Interviewer Cara Doyle
September 26, 2002
This is Cara Doyle. It’s September 26, 2002, and I’m sitting with Carol Davis in her home and she has reluctantly agreed to talk to me. Carol tell me where and when you were born.
I was born on January 7, 1939, in Watertown, Wisconsin.
Tell me a little bit about what life was like–were you on a farm, were you right in town?
The town–it was a small town, but not as small as here. You know I never did know the population, but I’m guessing it was probably around ten to twelve thousand.
And you lived right in the town?
Uh huh. Across the bridge from us was the country. That’s where the farms started. We lived in town, with my grandfather.
Were your folks raised in Watertown?
Yes, they both were.
Were they from farms also?
My dad was raised on a farm. My mother was raised in town. Actually she was born in the house that I grew up in.
What about your grandparents? Can you tell me about them?
We lived with my mother’s dad. His wife passed away–she had a heart attack when my mother was about twelve or thirteen years old.
Was she quite a bit older?
No, she just had a heart attack. She was one of those people that it happens to young. My grandpa worked in a brewery. It wasn’t Schlitz or Pabst or any of the biggies. It was Hartig’s Brewery in Watertown. And it was just a few blocks from where we lived. He worked in the cellars and he had rheumatism really bad. So he retired early. And I can remember him sending us down to the brewery because part of his retirement package was free beer. So we would get sent to the brewery with a little bucket. And they’d just fill the bucket up. We’d go down there and pick it up.
Did you sneak any?
No, of course not.
Okay, she’s lying.
No, sneaking beer was not a thing that we had to do, because beer was really cheap. Way cheaper than milk. And so we had beer for probably one meal every day. We had milk for breakfast, and water and kool-aid.
Was that common with people because of their German heritage?
It was pretty common with German people. In the sixth ward we were all Germans. So we all had–
So your entire family was very German. Who first came over from Germany?
My grandpa Reich, my mother’s dad was a draft dodger. His family sent him over when he was fifteen or sixteen years old, because conscription into the Kaiser’s army was imminent. So he came all by himself. And he was the first one, and then other members of the family started showing up later. I don’t believe earlier generations came. They stayed, or maybe they were already dead, but brothers and sisters came.
Did he have any memories that he shared of earlier Germany?
No, he really didn’t talk much about it. Because, I was born right around the time of World War II. German was something that you didn’t–they spoke German amongst themselves in the family, but never outside the home. They didn’t teach us German, that was something that they preferred to keep to themselves. It was not a good time for Germans.
What about the other side of the family?
Grandpa Schlueter was a farmer and he also raised horses for sulkie racing. Do you know what that is? Do you know those little two-wheeled carts that look like little chariots? One man or person sits on it? He raised horses for those races.
Was he second generation, or did he also come over from Germany?
I think they came over. We never really learned a whole lot about that side of the family. My dad died when I was real little, so there wasn’t a whole lot of that retelling. And Grandpa Schlueter died when his kids were young. My mother was one of two kids. My dad was one of seven. And during that war period my dad was one of the older boys, so he was the one who had to stay home and take care of my grandma and the farm, and the business, because everybody else went off to war, with exception of his sister. So some of them were in the navy, some of them were in the air force, and some of them were in the army. But he was key, he and his sister were the two out of the seven who stayed home.
I know you were pretty tiny, but do you remember anything about the wartime?
I remember being told not to say anything about Germany. I remember blackouts. You would hear those big sirens go off. And everybody knew that you turned off all your lights, pulled all your drapes, didn’t light flashlights. You just sat around in the dark. Which was kind of interesting. Didn’t know why.
Did they scare you as a kid or was it fun to you because you didn’t know what was happening?
I don’t really remember a whole lot more other than it happening. My mother didn’t try to scare us, but we just knew that is was going to be a real boring time until it was over. We just had to all sit around, sit quietly and couldn’t do any of the fun things that we were used to doing. Couldn’t go outside. I remember going through the experience, I just don’t remember there being a big to-do about it. The other thing I remember is my mother’s sister, who was probably seven or eight years older than my mother, and quit school so that my mother could stay in school when their mother died. She was one of the first people to join the WACS after they started it up and she made a career out of it.
Tell me what that is?
The Women’s Army Corps. And she would come home on furlough, and that was one of the things I remember about the war.
Was that really exciting when she came home?
Yes, it was. Because she was a mess sergeant in the Army, which meant that she was working with food and cooking and she was a wonderful cook. And she could cook for an army. So we always got lots of her favorite things when she came home, and some of those are still my favorite things.
This soup that she makes, that has macaroni and tomatoes and onions and hamburger and all kinds of stuff like that. She called it goulash, but we just called it soup. But lots of different things that she made. German fare was kind of a favorite amongst our family. I still love sauerbraten and I make it every now and again. But when she came home there were always lots of parties. All of them lived pretty much in the same town and on my mother’s side of the family they all lived in the same neighborhood. On one side of our house the next door people were relatives. Then you go down that block and there were two families that were relatives. And then another few blocks away we had more families that were relatives. The farm that was just on the other side of the river, my grandma’s farm was not more than two miles from where we were and we would walk out there on Sunday’s. So when my aunt came home, she never had long, maybe a couple of weeks, but then it was fun time–party time.
Did you have large German gatherings?
Yes, we did. Actually, we had–like I said it was the Sixth Ward, that’s what our neighborhood was, the town was divided into wards–this was on the north side, and they were pretty much all Germans. On the west side of town they were all Irish people. And so it was kind of an interesting mix. And sometimes the twain never met. We had neighborhood parties. And they loved the parties. They’d get together and just sit around and play cards.
What kind of cards?
Sheepshead. I love sheepshead, but I don’t know anybody who plays it.
What was the predominant religion?
Lutheran. At least all our family was Lutheran. We went to a Lutheran school. And I just found out this past year–you know we talk about vouchers and stuff like that now, and choices–We don’t have choices up here. You know, you send your kids to school or you home school them, or you truck them across to Summit County and those are your choices. We had two Lutheran schools, two Catholic schools in this town and the public schools. And there were a lot of public schools. I started out in public school and then went to Lutheran school and what I had started saying that I just found out this past year, is that we had a benefactor. We didn’t have any money, my mother never paid a nickel, for three kids to go through that school.
You don’t know who that was?
We have no idea. I just asked her, I said, “Ma, did you have to pay to have us in St John’s” and she said, “Don’t know how that happened, but we never paid a dime.” So somebody paid, either the church just took kids who came from kind of an indigent family or whatever. And we were poor, but we never really felt like it.
What do you mean by poor?
By poor I mean, my grandpa didn’t work, so there was no money coming in there. My mother worked nominally.
Your father passed away quite early, right?
Yes, he was thirty-three when he died and I was four.
He was a plumber, so your mom had been a homemaker, and what did she do then?
When my dad died, I was four and my sister was two and she was pregnant with my brother when he died. He had a strep infection. And it was right around World War II; penicillin was just being developed and what they did have available went off to the war theater of operations. And so they treated him with sulpha drugs, but he died within a week. So it was just real quick. But anyway, at that time we lived in an apartment above the plumbing shop, and all of his brothers were involved in this plumbing operation. But they were all gone off to war, so dad ran the business, went out to the farm and took care of my grandma and my aunt, and whatever needed to be done out there. And anyway he got sick and died and then we moved in with my grandma. Eventually my other grandma moved up to that apartment. That’s where she lived when she died.
