Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews
NOTICE All data and photos on this website are Copyrighted by Karen Mitchell. Duplication of this data or photos is strictly forbidden without legal written permission by the Copyright holder.
Louis Guigli

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Lydia Corona
Interviewed by Roselayn McCain
Date of Interview - 7-17-1979
Louis Guigli
Parents-Father: John Guigli, stepfather: Batista Digani
Maternal grandparents-
Paternal grandparents-
Ethnic group-Modena, Italy
Date of Family arrival in County-
Location of first family settlement-Chicago, Kansas, Walsenburg

LG: My mother lived with grand—parents and lived with her mother and father in a farm, about one acre. In growing up my mother started herding sheep and only took a price of polenta. I guess they know what polenta is, corn meal. After she was 14 years old she left home to go to work for the rich and stayed away from home five years. Came back to Modena. My dad who was named John Guigli. They lived a short time there, then my father left my sister and Mother and came to the United States and moved to Chicago, and later sent for my mother and sister. And by that time they decided to go to Kansas where they worked in coal 13 in. high. So my dad said, “This coal is too low for me. I believe I'm going to Colorado with me and my cousin, Carlo Lenzotti to work in the high coals around Walsenburg, Colorado.

So he left us there and said that he would send for us later, and on the way they took a ride in 9 box cars, which was no freights at that time, and they, uh, they moved into Felice's home on West 7th Street, and him and Carlo Lenzotti got a job at the Walsen Mine, and they were getting their tools ready to go to work the next day. My dad always wore a truss belt. He was 26 years old. His rupture fell down and they had to rush him in the house, and Dr., some Syrian Dr., I don't remember his name, operated on him on the kitchen table. And just forgot about him, and by the time that he came back to see him he was already dead. He died in 1916, right on the kitchen table. Then my mother and the rest of us children, Rico, Della and I came in a box car loaded with the furniture, moved into Walsenburg and come to the funeral, buried my dad up here on north, no south cemetery. And later my mother took on boarders at the old nigro house on west 7th Street and finding the second man, would be Geno and Rina Diganis' father, and we moved down to 1007 West 7th Street later, and all of us kids grew up there. I later started school on 7th Street and then went to Washington School and went as far as the 7th grade and what they called the Jr. High School at the Huerfano County high School at that time. I quit then because my father and my mother couldn't afford to send us to school any more. We had to earn some wages, so on my way to school my mother said, “Look for a job”, I stopped in at the Chevrolet garage on west 6th Street and got a job working for $6 a week, 6 days a week. Six days a week, $6 a week, yea. Helping mechanics, selling gas, washing parts, janitor, and driving used cars in and out of the building. Stop. Now, what else now? Before we went to school the whole family only spoke Italian. And we learned how to speak English when we went to first grade, on 7th Street. We played soccer, football, baseball, and all kinds of things in the gyms, just mostly baseball and football. What else?

FD: How about the church? Was everybody Catholic in those days? Everybody went to church. Did you go to Catechism?

LG: We went to Catechism and learned how to practice for our Holy Communion.

FD: What else, what kind of chores did you do?

LG: Our main chores was to help my mother, get the coal and the wood, wash dishes, wash beer bottles, because my mother sold beer and whiskey to make a living for us five children. FD: When did you go to work in the mine?

LG: I later went to work in the mine when I was 17 years old. They called it Barbour, Colorado.

FD: How long did you work there?

LG: Oh, I worked there for 5 or 6 years, worked in Barbour Mine 5—6 years.

FD: Then where did you go?

LG: Then I came, then I worked out in Morley back to Del Carbon. From Del Carbon I went to the Alamo again. From Alamo I went to Del Carbon. From Del Carbon I went to Taylor Coal. From Taylor Coal I went back to Big Four Nine. From Big Four Mine I finished out my years in the Allen Mine in Trinidad, Colorado.

FD: And that's a different kind of mining altogether?

