Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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VINZIE SCARFIOTTI
Contributed by: Karen Mitchell


Interviewed by Sandra Cason
Vinzie Scarafiotti, born 2-19-1905
Parents - Jose Mosco Sr. and Nancy Algozzini
Maternal grandparents - Jose Algozzini and Maria Zamarda
Paternal grandparents - Angelo Mosco
Ethnic group - Sicilian, Italian
Family origin - Prizzi, Italy
Date of family arrival in County - 1900
Location of family settlement - Hastings
Kinship ties - Angelo Mosco; Christian Mosco, brother; James Mosco, brother; one deceased brother and sister. VINZIE SCARFIOTTI & ANN ORR
1/16/1980

SC: This is Vinzie Scarafiotti and Ann Orr, who are sisters, and we are at 112 E. 10th Street and this is January 16, 1980. So, when did your family first come to this county?

AO: In 1900.

VS: Not this county. You mean this county, don't you?

SC: Yes, to Huerfano County.

AO: Well, Las Animas and Huerfano County...

SC: Are very close, yes. So they came to Las Animas County, originally. To Hastings. How did they come to move there?

VS: My mother had a sister living at the camp in Hastings they told them to come over, and that's how come they went to Hastings, because my mother had a sister there.

SC: What was the sister's name?

VS: Carmello Mangardo.

SC: Was she married at that time?

VS: Oh, yes. Her husband's name was Nick.

SC: What was his line of work there?

VS: He worked in the coal mine.

AO: He was a carpenter, also, Nick was.

VS: Yes, my uncle was a carpenter, also.

SC: So he thought that was a good place to work, to get mining work. Do you know how they came over, how they traveled?

VS: By ship. They were about 30 days on the ship.

AO: At that time..

VS: At that time my brother was about 2 months old and my sister was about a year old or two years old.

SC: Do you remember any stories about the trip?

AO: I'll tell you one thing my father told me. He said they were poor when they came over here and when they got to Ellis Island they asked him, "How much money do you have?" I guess he was warned before that and he said he changed all his money into dollar bills and he had a wad like that and he showed them this wad and they said, "Go on through." (Laughter)

SC: And it was all single dollars.

AO: Yes, single dollars. He used to talk about that. That's why they came over to this country, to make a life for themselves.

SC: So how long was the family in Trinidad.

VS: I was born here in 1905, so from Trinidad... They had a strike out there and my dad was the secretary of the union and he was being sort of persecuted, you know, so he moved out and in the meanwhile..

AO: And in the meantime they went to Chicago, 'cause that's where I was born.

VS: No, moved to Walsen, cause that's where I was born. So we moved up there and there was at that time a camp called Walsen Camp and my brother Christie and I were born there. He worked in the mine there for awhile. And went from there I guess to Chicago and that's where she was born.

AO: They came back here. I was 8 months old and they came back here and went to Hezron and Jimmy was born there. Then they moved here to Walsenburg and that's when he went to work for...

VS: My dad was a shoemaker by trade in the old country. So we had a friend that went into the shoe business where Unfug Hardware is now, that's where the shoe store was. His name was My dad had the shop in the back. He worked there for several years and then being closed in he was losing his health and he decided to get out. When he got out, at that time we had a home on 7th Street and in the meantime he bought this property and my dad and mother got the lot because they intended to build up in the front. So they built the home there and my dad bought a team of horses and a wagon so natu- rally he had to build a stable and he began to sell produce and fruit out to the coal camps. At that time you know they were happening. So he recovered his health that way, you know. Then in the meantime why there was a kind of space here for a garden, grew vegetables. And folks were asking for gro- ceries. So little by little he began to deliver groceries also. So from a team of horses and a wagon he bought a Dodge truck. My brothers meantime were selling newspapers. And all the money was always saved for better things. Then from a Dodge truck to deliver there was coal camps that way and coal camps this way. Then he also bought a loader truck and business began to progress. Then in the meantime the boys were growing and graduated from high school so the oldest, Angelo, went to college and became a lawyer and the other one decided to do away with the groceries and they built the garage here so two, three of the brothers went in the garage. But my dad kept on with the grocery store. It was a neighborhood grocery then. He did all right until.. He was 91 when he died, and he kept the store until then.