How did your mom make ends meet when your dad died?
My dad died with no insurance, and really left nothing behind except a car, that I don’t know if it was paid for or not, but my mother didn’t drive, so she sold it. And then she first of all took in, she did babysitting at home until we were all in school. Then she got a job babysitting outside the home. And so she went every day. As a matter of fact, that was my first job, too. I babysat for that same family, every Tuesday night when they went bowling, every Friday night when they had their shoe store open, all day Saturday while they worked at the shoe store and Saturday night while they partied.
What family was that?
It was just a family down the street. Their name was Beltz, Ray and Lee Beltz, and the kids names were Christy and Jerry.
And for food, you said you had relatives on a farm, did that provide food during the war?
No, not for us. But we ate good. My grandpa had a big garden. We grew all of our own vegetables. Meat was kind of few– we knew how to stretch a pound of hamburger. I still can do that. And we’re still not really big meat eaters. We do eat meat, but half a pound of hamburger fed my family. But we always had lots of vegetables. Always canned–my mother would make pickle relish, and I still to this day cannot understand how any family could eat as much pickle relish as my mother canned. She would make this stuff by the big washtubs full. And we all had to have—
Did she trade or anything for food?
No, but we were on everybody’s list for hand-me-down clothes and that kind of stuff.
She didn’t make clothes?
No, we don’t have any of that kind of talents like that. There is not one seamstress in our family, not one.
So you were in school in town. Did you stay in Watertown growing up? What kind of things did you do for fun?
Ice skating all winter, because I lived about a block from the river. Swam all summer, because we lived about a mile and a half from the municipal pool. And took care of our house, because my mother white-gloved us. When she did go off to work, it all of a sudden became our responsibility. And she’d come home and say–she always knew what she wanted done and she always knew if it had gotten done. We had lots of responsibilities. But typical, I shouldn’t say typical, because most people aren’t as old as I am. At night we’d play red-light, green-light, all those kind of fun games at home. We would race home from school, change our clothes, run back to school which was maybe a mile, mile and a half, two miles, for a baseball game that was going on. We played street baseball. All the kids in the neighborhood always would get together, and you’d lay out the bases, and knock windows out, we risked that a lot. Ice skating and swimming were probably my two favorites, and I really did like baseball.
Where did you graduate?
Watertown High. We went through eighth grade in the St Johns Lutheran School and then we went on to high school.
What did you do after graduation?
Well, one fun thing I did was I went back and played baseball for two weeks, because otherwise I wasn’t going to get a diploma. My entire gym class–let me back up a little–we had, they called it the senior girls’ team; local women who belonged to the country club, would one day, and it was always on a school day before graduation, would invite all the graduating girls to come to this luncheon. Well, it was a luncheon but it was really an after-school kind of thing–but with little finger sandwiches and all this fancy-schmancy kind of stuff. Well, anyway ours happened to fall on a day when we had gym class, and all the girls in my gym class said phht, we’re not taking a shower. We’re not doing gym because we’re all here in our high heeled sneakers, our nylons, our best dresses and our hair is fixed. Everybody went all out to impress these old girls because they were doing this good thing for us. Anyway, we went on a sit-down strike. So the teacher came in and said, “You girls get into your gym clothes.” And we said, “No.” Pretty soon she disappeared and came back with the principal. He said, “Get into your gym clothes.” We said, “No.” Anyway. He disappeared and went back to work, and we got through the day, through that gym class, with nothing else being said. And so we just assumed that we had won. Until it got to graduation night, and there was a little note in our diplomas when they handed them to us that said, “You will get your diploma signed once you have completed your gym requirements.” So, of course, we had to go in and find out what the gym requirements were and it meant two weeks of playing baseball into the summer after we were gone. So I had to go back to school every morning from nine to twelve, which cut into my job a little bit. I worked at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, and they weren’t real happy about that, but there was really nothing they could do and I definitely needed to have my diploma signed, so we played ball.
Do you remember what they paid you at Woolworth’s?
No, I don’t remember.
Where did you go from there?
I went to school at Wisconsin State College at Whitewater and became a teacher.
What kind of teacher?
When did you meet Don?
Not until I moved to Colorado, in 1968. I graduated from college in 1960. I taught school for five years in Racine, Wisconsin. I did a summers worth of graduate work at CU one summer. And said, ahhh, I need to go back to the mountains. And so I had already signed a contract for the following year, so I taught that year, and that would have been the ‘64-‘65 year, then I packed my bags and came to Colorado and this is where I ended up.
Where did you first go?
I came straight here, because it was August, and it was the only place in the state where they needed a teacher.
So you actually did come here to teach?
Well, sort of. I drove here to Colorado in August with no job prospects in mind. The reason for that was because I would have been easily discouraged had I written a letter and they had either not answered it or sent me something that said, no we don’t need you. Because I was an easily discouraged person. Actually, very shy. Would not have pursued it if they had said that, I would have just settled down and stayed in the city. That’s the kind of letters my friends were getting. Anybody who wrote to Colorado and said I’m looking for a teaching job, teaching jobs were at a premium. Everybody wanted to teach in Colorado back then. So, I just knew that if I didn’t get something positive I wouldn’t come..
So tell me about the day coming into Colorado?
It was kind of funny. I really was shy, painfully shy. But I decided this was something I needed to do, so I did. I packed up my bags and I came out here and I came in probably around supper time, into Denver. And I was tired, it was time to eat, it was time to sleep, and I drove up to this little motel which was very close to the highway. Stopped, got out, and made arrangements to stay in this place and parked my car. Got in this place and there was a nice big picture window out the back. I was looking out there and here were all these little black kids looking in the window. I guess–I found out later–that this was basically a black neighborhood and these little kids could not believe that this white lady was staying in this motel. All my neighbors–there were no other white people staying there and the kids were just really curious. I visited with them a little bit and told them who I was where I was from and where I was going and that was my first day in Colorado. Anyway, then it took me a while to find the Educational Association because I figured that was the place I had to go, and they were very discouraging. That was the year of the flood, when Bear Creek flooded. And there were places where they said, you might try this place but they probably have people already. I went into one place out near Fort Logan, and the roads were practically gone, they had not yet rebuilt a lot of that stuff. And I found this little kid, who was on the side of the road. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. And I said, “Do you know where the elementary school is out here?” And he said, “Yes, I do. I go to that school.” He was probably seven or eight years old. I said, “Could you take me there, because I need to go there and talk to them about a job teaching there.” And he said, “My mother doesn’t let me get into cars with strangers. But I’ll lead you there.” So I drove two miles an hour all the way with him walking in front of my car, all the way to the school. However, they didn’t need me. They said they had already signed somebody on, and that they just hadn’t notified the CEA that they didn’t need anybody. Other places I went said Oh, yeah, but you’re not certified in Colorado, and we have to have somebody certified before we can hire you.
So how did you end up in Alma?
