Huerfano County, Colorado
Huerfano High's Coronation of 1940

Huerfano World - May 10, 1990
Contributed by Louise Adams

Lovdjieff Remembers Huerfano High's Coronation of 1940

Editor's Note: The following story by Crist Lovdjieff is a tribute to his former classmates who took part in the Huerfano County High School Coronation 50 years ago when King and Queen Coal were crowned in ceremonies conceived, directed and performed by the students.

"My lords and ladies of this royal court, cherished friends and relatives gathered here, it is now our high honor to present to you His Majesty, King Marko Lee Green, and Her Majesty, Queen Jean Marie Caddell, of Huerfano County High School, duly crowned on this 29th day of March 1940. In the Processional you observed them with their attendants, escorts, and those bearing the royal symbols, as all took their places before this altar. During the Coronation rites you witnessed their advance from the anointing and presentation of scepters and rings, through their enthronement and finally the crowning. May their reign now proceed in wisdom and justice in joy and peace for monarch and subject alike.

"Before all of us depart in the marching Recessional, Their Majesties and we their servants offer our reverent thanks to every participant standing here, to everyone in the respectful audience, and to the many offstage who assisted with the orchestra and choral music, together with the hard working builders and technicians, craftsmen and artists, seamstresses and townspeople who gave so generously of their materials, skills and energies in creating this memorable splendor. Altogether the co-operative outpouring of student body and larger community alike enabled us to present this tribute to our entire school."

While the exact text of the Archbishop's remarks long ago faded away, the above words upwell now from memories and intentions vivid through every succeeding anniversary of the 50 that have now passed. The grandeur of that occasion surely merits both recollection and acknowledgment now.

A great fanfare signaled the Verdi "Triumphal March" from Aida, and both candle bearers and escorts with purple and white streamers atop long white staffs turned from their positions facing the bright stage to march through stately formations over the auditorium floor. They finally ranged in six long ranks facing the candle lit central passage, as the royal company gathered before the altar stepped into the same marching rhythm, passing between candle bearers. The soft pinks lights flooding the entire floor contrasted gently with the radiant court.

Behind bearers of the US and the HCHS flags, came representatives of school organizations like the National Honor Society (Siegfried Sporleder), the W Club (Ralph Hendrix, I believe), Future Homemakers, Spanish Club and others. Then came the bearers who had brought royal symbols into the ceremony, followed by Their Majesties in full regalia, and finally the altar boys, processional, cross, and robed clergy. As they passed they were succeeded by the colors escorts in their formals and suits, and lastly the candle bearers two by two disappeared beyond the auditorium's front entrance.

As the Archbishop I paused near that doorway to gaze past the last of the marchers at the white and gold gleaming altar resplendent in its array of burning candies, flowers and flickering votive lights. A purple curtain hung behind its reredos, flanked by white drapery before which the thrones were placed. Almost imperceptibly the dark heavy front curtain was drawn over that brightness. The audience massed in the balcony spaces which had stood through the Recessional as well as the Processional broke into enthusiastic applause, and began pouring down the stairs to mingle with participants still awed by all they had accomplished.

My reverie was broken when someone placed a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see the County Superintendent of Schools John A. Green who grasped my hand warmly with profuse thanks to everyone who had done such honor to his middle son, Marko. I had to turn at once to getting as many of the participants as possible to line up before the stage for photos taken by Miss Mary Gwynn of the Commercial Department. Only a tiny fraction appear in the pictures.

The music for the Processional had been Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance," composed for Edward VII and used again at one point in the coronation of George VI. One respect in which the Processional differed was that unlike the Recessional where all the escorts followed the court out the front entrance, the candle bearers only came into the auditorium that way. The colors escorts entered just below stage right and left. Also for the Processional the Archbishop wore a black cassock, and marched between black robed Deacons. The episcopal white cope and cape were carried by a special bearer, and were placed on the Archbishop in the first part of the ceremony. As everyone marched into the auditorium, they proceeded to places before the great steps leading up center stage, the clergy in the middle, the royal couple behind and to right and left with their attendants and trainbearers, and all the others ranged in rows behind them.