LG: Right, the Allen mine was a lot different than it was. When I first started it was all hand loading, pick and shovel, and when I later came to the Allen Mine it was all mechanical work. You want me to say that? All hand loading and pick work. But later down the Allen Mine it was all mechanical work.

FD: Did they have mules in the mines when you first started?

LG: Yes, in Huerfano County they had mules and electric motors to pull the coal in and out of them mine.

FD: But it all had to be dug by hand?

LG: All had to be dug by hand, yea. Pick and shovel. That good enough? People had quarrels, as people who used to live with my mother such as boarders. They used to quarrel over other women, and shooting at one another, jealousy. And my poor mother was involved with one that seen one killed in the house. And they tried to run her down. My little sister was a small girl, and she ran back to Lenzotti's Store, and by the time my mother got back this man was in the house waiting for my mother, wanting to kill her. And finally my Dad came home with a bunch of other boarders and they kicked him out of the house and asked where the gun was hid. And my mother said the boarders had taken the gun and turned it over to the Sheriff and he said he needed the gun because he wanted to kill this Frank Drogie. So the next day he went down to Carlo Lenzotti's Store, and this little Frank Drogie, comes the man he was quarreling with about other people, and this little man was so scared that he grabbed an old ax and ran up to him and chopped him over the head 3 times. And killed him right there instantly. And my mother later had to be a witness at this trial that they had, this one man to manslaughter because he was only trying to protect himself the reason. They prosecuted him. He shouldn't have hit him 3 times. One was enough. And served a year in prison and came back and lived the rest of his life here on 4th Street.

FD: What else? What kind of transportation did you use?

LG: The kind of transportation we used, we walked from the end of 7th Street to every school we went to. Other transportation, such as my folks, were by boarders who had old cars. Would take the whole family up to the mountains on Saturday and Sunday all in one bunch and we'd have a good time playing boccis, cooking and having a good time with all the rest of the Italian people in the neighborhood.

FD: Did you pick mushrooms when you'd go?

LG: We'd pick mushrooms, played, well, I said, “Boccis”, picked mushrooms.

FD: Explain what are 'Boccis”?

LG: And sang and drank. Boccis is a game, has 2 balls for each person, and they throw a little ball out first, and the closest one to the little ball has one point, and the game is up to 16 points, is the winner. Four people are involved. This is the days of prohibition where everybody on 7th Street makes whiskey, wine and beer to help them to make a living. And every once in a while Jack Rose and Robert, the federal men, would come up and take samples of this wine and fine them $25 or $30, and they would take samples of their wines and leave them alone till the following year. And one year one bachelor living behind our home was making whiskey and they were involved in him and they were mad that he didn't want to give them no more whiskey, so they told him that they were going to report him and raid him, and he took out a German lugar and he shot them both between the eyes, killing them right on the spot. My mother and all 5 of us children heard the shots and seen him come out of the door and head for the hills. They later found him out by Rye and the Sheriff Cornwall and Shortie Martinez went after him. But he would not surrender. He shot himself in the head and died right on the spot, and there was nothing they could do about him. Our house was right in line with the strike, during the strike with the company store. And the shooting went on so bad. We were all down the cellar and they were shooting machine gun bullets straight down 7th Street and we all stayed in the cellar and hid for 2 days. We were eating apples and then when it was all over with, my mother's home was shot full of bullets and through the windows, and later we heard one of the Lenzinis' brothers was killed in the shooting. Also across the street, Mr. Bak, Federal men shot right in the keyhole, shooting him right in the eye and killing him. And they were always after him, and folks with bayonet's, to go. Rather starve than go to work, and they never could make him go. And later he lost his job because he was out on strike and had to move to other Coal Camps to get work. And then they finally called him back to his job later in the years, when they forgot all about the strikers.

