Interviewer Cara Doyle
November 29, 2003
Tape 1 of 3 (Side 1)
This is Cara Doyle. It’s November 24, 2003 and I’m sitting here chatting with Marie Chisholm….. < missing dialogue >
Grady, New Mexico is a little farming community. It is not incorporated. < missing dialogue > We lived 10 miles from Grady.
Was your family farming there?
My grandparents were farmers there. They homesteaded the property. In the ‘20’s I think…or even before the ‘20’s I think. But I started school in the first grade <missing dialogue> and she taught generations of children in that area. And I think you’re always impressed by your first teacher. At least I was because she just was a very good teacher. And Grady also had a very small school at the time and we were bussed to the school by little yellow school busses. And often the driver was not an adult but a teenager who went to the school. It was pretty small at the time, but we had quite a basketball team and also a national rodeo champion was born and raised in Grady. I can’t think what his name was.
It will come to you.
It will probably come to me.
Can you characterize the area? Was it a poor area? Did people do pretty well at that time when you were living there?
No, this was back in 1934…it was during the depression area. The farmers around there raised just about everything that they ate. My grandmother raised chickens. They raised cattle. They butchered a steer once in a while and pigs. And she canned chickens and they made ham and bacon. Raised vegetables in the garden. Anything that she could she canned. We had a basement just full of canned goods. About only thing they bought at the grocery store was things like sugar, baking powder. My grandmother even made her own yeast and her own soap.
So did you learn all these things? Did you learn these skills from her?
Not really. She wanted to teach me how to cook when I was 10 years old. And she was one of those who would put a handful of this and a pinch of that into something. And I would say, “How much?” And she would say, “Well, whatever you think’s right!”
Well a 10-year old doesn’t really know what’s right.
Your hands are different…
<laughter> Well I just didn’t…you know…and I kind of gave up. I didn’t even want to tackle something like that when I didn’t have a clue how much you put in something.
So were you expected to do farm chores?
I was kind of the baby of the family. And my brother and my uncle were…actually my brother was older than my uncle. But, they were teenagers and did most of the farm chores such as milking the cows. But I did get one job of gathering the eggs. But if there was a sitting hen…back in those days you hatched chickens. If you had a rooster then the hens would lay eggs and sit on them. And they were mean and they would peck me. So I would go screaming to Grandma and say “That chicken and that hen pecked me.”
<laughter> That was scary for a little kid.
I was…I didn’t like that. One time we had a heavy rainstorm and it’s pretty flat country. So there was not much place for the rain to go. There was a foot of water around the farmhouse and in the barns and everything. And the men had gone to Clovis New Mexico for some reason. Clovis was 45 miles away. And they couldn’t get home because everything was flooded. So my Grandmother wanted me to go out and milk the cow. Well, I was about 10 years old at the time. She said “of course if you can’t do it just let the calves have the milk.” Well I think those were the best fed calves because I came in with a little bitty dab of milk in the bucket. <laughter> I never had the strength in my hands, I guess, or the technique to milk a cow. But I did feed the chickens and I watered the chickens. Mostly, I think I played.
Who all was living in this house?
My Grandmother and my Grandfather and at the time my aunt Vila and uncle Roy and Uncle Harold and my brother. Harold and Roy were the sons of my grandparents and Vila was also the daughter of my grandparents. She was older and left home earlier and so finally it came down to just me and my brother and my uncle living there. And grandparents had a 3-bedroom house.
Cozy sometimes then, huh?
And I didn’t realize well the boys all slept in one bedroom and the girls in another and my grandparents had another bedroom. But I didn’t realize until I went back as an adult how small that house was. Because when I was a little kid I thought that was the biggest house in the world and they had a full basement which they stored wheat in a lot of times for seed for the next planting. And it was also full of food, canned food, flour was kept. They got their own flour milled from the wheat they raised. And cereal consisted of cracked wheat which I think it’s called bulgar now or something similar to that. Of course at that time it was just cereal to us. And my Grandmother cooked it and Cream of Wheat was made and she made her own lard, rendered from the pigs. And it was stored in 5 gallon containers in the basement…the old ceramic crocks with the ceramic lid on it.
It’s going to get noisy. If you hear noise in the background…they’re fixing the library.
And I remember the basement particularly because I liked to play down there. But I also wandered all around the farm and paid attention to everything. If I saw a snake I got screaming to Grandma to get the snake. Of course we did have rattle snakes but we also had Bull snakes but I couldn’t tell the difference.
They scare me now <laughter>. So this was now Central New Mexico.
No this was Eastern New Mexico. It’s probably about 20 miles west of the Texas line. It’s not very far from Texas. Amarillo from Tucumcary is about 115 miles. And most of that mileage is in the Texas side. And so we were quite close to Texas and apparently communication was by radio. We had a little radio…if you can picture this….on Saturday night everybody gathered around the radio to listen to the Grand Ole Opry…Minnie Pearl and Earnest Tubbs and all those people. And my grandparents always listened to the radio for weather forecasts. It was dryland farming and they were always interested in whether or not we were going to get moisture. And quite often crops failed because they didn’t have moisture. And sometimes if they did have a good crop a hailstorm would come along and ruin it. So it was tough times.
It sounds like it. But it sounds like you had enough to eat.
We had plenty to eat. We had eggs. We had bacon. We had all kinds of meat. And of course we were raised on eggs, bacon, gravy and biscuits…mainly. But we had chicken and steak for main meals, lunch or dinner.
What about clothes and shoes .
My grandmother used to buy flour at the mercantile store…Stanfields..in 100 pound sacks, if we bought flour. Because sometimes we didn’t have a wheat crop even to make flour. So she bought flour and flour was at that time as a sales promotion bagged in printed material. And so she would buy 2 or 3 bags, which would give her 2 or 3 yards of material to make dresses, aprons and clothes for me. And things like that. And the men had to buy coveralls and shoes. And of course I went barefooted almost until I started first grade and then I had to have shoes to go to school.
And is that what most kids wore…was it embarrassing. Did everybody just have that anyway?
Everyone was just just like <noise from library> uniforms for schools nowadays. Nobody paid any attention to what kids wore because everybody wore pretty much the same thing. And the boys usually wore jeans or bib overalls. And when I was a little girl, before I started to school, my grandmother used to put coveralls on me…the old fashioned striped ones. And she kept my hair cut short. She did all the haircutting. My grandfather half-soled shoes. He had all the equipment and everything. If the soles of your shoes went bad, he put half soles on them. We didn’t even know about the shoe shoes unless they were in the cities like Clovis or Tucumcary, NM. And he would half-sole the shoes until the sides got so bad they had to be thrown away. You couldn’t half-sole them because they wouldn’t hold the sole anymore. But the men of course had to buy their own shoes. And I did too. They had to buy shoes for me when I was starting to school. But most of my clothes were just made by flour sacks and things like that, except the coveralls. And because my grandmother kept my hair cut short before I started to school. A lot of people thought I was a little boy. <laughter>
We had two dogs. One dog in particular, a collie, and the collie’s name was Ted. And that dog lived for many, many years. I don’t know how old that dog was, but I do remember it was there when I was in first grade and he was an almost constant companion to me when I was there growing up on the farm. And Ted then moved with my grandparents to Bolin New Mexico. They sold out the farm in Eastern New Mexico and moved to Bolin, which is sough of Albuquerque. They took the dog with them and they raised alfalfa when they were there. And the dog died there…had one leg cut off by bye mower when they were mowing for alfalfa. But that was after I came to Fairplay. So that dog was pretty old at the time. He just died a natural death because he learned to hop on just one front leg and two hind legs.
You mentioned that you did a lot of playing as a kid. What did you do for fun out there. It sounded kind of lonely.
No. It wasn’t lonely. I’m not sure…we had the kids…my brother and uncle made their own toys. I guess you’d say. They made…I’m not sure what you would call them…but they would take a can that was closed on both ends and flatten them in the middle on your shoes and you would walk on them. And that was kind of fun walking. And they made stilts…they made their own stilts. I never could master walking on stilts. I just could never get the hang of keeping my balance. And they made them out of a slab of wood with leather foot straps and that was it pretty much. Of course they were tall enough they could hold them to their sides with their hands, you know, hold the wood. But I could never get the hang of walking on stilts. <laughter>
And they used to tease me a lot. They would tease me that the bear was going to get me. If we were playing outside…playing Red Rover, you know…and it got dark…well then they would say “the bear’s going to get you”….never realizing there was no such thing as a bear out there in that flat land. In fact we never saw antelope or…we never had no wild animals at all except jack rabbits and cotton tails and snakes that I recall. Of course we had gophers and prairie dogs. Wherevever there’s a colony of prairie dogs you have rattle snakes, because that’s the food for rattle snakes. But we never had near the house or anything we never had prairie dogs. It was mostly in the dry pastureland. And we didn’t have any of that hardly.
I used to fish tarantulas out of their holes. That was one of my prized times. You take a lot of chewing gum and put it on a cotton string..a little redwood twine. And you jig it up and down in the spider hole. And they’ll latch onto it, and then you pull them out. And some of them were probably 2 or 3 inches across and fuzzy but we never tried to hold them or anything. We were always taught that they were poisonous. But they were never fast enough to get us. But if you teased them, they would put up a fight. They would stand up on their hind legs and attack like a piece of straw or whatever. And that’s how come you could fish them out of the hole in the first place. <laughter>
One time we had a bed bug infestation. Back in those days it was kind of a…it showed poor sanitation. It was a negative effect. My cousins from a couple of miles away had come to stay and had brought bed bugs into the house. When my grandmother discovered it she just had a fit. So everything went out into the yard. And at that time of course we didn’t have any way of killing bed bugs and getting rid of them. But the mattresses, which were feather beds, went out into the yard and were strung along the fence or the clothes line or something. All the bedding was washed. And of course they crawl into the crevasses and hide in the daytime. So her method of getting rid of them behind the baseboards in the house was to pour boiling water behind the baseboards and then mop it up as it flowed out. But she did get rid of the bed bugs.
She sounds like a really amazing lady.
She was. And I think back and I think how did she handle all that? She had to cook. She had to wash and keep house and all that sort of stuff…and can. She made her own soap which was done in the yard with wood. She heated this great big kettle in the yard. She used lard of course from the pigs and lye. That was one thing she had to buy was lye. And she made her own soap in this big kettle. And when it would cool she would cut it into chunks. But she had this long wooden…it was almost like an oar…but it was a paddle that she stirred the soap while it was getting hot and making.
We didn’t have electricity until 1938 or 39…somewhere along there. So the way she washed…we had this what they called a wash house…it was a little adobe building outside of the house across the yard that we had a gas-operated engine that ran the washing machine. The hose for the exhaust went outside the adobe wall. It had a …because they knew about carbon monoxide at the time, and so the exhaust went outside. But it was an old fashioned washing machine with a wringer. And my grandmother always cautioned me “Now don’t you let your fingers get in that wringer.” And of course it had an emergency release. I used to toy with the idea, should I try it???