My mother's only comment afterward, "It was all nice but seeing you in black marching between Leo and that Colyn boy became very upsetting. It reminded me of Mata Hari's being escorted to execution.''

With the ringing of a little bell, the ritual began with everyone going down on knees. The Archbishop was vested in cope and cape, whereupon he rose to begin chanting in Latin passages compiled from Psalms, with response by the Deacons. They genuflected in unison, the bell rang again summoning all to rise, the altar boys and clergy proceeded up to the foot of the altar. As the choir sang "All Hail This Day of Days," the King and the Queen took their places behind the clergy. More Psalms were chanted from the great Book at the altar's left side and then the right side. The oil bearer stepped forward and knelt at the altar. The cruet was lifted by a Deacon who poured a little oil into a dish held by the other Deacon. The King and the Queen knelt, the Archbishop stepping before them to dip his thumb into the oil, cross their foreheads which were then wiped by a Deacon.

Scepters and rings were presented next, raised in blessing, and bestowed on Their Majesties. The rings were theirs to keep. They were assisted to their places on the thrones (actually the chancel chairs of the Methodist Church lent by the Rev. C.H. Hatfield).

The most solemn portion of the ritual began with the presentation of the crowns. The Deacons received them on their purple and white drapery, and placed them on the altar. Facing the altar's center the Archbishop extended his hands over the crowns, reciting in low voice the Pater Noster as the choir sang a Sanctus especially composed for the occasion (with the inestimable assistance of Senior musician Gasper Mestas). The Deacons stepped up to grasp the crowns between their hands, and descend to follow the Archbishop. He stepped before the King on the throne, received his crown, lifted it the full length of his arms, and slowly lowered it on the King's head. A brief interval of silence, the Deacon with the Queen's crown moved toward her, while the rest of the clergy genuflected in homage before the King. The Archbishop then stood before the Queen, the same ritual was repeated. As the clergy performed their homage, the choir sang an Eightfold Alleluia. The court which had been kneeling during the blessing and the crowning now stood up, the clergy moved back to places before the altar, genuflected in unison, and turned to face everyone for the Presentation in the only English used in the service.

Now what had inspired us to crown our school royalty in this way on the first Fridays after Easter in 1939 and 1940, had been the historical impact world wide of the deaths of Britain's King George V and Pope Pius XI in the press and picture periodicals, as in the newsreels at Paul Krier's Fox Valencia, without color photography, the state funerals were deeply affecting. I particularly recall that the great Gothic arch before St. Mary's high altar was stunningly draped in black crepe falling from ceiling to floor. But an even greater astonishment came with the Coronations of George VI and of Pius XII. Like most of the world, we in Huerfano County still in the throes of the Great Depression, had never seen anything so opulent and resplendent.

The morning after the 1940 Coronation, I had to stop in at the Walsenburg Variety Store before going up to HCHS for a South Central conference of Student Councils. I overheard a bit of the earnest discussion between some customer and Mrs. Munzer Capparos, "I know what you mean, just shocking to see all those girls in formals going down on their knees.'' I was somewhat taken back, but refrained from commenting. I might have said something about the males wearing long robes, but held back on that, too. Of course, the anxiety about the formals, which could have included the suits of the boys, made sense against the Depression's privations. But those of us who put together the entire ceremony had another purpose, to which all participants assented without any reservations expressed during rehearsals or performance.

It was not something peculiarly Catholic because the Protestants and Jews shared the same sensibility. In the coal mines and the small businesses in town, we already saw class distinctions clearly, just as we knew hierarchies in our own families, in the pecking orders among neighborhood children, in male dominance over women, in all children being owned by their parents. If it's difficult now to resurrect the damaging tyranny of drunken fathers or the physical abuse of children by raging mothers, 50 years ago in Huerfano County big and little persons endured them in baffled silence. Nobody challenged domestic tyranny, as most courts, lawyers, and police--politicians all--don't bother with it now.

