Oral History – Marie Chisolm

Interviewer Linda Bjorklund

July 5, 2002

This is Linda Bjorklund interviewing Marie Chisholm on July 5, 2002.  We’re going to talk about your education in South Park.

Okay, I came to Fairplay on August on the 13th, 1944 and I lived in New Mexico, which is kind of a flat area and it was dry land farming or desert and when I saw Kenosha Pass and saw that green, beautiful green valley and the beautiful mountains, I thought this was the most fantastic place in the world.

I’ve been here ever since and I started to school in the 8th grade in Fairplay.  It was in the old original part of the schoolhouse on the second floor and the – – I guess you would call it the north corner of the building.  There were two rooms up there I believe, but we had one teacher that had to leave about the middle of the year.  Her name was Joni Meadows which sounds like the movie star, but she had to leave and then we had some interim teachers that didn’t stay very long because we were kind of ornery kids. We took advantage of the newcomers and one day, we had this boy who was not too interested in learning; this was a combination of 7th and 8th grade.

This boy was older and was not very interested in learning; he was very disruptive to the class and the teacher always sent him out into the hallway to sit, which is where the bell-tower is – I mean it’s underneath the bell-tower at the school. But anyway, she came in one day and she had four things in each hand – what they were was dynamite caps on fuses… and she had two in each hand and she was clacking them together. She had taken them from this boy sitting in the hallway and she had no clue what they were! Well, one of the first things I was taught when I came to Fairplay, being a mining town, was what dynamite caps and fuses look like. And of course, all the other kids were well-versed in this also. So she came in, she was clacking them together, and she said, “What are these?”  Well, the boy who was sitting behind me, his name was Lavern Donelson; he jumped right straight up, he looked at her, he looked at that window out of the second floor – didn’t know whether to run and jump out that window or what and we all started yelling at her and she stopped with a surprised look on her face and we explained to that she could have blown us all up.  She was pretty surprised!

I think we had two more or one more interim teachers before we got a teacher that we kept that year in 8th grade.  Her name was Cora Osborne. She was a teacher in Alma or in Fairplay for many, many years and we loved her. She was a very good teacher and then from there, we went into high school; there were ten in the class that started freshman year in high school; five girls and five boys. We were all just like a happy family and of course, the upperclassmen and the middle classmen – well, there wasn’t anyone lower than we were  at the time – but the upperclassmen, we got along fine with them, but it was – – we were just a close-knit class.

There was George Bergeson, Jack Ahern, Armis Twitted Jr., Don Caylor, and Lavern Donelson were the boys. The girls were Betty Jean Kleinknecht, Marie Chisholm (my name was Reed at the time Re-e-d) Betty Jo Weaver, Marnalee Franks, and Bertha Thomas. We all continued clear through high school together and all graduated from high school in 1949. In the meantime, I began to date Donald Chisholm and when I was a freshman and in my junior year, we got married but I continued to attend school and graduated from high school with the name Chisholm and everyone – – Mother objected or anything the school board said you’re entitled to an education until you’re twenty-one.

So that was the way we did it and in the meantime, my mother had left town; I was living on my own and supporting myself from the time I was fourteen. I was still in the 8th grade; it was probably April of the year that I was in the 8th grade, which would have been ‘45 and I was supporting myself and living with various families within the town who would – – I would stay with them and pay $5 a week to live with them on my own and I worked as a housekeeper, cleaning houses.  I was a waitress at both the Hand and the Fairplay Hotel and at the – – that is no longer the Fairplay Hospital, it’s an apartment building, but I worked at the Fairplay Hospital after school and I even worked the night shift at the Hospital because I was allowed to sleep part of the night because they didn’t have too many people demanding something in the middle of the night. So I continued on there until I graduated from high school and I’m still here, but our teachers were the ones that stayed; they never came and went and we had a good rapport with the teachers.

Edith Teeter, Jane Van Dyke, Mrs. Osborne, were some of them and Kenneth Wilcox was superintendent for awhile and we had a superintendent, his last name was Worry.  Right now I can’t think of his first name, but he stopped by – Mr. Worry – came by the Town Hall about five years ago and he still looked the same.   I was thrilled to see him, but he has since passed away as most of them have, you know.  However, Jane Van Dyke is in her eighties; she lives in Sterling and she comes to our school reunions.

