Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Ralph Levy Sr.

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Louise Adams
Date of Interview - May 1980
Interviewed by Douglas Lenzini

Ralph Levy Sr.
Date of birth - 1888
Parents – Archie Levy, Lillian Louise Spor1eder
Maternal grandparents - August Sporleder and Adolphine Schafer Sproleder
Ethnic group – Austrian/German
Date of family arrival in County – Father, 1860
Location of first family settlement – Walsenburg
Profession - Construction, merchant, law enforcement

DL: “I'd like to start with when your dad came over. And how old he was and just start from there.”

RL: “Well, dad was born in Austria.”

DL: “Do you remember where exactly?”

RL: “I don't know the exact village or town but it was close to Vienna. He was born in 1849 and he must have left Austria at the age of 15 to come to America. I think he landed at St. Louis and worked there as a young man. He was about 15 or 16 years old. He joined a freighter train bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico where he eventually arrived. He also had a brother who had come to this country prior who lived in Trinidad. He visited there a short time and then went to Mora, New Mexico where he was employed by a firm called Ilfeld. Quite a large establishment at that time. Later he rode to Trinidad and joined his brother for a short period of time, left Trinidad and eventually located in Walsenburg where be resided most of his life. While living in New Mexico he had extensive contracts with the Santa Fe Railroad, furnishing ties for the roadbed. In fact he spent most of his years in the contracting business in New Mexico and Colorado.

DL: “Do you remember what your dad first did when he was in St. Louis and he worked there for a while?”

RL: “He worked for a short time at a store. I don't recall the name now. When this freight train, which was a wagon train at that time, was bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico, he took employment with that train as far as Santa Fe.”

DL: “Do you remember what year that was? When he first came to New Mexico?”

RL: “It must have been about 1864 or 1865. I don't know the exact year but it was approximately at that time.”

DL: “Now the brother that he had in Trinidad, do you remember his name?”

RL: “Yes, his name was Isaac Levy. He and his wife Mary had no children and they lived in Trinidad until the time of retirement then he went to Denver, Colorado. It was there that he passed away. He was a man of considerable means and left all his wealth to an orphanage. I just don't recall the name of the orphanage. He had no children, but that's the way he disposed of his holdings at the time of his death.

DL: “What kind of business was he in?”

RL: “He was in the mercantile business in Trinidad.”

DL: “I see. Now, did your dad have other relatives here when he came over, or just the one brother?”

RL: “Just the one brother at that time. Later on there was another brother that came to America and he eventually located in St. Louis for a short period of time. However, he passed away as a young man. He didn't live too long in this country. And that was all of the immediate family of my father to come. Later on he brought over two nephews and one niece, and educated them. Later on they married and were in business until the time of their passing on. Do you want their names?”

DL: “Yes.”

RL: “One was by one of his sisters by the name of Max Klein. He married and had a family of 7 children. He resided in Walsenburg and later located in Denver until the time of his death. The other nephew was Albert Singer who left Walsenburg to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was married and had one child and was in business in Albuquerque until the time of his passing on.”

DL: “And who was the niece that came over?”

RL: “The niece was Sophie Lowith. That's our original name. She stayed with us in our home for a period of time and later on was married and moved down south, I think Georgia. She had one child, a girl who married, and the child to the best of my knowledge is still residing in Georgia. I think Atlanta or some other town. I just don't recall. After that there was no further immigration of our family.”

DL: “What was the name of the brother who came over and then later died as a young man?”

RL: “His name was Jake.”

DL: “Now you mentioned that the family name was Lowith. Was it your father that changed the name? Or was it the first brother that came over?”

RL: “No, the first brother. At the time of his arrival, most of the population in Southern Colorado and New Mexico was Spanish and they would have a hard time pronouncing the name of Lowith, so my father's brother changed his name. Levy. It really should be pronounced levee or levey. However, still it was hard for some of the Spanish people. They could pronounce Levi, so that's as it is right now, “Levi,” in the home town. In other places it is either levee or levy. So, that's how it happened that our name was changed from Lowith to Levi, Levy or however. ..”

DL: “Did your dad ever explain why he chose that particular name?”

RL: “He didn't. It was just on account of his brother taking that name. He also followed his brother, figuring that would be the best thing to do under those conditions.”

DL: “Was there any particular reason why your father's brother chose the name of Levy?”

RL: “No, there was never any reason.”

DL: “OK, so then after his early days in New Mexico, when did . . . do you remember what year it was that your father came to the Walsenburg area?”

RL: “Well, it was in the '60's he came to Walsenburg and engaged in the mercantile business with Mr. Fred C. Walsen. Mr. Walsen and my father married sisters. Mr. Walsen, shortly after they formed a partnership, decided to go to Denver and my father took over the entire business, which consisted of a large mercantile establishment. He had quite a number of other interests, land livestock, and real estate, which kept him well occupied. Also up to quite a long time in life he still engaged in the contracting business for railroads, whatever type of grading was needed at that time.”

DL: “Wasn't some of his contracts for some of the lines around this area? Contracted to build?”

RL: “Broad gauge of the Rio Grande and narrow gauge prior and … running to Alamosa and then over the mountains to Durango and other points west. Then they broadened the narrow gauge through most of the San Luis Valley, contracted that. And also contracted with Mr. Otto Mears, a well-known man, in that type of work, who built the railroads around Silverton and that part of the country. They were associated for a number of years. He was kept busy until a short time before he retired, which was in the early '50's.”

DL: “He also built some lines in Northern New Mexico, didn't he?”

RL: “The Santa Fe line, yes. He furnished all the timbers for the roadbed, also some of the earth removal for a number of years. And the railroad named a little place after him in New Mexico, recognizing that he had worked for them for so long. Just a little token of esteem for what he had done for the railroad. That little place is still in New Mexico, just a small place and the name is Levy and not too many of the population live there any more.”