Following our graduation from HCHS we would learn a great deal more about hierarchies and class mobility in the military, in the corporate world, most churches, governmental bureaucracies and universities. The corollary running through them all was that personal ability or individual merit counted for nothing up any institutional ladder. But there was one truth which canceled out all class distinctions, that in God's presence every man, woman and child existed in absolute equality and infinite worth. It was that understanding which constituted the foundation of our total education -- home, community, religious, civic, academic. Already the world of 1940 was hurtling us into the Second World War's struggle against fascism's deadly contempt for democracy. Our further studies would largely elaborate on the spiritual basis of democracy, not on the superiority of any genes, race, ethnicity, history, politics, economics, psychology, sexuality, or fearful idolatry.

I must be clear about my motive in writing this commemoration. While I was deeply touched by the great plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams in the late 1940's, I could not assent to their assertion that most Americans look back on their high school years as the happiest time of their lives. The enormous excitement of new learning, discovery, perception in continuing, life-long education vitiate exalting the past. Mere antiquarianism has never enthralled me, and despite my sensitivity and intense emotions, I am not subjugated by wistful sentiment over "the tender grace of a day that is gone.'' I think the reason the HCHS Coronation of 1940 has remained so intensely in my life is precisely because so many people drew together and shared so selflessly in creating a celebration so beautiful and meaningful. I have no illusion that it could ever be done again, in Walsenburg or any other town. More than the decay of education and TV's ten-second sound bytes are involved.

Looking back on the Coronation, I recall that while I was compiling Latin texts for the ceremony, I went to St. Mary rectory to consult about it. Father Ernest answered the doorbell. Any of the four priests there would have represented the ruthless Church used to railing about no salvation was possible outside its jurisdiction. Those of us in public school were already in the outer dark. So Father Ernest did not invite me in to discuss what I came for. He stood above me on the doorstep with narrowed eyes, got tangled up in something about portions of the Mass being used in movies for some story line purpose, and turned away. I was neither surprised nor disappointed. He had already ceased to matter to me as a priest or a man. In delivering some Lenten commentary he had worked himself into a volcanic fury culminating in ordering God "to nail our sinful hearts at the bleeding feet of Your crucified Son." That was no doubt the Church, but I already suspected it had nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

The robes worn by the Deacons in the Coronation were borrowed from the Methodist choir. None of them was long enough for an Archbishop, so I bought black and white material at Forrest Humphries' J.C. Penney with Margaret Gregory's help. I took the cloth to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Zink on West Seventh Street next door to Ed and Mary Tomsic. Josephine Zink was an excellent seamstress who needed only my measurements and a rough sketch on paper. A few days later she had it all ready. That was in 1939. In 1940 she made the King's robe of purple with white trim in the same way.

In our back yard at home we somehow had a length of two-inch hardwood round. I asked my father to make a processional cross from it. A somewhat delicate request because he, like most of his Bulgarian friends, was deeply anticlerical. They knew the history of the Balkans and Eastern Europe darkly stained by many centuries of ecclesiastical and political collaboration in autocratic despotisms. However, he went ahead with his dearth of tools and fashioned a fine piece of workmanship.

My hands have never equaled the precise skills of his. To construct the two crowns, I struggled with intractable metal bands and heavy bailing wire to shape intersecting supports for the topmost crosses. Naturally, the results never approached the glory of St. Edward's Crown, but they were at least serviceable. As a matter of fact, sometime after 1940 the Walsenburg Jaycees used the queen's crown on a beaming Roseann Dissler.

In connection with the work on the crowns, I remember an evening in a small workspace set up in our kitchen. Mrs. Manda (Nick) Shepic had walked down from Loma Park with her youngest daughter Danica (Diane) to call on us at the corner of West Fifth and Leon Streets. Our three-room adobe house was just north of the D&RGW tracks, near the foot of the railroad coal chutes. The Shepic family, together with a solitary bachelor Paul Shepic, the Tony Cessarich family, John and Susie Allen were among our neighbors at one time or another in the 1920's in Stock Canyon west of CF&I's Tabasco mine in Las Animas County. Everybody always remembered that the Shepic's had been part of the Ludlow tent colony 1913-14, and that one of their children had been born there. All through the years Manda spoke a Croatian that was charmingly pure and clear, her voice engagingly warm, her smile touched with radiance. Her husband Nick never seemed as sociable as she.

