Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews
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Virginia Margaret Dissler

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Karen Mitchell
Interviewed by Rosalyn McCain

Virginia Margaret Dissler
Date of interview - 12-11-1979
Parents - Charles Agnes and Marie Krier
Maternal grandparents - Nicholas Krier and Margaret Krier
Ethnic group - Husband, Swiss
Family origin - Luxemburg, Belgium
Date of family arrival in County - 1888
Location of first family settlement - La Veta
Kinship ties - Krier's through Mother; Paul Krier's father was Mrs. Dissler's brother
Photos and artifacts - has photo

SC: So, we are just talking to people about any memories they have of the county and their families here and maybe we can just start off with a few questions. When did your family first come to Huerfano County?

VD: Well, Mrs. Kelmes could answer that better than I. She was 3 years old when they come over, so that's been a long time ago. Let's see. I'm not very good at dates. Let's see how old she is...

SC: I don't really recall how old she said she was, but we may have that on her tape.

VD: She was 2 or 3 when she come over. They come right to La Veta and setó tied there for, I don't know how long, then from there they come up to Walsenburg. I was born in Walsenburg.

SC: Where in Walsenburg?

VD: Just about where the Otero is now. We lived there for quite awhi1e. Papa had a shoe shop. He and my uncle owned the shoe shop together and sort of went into buying shoes. First it was fixing shoes.

SC: And your father's name was Agnes?

VD: Yes. And my mother was Marie Agnes. When people asked your name and you told them Agnes they would ask what your last name was. (laughs)

SC: What was it like growing up here? What was the town like or what memo- ries do you have of your childhood here?

VD: Well, there weren't very many places here. Across the street from us, I think it's where that new bank is now, was a hotel. Next to our place, there weren't any buildings. We were at the end. Krier's were next to us and then there was a Chinese Restaurant. Not a restaurant, a Chinese place where they were doing washing. Washing clothes. And the fire bell was next to that and the Mazzone Building that is still there today. They used to have the programs and dances and everything else upstairs and a store downstairs. There weren't too many buildings and we knew just most everybody in the town.

SC: Was there a schoo1?

VD: Well, we went to school in the Courthouse, i think only about a year while they were building this school over here. Then we went to school there. Then we moved in to high school. We were the first grade to go to school in that. Then the year I graduated there was an epidemic, I think it was scarlet fever so the schools were closed for a number of months. Then the children didn't want to keep coming to school in the summer months. So when we finally graduated there were only three in the class. Paul Krier, that's the one that was buried today. And he's a first cousin of mine. Anna Owen. She's been a teacher there at the high school. There were only three of us that graduated. On the fiftieth anniversary they had us all get up on the stage.

SC: That's really nice.

VD: They used to have the graduation exercises in the Mazzone Hall. I went on to school at Williamsburg. Daddy felt like he didn't want me in school 4 years. In those days you didn't need an education like you do now. I took a business, course in Pueblo the rest of the year. My sister got married so I had to stay home to help with the work.

SC: Was that pretty unusual for a girl to take a business course then?

VD: Well, it was a beginning to go into more education at that time. The Doctor Lamme's and different ones were going at that time. In each room there were two or three grades, you know. Until we got up into high school and then each grade had their own.. .were separate. I graduated in 1918. 1908. My kids were born in '18. We were married in 1917, she was born in 1918.

SC: How many children did you have?

VD: Four, two girls and two boys.

SC: And where are they now?

VD: Well, the boys have both died. This one son just died this last year in June.

SC: I'm sorry to hear that.

VD: And then Virginia, when she was graduating, the night of the prom she took sick. In fact, didn't think she was going to live. She had spinal meningitis. They took her to Pueblo and they didn't even think she'd get there she was so bad. She was unconscious in a coma for about two weeks. So then two years afterwards, when my son Xavier, the kids all call him Buddy, he's the one that just died in June.. .the night he was supposed to be in a play, he had the leading part in a play, he got down with appendicitis. They were afraid it would burst. So neither of them.. .When they graduated they just put their cap and gown right on their chair you know and had someone... Then Theresa, she's in a convent now. She's Sister Theresa in Atchison, Kansas. And Paul was the youngest and soon as school was out he and some of the others, they all joined the navy or one of the branches. So right from high school, that's where they went. And Virginia, that's the oldest girl, I told you she had the meningitis and the next year we took her to Glenwood and places she could swim and do a lot of exercising and she come out of it fine. She had nine children and she's a nurse and she has quite a family, they are all liv- ing, and all healthy and strong. She is still nursing. The one daughter, well, she only had two daughters, but the one is an LPN in Durango. So that's where she's working now and Virginia is still working in Cortez. She's a regular nurse over in Cortez. A number of her children are married and live there and there are two of the boys that aren't married are in Denver going to school. One is taking.. .Well, the other finished high school two years ago and he had gone to Phoenix to school to finish it. He is in Denver, the two boys are. And he is a draftsman. What he is doing is drafting. He got a job right away as soon as he went up there. The first place he applied to they accepted him. And the other one, he is in criminology, that's what I couldn't think of. He had to go so long for that. I think he has still a half a year to go to finish. And then in the summertime he works, too, with him, this last year they were assaying a lot of land around different places and he was working with that. Something to do and that went along with his criminology work, too, they worked out kind of together. I belong to different organizations, Catholic Daughters, and I started from the bottom and went up to the state. I have always been active in church work and things like that. Then we had the furniture store at the corner where they have the hotel now... The...

