Interview by Tom Klinger, Linda Bjorklund, and Bob Schoppe
Secember 29, 2005
Tape One, Side One
Tom: Andy, why don’t we start off this morning and talk about you. How did you get here? That means that we need to get a little background on your mother and dad. And that probably would include a little bit of what we know about your dad and introduce your dad and introduce your grandparents, the Gibbony’s. And we’re going to let you do some of the talking.
Andy: Well we’ll start out with my grandparents. My grandparents on my father’s side (ed. Carl Anderson and Anna Ahrens) came from Sweden. They were married in Golden, Colorado, in 1872. They moved to Georgetown in 1884. And Dad’s father (ed. Carl Anderson) and his brother Nels walked from Georgetown to Kokomo and set up a claim. And then my dad (Albin A. Anderson) was born in Kokomo in 1887. And his mother (ed. Anna Ahrens Anderson) died in 1899. His brother Axel—he had two brothers, and a sister–Axel and Albert, and one sister named Anna. Anna was fourteen years old, so when she died (ed. Mother, Anna Anderson) she had to raise Albert and my dad, Albin. So she’s buried in Breckenridge, Colorado. And I think Dad’s father is buried in Leadville. On my mother’s side they both came from County Cork, Ireland. And they came through Canada. He worked on the Grand Trunk railroad . He was about twelve years older than my grandmother. They, Pat Gibbony and Delia Walton, met in Como. And they were married in the Catholic Church, there, the first ones married in the catholic church. Then he went to work for the C & S, I think it was in 1892.
Tom: You know you mentioned that they were the first to be married in the catholic church in Como. I just recently talked to a man whose father bought the catholic church in Como from the Archdiocese in Denver. And I thought that was rather unique. I’m to visit with him in a couple of weeks. Well, continue, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.
Andy: Well we’ll get back to my grandparents on my mother’s side. When he (ed. Pat Gibbony) went to work for the railroad there and he became a car foreman, what they called a ‘car whacker.’ They ran the boarding house and the restaurant there (ed. today’s Como Hotel). Uncle Tom Gibbony was born in the Stone Row that was in 1892. I think they started in the hotel in about 1896. The rest of the children were born in the hotel. (ed. original hotel burned in 1896) Alice Gibbony was noted as the pie maker at the hotel. They had ten children, four girls, four boys and two of them that died at birth. He (Pat Gibbony) died in 1930. And he was buried in Como and my grandmother was buried in Como. Tom Gibbony, the oldest son, went to work for the railroad about 1913 as a call boy. Bill Gibbony went to work for them as a fireman. Then Aunt Gertrude she married Joe Delaney and he became a fireman on the railroad. And the two Gibbony brothers, Emmett and Frank, were fireman and brakeman. So there was a little bit of nepotism in those days.
Tom: Well, I guess so. Was this typical of families raised in Como?
Andy: Mostly typical, yah. In other words they didn’t stray too far from home. People didn’t travel very far then.
Linda: Andy, could you give the names of your grandparents on both sides?
Andy: Grandparents on my mother’s side was Pat Gibbony and his wife was Delia Gibbony. On my father’s side was Carl Anderson and his wife was named Anna Anderson, her maiden name was Ahrens.
Linda: Thanks. Then your mom and dad.
Andy: My mom and dad was Albin Anderson, Sr. (or Brownie Anderson) and my mother’s name was Nellie Gibbony. They met when she was a waitress working in the hotel (ed. Como Hotel run by Pat Gibbony) and my dad was a fireman on the railroad. And I guess that just about covers the whole family.
Linda: Did you have brothers and sisters?
Andy: I’ve got one sister. Her name’s Gertrude Anderson. She lives in Littleton, Colorado, and she’s two years older than I am.
Linda: Ok. Then we’d like to hear about all of your experiences and some that you might have heard from your dad or your granddad. So just go ahead and talk.
Andy: Well, in Como, the richest man in town was the bootlegger. And people were different then. I don’t remember anybody dying of a heart attack. And I don’t remember anybody having cancer. Because everybody made everything from scratch in those days. All the food was made from scratch. And our grandfather even peeled potatoes at 10 o’clock at night and get up at 3 o’clock in the morning and put the roast on, meat and all the trimmings. And he did most of the cooking. My grandmother didn’t do much, just took the money. But a meal in the boarding house I think was something like 35 cents. They fed three meals a day. And grandfather raised hogs. And no indoor plumbing. They did have a well there, inside water.
Tom: You talk about the Gibbony’s running a boarding house. You are referring to what building in Como now.
Andy: The old hotel.
Tom: So you’re referring to what is known as the Como Hotel at the present time.
Andy: Yah, the original one burned down. I can’t tell you what year. And they rebuilt this. And they owned another house (ed 7th and Rowe, Block 18, Lot 12, 13, 14) just above the round house there too, besides that.
Tom: Ok. Now in meeting the trains that came in to Como from Denver, the trains that came in across Boreas Pass that had originated in Leadville, or the trains that had come in to Como from the Fairplay branch. What did Pat Gibbony have to do when these trains came in to town?
Andy: Well he didn’t have far to go because they all went right in front of the boarding house, right in front of the depot. The boarding house was right adjacent to the depot. So he had to step outside and had to meet all the trains and inspect all the cars. With a hammer, waste and oil for packing the bearings. Trip all the lids up, see if they had a hot box or anything like that. Take care of them. See that there were no brake shoes hanging loose.
Tom: Did you ever as a little boy tag along with grandpa Gibbony and kind of watch what he was doing?
Andy: No, he died in 1930. And I was about four or five years old. I remember going down to the hotel and he’d be peeling potatoes. And I’d catch the potatoes and he’d put them in water.
Tom: You would catch the potatoes?
Andy: Yah, in other words, he would peel them all by hand and I’d catch them and put them in water for him.
Linda: What year were you born, Andy?
Andy: I was born in 1920, March the 3rd. Born in Leadville, Colorado. Of course the only hospital was in Fairplay or in Leadville or in Denver. So, most of the time—they had a pass—so my mother rode the train to Leadville.
Tom: Now, could you relate a little bit about the stories that you have heard about your dad getting to Leadville when you were born.
Andy: Him and Uncle Tom talked about it quite a bit. They run the rotary and they got in early in the morning. They went to the hospital in Leadville. And Uncle Tom looked at me and said that’s the ugliest kid he ever saw. I don’t know whether he meant it or not, because I look just like him.
Tom: Well, we will not debate your looks at this point in time, Andy. Whether your Uncle Tom was right or wrong. We’ll leave it at that.
Andy: He was a different type of person. He was very reserved. He railroaded for fifty years and never had discrepancy, never had a black mark. That’s quite a chore to do that, for fifty years railroading in South Park. Because you’d get that for a breakdown or being late. But that’s quite a chore. Dad worked, I think, forty-two years. Of course, his term was shortened by getting run over at the roundhouse on Water Street there (ed in Denver).
Tom: Was that after the narrow gauge had closed?
Andy: That was in the fifties.
Tom: He had an accident down there. What took place that you know?
Andy: I was in the navy at the time. I understand what happened was that he got off his run in front of the switch engine and went to cross the tracks—there was a crossing there—and the switch engine come in early, backing across and it was snowing real hard, and he couldn’t see ten feet in front of him. Of course, some times in the snow the sound doesn’t carry too well, either. That tender hit him and drug him underneath the tender. Where they had the ashes. It drug him. It just happened to be a girl was adjacent there, she was in the window and seen him, she waved them down. They stopped and dug him out. He had a broken pelvis and a broken neck and what saved him was he had long underwear on and heavy corduroy pants, heavy overalls and a leather jacket and overall that saved him.
Linda: Did he know Buddy Schwartz?
Andy: Well, that’s how he started railroading. When Buddy Schwartz was an engineer and he was small in Kokomo, he used to sell fox hides to Buddy Schwartz. And so when he got to be eighteen, nineteen years old, why Buddy Schwartz) said, “Why don’t you go to Como and go to work on the railroad?” That’s how he knew Buddy Schwartz.
Tom: Well now, if Buddy Schwartz was buying hides, what did Buddy Schwartz do with these hides then?
Andy: I have no idea. Maybe he had a coat made for his wife or something.
Tom: Well, then where did your dad get this name of ‘Brownie?’
Andy: Buddy Schwartz gave him that name. Because he was small and he always wore brown clothes. They called him Brownie and it stuck with him from then on. Everybody knew him as Brownie Anderson.
Tom: Was Brownie, your dad, a little bit like you in that he was always hanging around the railroad as well?
Andy: Well, in Kokomo, you know, he worked in the mines for quite a while, and he would meet the trains. Of course that was the only excitement, was the trains coming through. The only mode of transportation was by train, in Kokomo. So that was the main reason, that’s all there was to do.
Tom: Now when he hired out then and went to Como, did your dad spend a lot of time in Como initially?
Andy: He went to work there in the round house at a very low wage, just a few cents an hour. And he left and went back to Kokomo, went back to mining. Then the round house foreman called him and he came back and he got a raise. His job was to carry (move) the tank wheels (ed. tender wheels) over to the car shop and turn them on the lathe.
Tom: Do you by any chance remember who the roundhouse foreman was at that time?
Andy: No, I can’t remember.
Tom: That would have been quite a few years before Phil Duffy started working in the roundhouse. Is that right?
Andy: I think Phil Duffy probably worked in the round house as a machinist before that. Of course, in those days, you’ve seen in pictures, they had quite a few lathes, all driven by steam and belts. And in those days a seven-year apprenticeship was normal. Start at maybe seven, eight cents an hour and work on up. When you get a machinist, he was a real machinist, like George Champion. George Champion worked in the shop there.
Tom: After your dad had worked there in Como for a period of time, do you know where he worked next.
Andy: He stayed and went to work firing on the railroad.
Tom: Ok, so he fired out of Como?
Andy: And how he got the trip, there was another Anderson, named Ernie Anderson. And how he got his pay trip, they called and made a mistake, and called him instead, and that’s how he got his first pay trip.
Tom: So, he cheated to get his first trip.
Andy: To get a pay trip you have to be assigned and called the first time. Ernie Anderson was supposed to get that shot, and the call boy made a mistake and called my dad.
Tom: So a Como call boy made the error and Brownie Anderson.
Andy: Of course that’s how you got a starting date, for firemen.