And I never did. <laughter>
Smart girl <laughter>
But clothes were run through the wringer out of the washer into a wash tub where you had water. And all of the water had to be carried to the wash house, or into the house for use from the windmill. They had a windmill with a storage tank. And everything had to be carried in…the water had to be carried into the house because we had no real plumbing. We had a bathtub and a toilet that flushed but we didn’t have any hot water. So any hot water had to be heated outside in the big black kettle and carried into the house for the bathtub. <laughter>
But they did have what they call the cooler, which was a concrete pan, I guess you would call it, above the stairway for the basement, only it was on the back porch. Water would flow through that. And that’s where they stored milk to cool it. And they separated their own milk with one of those hand-crank separators. That was another one of my jobs…separating the milk. And then she sold the cream or made butter with it, and eggs to help bring in some income to buy shoes, baking soda, sugar. And we would get oranges once a year. And they would buy a crate of oranges just before Christmas, and that was the only oranges we had on the farm. However, they did raise apples and peaches on the farm. And she canned apples and peaches and that was our…and that was our first group that we had. And I am amazed that my grandmother could do all that. And kill their own chickens and process them. Even today when my family started hunting birds in the high country…grouse and ptarmigan…they didn’t know how to gut a chicken…or the bird…and I had to show them because of my experience with chickens.
My grandfather did a lot of ironwork. He had a forge in the shop, with a blower on it. That was also my job…to turn the crank of the blower. He would heat metal and form it into whatever shape he needed to fix the tractor or plow or whatever. We did not have horses at the time. We did have tractors that had the big lugs on them. And then somewhere along the line we got a John Deere. They used it for their wheat farming to pull the plow and plant wheat. That was in the late ‘30’s or somewhere along there. And so they were always proud of any mechanical help that they got for the farm.
But they didn’t have any money. I don’t know how they managed. I can remember my grandfather going over figures and everything at night and worrying about how they were going to manage. However the property was free and clear except for the taxes. And they still had to pay taxes on it. And it was a struggle, I know. Especially to raise extra kids in the family.
Now you haven’t talked about your mom and dad at all.
Well my father died when I was 2. We were living in Grady at the time. And it was an accidental death. I really don’t have any details about it. I did get a hint or two but it is something I would prefer not to reveal. And my mother had four children at the time at home. I was 2 and my oldest sister was 9 years older than I was. My mother had only an 8th grade education. Women could not work…find any kind of work at that time. So this is when we started being farmed out to relatives to raise. I don’t know what my mother did during the time I was with my grandparents. It was just something that was never discussed. I just know that she never could ever make a living for herself and her children. I know one time we were living out in the desertland…southwest of Albuquerque…when I was in the 2nd grade. We lived in an adobe house that had dirt floors and centipedes and rattle snakes. We were on what they called welfare. We got pinto beans. We got rice. We got mostly dried products. And we lived on that, I remember. And I went to school in the 2nd grade in this little adobe school house. It was grades 1-6. But there were hardly any kids. And I had to walk a mile to school. But the weather was not any problem in Albuquerque, because it hardly ever got bad. However we did get some apples one time and they cautioned everyone to wash apples thoroughly because they had sprayed them with an insecticide or something to kill the bugs or whatever. I didn’t wash this apple good and I got disentary they called it. I almost died from that. I was dehydrated and weak and delirious. And finally a health nurse came and said “Give her rice water…cook rice and give her the water.” So that is what kind of brought me around. But I almost died from that.
We had no medical attention ever. When I was in the first grade I got the measles and the mumps and then I got pneumonia. I always loved to go to school. But this one morning I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t feel good. I had a temperature of 105. So my grandmother said “Papa, you’ve gotta go get Doc Hale.” So he went and got him and he came out to the house and diagnosed it as double-pneumonia. I recall them putting pink salve on a cloth and putting it on my back and my chest.
And you didn’t know what it was?
I didn’t know what it was. It had a menthol odor to it, but I had no clue what it was. But it cured me of pneumonia. I’ve heard of some people using mustard plaster, but this was not a mustard plaster. I don’t know long it took me to recover, but I suppose I recovered pretty fast being a young kid. And that was my most serious illness back in those days besides the dysentery. If we didn’t have home medicine cures, I don’t know. We didn’t go to a doctor, hardly ever. My grandfather got his arm broken when he was trying to crank the old car. You had to crank them. It kicked back, they called it. And he had to go to Doc Hale and get that set.
And we hardly ever took a car anywhere. Maybe once or twice a year would we even drive the car. We had rural delivery and the mailbox was a mile away from the house. So somebody walked to get the mail unless they were expecting a big supply of some kind of feed or something. Then somebody would go meet the mailman. We even got chickens by mail.
Oh really <chuckle>.
Yeah, they were in a big cardboard box and they had about ½ inch holes. And these chickens would come by mail. And these chickens would just chirp and chirp. And so we would meet the mailman every day. We would have kind of an idea of when the chickens would arrive, so we would meet the mailman every day because we had no other communication other than just going to meet. And so we met the mailman until the chickens arrived, which was usually in the spring of the year. That’s when we would get a shipment of like 100 to 200 chickens. And then these were fryers that she would kill and can for our food. The others, the older chickens, were kept for just laying eggs. <laughter> They were called layers. And we had white chickens. Some people had brown chickens. But we always had white chickens.
So during this time did your Mom come to visit here and there?
No. I remember before I ever started to school, my mother was there and she had had a hysterectomy.
Tape 1 of 3 (Side 2)
- We were talking about your Mom.
So they brought her home in the ambulance. Back in those days surgery was a very serious thing and they brought her home not knowing the results of removing ovaries back in those days. She had a nervous breakdown. And she was in a mental institution for over a year. But no one really understood that the sudden removal of the hormones would do this to you. They didn’t have artificial hormones at the time. I remember visiting her during that time which was probably once every six months…I don’t know.
What was that like? I would imagine it was very scary.
It was scary. It was very scary. Because none of us knew, you know, what was going on or how to deal with it. She just went off her rocker. I don’t know how they handled it. Well I know that my grandfather handled the situation. He put her in the car and took her somewhere. But where he took her, I don’t know. But maybe to the doctor. Maybe he recommended this…I have no idea. But it was bad. She recovered but I still did not live with her. And I still don’t know much too much about what happened to her afterwards.
When did the transition happen, because my understanding is that you ended up coming out to Colorado with your mom?
I was living with my grandparents in New Mexico at the time and had been there most part of the…well all of the 7th grade. The 3rd-6th I was all over. My mother tried to keep me with her and it didn’t always work. She couldn’t make a living and have me. And my brother was always with my grandparents.
So you would end up going with your mom for a little bit to some other town and then head back to your grandparents house?
Yeah. And so I changed schools twice in any year at least. She had some jobs managing or taking care of a hotel or motel or something like that. And then she would take in boarders. People that could pay to live at the house and she would prepare meals for them and stuff like that. That was one of her ways of making money. But I was living with my grandparents. I had been with them from the time I got out of the 6th grade until I finished the 7th grade. And then this was by August of 1944. My mother met and married Everett Howard. She was working as a waitress in Denver. She came up to be a housekeeper. She wound up getting married and my mother wanted me live with them. So I came up here on August 14, 1944.
And that’s when you first came to Fairplay?
That’s when I first came to Fairplay. We came from Tucumcary. We went to Tucumcary…this Aunt Nancy and I. I was 13. She escorted me. She kind of knew the ways of transportation and things like that.
Now who is Aunt Nancy? How does she tie in? Is she your mom’s sister?
That’s my mother’s younger sister. However she is now 96 years old. My Aunt Nancy is and she’s still living in Tucumcary. Anyway we decided that the way to get to Colo was by train. This was during the war. You could not drive very much because gas was rationed and nobody had cars to drive that far anyway. So we went to…we were taken to Tucumcary by my grandparents. We went through Dalhart, Texas and somewhere to around Pueblo and then to Denver.
Cary: What was that like as a kid on a train? I’ll bet it was exciting!
It was very hot and dirty. It was a diesel engine and no air conditioning. And being August it was very hot through those areas…New Mexico, Texas and Colorado were all very hot during that time. You had to have the windows open and as a result you got soot and smoke from the diesel engines.
So was it miserable or was it exciting?
It was an experience. That’s for sure <chuckle>. I didn’t really want to leave my grandparents, though. But my aunt came and my mother and step father met us at Union Station and brought us to Fairplay. We topped Kenosha Pass in the afternoon.
And what were you driving?
It was his car. I’m not sure. It was a ‘38 or ‘40 car. Of course there were no cars manufactured after 1941 and so this was an older car, but I don’t remember the year or the brand. That wasn’t an interest to me. But at that time all of South Park was irrigated.
So you topped Kenosha Pass.
…Topped Kenosha Pass and I just …and the mountains and the meadows down below…I was just absolutely astounded. So my aunt stayed a few days and then she went back to NM to my grandparents house, I guess. She was kind of in a transition between jobs…I don’t know. She always made her living by waiting tables or something like that or cooking in a restaurant. So for some reason she wound up at my grandparents at that time I guess on vacation or something…just for visit. Anyway she went back there. And I stayed here…I’ve been here ever since. But I lived with my mother and step father until the spring of 1945.
So you came in the summer of ’44 it was?
Uh-huh. And I left home in the spring of ’45.
Tell me where did you live when you first got here? Here you are with a strange guy. Wasn’t that weird to have a step-dad. Did you know him at all?
I wanted a father figure. I had never had a father. My mother married several times. This is one thing she did…she would rely on men for support so she would marry somebody and that wouldn’t last. So anyway,
Did you like him ever? What was he like?
He was very domineering. He insisted that everything be in it’s place and be kept spic-and-span clean. I was, I guess I was a little rebellious, I don’t know <chuckle> …and I left home in the spring of the year. Our first house was on Second Street where the alley comes down to Third Street. That house right on the corner, 215 Second Street.
And that’s when you first moved in with your mom and stepdad?
That was the first house, mm-hum.
You had your own room?
Sort of. It was a duplex that they had cut a doorway in from the front room and then you went from the front room, which was on the alley, and then you went to the next room, which would have been a front living room, had it not been…it was still a duplex. That was where my bedroom was. And then there was another bedroom in the back. I had two stepbrothers living there at the time.
And did you get along with them?
I got along with the stepbrothers. I did not get along with the stepfather. And he was kind of abusive to my mother. And I resented that and I wanted out. My mother would not leave because this was her support.
Now was she working up here at the time?
No she was not working.
And what did he do?
He was a miner and he was still working at the London Mine. He was taking out the railings and the infrastructure on the South London Mine. They were using the rails and all metals for the war effort because they melted it down and made cannons and whatever out of it for the steel. So he was working up there taking out the rails. So I was fortunate to go into the South London Mine.
<cannot understand> down with him?
Yes just before it was finally shut down for many years.
Tell me what it was like.
It was exciting. I got more of a thrill out of that than I did coming out on the train. You wore a hat that had a light on it, a hard hat. And of course no light in the tunnel except they had a motor that you went in on. I guess it was electric…I don’t know. I don’t remember any noise. It was very dark and the water was dripping all the way through. If we got to a spot where it was dripping pretty good he would slow down so we could get a little wet. <laughter>
So was it a cart?
It was an ore cart. A motor and an ore cart. It had seating space on it for two people other than the driver. And my aunt and I went through there during that time. I kind of feel like I was fortunate to be able to see that mine before it was shut down and everything taken out. But back to my story of my stepfather. He made me mad. I had come home with some cleaning clothes from the cleaners and I paid for them myself. I was working doing housework at the time making 50 cents an hour.
Where were you working?
I was working for Sherry Burgess. She was the County Clerk and Recorder at that time. And her husband was in the Service. Anyway I paid for the cleaning with my own money. I was in a hurry. You know how school kids are. And I laid my cleaning on my bed instead of hanging it up. And when I came home later it was thrown out into the yard in the dirt because he was very fastidious about everything being in it’s place all the time. Also I did not appreciate the fact that he was abusive to my mother and she would not leave. So I left. And there was a family by the name of the Lanses. They lived out here on the Red Hill Ranch which is on the other side of the Red Hill which has since burned down. But I went and lived with them.