On her arrival in our kitchen she glanced at my work, asked about the project, listened attentively, then turned to converse with my parents. My brother and sisters were probably at their homework places around the table. Some time later Manda turned back to check on my progress. She bent down toward Diane and said, "You see what interesting work is going on there, and what a fine thing it will be for the Whole school when it's finished." My welter of emotions capped that scene, but uppermost then and ever since was gratitude for her appreciation of my ultimate motive. Whether others recognized it or not, never mattered because her adult perception was already vindication enough.

In speaking with Mrs. Mary (Edward Sr.) Tomsic on the telephone the other day, we talked a bit about Josephine Zink. Then I switched to the two recollections I had waited a long time to share with her. When we moved from Tabasco to Cameron in 1930 the Tomsics lived across the street from us. In that world where so many women were expert in embroidery or crochet, Mrs. Tomsic was alone in her mastery of tatting. Her laces were among the most elegant around. Why had others not taken up that skill? She replied she still remains the only one who can tat. My guess is that others are daunted by the complexity or the sheer diligence involved. My other memory was of the time she and Ed had brewed root beer for Eddie and Billy, and shared some with us neighborhood kids. I could report that no other root beer has ever come close to the marvelous zest of what they had made. "But don't you think,'' she interjected, "that was because all of us had so little in those days?" Maybe that explains it, but all of us know that very few things touted as new and improved over the years have ever really merited the adjectives.

The greatest assistance in choreographing the marching formations and facilitating participation by other athletes came from classmate Walter Ridge. Some time in the middle of our junior year he began joining me in whatever vacant classroom I was doing my NYA job. The work was primarily marking student papers, initially Miss Bess Meyers' freshman English, later Miss Eleanor Young's world history. I feel quite sure I got the work in the first place through the solicitude of Mrs. Ellen Kastner who headed the Welfare Department. When the work was finished, Walt and I were free to talk, and what astounding conversations they proved to be in those quiet, twilit hours. They ranged so broadly, so honestly, so freely, so searchingly, they became the basis for the first great friendship of my life, a treasured grace through my last year and a half at HCHS.

On the surface Walt and I seemed to have nothing in common. Where he was always one of the school's great athletic heroes, a four year letterman in football, I had no interest whatever in sports. He never seemed excited about anything academic, but I was to learn that he dredged deeply in studies like biology and poetry. He never showed any interest in churches, but was most profoundly questing life's real meaning beyond the unremitting melancholy which we shared behind all social masks and roles. What he shared and indicated from that central focus proved to be spiritual insights full of wisdom and compassion, establishing him as the first real guru of my life.

I knew that he was actively involved in the politics electing Marko Green as King. I was indifferent about all other races and candidates, but Marko's winning was special.

One of the big discoveries of those days was classical music. Of the triad necessary to music, I could not be composer or musician, but I might certainly be the informed listener since I was so passionately responsive. Mr. Abe Milstein, like Miss Florence Maxey earlier, were teachers in the Music Department who contributed greatly to my learning. Miss Maxey, my Latin teacher, opened up great wonders in choral music. Mr. Milstein produced the opera Martha, tootled on his clarinet enchantingly, and one day remarked that the greatest of all composers was Beethoven for the unrivaled architectural clarity of his art. Now Marko Green had succeeded Bernice Marshall as the orchestra's first violinist, and that fascinated me. While talks with him at play rehearsals, for example, were affable, they never attained the depth or significance as those with Walt. Near the end of our senior year, I was able to treat them both to a matinee showing of Gone With the Wind at the Fox Valencia. I remember coming out of the theater into an overcast, windy afternoon, my emotions awash with grief. I couldn't really talk, and we never spoke about it afterward.

The ultimate oddity came in 1989 when I was going through a scrapbook of newspaper clippings. In the accounts of Walt's death at Andrews Lake on Sunday afternoon , 27 July 1941, I found myself suddenly noticing the names of buddies who were with him, among them Marko Green. In the overwhelming devastation I felt at that time, I never paid attention to those names, marveling now at my selective perception. The huge loss and terrible finality obviated my capacity to deal with any further data about Walt's state of mind that day or any of the preceding six months. We had corresponded a little through my first semester at Greeley State and his at Trinidad Junior College. But some mysterious calamity had struck late in November, as a result of which he withdrew from school. We got together during the following Christmas vacation for a last long walk talk along the ridge south of the Cucharas River. I could not persuade him to return to Trinidad as his mother wished. In focusing on that, I failed utterly in being available to him, responsive to his real need, and that has been a dark element in the unrelenting grief ever since.