Tom: Now didn’t Brownie Anderson work out of Leadville on the Mineral Belt on the Leadville Mineral Belt?
Andy: Yah, for some time he held a job as fireman—1921, some where in there—on Engine 60. That’s when they got that picture in the book. I’ve got to be about a year old, sitting in the cab with him. And of course they serviced all the lines up there. You know where the Mineral Belt goes up there, by Three-Mile Tank. I think it’s twelve miles on the Mineral Belt from one end to the other. Dad used to tell stories about they would stop at Baby Doe’s shack. And Oscar Perschbacher was a brakeman. And he was the only one she would let in her cabin. So they would load up gunnysacks full of coal, and Oscar would put them in her cabin so when that train was running she had plenty of fuel. And then dad used to tell about the time that Ward and Walsh, on Poplar Street they had a grocery store. And dad used to tell that Ward and Walsh told him, that Baby Doe used to come in there, walk in, she’d order flour, bacon, eggs, whatever she wanted. And when she got it all packaged up she’d say, put it on Horace’s bill. Well, Horace was dead. So they never billed her.
Tom: So they just carried her on the books?
Andy: Well they had the old receipt pads they had a string on them like a mousetrap, hung on the wall. Of course everybody in those days you went from payday to payday. You didn’t carry money with you a long time, you’d go up and pay the grocer. When we lived in Leadville there in ’37, up at the end of Seventh Street there was Pitt’s grocery store, and that’s the way they did it.
Tom: Now you just mentioned when you were living in Leadville in 1937 that was after the line had been closed across Boreas.
Andy: The road closed in 1937, in April, I believe. And we moved to Leadville. And dad sold his house. The original house we had in Como, dad paid $410 for it in 1918. And I had the cancelled check in the records and I gave it the people that own the house now, with a picture of it.
Linda: What street was that on in Como? They don’t go by street names, I know.
Andy: I don’t remember, but Tom has a book with all the street names in it.
Linda: We’ll find it (ed. between 7th and 8th on the west side of Pine, Block 21, Lot 5).
Tom: When you were living in Como with your parents, who were some of the boys and girls that you guys would get into mischief with?
Andy: Well, I started in the first grade when I was five years old. And Eugene Dungan, the Dungan family ran the grocery store (ed. Rowe Street between 6th and 7th, Block 13, Lot 13), him and I went through twelve grades together. And we used to joke about we all finished in the top three, there was only three in the class. I remember things. What kind of schooling did you have? When I said I finished in the top three, I wasn’t lying.
Tom: You stretched your stories a little bit there, Andy. What did the boys do in their free time? (laughter from Andy’s wife Betty)
Andy: They got in a little bit of trouble.
Tom: Anything serious?
Andy: No, we would go fishing, hunting and ride burros. And of course there was always a bunch of burros in Como in the wintertime, because the sheepherders would use them in the summertime up high then they would just turn them loose. So us kids would all claim a burro—I had a white one. We’d feed them potato peels, and whatever we could find for them, a little hay. They’d eat anything, though. But most of the time the kids were pretty good. They were kind of ornery around Halloween sometimes.
Linda: What did they do around Halloween?
Andy: Well, they turned over outhouses hoping to get somebody in them. They put a buggy on top of the schoolhouse.
Tom: On top of the schoolhouse. Do you mean the high school or the elementary school?
Andy: Elementary school.
Tom: Oh, my! Well then, where did you find the buggy?
Andy: I don’t know, they found it somewhere. One somebody had in their garage there.
Tom: While you were living then in Como, the section man, De Leo, I believe was the name.
Andy: There were two De Leo’s. There was Frank De Leo and Joe De Leo. They were brothers. They were both section foremen. One had one section going one way and one had a section going the other way. Joe used to give me a haircut for twenty-five cents. Frank lived down on the old stone row.
Tom: Stone row. For those who don’t know what you mean by Stone Row, what’s that?
Andy: Stone row was the original—there’s not much left of it, it’s all fallen down now, I think—adjacent to the round house. Homes all made out of rock. At that time they put rocks together without cement. Us kids used to hang around down there, Frank had a phonograph.
Tom: Now this was Frank De Leo
Andy: Frank De Leo. We would go down there and listen to the phonograph. Then he had one of them cigarette machines. I can’t remember the name; I could say it the other day. But you’d put the paper in and put the tobacco in and you’d roll the cigarette. Us kids would smoke cigarettes. What happened one time down there, the old kitchen matches, you know, you lit those kitchen matches and the flame—and I burnt all my eyebrows off. Every kid wore caps them days. And so I went home for supper that night, and I thought, “How am I going to get by with this?” And so I thought, “Well, I’ll just leave my cap on.” So I sat down at the table and my mother and dad sat down and my sister. And they all looked at me. My mother said, “You’re not going to sit at this table with your cap on, take your cap off.” I took my cap off and had no eyebrows. Mother said, “I thought you’d been smoking.”
Linda: What did you use for tobacco to roll into the papers?
Andy: I forget what kind it was, Prince Albert or something or other.
Linda: So you actually bought tobacco?
Andy: You know kids would experiment with smoking. And then another episode, my job in the house was—you know you had no indoor plumbing. And you had a well and a back room and you had a coal shed. The houses were very small. The house, I suppose, the total room in the house was in square foot no bigger than this living room and the dining room. My job was to pump the water right off the kitchen, my job was to take the ashes out, get coal in, firewood in, empty the slop bucket. All the bedrooms had chamber pots in them. And so, I guess in today’s vocabulary they’d be calling me a sanitary engineer, but that was my job, too. And of course, you had an education, before you took the ashes out, you’d always dump water on them so you wouldn’t start a fire. And you always went out and you dumped the slop bucket, you’d always find which way the wind was blowing.
Tom: Now when you refer to dumping the slop bucket, you have to remember, Andy, now this is September, 2005, and I would suspect that a number of people don’t know just what you are referring to as a slop bucket, and I wonder if some people really understand this sanitary engineer job that you had?
Andy: Well, most had a little wash stand by the stove. It had a bucket and a dipper and then had an enamel basin for washing your hands and soap. And two types of soap had Lava soap, for anybody that worked on the railroad to get the coal dust off, and another bar of soap. And then underneath the stand, it had a little curtain on it, you’d part the curtain there was a slop bucket. You’d dump the waste water into that, and any droppings that was off of the table, you’d dump in there, and it was my job to dump that. Most of the time, if you dumped it you took it back about a hundred yards back of the house on the hill. You dumped it, and any solid parts in there, the birds would eat it up. Then you’d have to keep the water full. And you had a dipper. If you wanted a drink of water, you drank out of the dipper. Of course the wells—Most of the time the women all washed on Monday, they ironed on Tuesday, they baked on Wednesday and they quilted on Thursday. And so most of the time they all had homemade bread. Everything was made from scratch. Of course round steak, in those days you could go down to the store and get round steak for ten cents a pound. It was real steak then, because all the cattle was grass fed. Most everything came in on the railroad. I remember the first bicycle I ever had, I ordered it out of the Montgomery Ward catalog—eight dollars for a bicycle, came in on the railway express line. Got a 410 shotgun that cost ten dollars. Of course you had to save your money for that.
Tom: Where did you get your spending money? Were you selling hides just like your dad started?
Andy: There wasn’t much spending money.
Tom: Well, that’s what I was wondering.
Andy: Spending money today might be twenty dollars and spending money then might be two pennies.
Tom: How did your mother ever get Brownie’s coveralls clean when he would come in for a run on the railroad?
Andy: Well you had a big boiler you put on the stove, and it had handles on each end. And if you’ve seen the old stompers, they had, they were metal on the bottom, they were about that big there, and the opening there, would squash it and what it would do was circulate the water up through the overalls, usually lye soap. Then you had to rinse them real good and hang them out outside.
Tom: Now this lye soap, was that soap that your mother had made?
Andy: No, Mrs. Nelson used to make lye soap and we’d buy it from her. She lived below the school house. She used to raise chickens, we’d get eggs there. And she made sauerkraut, we’d buy sauerkraut from her. The rest of the stuff you got down at the grocery store, which was Dungan’s grocery store.
Tom: Now this Mrs. Nelson, wasn’t there a Nelson that worked on the railroad?
Andy: Yah, that was Andy Nelson. There was two generations of Nelsons that came from Kansas, in the early days. And they run the gas station down there then, the blacksmith shop and the filling station, down there near where the fire bell was.
Tom: Where the fire bell was. Ok, the fire bell is long gone now. Where would the gas station be with respect to where the Como Mercantile building is now?
Andy: The other end of the block.
Tom: On the other end of the block, that would be, I believe a there’s a firehouse that’s been built there at the present time.
Andy: Yes. And between there and the next block there was a bandstand.
Linda: Tell us about the bandstand. I’ve seen one photo of it, but tell us when they played and where it was.
Andy: Well they didn’t play that I can remember, but in the early days they had a band that played there. Incidentally, my Uncle Tom played the trombone, and Uncle Joe played the trumpet, and they played in the Como band. And my cousin (Marian Gibby Burch) tells about it. We lived in Alma at the time—I was seven years old—but in 1927 when Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis to Paris they celebrated. And Marian Gibbony Burch tells about the time when Uncle Tom and Uncle Joe and all the bands paraded around Como blowing their horns and playing band music. Of course that was a big thing in those days. We had a radio but the reception was not that good.
Tom: Well now, you talk about the celebration after Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight, did you have any thoughts at that time that you might be flying at some point?
Andy: I had no idea. I was seven years old, living at Alma at the time. That was when my dad did the run from Alma to Como and back every day. That was with Curly Colligan. Curly Colligan and Nell Colligan lived in one cabin and my dad, mother, sister and I lived in another cabin. I don’t know how far Alma is from Alma Junction, about a mile?
Tom: About a mile, yes.
Andy: I went to school there when I was in the second grade. I always remember that because my timetables, I didn’t do my time tables. Nines. So the teacher made me stay after school and I had to write on the blackboard. Nine times six, nine times six, I had to do the whole thing. It was dark and my sister went home, walked home early, and it was real dark, you know. It was just an old wagon road coming down from Alma to Alma Junction. It was about seven in the evening by the time I got out of school. I think I saw bobcat eyes in all the trees, and wolves and coyotes. And they didn’t say anything about keeping me after school, but they got after me about why I didn’t do better in school. So I always remember nine times six.
