The George W. Koenig Interview

George W. Koenig

  • born July 13, 1919
  • in Blue Springs, Nebraska

Father:

  • George Jurgen Koenig
  • born December 3, 1880
  • in Vorwick, Germany

Mother:

  • Mary Elizabeth Kelly
  • born November 5, 1886
  • in Iowa

Brothers and Sisters:

  • Thomas H. Koenig, 9/13/1907
  • Marie Koenig, 9/18/1909
  • Margarette Gertrude Koenig, 3/7/1911
  • Walter Fred Koenig, 12/27/1912
  • Mildred Caroline Koenig, 3/27/1915
  • Lewis Herman Koenig, 2/16/1917
  • Harold Russell Koenig, 8/14/1921
  • Helen Margarette Koenig, 12/16/1923

interviewed November 8, 2003 by Gwen Perschbacher



This is Gwen Perschbacher, for the Salida Oral History Project. I'm at the home of George and Mary Koenig. And it’s 11/8/2003. And I'm going to have George just tell about, a little about where he was born, and his childhood and then when he came to Salida. And Mary will interject when needed.


GEORGE KOENIG: Well, I was born in Blue Springs, Nebraska. And, ah, we come out here to Salida in 1939. Well, in Blue Springs my father was a farmer. And we lived on a farm. And my mother'’ health was a little bad. She had a touch of tuberculosis, and the Dr. told her that ah, told her and my father that she ought to get out of this low altitude and get up to the high altitude. Well, my brother Tom, he was working up at Climax, (Colorado). They were building that store up there and he was working there as an ironworker. And so, when Dad told him about what the Dr. had said about getting up into the high altitude, he immediately started looking around to see what was available up here. Well, here Dad was a farmer all of his life and he, there wasn't farm land up here. This cowboy stuff he didn't know anything about, it was dirt farming. So, anyway, I brought him up here and we got with Tom and we started looking at property and stuff, and nothing looked encouraging to him because he couldn't see any farming going on. But we run onto this place here in _________________(?). Ah, he had this piece of property here and he had started to developing it. His plans were, he was going to put in a trailer park and probably some motel units at that time. So anyway, we talked to him, and we made a deal and we bought the property with the idea that we would come up here and probably put in a trailer park and that would probably be the extent of it. And, so that’s what we did. We started off, we put in a small trailer park, because there was the home was where the office is now, that was you know, that was the home where he was living. He had just started construction on that. So we finished that and moved in there in 1939. And that’s when we first come to Salida. And, course it was a pretty rough road. Ah, my father being a farmer, why he knew nothing about the business end of it. And to get some guidance, why he talked to a banker down here.

GWEN PERSCHBACHER: Do you remember the banker’s name?

GEORGE KOENIG: Ah, I was trying to think it was Jay Ford White there then. Jay Ford White was a banker we did business with. He was at 1st National Bank. And he was the one that talked to us about developing this. And as things progressed, of course we come up here from Nebraska and had not idea what to look for, you know. And some of Dad’s relation had a man that was a carpenter. He was down in Nebraska, he was doing carpenter work. And he told my Father, he says “George”, he said, “if you want to”, he said, “I'm not workin' now, it’s getting close to winter time” he said, “and if you want me to I’ll come up there and help you build that house and stuff or whatever you got”, and he said “all I’ll just charge you is just board and room”. And ah, so, he was a bachelor, so he moved in with the folks and started to work. He worked for oh, better than a year and never charged the folks anything. And he was a very good carpenter. A very good carpenter. But anyway, as we got the house livable, why he said “you ought to consider putting some units in here”. Cause tourist business they said was something that was coming along and they expected it to develop. And, so anyway, the banker Jay Ford, why he was for it. And he said ah, and of course Dad had to borrow the money because when they left Nebraska, why there’d been some pretty tough years and the money was not much. So anyway he said “No”, he said the bank couldn't loan him anything because he didn't have enough security. So anyway, he run onto a man by the name of Lou __________(?). And you know there’s a bunch of buildings down there that’s got his name on it. And Lou was a wealthy man and he and his wife were wonderful people. And they were living here. And anyway, he caught Dad down on the street one day and he got to talking to him and Dad told him, he said, well what we’re planning to do, he said, is go ahead and fix up a little trailer park there so that we can get some revenue comin' in. And he said, then we’ll talk about it, once we get enough money then we’ll talk about what to do with the rest of this. And, anyway, Dad told him that the bank wasn't very kind on wantin' to loan any money. He knew this was so, and he said “I've got a few dollars that isn't workin'” and he said “if I can help you out,” why he said, “I’ll loan you the money”. So Mr. ______ (?) is the man that financed him to get started here. And ah, he and his wife, they lived here, oh practically all of their life.