But back to the Coronation. In the remainder of this remembrance, I want to turn to others who assisted with the production, and finally to name all who took part. Rehearsals the marching groups and those in the ritual were held after school. Since a considerable number did not live in town, who knows what sacrifices were made by those not boarding school buses? Two of the schools finest pianists provided music for the practice marching. In 1939 it was Alice Jo Unfug, and in 1940 I think it was Betty Griffis. When they had to be absent, we prevailed upon drummers Nick Knez or Nick Lovdjieff.

I remember next to nothing about the 1939 production except that we used Miss C. Louise Queen's stage set of a cathedral altar for the great Christmas play productions in 1939 and 1940, Why the Chimes Rang. The altar proved too small for our purposes, so we resolved to build a new one in 1940. Mr. James Madison's journalism class under Editor Fred Knez took over coordination of the Coronation, as well as the preceding elections and the ball afterward. Since my focus was the ceremony itself, I never learned who did what in all the rest. In recent consultations with my sisters Mary Stoecklin, Catherine Hartman, Joan Aldretti, as well as with Leo Bonacci, Frank Piazza and Edward Tomsic Jr., we had to fall back on records in yearbooks and newspaper clipping scrapbooks, While the results are better than my memory alone, we still do not have names of all who took part. Readers who have their own recollections, especially those involving additional names, are urged to submit them to the present writer whose address appears at the end of this place.

Senior Robert Brgoch headed the stage construction crew. Their work included the altar itself, its platform three steps above the stage floor, and the broad stairs in front of the stage to the auditorium floor. No doubt the lumber came from Wayt's and Pritchard's, as did the quarter rounds for the escort staffs. Those were wrapped and topped by Miss Ethel Taylor and her home ec girls. They assisted with the ceremonial robes, and their room served as the center where all the girls checked their formals. The altar itself was designed by Albert Miszkiel and Frank Piazza. Once it was in place it was covered with white paper, probably from Schafer's Market. On that vertical expanse, Miszkiel and Piazza traced out the decorative trim, and then deftly and meticulously applied gold oil paint. It was a labor requiring great skill and patience resulting in an imposing structure, brilliant in its grandeur. Both artists had worked previously on Miss Queen's Death Takes a Holiday, the 1939 Senior play, as well as Why the Chimes Rang. They helped on stage sets throughout their HCHS years, and I particularly cherish Frank's drawings in the 1940 Black Diamond.

Eddie Zgut supervised the lighting of the stage and installing the pinks flood lights over the auditorium floor.

Finally, I recall that student body President Henry "King" Vigil, whose home was in Mutual, West of Walsen Camp, volunteered for the chore of drawing the heavy pinks velvet stage curtain, handling it with a slowness in keeping with the occasion's solemnity. He and I had first met at the county spelling contest in the spring of 1936 where he represented Walsen school and I was from Cameron. After graduating from HCHS he entered the CCC camp up Burnt Mill Road, and later joined the Navy, ending up in Noumea, New Caledonia. The struggles of the native population against French colonial rule in recent years bring Henry to mind often.

The names of additional candle bearers, colors escorts, members of the journalism class, orchestra, girl's chorus, together with those who took part in the 1939 production are subsumed under the following graduation class whose total number of graduates is in parenthesis:

Class of 1940: (94) Levio Amidei, Wilda Jane Baker, Dick Barnholt, Jack Bodycomb, Helen Bogan, Robert Brgoch, Irene Buku, Rosella Davis, Robert David, Dorothy Dick, Rena Digani, Imojean Ely, Bennie Feiccabrino, Virginia Fouch, Eva Grgich, Clarabelle Haines, Ralph Hendrix, Robet Hendrix, Stuart Kastner, Fred Knez, Charles Kutzler, Irene Ladurini, Margaret Lara, George McCune, Gasper Mestas, Lucetta Myers, John Naglich, Annabell Rickabaugh, Walter Ridge, Siegfried Sporleder, George Summers, Thomas Taylor, Henry Vigil and Ralph Waldron.