Tom: Well, now, when you were in Alma, and living over there in Alma Junction, your dad was on the run from Alma Junction over to Como, would he leave in the morning or leave in the afternoon, do you recall?
Andy: He’d leave in the morning and then meet the trains in Como, the passenger trains. There were passenger trains for Fairplay and Garo or Alma. They took passengers plus the mail and any freight. It was in about ’27. Curly Colligan was the engineer and my dad was the fireman and they had a watchman. And on the weekend they would do their own work on the engine. They had their repair work to do.
Tom: So it was a six day a week run, is that correct?
Andy: And they got Sunday off if there was nothing to do on the engine.
Tom: What kind of repair would your dad have to do on the locomotive?
Andy: They might have to cork flues.
Tom: Have to do what to the flues?
Andy: Cork the flues if they had any leaking flues. They would knock the fire out and crawl in there and they had a special tool and a hammer. The tool was kind of like a half moon. I remember one time I was working in the roundhouse on engine #75. We knocked the fire out. Jim Diamond and I went in, left the blower on to get air. We got some of the flues that were leaking. Of course, they were copper flues. And they would pean them over.
Tom: Now was the family living in Alma Junction over Christmas that year?
Andy: Yes they did. One year—not quite one year.
Tom: I would think that you probably had a Christmas tree?
Andy: Yah, had a Christmas tree, and on Christmas trees those days you always had old-time ornaments, strung popcorn, and they had little clips to hold the candles, but you never lit the candles. Afraid of fire.
Tom: Then when you moved back to Como, I assume your dad was on a Como to Leadville run most of the time?
Andy: Those days most of the time Como to Leadville was assigned a number of engines for freight. They had regular passenger runs, and they might assign two engines to freight, they might assign, three, might assign four. According to seniority, if you were senior enough, you’d get a regular assignment, if not you were on the extra board. So most of the time, if you had less than twenty years in you were on the extra board.
Linda: So when did you move to Alma? You lived in Como first when you were very young and then you moved to Alma.
Andy: In 1927. We were there just for one school term.
Linda: You were in Alma only one school term, but you were in Como before that?
Andy: Before that, Yah.
Linda: What did you do after that?
Andy: Went back to Como, and stayed in Como until 1937. We moved to Leadville then.
Linda: You were there when that last train came through? What do you remember about that?
Andy: I remember the train coming through. A lot of people rode the train from Como to Leadville and back the next day. Engine 60.
Tom: Did your dad work the last passenger train, or was he on the freight?
Andy: There’s a picture in your book that shows the last freight train. A picture of all the group there. He was on freight. The last passenger train was Curly Colligan and Guy Hallock St. John and Roy Hight.
Tom: Did Roy Hight live in Como or did he work out of Denver?
Andy: He worked out of Denver. Most all the trainmen worked out of Denver because they held rights on the Platte Canyon, on the Highline district and the Gunnison district. That’s why Joe Perschbacher always lived in Denver and worked the east end and Oscar Perschbacher always worked the other end and lived in Leadville.
Tom: You mentioned the Highline district. There are possibly some folks who do not know what that term Highline District refers to. What did that mean?
Andy: Well the Highline—there was the Platte Canyon district and there was the Gunnison District and they had to give it a name of some kind so they gave it the Highline District or the Leadville District. Then it would run from Como to Leadville. And then the Platte Canyon District ran from Denver to Como. Most all the freights left Denver at night.
Tom: Out of Denver or out of Como?
Andy: Out of Denver. Because that way they’d coincide with the freight leaving Como going to Leadville. They’d get in about six, seven o’clock in the morning. Our house where we lived now you could look over there and see Kenosha Pass. You could see the train coming summer mornings about five o’clock in the morning. They only had one grade. It was real steep and that was from Grant up to the top of Kenosha Pass. A lot of times they would just double head then turn around a couple of engines and go back to Denver.
Tom: Since we’re on the top of Kenosha Pass and talking about that, why don’t we stop for a break at this point and you can catch your breath and see what we’re doing here.
Tom: Andy, we were talking about trains coming in to Como and you being able to look out from your home to Kenosha Pass and seeing a westbound train dropping down into the South Park. When your dad had a call for a run, who would get the call to your dad?
Andy: Most of the times that was Johnny Lemon’s job. Hostler’s helper down at the roundhouse. In other words, he worked nights. He would walk and call all the crews. There were four engines on that train crew going out. He had to make one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight calls. In different parts of town. In the wintertime that was tough work. With the wind blowing, he had to give them a two-hour call. If they were going out at six, he would call them at four o’clock in the morning. Many a morning in the wintertime, with snow blowing, snow on the ground, the wind was blowing—you know how the wind can blow in Como—and he’d walk up there and pound on that back window of my dad’s bedroom, hard, “engine 71, 6 o’clock.” Then dad would get up and he’d build a fire—you didn’t have all the fires at night—build a fire, he’d shave, then my mother would come out and make hot cakes, bacon and eggs, coffee and us kids would get up. If you missed breakfast, you didn’t get fed the second time. She’d pack a lunch for my dad. He’d pick up that metal case he had, his camera, his lunch pail and head to the round house.
Tom: You said your mom packed your dad a lunch. What typically would she include in the lunch?
Andy: Most of the time we had roast pork or roast beef or roast lamb, meat sandwiches. Homemade bread. And of course homemade bread slices were big. Two slices of bread, lots of roast beef in there. An apple, an orange and a thermos bottle full of coffee. Then he fired the engine all the way to Leadville on that.
Tom: Now did your dad work the Platte Canyon District at all?
Andy: Only when they run the ice rush in January. You know where Maddox Lake is.
Tom: What do you mean by the ice rush?
Andy: The City of Denver was supplied ice–most the whole city was supplied by the Maddox Ice Company. Maddox was down there, I don’t know the exact location, west of Bailey, I think, somewhere.
Tom: It was where today’s Platte Canyon High School and Middle School is currently located.
Andy: And of course they used every box car they could find. And they had to work around the clock. They’d load twenty cars of ice, big blocks about the size of that sofa. They had big power saws out there sawing them up; they’d load them there in saw dust, and they’d make another move and load another box car, another box car and soon as that one was loaded, they headed towards Denver. Of course, in those days all of Denver was supplied by ice, they had iceboxes. They had the old ice truck and the guy with the tongs and the leather jacket on. He had to go up two flights of stairs with thirty, forty pounds of ice. But that’s where most of the time he became good friends with Mickey McGowan. Because he used to fire for Mickey McGowan. He’d take a lot of the High Line people in the winter time and run them down there to work on the ice train. Mickey was killed in Engine #346 on the east side of Kenosha Pass.
Tom: Since you’ve mentioned Mickey McGowan and the derailment that he was killed on, what do you recall about that accident that took Mickey McGowan’s life?
Andy: Well I remember that dad found out about it and we went to Fairplay. They took him to the Fairplay hospital and my dad went over. And when Mickey died, my dad was holding his hand. I was sixteen years old and I was sitting back by my dad. You’ve seen clay when it cracks on a lake bed, his skin was that way. They had him all doped up with morphine. My dad said, “Mickey, this is Brownie.” I’m sure he heard him.
Tom: We’re going to have to stop here a second and change the tape. (pause) Andy, you were talking about Mickey McGowan and I missed part of what you had said about them taking Mickey over to the hospital. The hospital in Fairplay. Where was the hospital in Fairplay at that time?
Andy: I couldn’t tell you the exact street where it’s on. It’s up on the hill.
Tom: Behind where the Fairplay Hotel is toady, I believe. How old did you say you were at the time?
Andy: That was 1936, I was sixteen years old. And what I understand on that, the train Mickey lost, engine 346, he had a fireman by the name of Johnson, he was a yard fireman, and I’m sure if he’d been a regular fireman and was familiar with the territory it may have come out differently.
Tape One, Side Two
Andy: They seen him run on the 346 and they said he was doing about forty-five miles an hour. And of course they had blind drivers on that (ed. some drivers did not have flanges and were called blind).
Tom: Now that #346, that was one of the Rio Grande locomotives that the C & S leased, was it not?
Andy: Yah. And the air system was different on them. They had a straight air brake system. But Cyr was the conductor on that train. A lot of times they would just tie the engine in on the back of the caboose, and part of the train they just let it run loose. But, I’ll tell you a little story about Kenosha Pass. Maybe not the roads they have today. In other words in those days they had a lot of soft shoulders. Almost everywhere they’d go there were soft shoulders. My Uncle Tom had a 1927 Chevrolet with a canvas top on it. He and Charley Thomas went down to Grant and had a couple of drinks, I guess. They were coming back over the top of Kenosha Pass, he hit a soft shoulder and they turned that ’27 Chev over and Charley Thomas went through the top. And when it turned over he got pinned under and it pinned his nose between a rock and that hickory frame on that 1927 Chevrolet. Charley had a big nose, huge nose. So he (Uncle Tom) had to go get a piece of timber to use as a lever to get the ’27 Chev off of Charley so he could get him out. He was really bleeding, and he didn’t know what to do, so Uncle Tom took a handkerchief and took a strip off for a bandana and tied his nose up. Of course the nearest doctor was in Fairplay, and they couldn’t get to Fairplay for two days. So the scar had healed up and they couldn’t sew it up anymore. So Charley had to live for the rest of his life with a big scar on his nose. And the girls that lived in Canon City, Mary & Joan, they thought he had caught his nose in a wreck. But he went through the top of a ’27 Chevrolet, is how he got that cut.
Tom: Well now, I was going to mention when you talked about the lease, the Rio Grande locomotive that rolled over on Kenosha Pass, was—how did the C & S get to the point of having some leased Rio Grande locomotives; and we need to talk about the big derailment that Brownie Anderson was not directly involved in that took place with the eastbound freight on Boreas Pass.
Andy: Well the result of losing two engines, they were short of motive power, so they got three engines leased from the Denver & Rio Grande Southern–345, 346 and 347 (ed. Denver & Rio Grande 343, 345 and 346), I think they were. But Uncle Tom–that was a freight that left Leadville at 9 o’clock in the morning, if I remember right, Uncle Tom telling about it. It was January 21, 1936. It left with three engines, Engine 73, Engine 75 and Engine 537. And Charley Williamson was in Engine 75, Charley Thomas was in Engine 73, Tom Gibbony was in the train engine, 537. So they fought snow all the way there, with eight cars of molybdenum, fought the snow all the way into Breckenridge. They headed out of Breckenridge and fought snow all the way to Baker’s Tank; they doubled five times between Baker’s Tank and the top of Boreas Pass to get eight cars of molybdenum up there. Of course it wasn’t to drag every time they had the car flanger with them. So when they got to the top of the hill they put Engine 73 in the front and the car flanger on Engine 75 and turned them loose. And Uncle Tom told them about he couldn’t get the train started because of the snow blowing underneath the train (ed. this is engine 537 and train). It took him about thirty minutes to get the train started. That’s why he didn’t get the track open. So they headed out (engine #537 and the train, forget the milepost. That is where they derailed #75 and #73) —the day before the passenger train couldn’t get up, they made ice on the one side….