GWEN PERSCHBACHER: Now was that Sue Hutchison’s parents?

GEORGE KOENIG: Yes, it sure was. Anyway, ah, they got this project underway and we put in a few units. We put in eight units to start with. And this carpenter friend from Nebraska, he did the work. And then of course, I was here and Russ, and we were helpin' him. Russ was still in school. And, I had graduated back in a place called Minitare, Nebraska. We moved from Blue Springs to Minitare and that’s where most of my childhood was spent, there in Minitare. And we was on the farm there. And, so we come from there up here. But, anyway, Russ and I helped this carpenter to build these motel units.

GP: Is that how Russ got into the carpenter business?

GK: No, it was, it was later on that Russ got into the carpenter business. But, anyway we got these units fixed up. And, I had to have something that was going to bring me in some money, because by the time Dad paid, made the payments on these units why it didn't allow much for paying any help. So, later, another brother of mine, he had gone to California. And, he was livin' in Oakland California. And I was talkin' to him and he said, well George, he said, if you not going to go on to school; I’d graduated in Nebraska, and of course I couldn't go to college because I didn't have any money to pay for college expenses. So he said, why don't you come out here, he said, and we’ll get you a job, he said and you can get on your own. So I went out there. And I started workin' in a Safeway store at $25.00 a week. Fortunately, I lived with he and his wife there which didn't cost me anything.

GP: What year was that George?