In those days there was nobody who could come to the house and pick up my sister. Because of they ever picked up my sister, that man was going to marry her. And all the rest of the girls were about in the same fix. So my sister was 15 years old and Frank Corrioso came to see my mother. And my mother says, “Well, all right, you take her out, but sure you marry her.” And sure enough he did. The medicine care my mother and father and my brothers and sisters had was a company doctor. Up in Walsen Camp. My dad paid a payment of $1 a month and the doctor would give us any kind of medication, fix broken finger, arms.

FD: Do you know what his name was?

LG: And his name was Dr. Trout and all it cost my father was $1 a month for medical care. But if you go to Pueblo, go to the CF&I hospital in Pueblo, it would cost you about $2 a day plus a doctor fee of $25.

FD: What kind of diseases did they fear the most?

LG: Most diseases were measles, whooping cough, pneumonia, flu, and I'll tell you something else, here why my brothers and sisters never got the flu during the epidemic. My mother made a necklace around our neck with pure garlic and put it around our necks and we never did get the flu in our family, and in later years we learned why, because nobody wanted to sit by us.

FD: That's as good a reason as any. What about special remedies? It was called myva, some weed out of the garden, and they'd make some kind of a tea, I forget the name. What did they use, it for?

LG: For babies stomach aches. And my mother had old lard rendered and let it get real old, so it get good and green and real old, and it would take out splinters. I would put it on our chests, so we wouldn't catch cold. And beat up wine and eggs and drink it, and also boiled wine in cloves, and take it and go to bed, and in the morning we got up as good as new.

ED: What was it like in the Depression?

LG: Later in my years we lost our second, dad Batista Digani. And I had to go to work because my mother never had no income. We just had the garden to live off of. My mother washed dishes and cooked at Dalaflor's. My brother worked at Lenzinis for $8 a week. Later we all got laid off and didn't have nothing. We tried to get direct relief and we just couldn't get any, so we'dgo out and pick rags, bottles and do every little piece of work we could find. Such as highway work, working for the, they put us on Highway 10 and we'd get 1 day a week for working, $3 a day. Then we all had a hard time, my mother also. Had some food good neighbors gave us.

FD: Did you have a garden?

LG: We had a garden. I told you about that. It's in there, and made beer and sell it to other people. Let's see, what else? And just picking up every job we could, and my brother, my sister was married by that time, so there was only the 4 of us left. I, Rico, was the only one in the family that was working by that time we were all laid off. I, we just lived on what we had raised in our garden. Things picked up again in the 30's when Roosevelt came along. When Roosevelt got in I went back to work in the mine. At that time I growed up, I would say about 19 years old then.

FD: When did you get married?

LG: I got married to Alice just from Ojo when I was 19 years old, 1934. I also worked on a farm for the Dratter family that which lived on West 8th Street just worked for my clothes, room and board every weekend and after school.

FD: What kind of farm was it?

LG: It was a dry farm, had alfalfa, planted corn, beans, had a nice big garden in it. Wheat and Joe and I did all the farming ourselves. And we were very young at the time, and 4 to 16 years old, and then when we'd get through with the hay and stuff we'd haul it to Walsenburg. Which his mother had 3 cows on East, West 8th, and then we'd go every weekend all winter and haul the hay back to town to feed these animals.

During the 19 — you got it. During the 1927 strike I was selling news- papers, Denver Post, and I.W.W. Paper, which stand for Industrial Workers of America. I.W.W. would take these union papers and sell them in Walsen Camp and make 2O¢—25¢ a day. And one day I went down on South Main Street to pick up the papers I was to sell, and the state police came in, and I saw one man shot and off a tree, and another man, the door opened and I heard the shotgun go off. The state police shot at him and blowed his head off and his brains were all over the floor. I got so scared I took off and never sold another paper for the I.W.W., and they took all their papers and records and threw them out in the street and treated them like dogs. And burned them all in a pile there and left the place all just shot up to pieces.

FD: And this was all over the mine Strike?

LG: Mine Strike, when they went after the I.W.W's, when they were down on South Main. I seen that with my own eyes. What else do you want me to tell you?

FD: What it was like before the strike?