Tom: Who was the engineer on the passenger train the day before?
Andy: I think it was probably Curly Colligan. There were two engines…..I don’t remember.
Tom: So the two engines and the car flanger then departed the top of Boreas and this was what time of day are we talking about?
Andy: About two o’clock in the morning. And of course, you can imagine most of the time when they were at the top of the hill like that going east and west the wind was blowing and they had to keep the cab windows closed. They’d think about–all those engineers were so familiar with the terrain, they knew where all the switches were. They all had flangers on the front of the pony trucks? and they had to be able to raise the flangers by air so they wouldn’t tear up the switch. So most of the time the fireman would bring all the curtains around, load up with coal, get the steam pressure up and head down the hill. They knew just about where all the drifts were, and you couldn’t see much, so they went by feel. So there was quite a bit to bucking snow like that. So what they figured on that was most of the time there was ice on that inboard rail caused by the passenger train coming the day before. What would happen, the lead engine would be operating the air on that and would be operating the front in a sense because if he had to accelerate, the whistle guy behind you would be whistling ahead with two short blasts. I remember one time when Frank Phalen came to the house—he was one of the Leadville yard people once in a while. He said one time he was at Leadville, two engines, engine #72 and engine #68—my dad was on engine #72 and Phalen was on #68—Phalen said he always hated to go to South Park, was scared to death to ride them trains up there. So they left Climax, and when they got to Kokomo, Dad went back and told him, “Frank, why wasn’t you wide open, we swept the snowdrifts all night”—crept into Como about two o’clock in the morning. A lot of them yardmen didn’t like to work on the highline.
Tom: When these locomotives derailed on this big derailment on Boreas, do you recall who the crew was on the lead locomotive?
Andy: Yeah, it was Charley Thomas.
Tom: And his fireman was—
Andy: Clinton Eshe, I think.
Tom: And then the car flanger followed and then on the second locomotive the engineer—
Andy: Charley Williamson was killed on that wreck, and the fireman was Schnurbusch
Tom: Do you remember which one of the Schnurbusch boys that was?
Andy: Doug Schnurbusch. He quit the railroad after that. He was scared so bad, he said I’m not going to fire any more, and he resigned.
Tom: So those two locomotives derailed. Then what took place with the third locomotive and the train of molybdenum–
Andy: That was the #537, it came down the hill and stopped before the derailment. Tom Gibbony and I think the fireman was Art Johnson.
Tom: Yes it was.
Andy: And so I think Clinton Eshe got up there and quieted them down.
Tom: And that kept the third locomotive from then derailing.
Andy: Of course it took them a while to get the track replaced, so they had to do what they called snow up the engine or snow up the tank. In other words, they backed up to the water tank and then threw snow into the manhole on the tender. Then someone had to get down into the water tank (ed. tender)and then throw the snow where the steam could melt it.
Tom: Well, now, if the crew had to snow the tank of the locomotive after the derailment, what about the length of time that these men had been working, were they exceeding the-
Andy: I suppose, thirty some hours.
Tom: So they were exceeding their hours that they were allowed to work
Andy: Well, there was no place to tie up. Sixteen hours long—you had to tie up after sixteen hours. And so they just had to work there and keep things in line. I don’t think that’s the first time they got stuck in the snowdrift. That’s why they had the hose from the tank to the engine had a cone shaped ear in it so they’d catch any cinders.
Tom: At that time were there any snow sheds still in use on Boreas Pass?
Andy: I don’t think there were any snow sheds, no.
Tom: Do you remember snow sheds when you were a young fellow on Boreas—did you ever catch any rides across Boreas from Como with your dad or with your uncles?
Andy: I used to ride once in a while with Bob Thomas and my dad. I went with engine 58 one time, went up to from Dickey to Dillon and up to—what’s the name of the place up there—Keystone. The track was so bad they had to have a small engine that didn’t weigh much to go up on the top, it was so bad. And of course, they used to run light engines out of Como to help the freight back coming east from Leadville.
Tom: Those light engines that would run out of Como to help an eastbound freight out of Leadville, they would run over to Dickey, is that correct?
Andy: Go to Dickey, turn on the wye, take water, take coal and hooked into the train from there going from Dickey to Breckenridge up to the top of the hill and they would turn the light engine loose.
Tom: Then the light engine would run down to Como ahead of the freight, is that correct?
Andy: That’s correct.
Tom: Now, for those people who do not know what Dickey was or where Dickey had been, where was Dickey?
Andy: Dickey was where Dillon Dam is now, part of it.
Tom: So Dickey is flooded by the reservoir at the present time.
Andy: And they had a spur that went from Dickey to Dillon, and I don’t know how far that was.
Tom: I don’t recall in mileage, four miles maybe—two, three miles.
Bob: Dickey to Dillon wasn’t very far. The whole Keystone branch was only about four miles from Dickey going through Dillon. I think Dillon to Dickey was only about a mile.
Andy: It wasn’t very far.
Tom: At Dickey, there was a depot there, is that correct?
Andy: There was a depot there, a coal chute, a depot and a water tank.
Tom: Jumping a little bit in time, did you spend some time at Dickey when they were scrapping the railroad in the summer of 1938?
Andy: They moved engine 8, 58, 69 and 71, from Leadville to Dickey, put them on the main line there. My dad and I went over there first to watch the engines, then dad left to become a fireman for Platt Rogers (no “e” on Platt) Rogers and I stayed there to watch engines.
Tom: Do you recall about what time of the summer this was—June or July?
Andy: I think it was August.
Andy: My job was to coal up the coal chutes, and to put ties in all the engines’ fireboxes. So all I had to do was throw some kerosene in there and a match to light a fire. I remember when I got a telegram–the girl delivered it from Breckenridge. Fire up engine 69, engine 71 and engine 58. At the same time my dad was over there and somebody stole the bell off of engine #8.
Tom: Stole the bell?
Andy: Yeah, somewhere in the records I’ve got there’s a letter from the superintendent of the Colorado (&) Southern in Denver to explain what happened to the bell. We found the bell. It was on a ranch out of Breckenridge. The old Barney Whatley ranch. Someone had stolen the bell put it on the gateway up there. My dad and I went up and got the bell.
Tom: Who owned that ranch?
Andy: I think Barney Whatley did.
Tom: He owned the ranch—
Andy: He owned the ranch outside of Breckenridge.
Tom: Was he not tied in with Climax molybdenum?
Andy: He was a lawyer, a retainer for Climax—the original retainer. He was the original attorney.
Tom: While you were at Dickey, did you shovel coal from gondola cars into the coal chute there at Dickey?
Andy: Coal cars into the coal chutes, yeah. I forget how many chutes there were, but they had two cars of coal. It was something like ten chutes, I think. Ten or twelve chutes. I am not sure if 10 or 12.
Tom: Did you have any free time while you were at Dickey?
Andy: Yeah, we had twenty-four hours a day. They hadn’t started yet, so once you got the chutes full, we were just waiting for the word. And I lived in the depot, had a cot there, and all the pack rats like that door there, they came down out of the attic. I had a twenty-two. It was hard to shoot them at night, but you could see their eyes. So I brought my dog over. I had a wire-haired terrier. I brought my dog over. He didn’t go to sleep, he’d catch them rats every night—one or two. And we’d fish in the Blue, go fishing every day. You didn’t spend all your time over there.
Tom: So you got paid by Platt Rogers to fish in the Blue?
Andy: I suppose—they didn’t know it, what else was there to do? If you wanted groceries you walked to Dillon, I don’t think it was over a mile, mile-and-a-half. We lived on fish, round steak and fried potatoes, beans.
Tom: You were how old at this time?
Tom: Well then after the locomotives were fired up and the actual scrapping operations began, what did you do at that point?
Andy: I stayed there in Dickey until they tore up the rail lines all the way to Dickey.
Tom: Still filling the coal chutes?
Andy: Watched the engines. Because that’s where they tied up was at Dickey. They worked tearing up the rail all the way from Climax to Dickey, that’s where they tied up all the engines. And they coaled and watered them there.
Tom: Your dad, Brownie Anderson, at that time was also working for Platt Rogers; was he working in pulling rail down through the Ten Mile or was he taking the rail over to Como?
Andy: He was on engine #71 hauling the rail from Dickey to Como, and it was picked up by engine 73 and my uncle Tom Gibbony would take it to Denver.
Tom: So Brownie was really making turns over Boreas Pass at that time.
Andy: I’ve got one picture in there—Otto Perry took it.
Tom: So after the line was removed and you and your parents moved back from Como to Leadville, what took place at that point? Your dad no longer could run over Boreas Pass and you had graduated from high school, and what was your high school standing when you graduated?
Andy: Top three.
Tom: You were in the top three of the high school?
Andy: There was only three in the class. (laughter)
Tom: Well you didn’t have to say there was only three in the class, you could have left it at the top three, and we could have left our imaginations go.
Andy: The deal at the school, at the old grade school, you just had a partition. If you failed a grade, you stayed in the same seat.
Tom: That would have been terrible.
Andy: Well, no, the kids didn’t say anything. The guy didn’t make it is all. If you didn’t pass, you didn’t pass. Today if you’re not passing, you’re classified as a little bit dumb; you didn’t stand in corners.
Tom: When you moved back to Leadville what did your dad do and what did you do?
Andy: Well at that time there was quite a bit of ore coming out of the Climax, they were running engines through and stuff like that they were firing engines to Climax. We worked in the roundhouse as a helper or worked in places where somebody was laid off or on vacation. You could have went to Denver and if you went to Denver you got a job in the yard.
Tom: What did you do when you were in Leadville?
Andy: I went to work on the section. I worked on the section for about a year. And I worked in the roundhouse.
