Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Minnie Ugolini and Arthur Bellotti

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Sherry Cook
Reviewed and corrected by John Bellotti
Date of Interview - 12-13-1979
Interviewed by Sandra Cason

Minnie Ugolini
Date of birth - 8-18-1903
Arthur Bellotti
Date of birth - 10-28-1908
[Brother and sister]
Parents - Fred Bellotti and Mary Dalfior
Maternal grandparents - Sylvester and Albina Dalfior
Ethnic group - Italian
Family origin - Tyrol, Italy
Date of family arrival in county - Before 1903
Location of first family settlement - Rouse from Canon City
Kinship ties - Ugolini's
Profession - Grocers and Mining

SC: When did you family first come to Huerfano County?

MU: Well, I was born in 1903 and they were living in Huerfano County. I was born in Canon City, that's Brookside, and my mother's mother was there and she went up when I was born and stayed with her Mother for a while. I think my father was living. He was a miner and there a lot of mines around here and I think he lived out at Rouse at that time. That would have been way back in 1903.

SC: What was your mother's maiden name?

MU: Dalfior. She was from Canon City.

SC: Do you know where they came here from?

MU: Well, my father came here from Italy, from Tyrol. That's in the northern part of Italy. I've never been there, but he used to talk about it.

SC: Did he tell stories about the old country?

MU: Yes, he did. No, he used to just talk about where they lived and he had a big devotion to a big church there, a big cross in the town where he lived. He used to mention things about that. He was quite young, I guess, when he started in the mines.

SC: Did you grow up in Rouse?

MU: Yes, I went to school in Rouse. In fact, he left Rouse in 1913, when they had a coal mine strike. At that time, you either had to work or leave the camp and he went to a farm. We were up in Bear Creek for a while.

MU: “This is my brother”

SC: Do you want to join us? That would be great! My name is Sandra Cason and I'm with the History Project.

MU: Then we went to Bear Creek. The 1913 strike, and then we went to the farm. We were so lucky to go there because so many people at that time went to the Ludlow deal and that was so tragic. My dad had a lot of friends up there so we went up there. How long were we up there? We came to town here.

AB: 1921

MU: While we were up there for a while he worked on, whose farm was it? Bernelli or Bressan's?

AB: It was Bressans. That's where we lived and he was taking care of that farm.

MU: For a while. And then there was a farm not too far from that he homesteaded. We lived there three years and improved the place. You know, built a house and a barn and dug a well. I think all those things. Then in three years, well, that property was your property. So I remember all that. We got somebody to help build the house. We had three rooms.

SC: Where did you live while you were building?

MU: We lived on that farm where we started; Berson's farm. Not too far, just across the meadow.

SC: And where was the land you homesteaded?

MU: It was in Bear Creek. Just across the valley. My dad was a miner and he left the farm and back to Walsenburg, to Mutual, that was a mining camp.

SC: And what was your father's name?

MU: Bellotti. And that's Arthur. I have three brothers. There were seven of us but my brother died several years ago.

SC: And after the homesteading did you continue to live on that land?

MU: Yes, for a while we did. I'm sorry we just didn't keep it. There were seven of us in the family and money was kind of hard to come by so we sold it when we left. The Andreatta's think bought it.

AB: The Rogers bought it and then the Andreatta's bought it from the Rogers. But we sold it a long time after we left it.

SC: So where did you move after that?

MU: Seventh Street in Walsenburg. 320 it is West Seventh. My brother still lives there.

SC: And did your father go back to work in the mines?

MU: Yes, he went to Mutual and I don't know where he went after that.

AB: After that he kind of retired a little bit. He work for Louis, my brother. He was in that mine out there. Sunnyside. And my dad worked for him.

MU: He was a good miner but when he got older he got sick. He had that miner's asthma they called it. Otherwise, he was a pretty healthy fellow all the time but that kind of got him and he quit.

SC: Do you remember the strike, any incidents at Bear Creek or during the strike?

MU: Well, we were all right during the strike at the farm but in the camp, you know my dad owned a house there. You either rented a company house but there was a few people that had their own house. And he thought maybe he wouldn't have to leave the camp but if he wasn't working he had to leave.

SC: Even his own house?

MU: Even his own house, because they wouldn't give you permission to get water or go to the grocery store.

AB: They gave us 24 hours to get out of camp. You either go to work or get out of camp.

MU: It was bad at the time.

AB: and there was 2 feet of snow on the ground.

SC: Do you remember leaving?

MU: Yeah, Andreatta's, they are still farmers up there. They came to get us.

AB: No, it was Marchiori's.