DL: “While we are talking about names, do you know why Walsenburg was named after Mr. Walsen? How did that come about, do you know? Did they just decide that?”

RL: “Well, I don't know. It was thought that he was the first mayor of Walsenburg, which at that time was Plaza de Leones. He wasn't the first mayor, but later on he was elected, I heard, and that's when they changed from Plaza de Leones to Walsenburg, taking his name for the city.”

DL: “Was Mr. Walsen also from Europe or was he born in this country?”

RL: “He was born in Germany and came to this country and was with the government for quite a while as a trucker in the Army. And, leaving that, coming to Walsenburg and engaging in business.”

DL: “You said your dad had other interests besides the store, contracting and real estate and such. Did he have any type of ranch holdings at all?”

RL: “Yes. He had a ranch. He had a big interest in what they called the Mora Grant in New Mexico, quite an extensive piece of about 5000 acres and he had . . . his general merchandising store, which handled other things at the time. He had two sub stores; one that they called the Walsen Mine and one at Pictou Mine. He also had a mercantile store on one of his ranches up in what is known as the Gardner country.”

DL: “Speaking of mining, did he have any interest in the mines at all?”

RL: “He had surface interests around Creede and the mineral rights around Creede and some other mountain place. I just can't recall what it was, which, however, was not developed.”

DL: “This would have been what? Gold interest?”

RL: “Silver.”

DL: “So you have mentioned before that when you were growing up, your dad was … spent a lot of time traveling to his various interests in New Mexico. So he maintained ties down there in addition to the railroad interests?”

RL: “He had interest in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He had property there. He had property in Pueblo, Colorado, in La Veta, Colorado and extensive property around his home town of Walsenburg.”

DL: “Now, he was also active in politics, wasn't he?”

RL: “Yes, he was a Democratic. He was not too active in politics. He was elected county treasurer for two terms and also was an honorary deputy sheriff. But his great interest in Walsenburg was education. That was one of his pet projects, you might say. And he was chairman of the school board for a number of years and put in a lot of his time and money … it cost him some money when he tried to help with the educational projects at that time. He also financed the first electric plant in Walsenburg, which burned down shortly and later on associated himself with a group to rebuild the plant, which still operates, not the same plant, but the ... well, whatever it is, you might say, has continued from the small plant, has been built to a large plant to supply light and power to Walsenburg and its neighboring communities.”

DL: “While we are on the subject of education, could you tell about his education? I know that he taught himself languages and was self-educated in many respects.”

RL: “He educated himself. He was fluent in 5 languages, both in reading and writing and vocabulary. Also was a remarkable mathematician and a master of figures, you might say.”

DL: “Do you know the languages he spoke?”

RL: “Yes, he spoke Hebrew, German, Spanish, English, and Slavish.”

DL: “Now, how do you think he came to study and know Hebrew? Was that something that he had learned back there?

RL: “That was taught to him in his home country, in Austria.”

DL: “And the rest, he learned out here?”

RL: “Well, of course, German he learned over there. Mexico is where he learned the Spanish language. And he was so proficient in Spanish that he took care of practically all the correspondence, deeds and wills for people that needed that kind of help. And, of course, in English he wrote a beautiful hand. He was well educated in English, and it was all self-education. He never had instruction and never went to a day school in this country that I ever heard of. He just knew that it was necessary and accomplished it like many other foreigners that came here and had to find out about what's required in the way of languages and education.”

DL: “When your dad came to the Walsenburg area, he and Mr. Walsen were among the few Anglo people here at that time.”

RL: “Well, there weren't too many, but, well, I'd say there was just a few other Anglos already in the area too, interested in cattle, sheep and some in the mercantile business. And, but it wasn't too extensive at that time.”

DL: “The house that you are living in now, your dad bought that from a Spanish man?”

RL: “Yes.”

DL: “Do you remember when he purchased the home?”

RL: “Oh in 1880. The exact date I just can't recall. Just 100 years ago.”

DL: “But the house had been built….”

RL: “Part of the house was just two rooms you might say, a part to which my dad added on to, up to what the present building is. It was owned by a Spanish family by the name of Sanchez. I just can't recall the first name. The house was about 20 years old at the time that my father bought it.”

DL: “Where was his store located?”

RL: “Right on the corner of 7th and Main streets. The Main store. It was quite a place. In addition, he acquired a lot of surrounding ground and on that he had a campground. A lot of people would come in and stay overnight and if the weather was alright they'd camp there on that part of the ground, build their fires, did their cooking. He also had a big building that he used to put wool in the fall from the sheep men and put in storage. He had a big grainery, an ice house, and numerous stables and sheds. In fact, it was quite a little institution there, covered about, you might say, about two blocks.”

DL: “So for merchants and people traveling around this territory, this was probably one of the landmark places.”

RL: “At that time.”

DL: “What, since your father was able to speak languages and was in so many businesses , and, for example, he would do deeds and wills and things for Spanish people, how was he looked upon in those times in this area, as one of the founding father-type people?”

RL: “Yes. The Spanish people called him “El Patron.” You could come in to him for everything. Advice and help and he was well known throughout the State. He was associated with the Thatcher Brothers, the big bankers from Pueblo at that time. Also people up in Denver. He was an associate, a very strong friend of Governor Gunter. They were good friends. He was well known throughout Colorado at that time.”

DL: “You say that he retired at that point?”

RL: “He passed away in 1933.”

DL: “O.K. Now, when did your father marry and how and where did he meet your mother? Was it in St. Louis, or did they meet out here?”

RL: “My mother was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, of German parentage and the name was Lillian Louise Spor1eder. Her father migrated to Walsenburg in about 1870, and my mother and grandmother came to Walsenburg in 1873. Mother was born in 1860. She was 13 years of age and was designated as the first white child in Walsenburg, according to what people said at that time.”

DL: “And her folks were from Germany? What part of Germany?”