How did you meet these people…to clean for…to live with. Did you go with them to school? I mean you’re just a kid…
Some of that just escapes my memory. My mother had me helping her when she was cleaning houses. She later did begin to work cleaning houses. She cleaned the house down at the Silverheels Ranch…the ranch house out there. And then she worked doing cooking for the hay crews that summer. But I just you know things just happened.
So it was Velaska family?
Yes. They were sheep-raisers. They raised sheep. And they were from Craig. Their name was Valanzez. They seemed to have money. So I went to live with them until I got out of school for the summer.
So what was the deal? Room and board for housework or ?
They just took me in. I did work after school the next year but after school was out. I graduated from the 8th grade and then I went to my grandparents house in Bolin, New Mexico. I stayed with them all summer. I came back in my freshman year and I lived with the Hockaday family. My mother was supposed to pay them $5 a week for my room and board. Well I was still working. I worked for Sherry Burgess and I was working waiting tables and I was doing all sorts of things. When I found out my mother hadn’t sent them a dime, I started paying my own room and board to the Hockaday family. Bonnie Wilcox is their daughter. Probably Bonnie and Wilcox doesn’t ring a bell with anyone here. He was also a miner and he worked at the Buckskin Mine I believe. Anyway this $5 a week helped them considerably. Then I bought my own clothes. I paid my own expenses at school and everything. Except for a place to live I was pretty well self-supportive.
Were they family at all to you? I mean do they feel like family or were you just renting space?
It was like family. Everyone around town was family at the time. Everybody knew everybody. They knew their business and it was …Fairplay was like a big family.
So you didn’t feel lonely or kind of lost not being with your family.
No because other than my grandparents I had no family life. I mean I was shifted from one place to another. I had no father figure to feel protected or anything. I just became very independent.
Boy you sure did.
Did you have any fun? Sounds like you’re working all the time in your teenage years…
Yes we always had fun. As school kids we always had fun. We had the youth center, which is now the Senior Center, but we had every Friday night there were dances. We had an orchestra. We had square dancing or regular dancing. And then the other room was for ping pong and checkers and Chinese checkers and other kinds of games.
Who rang this?
Reverend Hillhouse. He was the Presbyterian minister here. He got the idea of putting together this youth center. The original part of the building was the Methodist Church, which was no longer active. He bought a part of a school building. I’ve had two different stories about where the rest of the building came from. But the part that sits right on the corner what is now the Senior Center…Hathaway and Sixth…was the original Methodist church. And then he added a school building popped toward the alley. And the kids…there was a section that was constructed from the ground up inbetween those two. And it was made the entrance. And then the kitchen was put into part of that church building and then part of the entryway. And the bathrooms were put in and things like that. But it was already finished by the time I got here. But the kids around town helped build that, you know. The teenagers he was very persuasive to get the teenagers to do all of this.
And was there a religious affiliation? Could anyone come?
Oh yeah. Anybody. The whole town. The kids and the parents would sponsor. They would prepare refreshments…cakes, pies or something. They served drinks, tea or cokes or something. And I think we paid a small amount for expenses, you know. And we had Edna Miller was one of the main people in the band and her husband, I know him as Shorty Miller. He played a horn of some kind.
What did Edna play?
No I think Shorty…Oh Edna always played the piano. Oh yeah. Her husband played the drums. And then Reverend Hillhouse’s son later played a horn, sax I believe. No Cliff Richardson played the sax. And then later…I don’t remember what Larry Hillhouse played. Larry Hillhouse is still alive. He lives in Aurora. He has lots and lots of memories of Fairplay of course. It was…we had fun. We would go ice skating down by the river. We would build a bonfire and go ice skating down on the river. Sometimes we went skating down at the dredge pond. The dredge was still there and the ice was not functional.
Is that the one south of Fairplay?
South of Fairplay by Highway 9. We would go down there skating. And they had a watchman would would invite us in and go fix hot chocolate or something.
Oh cool. Tell me what it was like to be inside the dredge.
We just went into one section that was kind of an office room. It was just a metal room, you know. And a desk and some chairs around and the watchman had a place to cook. I don’t recall. It was just a wood-heated stove or something like that. It had to be, you know. To keep warm.
You didn’t peek around the dredge at all?
Not really. I think he did take us on a tour one time and the stacker…the big conveyor belt that dug the dirt and washed it and everything. And it stacked the rocks back out into rock piles. And he did show us where they rendered the gold and things like that. But I was not really impressed I guess because it was just a dirty old tin place I guess <laughter>.
It is so famous around here.
It was quite a novelty. After the dredge began to run again I was waiting tables at the Fairplay Hotel. And I recall some tourists came in for dinner. They said, “What is that night club out there?”
I’ve heard there were lights out there. <laughter>
It was all lit up and there’s a screaming and a hollerin’ going on out there. Of course it was the metal screeching you know from the stacker because it did run 24 hours a day. And I laughed and I explained what it was. And of course they had never heard of a dredge and things like that. But we did have…. In 1945 when the war ended we began having tourists come in and come back and the people who had left for the war effort started coming back. Most of them were discharged within 6 months after the war ended which was around December of 1945. People started coming back. Our dentist came back. That was Dr. Sinn. He had an office and a home over on Front Street which later owned by Wynona Briggs. Then Eunice Briggs owned it. And now Widbrotz or it’s now known as Mama Moose. But that was the dentist office. He had two rooms in the front of the building with an entrance off Front Street. He was my first experience with the dentist. I’ve been afraid of dentists ever since. <laughter>
Was he mean or was he…
He was rough and I had a real bad situation. My two eye teeth were impacted. They never came through. And they were embedded in bone. My brother was in the Navy and the dentist said you’ve got to have these removed. They could become abscessed and then you’d be in real trouble. Well I didn’t know better at the time and so my brother said … I think the cost was $125. So my brother in the Navy sent me the money to have this dental work done. I went through a lot of pain during and after the surgery. It was oral surgery that…. And the last one he waited for the worst one for the last and then he made bridge work for me. And the whole thing cost $125. Other people though who had been his patients were very glad to have him back.
How did he put you out?
With novacaine shots. And the novacaine would wear off and he would have to give me more because the last surgery took an hour and 45 minutes. He was sweating over that. Anyway this was my first experience. Well actually I went to him first because I had a tooth break off. It had a little tiny pinhole of decay and it broke the tooth. And I went to him for a filling. First time I’d ever been to a dentist except when my mother did take me to a dentist in Albuquerque when I was 10 to see why I didn’t have these two teeth. The dentist said “oh she’s still young…they’ll come through.” And I think that they could tell that my mother never had any money <laughter>. I don’t know if that dentist in Albuquerque ever got paid, but I don’t think so. Anyway they didn’t want to take time with people that they didn’t think they could collect any money from. So everything was just dropped until I went to Dr. Sinn. I know that there were some high school boys parked on Front Street when I came out of the office. I must have looked like I’d been through a tornado. Naturally I didn’t feel very well and they started laughing. And I never forgave them for that <laughter>.
Do you know who they were?
Well one was my future husband who I didn’t know was going to be my future husband <laughter>. And I don’t remember who the rest of them were. I think one was Clair McCoy who came from Como to school here. He seemed to always have an old car. And my husband always seemed to have an old car…a Model A or a Model T or whatever they were at that time. Anyway I was pretty unhappy at them for laughing at me.
<laughter> I don’t blame you. Poor thing. Now what friends did you hang out with. Who were your friends?
Well Betty Jo Weaver was in my class. We did a lot of stuff together. And all of the girls belonged to the Girl Scouts. Mrs. Hillhouse was the Girl Scout leader. We would go on picnics and things. I don’t know…there was never any really close friendship. Mary Jacobs was a friend of mine when I came here. It’s hard to get in…if you know what I mean…get in with the kids when you’re new.
Sure. Well you moved so much. Maybe you were a little bit protected too.
Well, I was very shy and it took at least a year to really make friends with anybody. But I always went to the youth center and participated in everything. We played basketball at school…after school sometimes.
Now that’s one thing that struck me in talking with people is there seemed to be girls sports then…even more so than many years later. Would….
Volleyball and basketball were the sports mainly because they were indoors. The weather in Fairplay does not let you play outdoors too much except.ice skating and things like that. We never had a ski…none of us ever went skiing except just maybe on a little slope somewhere
That’s funny because you hear so much about it now.
But tell me about girls basketball. I heard it got quite competitive between the towns.
Well we did not play other schools. It was not allowed. Girls basketball.
Now what time was this? In the ‘40’s then?
Marie: Yeah. From the time I was a freshman, which was ’45 until I graduated in 1949. At first we played girls rules which you couldn’t cross the center line. You had to throw the ball from one…you had 5 players on each end…each team had 5 players. There were 10 players. And each team had 5…I don’t recall that you couldn’t dribble the basketball. You could drop it and run and grab it before it bounced a second time. And that was the way you moved down the court. And then you had to pass it over the line. Nobody was allowed to cross the center line except for jumping. You jumped in the center line for the ball and that was it. It was a lot different than boys basketball. But then in later years we used to play even the town team that the people that were already out of high school had a town team and the high school boys played the town team. But we cooked up…
Tape 2 of 3 (Side 1)
OK this is tape 2 with Marie and Cara. We were talking about basketball. You had cooked up some kind of a competition you were telling me.
We wanted a little better competition than just high school boys, so we challenged the town team to games. We would beat them because they were afraid they would hurt us girls. And we were rough…I mean we did everything we could to get the ball. We’d run into them, knock them over and get the ball. And they quit playing because…they quit…they said “You girls are too rough.” Before the school was consolidated, before the war, we had Alma, we had Jefferson, and we had Fairplay, and we had Como…all schools in all those areas. They played each other. And then there was Hartsel. And of course Lake George and Guffey and Taryall…they were all so isolated that they didn’t have…
Hard to travel…
Well they didn’t have facilities for even playing basketball. They didn’t have a gymnasium. They were just one-room schoolhouses. But in the Como/Jefferson area and in Alma they had the schools where they could play in the gym. They had basketball courts and things like that. So that’s how come they had competition then. Then when the war started everything was consolidated and they were bused to Fairplay because of the…well…there was just hardly any enough kids at each school I guess to justify…
So many people had moved during the war they had to leave…
Oh yeah…. And I guess it was too they didn’t have enough students to justify keeping all of those schools open.
So there really wasn’t anyone to play nearby. I mean if you wanted to play another school it would have been a long, long way.
Yeah. When I was in high school we went to Cotopaxi. We went to West Cliff. Those smaller schools. But we didn’t go that often. And this, I guess, continues to this day. That you play the smaller schools, and quite often it’s a long trip. But we didn’t have any way of going. The other students…only the ball kings were the ones that went. We had no way of going. We had no transportation. Once in a while one of the high schoolers would have a car and they would go with as many as they could take…which was a total of 6…5 others besides the driver. But most of us didn’t go. We didn’t go to those things. We had cheerleaders here but they didn’t go…
They didn’t get to go either…
They didn’t get to go either. Gas was rationed during the war. Tires were hard to get.
Now how did it change from when the war started. What was Fairplay like before and then during the war. How did those transitions kind of affect the town?
Well, I wasn’t here during the prewar era. But there were a lot more people here. And after war started, a lot of younger people went either into the service or went to build war equipment. So the town was pretty much deserted. A lot of the wives followed the husbands wherever they went. If they were in the Navy, they went to Washington state or wherever the Naval yards were. A lot of the houses were empty and boarded up.
