Rifle ‘a great place to grow up’ for Bill Moulton
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Ray and Elizabeth Moulton of Oklahoma moved to Rifle in the 1930s and started Moulton Oil Co., an independent petroleum distributorship.
The family made their home at 113 W. Sixth St. in Rifle, the current home of Microplastics. Son Bill Moulton remembers heavy traffic on Railroad Avenue in those years—four-legged traffic.
“My dad was putting in a lawn, and he put me out on the sidewalk. There were about 3,000 head of cattle from the K-T Ranch in Meeker coming through, headed for the stockyards,” he said.
“Rifle was one of the busiest stockyards in the state, with the exception of the Denver yards. The stockyards covered the area from the old railroad depot, to the Bresnan theater, up to Rifle Creek. I would imagine it was a good four or five acres,” Bill Moulton said.
“Rifle was great place to grow up,” he continued. “It was also quite a railroad town. I spent many a happy hour down around the depot and the stockyards. I loved those trains.”
Bill Moulton also remembers playing at Heinze Park with friends, hikes to Fravert Reservoir, and occasionally taking a swim in the river “when we didn’t think our folks would find out.”
During the school year, he attended school on Fourth Street, where the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall now stands.
“In the winter time they’d block off that street for sledding,” Bill Moulton recalled. “You’d always have a couple months of sledding. If you started at the cemetery and made all the turns right you could slide all the way down to the depot, but you had to watch out.”
The Moulton family was among the first to take up a new winter sport in Colorado — downhill skiing.
“We would park where the fish hatchery is now, walk up the canyon, and ski down,” he said. “Skiing was so new, a lot of people would come up all dressed in their church clothes, just to watch everyone ski.”
Bill Moulton shared his fondness for the new sport with his children, who got involved in ski racing. One of his and wife Martha’s granddaughters was attending a speed ski camp near Breckenridge at the time of this interview.
Rifle stayed busy in the summer, too. Bands played on Saturdays around the flagpole in the intersection of Third Street and Railroad Avenue.
“It was a great Saturday night town,” Bill Moulton said. “That stands out in my memory as something we don’t see these days. In those days, it seems to me most people knew what life was all about. They worked hard, but they enjoyed themselves.”
Moulton Oil Co. was sold in 1951 and became Swallow Oil Co. Moulton also owned a small sporting goods store in Rifle, owned a business in Basalt for a few years, worked in the vanadium mines, and did some heavy construction for awhile.
Martha Moulton was born and raised in Carbondale, where her father was the town marshal. As a young woman, she worked in Glenwood Springs as a telephone exchange operator. One weekend, she and some friends from work headed to Rifle.
“We came to Rifle for a dance —which was the thing to do — at the Moose Hall,” Martha Moulton said. “That’s where we [she and Bill] met.” They celebrated their 60th anniversary on April 5.
Their three sons are Rifle High School graduates. One lives on Silt Mesa, and the other two are in Summit County.
Bill and Martha moved to the family’s Peach Valley property, a working apple orchard with more than 400 trees, in 1962.
Bill Moulton fondly recalls Rifle’s “Apple Pie Days,” which preceded, then took place with, the county fair, as a “good community event.”
“The best apple pie maker in Garfield County is sitting right there,” he said, pointing to his wife.
“He’s just buttering me up,” she said. “He wants me to bake him a pie.”
“I’m a fortunate man,” Bill Moulton said, with a smile.
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