RL: “I've got that down there on that paper, but I can't say exactly. Her brother was one of three brothers that came to the United States in the early century. I forget what part, whether it was Saxony, I just don't know. And they landed in St. Louis and I can't recall just what year they came to this country. My grandfather left Leavenworth and moved back to St. Louis; then he came out to Walsenburg where he engaged in running the St. George Hotel. It was quite a well known place in later years. They called my Grandfather Governor Sporleder. August Sporleder was grandpa's name.”

DL: “Your mother had the one sister who married Mr. Walsen? Did she have other brothers and sisters?”

RL: “Yes… she had… I don't know if I've mentioned, mother and daddy were married in May 1880. I just can't recall. But regards to other members of her family, there were three brothers, Charles, August and George, and just the one sister who was Mrs. Fred Walsen or Amelia Walsen. And the Walsen's had four children, three girls and a boy.”

DL: “And did the other brothers, George, Charles and August, did they stay in the Walsenburg area?”

RI: “Oh, they never did locate in the Walsenburg area. Uncle George came to Walsenburg as a young man in his early thirties and he located in New Mexico and Uncle Charles stayed in Las Vegas, New Mexico and Uncle Gus stayed in St. Louis. So we weren't too close in that respect.”

DL: “Why don't you tell me a little bit about your mother and the things that she was involved in in the community. I know you have spoken before that your home was quite the center of activities, parties, card games and coffee klatches and things.”

RL: “There was a lot of social activities around their home. Mother was a terrific person. She was a woman of great goodness, helping everyone and taking care of sick people and doing good for all. She enjoyed life and company and there were a lot of good times in our home, entertainment and social functions. In fact, she started a center for social functions, you might say, for a great number of years until the town began to enlarge. She did an enormous lot of good.”

DL: “Can you describe your parents' physical stature? What they looked like? We could start with your father.”

RL: “My father was about 5 ft. 9 inches high, sturdy build, a healthy person. Mother was just a little taller than my dad. I would say that she was about 5 ft. 10 inches, slender and always in good health. She had beautiful hair and a lovely complexion. Her eyes were brown and very warm and she really enjoyed life. On the other hand she was what you might call a real pioneer when she came to this country. I heard her say that when they left St. Louis to come to Colorado that crossing the Kansas plain there were so many buffalo crossing the tracks that they would have to stop their train for maybe an hour or two while the enormous herds of buffalo crossed the track. Really those were great days.”

DL: “Did your parents tell you any other experiences when they were young, people? What really stood out in their minds when they first were in this part of the country?”

RL: “Millie Walsen used to ride a lot and enjoyed riding. Of course this country was all open at that time. There were Indians, not a great number, but a few, traveling back and forth and while she was riding one day a bunch of Indians took after her, whether just to scare her or not, nobody knows, but that kind of frightened her and after that , she didn't go out too far on her rides.”

DL: “Your mother, of course, also spoke German and English?”

RL: “Yes. And Spanish.”

DL: “Did your parents used to converse with each other in different languages?”

RL: “My dad and mother used to converse in German, but my father was so strict about the love of this country that everything had to be American. And all our conversations were always in English.”

DL: “Well, let's talk specifically about your family, your brothers, what order they were in and their birthdays.”

RL: “Well, there were six children in our family. Two of them died in infancy.”

DL: “Were they the oldest?”

RL: “The oldest was a girl named Sevilla, and the next was a boy named Sidney. Both of them passed away in infancy. Archie, my brother, was the next boy and then myself and my brother Walter and then my brother Earl who was killed in a snowslide that struck a train that he was with and buried him. He was just 19 years of age.”

DL: “When was your brother Archie born?”

RL: “Archie was born in March 1886. My birthday is November 20, 1888. My brother Walter was born in August 1901, Earl was 1907. So we were strung out a little bit.”

DL: “I know that uncle Walter was born at the house. Were all of the children born at the house? Or do you know? You said that you might not have been born there.”

RL: “I know that Walter and Earl were born at the house. Whether Archie and I were, I just can't remember, because maybe they were remodeling in the house at that time and I once heard that we were living down further on Main Street temporarily.”

DL: “Can you describe the house as it was when you were growing up as a young boy?” You mentioned the well when we have talked before and the gymnastic equipment.”

RL: “Well the house… the front of the house faced Main Street to the West. It was a house of 6 or 7 rooms. I remember at first before electricity, we had this coal oi1lamp, a nice hanging lamp and then just had a hand lamp we had to use. And back of the house we had a well, good water, only had to go about 14 feet to strike water. Also a cistern to catch the rain water. We had a carriage house in the back yard. We had a little house that was built just for us kids as a play house. And on top I remember we had a little house built for pigeons which we had around at that time.”

“We also had chickens around the house. We had a milk cow but it was kept down where the mercantile was. We had a lot of land, a big lot which, as we grew older, we kind of converted to a gymnasium, putting up gymnastic equipment, a trapeze, bars, and different things, which was the gathering place for all our friends. Most of the time we weren't in school. Also another age for the sports was baseball. We weren't much for football at that time. There was basketball and then we played a game which is like hockey but we called it shinney. It was just a willow bent and we used a soft ball, playing out on the street or on the yard.”

“We didn't keep any horses. They were all down at the mercantile where we had a big stable. We had 7 or 8 head of horses down there for riding and for the business, transportation and supplies and such as that. We had beautiful trees, both in front and in our backyard. Big cottonwood shade trees and it was really nice in the summertime.”

DL: “Now, did all the boys share bedrooms? What was the arrangement?”

RL: “Well… when we were young Walter and I had a double bed and Earl had a single room and Archie had a single room. Then, of course, the master bedroom for mother and dad.”

DL: “Did you have cats and dogs?”

RL: “We had dogs. Dogs and horses, but no cats.”

DL: “So as young boys you did a lot of riding?”

RL: “Oh, yeah. That was one of the big pass times. We all had ponies and we used to play circus with them. You know, standing up on them and riding, like we'd see the circus performers do, run and jump on them and different things. But pretty near all of us had ponies. That was one thing, we could all ride. And races, plenty of horse races. We made our own fun and we enjoyed it.”