And that was when you first got here.
mm-hum. And our only source for shopping was Alscod’s Grocery store…over here on the corner…the rock store. He was very generous with the people. Sometimes he would sell you sugar and tires and gasoline and shoes were rationed. You were allowed 2 pairs of shoes a year, I think. And you got coupons to buy these things. You had to have a coupon before you could go buy it. And canned fruits and things like that were not readily available on the grocery store shelves because it required sugar. Factories did not have sugar. Sugar was imported. And so as a result we didn’t have…and leather went to soldiers’ boots. And so that’s why you couldn’t get shoes very often. Rubber went for the army vehicles and the military vehicles and the gasoline.
Now how much did that impact you as a teenager here. Did you really notice that?
We hardly got out of town. The furtherest we would go would be to Como or Alma. Como Mercantile was still in business and so in order to find supplies, a store would get sugar in, but it didn’t stay on the shelves for very long. So we would go to Como to see if they had sugar of coffee. Coffee was also rationed. Anything that was imported into the United States that we did not produce and was not necessary for the military, it was in pretty short supply. The dealers and the merchants didn’t…once they got these supplies in, they were gone pretty fast. I think the small towns benefited more than the cities, because the small towns had the allotments and not too many people to sell it to. And most of the governmental stuff was teaching and the draft board…we had a draft board. What did they call the office where you picked up your buttons for ration stuff….um…I can’t recall what they called it. It was usually the older people or the women that ran this. The county clerk…her office was all women. And the county judge…we did have a county judge…but it was women. Or either the young or the old besides. Because the in-between women went with their husbands if they went to the factories or to the service. And so it had quite an impact. And gradually they began coming back and opening up their businesses again.
Now you were at the Fairplay at this time?
In ’46…’45…I waited tables at the Hand Hotel.
Ok. Tell me about those places at that time. Were they hopping…were they luxurious…were they…?
Well, they were just middle-of-the-road…the Fairplay Hotel has not changed all that much. They still have the wooden floors. And the Hand Hotel had a few rooms upstairs which were not anything special. They had no bathroom upstairs. Everyone had to…I don’t know what they did for a bath or a shower because they had no plumbing up there. And everyone had to come downstairs and use the bathroom. Later they expanded or remodeled and put these facilities in.
Now they had a restaurant open…
There was a restaurant. It’s now on the east side of the hotel lobby and it is where they have a gift shop there now. And the kitchen was still a kitchen. And the other part of the hotel…I’m trying to think…of course they added on back there in later years. I’m trying to think what was…where the entry-way for the kitchen is now because the entry-way into the restaurant was through doors coming in from where the gift shop is.
The biggest business that the hotels had was from the bus lines. We did have public transportation…the Greyhound and Trailways bus lines, which later went out of business because of lack of business. But the Trailways bus continued to come to Fairplay on a daily basis, and a lot of the passengers were customers of the hotels.
So as a waitress, how much did you make? What were you paid hourly?
Very little <laughter>. But I made good tips. Normally I made about $20 a week in tips. Now that was a big tip.
Now how many days did you work to make $20?
I worked probably 7 days a week.
After school and then during the weekends I worked a lot. But on the weekends I worked day shift or early morning shift and then during the school year I worked in the evening…besides all the other little odd jobs I had around. And so after the war ended I would make $20 a week in tips and that was big money. People were very generous. Tourists were very generous. And I don’t know if it was just me because I was just a little kid to them, and they’d give me extra. Or whether I was a good waitress. I don’t know. But I loved doing waitress work.
Who did you work for at the Hand Hotel? Who was running it then?
Junior Hand, who was the oldest of the Hands, and his wife Lottie. Actually Norman Jr., we called him Junior, and his wife Lottie were running the Hand Hotel.
Was Grandma still around?
Grandma was still around. She…
Tell me about Grandma <laughter>.
Well, Grandma would come to the hotel and she would have her fishing gear on. Her old hat and grungy…not grungy but grubby clothes…nothing spectacular. I mean just old pants and shirt. She would usually come in after fishing and she would have some coffee or visit.
I heard she was quite a character. What was your impression?
Well, she was a pretty tough lady I guess you’d call it…or very strong-willed. She wanted things her way. She managed to get things her way most of the time, but I did some research in the Flume. She sued the man who was running, what used to be the bar which was next to the hotel. That building there used to be a bar and it was run by somebody by the name of Fitzsimmons. Anyway she sued him because the noise from the bar kept her patrons awake in the night…people who stayed at the hotel. I think she lost that one. Maybe she won that one…I don’t remember now <laughter>. But anyway, then the guy from the … then she decided … oh the guy from the bar blocked off the alley. There’s an alley next to the Fairplay…or the Hand Hotel…which is between her house and the hotel. There’s a platted alley there. So this man from the bar, in order to get even, he started parking across this alley in the street. So she took him to court, claiming that he was blocking her private property. The suppliers could not get into the alleyway there to deliver groceries, etc. And so, she claimed she owed the alley. She said she had paid the Town some fee…I think it was something like $125…to buy the alley from the Town. And the judge ruled against her. He said the Town did not have any right to sell her the alley…it was a public right-of-way. So she lost that one. <laughter>. And I thought it was pretty amusing. But this was kind of the way things went between some people who were in competition, I guess or something. But she was just a kind of a … I considered her a kind of a grumpy lady, you know. I never really visited with her much. I heard a lot of stories about her, but she was getting up in years.
One thing I remember about working at the Hand Hotel was, we had a woman that lived out south of town here. Her name was Lehman I believe is the way it was spelled. My mother had told me she was doing abortions here in Fairplay. She would come in … I was telling my mother about this woman who would come in with these young teen…well they weren’t teenagers…they were older girls but they were not adult. She would come with them in on the Trailways bus and they would rent a room in the Fairplay Hotel. And they would go up to the room and we wouldn’t see anything of them again until the next day and they would probably have a meal or two. And then they would get back on the bus because we had a daily bus service. They would get back on the bus and leave. I knew this lady was coming from Denver. And my mother said that she was doing abortions. Well I would see this lady come quite often. It did appear that she was doing abortions. So one morning Junior Hand came down…he had gone up to clean the rooms. He came down and he was ranting and raving…he was absolutely furious. He said “We will never rent a room to that woman again.” She had obviously done an abortion. There was blood over everything in the room. She never came back. I never saw her again. I don’t know whether he … the next time she came he ran her off… I don’t know. But then later in researching the Flume I found where this woman was convicted of tax evasion. Six or eight years later after that the IRS convicted her of tax evasion claiming she had earned about $24,000 a year doing abortions. And it was legal. An abortionist sentenced for tax evasion!
Wow! That was a huge deal at that time.
She was named in the Flume and I have the notes at home that I wrote down. I think it was in 1954 that she was convicted. But it came out in the Flume, “Abortionist convicted of tax evasion.” And she was a surgical nurse in Denver. They claimed that she was making this money, not paying taxes on it. I guess it kind of ended her career for the time being. I don’t know how long she was sentenced. So it was proved later then that she was doing abortions in Fairplay. I thought that was interesting for me because I was there during that time and in researching through the Flume. And I think it was in 1954 that she was convicted.
You were able to verify what was going on.
Now was this … and I just know because you spoke in a previous interview about the hospital. Now weren’t you working at the hospital some time during this time too?
I began working at the hospital about 1947.
You were a wild girl! How did you do all these jobs?!! <laughter>
Well there just seemed to be not enough people to do the jobs.
So they kind of come and go over time with a few months…and then someone else needed help or….
mm-hum. I was still going to school and I worked at the hospital as an aide after school on the night shift. I would spend the night trying to sleep at the hospital. We didn’t have too many patients, but we had what is now termed the nursing home. They had what they called “the back porch” which was the back section with all the glass out there on the first floor. The rooms were just a small bed and I don’t think they were even the kind you could raise up. I think they were just a twin-size bed…just little partitions between the rooms. I don’t even remember if they had doors on them. I don’t know … or curtains. Anyway there were probably 8 or so people back there. Everybody just referred to “the back porch” as somebody out on the back porch. Well you knew what that meant and later I became aware of the term “nursing home.” Because a lot of people who could not be kept at home, could not live at home any longer, or they needed long-term care, they were put on the back porch. And I did work there.
I just don’t know how you squeezed this all in. I mean was this typical? Did all the kids have these extra jobs? Or were you particularly motivated?
I had to be motivated because I was supporting myself. A lot of the kids hardly worked…and yet in a way they did. A lot of the teenagers worked at the grocery store.
What did they do there?
They would stock the shelves and wait on people at the counter. Raymond Smith down here, he was working at Alscogs, we called it, when he was quite young. He was working there when my husband went and told him, “There’s an opening on the State Highway….are you interested.” Well he jumped on it of course. He worked there until he retired. Kids worked everywhere.
And was that because of the war era…that there were so many adults missing?
No, I think it was because it was cheap labor. And kids were more settled than they are now.
What do you mean by settled?
Well…I’m not sure…we were more <laughter> work oriented or something? Nobody around here had much money. And if the kids could work and make 25 or 50 cents an hour…they did it.
And now do most kids…would most kids contribute to the family income or was that…they’d use that money instead of asking their family for…
A lot of the kids bought their own clothes with the money. I don’t think they’d contribute toward food or household expenses.
…which took the burden off by providing for themselves…
mm-hum. They had…we had a movie theatre…I think it cost 25 cents to go to the movies.
And where was the theatre?
Down there where the Swiss-Aire Condos are.
<can’t understand> What were the hot movies? Who were the stars then?
Oh I was hung up on Alan Ladd <laughter>.
What movies did he play in?
He played in Shane and most cowboy movies. I think he did play in one or two war movies. But I was hung up on him. And of course Bing Crosby was the most famous singer. Esther Williams and her swimming in the movies. Oh, there were just a lot of them that were still famous.
And was that something you did often or was it a special thing to go to the movies?
We went to the movies quite a bit. They changed … they just would show the movies just a couple of nights a week. And some local high school boy would run the projector.
Do you remember who owned the theatre?
Well they later…when they left here they went over to Breckenridge. And they constructed that Quonset-type structure outside of Breckenridge on Highway 9. I can’t…
Where the bears are…?
mm-hum. And they they constructed that building and made a movie theatre there. And we also did roller-skating at the theatre. They would move the chairs and put them on the sidelines and then we would roller skate in the center. We would rent skates. I didn’t have my own skates.
And do you remember how much it cost to rent skates?
Probably 15 or 25 cents. It was very minimal.
Now somewhere in here you met your husband. Right? You were in high school. You mentioned him earlier.
mm-hum. And of course we kind of dated a little bit off and on…see he was 3 years ahead of me in high school. And we kind of dated a little bit off and on starting in 1945. And they he graduated from high school after that in the spring of I guess ’45 I’m not sure. But his mother died in the meantime and he was kind of left homeless. So he went to Denver and went to work after he graduated from high school.
Doing what kind of work?
He was picking up freight around Denver. And he was gone for a couple of years. And then we kind of started dating again. He wanted to get married. I said “I’ll marry you if you agree to live in Fairplay. I’m not living anywhere but Fairplay.
That was it! You weren’t moving again.
I wasn’t going to leave and so. In 1948 we got married and I didn’t graduate from high school until the year after the wedding. I continued to go to school.
Was that common to be so young getting married?
No but everybody accepted it and I went to each school board member first. I said if I get married can I graduate from high school? And Mary Kaye Snell, John Byer, Vic Baker were the three that I recall for sure that were on the school board. And Mary Kaye Snell said that the constitution guarantees you an education until you’re 21 years old. You cannot be denied going to school. And all the other ones said “ok, fine.” I don’t know if they ever really gave it any thought or whether they knew that there was no law against it. But anyway when I graduated from high school, my graduation picture and diploma says Marie Chisholm on it. <laughter>
What did you do for a wedding?