During the time that I was in school, I wanted to – – I knew I couldn’t become a nurse because I didn’t have any support to help me get through nursing school after I got out of high school, so I began to concentrate on secretarial skills.  I wasn’t that good a typist but I could take Gregg shorthand pretty well, so when I got out of high school, I applied to the what we call Welfare Department for a job and it’s now called Social Services.  I had to take a test and pass so many words in shorthand and so many words in typing and this sort of thing and I got the job, which I kept for about five years. Then I started a family, so I resigned and was no longer at that job, but during my years of working up until that time, I had also worked in the County Clerk’s Office, the Judge’s Office – – well, I worked for the Judge in doing recording – typing pages of court cases that had to be put in a big binder and I did that job while I was also working at the Welfare Office.  I’m not sure who paid me for that; whether it was the Judge’s Clerk, the Court Clerk that paid me out of her own pocket or what, but it was Judge Bullock that was the Judge at that time and his wife was named Violet and I did that for about two years I believe.

In ‘53, and some of those years in there, I also did some work in the County Clerk’s Office and I just got such a knowledge in school and in my jobs that I was able to almost work anywhere that I wanted to, especially during the war which was from ‘44 to well, 1946, when the people started coming back to Fairplay. They were short of workers. Either the elderly were handling the jobs or the young were handling the jobs. We hardly had any law enforcement per se because there wasn’t any crime anyway. (laughter) There were – – most people were gone and of course, the kids were a little rowdy. Anytime Marshall tried catch us and make us behave themselves, but they did it mostly just to annoy him.

During those years, the County and several offices in the Town Hall; they did not start moving out of the Town Hall until they developed the Annex over here. Right after I resigned from the Welfare Department in 1955, when I was expecting my first child and during that time they then moved over to the what’s now the Annex, the corner that’s now the Assessor’s Office at the Annex. We had the Assessor, the Sheriff, the Superintendent of Schools which we no long have (the State abolished that position, that was an elective office) the County Extension Agent and the Welfare Office were all in the Town Hall until about ‘55, when they started moving those offices out and expanding the Annex.  Those offices were rented by the County.  I’m not sure if we even had a Town Clerk in that office; I don’t know where the Town Clerk was, but she wasn’t – – I don’t recall the Town Clerk ever even being in that building. When the building what’s now the Town Hall was first constructed, it was referred to as the Community Hall. That was in 1936 or ‘38. The County pretty much – except for being – – the County Clerk was in this office, in the Court House which is this building; the original Court House. The Assessor’s Office was in the basement and the County Clerk was downstairs.  The Judge was in the other office across from where the library books are now; that was the Judge’s Office and of course, Court was held In the upstairs part of the building so that was where these offices were located.

Also, part of the war effort – the draft registrations and rationing coupons, they were all handled out of the a little office in back of the Assessor’s Office downstairs. It’s just a very small office, but those two offices were rented I believe by the Government to handle those things. After the Second World War, people started coming back to Fairplay and the population started building up again and the mines began to open up again, which had been shut down during the war effort. We had a pretty thriving little town here We had two car dealerships; we had filling stations; we had a drug store; we had two or three grocery stores and it was a busy, busy town. Then over the years, the people began to move elsewhere and commute and then the price of gasoline kind of stopped the commuting and people started to leave.  The school continued to have to expand though, but in 1976 I think it was, they had a plan on the drawing board to expand the school. Then people began to leave because of the price of commuting and so it was put on hold until the present school was expanded now, which includes the new  ?capitome?, the library and some smaller offices.

When I graduated from high school, it was in the red brick building here that was where the high school was.  In later years, they did build the yellow brick building facility and I don’t think that was built during the time that I was going to school though.  But my picture and my nine classmates are all over in the hallway at the yellow brick building, which I’m not sure if it’s still now called or what it’s  called – I think it’s still called the high school.  My children began school here in 1961; my older one, but at that time, the population had expanded so they had to remodel the school in Alma, which is now the Alma Town Hall. It had been vacated for awhile and they remodeled it and refurbished it and started first grade. My son was in first grade in Alma and they were bussed to Alma and then my younger one – I have two sons – the younger one started school in 1956 and by that time I believe they had – – or 1962, I think he started to school here in Fairplay though. By that time, they had had enough room in Fairplay that they could move these kids back to Fairplay where they didn’t have to commute to Alma.