AO: At that time, when they built this place, the highway went through Walsenburg. It still a highway. It came around in front of the store. You can see where the bridge is down there. That's the way it was then and then they changed it to go straight like that.

VS: Where Eccher's place and Highway 9, was an apple orchard there. And all down in here.

AO: It was beautiful.

VS: Wildflowers, wild roses, wild trees and vines. We used to go down in there for picnics in the summertime. It was so nice. But progress took over. We even had a pavillion down here.

SC: What kind of pavillion?

AO: For dancing. And I used to sit up on the porch at night to listen to the music of the bands, the dance bands. Big dance bands used to come here to play. And the music would waft through the air and you could sit out on your porch and listen. They had grand times down there. Lounge burned down.

VS: Then it come in the tourists, you know. Down there they dissembled down all the beautiful things that were growing and to build a little camp ground there. Little fireplace and then in those days you had your tent, they pitched your tent and all that. The first campground I know of was over there where Eccher's is now. It's not like it is now but there was an Italian couple and they built a campground.

AO: It was full of apple trees over there. In the summer time the whole town was just perfumed with apple blossoms, the scent. It was just beautiful then. It's so different now.

VS: But progress takes over, you know, and things begin to change. And what changed this town was when the coal mines began to close and that really changed the town.

AO: At one time they had two banks or three banks.

VS: They had two banks.

AO: Two banks, and three movie houses.

VS: You had department stores, and good hardware stores.

AO: Now. ..

VS: We had furniture stores and confectionary stores. In the downtown area every building was occupied. Now you see they are boarded up. We have a lot of beautiful new homes coming up but it is mostly because people work out of town or husband and wife work and they can afford a new home like that. But the downtown district is in sad shape. And unless the town booms again it will continue to be that way.

AO: We hope it does. I think if they start opening up the mines it will bring prosperity here again. Hope so.

SC: What was the area down here called.

VS: lOthe Street, it was called the ball park, because it used to be well, I think the stand is still there but not the way it is now, like it used to be.

AO: Teams would come in to play. We used to have rodeos and at one time they had a big celebration called Black Diamond Jubilee and the men would grow beards and they'd give prizes to the one that had the longest beard.

VS: From the coal, Black Diamond Jubilee it was called. We used to have some grand times. Just things like that.

AO: My brother Christie grew a beard and it was red. So they gave him a prize that day for a red beard. They gave prizes, you know, and it was a lot of fun. We used to have a lot of fun here.

VS: Well, I don't know. Maybe the good old days will come back again. But it will be different and not like they were.

SC: What are the biggest differences, do you think, between now and then?

VS: Well, the town has changed quite a bit.

AO: I think people were a lot closer.

VS: And yes, there was better communication among people, better friendship. And I don't know, it was just so different.

AO: We had quite a few neighbors around here. The Whartons and the Johnsons and us kids would get out and play baseball in the evening.

VS: Here in the front entry we played baseball, run sheep run.

AO: They don't do things like that now.

VS: We used to play jacks. The boys played marbles. You don't see that anymore. I remember going to school we used to have our chalk to draw lines on the sidewalk and play hopscotch. You don't see that anymore either.

AO: I used to walk to the high school up there from down here. Of course I graduated from St. Mary's high school and you know that auditorium that's built on the other side? We were the first class to graduate from the new auditorium in 1927. That's been a long time.

VS: I went to Washington School but it wasn't what it is now. Then it was a two story brick building. And it only had one water fountain to get a drink. And the outhouses were outdoors. But we had lots of fun though, playing jacks, hopscotch, baseball. And we had a drug store across the street where we would buy our supplies and candy. Which isn't there anymore either. That same school isn't there anymore either. Do you remember Professor Andrews?

AO: Oh, yes. And Professor Saunders. He was in the First World War. And he used to walk around like a tin soldier, you know, real erect. He was a great guy. They were all great people. I don't know. It was different.

VS: After awhile we went to the Hill School. The Hill School is still standing. And we used to walk in those days. We didn't have cars. And we had only one hour for lunch. You had to come home, eat our lunch and go back. Sometimes we'd be stopped by the train and we'd be late and maybe she'd believe us and maybe she wouldn't. (Laughter)

AO: She should have believed you, because those trains are still going though.

VS: We did a lot of running in those days.