What happened was, I was getting very discouraged. I was living in the YWCA, up in a little tiny corner, and there were probably three people up there. But they were shyer than I was, so none of us spoke to each other. And I played a lot of solitaire. I had no money, so I would eat sandwiches I got out of the machine downstairs that were really cheap and really bad. But I put them out on the windowsill so save half of it for a later time in the day. Then I’d call my mother and say, “Mom, can you go to my account, because I did have some money left in Wisconsin. I didn’t bring it all out here. But it was awful. It was a terrible experience. But what happened was, the superintendent from Fairplay went to the CEA and was looking for a teacher and the lady said, “I have just the girl for you.” I had a lot of qualifications that he wanted. Number one was that he had a single business teacher here that he didn’t want to lose and she didn’t have a friend. Nobody to hang with, so he was looking for another single young woman. It was a second grade position that he was trying to fill because the teacher who was here had just notified them that she was getting married and she was not coming back. So he needed somebody with an elementary background. The next thing he needed was somebody who had a lot of background with reading, because that second grade teacher, they were going to do some experiments, and have kids in the elementary school shuffling around for some of their classes, and that person who was going to have that second grade job was going to be teaching other reading classes.
So you fit the bill?
I did. All my graduate work was in reading, practically. And that was a good thing. So he called my up. And he took me to a bar called Mario’s, and he plied me with vodka gimlets. And I was just real happy to take this job. It was funny. He was so sincere; he said “I have the contract right here in my pocket, but you need to see Fairplay.” His name was George Lomans. It turned out I had his kids in class.
So he got you to come up here and take a look.
He did. And that’s what I thought was so sincere. Because he said, “You know, you really need to see Fairplay before you make a decision.” And I’m thinking, what an honest man. Because Fairplay doesn’t offer a lot when you just drive into it, especially on a hot dusty day. But Kenosha Pass does. I was sold when I came over that pass. I knew I was going to take that job. Besides, I needed that job really bad.
Do you remember what your starting pay was?
About $4,000 less than what I was making in Racine. However, I got a little apartment at the Brown Burrow Motel. A unit. I had number ten, which was a little kitchen and a little combination bedroom-living room. That was it. Fifty bucks a month. That included utilities.
What was your first impression of Fairplay?
It was hot, it was dry, it was dusty. I walked into the superintendent’s office in the high school. And the superintendent said, “Oh, hi. This is Ken Barnes. He is the head teacher in the elementary school. He doesn’t smoke, but he doesn’t care if you do.” Maybe it was, “he doesn’t drink, but he doesn’t care if you do.” And I thought that was kind of a strange thing to say, but it seemed like… I shouldn’t say this–There were some people there who thought that teachers should not be human.
Side two, tape one
So you got started, and what was life as a teacher like? What year was it?
I started teaching here in September of ‘65. Some of my earliest memories were, coming out of my house on Labor Day weekend and I had two feet of snow on my car. And I thought, “Oh, my God. What have I gotten myself into?” But you just kind of whisked it. It was one of those soft, fluffy guys, and you just whupped it right on off of there. I remember a lot of my kids. I remember that–I had a second grade class, my home room was second grade, but I also taught fourth grade reading, sixth grade reading and one third grade science class. So I did have my second graders for a lot of the time, but then while I had those other classes, my second graders were off someplace else. Which was kind of an interesting concept for me. And it was fun, I did enjoy it, because I got to know a lot of the kids in the elementary school that way.
Were there any teachers that we hear about now? That some of the buildings are named after?
Yes, Mrs Teter was teaching in the high school at that time. Later on she became the head teacher in the elementary building. So I worked under her for a while. She was really a sweetheart; a very nice kind lady. Mary Kay Snell, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Snells. Mary Kay was a fifth grade teacher at the time I was there. And after I got married and I took a year’s leave of absence when Joel came along…..
You married Don Davis.
While I was teaching. And when Mary Kay retired, it was after I had taken that year’s leave of absence, that I came back and took her fifth grade class. Because I didn’t want to fight over the second grade class. Mostly because I really liked the second grade teacher. I thought she was doing a heck of a job, and I wasn’t ready to do that. And you know, fifth grade–it was a brand new thing. It was something else to jump into, so I was real happy about that. However, I did prefer second graders to fifth graders. You may have heard of Pat McClung. She was the one who took over my second grade class. She was a wonderful teacher, has long since gone. She lives in Texas now. Jeannette Kleinknecht was a third grade teacher, she and I were right next door. Another name that was probably, most people around here knew was Vesta Witcher. She was a first grade teacher and Vesta and I were probably the closest of all of us, because she was first, I was second and we did everything together. First and second grade kids went to lunch together. First and second grade kids were on the playground together. We had no aides; we did everything ourselves. So, sometimes Vesta and I would trade off. If she had something to do at lunchtime or if she wanted to meet her husband or something for lunch, then I would take all the kids, the first and second graders. And then she would reciprocate. Or I would do playground duty and she would stay in her room to do something and then we’d trade off. So then Vesta and I and Vivian Murphy, who was the fourth grade teacher–a sweet little Texan who had just arrived a year before me–and Mickey Edmondson, who was the bus driver, we would go for coffee a lot. To the Fairplay Hotel. And we always sat at the same table; all of us women and Vesta’s husband, Jim.
What was the Fairplay Hotel like in those days?
Actually, a whole lot classier than it is now. And that’s only because they’ve made changes and I liked it the way it used be.
Tell me what it was like–was it fancier, was the food different?
The food was pretty much the same, if anything, less fancy. It was real down home kind of stuff. When I first went to the hotel, it was my mother-in-law who owned the hotel.
So Don’s parents owned the Fairplay Hotel?
Don’s mother and stepfather owned the hotel at that time. That would have been in the mid-sixties. And he stayed at the hotel. And that was actually my first glimpse of him. I was talking to his mother, because I knew her from going into the hotel a lot. And he was sitting at a table and she had stopped by to talk to him. And she came by where I was and I said to her, “Whose little treat is that?” And she got all kind of straight. A rod up her butt. And said, “That’s my son.” Oh, okay. And eventually we started dating. And that was not our first meeting, that was just my first look at him.
Where did you go for dates, did you go to Breckenridge?
Sometimes. Breckenridge was a real hole though. Fairplay was classier than Breckenridge. Breckenridge had the Gold Pan, period. And that’s where people went. People who’ve been here as long as I have, back in those days you could have bought all of Breckenridge for one year’s salary. Had we only known, that all of those ramshackle, tumble-down places….
So still in the sixties it was bad–now the ski hill was going then?
One. Peak Eight. It had a T-bar, and it had a chair up to Midway and then another chair beyond that…
So did you guys go skiing?
I did with the school. That made up for the four thousand dollars I didn’t make in salary. We went every week for about ten weeks. And it was kind of fun. It’s fun to remember about it now, because at that time there was a place at the bottom, a little square building, not much bigger than the room we’re in, where you could get skis and boots and things like that. That was before the school had their own set of equipment for kids. You would get the stuff there. You would stash your own stuff under a wooden bench and that’s where it still was when you came back. There were no lockers. There was nothing. And it was just this one building and wooden benches you pushed your shoes under. It was cool.
Was there a lodge or a hotel?
There was one lodge. But we weren’t allowed to go there because they had alcohol. So the kids weren’t allowed to go in there. And this place was just like a warming hut, but it was the only place we could go. But they did get lessons and they did get their equipment. And eventually the school program developed enough so that they had their own equipment. And it was a great program. And I continued doing that for many, man, many, many, many, many years. Until I broke my toe one year, and couldn’t get my foot in a boot, so they got somebody else to do it and those people kept on doing it; they never asked me again.
