a girl inside. As they rehearsed again and again for the lighting and the sound, Gardner kept looking at her watch to make sure the two would not miss their class back at school.



“This is not my calling in life,” Gardner said of her first taste of Hollywood.

By late Tuesday morning, shooting had begun inside Lyon’s Drug. It was a scene between the main character, Junior, played by Jonathan Jackson, and his love interest, Kathryn, played by Nora Zehetner.

The movie is largely drawn from the people Webb met during his one-year stay at the Fetcher Ranch in North Routt County. It is also a story about the changes the ski industry, and the businesses that followed it, brought to the ranching community in the early 1960s.

The town’s name in the movie is Indian Springs, but it has the character and history of Steamboat.

The 21-year-old Webb was in between school and university when he came from England to Colorado. He spent a summer tending cattle near Hahn’s Peak, riding horses 12 hours a day and often times alone.

His screenplay is littered with people he met during that year, such as Frank Mosher the foreman, and Art Anderson, who once rode shotgun on the stagecoach and worked with Webb.

The main character, Junior, is based on Orval Bedell, a North Routt rancher.

“He always seemed like the coolest guy in town,” Webb said of the young Bedell. “He was a young Paul Newman, a state champion wrestler who rode bulls.”

Webb and Bedell did not become friends until they took a trip together down the Colorado River. Webb was in the back of the boat and Bedell in front; a spill into the raging river forged their friendship.

But the idea for the screenplay did not come until the late 1980s. By that time, Webb’s film career had already begun. He was living in Hollywood and made the decision to visit Steamboat with his wife and two sons for the first time since 1961.

“Between 1961 and ’80, the whole ski thing had happened,” Webb said. “I saw the impact on the town.

On the plane ride back to California, the idea for the movie just flowed out of Webb, but getting that screenplay onto the big screen has taken years.

“Six Wire Winter” is the first feature film that Webb has written and directed, but it is far from his first director job.

He directed “Butch Minds the Baby, which won the British Academy Award for Best Short Film, and “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” which was a 50-minute television special financed by Paul McCartney and sold by Harvey Weinstein to 20th Century Fox.

Webb said he is still looking for a distributor for “Six-Wire Winter.” The crew is in Routt County shooting four crucial scenes in the movie in hopes to entice the distributors to buy it.

Since 1996, Webb has been scouting locations in Routt County to shoot the film.

It did not take much time for the back corner of Lyon’s Drug to transform into a 1960s diner Tuesday morning.

The soda fountain counter and longtime soda jerk, Michele Sprengle, already existed. So did the vinyl bar stools and an old tin ice tea canister in the corner. Sprengle had made a pie, with a perfect golden crust in place, just for the shoot.

What had to be moved were the shelves that held the Gillett shavers, deodorant and candy. In their place were a fake wood wall, booth and wooden table.

What was harder to reproduce was the image of a town in the middle of winter. The city had to bring in three truck loads of snow to cover the street. To complete the look, 40-year-old trucks and Jeeps were parked outside the window.

Local extra Stuart Riska was shoveling snow onto the windows and on the parked cars.

Riska was also being used as an extra, sitting in a booth at the diner. He lent his 1947 Willy’s Jeep, rolled off of boxes to be a “stunt double,” and helped handle the horses in the movie.

“It is interesting to see how the movie is actually made,” Riska said.

On the way to work this morning, Sprengle said she was shaking with the thought of her acting debut. Sprengle has been the friendly face behind Lyon’s Drug’s soda fountain for almost 15 years. But Tuesday she had a new duty. She was scheduled to be the waitress to serve Junior and Kathryn a cup of coffee and a Coke.

Sprengle joked it was her big break, like Lana Turner being discovered at a drugstore counter.

In between the umpteenth cups of coffee and soda Sprengle carried to the table, she also refilled the coffee cups, dished out ice cream and poured drinks for extras sitting around the soda fountain counter.

Terin Petersen and Meg Firestone were sitting at the counter with their children, Davis Peterson, 5, and Will Firestone, 5. In the corner sipping coffee sat Jerry More, a local rancher who owns the More Barn.

Standing off to the side of scene were 10 girls from Minnesota, who had heard that Jackson was going to be filming at Lyon’s Drug Tuesday. The group was in town to compete at the Junior Olympics and decide to see if they could get autographs on Steamboat postcards.

The 11- and 12-year-old girls were fans of Jackson after watching the Disney movie “Tuck Everlasting,” in which Jackson played the romantic lead, Jesse.

“It is weird to see him in the movie and then see him in real life,” Alex Anderson said.

The crew will continue filming today at the Fetcher Ranch.


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