However, a lot of the kids – even the ones I graduated with – like the Taylor’s, Don Caylor, it’s spelled C-a-y-l-o-r, they came by bus from Lake George. This was a 50-mile ride for them and they also were bussed from the Tarryall, which was 35 miles for them to have to travel to come to school. Of course, the Alma children and the Como children and the Hartsel children by the time they got to high school, they all had to come to Fairplay and some years, they had grade school in some of these other areas like in Hartsel. They had grade school down there and they didn’t have to come to Fairplay until high school and Lake George had a grade school that they didn’t have to come to Fairplay ‘til high school. Guffy – I’m trying to think – I don’t recall any kids coming to Fairplay from Guffy, but I think they went to Canon City schools instead of coming to Fairplay.

We still have a school reunion every year; it usually takes place in Colorado Springs the first week of September and we all are getting older and we’re trying to encourage younger ones that ever went to school in Fairplay to come to these reunions.  Our teacher, Jane Van Dyke, came last year but being up in years and she’s had two strokes, she said,  “I don’t think I’ll be able to come back next year.”  This next reunion takes place the 8th of September and we’ll see how many make it this year. We’ve had some – – we have a circulating newsletter that comes out every month and we have sixty people who subscribe to this who are former school classmates in Fairplay and that lists expands every year because it’s just a way of keeping in touch and knowing who’s who and where they are and things like that and they’re scattered all over the United States, including Alaska.  We have some in Alaska and sometimes they travel from Alaska to come to this reunion.  I’m not sure what else I have to say – I can’t think of anything …

So what age were you when you first came to Fairplay?

I was thirteen.

Thirteen?  Were you with your parents or …

Well, my mother was working at a restaurant in Denver and she met this man who lived in Fairplay; his name was Everett Howard and she came to Fairplay as a housekeeper and then before long, they got married.  He, when I first came to Fairplay, he was working at the South London Mine; he was a miner from way back, but he was working at the South London Mine taking the rails out that they used for the ore cars to haul the ore out of the mine.  He was working there to take the rails out because they were using them for what we called the War Effort.  In other words, metal was scarce and so any metal that was not used for anything else was shipped for scrap metal to be used in the war effort. A lot of things, a lot of valuable artifacts, historical things that would have been valuable today were melted down for scrap iron.

That’s during the war effort time.

Yeah, and so it’s unfortunate that a lot of this has gone by the wayside, but this was what he was doing.  When that job ended, he was searching for work in various places and one job that he found was over in Leadville and they left – my mother and him left and went to Leadville and I did not want to leave Fairplay.  I was not going to leave Fairplay so I stayed!  My first – – the first few months, I lived with a family out on what is now called the Red Hill Ranch; their name was Verlanz’s. They came here from Craig, Colorado and they raised sheep; they had quite a sheep operation going in Craig, but I believe the raised cattle here in the area.  They didn’t stay; they left within a year and I just lived with various families. The first house that I ever lived in that belonged to Everett Howard is at the top of  Second Street right below the Forest Work Center there.  It’s on the alley, there’s an alley between Main Street and what is now Hathaway, but it’s the alley goes up there and it’s right at the top where the alley starts.

The house is still there?

The house is still there.

Oh wow!

In the days that we went to school, we always walked home for lunch and then after school, we had nobody to take us to school and bring us home like they have nowadays.  During the blizzards and heavy snow, I would walk from the school up the hill and by the time I got there, I was absolutely exhausted! I was almost too tired to eat lunch. Then I’d eat and turn around and go back to school. At least I had the wind at my back when I went to school! I watched a lot of kids that had no – – that are now grown but – one of them is a Catholic priest, Leo Smith.  He lived at the Ranger – – his parents were Rangers.  His father was the Forest Ranger, Frank Smith and he would walk down – – he was just a little thing, but he would walk down the fence in back of my house where I lived there on Second Street and he would follow the fence line.  That was his guide to get back home or to get to school and I don’t know how he managed those big snow drifts because he was so little in the first grade, you know. But he managed and he was terrified of dogs and I would watch him you know, hug that fence and be scared of these dogs that were barking and things like that.

Also, there was a person that lived in another little house there on the alley and I knew he was the Assessor at the time.  I knew that he was gone during the daytime, but I would hear these voices coming from this house and I would stop and I would listen and I couldn’t figure out what these voices were and finally it dawned on me – he had a parrot and this parrot was just talking his head off inside that house all by itself! (laughter) This was just right behind what is now Louise Kidd’s house here on Third Street; the middle house.