AO: We didn't have TV's or anything like that. Of course we had phonographs and we used to.. the family would gather and we'd play cards or monopoly or things like that. We didn't prowl around town at night. We were at home, brothers and sisters, and we played and we had a lot of fun playing. Cards. We'd play for prizes. My dad had the store down here and he used to get these Spanish peanuts in the bulk and we'd come down here and get a bowl full and take it out and play cards. We had a lot of fun together, just us.

VS: And the neighbors. We had nice neighbors. It was really great. But there's been a lot of changes. Where the garage is now there was an adobe house there. That was torn down. Where the garage is now there was a lot of adobe houses, too, the people lived in and that is gone too, now. We used to have a junk yard down here. I'll never forget Old man Maes.

AO: Oh, yes, Marvin Maes.

VS: They had it a long long time and then the Mestas took over. That isn't there anymore either. There really have been a lot of changes.

AO: There really have. There used to be department stores here and they had beautiful apparel. We don't have that anymore.

VS: Anything you needed you could find.

AO: Now we have to go to Pueblo to get anything, really. Krier's was on the corner where that auto store is. And gosh, I had a charge account there, and at Unfugs Apparel down here, she had beautiful clothes. Had a charge account there. We don't have that now. J.C. Penny's was on the corner where Havatkas is. You could go in there and buy all of your Christmas gifts at Christmas. Quite a difference.

VS: Used to have some real nice department stores. Where Gambles is now, I remember, a Jew by the name of Katz. He had a department store there and there was a Firsks that had a store there too. Little by little these stores disappeared.

AO: They went to greener pastures.

VS: Verni's furniture store down at the corner where the Cochran Service Station is now. Big department store there. Furniture and dishes, and Hardware. It was wonderful.

AO: There used to be a furniture store where Candlelight is now, too. Big furniture store. You could get anything.

VS: The Kelmes had a nice department store, too.

AO: That's where the Sports Hut is now. Krieirs was next door.

VS: That's the building we bought. Then after my dad died I eased out the grocery store and put in crafts. I've done that for 16 years. I enjoy it. I meet a lot of nice people from all over.

AO: She even gets orders from out of town, too, now. From Texas.

VS: Yeah, I'll get letters that say, "We can't find it where we are." I don't know. I send it to them. Anyway I really enjoy it very much because I meet a lot of nice people. I learn a lot from them. They learn a lot from me. I know people that go to Cuchara Camps year after year and they always hunt me up in the summertime. Maybe I don't remember them but they remember me. I have a lot of nice customers from Trinidad that come in and trade with me. I've got what they want so they do a lot of buying. It makes it very nice. It gives me something to do and I enjoy it.

SC: And this is the same house you had as children? (Bell interruption)

SC: I wanted to ask about your father in Trinidad when he was secretary of the union. He had to leave after the strike? The 1903 strike?

VS: I don't remember. There was another big strike when we were living here but my dad wasn't working in the mines then.

SC: I guess it must have been the 1903 strike. How much longer was he in mining after that?

AO: Not long. He had learned the shoemaking trade in the old country and that was really what he did. And of course, like she said, he got started with a wagon selling fruits and vegetables and things like that and he graduated to this.

SC: Both of you married people from here?

AO: No, my husband was from Erie County Pennsylvania. And I met him in Washington D.C. He was working.. he was in the army, career army, and I was with the Navy Department in Washington during the Second World War. And that was a real glamorous, hectic, beautiful time, you know. All the services were congregated in Washington, D.C. There were all kinds of parades. You could go walking down there and be walking down the street and you'd be walking alongside of a prince or princess and you wouldn't know it, you know. One time I lived at an apartment house called Park Central and it was about, it was up Constitution where the Navy Department was and that morning for some reason or another I left my apartment early because I probably had something I wanted to do. Anyway, I was walking along 20th Avenue to get to the Navy Department and I saw a man walking towards me and two men behind him and when I got up close it was President Truman. He was on his constitutional and I froze. Instead of saying, "Good morning, Mr. President': I froze and rushed right past him, you know, like a scared rabbit. Those are things that you really do. It was a surprise to me anyway and I met other dignitaries something like that, too. You might be sitting next to somebody in a restaurant which I did one time. Maybe I shouldn't say it. Anyway you could be just next to somebody you wouldn't know.

SC: How did you come to be in Washington?

