Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews
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Mr. and Mrs. John Dernovshek

Scanned and edited by Dick Chenault
Interviewed by Kathy Rignall and Georgia diMateo

Georgia — You were born in the coal camp?

Anne - In the camp, so was he (John Dernovshek). He was born, I think in Walsen. There used to be a Walsen Camp, if you remember. I don't know, we were there, we've lived here all our lives.

Georgia - Did you work, or anything

Anne — Work? Who me? I worked at the creamery after my kids were all grown up. Yah, but I didn't work before. Oh, I take it back. I did do housework for people. I worked for people doing housework, seven dollars a week. Five dollars a week. Can you imagine? Wash, iron, clean house, oh brother. When I stop to think of the… And now they charge by the hour.

Georgia — It used to be like a dollar a week, huh?

Annie - And now the kids are babysittin' and you know they charge by the hour. When we had the girls used to babysit for us, we'd give them a dollar or fifty cents and they were satisfied. Not now anymore. Oh no!

Kathy - Who were your parents?

Annie - Mateo. You know Mario Mateo? Her (Georgia diMateo) father—in—law? Well that's my brother.

Kathy — Where did they come from?

Anne - My folks? Oh gosh, from Italy.

Kathy - What part?

Anne — Sicily, Free Sicily. And I think Johnny's folks came from Yugoslavia.

Georgia — And they lived here all their lives?

Anne — Not his Folks. His folks came from over there, see. But Johnny, the kids all moved over here, I guess. Nobody was born here.

Kathy - What did they come over here for? What did they do?

Anne - I don't know. Well, his dad worked in the mine. Oh yes, his dad worked in the mine all the time. You know, in those days, the miners worked hard. I know his dad, Johnny' s—-my husband's dad still has his miner's irons in the shed. They'd go with the irons and work hard in those days... Not any more, all they do is push the button. I'm glad it's like that now, 'cause the other way it was a little bit too hard. No, Johnny never did. See, he went to college to take up this dairy stuff.

Georgia - He went to college, Uncle Johnny'? Where at?

Anne - Iowa. Iowa State. Oh, he could tell you more about that.

Georgia - Did you live here all the time, here in Walsenburg?

Anne - Oh yes, I've lived here all the time.

Georgia - Do you remember any buggies and stuff? Buggies, you know the horse buggies, like?

Anne - Oh no. I don't remember. No, the only thing that was in my days, they had these old Model T's. They didn't have the horse and buggies. They didn't have the horse and. buggies then. Maybe a long time ago, but not then.

Georgia - How'd you go to school? Walk?

Anne - Oh absolutely, we walked. We didn't go, we didn't have our folk take us and go and get us.

Georgia — Horses, you didn't have horses?

Anne - No. my fo1ks didn't even have a car. Of course, we didn't have to go too far to school, you know. But you take my kids from ah—they didn't have no rides. They went to high school and they walked. And, they walked to St. Mary's too, from here.

Georgia - What school did you go to?

Anne - Washington.

Kathy - All the years? You started from Kindergarten?

Anne - Just to the eighth grade.

Kathy - You didn't go to high school?

Anne - Un—Unh, I couldn't.

Kathy - You had to work?

Anne - NO, we had no education in those days.

Kathy - When did you get married? When, did you get married?

Anne - Did I get married? Gee, it'll be fifty years already. Did you get my card? You see, my kids, my son from Kentucky, is coming in. He's coming in tomorrow night and ah, he's going to stay, you know, for the (Golden Anniversary). And that's why they want to have my anniversary while he's here. Let's see how many years I've been married...

Georgia - Fifty!

Anne - Well it's been fifty Years in November! That's right. I was born in Nineteen—eight.

Kathy - Here in Walsenburg? At the hospital or at home?

Anne - At home. All my kids were born home, too. We didn't have no hospitals around, to go to the hospital. You know, I tell you thing, the doctor used to come to your house. And they delivered the babies. You know, they don't, they didn't do it like they did today. You know that when we had our babies, the doctor made us lay in bed nine days. Yes. And the ninth day you could get up. But not before. Now at the hospitals, (Georgia——Eight hours!)they let you up. I know the twins were born on Sixth Street.

Georgia - In a house?

Anne - In the brown house. My sister took, was taking care of me. And I didn't know I was going to have the twins. I'm going to tell you about it, because I told her (Georgia). Now, my sister was in the kitchen with one of the babies, you know. Pretty soon——Doctor! Doctor! No, the doctor was in the kitchen with the baby, and my sister was in the bedroom with me. Doctor! Doctor! Come quick! There's another one!