DL: “What about school? Did all of you go to the same school here in town?”

RL: “Yeah, the same school.”

DL: “And was that Hill School?”

RL: “No, Washington School.”

DL: “Was it just.... how many grades did you go there? All the way through?”

RL: “First grade to eleventh.”

DL: “And all of you boys went to that school.”

RL: “Yes.”

DL: “What about, talk about the trips that you, the company, your father... either fishing trips or perhaps going to his work site.”

RL: “Well, we used to go up to... when they were working on the railroad grading and such, used to go up to where the camps were, where we would watch them work. They didn't have much machinery in those days. They used for moving earth what they called a little slip scraper. They had the Fresno, the big plow of course. They had a lot of blasting to do for rocks. But we used to go up to the camps and enjoyed bothering them for something to eat. That was a great adventure for us. And on other trips with my dad we had to go to up to the ranches, one or the other of us would generally go with him and enjoy the ride. Sometimes we had to stay overnight. Those were all kinds of adventures to us at that time. And occasionally he would have to go to Denver and to Pueblo which was quite a big thing at that time. The big thing was to get to where you could get a good ice cream soda. We didn't have any fountains in Walsenburg. We passed the time in wonderful ways.”

DL: “To get to Pueblo, did you take the train?”

RL: “Yes, the train.”

DL: “And some of your fishing trips you talk about you went over to Conejos, you took wagons for that didn't you?”

RL: “Yes, when we went fishing. Always over to Conejos or over to Creede. You could take a train at that time. They had a train all the way to Creede. And if you wanted to go up fishing there would be a big wagon to take us on up. But we used to go overland to Conejos with a buckboard and a couple of saddle horses. Took us 5 days from Walsenburg to get up to Conejos River to a point where Elki River joined. We really enjoyed the trip. We took our time and really saw some of the country. Those were good days. And the fishing was out of this world. In 15 minutes you could have more fish than you could eat in a week. So you put your time in otherwise besides just fishing, climbing mountains or just do something else to pass the time.”

DL: “Didn't you also say the trains in those days ran to Pueblo so you could make a day of it and come back.”

RL: “Yes, we used to have wonderful rail service. I know we used to, as we got older, the train fare was one dollar and a half from Walsenburg to Pueblo. And they had trains that would leave Walsenburg, say four o'clock in the afternoon get you into Pueblo a little after five and then you could have all that time from 5 to 12 o'clock. There were two trains, one Rio Grande and one C&S. You could catch either one of them back home. One left at midnight from Pueblo and one left at four o'clock in the morning. So you had all that time in Pueblo and you could be there from 5 until 12 if you wanted to go home or until 4 o'clock in the morning for one dollar and a half.”

DL: “While you were up there, what kind of entertainment did you take in?”

RL: “They had what is still there....well they had of course movies and also once in a while they would have stage shows. And once or twice they really had a good state show because they had a good opera house there in the Thatcher building. They brought in some real high class shows. And then out at Minnequa Lake they had dancing and they had rides. So you could pass your time nicely. There was plenty to do.”

DL: “Now you played on the baseball team. Didn't you used to play some of the surrounding coal camps?”

RL: “Oh yes.”

DL: “Take your wagons back there?”

RL: “We used to hire what they called a lumber wagon, to take us to Pictou, Colorado, which was only about three miles. Out to Rouse which was about 11 miles. Aguilar, which is about 18 miles. When we played in Trinidad we always took the train, 'cause you could get down there in time for the game and also there would be passage back about midnight. Come home about 1 o'clock in the morning. But we had no trouble about transportation, thank God.”

DL: “Did Uncle Archie and Walter play on the team?”

RL: “No, Walter didn't play on the team. Just Archie and myself.”

DL: “What position did you and Archie play?”

RL: “Archie generally played catcher. He was a catcher and I was generally put out in right field. We had a good team and then of course we had the team right here at the Walsen mines, which was rather a rivalry between us. We used to draw some pretty fair crowds.”

DL: “What about the music and dances? You were part of a band, weren't you, for quite a while?”

RL: “We had a nice little band here at one time. The Walsenburg Military Band, we called it. Of about..... There were about 16 of us. We had a German instructor. And I also played in an orchestra for dances, which used to pay $5.00 for four hours of dancing. Then we used to give little shows once in awhile with the band. Used to put on a minstrel show. Out at Aguilar for instance, or maybe Rouse. Just a matter of enjoyment for ourselves and entertainment for others. We really enjoyed it and had a good time.”

DL: “Where did you start playing? You played the clarinet didn't you?”

RL: “Well, our band was first organized about 1902. A German man, a professor, came to Walsenburg and organized the band and I played in an outfit when I was going to college in Fort Collins in 1904. I played with the Fort Collins agricultural band at that time, which was a really good organization. And then later after a throat operation, I was never able to play any more. I had to give it up.”

DL: “O.K., Gran, now I want to ask you a little bit about Uncle Archie and Uncle Walter. If you can start with Uncle Archie, kind of just tell a little bit about some of the things that he did. His business interests and his schooling and his marriage.”