SC: Seventh Street and Main Street?

VD: Candlelight. We had a furniture store there. Then Mr. Dissler died and Paul and I run the store until Paul, he had heart trouble and couldn't work anymore, so then I sold the place, because to get people to work for you and know what they're doing.. .half the time I'd get back and things were gone. You couldn't depend on them.

SC: Where was Mr. Dissler from?

VD: He was from Switzerland. And my mother was from Belgium and my father from Luxemburg. So there was kind of a mixture there.

SC: Did Mr. Dissler come here from Switzerland, or did his family come?

VD.: No, his family come. They lived in Pueblo, out at Avondale. They had a farm out there. But he went into the bakery business. He came down here and opened a bakery. Up there he was working in a bakery. Here he opened a bakery of his own.

SC: What was the name of the bakery?

VD: I don't think they had a special name. The Bakery. In 1917 we were married and we stayed in the bakery about 2 more years. My father had a furniture store in the meantime. He had gone out of shoe business and had a furniture store. So then he felt he would do better with a furniture store. And wouldn't have to work so hard as with a bakery. We were progressing. That was on Main Street where they had the Bakery and the furniture store was down on East 6th, across from the Otero, in there. Then went over for awhile in the Masonic Building, on the bottom part of it, we had the furniture store. And then at the Candlelight, where that is now, it is a big building and we had the bottom part all with furniture. Then we sold and got out of the business after Mr. Dissler had died and Paul wasn't able to be around. It seemed better to sell so I wouldn't have to be alone running the place. As long as he was able to help, it was all right. So since then I have been at home. I had my mother with me the last 5 years that she lived. She lived to be lO2 1/2 when she died. Before that, after Papa died, he was 85 when he died, I would go over and fix her furnace and take meals over to her and watch her. She lived right next door. Then the last 5 years we were afraid she would fall and one thing and anther so she lived with us the last 5 years. I guess I have been a housekeeper since then.

SC: Do you remember stories your family told about the trip over or their arrival here?

VD: They lived in La Veta. They lived right by the creek. I think that's about 3 miles from town or so. They used to walk it back and forth. Mama used to tell us about how she'd carry the baby on her back, carrying her into town because they didn't have the cars, or even the buggies at that time. If you had the,..I guess they transferred everything by, well... I don't know how we got around, but we did.

SC: Did you have a buggy you'd drive here in Walsenburg?

VD: Yes, I think we did. Mrs. Kelmes would drive it, because she was older than I. I remember having a cow because I remember mama milking a cow and we would have cheese, butter and things like that. And I guess we did have horses, or a horse at one time or other.

SC: Did you have chores to do when you were a girl growing up?

VD: Yes, we all helped around the house. In those days everybody had their job to do, one thing and another. After we had the furniture store, sometime after, we moved to the little house next door here and we built this place. Paul was a year old when we moved in. That was a good many years ago.

SC: Did your husband belong to any clubs or fraternal organizations?

VD: Yes, he was a Knight of Columbus. And he was an Elk. He was always active in anything for the town or the city. I don't think they had a Chamber of Commerce, but he was always ready and willing for improvements. Quite popular.

SC: Do you remember games you used to play as a girl?

VD: I remember the kids out here. Used to play hide and seek, run sheep run, kick the can and things like that. Hide and go seek. I guess we...I don't remember just when we moved over to where the others is now. We had our home there. And the two houses are just together almost, the Krier house and our house. See, they had come from the old country together, so we just lived together more like one family. Course we didn't cook together or anything like that but we were just that intimate. In those days we'd sit out and do fancy work and things like that in those days. We built that house and then the Krier's built that house across the street and we moved on in, I think it was 1908. Might have been before that but it was around that time because I remember going to the Hill School, back and forth. Even for my dinner. Walking, we didn't have cars or anything else. They wouldn't believe in that.

SC: Do you remember the holidays?