MU: No, it was Andreatta's, I know. And they had two wagons, two great big wagons, and they took some of the stuff we had. It took us quite a while to get up there and it wasn't that far. How far is it from Rouse?

AB: About 12 miles.

MU: But there was so much snow, and the horses, you know, there wasn't cars in them days. A lot of snow and cold. But that was the way it was, you either worked or you had to go.

SC: did you live with the Andreatta's?

MU: Berson's. He worked the farm half's, 50-50. It was two years before we got our own homestead. Then we come to town. I think I was in the 10th grade when we moved to Rouse. I must have went back to school some more because I never finished high school. We came to town and my dad bought the house up on Seventh Street. And we were all anxious to help him get it paid. I got a job at the creamery. Mr. Mauro had a creamery here and we knew him from Rouse. At Rouse, I think he had a saloon. He saw me. I was staying with my aunt that summer across the street from where that creamery is. And he said, “Would you like a job?” And I said, “Yes!” Jobs in those days wasn't that much. I think it was a dollar a day. That's been a long time ago. And my brother, Louis, worked in that garage for a while and then he worked at Ruffini's store. And my dad was determined he was not going to let any of the boys be miners because he had such a hard time. So he bought a small business up on Seventh Street which was called California Fruit Store. And he thought, “Well, I'll get them started in a business.” So then when I got married, my husband was in partnership with my brother and we had a grocery store. You know how it is…it wasn't a big money making deal but you make a living, you get by.

SC: What did you do for a living, Mr. Bellotti?

AB: Graduated from the 8th grade in 1925 and a little while after that me and my father went to work in the mines.

SC: Couldn't keep you all out?

MU: My dad was a pretty good miner. He didn't want any of the kids to work in the mines though.

AB: I worked, I guess, about 5 years and I went to Canon City in '29 and learned the butchering trade and when we opened the store here I was a butcher. I butchered, I guess, for 12 years and then the war broke out. And to keep from going to the war, the mine needed a foreman outside, so I got that job. Running outside the mine.

MU: He was the only one that didn't have to go to that war. The other boys did.

AB: So, I did that for 20 years.

SC: Which mine was that?

AB: Sunnyside.

SC: When did that mine shut down?

AB: In '68.

SC: I guess all the mines shut down around here.

AB: Yeah. The government got after them and they just couldn't keep up with the demands.

SC: Like what?

AB: Well, like all the motors in the mines have to be motors, couldn't be open faced motors. They wanted all the electricity in the mine in marine cable and was too expensive for a small outfit. And they just couldn't keep up. They'd come around ever two or three months and every two or three months you'd have to spend two or three thousand dollars to keep the mine open and finally it got to where we had to close it down. All the mines closed around here. All of them.

SC: So there's still coal to be mined?

AB: Oh, there's a lot of coal. In fact, we have a lot of coal in this county. In fact, a lot of companies got a lot of this land leased and they supposed to open these mines. I don't know what's holding them back.

SC: Seems like they need the coal now.

AB: Oh, yeah! We were selling coal for 4 dollars a ton. Now, it's 65 dollars a ton.

SC: When was it 4 dollars?

AB: From when we started, 1930 to '35. I started in the mine in 1940. In the summertime we couldn't get rid of the coal, there wasn't much demand for coal and the power line to keep us going, they would buy coal and we'd give it to them reasonable.

MU: Just about have to give it away.

AB: Yeah, when I first started in the mine we used to shoot the coal down and then when the machine was full we used to take the slack and drop it, throw it away. They didn't want the slack. Just the lump coal. Now it's all slack. There isn't no lump coal now. Then it was shovel. Now it's all push button.

MU: It's easy and it's big paying. Those miners make an awful lot of money. Didn't used to be that way. Used to have to go to work before daylight and come out. He never was sunlight, I don't think, daylight hardly. The come out of the mine late when he worked at Rouse. Look at the difference. So that's why he didn't want any boys of his to be miners. He thought there was something better.

SC: What does the rest of the family do?

MU: Well, we're all getting old now. My youngest brother just retired. He kept the store going. And Louis, he was in the music business. Yeah, he ran the mine for a long time but then he got a music route, you know. And that was quite a bit of work to keep going.

SC: That was selling music boxes?

MU: He installed the boxes in the business places.

AB: They'd go 50-50.

SC: Juke box?

MU: That's right!

SC: And then your sisters?

MU: Well, my sister, she was a schoolteacher here for many years. She retired 4 or 5 years ago.

AB: She taught in all the country schools around here. $75 a month.

MU: That was the beginning. Them days everything was that way.