We eloped pretty much. We went to Albuquerque. And my aunt Nancy and ex-brother-in-law were there. We went over to the courthouse and bought a license and a JP showed up and came and they arranged to have a JP there at the courthouse. We got married there. <laughter>
Did you get any kind of honeymoon or anything? <laughter>
Oh, on the way home I guess we kind of had a honeymoon. I don’t know. We stopped off in Santa Fe, maybe. And then we came around from Colorado Springs through Florissant and went through the fossil beds there. It wasn’t a National Monument at that time, it was privately owned. But they were charging people to go through it. And we went through there and came on home. That was pretty much a honeymoon.
Where did you live?
Our first house that we lived in was the little log house on Bogue Street just off of 6th. It’s very tiny. It had a very small kitchen with a wood cook stove and a table…just room enough for a table and chairs. We had water over the cabinet…no sink…just water over the cabinet. Everything had to … all the water had to go in a pan and be thrown out the door. We had an outhouse. We had a very small living room and then bedroom. The kitchen and the bedroom were back to back and across the front of the house was the living room. And that’s where we lived the first year we were married.
And were you both working?
Yeah. Well I was still in school. And I think after we got married I don’t think I worked for a year.
What was he doing, working?
He worked for…first of all he came up here and took odd jobs. He helped the ranchers … he helped them baling hay and stuff like that. And then he worked for a local coal and ice company. They delivered ice around Fairplay. Not everybody had ice or refrigerators.
What was the company called? Remember?
Fairplay Coal and Wood, I think it was called. He would haul coal up from Canon City and once in a while he would go to the western slope but not very often. Most of the coal came from Canon City and the mines around Canon City. In the summer…the first summer we were married…I would ride with him. We would go around Salida and then to Canon City because Highway 9 to Canon City was still a dirt road, and not very good. In fact it was a county road at the time. So we would take the highway around. He would deliver coal to individuals around town. He used old wood and I’m sure he bought wood somewhere and sold wood. But then he also sold ice and some of the ice came from the pond here in Fairplay. School kids would be paid to cut ice from the pond and store it in an insulated building here. I don’t recall them bringing ice from anywhere else. They may have. But refrigeration was still not in vogue I guess you would say <laughter>.
And you mentioned the cabin…now did you rent it or did you buy that?
We rented it.
Do you remember what you paid?
It was very little…probably $25 a month or something like that. It was not much. Jack Ahern and his wife owned the property and we rented the cabin from them. And of course we couldn’t live there in the wintertime because they had to shut the water off to the cabin in the wintertime.
Tape 2 of 3 (Side 2)
….end cabin…my sister, Ruby, she had a son, Norman, and he was ready to start the first grade. My sister wanted a permanent place for her son to go to school. So we rented a room, actually it was 2 rooms at the motel, on the end. It was a kitchen, a living room that had a fold-up bed…it had a bed that folded up into the wall. And a bathroom with a shower and a small bedroom. By that time my husband was working at the mines…in the mines. During that winter he worked at what is now called the Hilltop Mine which is at the top of the horseshoe gulch. Leadville was just over the hill…you could see Leadville from the up there. Anyway he would go up there and work at the…they would take the men up in a snow cat and they stayed for two weeks…and they would come home for one weekend and then they would go back up for two more weeks. They had a boarding house and everything up there and then come to town every two weeks. The operator up there would pick up supplies for food for the next two weeks and things like that. But anyway my nephew and I pretty much lived alone in the cabin, there. And my sister paid the rent. It was $50 a month. She was getting a veterans pension at the time because her husband died when he was in the Navy. He was the father of this 6-year old nephew of mine. So she paid the rent and many years later <can’t understand> owned the hotel at the time, and many years later she told me, she said “I’ll never forget the year you and Don lived at the motel because you were the only ones who paid your rent all winter.” <laughter>
<laughter> Little did you know you were supporting the whole place!
And during that time IvaNels <can’t understand> husband left and she had four daughters to support. She began working over here at the grocery store. After that she stayed at the grocery store all those years and then when the owner died he willed her all of his estate.
And one of the buildings that he owned…
Ok, now come on was there anything else going on or did she just work for him?
She worked for him and then later on she became the Town Clerk also.
So they didn’t have a relationship or anything that he would leave her all that he had?
No, he had no one else. He had no other relatives. His wife had died…his mother-in-law, his father-in-law had died. They had no children. He had quite a real estate holding around town. He was quite an entrepreneur, you could say. He would buy these old houses and fix them up and rent them. One of them is the 2-story house over here at the corner of 4th and Hathaway was one of them. And I don’t remember which other houses he owned. Oh later he bought the house … my first house in Fairplay. He converted it from a duplex to a single-family home. He closed in one front door and made it… he just gutted the whole inside and made it all into one home. But he had no one to leave his estate to. And she had worked for him for so many years that he left everything to her. I understand he owned some property in Washington state, like apple orchards or something. So later then the store was sold. Iva Nell also was the Town Clerk for a while. She could do both jobs. The Town did not conduct very much business during those years. We had one man that was the bank president, Jack Singleton and he was the Mayor in Fairplay. I don’t even remember if we bothered having an election.
<laughter> So how did your involvement with the Town get started?
Well my involvement with the Town did not start very long until about 1973 but I began working in Social Services, which is in the present Town Hall in 1949. I worked there for 5 years.
What did you do with that?
I was the clerk typist. Occasionally we did not have a Director and so I filled in there.
And that was a County position?
It’s county. It’s the same as Social Services now. Except we called it the Welfare Department. I could never justify having a full-time clerk typist because I didn’t have much to do. The justification was when the Director is out of the office somebody has to be here to answer the phone. I did a lot of extra things while I was there. Colonel Mayer, Frank Mayer, who was very famous in Fairplay…known as the last of the buffalo hunters. He was living…at first he was living up at what they call the Brisco Ranch, which is 3 miles out of town. But later when he got too old to walk the 3 miles to town and back I think he was close to maybe 96 or 98. He moved into Fairplay and lived in the little house that’s now included in South Park City. It was not South Park City at that time, of course. The little house was there. And he would come over to the…he had macular degeneration and he was nearly blind. So he would come over to the Welfare office where I worked, bring me his letters that he…any mail that he got…and I would read it to him. His hearing was very good. He could not see. By that time he was getting…he was able to walk to the post office here. But he couldn’t read and he couldn’t write for lack of vision. And so I would type as he would dictate his responses.
What kind of man was he?
He was a soldier…very precise. One thing I remember about him was when he stood up he stood very very straight. He was just like a board standing up because he was a tall man…somewhere around 6’. To me it was tall. He had a special friend, Lucy Roth, who wrote to him almost every week. He would dictate a response to her every week. He would always start out, “My dearest Lucy.” And I’m sure that…of course she… the house when he died…when he passed away he died at home and somebody noticed they hadn’t seen him for a while…or no he didn’t die at home. I take that back. He was taken from the home and put in the nursing home…on the back porch <laughter>. Someone noticed he hadn’t been out to get his mail and so I think it was the Welfare Director, Harry Hiner, or the sheriff, I don’t know who, went over to the house and found him on the floor. He could not get up. The fire was out. He heated the house with a coal and wood stove. He was in pretty bad shape. They took him up to the hospital and he spent the rest of his life there, which was not long. He died just before he was 103.
Oh my goodness.
He lacked about 2 or 3 weeks being 103. He died just before his birthday. But they all said he lived to be 103. And I said that’s close enough.
<laughter> Yeah I’d say within 2 weeks after 100 years…
And he’s buried in the Fairplay cemetery. He was the one that dedicated the burro monument on Front Street when it was erected in the 1930’s whenever that was. He was an Army engineer, and he killed buffalo to feed the railroad workers when they were building the railroad across the United States. He had the title of being the last of the buffalo hunters. There was a magazine called the Western Outdoors, I believe that was the name of the magazine. And some writer did a story on him. Later somewhere I read about him in some other place, I don’t remember…about how he killed buffalo and this sort of thing.
Did he tell you about it at all? Did talk about these things?
Yes he talked about it. He talked about being an engineer. He was an engineer down in South America some too. He traveled the world, but he always came back to Fairplay. During his later years he lived up at the Brisco Ranch. Everyday that the mail came in he walked to Fairplay, got his mail, and walked back home….winter and summer. Occasionally someone would give him a ride home. And the traffic…we didn’t have much traffic on the highway at that time. People did not go very much. Sometimes people would give him a ride up to where County Road 1 takes off from Highway 9. It’s just across from the Snowstorm Dredge. Then he would walk the rest of the way to the house…the cabin where he lived in. But nobody believed some of the stories he would tell. He would come to town and talk to the various people and nobody believed a lot of the stories he would tell. He was editor of this outdoor western magazine. In 1906 when the San Francisco earthquake hit. He brought me a magazine and showed it to me and it had his name on it as Editor. And it had pictures of the fires and the tumbled-down buildings and things. And it said, “This is why our issue is late.” Because a lot of buildings burned and things like that. So he did have proof that he did a lot of things.
So you believed him.
Well, I believed everything he told me. And later… somebody interviewed him for this magazine and titled it “The Last of the Buffalo Hunters.” Well he got mail from everywhere. Of course he would bring all the mail to me to read to him…fan mail. They wanted to interview him. They wanted him to write stories. They wanted so many things and I could never understand. But he would pick out a few things…a few people. Maybe it was the way they wrote the letter. But he would pick out certain things that he would respond to…and others he would not. And I would say, but this man wants… and nope he wasn’t going to do it!
What happened to all those papers and letters?
I have no idea. His home was pretty cluttered. It was pretty dirty because he couldn’t see. Ashes were scattered around. When he took the ashes out they would fall and he didn’t know it. He had no idea. And I think that Lucy Roth probably got everything. Lucy Roth has since passed away. And there’s a daughter I believe. I think Lucy has passed away. She lived in Boulder or someplace, I’m not sure where she lived. But it was somewhere in Colorado. She inherited the house and the…and the contents. What became of that I don’t know.
I don’t want to keep you too long…you’ll lose your voice. <laughter> You have so many stories we could talk about. What kinds of things would you want people to know…I mean…kind of …we’ve missed a huge chunk of the later things that you’ve been doing…but as far as when you talk about these families and you’ve cooperated, and you’ve raised each other’s kids and…the changes in Fairplay over time that you have seen…what would you want people to know?
There are only, right now, three people still living in Fairplay…Louise Kintz…Louise Kintz came in 1940, so she, and she’s older than I am…so she remembers a lot more about people who have lived here. But the town has changed so drastically.
Tell me, like, good and bad….positive and negative.
Well, we have a … a mobile population. They come…they stay a little while…and then they’re gone. A lot of …
How has that changed the town dynamics?
People are not interested in what…they don’t have a clue what’s going on in town now. Most of them don’t. Other than the streets get rough and they want the streets sanded or something. They go to work, they come home, and they have no clue who’s running the town, what’s going on in town. And they don’t realize that there’s separate governments, even. They think that Fairplay is just Park County. They don’t realize that…maybe they know it’s the county seat but they don’t realize it’s an incorporated town. And having only two incorporated towns in this huge county…most people don’t even know that. I feel that the population now is totally uninformed.
What should they know…what should people realize?