So let’s go back to Don being all cute and you started to date, where did you go?
Our first date we went to a restaurant for dinner down near Conifer, and I’m trying to think, it was called–right now I think they sell furniture–I think the building is still there, but it’s not been a restaurant for a long time and I can’t remember the name of it. But we went there for dinner and then we went to Red Rocks; however, there was nothing going on at Red Rocks except for some lunatic who was way, way up yelling “I’m going to kill you!” It was kind of spooky. It was just somebody who lived way up someplace and we were just kind of walking around…
So Red Rocks was a concert venue then, and so you just kind of walked around?
It was so we could find our way there when we went to concerts. Because we did go……
Oh, Rod McKuen, every time he came to town. Because I just insisted on that. One time we went to hear Peter, Paul and Mary. And the radio had said you don’t need to have advance tickets because we’ll sell tickets at the door. So by the time we got there and we parked our car–it cost us a quarter to park–and we went up there and they were so frustrated because so many people showed up to buy tickets at the gate, that they just said “Forget it! Forget it! Go in! Go in!” So we got in for free, and the only place we had seats, were kind of close to the front probably four or five rows up. And either Peter or Paul, one, came out on the stage and said “Hey, we got a lot more people than we expected. Would all you people just kind of squish together in the middle so these people can sit down.” It was wonderful. So we did this whole concert for a quarter. And who else–we sent see Sonny and Cher there. I can’t remember who else, but it was a fun time.
What did they have in Fairplay at that time, dances?
There were dances and there was bowling. Actually that’s how Don and I met, was bowling. I bowled with the teacher’s league…there were…
So you had seen him in the hotel, but then you were out one night?
Yeah. Actually I probably didn’t pay much attention to him at the bowling alley, but he thought I was obnoxious because I was noisy. I was noisy, I just was noisy. Bowling was fun. We had four people on a team, I believe. And you could only bowl two teams on a night, because it took so long; there were only two alleys…
So is this the one in the American Legion building?.
Uh, huh. And there were only two alleys. And I set pins there on Friday nights after skiing. That was one of my favorite jobs. I got all the coke I could drink and a dollar a line, which meant I went home with three dollars every night. Every Friday night I made three bucks. It was cool. I did a lot of things to stave off cabin fever. When you come from a town the size of Racine, and you come to a town the size of Fairplay, you join everything. I spent the next thirty years trying to get out of some of those things.
Was there a movie theater yet or was it gone?
No, it was gone.
What else might have been in town? Tell me how it has changed from then to now.
There are more retail businesses….
Have the people changed?
The faces change. The numbers stay pretty much the same. I knew more people back then. I did more things; not really did more things, I’m still pretty busy doing things. But it’s different.
When did you start getting involved with the museum?
When I was teaching, I met Don. I started teaching in ‘65. I met Don and we were married then, we dated for probably a year or so, and we were married in ‘68…
Where did you get married?
In the Sheldon Jackson Church in Fairplay…
And did you have a reception somewhere?
At the Fairplay Hotel. But it was during a snowstorm so nobody came. The gal who was going to cut the cake was stuck someplace. The punch bowl, the lady who was going to lend us the punch bowl for the reception at the hotel was snowbound in Colorado Springs, so I bought a couple of salad bowls at what’s now the Country Store. And we put punch in those. The gal who was cutting the cake was stuck someplace, I don’t remember where. So I got one of my students who had said, “Please can’t we come to your wedding?” The whole family came to the wedding and so the oldest girl was our cake cutter. We didn’treally have a whole lot planned because we were planning on going back to Wisconsin and having the reception there. So in this one we had to clean up after ourselves before we could leave. On the way to Wisconsin, there was still a major snowstorm. We spent a lot of time–we had a Bronco–pulling people out of ditches. We got as far as Cozad, Nebraska, and there was no traffic; the plows had shut down and the interstate was closed. So we spent our honeymoon in Cozad with the Wilcox’s, the people who came into the police station and said, “We’ll take two.” And they took us home with them. They were a delightful young couple with a bunch of kids. Everytime I go past Cozad, I think I’ve got to go and see if the Wilcox’s are still there.
Anyway, I continued to teach after we were married. When Joel came along, the first son, I took a year’s leave of absence at the end of that school year. I didn’t get to stay not working because it wasn’t probably a week that Marge Richardson, the County Clerk at that time, saw me on the street and said, “Carol, I understand you’re not teaching next year. Will you come and work for me?” And so I worked in the clerk’s office for a little while, about a year. Then I went back to teaching. That’s when I went into the third grade. Then when I got pregnant with Jennifer, I said, “Well, I think I’ll retire for a short time and come back after our kids are ready for school.” We were only planning on two kids. So I worked at the clerk’s office at that time and I also did some babysitting at home because I only worked a couple days a week there. And so I babysat with friend’s kids. Anyway, we bought this house about two months before Jennifer was born. So now we have a home. We have one kid, another one on the way, no job. I had retired. The county had declared a moratorium on development and Don, the surveyor, lost his job. So there we were, two kids, no jobs. And he was just doing odd jobs. People called him and say, “Can you help me with this right-of-way?” People know that you’re not working and they’ll ask you to help out with something. I think at that time Don’s mother was running the Aspen Leaf, a restaurant in Fairplay–it’s the Barnside now. Either she or Jerry Palmer, who built the business, asked me if I would come and fill in periodically. I had also done this at the Fairplay Hotel when Don’s mom had it. So they knew that I had restaurant experience. And they’d call me if somebody was sick, and they’d call me if they were expecting a huge crowd and they needed extra people, so I just was kind of going in hit and miss. And the times could have been weird. Anyway, I think I was working the bar side that night, because they had a restaurant on both sides. And the phone rang and it was for me, and it was South Park City Board Meeting. And Frank Burgess, who was a way back owner of the Fairplay Hotel, and knew me from there. He said, “We’re looking for a part-time bookkeeper. Would you be interested?” Well, my first response was, “I never kept my checkbook straight. Why would you think I could be a bookkeeper?” He said, “Well, we’ll teach you everything you need to know.” So I said, “Well, Yeah, I will.” So I went in to South Park City every day. I’d haul my kids and the babysitting kids. We traveled in my big Ford station wagon. And I would go down there and the kids would all sit and play, wherever. And I would count the money, make the deposits and pay the bills, and keep their ledgers. And keep the governor off their backs.
And now you’re doing the whole thing. How did that happen?
What’s your position now?
It’s whatever needs to be done.
General manager, director, cook and bottle washer?
Curator, bookkeeper, and even plumber. I get to do some of that, too. What happened was that I started the same time–in May of ‘73–that they hired the first professional director. His name was Richard Esparza. We shared an office. He made sure that, if I was counting money, he was not in there. And his wife was in there, they had a couple of kids, she worked in the gift shop. Her name was Cindy. And they lived in that little house, that little one that’s kind of down in the drink, right across from the museum, on Main Street. The one that’s just off the side of the hill. It was kind of a dump back then, but that’s where they lived and Cindy was not real happy with it. Anyway, at the end of the season Cindy took her kids and went back to California for a vacation. During that vacation she called Richard and said, “I’m not coming back. And if you ever want to see me and the kids again you’ll come out here.” So off he went. And then they went through a number of people for various reasons, that didn’t work. One, they were paying what South Park City considers a full-time salary to a person who had a full time job at DU. And another, they had hired a curator when he was there, and she was fresh out of college. And she wanted to be a curator. But when he was gone, they pressed her into service as a director. She didn’t want to do it. And she didn’t do it very well. She was smarter than they were. During her tenure they said to me, “Can we talk you into becoming the business manager?” Which then meant, it was basically telling her, you can’t spend money you don’t have. And I had to keep reminding her of that. Because she was into doing things, which is a good thing, but she got them into a little bit of trouble by spending money, ordering things and not having the money to pay for them.