GK: Oh, that had to be in 1940 I guess. Cause the war come along, world war II, and they started the draft you know. And, anyway, a fellow, what the heck was his name, he had the _________ (?) down here. He was on the draft board. And, ah, he ah, Dad was in there and he asked Dad, he says, where was I at. Well, he wanted to know why. And he said well this draft, he's right in the right age, he said we’re lookin' for him. So Dad called me and he said, I want you, if you ever get back here to Colorado to report to the draft board, because their lookin' for young fellows. So anyway, when I heard this why, in 1942 ah, I come out here from LA and enlisted in the Navy and I put in 12 1/2 years in the Navy. And ah, my plans were to go back, and I was, when I left there, I was doing iron work and iron work paid good wages. And, ________ in the family I had a brother-in-law that was __________, they were livin' there in Oakland and he was a _________ iron worker. And he said that when I got out of the Navy if I wanted to come back and go back into iron work why he’d help me some. And he said “I’ll tell you this”, he said “I won’t have you on any of my jobs”. He said, ah, “if something would happen”, iron work is pretty risky business and he said, “if something would happen I don't want the responsibility”. Anyway, to make a long story short, when I got out of the navy, why my Dad, he had come up with a couple of hernias and he was havin a rough time to try to take care of the business up here. And ah, with that, it was, it was pretty critical. So I said well, I’d come back when I got out of the navy. And, if he still needed me, why I’d stay here and help him out 'til he’d get an operation, you know, and get that taken care of. So, that’s what I did. And, a so, when I got back from the Navy, I put in 12 1/2 years in the Navy and I spent time up in the Aleutians. I think I spent 16 months up there. The cold, oh, terrible weather. And, I come back from there and they give me 30 day R&R, rest and recovery leave, the Navy did. And ah, so I come home, and got home and just got kinda settled down and they called and said you're to report back for duty. Course I was still in the Navy and war goin' on yet. And ah, so, they sent me then up to the South Pacific. From one extreme to the other. And so anyway, I was there and when they, when Japan finally _________peace terms we were setting up on Sasabo up in the ocean. There was a crew on the ships. And, we were settin' up waiting for the word, because we were going to move troops and equipment and everything in to Sasabo and take over, because it was getting too, too much, you know, it was grinding on too long. Anyway, we were setting up when the word come that they had signed a peace treaty. So, anyway, I finished my 4 1/2 years in Sasabo. Then I come back here, come back home. And, I really wanted to go back to California to iron work, but my Father just kept talkin', you know, that he couldn’t run this. And so, I finally said well, I would stay here. And so, I stayed here. Well, itchy feet, I just couldn’t stand just settin' there with 8 or 9 motel units and not much else to do. So, we went down and talked, and did some planning and we decided that we would take the trailer park, take that out, because at that time they weren’t payin' very much. A dollar a night was all we were getting. And so, we decided, and we went to the bank and talked to, talked to Mr. ________(?) again. And, ah, he said go ahead and develop that. So we put in some more units up there. And, we changed the place that’s a store now, for the motel, we changed that into a home. And while we were there, we changed that into an office too. And then we put in a service station in the front there, and gas pumps and stuff so we had the whole works. And ah, so I stayed, and Russ stayed. Russ had gone, he had gone into the Navy also. But, ah, so he stayed and we worked there and built that business up there. And stayed on there. Ah, Russ, he give up the Motel and Service Station. He wasn’t too contented with that, so he went to carpentering. He went to work for Al Klarenbeck Yeah, he started out with Al Klernbeck. And then when Al Klarenbeck quit, why Eddie Coachman (?) took over and Russ went to work for him. And he stayed, and he and Ed Coachman worked together until Ed finally give it up and then Russ worked for Butel, until ah, his health, he got hurt up at the ski area, so his health wasn’t too good and so he finally had to quit workin. Meanwhile, I was more or less runnin' the operation up here. And the guy from Texaco, one of the district managers, he come along, and he was, that’s what we were handlin' Texaco products up here. And he sat down and talked with me and he says, “George, you’re a young fellow and you seem to be interested in all business.” he said, “I’ve got a little proposition that I’d like to talk to you about, see if you’d be interested.” And, so, he told me he’d like me to take over the bulk agency, and handle the gasoline business. He said, you could continue to help at the motel as long as you don’t put in full time there, he said. We’ll expect you to make the oil business your number one business. So, I switched and went to work for Texaco. As a job I was just runnin' __________ and deliverin' to Wes Tubbs (?) and stations. And we had the one here, and so this appealed to me. And so, I talked to my father and I said, “Ah Dad, I’m going to give this a shot.” And so he said, “ok, go ahead.” When was that I started?

MARY KOENIG: With Texaco? 1955.

GP: I was wonderin' when you put the station in over there, do you know what year that was?

GK: Yeah, that was in1965.

GP: No, I mean the station by the motel. Was that 1965?

MK: No, no, the one in front of the (motel) that your folks ran, that was there before the war.

GK: Yeah, but listen, the one that is there now, I had that built.

GP: In ’65?

GK: Yeah, yeah. And that run with Texaco. Of course they come out and they had this program, you know, they would loan you money at a reasonable rate of interest. So, I decided that I would go ahead and go into that. And I, well when we got this station built up, why, ok, this one guy that was one of the managers from Texaco, he was there, approached me and he says, “George”, he said “you got to have more than that one station”, he says, “you got to have more business than that”, he said. Ah, it’s true, I had, was deliverin' to some other stations, you know, and stuff. But, he says, let’s go out and look for some property. So we did. And down here, and where the one is now, next to the Pizza Hut, there was a vacant lot there. And so I bought half of that. And, the people that owned, or put that Pizza Hut up, they owned the other half. And so, I bought that and got that’n built. And then they said, well, ya need one out in Poncha. So I chose the location out there and we went out and dealt for that and put that station in. And, Buena Vista, why a fella by the name of Bill Needum (?), an old timer up there, do you remember? He and his wife they owned that one downtown there. And he was pretty sick and she wanted to get out, him to get out of that station, cause she said it was killin' him. So anyway, I worked out a deal and then bought the station from him. An interesting point, side journey on this; when I told her I would buy that station when she got ready to sell, why she said “Ok she said, I’ll remember”. One afternoon, or one evening I got a phone call, Mrs. Needum was calling and she was on her way down to Denver. And she said that Bill was very sick and she was sure that he was going to die. And she says I would like to get you to sign the papers saying that you would buy that station out there right away. Cause she didn’t want to go to court and have to settle this into an estate and everything. So, I said, well Gee, she was on the other side of…… can’t think of it. Well, anyway she said I’d like for you to come down, and she said we’ll keep this ambulance here, and keep Bill alive hopefully until you can get down and sign those papers. Cause she said, it’ll cost me a lot of money if I have to go into inheritance on this. So I got in the car and I drove down and got there about 10:30 or 11:00 o’clock at night. And poor old Bill Needum, he was, he was really bad. And so we signed the papers and bought the station there. She took him on down to the hospital…….