VD: Oh, yes. We'd always get together and have a big meal, with a turkey and everything like that. And we'd have parties for Mama. Seemed like it was always in my house here. We'd try to get together on their birthdays.

SC: Was Christmas a big holiday?

VD: Oh, yes. We always had trees on Christmas.

SC: Would you go get your own trees?

VD: Oh, yes. We'd get our own trees and decorate them, of course. And have lights and everything. But in those days you didn't have trees a week or a month ahead of time. I remember Mr. Dissler would come home from his store, course in those days we kept the stores open later at nights, and he'd come after we'd put the kids to bed earlier. They'd usually be asleep about the time he'd get home. And we'd decorate the tree and get things like that all together and then we'd waken the children and that would be the first thing they'd see when we'd turn on the lights. Really Christmas meant more to them, I think. Didn't talk about it. Oh, they'd say what they wanted, but didn't have anything ahead of time. But now they all know what they want and they get what they want for them. Everything was more of a surprise. Packages and things wouldn't be put under the tree until that night. And we all liked to play cards and the Kelmeses and we'd get together and play cards on Sunday night.

SC: Was Fourth of July a big holiday?

VD: Yes, we used to shoot firecrackers and especially when we lived next to the Chinese restaurant, the Chinese place. The Chinese always got fire- crackers from China and of course we lived, well, Krier's lived right next door, and we lived a door over. And they would all get out and shoot firecrackers or watch them shoot them. That was quite a time. That was enjoyable. Sometimes they'd make chop suey and things and of course us kids thought that was fine. Very good, too.

SC: Do you remember any incidents that were like wild west in the downtown? You lived right downtown then.

VD: Yes, we lived downtown. I don't remember anything about that too much. But I know that Mrs. Chatin that lives down the street here she would tell us that Mama made shirts. She was quite a seamstress. And she made shirts and things for Jesse James, or one of those. She was quite a seamstress in the old Country. They'd go around, take their little machines and she used to go around to the neighbors and sew for them.

SC: Was she the one that used to sew for Jesse James, or was it Mrs. Chatin? Mrs. Chatin told you about it?

VD: She told us about it. She wouldn't let us do the sewing. We couldn't do it good enough for her. So she let us do the housekeeping and she'd do the sewing. She made lovely things. Ruffles and ruffles and gathering. Our clothes were always so nice and neat because she'd do it.

SC: Do you know how your family came to be here?

VD: William Krier, that's a brother to Paul Krier's father, they come first. I don't know what brought them to La Veta, but they wrote home and told them they should come, that they could make more money here than staying there and working on shoes. And that's how they come because he was the one that asked them. He had been in the East first and evidently didn't like it there as well so he come West and he wrote and told them to come and Papa and Uncle Pete, that's Mr. Krier, come out together and they were both making shoes and things. I don't know if they come out at exactly the same time. I imagine they did. They landed in La Veta. I don't know how they ever got this far across.

SC: Do you remember any stories about the trip?

VD: All I know is Mama was so deadly sick that at the end of the voyage she was ready to die. She didn't think she could take it any longer.

SC: On the ship?

VD: Yes. And then we went over to see them, Mrs. Kelmes and her.. .just the one son, I guess and let's see.. .Mama and Margaret and I, my sister and myself, and Mrs. Krier; we went back in 1900 when they had the exposition the time that they had all the fever that everybody was getting. We wanted to see her folks and all the folks. We already had our tickets when we got wordGrandma had died. We thought we might as well go to see her sisters and her father and we went ahead. They had the World's Fair in Paris at that time. Mama and Aunt May, that's Mrs. Krier, and they took Margaret, that's Mrs. Kelmes, along with them, 'cause she was a little older and going to a fair, we'd be more in the way, I guess. And so we were gone for I guess three months. We said no use in going just for.., it took so long to get places. Then mama was always so sick. Most people, when you are together that long, have to complain. On the boat. When we were in New York and we were driving down. . . course we hired a fellow to get us to our destination there in New York where we had to go, and as we were driving along somebody jumped on the wheel of the cart we were riding in and grabbed Mama's chain that she had around her neck and we thought he had gotten her watch but we found it later the watch had just slipped down. They broke the chain trying to pull it. That was kind of an experience... trying to stop them because Mama ran after them. And these men that had stole it, they got away in a hurry.

SC: Do you remember sports or games or contests when you were a kid that were popular?

VD: Well, we would play those outdoor sports.. And we would play checkers and dominoes and things like that.

SC: What other things did people do for entertainment?

VD: I guess cards were about the favorite, and dancing.

SC: Where was the dancing?

VD: At Mazzone Hall. That was the only place to have them where they had a floor, a dance floor. There was a dance I guess every week.

