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Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Whit Bartholomew
Date of Interview - 10-28-1980
Interviewed by Randee Mauro
Date of birth - 8-3-1913
Parents - Archie Levy and Edna Blickhahn
Paternal grandparents - Alexander Levy and Lilly Louise Sporleder
Maternal grandparents - Henry Blickhahn and Anna Ayers
Ethnic group - German Austrian
Date of family arrival in county - Levy 1872; Blickhahn 1889
Location of first family settlement - Walsenburg
Kinship ties - Blanche Beernbaum, Lida Lillis (Mrs. John Kirkpatrick's brother), George Blickhahn, Harry Miller Blickhahn of Hawaii
Profession - Civil servant
A: Well, he said in here he was fifteen. He was thirteen. At that time that he started, as my grandmother told me, and as he told me, that he was due. . .he had just passed the time that he was studying to be a rabbi. They wanted him to be the rabbi and he, in the meantime, the war came along and he came here or he came to his two brothers, came to America. He did go to St. Louis and he worked there in a store for a time, then his brother Jacob and Ike. Now your Uncle Ralph evidently didn't recall about Uncle Jake. They call him Jake. He was kind of a rounder, I guess, of the three boys. He was a man that was always out after something fast. He was after the fast dollar and he didn't stay with them too long, but my granddad worked in New Mexico, near Santa Fe. Then he decided when he became 20 years old, that he wanted to join the Masonic Lodge. At that time, there was no Masonic Lodge in New Mexico and the closest lodge was Pueblo, No. 17, which is one of the old lodges in the state and he came up through Taos into Fort Garland and crossed over which was evidently the old Greenhorn Valley and into Pueblo and to work, to get his first three Masonic degrees and he worked up there until he had got his first three Masonic degrees. Then he left Pueblo and he had opened a store down what was Cuchara Junction down in, I don't know whether this has come across in years that there was a station but it was kind of a way station called Cuchara Junction about seven miles down east of here. And he opened a store there and he run it a short time and he sold it to the Bartel Brothers, as I remember this. Then he went to Trinidad and he and his two brothers went into partnership. Now, they had evidently dropped the name of Levitt in New Mexico and went to the name of Leve; or the “y” was like an “i” or something in Spanish but they said Levy and that's where that came from. Now I have asked this and have never had an answer but they …all three of them changed their names and this I can verify because in the Temple in Trinidad you'll see that there's an Ike on there. It was spelled with the 'y' then, but as I grew up, nobody would say Leve around here, everybody said Levy (Levi). Then he came in here as a merchant and he worked. . .evidently he had met my grandmother in this hotel, the Sporleder Hotel. He married her and he opened a store down there on Seventh Street where Zorcs is now; that was the store. Now my Aunt Blanche tells the story that ...about he had ...how he had given her this little hat one time when she'd gone in with her step mother, and my step grandmother was so perturbed because my granddad had given her this hat.
E: What was Blanche's last name?
A: Then he went into the general contracting business, mostly cutting ties and transportation, Then later he built the first narrow guage or he had quite a bit of the contract to work on the first narrow guage over La Veta Pass and he later built the big canal down in Taos, New Mexico that big canal. I don't remember just what the name of it was, but I had heard that in one trip with him one day when he took me with him over to Toas and we stayed at that hotel over there. Gustoff was their name and at that time was when I first …the first time I remember, I was about 8 years old and I met this Charlie Gilfoust; the old man himself. They talked mostly …all of the conversation that they had at that time was carried on in Spanish and some …there was some German spoken. He was more . . .seemed to be more of a man wanting to go along with the trend of the community or building a community and my grandmother was telling me the story that my dad, which was Archie, was very, he was very mischievous and he would try to get the coal oil lanterns and they were afraid, so when he made this trip to St. Louis that he saw this first small town generator proposition and he someway worked around and came back and got the first power plant started, down where the creamery is now. What the building is a creamery ...
Q: Because of the son?