So I’m wondering from your perspective, because you’ve done it for so long and seen the changes in the area, what from a historical perspective are we doing, have we done, what’s the place of the museum here in the community?
Well, I wish it was more important to more people than it is.
I think it’s a fabulous little museum, unusual for a town this size.
I like to call it our little Sarah Lee museum, because ‘nobody doesn’t like Sarah Lee’ and nobody doesn’t like South Park City. It’s kind of a problem getting people into it because it’s in a little town. People don’t expect to find anything much, so a lot of them say, “Five bucks. I’m not paying five bucks to see this.” As a matter of fact, just the other day, there were three people who came into the museum and thought they were just going to use the rest room, that was the initial thing. They did check on the cost. It was two guys and a girl. And the girl said, “Well, you guys can go if you want to, but I’ve seen a hundred of these little places in Nebraska.” And I’m thinking, hmm, I don’t know of any like this, and I only know of the one at Minden, you know the pioneer village. And it really doesn’t compare to this. It’s big and it’s got a lot of stuff, but it’s not the same flavor, because it’s one building full of crockery and one building full of farm machinery and stuff. So….
What would you say this museum is? How accurate do you think it is?
It’s very accurate.
Is this truly what life was like in the 1800’s?
I think so. It’s authentic. All the stuff that’s inside those buildings is period stuff. It doesn’t mean that all of the stuff from one house, for instance, came from that house. That didn’t happen. Only in rare instances do we have building and stuff matching….My feeling is that we are not here to commemorate just the South Park history verbatim. We’re trying to re-create the lifestyles of that particular period. And I think we do that quite successfully. And most people will agree. And it’s kind of a nice mix between typical museum exhibits and a step back into time. Like a house for instance. Take the Mayer house. You have the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the bedroom and the back room that overlooks the river. It has the furnishings that would have been around during that time. But in that back room is a lot of information in the book case about Frank Mayer, who was an interesting character if nothing else.
How have we taken care of our history here? It’s just like the guy just walked out one day.
And that’s kind of what we’re trying portray there. There are lots of places where we do have plexiglass; but what’s behind that is either valuable or vulnerable. A lot of stuff is out where people can touch. We would never put the Tiffany vase out that people can handle and pick up and go “Oh, my Gosh. This is signed by Tiffany!” Most people don’t even know that there’s a Tiffany vase there. The other thing, like the nude painting, is a Charles Craig, and he was quite an important artist in Colorado history. Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is when he painted. His most important works are some of his Plains Indians and Buffalo kinds of things. He’s got huge murals in the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs. Beautiful stuff. And then here’s our little nude. And it’s the only one we know of that he did. If there are others out there they’re in private collections, and they’re kept very secret. Nobody knows–they did a retrospective a few years ago, and they had her all draped up in fancy velvet. They borrowed her for that show. Another interesting thing I find is that there are so many things in there, that every year there’s always a surprise. For instance, some guy asked one of the people that works there about the paintings–the portraits–that are upstairs in the brewery. There are some men and some women, and there are oil paintings and they’re huge and they have beautiful ornate picture frames around them and he was curious as to who painted them. He wasn’t too keen on wiggling things around. They were obviously not signed on the front, but we thought maybe some information on the back. So we went up one day and were looking at them and the paintings that the guy referred to are not signed, there was no information on the back other than the name of the gallery where they had been cleaned once. And so we sent him off that stuff. But as we were walking out of that place, I noticed that there was a signature on the bottom of another portrait. And I went up and looked at it and it was Charles Craig. We have two Charles Craig paintings at the museum and I wasn’t even aware of the second one. So it’s kind of interesting that you learn as you grow. And the same thing with the exhibits. I hated history when I was in school. It was my least favorite subject. It was not until I got this job that I finally gained an appreciation for it.
Tape two, side one.
Well, anyway, I’m a frustrated decorator, so I do it with my own house and I don’t have a whole lot of money to do that with when I do it. But down at the museum, it’s all part of what we do. And so I’ve learned to do a lot of research, to look up all the stuff, and what was it like back in that period. And learned to like the old wallpapers. And say okay, this will work, and we have this, and this is how I can make this work.
So it’s almost through decorating that you came up with the historical elements?
And of course, once you start doing any kind of research, I guess if you have that kind of a mindset, or if that’s where your interests lie. Because I love reading up on all this old stuff. I guess what I hated about history was–in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue–I did not like dates. And I did not like memorizing all that crap that wasn’t really important. If they’d have told me what Columbus’ garb was like, I probably would have loved it. And tried to figure out…
It makes it come alive a little more.
It’s just the dry facts that never impressed me much and that’s the kind of stuff we were learning.
When the museum first started what did it do for the town?
I know for a fact some of the things were negative. It closed the highway. That road used to come up Front Street. The main drag was up Front Street. And that’s, of course, where most of the businesses were. And there were people who forever, and maybe still today, maybe most of them are gone or died now, but you still hear people say they hated it when that museum went in, the business people did….
Did it kill some of the business?
I don’t know that for a fact, but I think that was their perception, especially the people on Front Street. Because now all of a sudden, Main, the main highway, is one block over and a lot of people are just whipping on through, they’re not stopping. But if you ever look at pictures of what Front Street was like prior to the museum beings there, there were only a few buildings at that end of town, and they were pretty much closed. So the highway may have gone through there, but I’m not sure that it was really a big deal.
Do you know where the money came from for the museum?
From Leon Snyder and his friends. He’s the man who got it started. He was an attorney from Colorado Springs. He fished up here and went to all the fishing holes, all the little creeks and stuff, and he’d been doing that for forty years. And he was seeing the old mining buildings from the old camps disappearing. Either a board at a time, or lightning strikes or vandalism or whatever. And of course it was during the time that four-wheeling got real popular. So people would just take stuff that was there. And they could just get to it and then truck it out of there. So that was the impetus for getting it started. And he was a good talker, and I assume if he’d been up here for forty years he had a lot of friends. So he convinced a lot of local people that this was a viable project, and got a lot of people interested on a volunteer basis. From the old financial records that I’ve been able to look at, and there aren’t a lot of those around, because a lot of stuff he kept in his head and it died with him–it seemed that most of the actual cash money came from him or from a source that he approached, and he got the money from somebody. I don’t think a lot of the local people had a lot money tied up in it, but they sure did have a lot of time. I see lots of familiar names…
Are there particular people who stood out?