GP: Colorado General, or St. Joseph?

GK: No, a guess Swedish Hospital. But anyway, she took him down there and turned over a new sheet and here Bill got all right. But, the sale went through. And then we decided that I needed a station at on the junction outside of Buena Vista, that’s highway 285 and 24. And so this property right next to that motel, it was for sale. And, so I bought that and put up another Texaco, which I and ah, during all the transaction, we tied together, Mary and I, we got married. And so she become a workin partner in all this operation. She took care of all the books, and stuff. Believe me there is a lot of book work, with these investments and all that stuff.

GP: What year did you get married?

GK: Ah, we got married in ……what?

MK: 1947.

GP: ’47 yeah. And, we had……

MK: We have three children.

GK: Yeah, we got married and had three children, one boy and two girls. Ah, the boy Patrick, he’s liked oil business. So when he got out of school he went to college for better than a year, two years it was. And, he come to me and he said “Dad”, he said, “I still like that oil business.” You’re just wastin' a bunch of money sending me to college, because, he said “ if you’ll let me I want to go into business with you.” So he dropped out of college and got into the oil business. Ah, cause we were runnin two gas trucks and stuff. He run one and I run the other one, or hired somebody to run it. But, anyway, so we stayed in this gasoline business. I was with Texaco…… Oh, the two girls, excuse me. The two, our two daughters are both teachers.

GP: Carol and ………

GK: Jennifer.

MK: Brenda

GK: Brenda, not Jennifer. Ah, Jennifer, the oldest daughter, her kids are all teachers. She has ah…

MK: No, Jason’s a lawyer. And you’re talking about Brenda.

GP: Yeah, Yeah, Brenda. What did I say?

MK: You said Jennifer. But Brenda is a teacher and then three of her children are teachers and then she has a boy who is a lawyer.

GP: And where do they live?

GK: They live in Colorado Springs. All of em. Her whole family. One of them is in Washington, but she’s moving back to Colorado Springs. Her husband works for Wal-Mart, and he’s a manager. And they sent him out to Washington to take over a store out there. And he’s been there not quite……

MK: About a year.

GK: And they called him and said get your stuff ready, he says, you’re comin back this way. So Wal-Mart is bringing him back to take over that big store down there in Colorado Springs. And he’d been there before they transferred him to Washington. So. And then Jill, she still teaches down there in the Springs. And Patrick, he’s still with me. Ah, he’s worked. Well I, after 43 years with Texaco, we made a deal to lease the stations to Texaco. We sold the one at Poncha and we sold the one up here. But we still to this day have three of them. And ah, but I was with Texaco 43 years and ah, when I finally decided to lease it to them and slow down a little, just a few years ago. Meanwhile, Texaco and Shell merged together and we’re in the process now of converting everything over to Shell. But of course, we still own those three stations.

GP: Now George, tell me a little bit about your community activities. I know you’ve been real active in the community.

GK: Oh, I can’t. Well, after the war, when I come back, one of the first things that happened, was, of course I belonged to the American Legion. And there was 32 of us Legionaires, that were veterans. And, John helped and we started a drum and bugle corp. And it was really a terrific corp. It got, it got to the point where every weekend they were having us, make an engagement all over the state and our wives was about to kill us.

GP: Who all was in that bugle corps?