A: Yeah, because my dad was very much that way I guess and then they mentioned these two nephews and one niece. The two nephews ...one was named Max Kline who married a daughter of old Henry Gordon who was . . .they were of Scotch decent and ...well, I think we called her Becky, but she was born in Scotland and she never really learned to talk German, she could understand it pretty well but never fluent in German, but she did talk fluent Spanish. The girls always said, there were two boys in that family and I think six girls. They always kidded about their mother and dad if they wanted to talk and not to have the kids know they talked Mexican, but she was very fluent in the Spanish language too.
Q: Is that the Kline Hotel?
A: No, this was my granddad's nephew. He was an Austrian and those Klines, I think, were German. I'm not sure. The old man Kline, who had the hotel, was a German. I remember one of the sons, George, who was the last one, I think, of the original family and that was the father of Otto Kline and Rose and Fred. I remember him because he was taking care of the Elks Club. The first Elks Club I remember was located where the Pioneer Tavern is now. And it was later moved to where Benine's Grocery store is. They called it the Mazzone Hall and as a kid growing up, they would have these dances on New Year's Eve. The Elks had this big dance on New Years Eve and it was quite the affair. There was a society affair in town and then the Eastern Star would have their Thanksgiving Eve dance in this Mazzone Hall. They'd make the arrangements with the Elks.
Q: Was that the house at one time?
A: Yes. I still got part of the black wall.
And this Jake, this Uncle Jake, Jake Kline. This story was told me more by Albert Singers wife who was a Welsby. He married a Welsby girl. And it seems he and Uncle Albert were a little bit closer than the other nephew was to him, but Aunt Thelma would tell me about the way Uncle Jake would walk down the street in St. Louis and he'd talk to everybody. He could talk any language that came along. And he had evidently; gone to China and come back and he could even talk Chinese which I guess was quite an accomplishment for those people at that time.
Q: Well, there was a Chinese community around in the early, around 1895, a Chinese laundry and a Chinese grocery store.
A: Well, I don't think Uncle Jake ever spent any time too much in Walsenburg. He wasn't a man to spend a lot of time anywhere, in a small town especially. And I think he's the one who talked Uncle Ike into going to Denver.
Q: Well, what happened when the family members that like went to Denver, where did they stay there? What do you know of the family?
A: Uncle Ike and his wife, first name was Mary, never had any children. I don't know why, but I do know they made quite a bit of money and she left it all to some orphanage or some kind of social. At that time, it was a social of the Jewish faith. Something along that line, because when I visited that time with Uncle Albert and Aunt Della, which was in 1930, '31 or '32, well they had told me a lot of this about and Aunt Della was probably his favorite, because he always had sent different items from his travels around the country to her home in Albuquerque.
Q: Can you tell me something more about the German community in the early days of the county?
A: Well, evidently, there were quite a few Germans came into here; the Unfugs and the Sporleders followed in. Now, when the family came, I'm not sure but from all that I could gather from my mother's friendship with this Ms. …, was that she came here as a bride and the dress that Melaney McDonald had one at her wedding, was Mrs. …wedding dress. I didn't know that until this whole thing occurred. Now, my dad used to kid with my mother about being the late …see. Mother's folks didn't get here until 1889.
Q: And what was her family name?
A: [no response]
Q: And did they become merchants?
A: No, he was a saddle maker or a harvest maker by trade. He had learned it, evidently, in St. Louis and he had gone to Medicine Lodge Kansas and three of the girls were born in Medicine Lodge, Ks. Kate, Lida, and my mother were born in Medicine Lodge, Ks. Then my Uncle George, who was an attorney here, was born in Los Angeles. Then they drifted back here in '89 and my Aunt Blanche, May, Uncle Harry and my Uncle Carl were all born in Walsenburg.
Q: So, who are left from that family aside from yourself?
A: Just, well there is one boy left. Harry, he's in Honolulu, Hawaii. Now, he has two daughters and my Uncle George has one daughter left and Aunt Blanche has one boy left and there's three in my family left.