Anyway, I have lots of memories of Fairplay and the people and most of them are gone.  Louise Kintz, Gladys Howard, and myself are now the only ones living in Fairplay that went to school here – well, Gladys didn’t even go to school here, but she did marry my step-brother, Bill Howard, who was Everett Howard’s son – and Gladys and Bill were already living in Fairplay when I came, but Louise Kintz and I are the only two that are still living in Fairplay that went to school in those years.  Louise and I are very close; Gladys pretty much – – she’s widowed and her health won’t let her get out too much.

It’s just a changing population and a changing town so that you hardly – I hardly know people here anymore.  I feel like a stranger in my hometown because they come and go and I’ve had people say, “Oh, I’ve been here for fifteen years,” and I’ve never seen them before. I’m not sure of the reason for that; whether I don’t get out enough or they don’t get out enough, but most people nowadays are concentrating on working and making a living and they don’t really – unless they have children in school – they don’t get out that much. I do see parents going to school and supporting the kids and I think that’s wonderful.


When I was growing up, a lot of parents didn’t come to school for our basketball games. We didn’t have football; the only thing we had was basketball because mainly it was an indoor sport and our winters are pretty long.

Yeah.  Was this boy’s basketball or girl’s basketball?

Well, we had boy’s basketball that played in various schools, but we also had a girl’s basketball team and we used to play the men and the high school boys sometimes and they finally got to where they didn’t ‘want to play with us because they said we played too rough! (laughter). We were kind of ornery and we would  – – not ornery, but we would just kind of push them around!  I think it was because they were gentlemen, they didn’t want to push us back! (laughter).

And this is when you were in high school?

When we were in high school.

Oh, okay.

We played by girl’s rules, which are very different.

Oh, yeah.

You can only stay in half the court and pass back and forth and so it was much different in those days.  We did play – – we’d have girls’ teams of school people and just citizens but we always had a blast when we played the men and the boys because they would try to keep from knocking us down and squashing us and everything and so normally, we usually beat them! (laughter).

When you went to school, you were in 8th grade, right?

Mm-hmm, started.

What kids of subjects did you do and what kinds of extra-curricular things did the have for you then?

We studied the basics for three hours – reading, writing and ‘rithmetic; history, and because we had the two grades together to begin with, it was pretty much kind of a time for the teachers was pretty much divided, but it was just the old-time basics more or less. You studied phonics and you had addition, subtraction, division and they didn’t get into algebra until we got into high school. Now in high school, they taught advanced math from algebra on up to trigonometry and they taught book-keeping, Gregg shorthand, typing and business – – proper business letters and had to do things like that.  I didn’t like anything pertaining to math; I still don’t and bookkeeping, I didn’t want to – – I couldn’t understand it, I didn’t want to be bothered with it so I didn’t learn booking; however, I loved Gregg shorthand and I kind of developed my own method of Gregg shorthand, which a lot of people do.  I’ve seen some people that really stuck with the proper methods, but it was one of the subjects that I learned that helped me with my future jobs, because I could take dictation.  In fact, I took dictation fro the Sheriff at times when he was questioning criminal – – or, not criminals, but suspects.

Oh, suspects.

Suspects.  He would be questioning them and this was not the Sheriff that we had for many years. Sylvester H. Law was the Sheriff in Fairplay in Park County from 1937 to 1953.  After that, Corbin Cotton became Sheriff and because I knew Gregg shorthand, Corbin Cotton would ask me to come in and take down his questions and answers from suspects in … after he arrested somebody or before he arrested them. Then I would transcribe them and give them to him and I guess the County paid me for that; I don’t know, I don’t remember! (Laughter).

It’s been awhile ago.

It’s been awhile, yeah.

So you did just basic subjects in school then.  Did they do literature like they do now? All sorts of things that they make you read.

Yeah, we had to read so many books a year and things like that; Tom Sawyer and gee, I can’t think – – we had to learn some authors and things like that.

American authors or English?

Pretty much.  Poets and poetry…


Edgar Allen Poe.

Did you do any Dickens?

Dickens… what is it Edgar Allen Poe wrote?  “Nevermore, nevermore.”

The Raven?

Yeah, “Quoth the Raven, nevermore.”

That’s one of my favorite poems.

I had to learn that.

The whole thing?

The whole thing and we had plays.  We would give a play every year, which I dearly loved.  I would ham it up; I just had more fun doing that.

What parts did you do?

Anything that was crazy (laughter) Kind of like some neurotic that thought they were an elephant or you know, something like that.  It was just a lot of fun. For girls, primarily our indoor sport was volleyball in the gym.  Most of our sports – – we didn’t have too much in the way of outdoor sports because of the winters.  We certainly – – football was the last thing on our mind because we didn’t have the number of people to even pick from and our boys were – – some years they were good in basketball, sometimes they weren’t and I don’t really recall.