MK: Butch Braswell, (?) Regis Glenn (?). There was a big, and Barbara Kurtz was their… what was she?
GK: She was a drum majorette.

MK: And of course John Held

GK: Let’s see Regis Glenn, and then Kendrick Smith,(?) and ah, oh gosh, a little fella, _____(?) ’s (?) boy. Well, we really had a good act. They did a lot getting Salida known around the State of Colorado, because it was in competition and we took the championship one year for the State, which was quite a thing.

GP: You belonged to the Elks?

GK: Yeah. And then, the Elks, down here at Salida, why, I joined them and I completed ah, it’s been a couple years ago, when I got a 50 year pin from them. But the Masons is the one, the order that I really become good at. Meanwhile, before this all took place, I belonged, I joined the order, but I was going out to the Chamber of Commerce, and Tommy Thompson, I don’t know whether you remember him.

GP: I remember the name.

GK: Yeah, he was a veteran. And, of course, he and I was good buddies and stuff. And he was the Chamber of Commerce manager down there. And we’re, he comes in and we was trying to get this _______(?) Arkansas Water Conservancy District , ________(?) with Pueblo, and there was a banker down there and ah, a couple of other prominent business guys. They were pushin, tryin to get the government to ah, the legislature in Washington to give them a permit, you know, to put this Frying Pan Project on the table and get water set aside for the Arkansas valley. And so, they wanted representation from the various counties, and so they wanted em to stay here. And so, Tommy, being the buddy he is, he says “come on George”. So I made a number of trips, I don’t know four or five, six, something like that, back to Washington DC. It was Tommy and I and then three guys from Pueblo, that was riding herd on this project. And we’d go, flew back to Washington and go give the Legislature our pitch on this water conservancy district. Which we finally got it through, after oh, two or three years.

GP: And that was diverting water from the Western slope onto the Eastern slope and down the Arkansas River. What year was that do you remember?

GK: I don’t’ remember. I don’t remember. That was in the early stages of that. Ah, let’s see I put in 4 1/2 years in the Navy and I got out of there in 1946, wasn’t it? Yeah, I got out of there in ’46. So it was probably in the ‘50’s, the early ‘50’s that this water project come along. But I served on the Board of Directors down there at the Chamber of Commerce as long as Tommy was here. And Pueblo realized that he was too valuable a guy to leave in, up here. They thought he could do more for Southern Colorado, down, you know, in Pueblo, and so they took him away from Salida, which we regretted very much. But he was very helpful. He always was as long as he was alive. And I also, during the periods of time, why there was an opening come on the State Highway Commission. The fellow, the man who was on there, that was an appointed job, by the Governor, with the approval of the State Legislature, the Senate. And Governor Love was the Governor at that time. And, anyway my buddies from Pueblo that I’d worked with on the, on the conservancy district said “George, we’ve got another little job for you”. And, so, they said they wanted me to go down and run for the seat for the Commission. So I went down and with their help, I was covering the entire area; Chaffee County, going on down to the Southern part of the State, Trinidad, and then going East, then went to Durango. Of course we were responsible for the roads in all that. I went down and talked with the Governor Love, and he was very receptive, and especially with a fellow from Pueblo that was quite a politician, Charlie Busted (?). And Charlie was the one that was doing the pluggin down there. And so I got in there, and the term was four years, and I put in four years and I said “No more.” So I stayed in there (?) and was very happy to because we weren’t getting any road work done in the southern part of the state here at all, to speak of. The guy from Colorado Springs, all he was interested in was Colorado Springs because that was where the big politicians were, you know, in his district. But anyway……

GP: So, George, basically what that ah, being on that commission was that you recommended road projects on Highway 50?

GK: No, all of the roads.

MK: All the state highways.

GP: Oh, all the State Highways. Oh!

GK: And, there was eight of us on the commission, covering all the State. And, we had to meet, ah, oh gee, well we had to cover our districts.

GP: You had a big district, then.

GK: Yeah, and we’d meet down in Denver at the State Highway Commissioners building down there. And we had meetings, shut, during the week while we traveled in our area. Then once a month why, we got together down in Denver, all the commissioners and ironed out our problems and stuff like that. It was a very rewarding job. It was very interesting.