Tom: And that would of course have been before the segment of the Colorado & Southern from Leadville to Climax was still narrow gauge and not yet standard gauge.
Andy: 1938 to 1939. Worked on the section head, Gus Palucci was the section foreman and myself and then they had a Mexican kid that couldn’t speak English. And they had two Austrians. Of course Leadville was a different town then. They had ?town up above Seventh Street where all the Irish lived . Down below Harrison Avenue where all the Austrians lived, and Stringtown where all the Mexicans lived. We all worked together but they all went home to a different area of town.
Tom: Where did the Swedes live?
Andy: Right in between most of the time near the railroad? I guess. Getting back to the work on the section. I got forty cents an hour that was $3.20 a day. And I gave my mother a dollar a day for board and keep. She’d pack me a lunch. I’d eat three or four, five sandwiches. I was a pretty tough kid then at eighteen. This Mexican and I could swing the spike bow in coordination drive spikes. The two Austrians couldn’t read or write, couldn’t tell time. So one guy had a big gold watch, when he wanted to know what time it was he’d say, “I can’t tell what time it is, what time is it?” And we’d have to tell him what time it was. But everybody worked hard then. We’d ride a motor car, clean up ties, pack rail, and in the winter time we shoveled snow.
Tom: You shoveled snow in Leadville?
Andy: No, in Climax. I lived in Climax for about a month, in the depot there.
Tom: Did you have packrats in the depot at Climax?
Andy: No, just snow. That’s why when I went into the navy in 1941, I went to boot camp in San Diego, and I thought I was in heaven. I was twenty-one years old and no screens on the windows, the sun shined all day, had three meals a day and all we had to do was march a little bit. And I’d been run over and tramped around a lot so it didn’t bother me, I thought it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. Five years before that if you mentioned San Diego I never knew where it was at. I never got away from home too far.
Tom: Coming back to Climax, what snow did you have to shovel at Climax?
Andy: Before you get to the tip of the hill coming into Climax at that big cut, there is a switch in here, and we had to shovel that switch out. Most of the time that cut was as deep as the top of this room, and you’d have to go up there and shovel a place out to throw it over the top and then you’d have to shovel the switch out and throw it up there. Then as soon as the freight would come in it would fill the switch and you’d do it all over again. Then dig out the crossing, because they had—this isn’t exactly known, but in 1936 they claim in Leadville it snowed 58 days in a row. Sometime during that time, there was 410 inches in Leadville during 1935 and 1936.
Tom: That’s a lot of snow.
Andy: That’s a lot of snow.
Tom: When you were in grade school in Como, would you meet your dad when he would come into town on a train from Leadville?
Andy: In the summer time, yeah.
Tom: And how would you know he was coming into town, would you see the train coming down through Peabody’s on Boreas Pass?
Andy: We knew because the guy in the depot would find out. He found out when they left Breckenridge.
Tom: Do you remember who was working in the depot at that time?
Andy: Robert McFarland. He always knew who went to Leadville. He later moved to Leadville.
Tom: Robert McFarland earlier had spent a lot of time over in the Platte Canyon district working.
Andy: He was an agent in Jefferson for a number of years.
Tom: An agent at Jefferson and also at Estabrook as well. Who else do you recall working on the railroad when you were a young lad in Como?
Andy: I’m not sure who worked on the railroad.
Tom: Well then let’s, maybe we can take a little time and really test your memory, and maybe you can go down the line of who was an engineer and who was a fireman of some of the people in Como. Like your uncles, the Snurbusches, the Hallocks, just go down the line of the names of some of these men.
Andy: In the 30’s most of the time Guy Hallock fired for Curly Colligan on the passenger train, and as I said before, it was assigned so many engines to freight according to how much business there was. Two engines or three engines or four engines. In the 30’ most of the times it was four engines because of the business they were doing. So an average freight going out in the morning would be Bob Thomas, engineer, Charley Thomas, engineer, Charley Williamson, engineer and Brownie Anderson, engineer. Tom Gibbony used to fire for Charley Thomas, Pete Marinelli would fire for Bob Thomas and ? Delaney would fire for Charley Williamson, the next guy would fire for my dad.
Linda: Did you know any of the Speas family, or did your dad?
Andy: The Speas, I didn’t know any of them, that was before my time. My mother knew all the Speas and my dad did.
Tom: You mentioned the name Marinelli. Were the Marinelli’s any relatives of yours? Andy: Pete Marinelli was Annie Gibbony’s brother. She was married to Tom Gibbony. They had the ranch out at Peabody’s.
Tom: You mentioned the name that we haven’t talked previously of, Delaney. Who were the Delaney’s?
Andy: Delaney had a saloon in Como, and Joe Delaney was one of the sons and Lynn Delaney was the sister of Joe Delaney and she was married to George Champion.
Tom: How do the Champions fit into all of this? Who was George Champion?
Andy: George Champion, I think, was one of the original settlers in South Park. Came to Jefferson. His father opened up a mercantile company.
Tom: Then eventually migrated to Como?
Andy: George went to work in Como, then he worked some at Moffat as a machinist.
Tom: Do you remember any talk of any of the people who were in Como at your time who had any connection to the coal mining town of King?
Andy: Yes, the Marinellis did.
Tom: Do you know which Marinelli by any chance, that would go back quite a few years.
Andy: No, I don’t.
Linda: You mentioned the name Delaney, wasn’t that Delaney’s saloon in Como a number of years, as well as several others, it seems like there were a lot of saloons at that time.
Andy: I think at one time there was six or seven saloons in Como.
Linda: Did you ever sneak into them when you were a boy?
Andy: No, of course, I’ve been close. Most of the times I remember were prohibition times. When was prohibition? What years?
Tom: Well it started about 1918, 1919 and ran to about 1921, 1922, thereabouts. (ed. 1920 to 1933)
Andy: A little longer than that, I think.
Bob: Yeah, closer to 1930.
Tom: Well if we’re talking about prohibition, then, what did everybody in Como do for any liquor during prohibition, because obviously you needed something in Como?
Andy: Well, there were several bootleggers. One bootlegger worked on the railroad, got fired for bootlegging. They lived on the old Martin ranch; there is a Christian church something…
Linda: Como Church Camp?
Tom: Martin Ranch, that would be up close to where…
Andy: Back of the cemetery. While we’re mentioning names, George and Sadie Duffey lived there. George used to moonshine and had his stills out at the end of the lane. And the feds were always coming out of Denver, they would get on the train, and they were always after George. They had him in jail one time, and I think they just fined him and let him go. But they’d leave the depot at Union Station in Denver and the slaver (ed. dispatcher)? would type some kind of a message that the feds were on the train. So George and Sadie had a big long spyglass and so they’d see the train coming in. They would go out there and put that spyglass up. The feds thought they would be real cute and when the train was turning at the wye, they would get off at the wye and walk in.
Tom: You talk about turning the train on the wye, there’s a number of people who don’t know anything about the wye—could you explain a little bit about that?
Andy: Well they didn’t have room for a wye, I don’t think, in Como, so they put a wye out there, so the passenger train would turn on the wye and be headed in the right direction to go to Leadville.
Tom: You say the wye was out there, where was it from Como? Was it across the draw, across the gulch?
Andy: Across the draw, yeah. Of course, I think at one time didn’t they have a track that ran down to the King Coal Mines?
Tom: Yes, a track ran from the tail of the wye down to the King Coal Mines.
Tom: In high school, Andy, what social life did you have, did you have plays at the high school?
Andy: We had plays in the old town hall. And I was dressed up as a girl one time.
Tom: And you were in the production, I assume.
Andy: I hated it.
Tom: You hated the production or you hated the dress.
Andy: I hated the roll I had.
Linda: What was the play?
Andy: I don’t remember the name of the play, but they had a play every year. The old town hall had the old stage up there and a player piano and an organ. Of course, that’s where we used to have all the dances.
Tom: Was the production put on during the day or in the evening?
Andy: In the evening.
Tom: Who took care of the lighting, how did you arrange that?
Andy: It wasn’t very hard, we just had kerosene lamps, gas lamps. Of course everybody graduated from kerosene lamps to Coleman lamps.
Tom: This was obviously before REA had brought electricity into Como.
Andy: We lived in Como and they still didn’t have electricity.
Tom: You used kerosene lamps and Coleman lamps in Como?
Andy: Well, everybody had a kerosene lamp for backup but they used Coleman lamps because you’d get a little more light. You used white gas with them—Nelsons’ always carried white gas. You always had extra mantles, because the miller moths would be attracted to them and the moths would knock the mantles out. That was one of my jobs too; it was to keep the lamps full of gas. They had a little generator, a little loop. I had to keep that cleaned up.
Tom: If you used those lamps in Como, what was used down at the roundhouse?
Andy: A generator was operated by steam off the stationary boiler.
Tom: Who devised the scheme of running a steam generator off the stationary boiler at the Como roundhouse?
Andy: Phil Duffy did all that.
Tom: That was one of Phil Duffy’s projects? What other projects did Phil Duffy do?
Andy: I remember one time in the summer time, engine 537 slipped a tire going up the west side of Boreas Pass. Phil Duffy came up with a device that was round, fit the size of the driver, of course, when they slipped a tire like that most of the time the tire didn’t slip off altogether, it just slipped on the wheel itself. So this was designed to fit over the driver with holes in it, fired by kerosene and compressed air. Get the fire real hot and shim it up, drive it back on and then go. And that was a hard job to do. You wanted to heat the tire so it would expand and fit on the driver.
Tom: And he did that out on the road then?
Andy: Right out on the road.
Tom: Where was this stationery boiler located in the roundhouse?
Andy: When you enter the door there right now. Along side of the roundhouse.
Tom: That would be the side of the building that would face towards the old main line to the Gunnison district, is that correct?
Andy: Yeah. And Phil Duffy set that up, it had a concrete floor with a drain, had some shower heads in there and that sort of thing. Each man would then take and wash their clothes and take a shower. They lived in the little dugouts on the side of the hill. Ever seen one of them in Como there by the car shop.
Tom: Could you explain a little bit more about these dugouts?
Andy: What they would do is they would dig out the side of the hill, and shore them in with mine props and timber, and then cover them with dirt, that was a stack in there for a small caboose type stove, so they’d bunk in there, and that’s where four or five of the east end men—John Farthing had one there—several east end men, that’s where they stayed. Then the shower, they’d wash their overalls in the stationery boiler. That’s how us kids would help Johnny Lemons? Johnny Lemons would coal all the chutes up, it was a long tedious job, so he let us kids shower in there and play in the water if we’d help him coal up his chutes. So we’d go up there and we’d help him coal his chutes, and we’d take a push cart and ride it out of the coal chutes down towards the water tank on the south end of the Como yard.