Georgia - They didn't know, huh?

Anne - No. He didn't know either. We didn't go the doctor every time.

Georgia - What, you just stood home, you didn't go to the doctor's or nothing, huh?

Anne - We only went to the doctor's when we were ready for our babies.

Georgia - Did you take vitamins and stuff like that?

Anne - Oh no. Nothing. Then, I nursed them. You know, that I tried to nurse my twins, but I couldn't. Two babies were just too much, so I had to put them on bottles. We didn't have absorbent diapers. We had to scrub them on the raw scrub board.

Georgia - And on the wringer washer, huh?

Anne - Oh no! We didn't have a wringer. When we got those wringer washers we thought we were in our glory. No, that didn't come in for a long time. And after they put these two tubs on these wringer types then, gee, we thought——oh brother. We had something we thought, we didn't have to wring it by hand, we just had to put it through. Oh boy, we thought that was somethin'.

Kathy - Did you have big gardens? Did you raise a lot of your own food?

Anne - Well, no. Ah, I never did have a garden until we moved.. See, when we first married, we come in and stayed with his folks for a while. And then we moved to Sixth Street. And, his folks always had a garden. And we never had a garden until after——the last few years.

Kathy - What about your parents?

Anne - My parents? Well, to be truthful with you, my dad used to go hunting a lot. He would go hunting for our meat. Jackrabbits, turkeys——it was just like having chickens so my mother would cook it, stew it. And then she'd fix a big pot of spaghetti and she'd bake her own bread. We had these ovens outside. I don't know whether you remember them or not. They were adobe. You'd build a fire in there and after they got heated, you'd scraped all the fire out and put the loaves in—14, or 15, great big loaves!

Kathy - how did they keep them since they didn't have freezers?

Anne - Every week she had to bake because there was eight of us in the family, so you could imagine. When we come home we didn't have cookies and milk and stuff like that. We come home, we had, see in the olden days, the farmers used to have this great big cheese——round cheese, goat cheese. My mother used to always buy it. So we had cheese and bread. Then for Easter or Christmas, my mother used to make fig cookies for Christmas and for Easter time she used to make the bread dough and then she'd put the eggs in. It was really pretty, you know what I mean.

Georgia - Did she braid it?

Anne - She wasn't too fancy but she made them and she'd put the eggs in just make the kids glad. It isn't like it is today. In our olden days——and now, all we do is put our clothes in the washer and push a button. When its time to go out I got the dryer if I want to use it but in summer time I like to hang my clothes outside. In the winter time… I don't have that many, its just my husband and I.

Kathy - Did you go to Church?

Anne - Oh yes, every Saturday night because they have Saturday night Mass.

Kathy - What about then? Did your parents bring you up (Catholic)? Were you baptized?

Anne - Oh yes, we were baptized uh—huh. They used to have big doings, too, after they were baptized. Most Italians do believe in all that.

Kathy - What was it like? Do you remember any of it?

Anne - I can't remember much. All I remember is when my brothers were smaller, see. I was older...

Kathy - Did they bake a lot then?

Anne - They baked a lot. They baked all different things but not anything fancy. Like I said my mother used to make fig cookies and they were good, uh—huh, But they don't make those things anymore. Like I said we had our spaghetti, you know. My mother used to like to go mushroom picking. She always put a fifty—cent piece in with those mushrooms and if that fifty—cent piece turned black, she threw them out. We can't complain about our childhood because it wasn't too hard. Only thing I'll tell you one thing my folks were awful strict. I used to go with. Johnny's brother and another girl from La Veta, We went with one of his buddies. So we went together and I was about 16 years old, 16, 17. They didn't believe in that. Boy, I never let that boy come to the——I never let him drop me off at the door. We were on Eighth Street, you know where Dr. Lamme's office is. He let me off at the corner and my dad was waiting with that strap in back of the door. He was watching.

Georgia - You got whippings with the strap, huh?

Anne - You damn right we did. He used to believe in that. But I don't know why, they don't. Now, I never would do that to my children.

Georgia - You used to all live in one house, huh?

Anne - Three room house. And there was two beds, in our bedroom. The boys slept, well, two slept at the head and two at the foot. And Dolly slept with them——he was the baby. But you know we never saw a thing wrong with it, not a thing wrong with it. You know, the two beds we had in the kitchen, my mother and dad had their own room, never seen anything out of the way. You know that my sister was sixteen years old when she got married? And she didn't know what an intercourse was.

