Priscilla Mangnall
Grand Junction Free Press History Columnist

Back to: News
April 28, 2011
Follow News

PRISSY'S COLUMN: Getting trashed each spring since 1915

Our beautiful little city has so many great things going for it, the red rock canyons, the wooded mesas and even the adobe deserts.

We have people that have toiled to dig the canals that brought the valley to life with an abundance of agriculture. We have artists and scientists and educators that have developed a culture that makes others want to move here from all over the world. And we have trash. But for a hundred years we've endeavored to keep our backyards clean. By the wagon/truck loads. In the '60s it was called Fresh as a Daisy and 50 years before that, Clean Up-Paint Up.

When I became a Grand Junction homeowner in the 1990s my daughters and I found Spring Clean Up to be a highly recreational form of entertainment. We first thought it taboo to scout about other people's trash piles in search of treasure. We'd drive around at night and act sneaky. We even got ran off a time or two, giggling and nearly wetting our pants as we sped off into the night. We'd find a yard ornament or implement or old wicker chair and drag it home, only to find in the light of day that it wasn't that hot a find after all. But with a coat of paint or nail or two, it could be our new treasure. We'd even drag stuff home that we really didn't want or need and put it on our trash heap, just to enhance our pile.

The past few years have been different. With scrap metal prices at an all-time high, scavengers hit the streets and drag home anything they can to take to the junkyard. If I had a truck, I might do the same.

I caught a fellow this year trying to make off with my souvenir trolley track from Main Street. It was clearly in my yard and not in the street I had to tell him. A few years ago, my oldest, Alice, was invited by her friends Amanda and Keesha Davis to put a new spin on Spring Clean Up. The requirements to participate were that you had to wear a crazy outfit and bring a snack. They drove from pile to pile, posing with only the best, and even bringing some great finds home. It was a good year.

Nearly 100 years ago, the City of Grand Junction's Commissioner of Civic Health and Beauty, Charles K. Holmburg headed up what was to be a record-breaking year for the annual Clean Up-Paint Up campaign.

The suggested schedule: Sunday - Civic Uplift Sermons at church. Monday - Fire Prevention Day for cleaning up greasy rags and rubbish. Tuesday - Front Yard Day, clean flower beds and salt your sidewalk cracks to exterminate ants. Wednesday - Dandelion Day, very important work to rid the town of the dandelion and weed pest. Thursday - Paint Day, inside and out, porches and chairs. Business houses, wash windows and get new awnings. Friday - Back Yard Day, clean alleys, put fly traps on garbage cans and repair screen doors. Saturday - the day for Boy Scouts and school children to clean vacant lots of tin cans, paper and brush.

Clean Up-Paint Up was a national effort in March 1915 with more than 5,000 cities participating. Holmburg offered prizes to the children in order to "stimulate interest." Paint stores did a booming business, a free tree was given to every city lot owner and the remainder planted in the parks. City Council approved new playground equipment for Hawthorne Park (a set of old gymnasium bars remain today) and Commissioner Holmburg even presented a resolution to clean up the names of the subdivisions west of the Rio Grande railroad tracks by renaming them, West Side and South Side.

The year 1915 proved to be a record year for the citywide clean-up with 1,200 loads of trash gathered and hauled away. The prideful residents were now ready to receive the "auto tourists" who would travel through the valley for that summer.

The City of Grand Junction and its employees need to be congratulated for keeping this tradition going for all these years. Thank you for removing our debris and rubbish. I love the sport of it and the resulting appearance it gives our city. Keep up the good work!

Reach Prissy at 260-5226, or email

Explore Related Articles

The Post Independent Updated Apr 28, 2011 10:16PM Published Apr 28, 2011 10:13PM Copyright 2011 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.