RL: “Well, Archie went to school, through the 10th grade and then he decided that at that time he would go to Agricultural College at Fort Collins to what they called a first and second sub-education. Your first sub would be the equivalent of 11th grade education, which he decided on. He went there and went to school just for 1 year and then he came back home and decided he wanted to go to work some place or another, whatever he could find. Well, I think he went down to the store and worked there till, oh, I think up till the time he got married. And... which I think was in 1912. He married a girl by the name of Edna Blickhahn. They had three children, Archie, Anna and Bob. Archie got into the construction business, kind of a general business of all types. When we engaged in anything such as, well, road construction, moving houses, heavy machinery from the mines and that type of business, he was with that. Let me go back a bit. Before he was married, we at that time, Archie and myself, decided to go into business for ourselves. And we opened up a little... He wasn't married at that time and neither was I. We opened up a nice little grocery store on Main Street, and we were doing a nice business there. And then he got interested in movie pictures and so he got hold of two places in Walsenburg at one time. And then he got further interested and he bought a carnival outfit and went in business with a fellow by the name of Ed Dawson. It was just a small outfit, mostly rides, like ferris wheel, merry go round, swings, different types like that. They didn't have any of the.... like fat lady and thin man and that kind. It was mostly rides, which could move around easily to different places. Well, he was in that for a number of years. And Mr. Dawson left and they disposed of the outfit and then he went into this type of work that I mentioned, about moving heavy stuff and that type of work, grading and so forth. Whatever came along we'd try to do, move houses and everything. So we were in that business. I was engaged with him in the store, not in the carnival. And also in the construction business. At first we had just teams to take care of whatever moving was necessary till after the first war when we were able to get some trucks for our business. And we were in that business until the time that Archie passed away which was, I think, in 1958. Course I had gotten out of the business before that, due to sickness. And I was in, of course, in the First World War. And when I came back I started a development of some land my father had, a business building on seventh Street and that was about my type of employment till the Second World War, in which I was called back and was in for two years. And when I came back home Archie was still in the business for a while. I helped him and then I was made Chief of Police at two or three different times. The first time in 1920, I separated myself from the business temporarily to serve as chief. And then later on again in the late 1930's I was Chief of Police. And then, let's see, I was in for about three years at that time. And it was a change in administrations, and so I was discharged, let out, and to put in the time I went back to help Archie, my brother until I was called to go back in the Army for the Second World War. And after returning home from the Second World War, I just more or less retired. I was Justice of the Peace from 1959 to 1965 and then I retired. And that's my status today, just a retired person.”

DL: “How long did you and Archie have the store Cran?”

RL: “We had that for about 7 or 8 years.”

DL: “You started in 1909.”

RL: “Let's see....”

DL: “And then after that he went into the theater business?”

RL: “He was already involved in the theater business. And then he and a friend decided they would go into the soap business made from the roots of the Yucca cactus. So they plunged into that, which was a failure, because it didn't pay. Then of course back into his regular business. Like I say, we were in 6, 7 years and then we were in the movie business, moving picture business before that time, I know. I forget the first time that he went into the picture business but he was in that for a number of years and like I say with the little carnival outfit. So we were scattered around you might say. I just can't recall the exact time. And Walter went into business with us also. He was there most of the time. Of course he was in the First World War, too. After he came back he was sick. But he could work some which he did. He would come down to the business and help us out and that's what he did up till the time he passed away.”

DL: “So he went overseas in the First World War?”

RL: “Yes. He was with the expeditionary forces. At the outbreak of the first war, a person by the name of Orson, I think it was, he graduated from West Point, but he was out here. He had a little mine out here and was operating this coal mine. But when the war broke out he got interested. So he came in to see me, because I had served over three years with the National Guard. Here we had a National Guard outfit. First it was an artillery outfit and then it was a cavalry. Well, anyhow, he was interested in raising a company, a Huerfano County Company of volunteers and he wanted me to come in with him, which I did. So we went out and recruited and recruited and finally he was called back into service. We hadn't finished, hadn't enough men for an outfit. So I got hold of a fellow by the name of Edwards and we kept recruiting till we got the required number. I think it was 60 that we had to have to get into the guard as a new outfit. But we did it, we finally accomplished it and were taken into the National Guard as Troop F of the First Colorado Cavalry. We were called into, as I remember, on July 14, 1917 and went to Camp Baldwin in Denver. We trained there for a few months till September. And then we were carted out to Camp Kearney, California, which was a permanent training with a division post. I was there for a while and then later on I was transferred up to Presidio, Monterey, with a division Cavalry outfit and trained there. Then later that was reversed and we were all put back into the artillery and were just ready to go overseas when the war ended, so I never got overseas in the First World War. But during the Second World War, I was trained at Camp Hale, Colorado and took special training in the Provost Marshal Office and was ordered overseas to the South Pacific and served there until the end of the war when I was released to come back home. But I still retained my commission as a reserve officer. So I popped around quite a little bit.”

DL: “What was the nature of your work when you were in the South Pacific?”

RL: “Well, it was investigations more than anything, relations with the Australian people, in the way of crime and stuff like that. Some of our men got out of hand you know. We had to co-operate with the police and the military of the Australian Army.”

DL: “I want to go back with you to when you went to school in Fort Collins. That was in 1904 and how long were you up there?”

RL: “Just one year. I didn't like it for some reason or another.”

DL: “What were you studying when you were in school there?”

RL: “Well, it was equivalent to about an 11th grade education, high school. Maybe a little bit harder. I think they had some subjects at that time that they didn't have in the school. I don't remember whether they had geometry in 11th grade in high school or not. I remember that at Fort Collins, at the college there, and a few other things. But I just stayed one year, just like Archie, and then I dropped it.”

DL: “Then what did you do?”

RL: “I went down to my dad's mercantile business and worked there.”

DL: “How long did you work for him? Till you started the grocery store?”

RL: “Yes, I think just about. My dad sold that property and that's why Archie and I decided to go into business and open a little grocery store. He sold the property to the Krier family. Also sold the theater and they bought all that land up where the theater is now. So that was sold away. But that was just to the alley. We kept all the land back of the alley there. And that's why we went into business there. That was about 1909. I am pretty sure of that. And then we were in that for 6 or 7 years and then from there on it tumbled back and forth between the store and that was about it then. I was on the Police Force and that's all the time that I can think of.”

DL: “You started with the police force the first time in about 1920 right?”

RL: “1922 I believe it was.”

DL: “And was that your longest period with them?”

RL: “No, it was only two years. Then, like I say, we were kicked out and another party got in. The second time was from 1937 to 1939. Then we lost out again, our party, and then when I came back from the Second World War they asked me to take over. That was in 1944 and I stayed until 1951. Seven years I think. It was about 11 years total time on the police force.”

