Priscilla MangnallTHE WAY WE WEREGrand Junction Free Press History Columnist

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March 25, 2012
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PRISCILLA'S COLUMN: Memories of Mr. Grand Junction - Gene Taylor

I knew Gene Taylor growing up. My first remembrance was when I'd go fishing with my father and he would stop at Gene Taylor's Rod & Gun Shop when they were located in the basement of the old YMCA Building at 5th and Rood before we headed up to the Mesa to go fishing. He'd stop and get the fishing report and buy some gear then hit the Bamboo Lounge to start the day. Later, in the early 70s, Frank Rupp and I bought our wooden cross country Asnes ski's from his third store location at 7th and Grand. I still have them.I got to know the man to the extent he is admired today when I was working at the National Multiple Sclerosis when he was honored at our Dinner of Champions. The honoree is chosen for their community generosity and having a character beyond reproach. That was Gene Taylor. It was a privilege to work with him and I learned the extent to which he was dedicated to helping others and getting the job done. He had certain ways that he wanted to do things. That's how I did them.I asked around my museum crowd and found out that Gene had given an Oral History Program for the Mesa County Historical Society in 2007. I figured I could call a lifetime of friends and have them tell me a story but I thought, "I'll let Gene tell his own story." By no means all the story, just a few he chose to tell the audience that day in June.Mike Menard kindly loaned me the DVD of the program, a wonderful taping of an hour of Mr. Taylor dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and khakis with a goatee and his signature big round eyeglasses. He sat talking about his past, present and future, all the while his Jack Russell at his feet. Smiling and laughing along with the group as he took questions that would remind him of another great time in his life. I'll tell a little of what I heard."The Sports Store business started for me on September 8, 1958. We'd come back to town from playing ball. We had two children and I was selling some real estate and working at Climax Uranium doing some ore sampling. Ted Treece wanted to sell the Treece Rod and Gun Shop located at 340 Main Street next to the Readmor Book Store. It took up the east 25 feet of the Treece Furniture Store. Mom & Dad gave me little down payment of $500 to bind it. Treece carried the loan and E.L. Bacon loaned us the money to pay the balance. Mom and Dad helped all the way through my store years. We kept convincing the banks to loan us money to expand the business."Gene spoke of his friendship with Hershel Hendrickson who has come that day hear the program. Hershel and his first wife Martha were close to Taylor "like brothers and sisters" he said. "They'd come in and get stuff. Martha was a bookkeeper so she'd keep track of everything and then at the end of the year we'd settle up and I'd get a beef or whatever. We'd find out what the prime rate was in Denver was and that's the exchange we'd use. My family would be fed and they'd get some bullets or whatever they needed."After a year and a half on Main we moved up to the basement of the Uranium Center Building. Norman "Delf" Ebbley was very kind to us; he put a door in on Rood. And it was a lot of fun, probably the best 5 years we've been. Mr. Treece was in the loan business and I loaned money on guns and revolvers and that was the extent of it, no jewelry or anything jewelry. Mom kept care of the books. She helped tremendously. Then we were advised to get into computers and stuff like that and we'd save a lot of money which I think proved wrong."Joe Prinster was also in the audience that day. "The Prinster family helped me a lot. They were the reason for the Cortez and Glenwood Springs stores. They quit handling Green Stamps about 1968. Brother Teo and I talked about it and he said if you want to, open a store and an S & H Redemption Store. There were different kinds of people in Cortez and Glenwood, different clientele. Our intentions were that if we were successful there, we'd get into the non-foods end of City Market. Joe remembers this story, I was in Cortez one day and I suggested to Frank Prinster, he was down there too, that what we ought to do is knock this wall out and have a non-food side of the store. Frank said to me "We spent a long time building up the grocery business we're not going to sell all this other crap." "That was cute", Gene giggled.Gene came to Grand Junction from Oberlin, Kan., in 1940 when he was 7 and his sister was 2. He was in 2nd grade and went to Lincoln Park Elementary and then went to Tope when it was built in 1941. "Mom and Dad rented the home at 12th and Elm. The Coleman's lived there on 10 acres of peaches. And just north of that Dr. Jaros had 10 aces of pears where Albertson's is now. We lived there a year or so then we bought the house at 7th and Patterson Road from Walter and Mrs. Walker in 1942. Patterson Road was a gravel two lane road, way out in the country. We'd ride our horse where the hospital is now." "Mr. Ebbley was selling the Uranium Building so we had to move again. We acquired a big two story house at 5th & Grand from Mrs. Sage. My dad was trying to sell it and have it moved. They paid $1,100 for the lot and it cost $800 dollars to move the house. Uncle Bob Collins from KEXO did a live remote when they moved the house and made a $1000 which was better than tearing it up.Gene talked about his baseball career, starting with OTA in a field behind tope school to Grand Junction High School, four years at the University of Colorado and then on to the big leagues.He spoke of the next move, the big store on W. Gunnison that he opened just before Black Sunday and the fishing derbies for the kids in Lake Gene. Alan Workman was also there and they began talking fishing. He only skied one time in his life.There was one misadventure for Gene Taylor that I had discovered in a clipping in a file at the library. I found it interesting and was going to write about it before I found the Oral History tape; Gene's venture into the 1956 ill-fated bat guano business when he was just 23 years old in Phoenix. I didn't want to shed any negative light on this extraordinary, successful man. But near the end of his talk, he mentioned trading one kind of bat for another. He confessed his mom and dad bailed him out.Some one in the audience asked Gene what he did in his spare time now that he was retired from the store. He said he had no spare time and pulled out his to do list. Pick cherries; go to Grandson Owen's baseball game and meet with a group of people from his late wife Beverlee's bridge club. He had no spare time. He glowed when mentioning how lucky he was to have had such a big family. They will not be the only ones to miss him. He was Mr. Grand Junction. We will all miss him.

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 25, 2012 05:23PM Published Mar 25, 2012 05:18PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.