Class of 1941: (98) Patricia Airington, Ida Nell Barnes, George Best, Jack Butorac, Carolyn Conder, Rose Marie Funaro, Marion Furlong, Lillian Ghione, Gilbert Guerrero, Rosemarie Haines, Elizabeth Hepplewhite, David Jenkins, Jack Johnson, Georgia Kirkpatrick, Robert Knez, Thelma Laughlin, Virginia Long, Clarabelle McCune, Antonia Medina, Nestor Mestas, Albert Miszkiel, Lillian Munden, Danny Musilli, Richard Ridge, Mary Jo Sammons, Ruth Shaw, Betty Snyder, Thomas Spock, Audrey Taylor, Mary Verbich, Connie Willburn, Eddie Zgut.

Class of 1942: (105) Norman Andrews, Shirley Bivens, Ida Cruz, Kate Cruz, Frances Dick, Johnnie Galli, Roberta Hart, Otto Klein, Nick Knez, David Lewis Jones, Nick Lovdjieff, Willetta Marshall, Ruth McFie, Ernestine Montoya, Frank Piazza, Doris Whetstone, Elsie Yeager, Esther Mae Zohar.

Class of 1943: (120) Mary Andreatta, Marie Barbari, Jackie Boscia, Sophie Buku, Tony Butorac, Edith Conder, Tom Dunich, Margaret Harriman, Elizabeth Hendrix, Shirley Krier, Elaine Levy, Arnold Lucero, Henry Lucero, Andrew McCracken, Cleo Medina, Margaret Millar, Eugene Mintz, Wilma Montgomery, Violet Morelli, Mary Sandoval, Betty Snyder, Viva Snyder, Lois Unfug.

Students who took part but graduated elsewhere include: Helen Dovich, Eleanor Guy, Norman Katz, Howard Rogers, Wallitsch, (a lovely girl whose first name was not recorded in the 1940 yearbook; she was a member of the girl's chorus and future homemakers.)

Readers who can supply additional names are urged to contact: Crist S. Lovdjieff, P. O. Box 1761, Englewood, Colorado 80150. Less reliable contact might be attempted by telephone (303) 781-7937.

From a book of jottings in 1941 and 1942, perhaps this line by Jan Struther, author of Mrs. Miniver, can serve as conclusion here, "Words are the only sure net to catch a mood, the only sure weapon against oblivion."

The Coronation's mimeographed program listed the following cast but did not name the fifty-eight students in the escort corps. I have added graduation years here.

King .........................................Marko Lee Green (1940)
Queen .....................................Jean Marie Caddell (1940)
Duke .......................................William Kvaternick (1940)
Duchess.........................................Fern Carol Krier (1940)
Crownbearers.....................................Ronald Green (1943)
.....................................................Peggy Mazzone (1942)
Trainbearers.....................................Edwin Caldwell (1942)
...........................................................Lois Furlong (1942)
US, HCHS Flag bearers...............Mary Liane Mallett (1942)
......................................................Lila Lee Nelson (1942)
Rings bearer.....................................Jacklyn Saliba (1943)
Oil bearer............................................Louis Nardin (1942)
Scepters bearer.........................Dorothy Whetstone (1940)
Cross bearer...............................Edward Tomsic Jr. (1943)
Archbishop's vestments bearer......Theodore Toogood (1943)
Altar boys.....................................Edward Gonzales (1943)
.............................................................Carl Nelson (1943)
Deacons...............................................Leo Bonacci (1940)
..........................................................Eugene Colyn (1940)
Archbishop...........................................Crist Lovdjieff (1940)
Candle bearers .....................................Elsie Carrari (1942)
..........................................................Eloise Dabney (1943)
........................................................ ...Irene Dallafior (1941)
................................................................Betty Dick (1943)
...............................................................Laurie Friel (1941)
............................................................Mary Lovdjieff (1941)
.........................................................Avalois Stewart (1941)
...........................................................Wanda Sweet (1943)
.........................................................Florine Thomas (1940)
...........................................................Jane Underhill (1941)

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