… ourselves.  We didn’t travel to other places for volleyball or anything like that.

It was just for fun?

Just for fun. In the wintertime, we pretty much made our own entertainment. Almost everybody had a pair of ice skates and the dredge down here that’s no longer here – it’s been taken away, but it was setting in a pond of water and when the water froze, then we would go down there and ice skate and also on the Platte River when it was frozen. We would go down there and ice skate on the river where there was ice.  Sometimes we got a foot wet because we fell through the ice but it wasn’t deep, so there was no harm done but we’d have a bonfire on the gulch bank and just a bunch of kids get together. When we would be down on the dredge pond, they had a night watchman; he stayed there pretty much all the time but when we would be down there skating, then he would have us come in and he’d fix us hot chocolate and that was a big treat.

Oh yeah!

Yeah. (laughter).

Did you have the shoe skates or did you have to fasten them onto your shoes or…

They were shoe skates.  I was never very good at it because I never had ankles that would hold me up, but when I was young, before I ever came to Fairplay, I practically lived on roller skates.  I lived in Albuquerque and we had sidewalks and I had a pair of roller skates.  That was my only thing I had until I was probably 13 or more. Then I got a bicycle, but we never had much in the way of toys or anything, but my roller skates were what I loved and as punishment, if I did something wrong, my mother would take my roller skates away.

Oh, she knew how to get to you, huh?

She could get to me (laughter).  Then I came to Fairplay and I had to give up roller-skating because there were no sidewalks. No concrete to skate on, so…

And the streets weren’t paved then, or…

Oh no, well, no.  Every street in town except Main Street and Front Street were the only ones that were paved and of course, Main Street being the State Highway, it was paved.  Front Street was a very busy place. They did have some sidewalks on Front Street, but they weren’t continuous; they just would be in front of one business and not in front of another.  Some of the so-called sidewalks at that time were asphalt also. We had what we called asphalt sidewalks over here on Main Street.  I recall very specifically by the grocery store here and on down the street it was a narrow path of asphalt.  At least it was smooth and you could walk on it, but that eventually deteriorated and erosion broke it up and this sort of thing, so it’s no longer there. We just didn’t have sidewalks for me to roller-skate on.  So I didn’t follow through on that for very long.  Then I tried to go to ice-skating, but that wasn’t very successful (laughter).

It takes a lot of balance.

Well, it does.  It takes ankle strength and I didn’t have it.

When you were living out at Red Hill how did you get into town?

The school bus came…

Oh, they did have school busses at that time?

Mm-hmm, they had school busses and they would stop at individual homes.


They did not pick a spot where everyone had to gather to catch the bus and then parents would meet you there. They would stop at the individual homes and sometimes even the school bus driver would take a dog from one house to another (laughter).  If a dog went to another ranch and they knew that the dog belonged to the ranch up the road, they’d just let the dog on the bus and take it up the road and kick it out! (laughter).

That’s funny.

We had some personable bus drivers and some of our high school students were actually bus drivers as well. They were juniors and seniors and they would drive the bus themselves and when we think back you know, that was quite a responsibility, especially with the blizzards that we had in the Park and the slick roads and everything. Those drivers almost always got through. Quite often, the State Highway Department would see that they got through and I know that my husband worked from 1952 until 1984 on the State Highway and he always got up early and got out on the highway and cleared it on school days for the bus drivers.  His route was from Fairplay to Hartsel and so he made sure that the highway was cleared before the school busses got on the road. During the blizzards, sometimes even the snow plows couldn’t see the road but they did try to get the school busses through and take care of them.  I don’t recall very many times that the kids had to stay in town when the roads were blocked with blizzards. Usually they would wait long enough, the blizzard would quit and they could go home.


We didn’t have much of a phone system then, but what we had was an operator you know, where you picked up the cord; they would say, “Number please,”  they would pick up the cord and plug it into that number. So at that, the telephone operators would notify the parents when the kids were going to be late or if they were not coming home at all.  The Fairplay Hotel, the Hand Hotel and the school were accommodating for the kids when they had to stay in town overnight.


It was usually just the Jefferson-Tarryall area where the kids could not get home; Como, Jefferson and down the Tarryall.  The other roads were not always had bad blizzards for some reason, it just seems that the wind blows the worst between Fairplay and Jefferson.

And Kenosha Pass.