Q: So when did the German community start to leave?
A: Evidently, it must have been around World War I that it finally fell apart. Probably before that, because most of those Germans had gone out of the Lutheran Church and into the Episcopal Church and could have been around 1900 from what facts we know about the Episcopal Church. You'd have to base it on that the real German Lutheran community had fallen apart by 1900.
Q: Do you remember hearing any stories about the way the Spanish community and the German community got along?
A: Well, they they got along pretty well. They had all gotten along, the Spanish and the German community got along pretty well. They lived more or less separate, truly a segregated life you might say, really a segregated life. The people kind of socially stayed to the other side of us.
Q: But there weren't problems until the miners came in, there weren't really any problems.
A: No, there wasn't too many problems until some of the miners. I guess the miners came in and it became a prosperous town or it began to get prosperous. Now evidently some of those miners came in here along about 1887 or '88 that the first mines began to go along. Now, Fred Walsen, my granddad had quite a store up where what was known as Walsen Mine. It was a big store. It was a branch, but it was a big store, so they serviced that mine. Now that was before the Colorado Coal Company, when it was the Colorado Coal Company and before the CF&I had evidently put in their own stores. See, at one time the CF&I had a company store in every camp.
Q: Yeah, I saw that, Mrs. Kirkpatrick gave us the chart of the Colorado Coal for the stores.
A: Colorado Supply.
Q: Yeah, Colorado Supply. So, you said your grandfather …
A: They had a store there before that, before that was formed, but I don't know what happened to it.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your father.
A: Well, dad was very reserved in lots of ways and he was kind of the factor that held the whole family together and he had ideas way, way far ahead of anything that was even in the state of Colorado. I noticed in here where he built first, he thought the amusement game was quite the way to go I think, because he built a pavilion down about where the community center is now. He built it first and he developed that into a ball park. He liked to play ball. He was quite a ballplayer. He was considered at that time, a lot of fellows that I knew later on, Joe Patterson and this George, who died here lately, he was quite a character. He liked to play the catcher and so he evidently, had the idea of amusement parks and I think this was probably ...he spent some of the summer in Denver with his Aunt Amelia and his Uncle Fred Walsen and I think he picked a lot of that because that was the first of … Coming back, why, dad was a very, oh, he always had an idea of how he was going to do something or go ahead and do it. He tackled almost anything that came along. He decided to leave the transfer and storage business because I think he was going to try to see that Ralph and Walt had it established. He went to Trinidad with a fellow by the name of Ed Dawson and they leased the Central Park, from the Trevinos who had made a flop of it. They built it up and he built a swimming pool in Trinidad in Central Park. They used to swim in the lake. They had a lake and they had heated water all the time because it came right out of the power plant and they would re-circulate this water. It was heated by natural heat. Now, these things I remember because we lived in Central Park in that house for two or three years and then he came back. When dad came back after Ed Dawson fouled up, which I don't think we'll go into in detail because it's kind of a nasty story that affects a lot of people, one of them is still alive and I wouldn't want her name brought into it, but he came back and then he started, he kept his transfer and storage business. And in here he mentions about ...Uncle Ralph has mentioned in this about the big warehouse where they kept the wool and they bought the wool. Well, they later used that to store furniture and that's where the name Levy Transfer and Storage came out. First it was known as Walsenburg Transfer and Storage and then to the name. Dad got a rover's permit from the public utilities in 1930 ...29 or 30, for statewide and vending machinery was his.
E: How did you end up with your grandparents?
A: Well, my uncle was killed, and this boy Earl was kil1ed. I was the oldest grandchild I guess and my sister came along about two years afterwards and my brother came along about a year ...he came along just when Uncle Earl was killed. In fact, his name is Robert Earl. They just kind of kept me at the house. See, they had lost Ralph's little girl who was a year older than I was. They lost her to what they call 'summer complaint' in those days. It was dysentery or they call it dysentery, but at that time that's how I happened to be with them so much. When World War I came, why Ralph went to the army and my folks sold the house and stayed up there to help with the other big house and we lived in that little house where the law office are now.