GP: And you were there for eight years?

GK: Yes, uh huh. And then I got tired because it was a lot of politics.

GP: Oh, I see.

GK: Dick Love, called me a lot. And ah, I come up for reappointment and so I went down. And, I didn’t hear nothin from Dick Love until it was time for him to make an announcement, you know. So I went down to his office in Denver, there, and he wanted to know what he could do. And I said, well, Governor Love, my term is expiring and I just wondered what you’re plans are, if you’re gong to let me continue on the highway or if you’ve got other plans. And he said, well George, he said, I understand or realize we’ve all got politics and we belong to certain branches. And, he says, you happen be in the wrong body. He says, you’re a Republican and I’m a Democrat and he says, I’ve got to be true to my Democrats.

GP: Well, at least he was nice about it.

GK: Yeah. So, he let me go. And then we come along, the hospital down here. Of course there was a lot of problems down there. A lot of financial problems, no money, you know. And the hospital was in real tough shape. John Peoples, Ted Jacobs, Dr. Luther, and ……….

MK: Dr. Leonardi.

GP: Yeah, and then, oh, what the heck was that real estate guy that was down there with John Peoples? Anyway, I was still on the board there. And that was a tough one. Because, no money, and then everything was going to pot

GK: Was that when it went from Rio Grand to a local hospital?

GP: Yes, yeah. We, ah, we took it over and went to work on it. And we had fund drives and stuff and did repairs, you know, what we could afford, you know, as we went along.

GK: Do you remember what year that was that they bought the hospital? It was a group of citizens here, that some of them you mentioned.

GP: Yeah. I was in on that. Ah, we put in as much money as we could. And my father, God bless his soul, he was one of the first guys to give ‘em a check for $1,000. He said he wanted to see that thing get-to-goin. People were very good. Plenty of em come forward and were quite generous, you know. But we had to, we had to get that thing straightened out, because they were takin our license away from us you know, and that stuff because we weren’t coming up to what the expectations were. One of, one of the things was really alarming in the operating room, in the hospital was, I don’t remember how many beds we had right now, or at that time. But, anyway, in the operating room, I went down there, I was in charge of the works in the hospital with the manager down there. And he took me up there and there was a bucket sitting on a gurney with water, cause the roof was leaking and comin down there. And I said, do you mean you’re operating on patients and you got a leak up there in the roof. And he said, we haven’t got the money. And, I’ll tell ya, we worked like a dog to get money enough to get that roof fixed, you know, and took it from there.

GK: How long were you on the hospital board? You were a Shriner too. And I understand you were a Shriner when Laura Evans offered that business to them. The business I guess you’d say. The building, beg you’re pardon.

GP: Yeah. Well, when was that?

MK: Well, you were Master of the Lodge, in 19, I don’t know.

GK: 1950. No, not ’50, no, no, no. 1990.

MK: 1990 is when you were Potentate.

GP: Yeah, my last year at the Lodge. Let’s see, I got a 50-year pin two or three years ago. So, anyway, Yes, I joined the Masonic Order, and that was another deal with my buddy Tommy Thompson. We were real close. Real close. He lived in Leadville, and he joined the Masons up there. And when he come down here and took over the Chamber job, why first thing he did he hit me, Goerge, he said, I want to get you in the Masons. And so I signed the petition and went into the Masons. And soon as I got in there, why I started getting involved in the operation. I was one of these nervous guys that couldn’t sit back on the side lines, I had to be a part of it, whatever. So I started into the Lodge line. And ah, well there was bunch of offices that you had to go through and stuff like that. And when I got up to the top, why we had a luncheon and I was voted in, as the head of the Masonic Order here. I was Master of the Lodge. That morning, the next morning after I had been installed, I got a call, and here was, ah……..

MK: Laura Evans daughter.