Yeah, uh-huh.

What did they do if the kids couldn’t get home?

They would put them up at the Hotel, the Fairplay Hotel and the Hand Hotel.  Some of them would stay over at the gym. We didn’t have a cafeteria at the time; I don’t recall what year when they built the yellow-brick building, so the kids would eat at the restaurants and things like that.  I guess the parents would pick up the tab from them later – I don’t know, I don’t know how that worked because I was not one of them that had to stay at school! (laughter)

Because you were here.

Yeah, I lived here in town, mm-hmm. I always lived here in town with some family, one family somewhere here in town except the first year, when I was out on the Red Hill Ranch.  I still keep in touch with a lot of the kids, even the one that used to live on the Red Hill Ranch after I went out there and stayed – the Weeks’ family and for a good number of years and one of their sons and I still see each other you know; we know each other and find out about the family and that sort of thing. Course, the elder Weeks’ are now dead.

When I worked at the Fairplay Hospital, I assisted with some surgeries and mostly tonsillectomies, births and I was working at the Hospital once when I got pink eye, which is something you get when you’re in school.


The doctor was not going to let me work and I needed the work and he said, “But you – – we just can’t let you give this baby pink eye,” this newborn. I said, “I’ll be very careful,” and he said, “Well, you’ll have to wash your hands very, very well before you go into the nursery at all.”  I don’t think I ever washed my hands so much in my life as when I was taking that newborn.  I also had a young mother who was about to deliver a baby prematurely and the doctor was in Boulder and I found him and this was when we had the old road going to Denver. It was very curvy, very slow, very dangerous – and he said, “Put her in bed and I’ll get there as soon as I can.”  Well, fortunately he got there he got here in time to deliver the baby; however, the mother had a hemorrhaging problem and he spent the night by her bedside and this was – – her name was Sarah.  Joe Sell still lives here, Marsha Sell still lives here, but it was their mother.  This was about 1946 or ‘7 and so I’m not sure which one of the Sells it was that was born at this hospital, but the Sell family lived out south of town on what we call the Four Mile and their house had caught on fire that day and they had fought and fought to try to save the house, which they didn’t, but this caused her to have this baby prematurely.


I recall a man coming in, he had split the upper part of his foot with an axe and it never bled; it was just laid open right down to the arch of his foot to the bone, but it never bled.  So at that time, most of our transportation was by Trailways bus so the man came in and I said – – well, we didn’t even have a doctor…or a nurse on duty.  So I poured peroxide on it, bandaged it, told him to go catch the bus and go to Denver.  This is how you handled things like that!

Another one was a man – – we had people coming from lower altitude to Fairplay because of the – – this altitude is good for asthmatics. We had people coming from Denver, from Nebraska, various places. This one lady came from Nebraska and spent all summer at the Fairplay Hotel – she lived at the Fairplay Hotel all summer. One time, I was on duty and this man came in with an asthma attack and here again there was no one but me – very untrained in most anything.  I was a nurse’s aid, all I was supposed to do was change beds and give baths and things like that. He carried his own insulin – or not insulin …I can’t think of it now – his own medicine anyway and his own syringe and needle. So he instructed me on now to give him a shot.  He was so weak and almost at the verge of passing out or dying that he could not do it himself.  He could, like a diabetic, he could have given himself his own shot had he been not so near death.  This was my first (laughter).

You must have ‘cause he lived to tell!

He lived, he got over it.  But you know, in a town like this, you rise to the occasion I guess. We had our medical facility, we had the beds and we had the surgery and we had a nursery and we had what I would call the first nursing home. The back part of the hospital had been a porch and they partitioned it off and they had elderly there who needed care.  I think back now, that was really the first nursing home.  I don’t think nursing homes were a “thing” at that time and they probably never even had a name, but this was in the forties; ‘45, ‘46, ‘47, in there. We had probably six or eight people in the nursing home part and we just sat there out on the back porch; that was what we referred to it, as “out on the back porch.” (laughter).


The patients’ rooms and the surgeries were all upstairs. The stairway went up, it turned, it went up some more and it turned again and getting somebody up there was quite a job. If you had to take them up on a stretcher, it was pretty difficult.

No elevator, huh?