AO: Well, I was working with the State Department in Denver. My brother got me the job. They were in politics here. And Gov. Ammons was governor at the time and politicians... What do they call that? They hire their own kind, you know, their people. So anyway I was a governor's appointee and I went to work in Denver and then he lost the election the next year so I was out and I came back to Walsenburg and in the meanwhile I had taken a civil service examination. My brother said, "Why don't you take it?" And I said, "Why do I want to take a civil service examination?" He said, "Go ahead. Anyway, they about a year before Pearl Harbor they were calling in people and I guess I was in the bottom of the barrel but I did get called in. I think I was about one of the first to leave Walsenburg, on a job like that. I wouldn't swear to it, but I think I was. I was with the Navy about 15 years and then I got married. So like I said in that little thing, we came to Walsenburg, to Colorado, and Harold liked it here so I quit up there and we moved to Walsenburg and we were here three years and then we didn't care for the business too much so we moved to Denver. I got reinstated. I got reinstated in civil service and I went to work for the Fitzsemmons General Hospital and it was about 14 miles from where I lived in West Denver so I kind of quit for about a year but when Harold passed away I thought the best thing for me to do would be to go back to work,and so I refiled and worked for the Federal Housing Administration for about 5 years. So then I got kind of tired and I retired. That's how that came about. I worked for my brother here for awhile in his law office. I also worked at.. for Demasio Vigil in the County Clerk and Recorder's Office and I worked for the country commissioners for awhile. Woman about town, I guess you'd call me.

SC: Was your husband from here, Mrs. Scarafiotti?

VS: No, he was from Raton, N.M. I was bookkeeper at the garage over here for my brother and he came by working for the highway department. Not the highway department, construction, where they build the roads. Putting in the pavement on the new highway. That's how I met him and we were married about a year later and went to New Mexico there. Then in a mine accident he died and I came back home and I had two little girls then. One was 6 years old then and the other was 2. And at that time the World War was on, World War II and my brothers were in the service. At the garage we had a mechanic but we needed a bookkeeper there. So I worked at the garage until he came back home. So then my mother died about a year after that and my dad was alone so I stayed on with him, and put my girls through school. I was involved with Girls Scouts and 4-H, PTA President fot the PTA at St. Mary's and I got involved with the Catholic Daughters and was President twice for the VFW Auxiliary and at the present time I'm president of the Arts 'n Things. I had an office in everything, it seems, and had my fingers into everything. Then of course my girls got married. I stayed on. My dad died before my girls got married. I helped him out. And then I bought the grocery store and went into crafts. So the two girls that married they never were around here. They've been as far as Alaska and Germany. I went to Alaska one time and members of my family were out there and I enjoyed it very much. Alaska is a beautiful country. Seems like I've been able to go wherever, because my son-in-law works for the Kodak company and I get to go where they are once in a while. Both my, girls and my son-in-laws are very nice to me. They come home and they enjoy coming home. So I really have a nice family. But I keep on with my little business, because I enjoy it. I like being independent. I don't want to lean on anybody as long as I don't have to. They enjoy coming home and knowing what I have and what I do and what I don't do. I have four grandchildren. I really enjoy them. So it's been kind of a rough life, and a hard one, but if you have enough courage you keep going. Some way somehow things iron out. You get along some way somehow anyway. But it it is a struggle, though.

SC: Two girls on your own.

VS: Putting them through school. One of them went to college four years and she is a schoolteacher. The other one went to college a year or so and she ended up working for the telephone company. She worked for the telephone company in Denver and in San Pedro California. And she could go back any time she wanted to.

SC: Do you remember anything about politics here? Your brother was in politics. Do you remember political changes from when Jeff Farr was here, the changeover in politics in the county.

VS: At the time of Jeff Farr, we were kind of young yet.

AO: I wish my nephew George was here, or some of my brothers, they could really tell you a lot about politics. I imagine Angelo could or Christie or George.

VS: Well, Angelo, he's been, right now he's ...He was district attorney at one time.

AO: Yes, and then my brother Joe was mayor twice. Then my brother Christie he kind of went into politics a few years ago and he was on the school board.

VS: The past year he was on the council. Jimmy never was a politician.

AO: He's a happy go lucky type.

SC: Did you ever get back to Sicily?

AO: We never have. None of us ever got back to the old country.

AO: Well, we've gone through a couple of depressions.