SC: How did people choose who they married?

VD: They just met them at these places. Different ones, strangers would come to town and meet some of the girls here.

SC: How did you meet your husband?

VD: Well, he was in the bakery and I met him at choir practice. Or at mass.

SC: At the church. Were you married at the church?

VD: Yes, we had a little adobe church. Course that was before, when we were just little kids, and the bishop would come down. Course in those days they confirmed everybody, the little children as well as the older ones. He'd only come once in so many months, or years, really. So they baptized the babies and grown people and everyone. There was a lot of screaming and cry- ing. Mothers would give children to the godparents and of course they were strange to the kiddies and they'd be hollering around there. They'd have to lock the doors so none of them would get out and leave before everything was over so they could get all the blessings that he'd give them. Then we'd have our Christmas p1ays. There was a hall we would have there that we'd meet in. All of us, Margaret and I especially, taught catechism and we'd have our classes always put on a little play at Christmas time. Takes you back.

SC: Do you remember the Depression here, what it was like during the Depression?

VD: I didn't know so much about it. I would hear them talk about it, Mama and Papa and the men would talk about things like that, but we were too little to know much about it. We didn't pay too much attention.

SC: What kind of medical care was there when you were a child? Was there a doctor?

VD: We had a number of them. Dr. Mathews. Dr. ... the big doctor that they all used. The mine doctor. And there were a number of doctors.

SC: Do you remember any home remedies, or folk remedies? Things your mother would do?

VD: Had us gargle with some thing she'd fix Up..something pretty strong. The kiddies hated to take it. It always cured us cause we all survived. Lemon juice was one of our good things. Honey. Licorice.

SC: What was the licorice for?

VD: You put it in with the lemon and the honey. For the throat when you had a sore throat. Course castor oil used to be pretty strong in those days.

SC: Do you remember any stories you heard about Indians around here?

VD: Well, they used to talk about them but you'd never see them or anything like that. I remember one of the priests that was sent here one time, heard about the Indians and he was really kind of afraid to come down here. . . so when he come to the depot there was no one there to meet him and he was afraid to come down the street to the priest's house. And after he got to see how things were and we didn't have all these Indians, because he expected to see a lot of Indians around. We really didn't pay attention to thinking of Indians being around.

SC:. Do you remeber when they had the coal strikes here?

VD: Oh, yes, they were down in this part, in the tents that they put up.

SC: They had people living here in those tents?

VD: Oh, yes, they had to move out of their places on account of...

SC: It was right down here?

VD: Oh, yes. They put up a tent place, a tent colony as they called it. Right around in through here. This was all wired up to above the Revini house here on the corner, and this was a field down in through here, you know, and they put up their tents. They had to leave their homes so they put up tents and lived here, I don't remember how long, but while the strike was on. Then there was shooting and one of the Lenzini boys had gotten shot down by their place. Somebody just happened to get him. That was before any of this was built up at all. I think the house across the street, the one the Vigil's live in is one of the oldest houses that is still left standing that they have.

SC: What did the countryside around here look like then?

VD: Well, a lot of weeds. (laughs) That was mostly it. It was overgrown, you know.

SC: How would you get your water then?

VD: Well, we had a bucket here. I don't know how they arranged to get water to people that were living in these tent houses.

SC: How did you get yours up near Main Street? Did you have a pump or a well?

VD: When we first lived there years ago we had wells for water and that's how we had the drinking water. There was a well for a long time where the bridge is now going South. We'd always, when we'd go out we used to walk about the bend as we'd call it on Sundays and walk on over to Cameron into the rocks. And of course when we were little we would play they were houses and things. But there was a well there and when you'd go out for a walk, older ones as well as younger ones, seemed like you'd always have to stop and get a drink out of that well, the water was so cold and good. And at our homes we all had wells, too, that we had to use a pump to pump the water up to have it in the house.

SC: What are the main changes that you feel have taken place from when you were a girl?

VD: Having lights is wonderful because you used to have the lamps to fill with coal oil every day and clean the chimneys and they'd always be smoked up, seems like. And water. Having water in the home, too, that was a big difference. I guess we used to bathe in tubs. Bring the water in and heat it and bathe in tubs. I don't remember that so much, though, but I guess that's how we did it. Water and electricity, I think. Course we all had coal stoves and later on we got coal furnaces. First it was just coal stoves we'd have and we'd have big pot bellied stoves in the other rooms. Kitchen was always coal stove. Range was coal. Course toilet and things, we had to go outside. Build little shanty sheds, kind of like. Haul our water in. Take care of the lamps, see they had the oil in them so you could light them. Those three things would be the main changes a person would feel most.

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