I think they should realize…keep a better eye on the government. Keep a better eye on how the money is spent and some of the deals that are being made that are not exactly kosher. They should become better informed. But right now most of the population here is only interested in what’s going on in school…if they have kids in school. And they’re interested in going to work and coming home and not caring what happens in town. Like I say, if their water is shut off they have a fit. And if the streets are not well maintained, they have a fit. Other than that they don’t really care what’s going on. It doesn’t seem to affect them or bother them. I became involved in the town business because I was aware…I always read the newspaper, the Fairplay Flume, when it was published here in town. And I was always very involved in one way or other with town and county government….mostly town government….but only as a citizen. Before 1973 the town was ready to sell part of their water rights out in Silverheels Ranch. And I was very adamant about the town hanging on to all their water rights. So I think this was about 1966 that I really got involved in the town business because the developers were coming in and wanting this and that and the other from the town. They would get their money and leave and leave the town holding the bag for future expenses for things that they kind of slided over that the town didn’t expect to happen. So when the proposal to sell water to this subdivider came out, I wrote a letter to the editor and explained how precious our water was and how it meant the future of the town.
Was this happening when all the ranches were selling their water? How does this fall in line with that?
mm-hum. Yeah. The ranchers were selling water.
All during that same…
After that same…after that time. But the developer out there couldn’t…water laws changed drastically about 1965 or 66, and you had to have augmentation and you couldn’t supply a public…well you couldn’t supply any subdivision unless you had an augmentation plan. In order to sell the land to begin with, once it was subdivided, you had to have an augmentation water plan.
So how that house would get water.
mm-hum. They could drill their own well. The state water laws changed so that all water wells had to be registered if you wanted to protect your water rights. Until about that time nobody could sell water from the land. I have an article that was dated 1934…I just ran across it the other day….where all the water in Park County was going to be sold to Denver for $2 million. I don’t know what happened…I guess at that time I believe the water had to go with the land. Then water laws began to change. The article said that if all the water was sold to Park County it would go back to what it was when the Indians were here…before the ranchers came. But I became very involved at that time and it just continued on. And in 1973 I could see that these developers were wanting so much from the Sanitation District and the town and so I decided to get involved by getting on the Sanitation District board to keep the Board from expanding out without getting the developers to pay for it. They were slipping so much stuff past us taxpayers. So I got on the Sanitation Board and I continued on that Board. I actually retired in ’92 and I was an employee for the last 10 years … from ’82 to ’92 as Manager and Waste Water Operator. Then I retired. I traveled for about 15 months and I came home. I said “I’ve gotta do something”. So I went back on the Sanitation District Board as a member until 2002 when I was defeated in the election in that year.
And was that the Mayoral election?
In 1998 I was elected to the Town Board and so I served both boards at the same time. I learned a lot about town government. In 1976 I began writing grants for the Sanitation District so I got involved in grant writing. I’ve continued that even now as a…first of all as a town board member. I started as a Sanitation Board member because we needed money to expand the system. That was in ’76. We got grant money in ’82 to do the expansion…it takes a while with the money. Then I served on the State Health Dept Committee to establish a revolving loan fund, it’s called, for water and sanitation grants and loans. They don’t give you money too much anymore. I continued to get grant money as a town board member and I got $450,000 which we turned back $39,000 to help pave part of the streets and put in water drains to preserve the asphalt that’s put in. I also got $1.25 million to put curb, gutter and sidewalks on Main Street which will take place in summer, 2004. I became involved with Alma’s government in 1986 as a Waste Water Operator. I got grant for Alma and loan money for $1 million to redo their water source and redo the water lines in the Town of Alma because they had very small, bad water lines, and expand their waste water system. I quit doing that in ’91 because the project was finished and had no more need to continue that. By that time I was also on the town board of Fairplay. I got grant money there. But now I’m back working for Alma to try to raise $1.35 million to do curb, gutter and sidewalks and storm drains in Alma. I currently have $1 million promised. It’s verbal right now. I will proceed this winter and next spring to get the balance of the $350,000 that’s needed for that project which should take place in 2005.
How has the water changes? You’ve seen a huge shift and obviously you’ve worked in this for a long time, after the sale of water. How has that impacted the community here? How have things changed?
The town began in the 1800’s to protect the town water rights. This was when water laws were starting to be enacted. And in 1881 or 7 they took action to protect water rights…the town board did at that time. They had an attorney on the town board and he was very aware of laws.
Who was that <can’t understand>?
No I would have to look back in the records.
I was just <can’t understand>. But as far as I mean you look at the ranches how they’ve changed and when you talked about that first view of Kenosha Pass…how has it impacted life here?
It has changed life drastically in the Park because ranchers were all over. They ranched…there were many, many ranches. They raised hay and cattle and horses. We didn’t have many sheep because cattle and sheep were not to be mixed. You know … well this was the pioneer era when they hated the sheep men because the sheep would cut the grass down too short. And it would take a long time for it to regenerate. So they didn’t like sheep because they would clean the grass out. And cattle just nip the tops off…kind of like mowing and it’s still there. So the ranchers all filed on their water rights and they used that irrigation water…they flood-irrigated the meadows from early spring until probably 2 weeks before they started haying which was sometimes in the middle of August, sometimes later, sometimes earlier…it depended. They flood-irrigated which made the whole Park lush and green. Then … in earlier times in Park County they formed a water district and it was primarily to keep the water in the Park. Later it was ranchers on the board and they wanted to keep the water until they were ready to retire and sell it. This became the object of being on the board. I resented it. I felt it had a conflict of interest. And this was what happened. And then gradually Denver was looking for more water….Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Colorado Springs. Of course Colorado Springs didn’t get much water from the Park. But they did buy one ranch south of Fairplay just for the water rights sitting on it. But anyway they were looking for water and as the ranchers retired they sold their water. And the first one to break this law or get it through court to sell water from the land was between Guero and Hartsel…Augustine was his name, I think I’ve told this before. This started a trend.
Did people resent it? They got a lot of money. What did people think of that? Or did people think much about it?
I don’t think people gave it much thought but I did. I was in the extension office for 15 years and I was secretary for the Central Colorado Cattlemen’s association for 22 years starting in 1961. This was when the water trend started to change.
So you really saw that.
And I would talk to these ranchers and I would say, “Well what’s going to happen to the Park?” Well it’s going to go back to what it was before it was ever irrigated. And I couldn’t imagine what it was going to look like. But now I know what it’s going to look like because it’s burned up grass…very little green pastures and fields unless we get a lot of natural moisture. But they had no qualms about selling their water rights. In their mind this was their right to do it because they owned it and you can sell anything you own. I admired the ranchers. The ranchers were the nicest bunch of people in anywhere that I’ve ever met. They were gentlemen. They were honest. They didn’t pull any shenanigans. They didn’t steal cattle. And they were helpful to each other. They were…it was a group that was like one big family too. And they were always very good to me. I just admired them. They were hard-working. They were honest. They were dedicated to the county and to the schools and the 4H programs that are going on but kind of on a different plane. When they had cattle, they donated calves to the 4H kids to raise to keep the money…..
Tape 3 of 3 (Side 1)
Ok, here we go. We’re starting Tape 3 with Marie and Cara. Marie has so much energy she’s still telling me stories. So we’re going to capture a little bit of that before we poop out. We were talking about the snow and how that’s changed here.
When I first came here, the first winter here, we had a lot of snow in the winter. And of course it blew a lot. But we paid no attention to it, other than I had to walk against the wind to get home from school. No one ever transported their kids to school if they lived here in town. We went home for lunch and we walked home after.
It amazes me to this day all the cars lined up picking kids up at school.
Yes. And nowadays if it’s 2 blocks to school they bring them to school in a car. But in 1945 we had a lot of moisture. Particularly in the spring we always had heavy snowstorms in the spring…March, April May. And even into June those were heavy snowstorm years.
See I’ve only been here 7 years but I really haven’t seen much of the stories I hear with the snow.
Well, we have gone into a period of drought. In 1948 the first winter I spent here we had a lot of snow. And even in the winter of ’47 when I was still dating before I got married, I know that a lot of the younger people they paid no attention to blizzards or snow or anything. Of course we had no weather forecasts or anything like that, especially for up here. And they would go back and forth from Fairplay to Denver and think nothing of it.
Now when you talk about a lot of snow…what is a lot of snow?
3-4 feet. Usually about 2 feet though. 18” to 2 feet was normally what we would get in any one storm.
Could the cars get through? Did things just stop for a couple of days? What happened?
No I don’t ever recall them ever closing the road unless a snow drift went clear across the road and closed it that way. We had lots of accidents but the snow plows were out plowing snow. And people did not travel that much. We did not have traffic like we have now. The people did not travel at night too much like they do now. I do recall that my husband was in a car accident with his buddy, Ronnie Barlow, who had family here. They had a car accident on Reiniker Ridge which is still a good place for car accidents. He got a cut quite a gash above his eye brow. We had no doctor at the time. Somebody brought him back into town. So he went to the hospital here. The hospital was still in business. Now this was the old hospital as we refer to it now. But a nurse on duty, she was fairly new. It was Sadie Hand. I don’t remember her maiden name. But she later married Bill Hand. She was working there and she sewed him up. She sewed up this gash of his eye and later I talked to her about it. You don’t know how my hands were shaking. She said it was my first time to even sew up anybody.
We had incidences like that. I was an aide at the hospital and would have these emergencies. Usually all we could do was patch them up. One man who cut his foot with an axe, he I just taped it up and sent him on to Denver on the Trailways bus. This was the way things went. But the car accidents were very severe because they didn’t have protection in cars like they do today.
Even so, the snow never seemed to stop the school buses. They ran regardless. And quite often it was a high school student that was driving the bus…especially from Jefferson to Fairplay. This was when all the schools were consolidated into…and everyone came from Fairplay to school except for the outer limits of the county where they went for high school.
But <laughter> anyway, I recall that was the winter of ’48 we had a lot of snow. In 1969 in particular, we had 3’ of snow that started Labor Day weekend and people came up here to the Park to the campgrounds and everything to camp out for Labor Day weekend. And we got 3’ of snow. Those people left. They were absolutely…they pulled out…they left their tents…they left their camping equipment. They thought they were there for the rest of their life. And at the same time the Coil Ranch…Walter and Arlene Coil..had a kind of exchange student from Nigeria. When this 3’ of snow fell, he thought he was here for the rest of his life too. He had never seen snow. He had never seen an icicle form coming off the roof. But most of the people then had snow mobiles and got out of the ranches by snowmobile. After the storm hit…my husband I would go around to the campgrounds. And here was all this stuff just sitting there. Anybody could have helped themselves to many things, but apparently they waited and came back after the roads were opened. The snow continued to stack up that year. It did not blow in South Park all winter long. The winter of ’69 and ’70.
<laughter> I missed it. We can hear the wind howling today.
And the snow continued to stack up. It seemed like every little time we turned around there was more snow coming. It would settle but it did not go anywhere. And by Spring, in April, we had a 60 degree day hit. The weather warmed to 60 degrees and it continued. It never got down below freezing during the night and all of the snow melted. It flooded the entire Park.
It’s hard to imagine.
All of the South Park out here was under water. The ranchers were all under water. And the bridge down by Hartsel, the one that goes just West of Hartsel, it’s on highway 24. It was damaged. However the state highway didn’t know of the extent of the damage. So they let traffic go over the bridge out of Hartsel going to Denver or Colorado Springs. They decided to bring in a plow driver to do new pilings under the bridge because it had washed out so much around it, the Platte and everything had just washed out around this bridge. When the plow driver pulled out on the bridge he fell through. So then they realized that all this traffic had just been going through on the asphalt that was there. There was nothing there to support the traffic. What kept people from falling through I don’t know. But two bridges east of Hartsel on highway 24 were totally shut down because the water was about to wash them out. I took pictures for the newspaper at that time and that’s how come I remember. The whole town of Hartsel was isolated. There was no way to get or get out because the bridges and highways were under water. The little old building on the south over there it was practically floating because it sits up on a hill. The water was clear up around it.