SC: And your other sister?

MU: Well, the youngest of the family, Barbara, her name is, she graduated from school and then she went to college a couple of years. She had a nursing career in her mind. And she was at that time…there was the war and she got into the army with cadet corps or something. But she was at the corpsman hospital. And three or four girls from her went. It should have been in the regular nursing. I think she would have stuck it out but that business of learning it for the service was difficult for her. She does things slow and accurate and she didn't try to do a patient in a hurry and go on to the next one. And she said “I don't think I'm suited for that.” She was there 15 months and got her cap and she was a wonderful nurse in the regular corps. But it was under the, I guess it was the army. They were learning to be nurses in the service. And you've got to speed up. You can't put so much time on one patient. Barbara said, “You read the book and learn one way but you've got to do it a different way.” And she come home and they needed telephone operators awful bad and she applied here and she got in right away and they never went back. They didn't want her to quit. They said they had a place for her. She would have been good as a technician, where you have to be just like she was. Real slow and take your time. Accurate. She wanted everything just so. She took care of a patient, she give him the right kind of treatment, you know…service. She wouldn't try to do 2 or 3 in the same amount of time like she should have in the service. That kind of discouraged her.

SC: Do you remember what it was like on the homestead? A lot of you in three rooms.

MU: Yeah, we had 2 bedrooms and great big kitchen. The kitchen was in the middle and one bedroom on each side. It was…we managed just fine. We all took part in whatever it was to do. I think my dad raised a lot of…I remember the corn and the beans.

AB: Dry farm. It just depended on the rain. But we got some crops. We got some grain.

MU: Alfalfa.

AB: We had a few cows.

SC: Did you mostly live off what you raised?

MU: No, that's why it was so hard. He worked. He had a job at Mutual. He worked in the mine and he would come home weekends whenever he had a chance, he'd come home. But it wasn't enough, what we got out of that homestead. It was a home. That's why we left it, I guess.

SC: What happened to the house at Rouse?

AB: We just abandoned that house. It was on company property and I don't know what they ever done with it. We never did get anything out of it.

SC: Do you remember the depression here?

AB: We went through the depression.

SC: What was it like?

AB: Seemed like everybody got along as best they could. It was hard. There wasn't any money. If there was any kind of work to do, a fellow would do it. Not like today, you can't get anybody to do anything.

MU: Them days it was hard to get a job.

AB: Yes, if there was any jobs at all you was right there to take them. And a dollar went a long way in those days.

MU: Them days I guess there was plenty to get only you didn't have the money. Now there's more money and it harder to get things. It is hard to buy anything. It takes so much.

SC: Do you remember when you were little having heroes? People you looked up to, national or local figures?

MU: No.

SC: Do you remember when you were young any sports or games or contests?

AB: there wasn't any football. There might have been baseball.

SC: Did you have spelling bees in school, like that?

MU: Yes.

SC: What did people do for entertainment, in the home or outside the home?

AB: I guess everybody just worked.

MU: There wasn't much entertainment.

AB: the only entertainment was a dance on a Saturday night. One of these farms, schools or camps.

SC: Would they have musicians or bands?

AB: No bands, either accordion or guitar or something like that.

SC: Do you remember any musicians that used to play?

AB: I have a close friend, Marchiori, he used to play for a lot of dances. And Frank Kafka, accordion.

SC: Are they around?

AB: Fred is.

MU: Fred Marchiori, he had a farm on Bear Creek.

AB: He'd be a good person to talk to.

SC: Yes, a musician. Because everybody, when asked about their entertainment, mentions the dances.

AB: Nicky Malano used to play the piano sometimes at those dances.

SC: What dances would you do?

AB: Waltzes, for trots. It's all together different today. Today they don't dance together. Yeah, there a lot of difference.

SC: What were the holidays you celebrated when you were growing up?

MU: Nowadays every little thing is a holiday! But them days, we always looked forward to Christmas and the Fourth of July, seemed like there was always something.

SC: did they have a celebration on the fourth of July?

MU: Well, there was the fireworks.

AB: Way back, there wasn't even fireworks. There was fireworks if you could afford to buy a pack of firecrackers.

MU: they wouldn't have those big…

AB: The city wouldn't put on a fire display. That's just lately.

MU: But home, Fourth of July was something we'd look forward to and Christmas!

SC: Did you have a Christmas tree?

MU: Yes.

SC: How was it decorated?

MU: Well, it was some of the things they use now.

AB: No lights. Up there they didn't have electricity.

Side 2

MU: We'd all go to the schoolhouse, Everybody would go.