VS: I married during the depression. I'll never forget when we went to live in New Mexico and one time my husband had to go to the doctor for something and he said, "You mean to tell me you got married during the depression."

AO: Yes, they were really hard. We had plenty to eat, but there wasn't any money. Things were a little tough then.

VS: We've seen a lot of hard times. But we got through somehow.

AO: I think if you want to, if there's a will there's a way. I think we did.

VS: When I had my girls in school, we did an awful lot of sewing and when we were active in 4-H we had two machines going all the time. And my girls really learned to sew.

AO: They do beautiful work.

VS: They do do beautiful work.

AO: I wish I could.

VS: We had a lot of fun with 4-H. Going to the fairs. I was a 4-H leader for awhile. I had a group of girls. And we, had a lot of fun. I still keep up with some of the girls I had. It was a worth- while project. They made their graduation clothes. And graduated from high school.

SC: Do you remember the holidays when you were young? Which ones you celebrated and how?

VS: I remember when we were small. In those days we didn't have money and I remember we always used to get the Montgomery Ward catalog and in the spring we'd always pick out our Easter dresses. They were white organdy dresses and they had a pinks ribbon or pink ribbon and we'd order for those dresses and our Easter bonnets. And we would get them and wear them for Easter. And we were very careful with them and we'd save them for the 4th, of July. And for the holidays, it wasn't then like it is now. At Christmas time we'd have our candy and our nuts and fruit.

AO: My mother was a great cook and she'd make all of these Italian cookies. That was at Christmas and Easter only.

VS: My mother was a very good seamstress, too. She didn't need a pattern. We'd get the catalog and we'd see a certain dress we wanted. She could cut it out from the catalog and those dresses would fit us. She would make a lot of clothes for the holidays and for school. And I'll never forget. Black bloomers were the style and she'd make a lot of black bloomers. I'll never forget that.

AO: Yes, we used to wear bloomers.

VS: My mother was great for sewing. When we lived in Chicago she worked in the factory making suits. And they used pure silk thread there. She brought a lot of that home. I still have some. Everything was done by hand. She was very talented at making suits. In fact, she made the suit that my dad got married in. She was a very good seamstress. I remember one time we had a coat sold to us by ..at that time used to be peddlers. It was a great big coat but it was beautiful material. She made dresses out of it for us.

AO: Those were the days.

SC: How did you come to go to Chicago? It's so far away. Did you have relatives?

VS: My mother had a brother there. That's how come we went up there. But my dad didn't like it there. He liked more the open spaces and so we decided to come back to Colorado.

SC: Do you remember the trip?

VS: No, I was 3 or 4, quite small and don't remember at all.

AO: They travelled mostly by train mostly then. I like trains. Coming home on vacation from Washington by train and you can have a lot of fun on train. Yes. You aren't confined to your seat all the time. You can get up and walk up and down the aisle and go to the rest room, go to the dining room. I like trains.

VS: We did go back to Chicago one time when my grandmother died. Course I was older then and I do remember that. That was by train, too, and oh, it was cold in Chicago. Glad to get back.

SC: Which grandmother?

VS: That was on my mother's side.

AO: She lived to be about 94 or 95 didn't she?

VS: Yes, in fact she out lived my mother?

SC: Do you know how your mother and father met? In the old country?

AO: Yes, they lived in the same town.

VS: I guess they were neighbors, too. In those days, you know, people didn't travel like they travel now. Now you don't know who you are marrying any more because they are never from the same town. Very seldom. My mother did a lot of beautiful embrodiery work, too. I didn't realize it then, but she used to make bedroom slippers. They were on canvas and embrodiered. I didn't know then what I know now but that was needlepoint work. It was beautiful. She had the frame. Then I didn't know what it was but a lot of taht is coming back and I know it was needlepoint work.

AO: My dad and my mother read a lot.

SC: Was there a bookstore here?

VS: My dad would subscribe to the Italian newspaper out of New York. Then they brought back books, prayer books and history books. My dad would keep up with the times by reading the Italian newspaper. My mother would keep up with all the stories in the paper. And the patterns you would see in them and recipes. My dad did a good job reading the American newspapers, too.

VS: He learned speaking Spanish to the customers that came in. He could talk about as good as them. He had a lot of customers like that and they all liked to trade with him. Because he was congeniel with them and he treated them real nice and they always came back. He learned a lot through his own efforts. He was a great guy.

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