Kathy - Did he just come and ask to marry her?

Anne - Well, what happened, see he was an older man so he...till they got married. And. they went to the rooming house, they had rooming houses in those days, they didn't have motels. Well, he took her to the rooming house and I guess they started getting undressed and stuff. My mother should have prepared her for that, she was wrong for that. I will admit that, she was wrong.

Georgia - What happened?

Anne - Well, you know what she did, when he started getting undressed, and everything, he wanted his sex, she started running out the door.

Kathy - 16 years old, she'd be scared.

Anne - But my mother was wrong for that. I'll admit that, she should have prepared her for that.

Georgia - But they didn't, they didn't used to say nothing then.

Anne - And we had the best time of our lives, and we never had... Of course, me, I had a habit of making cream pies every day of the week. Cream pies, cream pies, every day.

Georgia - Did you used to sew, and things. Sew clothes, make your own clothes? Anne - No, I never was much for sewing. My neighbor, Eva Marck, she was good. Now come here and I'll show you the little outfits she made the girls.

Anne - And we played jacks, and we'd go to each others house and we'd jump rope and we'd have the best time of our days. It wasn't like it is today, today well...

Georgia - You didn't have toys, huh.

Anne - No, well when we had a doll, we thought we had something. You know, special to girls. But you take, we didn't care what we had. But I'll tell you another thing, we were kept occupied. Our mother kept, my mother kept me, us girls occupied. And the boys too. They weren't like they are today——“Now you get over there and wash those dishes.” “No!” We knew that that was our job. Today, I feel bad for these children now days. Because they're not like, a lot of people say, 'Well that's the bringing up of the family.' You know, you can't bring children up like my mother used to, or our mothers used to, unh—huh. No. That's true. Because now they'll turn around and say, unh. I'm not going to do that. And they'll start talking back to you. And I never had one of my kids talk back to me either. Until one time, when my youngest one, the one that I said played basketball, well he came from the Navy, (one was in the Army and one was in the Navy), and he came from the Navy, when he came back he brought this girl with him. I kept asking him, I says, 'Jimmy, when are you going to get married? When are you going to get married?” So, I kept asking him that and he got kind of aggravated at me. “Oh Mama, shut up!” You know, that hurt me so damn bad, that I never forgot that. And since then, God love him, he's done everything under the sun to please me. He bought us the colored T.V. and give us one of his Income tax checks——about $200. Oh he's a wonderful boy and I can't say nothing about my children, they are all nice. And that one in Pueblo, my daughter——one of my daughters——Oh, she's a dolly! She can't be beat. All my kids are like that, they give us everything that we want. I got a closet full of clothes in there——do you think I bought any of them? And their dad's the same way.

Georgia - Uncle Johnny said you used to stay home, and not go places and save up money to send them to college.

Anne - Well sure, we sent them. And then I have a sister—in—law in Pueblo, she took care of them while they went to Pueblo College. One of them went to Denver, to _______State , because he went into engineering. And the other one, he's a refrigeration man. And the girls both took bookkeeping. Now, you take one of my daughters, the one that's in Pueblo, she works for the University. The State College in Pueblo. She's got a real nice job, and she only works half a day. She doesn't work all day and she makes good money, too. Now you take, for our anniversary, they said, “We don't know what we're going to get you.” So, you know, her and her husband both, last Saturday and Sunday, I don't know whether you seen that they're painting my house. (yes.) They didn't have enough paint to finish the one part, you know, and that's our anniversary present. No, I can't complain about my children. I've got four children that are really wonderful. All of them, we brought them up best as we could.

Georgia - Do you remember how the town used to look?

Anne - Oh yes. It was just...

Georgia - The roads were dirt.

Anne - They were all dirt, we didn't have no pavement.

Georgia - How about the stores?

Anne - There were quite a few stores.

Georgia - There wasn't a Safeway, was there'?

Anne - No I don't think so. I don't remember a Safeway, not in my day, that I remember. Now there's too many. No, when we were kids, we had a different life than what these kids now have. They try hard, but it isn't like it was. Now, you take my husband, he's got a sister in Pueblo that's living, and he's got two other brothers. When I went with him, I told you, my dad saw him leave me, he died in a car accident and one was killed by lightning. I don't remember him, though. That was before I met them.

Georgia - What he doing? Was he out in field or something?