DL: “What year did you become part of the National Guard?”

RL: “1908.”

DL: “1908. Were they in that for three years?”

RI: “Little over. I'd have been in longer if they hadn't disbanded.”

DL: “Did you have a rank in the National Guard?”

RL: “I was first Sergeant in my outfit.”

DL: “And then when you became part of the Colorado volunteer unit, what was your rank?”

RL: “Well, I was elected captain. When we finally got our company together, and Edwards was elected first Lieutenant and there was a man by the name of Wilson who wasn't of this company, they sent from Denver. He was second lieutenant.”

DL: “When did you get promoted to Major? Was that in the Second World War?”

RI: “No, I got promoted about 1924.”

DL: “Would that be like reserve? After the war, the First World War, you were......”

RL: “My commanding officer, Col. Adams recommended me for a permanent commission in the regular Army. I took an examination just before I came back home. So they said, “We'll notify you.” Well it went on and on. In a way I was kind of glad because my wife was upset about Army life, didn't like it, and one day I got a notice to report in at Fort Warren Wyoming for examination. So I went up there and the examining officer, I had to go up on my own expense, I hung around there for a week waiting for him, and he never did show up. So I got mad and said, 'Oh, to hell with it. I'm not going to fool with this.' And I came back home and I never did take the examination. And then later on I got another notice to go for an examination. I said, 'No, I'll pay no attention to them.' I got into the reserves and I've been in the reserves ever since. I got my promotion as a major in 1922 or thereabouts and I stayed in ever since.”

DL: “Then when you were called back in the Second World War, you were called back as a Major.”

RI: “As a Major, yes. And I still hold my commission. I will till I die.”

DL: “During your reserve years you trained, well, you had to go down to El Paso, right? How many times did you have to go down there?”

RL: “Well, they'd send us to different places. It was hard to get that training. We used to fight to get, you know, ordered out to go to camp for two weeks. Now, let's see, I was one time in San Antonio, Fort Bliss and then that post down there in Texas, close to Del Rio. I can't think of the name.”

DL: “Is that Fort Hood? Also Oklahoma?”

RL: “That isn't it. Then I think two times up here to Fort Logan. So maybe I was in Bliss two times. And I think that's about all the camps I was at. We used to stay at the camps for two weeks just for training.”

DL: “So in between the times that you worked on the police force you worked with your brother Archie in the construction business. Didn't you mention that you worked in Denver for awhile, with the railroad?”

RL: “Oh, yes.”

DL: “And when was that?”

RL: “At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1940. By that time I might mention that we had what they called in training at the CCC. That was Civilian Conservation Corps and they had different camps. At that time things were slow around town , and I was....well, I finally got an appointment to go to commanding officer of a camp up close to Fort Warren there, right out of Cheyenne. It was a camp for veterans, not the younger people. And I stayed there for about a year, and then they were going to disband it, because the war had already started. So they let me out then and I came back home. I...that...a man by the name of Mr. Howell, who worked for the Rio Grande, and whom I knew before when I was Chief of Police, he offered me this job as an agent up in the railroad yards in Denver. So that's where I went, up to what they called the Burnham yard. I worked there, let's see, December… just about six months, for the Rio Grande. That was a tough job, 10 hours every night. No time off for anything. You had to be ten hours making your rounds, just checking and I was glad to get away from that. And then when I came back from the service, they wanted me to go back to work on the railroad, but I had to go up to Salt Lake City to take a job up there and I told them no, I didn't want the job.”

DL: “When you joined the Police Force in the early 20's were you a patrolman at first? When were you made chief?”

RL: “Oh, right off the bat.”

DL: “You were hired as a police chief?”

RL: “Yes, they'd been having trouble. The Democrats had won the election. Well, they'd put on, right after the election, put on some people and they didn't hold out. Then they had some more people. I think there were three different outfits in nine months that they had to let go. So they offered me the job and I went on as chief right away. Was there till they kicked us out when we lost the election. Then I came back in 1937 when the Democrats won again. Till 39. Then when I came back from the Army, they didn't give a damn who was chief. They were begging for somebody. There was a lot of work and they wanted somebody so I took it and I was on until 1951. So that's traveling around a little bit.”

DL: “Can you tell me what you were paid the first time you were police chief?”

RL: “Yes, the first time I got $200, which was pretty good for then. The second time I got only $150 and the men only got $90. And the third time got $200 and something after the war. And the men were only getting around $100. Just think what they are getting now. We furnished everything ourselves. Our arms, uniforms and everything, and they thought we were overpaid.”

DL: “During your days on the police force.......”

End of tape

DL: “Talking about when you were on the police force, when you first started, how many men were on the force besides yourself?”

RI: “Three.”

DL: “And how many people were in the community at that time? It was bigger than it is now wasn't it?”

RL: “Well, there were about 18,000 in the county.”

DL: “The last time you were police chief, how many men were on the force? After the war had it grown that much?”

RL: “Oh no. Had begun to fade away. The mines had closed down, most of them. One or two working, Cameron out here was working and one or two other small mines as I recall. The mines had disappeared. The population went way, way down.”

DL: “Then after the war as chief, how many officers did you have?”

RL: “For a while I had about 8. We needed them at that time cause we put in meters and needed meter attendants and then we were having a lot of trouble with ex-so1diers coming back. It was a lot of hard times. But the second time I was in there were only three of us on the police force. I handled it by day myself. I was all alone and I had two night men. That was from '37 to '39. There was just three of us. Then like I say, after the war, we put on these extra men because of the meters and traffic. We needed men for that there, and also like I say on account of the returning servicemen, there was a lot of trouble. But we only had them for a short time. I think when I left there were only 5 or 6 left.”

DL: “You handled it from '37-'39 when you were on day by yourself. Did you ever have any really big problems with anything that.....”