No elevator… and people survived and a lot of people died from infections that – – or a stroke or something like that which they still can’t save them. We had no antibiotics per se; penicillin was developed during the war and a lot of the kids around here during the summer picked flowers called “Arnica” which was used to make a kind of a medicine and it was very much in demand during the Second World War because it was used to treat wounds and I don’t know how they prepared it; I don’t know how they used or anything.  I just know the kids around here – – I never did do it myself, but a lot of the school – even the little ones – went out to the meadows, the hay meadows. They’re a yellow flower and they’re very profuse in the summertime.  These kids would spend their summers when they were in bloom picking Arnica and it’s still referred to as a good medicine.

Right.  Did they bring it in and sell it?

Yes, they sold it by the pound I believe.

To the druggist or something?

No, they sent it to a pharmacy somewhere (train whistle in background) and that’s the train at South Park City! (laughter)

And they sent it to a pharmacy not here in town?

No, no it was never kept here. There was a drug company somewhere that converted it into medicine from the flowers that were picked and I don’t know what they used to  – -well, they obviously transported it by truck or something, but I don’t even know what – – the kids had a sack.  Maybe it was something like a pillowcase; I don’t know. I never did do it, so I’m familiar with that.

But you know they used it to make medicine.

Medicine, mm-hmm.  When I was thirteen during the fall right after I came here, my mother took a job out south of town here working for a gentleman rancher called Herman Rost. His last name is spelled R-o-s-t and she took a job cooking for the hay hands and she said, “I’ll give you part of my salary,” – maybe half or whatever; I don’t know – “to help me.”  Well, I never worked so hard and so long in my life because I think they had ten men and we would start at 4 in the morning getting breakfast, peeling potatoes, fixing potatoes and eggs and I don’t know what all and sometimes we would also be making pies at that hour and then they would come in for breakfast. Then we had dishes to wash and then we had to start preparing lunch. These men ran hay equipment usually with horses and they were hardly mechanized at that time; these men could eat like you wouldn’t believe! I peeled potatoes and vegetable and helped make pies and biscuits and – oh! It was a tremendous job and then most of the haying was done by the time school started and so we didn’t prepare or cook out there anymore. I still remember how hard that job was.

I can imagine! Because they have big appetites when they do that kind of work.

Oh yeah! And they would come in and of course, we had to keep the kitchen and the dining area clean. They would in with manure and mud and straw all over them and it was…

About where was this? Towards Hartsel?

It’s out… just off of County Road 24 that goes from 285 over to Garo.

Oh yeah.

This man had a ranch house there; it’s off of the highway a little ways but now it’s being developed as home sites, but he ranched in this area for a long, long time. Any of the ranchers that were around here had been here for years; a lot of them from homestead days.


The hay hands were usually the alcoholics from Denver that they would and round up and come and some of them and some of them couldn’t stand it because they didn’t have anything to drink, so they’d walk away.  It was kind of interesting and they ate like you wouldn’t believe!  We would just prepare an enormous amount of food.  Now, the rancher would be responsible for buying the food, but we were responsible for preparing – – figuring out a menu and preparing it and naturally you had to vary the food from day to day because they didn’t want the same thing every meal.


That made it difficult also, just figuring out what to cook and such big portions. Then they had bunkhouses where the men then went to sleep, but we were not responsible for taking care of the bunkhouses; they had bunk beds.  Some of them I guess, well – two tiers of bunk beds for them, but we were not responsible for that; just for the cooking and keeping the place clean.

So your kids all went to the Fairplay school, too?

My children graduated from Fairplay High School; they went their entire life; they were born – – my first one was born in the old Fairplay Hospital.  Second one I went to Denver and had that one at St. Joseph’s Hospital, but then came home right away and they grew up here their entire lives. They always had – I call them “toys,” but things like bicycles.  They had bicycles and then they graduated to mini-bikes, which were little motorized motorcycles.

Oh yeah.

Then they graduated to trail bikes; then they went to motorcycles and they had sleds and they had just a lot of things.  Also, the school started the ski program while they were in school; I believe the first year that they had it was when my son was in the sixth grade, they started the ski program.  They took them to down by Grant.  There was a ski course there and I’m trying to think of the name of it… it’s no longer there of course. A lot of pollution for one thing forced them to shut down.  They were on Forest Service land and they were not (inaudible) well-water was going into the river and so that kind of shut them down. Geneva Basin – is what it was called.

Oh, okay.

That shut them down, plus a lot of other things, environmental things and you know how the Government is on Forest Service land.

Yes, I do.

Then they started taking them to Breckenridge and during the summer, I would take my sons to Salida for swim lessons five days a week.

All that far? Wow!