GK: Yeah, Laura Evans daughter. Ah Snedden (?) what the heck was here first name?
MK: Lucille Snedden

GK: Yeah, She said this is Lucille Snedden. She said, you probably don’t know me but I know you, I know of you. And she says, I would like to talk with you. And I said, well what about? And she said well, I need to get with you and discuss some things with you, she said about my Mother. And, so anyway, I said OK. So I got with Lucille, and she said “My mother is very bad.” First of all she said, my Mother owns this hotel and a bunch of these little houses here. And she says, you know, their not very desireable. And she said it’s give Salida a bad name. And she said, I belong to the Eastern Star and I know what Mason’s are and you’re the kind of people we admire. And she said, what I would like to do, want to do is, My mother is in the hospital in Grand Junction and she’s not expected to live very much longer. And she says, I want her to Will the Masons this hotel and you take that over and slowly get started cleaning up this end of town. And I said, well, what, where do I come in? And she said, I want you to get the Ok from whoever it is at the Masonic Order that you can receive this hotel down here for the Masons. So, I says, well, I don’t know, I said, I’ll see. So, I went to the Board. Now there was some real hard-nosed people on there. Dr. Luther (?) and oh, some very prominent people in town. And _____________(?) said, we don’t want to do that, he said. You know, we’ve got a __________(?) we’ve got to keep for ourselves, and that wouldn’t look very good, us doing that. Well, after we discussed it for a long time they could see the merits of it. She wanted us to get down there and do what we wanted to, but clean it up, clean it up and make it respectful. Make that end of town respectful. And so, I went to the Board of the Masons and they turned me down. They said “No, no, no George, what are you thinkin?” So, I want back and told Lucille that they wouldn’t take it. And she said, well, I’ll tell you this, she said, if they don’t take it, she says, they’re going to get it eventually, because she said, when I, my Mother turns this over to me, she said I’m going to turn it over to the Masons whether they want it or not. Well, we had just twenty eight of us had joined the Shrine. We was meeting various places, you know, a restaurant or a club and, you know, just helter-skelter. And without many Shriners, why, maybe we could do something with that. So we had a meeting of the board of the Shrine and said well, I said, Lucille told me there was no indebtedness whatsoever to this property. The tax is paid and it’s all free and clear, and she said, so that’s the way it is. So anyway, we got the Board to the Shriners up here. We had to get approval from them in order to do anything on that. And then it had to go to the State Board. But, ah, we got those guys together and they said are you sure we don’t have any, or we’re not inheriting a bunch of debts?. And I says, Mrs. Snedden told me that it was all clear. And they said we’ll take that building and make it into a club, you know. It would take some work, but we could do that, the members could do that. We didn’t need to hire any carpenter or contractors. So they agreed to it. And so we took the Hotel over and the first thing we did , we got a notice that there was $6,000 on taxes. We didn’t have any money. So, what we did, we got the Shriners from around here, got ‘em together and ______ (?) we’d give you a promissory note that they would contribute $1,000 each, why, as soon as we got money rollin back, they wanted to cash that note in before I had to bring it to the board, and we’d put ‘em on the list. And, I think there was two people out of the bunch that come and asked for their money back. The rest of ‘em put it into the building. So we tore all the inside out, you know, and straightened it up and worked like the dickens on there. And anytime you had a little time, why you’d go down there and work on that building.

GP: Well, did the Shrine get the building that’s on ah, if you were going from “F” St. toward Buena Vista, is it just the building on the left hand side of ah, it would be the 100 block of Sackett?

GK: It’s down on Sackett. Yeah. It would be on the left hand side.

GP: But nothing on the right hand side?

MP: It’s the old hotel.

GK: No, no. It’s the old hotel.

GP: Do you know what the name of that hotel was?

GK: Ah, I do not. Ah, it was,… all I had ever heard it called was Laura Evan’s Hotel. But to show you, or to tell you ah, about this Laura Evans; she was runnin this house of ill-repute, you know. Ah, but there was a epidemic of flu, an breaking out, an outbreak of flu in Chaffee County in the early days. And people were dying, they said like flies from it. It was really bad. And the hospital was full. The Doctors had all the nurses they could get out in homes takin care of patients, you know, and stuff. And she went to the Chairman of the D&RG, since it still belonged to D&RG at that time. She went to them and she said, I’ll tell ya, she says, I have some girls that are workin for me, but she said I’ve talked to ‘em but they’ll leave their job and go if they can do anything to help. And the doctors took those ladies and they would assign them to these homes where there was really a desperate need for medical care, all the time. And put those girls in there and never charged a penny. And I guess this went along for a long time, many weeks that this flu went on. Many people dies from it. But she sent those people down there and they stayed until the doctors released ‘em and told them they could handle it.