So is that the biggest snow you recall while you were here.
That was the one year that people who had lived here for 50 or 60 years had never seen anything like it. But we continued to have snow every winter except most of it blew away. And of course when we have these blizzards, what doesn’t stack up, just dissipates into the air. So that kind of takes care of it. In later years when the traffic got heavier and the blizzards would hit, they would start closing the highways to keep accidents from happening.
My husband worked for the State Highway. He started working for the State Highway in 1951 and he worked out toward Jefferson and Kenosha Pass for the first two years. We had been to Denver one day, and we came through in a blizzard. There was a Trailways bus ahead of us. The Trailways bus was stopped because the sun was shining in your eyes and you couldn’t see anything except below the car hood.
That was so scary.
The Trailways driver had stopped and so my husband went to see what was wrong. The guy said “I just can’t see the road.” So we pulled around him and he just followed us. And we just sort of went by guessing. And I don’t know how we got through. We got over by Como where you go into Como and here was the snow plow. His engine had drowned out from the snow packing into the engine. And so we brought him into town. <laughter>
It sounds like a parade. <laughter>
Yeah. But we had so much snow. And the ranchers, of course, were glad to see it. I’m trying to think when it was when this drought began. It gradually kind of tapered down in the ‘60’s and after the ‘60’s it started tapering down. I recall one June, 27th of June of 1951 we had 23” of snowfall. <laughter>
June. Whew. I’m glad I missed that one. <laughter>
It didn’t last too long.
But we’ve had snow year-round. I remember seeing a few flakes of snow falling in August. But the winters…we just stayed home pretty much except for going to school and things like that. We didn’t go to Denver. We didn’t travel to Denver that much. So if there was a bad snow storm we just waited and pretty soon we could go.
You could go.
But now people think they have to travel regardless. And they get very upset…well they usually have appointments or some need to get to Denver. Or they have to get somewhere. The winter of ’82 we started for Denver for Christmas. We had nothing in the Park…beautiful, sunshiny day. I kept listening to the news and they kept talking about how bad it was getting down there. And sure enough we got down there and people were just stuck everywhere. There was no traffic anywhere. It took us 2 hours to get from Morrisson to 60th and Sheridan in Denver. This was before Hampden was constructed. On the way through we usually turned off at Morrison to go to the north side of Denver.
How has Denver changed?
Huh! Denver has changed enormously.
When you first got here, did you have chances to see Denver?
Not too much. We hardly ever went to Denver because we could buy gas here. We could buy tires here. We could buy cars here. We could buy clothing.
When did that change?
It started changing pretty much in the ‘70’s. People became more mobile and by 1976 we had a lot of people going back and forth to work in Denver. And then they declared a gas shortage. The price of gas went up. People quit doing that so much. But then pretty soon that all changed again. It depends on circumstances more than anything…and how much it costs you to go to Denver.
I’m sorry…I’ve got a catch in my throat <cough>. What did you see change in Denver over….
Oh Denver was very small…by the time you got to Federal Blvd. You were clear out in the country until you got to Federal, Wadsworth or some of those. The streets…it was still farmland. And later the traffic and parking got so congested that they changed the downtown streets to one way and I hated that.
When was that?
Well, I’m not sure when it really took place. I think it was somewhere in the ‘60’s that that happened. I recall in 1968 I decided to go to Denver to see Peggy Flemming because she was that Olympic champion.
Oh I loved her when I was little.
Yes. So I loaded my kids into the car. My husband didn’t want to go. We went to Denver and I-70 of course wasn’t constructed at that time or any of the interstates. Or at least that I knew about or drove. And I started driving the wrong way on a one-way street. And my kids started telling me that I was going the wrong way on a one-way street. So I turned around and picked another route to get to the coliseum where Peggy was skating after she became a champion. I think we had to take Brighton Blvd or something to get to the coliseum. And then the interstates have gone in and the beltways, the freeways. I still drive it. But sometimes after they changed the 23rd Street viaduct and some of that interchange of what they call the mousetrap…I get confused as to which lane I need to be in and sometimes I miss getting on to I-70 and wind up on I-25.
<laughter> I do too.
<laughter> Because I haven’t learned which is which. My son, after he got out of high school in ’75, he became a heavy equipment operator. He started working for Park County.
Which son was this?
Kenny. And he joined the Union…Teamsters Union…or whatever they call them…as a heavy equipment operator. So he has helped construct a lot of things in Denver. He was the first…he and another man drove the first piece of heavy equipment to start DIA airport. They did it mostly for publicity because that was the day they were supposed to break ground. They hadn’t really started breaking ground but they had these two earth movers out there. They were just out there driving and they televised them. They were on TV. Then later the real construction started. He was involved in the interchange from the 23rd Street Viaduct. That used to be an old dump where that is now. And they found a lot of old, old bottles when they started excavating the dirt. Some of the workers took a lot of them home because they were quite valuable. Some of them got broken during the construction, you know, but they found that was an old dump for Denver. He’s helped … he’s just been involved in a lot of the interstate work so he knows them really well.
Is he married?
He’s married. He doesn’t have any children. He has two step sons. And both of my boys grew up here.
Tell me about your other son.
My other son, Keith. He left here when he got out of high school and he was with a band that included Brian Williard, who’s still playing. My son plays a base guitar. Bob Cocolie who was also here, he worked for the State Highway. They all formed a band when they were here.
What was it called? Do you remember the name of it?
They called themselves “Alma’s Only Boys”.
AOB <laughter>. Anyway they decided…they got an agent and he was going to make them a lot of money. So they went to Houston. Well, they sound up digging ditches to keep from starving. My son got involved in oil field work and he worked in the oilfields until they started going bad. So by that time I was a waste-water operator. I said this is the career you need to learn and get into. So he did that. He got certified in Colorado. Then he married a woman from Vermont but he couldn’t find work as a waste-water operator because he was just new at it. So they went back to Vermont and spent 2, 3 or 4 years…I don’t know how long now. He got a lot of experience in Vermont. And then in ’91 when my husband was terminally ill with cancer, they wanted to move back to Colorado. So he was able to find work in the waste-water field, starting with Martin-Marietta, which is now called Lockheed-Martin. Now he lives in Littleton and he’s employed by Genesse Mountain Water and Sanitation District. He’s been there several years now.
And now do they have any kids?
They have two….a daughter whose 15, Amanda. And a son who’s 11, named Kyle. <laughter>
Jumping around…I have a couple of other questions…what was it like raising boys here in Fairplay…a little bit about that. And the other, I have to ask, is how on earth did you get into waste-water treatment…how did you learn that? Because here’s this lady working in offices and waiting tables…and now here you’re telling me you’re running this waste-water thing and I didn’t get a chance to ask you how that happened either.
Well when I went on the Sanitation Board in 1976 I had been on the Board 3 years. But they passed a law that there could not be a waste water or water operator without being certified by the State. We would get an operator…hire somebody…it was a parttime job. It paid about $100/month. They would get trained…we would send them to school…and they’d get trained…and then they would move on after about a year. And this went on and on. We had about a new one about every year. And so finally, before 1982, Beth Swanson’s father lived here. He was the operator here. We were getting ready to upgrade. He had to leave because of his wife’s health. So they moved to lower altitude. Anyway, in desperation I said teach me this business. I was still a Board member, but I decided in order to keep an operator here for any length of time I … somebody had to get certified who would stay here.
Yep…and you weren’t moving.
I wasn’t moving. And I about caused the men who… I went to Boulder to take the test …
<laughter> Did they have a heart attack?
And the man dropped his chin on the table when I walked up to the table and they were handing out examination papers. And I gave him my name and he picked out my paper…the paper with my name on it. And he turned around to hand it to me. And you should have seen his jaw drop. Because I was gray-headed at that time and kind of showing my age. <laughter>
Good for you!
But I passed the test and I had no instructions hardly. I had 3 days of training from Larry Thompson. I had to learn the rest of it by guess or by gosh or from the book and it was … I just kind of fumbled my way though. I’m still certified. I just renewed my certification. I just got my certificate last week. Just to fill in somewhere when Alma was without a water operator…waste-water operator…well I started work for Alma in 1986. I began as a waste-water operator at that time for Alma also. That’s when I got grant money to upgrade. Nick Gradke came along and Gary Dorne and I didn’t…when I first started working for him. And then I trained Nick during the time that I was up there. And I didn’t want to do the water because it’s an every-day job. You have to do it 365 days a year. And so Nick became the operator, waste-water operator. He got licensed. But that’s how I got involved in it.
- I had to cover that base … tell me we got you married but kind of skipped the boys when they were young. Can you tell me about them?
First when you first get married in Fairplay, the rumor is always that you had to get married. Well I didn’t have any children until 6 ½ years after we were married.
Who was first?
Keith was first. He was born here at the local hospital. The day I took him home… I don’t recall how many days I was in the hospital….at that time they kept you for probably a week. But the day I left the hospital which was March there was a snowstorm and 40-mile an hour wind. When I got outside I had him all covered up but the wind blew the blanket back and here was this cold snow hitting him in the face. And he was going “HA HA HA”! <laughter> What an introduction…!!!
Yeah! Welcome to the world, son!
And then the next one I went to Denver to have him. He was delivered at St. Joseph’s hospital because I had a lot of health problems after the first one was born. So he was born in Denver but only long enough to be born and come home. And the rest of them…now the rest of the time they were born and raised here.
Now I’m not remembering…we talked earlier…what years were they born?
’55 and ’56. They were only 16 months apart.
What did you do with little ones? Your mom with two little boys. Tell me what kinds of things you did.
Well, until that time I had worked. I was working at the welfare office. Then I took…I resigned. I did go back a short time to fill in for a director who left but just for a couple of months. After my children were 5 years old I went back to work at the Extension Office. I worked there for 15 years. From ’61 to ’76. But the boys they were kind of independent little rascals.
What did little ones do for fun?
Well they mostly played in the yard except for Keith who had a wanderlust. He would wander off. He was 3 years old. I would have the whole neighborhood out looking for him.
<laughter> Any particular <can’t understand> you remember? Does one stand out?
We decided we’d better put a fence around the yard to keep them in and while the fence was being built they were climbing over it. There was no way to keep those kids home or keep them in the yard other than this and watching every minute. They played in the dirt a lot. We had what we called Huck Finn Day. We would dress them up and enter them in the Huck Finn contest when they were 9 or so years old. And they would win every time. And people were beginning to get a little irate because they would win money and bicycles and things like that. Because they were blond-headed, freckle-faced.
They had the right look.
They had the look. We quit entering them into the Huck Fin contest after a while <laughter>
So did they go fishing?
That was one of the things they liked to do with their dad…go fishing. Of course their dad took them hunting when they were old enough to go. That was one of their highlights…going hunting and fishing. They know Park County…or this end of Park County…better than I do. They still come back to hunt and fish. Even though they have families and wives…the wives don’t usually come up here because they’re mostly city-persons. They don’t know what to do with themselves <laughter>
It’s really different.
Well they can’t go shopping and there’s not much entertainment so they hardly ever come up unless there’s something specific to come for. But my two sons come and hunt and my son Keith and grandson they come up and fish and daughter Amanda she comes sometimes. But she’s at the point now where she has to be with her girlfriends. And if she doesn’t bring girlfriends then forget it because she’s not going to come. And that sort of thing. But Kyle my grandson still likes to come.