LG: People had to work, had to, they could not use a shovel to lift the coal. They had to use a pitchfork so they could only get things, coal, and the slack they had to throw it on the side because they only paid them for such things as lump coal, and slack was all thrown aside. They had to do all their dead work for nothing and they were only paying about 25¢ a ton. They had to pump their own waters and sometimes there were no pumps and they had to work up to their waist in water. And my poor dad used to come home with frozen pants in cold weather because he was all wet. They didn't care how they treated the coal miners. They cared more for a mule than did any coal miner. But after, after 1927 the union broke up again and it was going back to the same thing. They started kicking everybody out of camp who didn't buy at, if you didn't buy at the grocery store, you did not have a job. If you didn't live, live in camp, you did not have a job. They would fire you and tell you to get out. But after the strike was settled, after the union came back in 1933, we organ- ized again and things got back to what its supposed to be. We were getting as high as $7.90 a day, no, $7.10 a day driving mule and up to $8.60 for being a machine man. Things were getting alot better till this day.

FD: What were you making when you quit at the Allen Mine?

LG: When I quit working at the Allen Mine I was making $48 a day in 1976. Before they were organized this story was told to me by Pete Timone who still lives in Walsenburg. He got a job down here at Rugby and was told that his tools would be shipped in after him after. He got in the mine, when he got down the mine his tools did not come in, so the boss say, “Go in the other place. There's some tools you can use while you're waiting for the other tools to come in.” So he went over into the other room and he saw a man with his legs sticking out, so he rushed over to the foreman and said, “Hey mister,” he said “there's a man there under a rock and his legs are just sticking out.” And the foreman says, “That's all right. That man's been there a week. Man, just go ahead and get his tools and go ahead to work”, he said. I was so disgusted when my tools came in I loaded the first car and sent it out and I never went back to that mine again. And that's the truth. That man, they never did take that man out of there, they just let it cave in on top of him.

I can remember when West 7th Street wasn't paved. Was nothing but mud and dirt, and pedd1ers would come down and sell eggs and vegetables and every sort of thing. And my mother traded at the Company store. And in order to get ice Frank Mauro had a big team of black horses deliver from home to home, and they had a tag which was a triangle, and what was on the bottom would tell them how much ice you wanted 50, 75 or 100 pounds. Ice man would deliver it to you every other day, and the big horses would get stuck in the mud. Sometimes they had to get boards to lift the poor horses out of the dirt, the streets were so bad. And what else? This is how my mother cooked, bread out in the open oven in the back yard. She would cook at least 20 loaves a week. And she would heat the old oven with cedar wood and then clean it out and bake her bread, sometimes small goats, rice and beans. The goats cost 5O¢ at that time and the cottage cheese for 25¢. We had an open well outside with a pump on it and we had to carry water in for the boarders to take a bath. Water was heated on top of the kitchen stove. The boarders used to sleep, some in the out room and we had benches outside in the back yard. My mother always had about 8 or 9 boarders extra besides us 5 children. The boarders paid $10 a month.

FD: And that was for what?

LG: Staying with my mother, room and board, $10 to $20 a month. At the time when I was growing up two blocks on 7th Street where we lived there were Italian and Polish people. Everybody was real friendly. Everybody would go visit one another. If they weren't at one home one night they were at the other. Everyone pitched in and drank wine, whiskey, and pitched food together and had a good time. There were no enemy living in those days like there is today. Everyone appreciated one another.

In the 20's we were all sleeping. My mother woke us up. The furniture in the house was floating and the basement was full of water. I was about 6 years old. Some boarders grabbed me and carried me across the street. The water was coming up so high that we both went down the street and he finally picked me up and brought me across the street to the miners home pool hall.By that time we were all there and the flood was coming down 7th Street. There was 7 to 8 feet of water. My mother didn't know what to do so we all went to Walsen Camp to Serafinni's, some friends my mother knew from the old country. We stayed there for two nights and two days until the water was back down and when we got home, the basement was full of water, the furniture and food we had was floating around. It took us 2 or 3 days to get settled and to straighten the whole house out. During the flood in the 20's I can remember where it washed Nigro's grocery store. Had a garage there, a car landed on the back bridge, the railroad bridge that goes to Trinidad. Chernusco's car was washed down. All the sheds and shanties went right down West 8th Street and washed every house down there. There were some people that lived next to us. They got out just in time, and it wiped their house clean out.