Tom: So you would take a pushcart up off of that coal chute, get on and let it roll?
Andy: Oh, yeah. It had a slot on each end over one wheel. You’d take a brake club and put it against the wheel and that’s how you stopped it. It gets going pretty good down the inclines on that coal chute.
Tom: I would think you would get going pretty good.
Andy: Then you push it all the way back up …
Tom: And I would assume that Lott who was C&S superintendent wouldn’t be in the neighborhood when you were doing this.
Andy: Johnny Lemons during …he likes his nip. Sometimes he couldn’t do his job so us kids would help him out. Getting back to the bootleggers, as I said before, when the feds got off—actually they weren’t feds, they were treasury agents—they got off the train at the wye and would walk in, walk all the way up to the old Martin place and read the search warrant to raid the ranch up there and Sadie Duffy met them at the door with a butcher knife and held them off so George could pour the hooch out and they caught it in their felt hats. They said, “George, we’ve got you now.’ What they didn’t know was that the whiskey went through the felt hats and they didn’t have any evidence.
Tom: So you’re saying then that the treasury agents could be a little light-headed on the way back to Denver?
Andy: Well, George Duffy had two horses. One was named Fly and the other was a gelding named Brownie, after my dad. So one day he went down to hook the horses up to go out to where the still was, a big long lane going towards Boreas Pass. A bee stung the mare; it took off and run away. George was sitting in the old wagon and got clear down the lane, there was a big tree down at the end and one on one side and one on the other, the wagon slipped, flipped, and George flew up in the air came down and broke his leg. This was north of town. There was only one phone in town, which was in the depot. Called the doctor, George had a broken leg. Old Doctor Dunkin (sp?) in Fairplay said it was a broken leg.
Tom: What did these moon shiners do with the old mash from the stills in Como?
Andy: Well there was a second well back of one house they was living in and a man by the name of Johnson was a Swede and he couldn’t speak English. So they threw the mash down this old well. Grandpa Gibbony had eight or ten pigs. The pigs ate that mash and got drunk, couldn’t move. So grandpa tried to sober up the pigs by pouring water on them. Sober them up a little bit and they’d go right back and eat that mash again. And so come to find out, the sheriff come over and found out about it, took George and Johnson to jail. My dad used to say all Johnson could say in Swedish was what would all of my relatives in Sweden think about my being in jail.
Tom: So you’re grandpa Pat Gibbony when he was serving pork roasts at the hotel, was actually serving marinated pork roasts?
Andy: I don’t know if it was the same hogs or not.
Tom: If you were in the top third of your graduating class, what were the names of the kids in your high school as you remember them?
Andy: Roy Greenwell and Eugene Dungan were the other two. And then my sister was two years ahead of me. Clair Dungan and another Dungan—the Dungans had about three kids in school. And the Nelsons and the Gibbony’s and…..
Tape Two, Side One
Tom: The superintendent for all of Park County, her name was….
Andy: Mrs. O’Maillia (sp?)
Andy: Maimie O’Maillia (sp?)
Tom: Okay. How did the high school come to be in Como when for so many years there was not a high school in Como?
Andy: I guess …(words not distinguishable) I do not know.
Tom: Did they build a new school?
Andy: I do not remember where they got that building.
Tom: So the building was moved to that location from in Como? Do you remember what the building was used for before it was moved for the high school?
Andy: I don’t recall, no.
Linda: I think it might have been a church, does that sound right? There was an old church building. Anyway there were some other old buildings in Como, I’m thinking of particularly the IOOF hall, what do you remember about that?
Andy: Is that the same as what they called the town hall?
Linda: I don’t think so, the town hall was a little building, the IOOF hall was a big old two-story building right along the main street there.
Andy: I don’t remember that.
Linda: They tore the second story off and put kind of an octagon second story on it later.
Tom: That lodge was adjacent to Green’s boarding house I believe.
Linda: I think you’re right. Do you remember anything about the buildings that were along the main street there?
Andy: I remember that most of them were in ill repair about that time, there was a Westfall family living in one building there. And around the corner was a boarding house for a while during the 30’s.
Linda: Was that the Allen..
Andy: Allen, ya. And Mrs. Westfall was a schoolteacher.
Linda: And what about the Champions, didn’t the Champions have a grocery store?
Andy: Champions had a grocery store, that was before my time but I remember my mother and dad talking about it.
Linda: Was the old Montag saloon, the one with the diamond shape on the door, was that open when you were there?
Andy: No, it wasn’t, no.
Linda: It was all closed up then.
Andy: Prohibition killed all them. They were in ill repair. During the depression there wasn’t much going on except the railroad and that was just hanging on.
Linda: What stories do you remember, I know you wanted to tell us some stories.
Andy: I lost my train of thought.
Tom: Well as a young boy in Como, what did you hear from your mother and dad about some of the other people in Como. Do you recall any stories that your dad came up with working on the railroad?
Andy: I remember a story that Uncle Tom used tell about one man in town… everybody had a wood stove, combination wood and coal stove. And they brought their wood in off the hill, everybody in the summertime spent part of their time cutting up wood, sawing up splitting it and storing it up for winter, because winter was long, most of the time you stored it alongside the house or inside the house. And this one man had his wood stored out there, Uncle Tom used to tell about it. Somebody stole his wood at night. So he thought, I don’t know who it is but I’ll find out, so he went and took a piece of wood and drilled a hole in it, filled it full of black powder and put the plug back in. About a week later all of a sudden in the middle of the night there was a BOOM that blew the roof off of a house in Como. Everybody thought, well that must have been the guy stealing the wood. Nobody said a word. They figured the guy getting his roof blowed off was enough.
Linda: (laughing) He must have been really cold then.
Andy: Everybody in Como had a piano. I always wondered why everybody had a piano. We had a piano, Uncle Tom had a piano, Delaney’s, everybody had a piano. And nobody could play the piano. A status symbol, I guess.
Tom: Well look at all that extra freight the railroad earned hauling all those pianos up to Como from Denver.
Andy: Mrs. Martin used to teach music. She lived up on the old Martin place and she used to teach music. My sister took lessons. All she could ever play was “The Beautiful Ohio.” But everybody had a piano. And they cost money then. Pianos those days were expensive. You’d buy one in Denver and ship it up on the railroad, railway express, then you had to have somebody with a truck or horse and wagon haul it to the house. I always wondered how they got it in those little doors; most of the doors were only 26 or 28 inches wide.
Tom: What kind of car did your dad drive?
Andy: A 1923 Chevrolet, with side curtains on it. And those days there were all corduroy roads, slick. When you went to Fairplay or Red Hill, if it rained you didn’t go over Red Hill. Slick, you couldn’t make it. And then we only had two cars, one a 1935 Chevrolet. How Dad bought that car was, Bergstrand came over from Bergstrand Chevrolet in Fairplay, brought the car over and left it for a week. My dad paid $639 for the car.
Tom: Did he drive it at all in the wintertime?
Andy: Yah, in Leadville we drove it, we had to put chains on it. In Como we didn’t drive it, but we drove it in Leadville. Most of the time people would take their cars in Como, put them in the garage, jack them up and put blocks under them to keep the weight off the tires, take the battery off, drain the radiator, and if they had any work to do—sometimes during the winter they would grind the valves on it. Then in the springtime they would take and put water back in the radiator, pull the car down off the blocks, put the battery back, jiggle the battery and go get ‘em. And the spare tire, you would carry the spare and all the inner tubes and if you got a flat you had to repair it right there.
Tom: When the passenger train came to Como from Denver, it would crest over Kenosha Pass and come down into the Park and come across the Park and come over to the location of the wye outside of Como, what would take place when the train got to the wye at Como?
Andy: It would stop and the brakeman would get off and throw the switch, turn on the wye and back into Como.
Tom: So the passenger train would back into Como..
Andy: That’s so they’d be headed the right way. Otherwise they could take the engine down and turn it on the turntable, but it was a bit easier that way.
Tom: Now when the train would back into Como where would they stop, where would they park? Would the engine be in front of the depot, would the cars be in front of the depot, just where would they put the train?
Andy: They generally would park where the railway express car would be right opposite the depot so they could load any railway express off. And they could also clear the switch for the main line to go to Leadville.
Tom: Now on the train that came from Leadville through Frisco, over to Dickey, Dillon and then back up to Breckenridge, come over Boreas Pass. As that passenger train came into Como what would take place?
Andy: Just the opposite, in other words, they’d spot it where the railway express car would be opposite the depot so they could load any freight, they would clear the switch and go back over to the wye.
Tom: So when they left Como for Denver, they would go back over to the wye, and then turn the entire train and go towards Denver. Now when the passenger train came into Como from Denver and when it came into Como from Leadville, the engine crews would change, the fireman and the engineer, what about the train crews, the brakeman, the conductors…
Andy: Same train crew. The train crew on the passenger train came all the way from Leadville into Denver and from Denver into Leadville.
Tom: So the train crews would not change, just the engine crews.
Andy: Tommy St. John was the conductor for years; he lived in Denver.
Tom: So he would never spend the night in Como unless there were some extreme weather conditions.
Andy: No. Most of the time they would coal the engine up in Dickey and they’d take water at Selkirk coming east. That way they didn’t have to break the engine off and coal her up or give her water (ed. at Como) because then they could take water at Jefferson again. Coming the other way, coming west the passenger train would take water at Jefferson then wouldn’t have to take water again until Selkirk going up the hill.
Tom: Was that because they were limited in the amount of water that they had available at Como?
Andy: They didn’t use that water tank by the roundhouse a lot of times, it was low on water. They’d have to go clear down to the lower water tank. And the passenger train would only wait twenty minutes.
Tom: So they would not have had time to go down to the lower tank for water. Now, a freight train that came to Como from Denver. That train would come directly into the yards in Como and at that point what would take place? Where would that freight train stop?
Andy: The train would go past the depot and back up and take the freight cars on that were going west on the house track (ed. house track is a railroad phrase) opposite the depot and then be available for the westbound freight to head up to the other end and put the head engines on the train—the train engineer would generally call about thirty minutes ahead for the helper engine. (ed. note- “train engineer” is a railroad term for the engineer who was not the engineer of the helper engine)
Tom: Would they change out the caboose when the train came to Como from Denver? Or would the caboose run on through to Leadville?
