Priscilla Mangnall
Grand Junction Free Press History Columnist

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February 28, 2013
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THE WAY WE WERE: Local history lessons from my readers

While researching my Oct. 9, 2012, column on the mysterious old adobe building that darn near became the Museum of Western Colorado in the 1960s, I gave a call to Angelo Colunga whose family built nearly every adobe building in Grand Junction from Mantey Heights to the Redlands to Orchard Mesa.

Angelo's Uncle Rudy Colunga is 89 and lives in Denver. Uncle Rudy's son Gene sent over some photos of their grandfather, Eleno Colunga, during its construction, probably in the 1940s although no one knows yet what it was originally built to be. Uncle Rudy has Alzheimer's and has few memories left. The old adobe sat just west of the Mesa County Fairgrounds and can be seen in the older aerial photos on the county assessor's website.

George Adams of Grand Junction sent me a nice letter; he called one day and I asked him to write his memories down so I could share them. His wrote:

What I remember is the menu at Gay Johnson's Restaurant at First and Grand, the eating place that was remodeled from a gas station. The remodeler was Lawrence Onan who was pastor of Columbus Community Church on Unaweep Avenue on Orchard Mesa at the same time. My fiance and now wife of 45 years would eat there after choir practice Saturday nights at First Assembly of God. It was youth choir, so that was our Saturday night activity. Lots of Sunday dinners were eaten there too, both before and after our marriage. The menus featured Gus the Ranch Hand. He was sitting in front of a stack of pancakes. In one hand was a fork. In the other was a table knife. Each held vertically on either side of the stack. Gus was a skinny, scruffy old bald guy. Also on the menu was Stan the Steer, a skinny on steer that "represented" the beef served. Then there was Roscoe the Rooster. He advertised the "fried" chicken served. They all three were caricatures or cartoons.

I worked for City market in 1961-1962. Our boss was Joe Prinster. One day the truck we used to take meat to the other stores would not start. In the process of trying to start by pushing it with the company pick-up, we broke both pick-up headlights. We were sure we were in trouble. When we told Joe, he just said, "Well, we will just have to fix it." He never gave any of us grief.

I graduated from Grand Junction High School in 1960 when tuition at Mesa College was $25 a quarter. The cafeteria and Student Center were in an old Army barracks. The "new" Student Center and cafeteria and other rooms were built during that time. We got to use them during our final quarter of college. Now that building is gone. It was wonderful. Now, like the song, "They moved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Malise Graham took me to the woodshed about my article on Feb. 8 about Jeanne Harper, the local legendary dance instructor. Her note reads:

While I read this article with interest, as a Scot I was disturbed by your use of "Scotch." Scotch is whiskey! Scottish is the correct word to use in that context. One could say: He is of Scots (or Scottish) descent but not 'Scotch descent.' The Scots also get a little peeved at the use of "England" when referring to Great Britain! Aye, Malise Graham

In my own defense and for the sake of preserving Miss Ida Jean Harper's legacy, "Babe" Harper herself and the "Caledonians" celebrating the Robert Burns Days called them Scotch Dances. Maybe it was the way they referred to those types of dances back then. I googled it and found many references to "Scotch Dances" on the internet, many of them contemporary.

Joan Porter Fifield of Grand Junction was a bit more pleased than Malise with my Jeanne Harper story. She called to tell me that she took lessons from Miss Harper as a young girl living at 1224 Main St. and attending Lincoln Park Elementary School. Born Joan Porter in the "old" St. Mary's Hospital on Colorado Avenue, she went on to attend Grand Junction Junior High, High School, Mesa Junior College and Western State College. She especially remembers the elaborate costumes that her mother sewed for the recitals. I found Joan's name in the many clippings in Jeanne Harper McQuaid's scrapbooks.

Thank you for sharing and thank you for reading!

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The Post Independent Updated Feb 28, 2013 04:15PM Published Feb 28, 2013 04:10PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.