In the early days when I was young there was the old miner home Pool hall which outlaws went to, but I never saw them. They had some Italian people run the pool hall, and a grocery store. There was a dance hall on top. And they were going to have a big macaroni contest to see who could eat the most macaroni, he would win the prize. The prize was supposed to be $25. And it was some Italian guy that promoted it all. He had my ma make a great big wash tub full of spaghetti and I don't know how much sauce. They hauled it over there and had the dance, had the orchestra, the Scalabrine Mr. Lenzotti, Mr. Galli were all in the orchestra.

FD: What kind of instruments? What did they play accordions?

LG: They played accordions, clarinet, accordion, clarinets what else. Two clarinets, accordion and drums. And they had a big contest. Everybody was trying to eat the spaghetti and one man from one polack from Walsen Camp won the prize. He ate 5# of spaghetti and they were all having a good time. This man had my mother do all his work. They charged all this stuff to Ceasar Santi. An old Pioneer here, father of Oscar Santi, footed all the bill of the food and my mother cooked it all. The Miners Home Pool Hall furnished all the drinks and they charged a small fee of 25¢ for the dance. And when the dance was over they asked the man when he was going to give the prize for the biggest spaghetti eater. The man said after the dance, after the dance, after they had the dance. The man ran away with all the money and they never could find him.

During the 20's Walsen Camp had a great big grocery store, dry goods, post office, butcher shop also a great big Y.M.C.A. They also had bowling alleys, movie, silent movie picture, confectionaries, ping pong game, pool tables, and also practical first aid. Up in the auditorium it had a confectionary, Ice cream cones were 5¢ each, banana splits for l5¢, and other drinks were no higher than 5¢. And it was sure a good place to go to. O.K. I also moved to Morley. And they had the type of Y.M.C.A. but not as big, but they also had contest of first aid in the proper way, and the one who did it the fastest was given a prize. They also had races, baseball, tournaments. Field days is what they called it all, and once a year they had a big field day in the coal camps, played all kinds of games. I must have been about 9 or 10 years old when the first pavilion dance hall and swimming pool was built by Archie Levy. It was located on W. 8th in which they called the grove in those days. They had all kinds of good dances, Polish dances, Italian dances, Spanish dances. And all it would cost you was 1O¢ to go swimming in it. It had lockers, a old square cement block, it had an old coal, oh what they call those things, furnaces. Coal furnaces to heat the water because it was well water they filled the pool with. And they also had Bocco Bocco groum fixed there for the old Italians to play Docci in this grove.

FD: Did people mix when they went to Dances?

LG: People all mixed. You never had to ask another guy, “May I dance with your wife? Can I trade your wife? You just went up the line and picked any girl that was ready or if she didn't have, if she already had dances already, she would write it down in her little book, a little slip she had. Then she'd mention it to you, “Your dance is next.”

FD: But everybody mixed together?

LG: Everybody mixed together. There was nobody that came with one girl.

FD: But I mean the nationalities like the Waps, and Slavs and Italians.

LG: Say, it, all could go to the dances in those days, Slavs, Polish, English and Irish people. But they would never let a Spanish inside the dance hall.

FD: Why was that?

LG: Because they didn't want the Spanish people to mix with the Italians because they were and the rest of those people, because every time they came in there was alot of trouble and fighting. Guns were pulled and everything else. So they decided they'd have their own. They couldn't mix with them because they couldn't get along with them.

Back to the Oral Interviews Main Page

Return to the Huerfano County Home Page
© Karen Mitchell