RL: “Not too bad. People kind of still respected the law a little bit in those days. But the second time after the war, they'd just as soon fight you as anything. Oh boy, I tell you it was tough. Yeah, there were only three of us there.”

DL: “O. K Gran. Now I want to talk about this house here and when you were married. And were you married here in Walsenburg?”

RL: “Yes, I was married here in Walsenburg, at the Episcopal Church,, in 1911.”

DL: “How did you meet your wife?”

RL: “Well, she was here visiting her cousin. She lived here as a small child prior, and went to school here. Her father was a widower and he moved to California. He took the two children, my wife and her brother with him. They were small and be took them to California and he remarried there. And, of course, more or less raised by their step-mother but she was related to Edna Blickhahn, Archie's future wife. So she came here for a visit and that's when we kind of got together.”

DL: “Had you remembered her from when she was here before?”

RL: “Sure, she went to school with me when we were small. I remember we used to make Valentines, you know, draw on a sheet of paper and give them to one of the girls and I used to give her one once in a while, and different ones. I remembered it well. She was just real small. I guess she was about 7 or 8 years old, and had never been back until that time when she came to visit her cousin.”

DL: “After you were married, was that when you built the house here?”

RL: “I didn't build it, I bought it.”

DL: “How old was it when you bought it?”

RL: “Oh, it was just a few months old. The person that had it, his wife wasn't satisfied up here. She wanted to be downtown. So they bought property down there and sold this to me.”

DL: “Then how long did you live in the house here?”

RL: “Let's see. 1911. Well, we had our first baby in 1912 and then when she passed away in 1914 we couldn't bear to be in the same house someway or another so we moved down there to that little house next to my parents' house on Main Street. That was mother's place at the time yet. We moved there because we couldn't stand it up here. So I sold this place. We were down there until I was called into the Army, First World War. Let's see, the baby passed away in 1914. Well, that was three years that we lived down there till I was called into the Army. Later my wife came out to California when I was in Camp Kearney. We had a little apartment there. Weekends I'd get to come in, to see her. First she came to California and then I was transferred to Presidio, Monterey and we lived up there for whatever length of time, that was until we got transferred back to Camp Kearney as civilians. Not civilians, but artillery outfit. Then the end of the war came. Like I say, we were in training, ready to go, when the orders came out that the Armistice had been signed. So I stayed there for a few months discharging people and after that was finished, we came back home here, I bought the house back. I wanted it back. So I got the house back and we lived there till ma got sick and went into the hospital about 1935 and then the house was rented for a few years till I gave it to Bunnie and Elaine when she got married in 1946. They moved here I think it was 1950 something. Let's see. You weren't born when mother passed away, I don't think. But they were living here anyway. You were born down at the hospital, weren't you? But any how the folks were here. Yeah. My wife was in the hospital then. So Bunnie and myself and Ralphie, we were living down there with Mother and Dad. That's about it. I been there ever since.”

DL: “Gran, you've seen lots of changes in this town over the years. Is there any particular period of the history of this community that you think was the peak or the best part? Was it when you were a younger person maybe?”

RL: “Well, to me the best part of the town was when I was young, when we were a small town, good people, law abiding people, no pavement. Main Street, we had beautiful trees up and down the street, giving us shade. And all the business houses. Some of them were of a frontier type with a balcony or the arches over them. Well, everything moved slow. People didn't make much, but they got along fine and they didn't owe. They weren't in debt. And not much disturbances of any kind. Didn't have a police force. We had what they called a day marshal and a night marshal. People respected the law. At night the night marshal had a curfew here. It was a bell used for fires that was on a shed which was located right back where the Black and White Grocery is now. The marshal would be out on the street at 8 o'clock. He had a big dog that used to go with him. He carried a buggy whip and kids respected the law, not like today. When that bell rang you started flying on home, and I mean they flew. Cause if he caught you out after the bell rang, you'd get a little slap across the legs and you'd better fly. And that was 8 o'clock in the winter time and 9 o'clock in the summertime. At that time we had what they called just two horse lights on the street. One on the corner of 5th and Main and one on the corner of Seventh and Main, where in the summertime or in the winter time we could play. But like I say when the curfew sounded that was it. The streets were deserted. No disturbances by roughnecks. At that time everything was good. To me that was the best time. For me in this town when it's struggling too up to date , why to me it's a different location and different population altogether.”

DL: “What was the size of the community?”

RL: “Oh, about 1500 I imagine.”

DL: “Did you ever think you'd see the changes in this town from a small town of that size to a big mining boom and then somewhat of a decline?”

RL: “Well, I knew that it was bound to grow some. I never expected it to be a big town like Pueblo is or anything but I did figure it would be a town of about 12,000 or something like that, which it never reached. But money wasn't as free in those days. You couldn't borrow money and branch out into some business. It was awfully hard. You had to give security if you wanted to go to the bank and get a little loan or something and it wasn't much of an encouragement for people to get into business. But I did think it would grow up to be, like I say about 10 or 12 thousand. Never a really large place. Didn't have the resources outside the mines. Had a few ranches, few sheepmen, sheep and cattle, but wasn't extensive. Wasn't enough without the mines to really support it, a town of this size or a larger size.”

DL: “What kind of a cross section of the people at that time? You mentioned before that there were all kinds of different nationalities and Scotsmen and Slavic people.”

RL: “Well, the first people that came were mostly Scotch and English, and Irish. In fact, I think that they were the one's that opened all the mines. Then we had an immigration of Italians and then we had at one time, which didn't last very long, an influx of Japanese working in the mines. Then came a lot of colored people. And then the Slavic people. After the mines closed down, they all disappeared. Primarily, we had all the Spanish people here which, most of them remained, because they were not employed by the mines. They had their little places and made a living. But that's the way it turned out.”

DL: “In those early days, was there a lot of problems with the different languages?”