Alscott, who owned the grocery store, Bob Pocock, who owned the other grocery store, Chet Mariner and his wife whose name I can’t remember–he was the editor and publisher of the Flume when it was still in Fairplay–they were real active. John Boyle, who was an attorney from Salida, worked in the District Court, who was very active; Frank Burgess, the man who said,”Get Davis, she’ll work.” Some of the names are not as familiar. Marilyn Smith Johnson; she was a teacher here, she worked there in the early years. Barb Weston’s mother. Barb still lives here–her mother is either somewhere else or has died, I don’t know. But her mother worked there. A lot of familiar names. But not to everybody. I guess the newcomers wouldn’t know them.
Has it contributed economically to the town?
I have to assume yes. I remember one time when the president of the Chamber of Commerce said, “Could you get some of your board members together to come to the next meeting? Because we would like to talk about what we can do to help South Park City.” I’m like, Oooh, that’s a step in the right direction. Anyway, I did round up a few of the board members and we went to the chamber meeting. And the first word out of her mouth was, “How can we get you to stay open longer and open earlier in the season, because when the museum is open all of our businesses do better.” Now that maybe is just pure weather. You know, people come to the mountains and stick around when it’s warm. They drive through Fairplay when it’s cold and snowy. So it could have nothing to do with the museum. But I think we do a good job of directing people to other places in town. All of the people that work there know that we need the support of the other businesses and the way to get that is to support them. But at this last chamber meeting Susan Jones asked me, “Could you guys come up with something that we can do to help the museum?” The one thing that would be really, really helpful is if everybody in town suggested to people that they go see the museum. And there are a lot of people who don’t do that. There are a lot of people in town who tell people that, “Oh, go on over there, it’s free.” There are a lot of people in town, and I’ve heard this from other people who come there, that’s one thing they are told, that it’s free. They are told that it closes on Labor Day, when we still have six weeks to go. People are told that it’s not open until Memorial Day, when we’ve already been open for two weeks. People will tell people that it closes at five o’clock all the time, when we’re open later than that in the summer months. That’s some of the things…….
Why is there that lack of understanding?
I don’t know. If I knew, I’d fix that.
Are there any other things in the historical area that you think you need to pay attention to?
I think maybe some of the business owners need to pay more attention to the historical significance of their own businesses and try to, instead of updating, maybe upgrading would be more important….
In terms of the historical structure?
I guess maybe in these days more people are paying attention to at least their business looking good than they were thirty years ago.
Do you remember a variety store on Front Street? Do you remember the ladies there?
They were real funky. The ladies were delightful. They had stock that they had forever. Ann Burch was one of them and I don’t remember the other name. It was little. It had a wood burning stove. When they would buy stuff it would stay there forever until it was sold. I used to go buy ribbon there for our field days at school, that must have been thirty or forty years old. And we’d always make these little ribbons for the kids. If you bought a pair of jeans, there was no dressing room, you tried them on behind the stove. There were tables piled full of stuff, so you could have tried your jeans on behind a table, nobody would have seen you. They had a little bit of everything. Everything was jam packed and crammed into nooks and crannies. There were very few things that you couldn’t find there. You’d go in and ask for something and they knew where it was, they had it. It was fun. And there were geraniums all through, long leggy geraniums in the front windows. It was a cool place.
Now that was on the south end of Front Street. Do you remember what it was called?
The Variety Store is all anybody ever called it. The building is still there. I don’t know what it is now. It used to be Enjoy Healing Arts. And now I don’t know what it is but it’s not that anymore.
What other places were there in the sixties?
The Hand Hotel was going, but it was way different than it is now. This is pre-remodel. It had a good little restaurant in the front. It had the best pies that you ever wanted to eat in the world. It had a barber shop. You know that one little room on the side? On the right hand was the barber shop. Where the gift shop is now and the lobby is now, that was all the restaurant. I have no clue what the hotel rooms were like, never saw them. There was a basement that was operating for a while. The bar was in the basement; it was dark and funky. That was when the Nicholson’s had it–maybe Nicholson’s, maybe not.
And then the Fairplay had a theater in the round. In the dining room they would have these acting troops, and some of them were locals and some of them were professionals, that came and spent maybe a summer there. And they would do a play and it would run for a while. It was cool. It was a dinner theater. That was for sure the Nicholson’s, the older Nicholson’s. And then I think it was the younger boys that would do it downstairs, where it was dark. But it was so cool, very nifty. I’m talking about the bar in the Hand Hotel down in the basement.
It’s hard to imagine that because now it looks like an unfinished old scary basement.
I’ve seen it when it was real classy.
What else was on Front Street?
The blue building that used to be the video store a couple of years ago, that was a drug store. It was operated by Ray and Bea Price. I believe Bea committed suicide. I’m not absolutely certain about that. But then Ray continued and they had a soda fountain, just a regular old drug store. And they lived upstairs. After Bea’s death, sometime later, Ray married another really nice lady. Her name was Helen. I don’t know if Helen worked in that drug store or not. But eventually they built down on the highway, but the drugstore was a very nice place. But he ran the pharmacy and she ran, it was more like a gift shop. And now it is ?. And they lived upstairs in that. And then they sold it and they moved on.
What about the J Bar?
The J Bar was a fun place. They always had dances. They had a variety of different owners. There were lots of people. Al Baumeister, but before him, Fran–you know Raymond Smith, his wife Fran–her parents had the J Bar for a while. Then, I think his name was John, I can’t remember. See when I was a teacher there were certain bars that were off limits. The Fairplay Hotel was okay.
Was that a written rule, or kind of unspoken?
It was unspoken. It wasn’t real proper. It was okay if you went out to a bar, but it had to be more upscale. The Fairplay Hotel was okay. That didn’t stop people from going to the J Bar. The Park Bar was sort of, but not really, because the Park Bar at that time was Deacon and Birdie Judd.
Why were they so well known?
Number one, they’re from Chicago–I’m not sure about Deacon, but Birdie was. Her dad had a restaurant in Chicago, and they had the best sandwiches in the world. Birdie would make a sandwich that you could eat three days on. So that was one reason they developed a really good reputation for lunches.
What about music?
They did music. Deacon played–not Birdie, Birdie tended bar. And she was tough, there was no nonsense when Birdie was there. Deacon played and Miller played with them sometimes. I can’t remember all their names, but it was a good place–miners liked to hang out there.
Do you remember any miner stories?
We’ll have to get Don for that.
Yes, Don liked to hang out there. Don and his friends and his mother. Actually it was a good place. And Sandy Sanborn owned it for a long time and she put out the world’s best burrito. I don’t know that Dean and Linda Shore ever got famous for any food they served. But Don tended bar when Sandy was there. He would go in on Burro Days or when they really needed extra help.
What about raising kids up here in the mountains?
