Scalzo loves being connected in Rifle
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE, Colo. ” When John Scalzo first came to Rifle in 1930, the population was about 1,200.
Since then, the city has grown tremendously and Scalzo, now 82, has become a familiar face about town. He can often be seen at a Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador function or making an appearance before the Rifle City Council. Longtime residents of Rifle may also remember him as a former Rifle City Council member and mayor of Rifle.
Scalzo was born in 1924, on his aunt’s kitchen table in Grand Junction. After a time in Utah, the family moved to Rifle, where young Scalzo received his early education in an old school house on the corner of East Fourth Street where a church stands now.
“But I flunked the first grade in Rifle because I didn’t do my homework,” he said with a smile.
Scalzo’s parents were from southern Italy and he and his two sisters grew up speaking fluent Italian as well as English.
Scalzo quit high school in his junior year and joined the Merchant Marines, where he served from 1943 to 1946. He traveled throughout the country and to Australia, the South Pacific and the Persian Gulf.
In 1946, he spent a year in San Francisco, working as a waiter at an Italian dinner house.
“I was 23 years old and I had a lot of fun,” Scalzo said.
In 1948, he was drafted into the Army and worked as a Sgt. 1st Class in the mess hall.
“How good you ate in the Army was based on how good of a mess hall sergeant you had,” he said proudly. “That has a lot to do with it.”
While still in the Army, Scalzo married his wife, Mary, in 1950.
“I met her through our church and had known her since Rifle,” Scalzo recalled with a smile. “We went on and off together.”
Scalzo was 26 and Mary was 23.
The couple made their home in Rifle in 1951 and Scalzo decided he needed to buy a business. So he operated a Texaco filling station that was located where the Western Rockies Federal Credit Union on West Third Street now stands.
“Then I bounced around from one job to the other; I sold insurance, I helped organize the Elks Lodge and I was the club manager,” he said.
He also spent many years in the wholesale liquor business, covering northwest Colorado including Winter Park, Dinosaur, Gunnison and Crested Butte.
“I did a lot of traveling, a lot of miles,” Scalzo said.
At one time, he owned a liquor store called “It Liquors” in Rifle, which he later sold in the early 1970s.
It was around that time that he decided to run for city council and was appointed mayor of Rifle.
“I wasn’t working at that point, so I had the time,” he said.
The compensation was $5 per month for council members and $10 for mayor.
During that time, computers were just catching on, the city passed a 2-cent sales tax and installed water meters in residential homes.
And although it’s been many years since Scalzo served on the council, he’s still involved in the community, acting as a chamber ambassador ” of which he is one of the original members. And if the city council should make a decision he feels is wrong, he doesn’t hesitate to show up at a meeting and let them know.
“I think they label me as a devil’s advocate,” he said with a grin. “But the council gets in trouble when they don’t follow the city charter.”
Today, Scalzo said he feels one of the city’s biggest challenges include the permitting of gravel pits.
“I don’t think they should give permits out every time someone asks for one,” he said. “They should be spread out over 10 years.”
He is also concerned about the rising economy, which he says is pricing many of the older residents out of town.
But even though he’s now retired, Scalzo said he still feels the city of Rifle is like his family. His wife, Mary, died in August of 2004, and the calendar on his kitchen wall remains on that month and year. The couple were married for nearly 54 years.
“I don’t have any kids, so what the city does affects me,” he said.
And if he has anything to say about it, John Scalzo will continue to act as a city watchdog.
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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