RL: “Oh no. You know they talk about this education and that nowadays there was no distinction. The Mexican boys and Colored people were in school with us and had the same lessons and same teachers and no hard feelings. They were... anything that pertained to school activities, they were in there heart and soul, entitled to everything. They got along fine. Liked one another. There was no argument about race or color or religion. You were a good guy and that's all there was to it. You got along fine.”

DL: “When do you think that came about or changed?”

RL: “Just in the last few years. I think since the Second World War it has really changed.”

DL: “What about the changes you have seen in terms of transportation? Didn't you have one of the first cars here in town?”

RL: “Yeah.”

DL: “What kind was it?”

RI: “Well, it was made by Studebaker Corporation. Called it an EMF, the initials of the car. Cost me $1500 at that time. No batteries. It was all hand cranked. For night driving you had a carbide, carbide tank which you lit your lights with. If you wanted a top, it had a top. It was just something like the old time buggy top. Wasn't enclosed, no doors or anything. Most of the time all the cars were open air cars. You could let the top down and most everybody let the top down unless they got in a storm. You could travel about 20 miles per hour or so, if you were careful. But somehow or other this started the transportation pattern.”

DL: “What year did you buy that car?”

RL: “That was 1910.”

DL: “Was it the first one?”

RL: “No, one of the first ones. There were a couple of other cars before mine.”

DL: “When did they pave the streets and put in electric lights on the streets in this town?”

RL: “In the 1920's. I know Mr. J.W., Sears was mayor at that time when they paved the streets and like you say, put in the ornamental lights. I know it was in the early 1920's.”

DL: “I know you talked one time about some of the notable people that either lived here or visited and I think you said they visited your folks. Did Dick Wooten live here?”

RL: “No, he didn't live here but he was here. He'd be here on different occasions. I never knew him or anything, but as I understood he was in this town at different times.”

DL: “Wasn't he among those in that picture of the early pioneers?”

RL: “No, I don't think so. I'm not sure.”

DL: “Were there some notable figures that visited here when you were young or that you heard your parents talk about?”

RL: “Well, Bob Ford was here for a while. He was a gambler. They ran him out of town, over to Creede and that's where he was shot. I just don't recall what you might call real notable people. I think somebody said, mentioned one time, that one of the generals of the Army, Civil War, stayed at my Grandfather's hotel there. Whether it was Sherman or not, I don't know, or whether there was anyone really stayed there at the hotel, but that was just hearsay as far as I'm concerned. And the thing that I wish we could have found was the register. I would have given a lot to have found that register when the hotel was dismantled.”

DL: “Where was the hotel located?”

RL: “Right at Unfug's hardware store, right on the corner of 5th and Main.”

DL: “Were the Unfugs and Sporleders related also?”

RL: “Yeah, Louise Sporleder, Uncle Louis' wife, was an Unfug. And let's see if there is any... Well I know that was one relationship of the Sporleder's and Unfugs. It was quite a family of those Unfugs living here. All were in business, good people.”

DL: “The Unfugs also were from Germany?”

RL: “Yes.”

DL: “What about the depression years in Walsenburg?”

RL: “It was bad, plenty bad.”

DL: “What did most of the people in this area do to get through those years?”

RL: “You worked for the WPA to get a job. Anything you could get, you'd do to try to make a living. To try to get something in the house. Oh, my, you couldn't borrow a dime from the bank. You couldn't borrow a dime no matter what you had for security.”

DL: “Did the depression hit here a little bit later than nationally, and stay longer or was it about the same?”

RL: “Well it hit here about 1929 and it got tougher in the '30's, early '30's. Oh, it was tough.”

DL: “Were most of the people in this area unemployed or just barely scratching by?”

RL: “The ones that were doing alright were the coal miners. They were the best off. Other people lost their jobs, no matter what kind of a job it was, then tried to get on Public Works, WPA, which helped support some people. And others would try to get a painting job or carpenter job or whatever, just to try to get a few dollars.”

DL: “What did the coal miners make during the depression? You have any ideas?”

RL: “I understand that they made good money for that time, what they called big money. They were getting paid pretty good. And some of the coal contractors made good money. That's just what I heard.”

DL: “What do you think the rest of the people that were offered a job, paid depending on what it was?”

RL: “Oh, boy, pretty near not anything.”

DL: “Were people working just for groceries or anything like that?”

RL: “Well, could be. I tell you some people worked for me just to make a couple of dollars a day and were satisfied at that time. Everybody was broke you might say.”

DL: “Well, for example, the town used to have several mines and grocery stores, and many general supply stores and several car dealerships. All of a sudden all those started disappearing. When did that start to happen Gran? I mean it was because people were going out of town to buy things or they just couldn't support all those businesses?”

RL: “Well, we had as you say quite a lot of small businesses, grocery stores, tailor shops, barber shops, stuff like that. Those people weren't making any money. Just a living maybe, and the automobile. Well, buying an automobile in those days was quite a transaction. Times started to get good after the Second World War and there was more work to be had.”

DL: “I have just one more question, Gran. You've seen a lot of, I guess you might say unbelievable things in your life, as a small boy what the case was, the technology and through the years you have seen a lot of things happen here. Is there any one thing through your lifetime that you've witnessed that you think you never would have imagined or you thought never could possibly have happened?”

RL: “I never would have imagined that the present day conditions would have happened. That's a big thing to me, the present day conditions, the people and the conditions. Beyond anything I ever thought would happen. You take for instance, this hostage business. What a to-do there is about that there and that those things can happen. No matter what they try to do there is always the opposite side fighting it. They blame the young, that they don't do this, and if they do it, the others blame them. To me that is pretty hard, a pretty hard prophecy. I have seen right now in the last few years beyond anything I ever dreamed about in my life. You know people are less satisfied now than they ever have been.”

DL: “Why do you think the public has become that way? Things are too easy?”

RL: “Oh, I don't know. Just one of those things that developed I guess. Just whether it gets worse or better, just wait and see. But compared to my elder years, this is plumb out of the world to me. Just can't grasp it.” End of Tape.

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