Western Memories: Sliding down the fire escape until he couldn’t stand
Citizen Telegram Contributor
“Western Memories” is a monthly feature profiling a longtime resident of Western Garfield County and their memories of the area “back in the day.” If you know someone who might have an interesting story or two to tell, email email@example.com or call 384-9114.
Cecil Waldron can remember when there was just one stoplight in Rifle. It was on the corner of Third Street and Railroad Avenue.
“Now, I’d have to stop and count how many stoplights we have – one, two, three – I think we have six or more just in the main part of town,” Waldron said.
He’s 70-and-a-half years old and lived in Rifle nearly all his life, starting in the first grade, other than a few years away in the military.
His parents moved from Palisade in 1947 so his dad could work hauling coal. Waldron’s father delivered coal from the rail cars regionally for years, before he bought a D6 Caterpillar bulldozer and started doing custom work for area ranchers and farmers.
The house Waldron’s family moved into back then didn’t have interior walls and the roof leaked, he said. His mom always told about the first night they spent in the place. It was raining and they had pots and pans all over to catch the drips.
They fixed the house up and Waldron grew up there with his older brother and sister. The house is still standing on the old homestead where Waldron lives with his wife, Betty, about three miles outside the city.
“It was far enough my mom said she couldn’t afford to be driving in to pick me up everyday, so I never did any sports or anything,” he said.
Waldron attended elementary school on Fourth Street and would run across Railroad Avenue and the park to get lunch after he moved up to the school on Ninth Street, where the Garfield School District Re-2 administrative office is now, because it didn’t have a cafeteria.
“One thing I remember there at the Ninth Street School was that they had a fire escape slide coming off of it,” Waldron said.
On the last day of school, the kids were allowed to use the slide in the afternoon. They would slide down on wax paper and get the metal extra smooth for a faster ride.
“We’d jump on that slide and spiral down over and over again until we were so dizzy we couldn’t stand any more and it was time to go home,” Waldron said.
When the slide was taken down, part of it was used in a nearby park. But it’s gone now, Waldron said.
After school, Waldron worked a few odd jobs as a janitor at JC Penney, a clerk in the filling station and bailing hay for a rancher up Rifle Creek. He joined the Air Force in 1964 and came back for a 37-year career in the natural gas industry. He brought his wife, who he met during basic training in Arizona, with him and they raised three kids who now live all over the country.
As president of the recently-formed Rifle Creek Center for Historic Preservation, Waldron has a good memory of how things used to be and notices how they have changed.
Stauffers Pharmacy was on the corner where Timberline Sporting Goods used to be, he said. The pharmacy sold ice cream and its most famous dish was called the Pig’s Dinner. It was five scoops in a little wooden trough with a banana. It was essentially a massive banana split, he said.
“You would go in and order a Pig’s Dinner and if you ate it all, you got a little wooden token,” Waldron said. “If you collected five tokens, you got a free Pig’s Dinner.”
Downtown Rifle was a meeting and mingling place in those days. That’s one of the biggest changes, Waldron said.
“Nowadays, if you go downtown, other than a few business people, we’re all strangers,” he said.
Strangers or not, Waldron said Rifle is his home.
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