So how do you see them…when you look at those kids…Amanda…she’s close to the age when you first got here. How have families changed? Do you see families changing and life here being different for kids the same age you were?
Well, family life nowadays is not anywhere near what it was like then because we all had our meals together. Kids nowadays come home….
Tape 3 of 3 (Side 2)
We were talking about family life and the grand kids.
Sometimes I don’t think that parents overall are disciplining their children or teaching them the skills to become wives and mothers. I see this so very very much. They don’t know how to cook. They don’t know how to clean house. They don’t know how to do anything. They don’t know how to sew or crochet or knit…
Look at the home skills like your grandmother had.
Yeah. But I know so many girls nowadays that are getting married that have none of those skills because the family…it’s not a group anymore. They each go their individual ways. Both parents are off working and sometimes at the same time they’re gone and the kids kind of take care of themselves. And I don’t … or else go to a babysitter, and the babysitter doesn’t allow them to do these things like cook and clean house, you know. So they don’t develop these skills. And I think it’s unfortunate. What strikes me odd though is that most men are doing the cooking nowadays, which I think is unusual. Because in my day the men did not go near the kitchen unless they were training to be a chef or a cook in a restaurant or something like that. But that was a kind of a macho era. And doing cooking or housework was not macho. <laughter.
mm-hum. That was true.
And a lot of the men back in the old days, though. They would go to the bar and socialize and drink beer. And the women did not go. They stayed home. We did have a lot of dances, though, at the hut. Even after… the younger people and the older people, we all had dances quite often every Saturday night at the hut. And we had live bands. And there was an admission fee and all that which paid for the expense of the hut and paid for the orchestra. And then Deacon Judd, he had dances up at the…what did they call it…it was the house up Mosquito…he had a name for it. Maybe it was just Deacon’s. Maybe we just said “we were going to Deacon’s”. But Deacon also played there. Edna Miller also played with him. Also he owned the Park Bar at one time and we had dances there. And it was not unusual for the teenagers to go to the bars. They didn’t drink. They just went for the entertainment. After we were married we spent a lot of time going to Deacons for the dances and stuff that he would have up there. <laughter> And the Park Bar. And even nowadays, some people that were born and raised in the early era where women did not go to the bar…that was taboo… But here in Fairplay we never thought anything about it. And what is now called the Friendship Inn used to be called the Playmore. And we had dances there. And we would go and dance to the jukebox or whatever. It was just … that was some of our entertainment, was dancing… going to dances. We all started when we were very young. <laughter> Even the 9 and 10-year olds were going to the youth center to dance…learning.
And I remember living in New Mexico one time it was in an out-of-the-way little town, and that was where I first tried to learn to dance. I think I was about 11 or 12…somewhere along there. My mother…it was after the war and she was a Guard at Ft. Wingate, which is in New Mexico. It was an underground ammunition storage place. The town was called McGaffee. I spent the summer there. That’s as long as I was there. I didn’t go to school there or anything. That was where I first started learning to dance. My mind is willing but my body isn’t right now. <laughter> I still love music and I would love to dance if I had the energy and the stamina…that’s what I’m trying to think of. I run out of breath too soon. <laughter>
Well you’re so busy with so many things. <laughter>
Well, I notice that I get breathless quite often now when I’m active <laughter>.
<can’t understand> Well I’m going to give you a break. I want to thank you so much for your stories. And I know I could do, like, 10 more tapes <laughter> with you. I appreciate your time today. I don’t want to wear you out because it gets tiring.
Well I have stories about individuals and like we had this character in Alma that used to sleep behind the Gateley Motor Company in his car.
Do you remember his name?
Duke Beals. We always laughed about it. You know, they always talk about a one-dog night or two-dog night. And they determined how cold it was by how many dogs he had sleeping with him to keep him warm <laughter>.
When was that?
Oh gosh. That was in the ‘50’s I would suppose.
Does anyone else stand out in particular?
Well, we had our town drunks and characters, you know. <laughter> The forest ranger here, he was not a town drunk, but his name was Smith. I believe his first name was Frances Smith. Maybe that was Mrs. Smith. Anyway the only name I recall specifically. They lived at the ranger station up here and the children went to school here. But he would go to the bar and have his nightly beer. When he talked he whispered. He never talked loud. And so everybody named him “Whispering Smith.” He was Raymond and Dick Smith’s father. Marilyn Smith’s father, Leo Smith…Leo Smith started the first grade here. I used to watch him go to school because he had to come down from the ranger’s house across my house when I lived up on Second Street. And to go to school. He went to priesthood. He became a priest. He’s now retired and back in Fairplay.
Oh he is over here?
Yeah. He’s living here. He’s living in Marilyn’s house. He lived here right after high school but maybe he could tell you some things. Most of his priesthood was served in Akron, Colorado. He was there for many years. And then he went over to Summit County…I think Frisco or Breckenridge. I don’t recall which one. But Marilyn was a Smith and she and Willie Johnson married and then Willie Johnson, of course, died. But they were an old, old family…the Johnson’s were. And the last of the Johnson’s…Allyn Johnson just died…she was 98.
Oh no. I missed her.
And she had a lot of stories. In fact, the family had a lot of stories to tell.
Mary Kay’s now…her maiden name was Horein and her father was a judge here, I believe. I believe he was a judge. And Mary Kaye’s home was over there on Front Street…still is. Her daughter has now remodeled it. It’s next to what we called the Teeter Garage. But Mary Kaye and I came from pretty much the same country in New Mexico. And one day at school my kids were having a 3-legged race. They would put 2 legs in a gunny sack.
mm-hum. I remember playing that.
And Mary Kaye and I used to reminisce a lot because we had sayings that were different than they are in Colorado. And she leaned over to me and she said do you remember when we used to call them toe sacks? And I busted out laughing because I guess the expression got started because they used them for races, I don’t know. But now in Colorado we call them gunny sacks. And another time the Extension Agent, Tom Knight, he was talking to someone on the phone and he was trying to explain to this person that the cows were down by the breaks. And I kept listening to him and chuckling to myself. He kept saying “Well you know…down by the breaks.” Finally after he hung up I said “Tom, nobody in this country has any clue what ‘the breaks’ are.” The breaks was a wooded area we referred to in New Mexico. See Tom Knight came from New Mexico also.
All I can think of is wind break or something.
Well maybe. But in New Mexico you didn’t have too many breaks. <laughter> There’s not too many trees growing. Tom was a funny guy. He had a sense of humor, you know. And the ranchers, they just really liked him. He worked a lot with the ranchers. He was a sheep man over in Craig before he came over here. He knew cattle and 4H…he was very good in 4H. I remember a lot of stories such as that. Because there were a lot of people here that I related to from my previous home.
Maybe we can catch you on another day when we can go over some of the names of people. There are so many famous names around here.
I have to stop and think about some of them. You mentioned Judge Mayhew. Stan came here 30 or more years ago from New York.
Boy what a change that would be.
That would be a culture shock as far as I’m concerned. He opened an office over there on Front Street where he still was until recently. He was very quiet…single, of course. He was not very friendly. In New York people didn’t talk to other people, you know. They would…even their next-door neighbor or in the apartment house…they would never talk to them. And so when Stan first came here, he … you would speak to him and try to start up a conversation with him and he would just answer in one word and go. Especially if you saw him in the grocery store. The grocery store was across the street. It was Pococks Grocery. And this is where most people went and learned what was going on in town.
Sure…stop to chat.
Yeah. I still remember Stan being very quiet and not very friendly. I’m trying to think of the year…he married my son Kenny and his girlfriend…his fiancé…he married them here in Fairplay.
Stan had…still does to a certain extent…a speech impediment. And this might be why he did not like to converse with people too much. But when my son, Kenny, and his then wife…or fiancé…decided to get married…they wanted to be married in the church. Stan performed the ceremony. And I was very impressed with his ceremony….the way he spoke. Every word was enunciated perfectly and very slowly. His ceremony was very impressive all the way around. And they were married for 9 years and then got a divorce, but I thought it was one of the nicest wedding ceremonies I had seen. I still reflect back to Stan when he first came. I don’t think he would have performed a wedding ceremony. Of course he couldn’t do it…I mean legally…until he became a judge…I don’t know. People used to get married by JP’s they called them…Justice of the Peace. And the JP’s also handled traffic cases. Almost anything, hunting violations or almost anything…any type of law violation…the JP’s handled it.
We used to have a JP in Alma. His last name was Palmer…I can’t remember what his first name was. He would come to Fairplay. He ran a shuttle between Fairplay and Alma. He would meet the Trailways bus and anybody who needed to go to Alma, he would drive them to Alma. He handled drunken cases and all this. But he was a kind of a drunk himself. <laughter>
<laughter> Well then he could understand.
<laughter> But he would perform weddings. And he would come down here and hold his court…I don’t remember now where he held court. And then later State law outlawed JP’s. They couldn’t do that anymore. But they still elect judges. Back in those years you could become a judge…a county judge…no training…nothing. Earnest Twidded, in 1960 I guess…no…anyway he became a county judge. And he knew nothing about being a judge.
<laughter> Kinda scary isn’t it?
Yeah because this was in ’55. He must have been elected in ’54 and took office in ’55. Anyway he wanted me to come and work for him because I had worked for the county judge previously for a short time. But he wanted me to come work for him because he didn’t have a clue how to be a judge. He managed. He was a judge for a while. I don’t know whether he was not in office or whether he passed away while he was in office. But I went to school with his son, Earnest Twidded, Jr. He was one of my classmates. This was how things were run around here. You went to work and you learned the job and people elected somebody sheriff. And people had no clue about what was…even yet… how to be a sheriff. They have no law enforcement background. It was based on popularity more than anything else. We had a sheriff here. He was sheriff for 37 years, I think…<Bes Law> I ran across his photo yesterday. We had.what we call “Nights in ’93”, which everybody dressed up as 1893 costumes. And this went on for 3, 4, 5 years I don’t know how long. But anyway, Bes Law and our Town Marshall were dressed up. The Town Marshall was dressed up in an old English Bobby suit and Bes Law was dressed as a western sheriff with 2 big guns and a 10-gallon hat. Anyway Bes Law was sheriff here for 37 years. He was defeated in 1954 I believe by Corbin Cotton.
A big change.
Yeah. It was. But we didn’t have much crime. And when there was much crime it didn’t get solved. <laughter> It was just petty stuff mostly. We did have one person killed on the highway here in ’45 by a hit and run driver. Never knew who killed him. His name was George Hansen. He was walking home from the bar. And apparently someone was driving home from the bar that hit him. It was in the middle of the night.
Nobody said anything.
It was a hit and run…and never found out who did it. He was a young man too…early 30’s. We’ve had a lot of things happen around here that have been pretty tragic, you know. Teenagers killed in car accidents and things like that. But it’s worse now because teenagers are allowed to drive and we have fast cars and all that. And of course when any tragedy happened, the whole community helped out….came together. And now most people have to come from far away to attend a service or anything, you know….a celebration…50-year celebration…yeah. They’ve gone. There’s hardly anybody left <laughter>. I think that’s probably about it.
Oh I know it’s not, but we’ll…!
Well for today.
We’ll rest for today. And I thank you so, so much. I appreciate it. We’ll give you a rest and come back to you again.
I know you have so many people that you knew. And it’s true so many people don’t remember so we’re going to lose them…<can’t understand>. Thank you!
End of Tape 3, Side 2
Transcribed by Linda Carr, July 2004
Park County Local History Archives
Department of Heritage & Tourism, Park County
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Fairplay, CO 80440
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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