E: How many years did you stay with your grandparents?
A: Well, I was close to my grandmother and my grandfather,oh, I'd go down there and stay a couple or three months at a time with them, because a lot of times they didn't want to leave them alone and I kind of stayed there. My grandmother used to take me to Pueblo with her all the time. We'd go up on the morning train and come back on the evening train. They'd go on the Rio Grande and come back on the C&S.
E: How would you describe their philosophy of life? Coming to a new country, did they talk much about, oh, I don't know. I have a feeling that life from my grandparents about what they thought life was about ...I just wondered. .
A: Well, my grandmother was very very proud precious person. Of course, she was born in St. Louis. They brought her out here when she was 13 years old and she was supposed to have heart trouble and wouldn't live over six months. So, they buried her at the age of 93.
E: Proud and stubborn.
A: Yes, very much so. And very determined, once she set her mind to something, that was it, and nobody could change it.
E: So she was very strong-minded in the family. She made herself felt.
A: Well, not the way that you put it, but if she made up her mind to something, it had to be just that way.
E: Did she feel that Walsenburg was uncivilized next to St. Louis?
A: Well, I think probably there was a lot of change for her at that time. There was a lot of change, but she never talked too much about that and then, of course, my granddad, after they were married, why, he kind of put her as a queen in everything and everything was the best. They had the money at that time. They had the money and everything was the best. This Rebecca Kline that I mentioned, she told me stories about my grandmother when she would go to Denver. In the old annuals and pictures, it looked like the war of China when she came home. And then she was a very very proud person. My granddad was a man who was very proud, but he had a very congenial soft way about him, very soft. He wasn't pushy or anything like that.
E: Was there any reaction against the German community here during World War I or World War II?
A: Well, almost all of them quit speaking German. See, the Meyers family ...Bob Meyer's family was up in the Gardner area during World War I and there was quite a little ...oh, more or less anti-German sentiment up there then.
E: Well, do you have anything that you would like to talk about from your life?
A: No, I've just been here for ...all my life I've been here. I was gone four years when I was in the Navy, of course. I was considered the outcast of the family because I went to the Navy and, of course, among the customs you know, anybody that joined the Navy, that was next to nothing. My grandmother felt kind of rough that I joined the Navy. The Germans were all mostly for that military but for the cavalry or Kaiser Wilhelm type of deal and I up and joined the Navy. I had spent four years in what they called Citizens' Training Camp which my Uncle Ralph was quite active in. He really ... these 30 days that they take high school kids and train them for military duty ...why, he used to take quite an active part and, of course, I was kind of forced into that and I made up my mind I'd had enough hard—drilled infantry in Fort Logan. I wasn't going through anymore of that, so when I saw I was going to have to go, why I up and volunteered for the Navy. So, I was the only one that went to the Navy out of the grandkids.
E: Does your family do things a lot together? Do they stick together?
A: Well, they were a pretty close-knit family up until after my dad died. It kind of fell apart then. Of course, there's only Elaine and I left in Walsenburg, and see I was gone during the week, from Monday thru Friday for about 15 years, that I was gone. I was here weekends but that's about the amount of the time that I spent here in 15 years, for the last 15 years.
E: What would think was the greatest contribution of your family to the county was?
A: Well, I don't know. There were so many things. My grandfather was very religious and he donated to all the churches. Not one, but all of them. In fact, I was trying to find that book that Fr. Delaney ... I don't know whether you've ever seen it. Well, he and this father LaSalle were very very close and he …when they had a big Methodist meeting here one time, my granddad was the one who got up and took up the collection. It was like they used to have these, revival meetings, and he donated to all the churches.