Yes! ‘Cause there was not any other swimming pool anywhere near, but they learned to swim there and we didn’t have the facilities.  We were very remote; very few people ever went to Denver to buy groceries; if they did, it took two days to go and you know, come back and they bought a month’s supply at a time.

We did have the grocery store here; it was called Alskog’s and he built the rock store over here; started with the little part in the corner on Main Street there at Fourth and Main.  He built a little one.  He came here during the Depression, built this little one; he was a very astute merchant.  His philosophy was, “You take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” He built up the business to where he expanded, then he added a second portion; the print store building now houses – – the original houses the hardware store and then the current grocery store is the second portion that he built onto it and he built it all out of river rock from around here, as you can tell and did all the work himself.

Then he began to invest in real estate and rentals and he would fix them up as cheaply as he could and the wiring was never very good and almost every house that he had would catch on fire at least one or two or three times… but the Fire Department would manage to put it out.  Sometimes they were kind of considering just let the whole thing burn down, but they didn’t.  So then he would move back in and he would remodel them and fix them up again and rent them again! The man, when he died, I believe he was probably a millionaire and he had no family by that time so he willed his entire estate to one of his employees. She is now retired and living in Colorado Springs, but she worked there a good number of years so you know, it was only natural that she inherit it.  Mr. Alskog and his wife lived in the house next door to the grocery store, which is still there – the house is still there.  That was their home and then there were – – their in-laws, he built them a house up on Bogue Street, which is still – well, it’s not there anymore, but he helped them during their old-age years and he was good for the community in some respects, but very penny-pinching. (laughter). But that’s the way you get where you are to run things yourself and just work to build up a business.

We had a variety store here, it was over on Front Street at the corner of Sixth and Front on the gulch bank side and there were two ladies that ran it.  We called them the “old maids” (laughter).  Their names were Lola Lindsey and Ann Burch. Everyone went over there and bought penny candy during school.  If you had two pennies, you could go over there and buy two pieces or five pieces of candy and they sold blue jeans and they sold a few dry goods things like socks and blue jeans. We didn’t have T-shirts per se at that time, kind of blouses or something;

I don’t recall but I know every pair of jeans I ever owned during all my high school years I bought them at the variety store.


They had such a collection over there and it looked topsy-turvy, but believe you me, they could lay their hands on anything you went in there and asked for! (laughter) This is some of our good childhood memories, was going to the variety store and buying candy.

We also had a drug store on Front Street and after school, we’d go have a Coke and they had a soda fountain and the owner of the drug store was named George Shema and he never married and he just was so accommodating to all of us kids when we would go on up in Fairplay. A Coke was a nickel and if I guess maybe if we didn’t have quite a nickel, he’d probably give us a Coke anyway.  During some of my later high school years, we would take trips for some reason – I guess maybe go to basketball games out of town or something – and he always drove a convertible.  So we would get the girls – we’d get him to drive us to the ball games, like over to Westcliffe or Buena Vista or someplace, or even to take us swimming in his convertible. And we would have a ball!  He had as much or more fun that we did.  He was a very jolly man and he enjoyed having us girls get him to take us somewhere and we enjoyed having the transportation plus you know, he was just a nice man.

Then he passed away and also he had two apartments above the drug store and after I’d been married two years, my husband and I lived in one of those apartments above the drug store. Various other people lived in the other one, but we lived there fro a year or two and then we moved to a log house down on Eighth Street; it’s still there. Then we bought a log house in 1952 up on Bogue Street, which is the log house next to the Baptist church.  I live there for forty years.

Wow, and it’s still there.

And it’s still there.  During that time, my husband passed away in 1991 and I didn’t not to stay in that house any longer.

I don’t blame you.

So I had by ’92,  I contracted to have a new house built which is up in Fairplay Heights now and my sons still love to come back to South Park; it’s still home.  They love to fish, they love to hunt, their dad taught them all of these skills and don’t ever want to give up the Park however, my husband told them years ago, he said, “Enjoy it now because the time is coming when you will not be able to do this.” Fortunately, there’s still Forest  Service land around and the Game and Fish and Department of Wildlife are leasing streams and there are still lakes where they can come back and be active in the things they loved to do when they were kids.


So it still holds fond memories for them also.

They had Huck Finn Days for several years, which the kids dressed up as Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher and they had finishing contests up Beaver Creek, where the ponds are at Beaver Creek and our kids always took first prize.  We finally had to quit taking them because the other people were beginning to resent the fact that were walking away with all the prizes! They were just kind of a natural – they had fair skin and freckles and this sort of thing.