It’s a great place for raising kids, if you don’t hear their stories until they’re gone. We had most of our exciting times with Michael. Michael’s first bike was a hand-me-down from Kalen Reese. It had no brakes. The only bike he’d ever been on before we got this bike was one of those little things with training wheels over in Delta. We went to visit friends of ours over there and he rode around the driveway. So then we got this bike from Reese’s and we knew that the brakes needed fixed but we had not done anything about it. And one day Joel and Jennifer were left to babysit their little brother–and Joel would always abdicate and go do his own thing. So anyway, Jennifer calls me at work in the afternoon some time and said, “Mom, Michael left here on his bike (which he hadn’t ridden up until this point) with Terry Miller about three hours ago and I can’t find him. I have no idea where he is.” And so–he was probably seven at the time–I said, “I’ll come home and we’ll go look for him.” So, of course, with the bike, we went and looked at all the river places he liked to play at. We went and looked–Oh, Gosh–forever. Terry’s sister Rochelle was babysitting up in Placer Valley which was very close to the reservoir, we went up there and found out that Rochelle had not seen them. Anyway, we looked for hours, and I said, “Okay, before we call the cops, we’re going to drive around one more time.” And lo and behold, here’s this little snot on the bike up by Erik Swanson’s house. So we went up and got him, I said, “Michael take the bike home and then get in the car. I’ll follow you home, you get in the car.” So we get in the car and I said, “I want to know where you’ve been. Where did you go bike riding today?” So he said, “ Well, we went up the highway.” And I said, “Okay,” and we got up the highway and I said, “Did you turn around here?” “No.” “Did you turn around here?” “No.” “Did you turn around here?” “No.” We were clear up to the top of the pass when he said, “This is where we turned around.” And I said, “Michael!” And he said, “Mom, I rode like the wind.” A couple of funny things, number one, Bob Pasco saw him coming off Hoosier Pass riding like the wind, and every time I see him, he talks about that experience. Another thing, during the early summer–sometime during the winter months we had found a wine skin out in the front yard and we had just hung it out on the fence, it was brand new, and we thought whoever lost this will pick it up when they see it. Well, nobody ever did. So here’s this wine skin that had had wine in it, it had been out in the sun baking away for a long time. Michael put milk in it to take on his trip. He lost his hat, he lost the wine skin, he thought he was in trouble for that, but he was safe so that was okay. So that was one of his adventures.
Another one was when he didn’t come home and it was getting dark–this was midwinter–darker and darker and we looked all over for him, we had no idea. And finally he comes, it was like nine o’clock at night and it’s a school night. And he was wet up to here, he was maybe in fourth or fifth grade. “Where have you been?” “Well, I missed the bus, so I started walk–when I realized it was getting late, I started walking home.” So he’s walking up from Fairplay to Alma. He decided it was getting dark and he shouldn’t be on the highway because a bad person might pick him up. So he cuts up and comes up over Beaver Ridge. Well, they don’t plow all of Beaver Ridge, so he gets up to the top and he realizes it was snow and he had to keep coming, because he didn’t want to go back the other way. So it took him until nine o’clock and he plowed through snow, had to come across the river.
Then after he graduated, right before he went into the navy, we decided we were going to climb Mount Democrat. And he’d been up there before, so Wes Huffines and Wes’s sister and I and Michael were going to do Democrat. So Wes and Lois and I are doing the path and Mike says, “I’m going up the rock way.” So up he goes, so he’s waiting at the top when we get there and I’m, of course, in for it, (panting). Michael left and we stayed up there to eat, and he went up over the saddle towards Mount Lincoln. Anyway, then Wes and Lois went that way and I said, “I’m getting off this mountain as fast as I can, so I’m not even going the path, I’m going straight down.” Michael saw me, and decided he’d come and help me off the mountain, good kid that he was. Anyway we’re talking as we’re walking down the mountain, and he says, “See this over here, this is where we used to go sledding.” I said, “How did you get up there?” “Well, we waited until spring, so there some places that were bare.” They would go sledding down that saddle in those mountains.
What about the other kids, where are they now?
Joel is married to Ann and they live in Florida. Joel works for Southwest Airlines and Ann works for Frontier Airlines and they work in Orlando. And they live in St Cloud. And they’re pregnant. Jennifer works for Schriver Medical Services in Denver, she does data processing. Blew off her college degree. She’s the only one who went to college; Joel went, lasted for a semester and said, “This is not for me.” Jennifer went and did four years and graduated with a degree in sports medicine–sports training. And got a job doing something else and has been doing something else ever since.
What about Michael?
Michael went into the navy right after school got out because he wanted to play with big Tonka toys. He’s married to Lisa. He was in the navy for five years, in the SeaBees, and he’s had some life experiences that most of us will never have. He did two tours in Bosnia. He was in Guam when that Korean Airlines jet went down. And they had to clear–they didn’t pull out bodies, but they had to clear the way so that the authorities could get them. And they had Piper. Piper means Princess. When they said they were going to name her Piper, I thought, “Oh, Gosh, please not Piper.” And I didn’t tell them initially, because I thought maybe they would change their minds and I don’t want to push it because it’s not my job. Eventually, when it looked like this was going to be a for sure thing–and they said “What don’t you like about Piper?” And I said, “Well, I guess it’s because I’ll spend the rest of my life thinking about the only Pipers I ever knew back in Wisconsin, the Piper Brothers, who were the artificial inseminators for every farm around there. They even have a town named after them–Pipersville. Some day I’m going to take Pipes to Pipersville and I’ll tell her the story. I do love the name now.
Anything you want to add about life here?
I went to a psychic one time, who–I didn’t believe in psychics but I was helping out my friend, Helen Snell. She had brought her up here and this lady was going to come for X number of dollars, so she enlisted all our help at fifteen bucks a pop to talk to this psychic. It was interesting because it was a cold day and I had probably a million layers on and she said she needed to have something of mine to hold, a piece jewelry or something, and I said, well I don’t have jewelry, I don’t wear jewelry. And she said, “I could use that bracelet you have on.” I thought, how could she see that bracelet, because it was buried under all those sleeves. So maybe she heard a tinkle, but it was a copper one–Don is insistent that copper is good for arthritis, a lot of people swear by it but it never seemed to help me. The only thing I ever did was lose the bracelet, the clasp would come off and I would lose it for weeks at a time and eventually it would turn up again. But anyway, she knew that bracelet was there, so I gave her the bracelet. She described a woman to me who she said, “This is your guardian angel.” And she described my grandmother to a T, down to her apron; which my grandmother never was seen without her apron. And so a variety of things she was telling me. And one of the things she told me, she said, “You’re not from here, are you?” And I said, “No, but I’ve lived here……”
Side two, tape two.
But anyway, I have always felt comfortable here. But anyway, she told me that in a past life I was a dance hall girl. So I am Silverheels. Now we know the truth–I was a dance hall girl. She saw me in dance hall costumes and that’s why she said, “You belong here. You were here in a past life and this is why you felt comfortable when you came here.” I love that story.
I bet Don likes that story.
I don’t know if I ever told Don. It’s a different life now. I’m an old stodgy scholar. Anyway, I thought that was cool. It was funny. It really was a strange encounter. It almosmade me a believer in psychics, because she told me other things. She told me that I didn’t do well with peers but that I really got along well with old people and kids, which is true. At that time all of my best friends were old ladies from church and people from work. And I love kids, and we’ve raised–Don and I’ve helped to raise in addition to our own three kids–probably about twenty-five foster kids. Some of them were short term–some of them were as short as overnight.
How did you get into that?