Anne - I don't know, I never did ask. I don't know what he did, but you never know when lightning will hit you. And his folks always had a big yard and chickens, and a garden. They always had a nice house. When they moved to Pueblo with my sister—in-law, then they had just a small house.

Georgia - This house is old, huh?

Anne - You bet. They don't build them right today. Today they don't build them like then.

Georgia - Is this adobe? Brick?

Anne - I don't know what it is. I don't have the slightest idea.

John -I chop wood, cut weeds, there's no playing around while you were kids. You worked from the time you got up, took the cows out in the hills, come home. In the evenings, go after them again. Get the cows milked, then we'd get little pails and deliver the mi1k to the camps.

Kathy - You used to sell milk?

John - Everybody had cows, we had three or four cows and we'd have four or five customers around Walsen Camp, here. We'd peddle milk, sell milk. And every Saturday, after school, you got to clean the barns and haul the manure away and this and that. See I been in the milk business since I was two.

Kathy - Is that what your father did?

John - No, he was a miner.

Kathy - Which mine?

John - Walsen, well all these mines around here. I remember before we had electricity. We had little coal oil lamps, you know, hanging on the wall. God, you'd bring it in now, you couldn't see, but we was able to read books and see good. When you wanted a drink of water, you go to the pail, you got to dip it with a bucket, and pretty soon you're out and somebody's got to go to the well and pump the water you know, and bring another pail of water.

Georgia - Was that here in town?

John — Oh ya. We got electricity and water, we thought we had something.

Georgia - Everybody was happy than, they worked hard, but they were all happy.

John — We1l, the young kids ain't like today. The young kid today, you got to have a dollar in his pocket if he wants to buy a little booze, you know. We never thought of girls, we never thought of booze. You know, the boys stuck to the boys and the girls stuck to the girls and that was it, you know.

Kathy - Did you ever have socials or dances, did you go to dances?

John - Not till you got way up to twenty—some years old, you know.

Kathy - where did your parents come from?

John - My folks came from Austria. Well it's Yugoslavia now, there's no Austria no more. Since the big war - with the Kaiser and stuff. It's all Yugoslavia, but it used to be Austria.

Kathy - My grandfather came from Austria. He was Hasenack, William Hasenack.

John - Oh ya.

Kathy - Did you have a car?

John - Car? No.

Kathy - Did you walk?

John - Yup. Did everything, walking.

Kathy — Horses? Did you have any horses?

John — No, we didn't have horses. A lot of people had horses, we didn't have any.

Anne — When did those Fords come out?

John — Oh they came out in... First second hand car we bought was a 1915 Ford. It was second hand, but you know.

Kathy - Did you go to school? What schools?

John — Oh ya, went to St. Mary's, Washington, Hill School, High School. I went to St. Mary's the first day St. Mary's opened in this town. That's when it was only about half as big. The middle section was the only thing that was there.

Kathy — Was that in 1927?

John — Oh no, it was long before that. About 19——, I started working at the creamery in 1922.

John — Then I remember the 1913 Strike.

Kathy — Were you here in town? What was it, what happened?

John — We used to live on 6th Street about a block below here. My dad took us down, we stayed in a hotel all night because this was the battlefield up here. I can show you a house right across the alley over there, full of bullet holes.

Georgia - You were here for that strike?

John — And you take the Lenzinis, Sandy and Albert Lenzini, of course Big Sandy's dead now, but his brother got killed right——you know this apartment over here, there was a store there. Somebody shot him from up on the hill there, killed him. Arlo Bucks lived on this side of the street, his dad got killed there.

Kathy — Who was doing the shooting?

John — Well, the Militia come in and they had their gun men, you know. And then there was the strikers, and pretty soon the strikers all got armed. This was a regular battlefield. They shot, they killed about 30, 40 militia out here. It was the days of Jeff Farr, you know. Jeff Farr was sheriff. He was ruler here. He was sheriff and a ruler, boy, when he told people so and so, it was that way. He was a ruler, you know, and he finally broke up that gang.

Georgia — What started that strike? John — Well, the poor people, you know. Guys were working ten hours a day, only getting $1.50 to $2.00 a day, work like dogs. Then if you got killed, it was just too bad, the wife never got nothing, you know. Used to have these poor farms. Used to send these people there to the poor farms, they barely existed. Oh, they had it bad, it was bad. Now, if you're unable to work, you live better than the guy working. The government takes care of you, but not in them days. If a mule got killed in the mine, half a dozen guys got fired. If a guy got killed, they go out and hi

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