Priscilla Mangnall
Grand Junction Free Press History Columnist

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March 21, 2013
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THE WAY WE WERE: Taking you back to spring 1938

My, don't we love to see spring in the Grand Valley. Goodbye swan on the Grand Mesa and hello green popping up, gray dreary days and the smell of burning weeds. Then comes the water in the ditches and asparagus and curbside trash piles. Seventy-five years ago folks pretty much looked forward to the same things and talked about the same things. Here are some examples that I gleaned from newspapers of late March of 1938.

• Boys, only boys mind you, were invited to meet at 2:30 in the afternoon at 12th and North for a kite flying contest. Prizes would be awarded for the kite making the highest flight; largest kite (must be flown to win); kite having the heaviest pull; and a two-minute kite flying contest. The kites had to have been flown by the boy who made the kite and prizes included six month memberships to the YMCA, cash and merchandise from various merchants.

• Spring hadn't shown its bright little daffodil face everywhere. From Ouray they reported that passes to Durango and Silverton were still closed because inadequate equipment had slowed down the removal of snow and ice. Crews had reached the top of the pass and teams and sleds had made it into the Camp Bird Mine. Makes me shiver from cold and fright just to write about it.

• Reports from Collbran weren't much warmer. The Little Creek School was closed on account of the roads being so bad and little Scotty Walck and his dad, Cecil, were on the mend after having suffered congested lungs.

• Loma schools were dismissed on a Friday because of bad roads. Seems a school bus got off the road Thursday evening and was not extricated until the next day. I imagine it mostly just slid off the road into that sticky Loma mud.

• On the bright side, the Cedaredge Ski Club reported that from Dec. 9 to March 5, 2,410 people used the Cedaredge ski course. The largest number of winter enthusiast to use the course in one week was 350 in January. The course had been closed for the past few weeks because of deep snow closing the highway causing the Steamboat Spring Ski Club to postpone their visit to the slopes.

• And ... Colorado National Monument superintendent Jesse L. Nusbaum boasted that in February of 1938, 1,425 tourists and locals visited the monument but also warned against the removal of rocks, trees and earth stating that "it is absolutely impossible to maintain the scenic beauties of an area if any timber is cut. The taking of a few hours of firewood may mean the destruction of juniper cedars that have been in the process of growing for a hundred years or more. The monument represents the frontier of that type of timber and we should do our utmost to conserve those trees. The preservation of the monument and its beauty largely depend on the people that use it." No truer words were ever spoken and are still relative today. That's what John Otto was talking about!

• Some people weren't any smarter back then. Two-and-a-half-year-old Donnie Lee Cromer was hospitalized in Fruita with a chest wound from being accidentally shot by his 4-year-old brother, Aaron Leon. While they were waiting in the car at the co-operative store their dad Al Cromer managed, the older boy picked up the gun his father left lying in the back seat and in an ensuing playful struggle, the trigger was accidentally pulled. I wonder if the loaded gun was accidentally left lying in the back seat and which one of the Cromers caught hell when they got home?

• Kannah Creek and Purdy Mesa were welcoming spring with Achievement Day at the Pride School. Folks met there to clean up the grounds, build playground equipment and paint. They were rewarded with a chicken pie dinner. Yum.

• On Central Orchard Mesa, the rural residents were hurrying to get their ditches cleaned out before the irrigation water was let in on April 1. They also met at the Lincoln school house to discuss securing lights and power for the district through Grand Valley Rural Electric. Hard to believe they didn't have it out there already.

• Some new things were happening in town. The Moose Lodge #270 had just instituted its charter with 50 Rifle Moose traveling to town to help with the ceremonies that were to take place in the hall of St. Mathew's Episcopal Church. It was noted that the new charter members were ambitious and aggressive and would progress rapidly in the work of the order. The Moose would go on to meet at 345 1/2 Main St. above the Manhattan Cafe. Now, of course, they are based out of their lodge on 25 1/2 Road.

• The Grand Junction Lions Club was busy with all their civic-minded business. Meetings were filled with talk of improving the road to Grand Mesa with President Kearl stating that "the present road is a disgrace ... summer tourists should have better facilities than at present." They also discussed starting a ski area on the mountain and preservation and restoration of local wildlife. I thought the Grand Junction Lions Club WAS the local wildlife.

• The local social life included a "galloping tea" where ladies of the Fruitvale district enjoyed an afternoon of quilting. Refreshments included nuts for the nutty, pickles for the love-lorn and toothpicks and water to those under sentence of the court and caused a great deal of merriment.

• Artist Frank Mechau Jr. of Redstone was one of the winners at the 113th exhibition of the National Academy of New York City; he won $700 and a gold medal for his paining "Last of the Wild Horses." At the time, Mr. Mechau was well known for his mural painting in Denver and Colorado Springs and was "prominently noticed in many eastern exhibitions." I found this particular piece of 75-year-old news interesting because the descendants of Frank Mechau are family friends, currently reside in Palisade, and still maintain the artist's studio home in Redstone.

• In the local sports arena, the community was excited about the American Legion's upcoming ninth annual 40 and 8 boxing and wrestling tournament. Entries were pouring in from remote sections of the state including Craig, Alamosa, Durango and even as far away as Price, Utah. The events would be divided into junior and senior classifications with titles at stake in eight weights from flyweight to heavyweight. As was the custom, watches were to be awarded to the title winners. Gabe Simone of Mesa Junior College and Jim Cornforth were favored glove amateurs and Alton and Eddie Spooner, Wesley Hayden, the two Buckley boys and Bernard Wilson all made the elimination rounds.

And so it was as it is today. There are still some old soldiers and ladies of the house that have a first account of 1938. They've survived another winter, and spring is especially welcoming to them. Go visit one of your favorite elders and take them out for a walk. Make them feel like a spring chicken again.

Reach Priscilla at 970-260-5226, or email

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 21, 2013 03:02PM Published Mar 21, 2013 02:56PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.