The guy in social services–the social services director was–I can’t think of his first name, McClung. It was after Jennifer was born, and he lived next door, and he called me one day and said, “Carol, do you know anybody who would be willing to take a foster kid, a newborn.” And I said, “Well, I would.” And he said, “Thank God, I was hoping you would say that.” Anyway, he said, “There’s a girl from Breckenridge who had a baby out of wedlock over here, and since the baby was born here it has to be fostered here.” We had no foster parent system in Park County. So I went up and picked up the baby when she was two days old. And then he came and inspected our house to get us licensed within the next couple of days. And we had her for about three months before she was adopted. And then it just–we were the only licensed foster care family in the county at that time. So as kids would come along they would come and live with us. So we had–the next one was a little battered boy who was probably five or six. And he eventually went back to his family. Which I had real bad feelings about that because they were bad people. And we had him for maybe six months. We had a teenager for probably six months. We had two little girls whose mother was afraid–she was a single mom and just really stressed out and thought maybe she would batter her children. So she just turned them over. We had another two kids who were–there were four kids in the family–and they lived under very bad circumstances. We got two of them and another family got the two littlest ones–we got the two bigger ones.
Has that system changed?
The system has grown. There are people in Bailey and there are people in Fairplay now. We have not done it for a long time. Our last one, the last little gal we had three different times. She was an in-and-out kind of a kid. She is now married and has a little kid of her own, lives in Salida.
Do you keep in touch?
Not really. A little bit at Christmas time. When she moved back here we did have a meeting with her the last time…..
Has the area changed?
I really don’t know. One of the things that has changed, is when we started we were flat out told all the time, there is no way you can ever adopt these children. You’re there for emergencies, don’t even think about it. And I think some people now–the system is changing so that people are fostering and then adopting. But it was hard because it was hard not to get attached. You do get really attached to them and you want to keep them. There was one–Jennifer cried when we gave her away–she was a little black kid, beautiful. Emily, her name was. She came here and she couldn’t walk. But we bought her new shoes and within a day she was walking, her shoes were just hurting her. She was just really a sweetie. But she was adopted to I’m assuming a really good mixed race family. They already had a couple kids of their own and they wanted another one. Some of the kids were–Mom was on a bender and we just knew. The secretary to the social services lived next door to this lady and she was a good mom most of the time. And Terry kind of kept an eye on things. And so she had two little boys and some days–months apart usually–she would go out partying and Terry would pick up the boys and bring them up here and they would spend a day or two. We had a couple of kids who were kidnaped–their dad kidnaped them and brought them back from wherever they were, brought them to Lake George. They found out about it and got the kids and brought them up here for a little while. It’s just a big mix, mostly abused children….
You just don’t hear about that much here.
No, you don’t. And pretty much you didn’t hear about it then either. The only reason we knew about it was because we were involved. It’s not something that’s advertised. It’s not something that they go around and say, “Hey we’ve got a kid over here who’s just been bloodied. Who wants him?” It doesn’t work that way. They have certain people that they talk to. And pretty much you’re not allowed to tell people what the stories are of those kids. But there are a lot of trade-offs. There were times when my kids ran away from home and said “you treat them better than us.” Because there are rules. I mean, I swat my kids on the butt if they misbehaved. But you don’t ever swat a battered child on the butt. You have to find other ways. One of the kids we had, one day–it was the second one, Mark. He and Joel were outside playing and Joel came running in and said, “Mom, he’s smashing all my toys!” So I went out and we sat on the sandbox and I sat and watched him and I held Joel for a while. And I let him just batter all the stuff. And I told Joel, “We can replace this stuff, but there’s something going on with Mark now he has to get this anger out.” So we let him do that and then I sat him on my lap and I finally dug it out of him. His folks had driven past, he saw them drive past our house. So they had found out where he was and it just scared the snot out of him. So he was just busy doing–because he thought he was safe here and now he found out he wasn’t. They knew where he was and if his dad got a hold of him, it might have been his stepdad, but that’s who whalloped on him. The kid slept–in the house that they were in–he slept on the top bunk, and his dad if he was mad he would pull him down, just grab an ankle or an arm and pull him down so he’d smash to the floor. He had scars over his eyes from where he was hit with a toy gun, the butt of a toy rifle. He had welts across his back and his buttocks from a belt that were fresh when we got him. And it took a long time for that kid to open up and be able to tell us stuff and not be afraid. His pattern was–and that’s one of the reasons you can never hit kids–is because they develop that pattern early on. They want something, they don’t get it, they pester for it, they get beaten for the pestering and then they get what they wanted in the first place. So they know that they go through the cycle, they learn that. So Mark destroyed an awful lot of stuff. One time I put him down for a nap, and I went in and the blanket was like a pile of spaghetti, he had shredded it. There was just no more blanket And he was just waiting for me to punish him for that, because when I put him down for a nap there was something that he wanted to do instead. And so you have to break that pattern, and you have to do it without becoming a part of the pattern.
Did you have any sense of how that related to Park County?
Not really, because you don’t get a lot of background on it, so I don’t really know. But my sense of it was because we are remote. A lot of these kids that came into our home were not from any of the population centers. They were kids from out on the Elkhorn; they were kids from some subdivision outside of Bailey. Someplace where they lived their lives and hoped not to get found. That not to many people were paying attention to them. I know the one little girl that we had three different times, her mother was an addict in Arizona. Gave her to a friend who was moving up towards Bailey someplace. So this lady took her kids and took Barbara and off they went and they lived in a place that somebody reported them as the kids were being neglected. Because they had no heat, they had no running water, they had no plumbing facilities but this lady and this flock of kids were all living out in the toolies someplace.
Earlier we were talking about your kids and how the bedrooms weren’t heated–
Well, the house was not insulated and we didn’t have central heat. And we learned to live with it. My boys were in the middle bedroom with the windows on the north side. No storm windows, no insulation. They had bunk beds and they would sleep in the wintertime in their parkas and their hats and their wool socks, in sleeping bags and their blankets, and that’s what they were used to. The house was always cold in the morning. We did have an electric heater, like those little heaters, in the bathroom. So for breakfast we would line the kids up on the bathtub, and that’s where they’d eat their cereal or their pancakes or whatever they were having for breakfast that day. It was kind of funny–nobody ever came in to see them. But all their little hinies were sitting on the tub. But it was just too cold to eat anyplace else, if they had a hot breakfast, forget it if they were in any other room. So the bathroom was warm, so that’s where they were. They dressed in there, they brushed their teeth in there and they all huddled around the sink–it was kind of fun. I kind of think had social services been aware of that, they might have said, you’re not approved. We had plenty of space, the house was big enough. They had to sometimes share a bedroom. If there were three girls and two boys, the boys would go into the littler bedroom and the girls would camp out in the big one. One of the times when we had a foster kid, we also had a Japanese exchange student. It was just a kick to have all these girls sleeping on cots and the boys were off in another bedroom and they had to sleep in sleeping bags because there was only one little twin bed in there. It was a fun time. There were some trade-offs because our kids gave up a little bit of comfort sometimes. And sometimes they felt like they were being treated unfairly. But I think my kids have grown up maybe being a little bit more compassionate, recognizing that life isn’t always easy for some kids. I see Michael now relating to Piper and it’s cool. I think maybe, having to share a room with Chip, when he didn’t really like Chip and Chip wasn’t really nice to him. Understanding what Chip’s problems were and hearing about it and living with that, maybe that made him a little bit better with his own kid, and he won’t abuse her. So anyway, it’s been a fun life.
I’m going to thank you for meeting with me today.
I’m glad we’re not getting into the sad stuff, so I won’t cry.
End of tape.
Park County Local History Archives
Department of Heritage & Tourism, Park County
856 Castello Avenue
Fairplay, CO 80440
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Park County Administration Offices
856 Castello Avenue
Fairplay, CO 80440
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- 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