Andy: No, the same train crews on freight were based either in Como or in Leadville. The same way on the trains based in Denver. They had their own caboose.
Tom: When a train ran from Como over to Alma Junction, sometimes called London Junction at the Alma-Fairplay branch of Alma, would those trains generally depart after the passenger trains had left Como—what was that about 1:15, 1:30 in the afternoon.
Andy: Most of the time the Alma train they used them to switch in the yard to Como or put up coal. So then they’d make up a train and come back to Alma.
Tom: Was it a usual pattern that the Alma train’s crew would spend the night in Alma or was there a time that the Alma train would make a round trip in one day?
Andy: Most every day they would make a round trip, every day. There was a period of time when they took off the Alma run and they would only run to Alma-Fairplay when they had ore coming out. Which was around 1930. After 1930 I don’t think they had an Alma run.
Tom: Now on the train, you talk about the ore they brought out. What was that ore placed in? Do you remember? Was the ore in an open car? Was it in a boxcar?
Andy: It was in a boxcar. Generally they had a padlock on it and sometimes they had an armed guard.
Tom: Was the ore loose or was it, as in molybdenum ore, in a barrel.
Andy: It was loose. Sometimes us kids would go in the old car sitting there and sweep the dust up to see if we could find any gold in the cracks in there.
Linda: Did you find any?
Andy: No they must have vacuumed the floors. That ore had a high content of gold silver and they put an armed guard on it all the way to Denver.
Tom: Was this ore crushed the consistency of flour? Or was it lumps?
Andy: No it was in chunks.
Tom: So it hadn’t been run through a ball mill or anything of that nature.
Andy: Getting back to Climax, I worked for about a month on the transfer gang.
Tom: What do you mean by the transfer gang?
Andy: We transferred the ore in 600-pound barrels from the narrow gauge car to the standard gauge car. We had heavy duty planking going from one car to the other and two men would have to get that tipped over and with a pinch bar and then roll it and you had to pitch them in and take and nail two-by-fours down so they wouldn’t shift. Thirty cents an hour.
Tom: Were these metal barrels or wood barrels?
Andy: Wood barrels. I would say, they were pretty good-sized barrels, 600 pounds.
Tom: That is a good-sized barrel. When those were placed in a narrow gauge car could you get two barrels side by side at the end of a car?
Andy: Yah. It generally would take about two narrow gauges to fill a standard gauge car.
Tom: This time period that you are talking about right now, would have been in 1938, 1939 after the narrow gauge had been abandoned, down through Ten Mile Canyon and across Boreas Pass.
Andy: It was contracted out. The man had a contract.
Tom: So you didn’t work for the railroad company when you were doing this?
Andy: The transfer company.
Tom: Linda, Ideas?
Linda: Going back to the coal mining, did you know any of the coal miners and can you tell us anything about the coal mining that was going on there in Como?
Andy: I can only tell you about what I heard second hand from my uncle or aunt. A lot of the old houses that were removed from the King Coal Mine up to Como. I can’t tell you which ones, they might be in the book that Tom put together. I think there was mostly Italians that worked down there. I think there was Chinese in Como at one time. I remember Uncle Tom talking about the Chinese laundry. They weren’t there when I was, pretty much gone.
Linda: The newspaper, the Fairplay Flume, would talk about how much lawbreaking was going on in the Como area. Do you remember any of that?
Andy: That was before my time.
Linda: It was pretty tame when you were there, then?
Andy: Pretty tame.
Tom: Except for some people putting buggies on top of the elementary school at Halloween.
Linda: Did you do that, were you one of the boys that put the buggy on top of the school?
Andy: I might have helped.
Linda: (laughing) You didn’t wait for the sheriff to come down?
Andy: They never called the sheriff.
Linda: It was a fun thing to do?
Andy: Well people weren’t too happy about it.
Tom: You alluded to the cold in Como when you were in the navy in San Diego, while you were stationed there. And you alluded to the snow in Como. Could you elaborate a little bit on how cold it would get and how bad the wind would blow in Como?
Andy: I think the most normal thing about Como was you could always expect after a snowstorm a large wind. The wind always blew. And as far as Como, I don’t remember anybody who had a thermometer, but I suppose it was minus ten or fifteen below at the worst time. But I think when you went to Denver you noticed the cold in Denver more than you would up there.
Tom: When you were in grade school and in high school, what was your winter attire?
Andy: Most of the time we wore corduroy trousers, wool shirts, German socks, and you always had a new pair of shoes. But you wore boots most of the time and you would save a mutton tallow and put it down the crevices of your boots so the snow wouldn’t leak through, to keep your feet dry. And a heavy coat and other than that, I don’t remember any fat kids. All skinny, looked like they were undernourished, but they weren’t. They were all pretty tough and never sick. No doctor, you had no health care. And didn’t have a phone, but you got by. You better make sure you got plenty of wood, plenty of coal in. I remember one time we had a stack coming off the kitchen stove that went up about eight, ten feet. It was guy-wired. You had to go up that high to clear the apex for draft. My mother had gone to Denver with her sister on a passenger train and stayed in Denver and my dad was out on the road. Marie Duffy came over to stay with my sister and I and the wind blew so hard and evidently the smoke stack was weak and rusted out, blew a hole in the six-inch stack. It was so strong it blew the lids off the kitchen stove and blew the fire on the floor. And so I immediately went and threw the coal back in the coal shed. Got the shovel out and shoveled up all the coals, poured water on them and knocked the fire out and put flat irons on the lids. Then we had to light the fire in the living room stove. My dad always liked milk toast when he came in. So we toasted toast on the old stove in there and heated the milk to make milk toast. He had to fight his way from the roundhouse all the way up in that snow. That was a lot of wind. The next day there was no wind, a nice day and the sun came out. I went up and helped my dad, we put a patch on the hole that was in the stack. You didn’t call anybody you had to do it yourself. You didn’t throw anything away. I wish I had all the ore specimens he had. Shotguns, rifles. He saved string, saved aluminum, never threw anything away. To get back to drought, they had droughts the same as they do today. Our well was 73-feet deep and Uncle Tom’s (ed. Tom Gibbony) next door was about 70-feet deep. His would go dry first, then ours would go dry, then on the other house, it never did grow dry. One year we had to haul water from the Dittman (ed. Block 22, Lot 3) place up there. Most of the time what kept them in water was when the O’Neill Ditch was their water rights. It would run through the cemetery.
Tom: Did the O’Neill Ditch run down to Lake Como eventually?
Andy: No, it went around on the Eshe Ranch.
Tom: Or to the Eight Mile Ranch or where Clinton Eshe’s parents lived? Well you talked about your attire in the wintertime, what did the girls wear in the wintertime when you went to school? You didn’t look at the girls, Andy?
Andy: Well there wasn’t too many, but they wore socks. They wore long underwear, too. And the girls all hated to wear long underwear. The only way you could tell what people wore was what you saw on the clothesline. You’d see long underwear; the old man wore long underwear. But everybody wore long underwear. You couldn’t make it otherwise because you only had a pot bellied stove to keep you warm in the school. But it was difficult. You didn’t worry what you looked like, because everybody looked alike, overdressed.
Tom: When your dad would go out on a run in the wintertime, what would be his attire when he would be uncertain whether this run would be a ten-hour run or if he would get delayed due to an avalanche, what attire would he take?
Andy: Most always wore the same attire. Long underwear, heavy corduroy trousers, heavy shoes, heavy socks and then they would have a heavy chambray shirt on and then a heavy jumper and they wore suspenders.
Tom: When you were in Leadville in 1938, 1939, did you ever make any runs up to Climax from Leadville?
Andy: One time I was working in the roundhouse. Jim Diamond was the night roundhouse foreman and Joe Tracy was his assistant. And of course they run two engines all the time and they needed help coaling engines. And so one day, a heavy snowstorm, engines #74 and #75 were on a regular run, they got stuck at Wortmans Cut coming back to Leadville. Bon Osier was the roundhouse foreman filling in for Gartside. They didn’t have a fireman, so Bon Osier said; “Well I’ll just take Bud Anderson with me.” So I fired engine #76 up for Bon Osier up to Wortman’s Cut. We dug them out, pulled them out and we backtracked down to Leadville, turned on the wye.
Tom: So that was the only time you actually worked a locomotive?
Andy: As a fireman, yes.
Tom: Now while you were living in Como did you and the family ever ride the train over to Leadville? Officially ride in the coach?
Andy: Yes we did, but most of the time we went to Denver.
Tom: Your dad had worked on the line long enough, I am assuming, that the railroad would have a pass to Brownie for your mother, your sister and yourself, is that correct?
Andy: A family pass, yes.
Tom: And what was the ride like from Como to Denver?
Andy: Well you left at 1:20 in the afternoon, I think. And turned on the wye and arrived in Denver somewhere around 5 something, 5:40. Most of the time you went to Denver to get your teeth fixed.
Tom: Does that classify then as a pleasant trip or was it an ordeal since you were going to the dentist?
Andy: For the kids it was an unpleasant trip, because they didn’t have the drills that they have today. Didn’t use the Novocain too much. I remember we used to go to the Metropolitan Building and there were three dentists, all brothers, named Phillips. One thing we got to eat at a vintage restaurant. We stayed at the Midland Hotel up from the Union Station. At that time there were 42 trains a day coming into the Union Station over 24 hours. So you can imagine what that little narrow gauge looked like alongside all the standard gauges. It was a busy place with red-caps and passengers coming and going all the time. And the streetcars all met down at Union Station, went up Seventeenth Street. And my dad used to get a room with two beds at the Midland Hotel for two dollars a day or something like that. Eat at McVitty’s restaurant a steak dinner for 85 cents. They used to cook in the window. The booths had lowered red drapes on them. When Uncle Tom took his two girls in to eat in a restaurant, they had finger bowls. He got awful upset because the girls picked up the finger bowls and drank out of the finger bowls. (laughing)
Tom: You mean your mother didn’t use finger bowls on the table every evening at home?
Andy: No, you had to pump the water.
Tom: Well now were there a lot of people on the train typically, was the coach full?
Andy: Yes, because the only other alternative was to drive and it was a difficult drive over Crow Hill.