SC: So he'd come once a month up to the school?

MU: Yes. (regarding the church services).

SC: How did you meet your husband?

MU: I met him in Walsenburg.

SC: Could you describe your wedding to me?

MU: I didn't have a big wedding. We just got married.

SC: Was that at the church?

MU: Yes.

SC: And who married you?

MU: Father Liciotti.

SC: Was the family there?

MU: No, my brother and my aunt were there. But we didn't have a big wedding. It just happened so we got married.

SC: Mr. Bellotti?

AB: I got married the same way.

MU: It was hard to plan a big wedding in those days.

SC: Thinking about people's health, what were some of the diseases people feared most?

MU: When I was young, I had typhoid fever. That was one of the things…

AB: And the flu. We all got the flu too. People were dying like flies. That was in 1918.

MU: that was in 1918. There was a lot of deaths at that time. We were in Rouse. That was 1917 wasn't it? But we left in 1913. Maybe my dad went back and worked for a while.

AB: 1917. Was that during the war.

MU: But the big flu was that time. 1917 and we, he must have went back to Rouse. I remember where we lived then.

AB: The corner house, wasn't it?

MU: So we were there during the epidemic.

AB: You'd see men coming out of the mines. They'd get sick in the mine. Next day or so, we'd hear they were dead.

MU: Yeah, that was terrible. There were four of us sick at that time.

SC: What did they treat you with?

AB: Gee! I don't remember! It was castor oil, maybe.

MU: Well, it was always castor oil, when we were kids. I don't know what we took for that flu.

SC: Do you remember any other remedies, like home remedies?

MU: I remember hot lemonade and honey.

SC: Were children brought up differently compared to today?

AB: They were more strict with children. I know we'd go visit somebody and go in someone's house and your mother would sit you in the corner and you would stay there.

MU: I guess we were brought up a little different, but we had good parents. We never, it didn't take too much for us to understand, I guess. Kids have too much nowadays.

SC: Did you have chores to do?

MU: I know my sister Emma, that teacher, she used to take care of the cow and the chickens and gather the eggs. That didn't suit me much. I used to like to do the housework. My mother was a person that liked to sew. She was always sewing and when you're sewing you don't like to stop. I liked the housework and Emma liked the outside. She took care of the chickens and like to help with the cow.

SC: Did your mother make the family clothes?

MU: Oh, yes!

SC: Did she do sewing for anyone else?

MU: Well, I guess she did. She was good at sewing.

SC: Do you remember how neighbors got along?

MU: Very well.

SC: Would you say they got a long better than today?

MU: More neighborly. Visited more.

AB: Help out more, too.

MU: Yes, I think so.

SC: What kinds of things would people help each other out with?

AB: Well whatever you had to do. Put up hay or go help somebody else. I know we used to go to the Marchiori's and cut the hay and bale it. It wasn't like you could do it if you were kind of small but whatever we could do we'd do it.

MU: I think they all helped each other.

SC: The good old days.

MU: Yes, really.

SC: How was farming different than today? You had a farm for a while.

AB: Gee, I think today farming is in a big way.

MU: They have machines and they don't have to do all this manual work.

AB: A lot of these farms cut out this growing a lot of stuff and start raising cattle.

MU: Have machines to do the milking.

AB: Now they even live in town and go back and forth to the ranch. Feed the cows and they live in the city. It never used to be that way. Well, there wasn't no transportation in those days. You couldn't do it! If you raised a cow you had to stay there and take care of it.

SC: How do you think it was in the mines before the strike compared to after?

MU: It might have made a big difference in wages.

AB: It was a big struggle. You went in the mine and put in a whole day's work and getting ready for the next day and they'd never pay you for it. You'd go in sometimes and load three or four cars and somebody would even steal two or three. Take your check off and put their check on the car. And there was never anything done about it. They kept fighting to try to get union to do something about it. It was terrible, you know. Fellow would go in the mine and work all day and come home and never make a nickel.

MU: I guess it's made a lot of difference in the mines.

AB: I think now the union has got too strong. I think they are too strong now. Demanding too much.

MU: Did you say this was to be used by the schools?

SC: Yes, by the schools and all the tapes will be in the library in an archives set up by the county historical society. Otherwise, all this history will be lost. It was in the paper today about the project.

SC: What do you remember most about the strike?

MU: I was pretty young. I just know they had the militia, soldiers, they guarded the camps. I don't know what it was all about.

AB: There was a lot of people killed down in Ludlow and right here in town too; right in Walsenburg. Up here on the Hogback they had the miners against the militia, shoot each other.

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