E: So his faith was not …
A: Oh no. He was very broadminded. Your religion is yours and mine is mine. He was very religious. He prayed twice a day. He'd put on his hat and get his prayer book twice a day.
E: Did he ever go down to Trinidad?
A: Oh yes. He used to ride the horse to Trinidad during the services. And in later years, after the automobile came, why what was it? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, why those were very very sacred to him. He went to Trinidad to all of those.
E: But he didn't direct the kids in any particular …
A: Oh, no, no. Only they had to go to Sunday school. And even with the grandkids, he was insistent. Elaine really don't remember him too well because she was born in '26 and he died in '33. In fact, it was the 27th or the 28th?
E: The 27th.
A: Well, on the 27th of October, he passed away, in 1933.
E: What an interesting man. Did he leave any writings or diaries or ...
A: Well, all of these things except the prayer books, were destroyed. Now the things that we could verify dates and everything, were all destroyed. My dad had put them away. When mother was going to get out, my sister and my Uncle Walter went to that house and they saved nothing. They destroyed all records that dad had put away. Deeds and things like that that would have been, you know ...
E: Legal verifications and everything? That's too bad. That's a shame. So you have the prayer books?
A: There's four of them left or were and I was supposed to get one. In fact, the last time I talked to Ralph, my cousin, why there was one to go to me and I think Dee wants one and I don't know whether my brother Robert ...I think he'll probably want one. But the dates of all of that was in there.
E: Well, we could probably, if there was some question, find some ...through court records or ...but mainly what I'm interested in is the general feeling of what they gave to the county.
A: Well, you see, my grandmother Blickan was the first worthy matron in this chapter ...of Eastern Star, and my grandmother Levy was the second worthy matron. Now, these dates I remember because we just checked them. I had gone down to find out for my cousin in …he wanted to know whether my granddad Blickan was a Mason when he came here or whether he joined the lodge here. Well, he was master of a lodge in 1895. Now my granddad Levy was master of the lodge five times, at different times. Then the Eastern Star Lodge was formed here in 1895. That's when the charter was granted. Now this Lodge 27 is over 100 years old. This Masonic Lodge here, No. 27, is over 100 years old. Now my grandmother's mother is buried out there and she was buried in the Masonic Cemetery 102 years ago. Her brother, George, he died here. Now Uncle Ralph, in here, didn't mention that, but he died here in Walsenburg, and her father is buried there. The three of them were buried right there together, then the two kids, then Mearl, who was Elaine's sister, and then Earl and my grandmother and my grandfather. So it's all of it right there. Now, my mother's sister ...my mother and all the sisters were members of this Eastern Star Lodge.
E: It would be nice to get the records of the Lodges, if we could do that. Tell me, was there any tension between the Protestant German community and the Jewish Germans?
A: This I couldn't tell you. There was, evidently, some hard feelings between the Unfugs and the ...that one Kline family. I think there was a little of that feeling between those families ...Bernsteins and the Newmans that were in here. There was a family here by the name of Strikers. I don't know how many years they were here, but I think ...if I'm not mistaken, I think Mrs. Striker was the sister of this Bernstein. You've probably heard that name of Bernstein's Department Store.
E: Yes. Was Bernstein's Dept. Store in Walsenburg?
A: Yes, right down where Gambles is. It was quite ...it was the leading department store.
E: I saw a picture of that and I thought it must be Pueblo because I didn't ...
A: No, Bernstein's, but in all this, you'll go back, you'll find that there's no Dicks that were ever very in to the Sporleder or the Unfug family.
E: What is that?
A: I don't know.
E: But the Gordon's were Scotch and they married.
A: Oh, yes.
E: But only one of Uncle Max's girls, Catherine was her name, they called her Totus, she's still alive and living in Denver. She was the only one that followed the Jewish faith, but I think she later had drifted away from it after her dad died. Now Uncle Max, out in this cemetery, Max Kline, is the only stone in that cemetery with the Star of David on it. Believe that or not. But it's the only one that has the Star of David on it.
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