Tom: Would most of the people on the coach be dependents of railroaders or just a general mix of passengers.
Andy: A general mix of passengers. People would come and get on the train in Leadville. They could ride the train, I think the fare was about $5 from Leadville to Denver. Only 70 some cents from Como to Breckenridge. I remember they even had a butcher boy on there for a while during the summer time. He’d come through the train with big apples, bananas, and candy bars. I remember one time I went to Denver and Alpert’s was down on Larimer Street. And Dad said I needed a new cap so we went down to Alpert’s and got a cap. Got a cap about that big and got one for me and my mother made us go back and get rid of them. She said we didn’t look right in them. The Quincy Bar and Grill on Seventeenth Street, his first name was Al and my dad new him because he was the baggage man and postal clerk on the railway express car that turned over on the side of the…
Tom: That was the derailment at Peabody when they laid the coaches over?
Andy: Yeah, so he quit there and opened up the Quincy Bar and Grill in Denver.
Tom: Andy, you never really in our discussion mentioned your name as Andy Anderson and you let something slip about five minutes ago, and you mentioned Bud Anderson. Who was Bud Anderson?
Andy: Well everybody knew me as Bud Anderson when we lived in South Park. I picked up the name of Andy Anderson in the navy. Anybody named Anderson they called them Andy.
Tom: How did you get from—let’s see you left South Park in ’37, ’38, thereabouts, and went to Leadville. How did you end up in San Diego from Leadville and the slopes of Climax.
Andy: Well, I went to Denver. And they were going to hire some firemen on the Santa Fe. So I stayed with my Uncle in Denver.
Tom: So that would have been who?
Andy: Frank Gibbony and his wife Ellen. And then made student trips on the Santa Fe on the joint line, and they signed me off on the second trip, with Bob Huff. Bob Huff and his brother. I bought a watch from Hansen and Hansen on Seventeenth Street; I bought a watch, it cost $110. $110 was a lot of money. And so what happened why I didn’t become a fireman on the Santa Fe was that the Master Mechanic in the shops in Denver, his daughter got married, she married a guy that didn’t have a job. So they brought him in, he made three student trips and they brought him in ahead of me. So I went down and paid the last payment on the watch, picked the watch up and so that’s how I ran into nepotism. I didn’t stick around to wait any more. I should have been called for that trip, so I went down and resigned. So I ran into a guy I knew in Leadville, man by the name of Sturkle. He said that they’re building an armory out in Lakewood, and he did a job tying steel out there. So we lived downtown in a hotel on Glenarm and we decided we didn’t want that job anymore, so we went to Cheyenne to work hanging drywall. We bought a 1936 Plymouth Coupe and then we decided to go East, so we went on the road and drove the car and were in Des Moines. And we went to work in the defense plant there tying steel. I’m getting ahead of myself, but in the meantime I had to sign up for the draft. So the Rocky Mountain News came out, and out of five thousand people signed up for the draft in the city of Denver I was number two on the list.
Tom: Now we’re still getting to San Diego, is that correct?
Andy: I’m getting on my way to San Diego. So I had to stay in touch with them in Des Moines. Went broke in Des Moines and had to wash dishes to eat. And so finally got back on the job again and they called me and said you’re going to be inducted, you’ve got thirty days. So I thought, I don’t want to go in the Army, so I went down to the Marine Corps and they wouldn’t take me because I was an inch too tall. So then I went to the navy and signed up at the navy and I said I’d like to go back to Denver, and they said, “Well we can arrange that.” So they transferred my papers back to Denver. And I waited thirty days. They put an American Legion company together, 140 of us, and sent us to San Diego. That’s how I got into the navy.
Tom: So this was when that you went into the navy?
Andy: I went in the navy October 24, 1941.
Tom: And you were in the navy how many years?
Andy: Not quite twenty years. Got out in June, 1961.
Tom: So you retired from the navy.
Andy: Retired from the navy.
Tom: And while you were in the navy primarily what did you do?
Andy: Well, got out of boot camp. And had two company commanders, one named Connolly and one Cassidy, Irishmen. And so we had a Lieutenant commander signing bills and we marched and were lined up. I sat down there and Cassidy said, “This is one of the best men I’ve got, give him a good job.” So I’m the only one that went to North Island; the only one that went to IVA (navel aviation). All the rest went on general duty. That’s how I got in the IVA. Then I went to Machinist Mate School and became a third class machinist. Then they sent me to the Philippines in 1942. I went to patrol wing ten to Perth, Australia. I had one of the greatest railroad rides in my life going from—we left San Pedro and thirty-four days later we arrived in Melbourne on a merchant ship, eight of us. We took the train from Melbourne to Adelaide, from Adelaide to Perth across the great Australian desert. When you changed trains at Adelaide they jacked up the car and put a new set of trucks under it because it was all different gauges. It took 18 days to go across the desert. From the time you left Melbourne it was 18 days to Perth. They had a train that had about forty-six, forty-eight cars (statement not understood)and the Australians, had two passenger coaches on it, one with twenty Australian nurses, then the men’s coach, the eight of us in the last coach, and the coaches were all full of fleas.
Tom: Did you say fleas?
Andy: Yeah, fleas. Stop to eat, come time for meal time the train would stop, the Aussies would get out and build a fire, heat tea, open some hardtack, a can of peaches and some corned beef and that’s what you’d have to eat. Then we got to Perth, Australia; we were met by a man by the name Lt. J.G. Lavender. We went out to be patrol wing ten and fill in replacements out there. The rifle wing, when you went to shore in Perth, talk about gas shortages, taxicabs there had a big rubber balloon type on top of the cab, outside of the cab, made out of regular rubber. Then you had a pipe running back to the trunk, they had a little burner in there that burned charcoal making that methane gas, it’d run up there and they’d fill up and they’d take another pipe and run it down to the carburetor and burnt methane gas. It’d run about six or eight miles and then you’d have to stop and blow it up. A guy would have to get out there with his blower and open the tarp. They had the trunk all full—the oddest looking cab I’ve ever seen in my life.
Tom: What did you do at that point? What time are we talking about? Let’s see about that time we had Pearl Harbor take place.
Andy: Pearl Harbor started before that; Pearl Harbor started December 7, 1941.
Tom: Right, but where were you at the time of Pearl Harbor?
Andy: I was on leave out of boot camp. They called us all back and met us in San Diego, went on the beach crew on PBY’s. Then they picked me for Machinist’s Mate School and I was automatically third class when I got out of there. I was in PBY’s all that time.
Linda: So when you were in Australia where were you headed?
Andy: Perth, Australia.
Linda: So you were on a ship outside of Perth?
Andy: No, flew PBY’s as an air crewman.
Linda: So PBY is an airplane, right?
Andy: It was a sea plane. A work horse.
Linda: And what did you do with the PBY’s in Australia?
Andy: Well you worked on them or you flew in them as air crewmen.
Tom: Now in our talk this afternoon, we talked about your dad coming into Leadville on a rotary when you were born, we talked about you going to school in Como, we talked about you and the scrapping of the Colorado and Southern in South Park
Tape Two, Side Two
when they were scrapping, we talked very briefly about your career in the navy. You never really have introduced us or mentioned anything about your wife. Where does Betty fit into the picture?
Andy: Well I met Betty in Washington D.C. I staged a flight test in the Potomac River, Maryland, and met Betty –we have been married fifty-eight years tomorrow.
Linda: Happy Anniversary!
Andy: Well they had a dance at the Shore Hotel. I didn’t know how to dance, but I danced with Betty. That’s how I met Betty. And we were married, I don’t know, six months later, something like that. She saved my life.
Linda: When did you come back to Colorado then?
Andy: I retired from the navy and came back in 1961. There was a flight test I worked on the larger sea plane that the navy had, JRM2. And then we came back and I had an airplane power plant license and I went to all the airlines in Denver, Continental, United, and applied for a job and they said you’re too old. I was forty-two years old at the time. Then I went to the Labor Department in Denver and they said “what are you looking for?” I said, “I’m looking for a job in aviation.” They said, “There’s no future in it.” So I worked for the post office for a while and then I signed on for sales training. So I went and it cost $600. I went for three months sales training and then I got a job as a straight commission salesman for Western Equipment Company. That’s how I got registered with them. Then when the owner died, I formed my own business. I had that business from 1967 to 1992. I sold Italian ice cream machines, cappuccino machines made in Italy. And sold all the Neico broilers to Burger King. I had a distributorship and Betty and I traveled all over the world to meetings. We had a great time. And I retired from that. And we had a place in Denver, and we sold that and moved down here. A lot of years went by.
Tom: Well, one thing I don’t think Andy has mentioned or Bud Anderson, as he is known by the folks in South Park, is while he talks about retiring from the navy and he talks about retiring from his business, he never did retire as a chamber of commerce person for South Park.
Andy: Well I didn’t realize there were that many people interested in South Park. If I’d realized that I’d have saved some of those artifacts and coal cars.
Tom: Artifacts and coal cars—what are you referring to now?
Andy: I’m talking about switch stands, telephones, anything that came out of the use of the coal car.
Tom: This was at Dickey?
Andy: Dickey, and did the same thing in Como.
Tom: Well, perhaps at this point maybe we had better retire for the afternoon. And gosh, Andy’s going to need a case of throat lozenges I’m afraid to continue after we’re done with him today.
Andy: I wasn’t sure my voice would hold up but I guess it has. I appreciate everybody coming down and spending the time.
Linda: We’re the ones that appreciate your telling us all these good things.
Revised 5/21/06 after reviewing original with Andy Anderson on 5/3/06 – Tom Corrected 7/1/06
Park County Local History Archives
Department of Heritage & Tourism, Park County
856 Castello Avenue
Fairplay, CO 80440
Visit the Archives
Park County Administration Offices
856 Castello Avenue
Fairplay, CO 80440
The archives are open to the general public by appointment only. Please use the “Contact Us” information above to request and schedule an appointment.
- Archives Collaboration with University of Denver September 23, 2020
- Remembering Ada B. Evans, the First African American Mayor in Colorado and Her Legacy in Park County, Colorado on The South Park Heritage Experience July 7, 2020
- A. F. Willmarth, Historical Park County, Colorado Sketch Artist June 2, 2020
- A Huge Loss for the Park County Local History Archives and Park County August 8, 2017
- Remembering Ada B. Evans by Linda Bjorkland February 18, 2017