GP: I’ve heard a lot of good things about Laura Evans, actually.

GK: Yeah, that was it. And it was just one of many. Ah, they said that if somebody come into town… the railroad was going through here you know, and there was a lot of hitchhikers come through Salida and didn’t have any money. And she would, if she would see somebody like that, she would take and feed ‘em and if they needed a place to stay and take a bath to clean up, she’d let ‘em do that and get ‘em on their way. She was, she was, sure she was runnin somthin we didn’t approve of, but, she had a heart of gold. And. Laura Evans, she died, and Lucille she was livin over in Grand Junction. And I think she died. But, she was very happy, and thanked us many times for takin and starting to clean up that part of the town. Because those _________ and stuff down there, those apartments those were all rented out to people, and to decent people, and so, it straightened that end of town out.

GP: Is there anything else that you belonged to, George?

MK: You retired in 1990.

GK: Well I ah, of course, joined the Shrine. That’s a big organization, the Shriners are. And ah, we ___________two different groups of Shriners. One group that’s in Alkali __________ and Templers in Pueblo and then Denver, El Jabel. And I petitioned the Shrine and got in, and as soon as I got in there I got put to work. And then in 1950, no 1980….

MK: 1990 you were elected.

GP: Yes, 1990, why I was elected to head of the Shrine. That was the Al-Kali Temple. And ah, that was, let’s see, for a year. It took seven years to get up there. But ah, of course, I hope that you know what the Shrine is. It’s an organization that is dedicated to crippled children.

MK: And burned children.

GK: And burned. We’ve got nine hospitals in the, in the United States and Mexico. And they’re all, everything is paid for by the Shriners and the work that we do. We don’t charge the patient nothing. And we won’t take their credit card. We have people come in everyday they come in and say, we’ve got credit cards and we’ve got this and that. We don’t take nothin.

GP: Well, I know they’ve done a lot of really good work. And I know they’ve done a lot for some people here in Salida.

GK: Yes sir, and we’re still doin it. We’re still there. We have, in our club, we have a local group, a bunch of Shriners. And of course, we have our meetings and stuff down in the Hotel. We remodeled that an everything, and so we got ah, big meeting room there. We got a big kitchen and stuff so that once a month, why we have a social down there. We have entertainers and people down for banquets and dinners and stuff. And of course we participate in the parades and all that stuff.

GP: Yet they do.

GK: It’s a real charitable group of people, the Shriners are. And ah, remember, our hospitals are all, all paid for by the Shrine people. And their all new. We’re rebuilding, either putting in new ones or completely remodeled everything. And so their all brand new with the latest equipment. So, I __________ on that.

GP: Well there, there’s a couple of things I wanted to ask you about. A little but about some of the business people you might have been associated with. You’ve talked about J. Ford White, and ah, Mr. Swallow and ah, Dr. Hoover, and ah, I’m wondering about some of the businesses you that you remember here, that aren’t here anymore.

GK: Aren’t here anymore. Oh……. course Hutchison’s, they were here. But, ah…. Swallow, now who’s Swallow?

MK: You already talked about him.

GP: He was, he was here, yeah. And he did a lot. He had a lot of money and he did a lot of things for Salida. Ah… oh gosh, it’ll take me a little awhile. I’ll do some thinkin on that and I’ll give you a call, who some of the prominent people were.

GK: Mary, do you have anything you would like to interject here?

MK: Well, we retired in January of 1998, and we’ve being enjoying a few trips.

GP: So you did retire then?

MK: Ah huh. Finally. And then we have traveled quite a little bit, and gone abroad. And then when we were in Spain a couple of years ago, George fell and hit his head. We ended up in Germany for about a month in the hospital where he ended up with a blood clot on the brain. But, he overcome all of that, and he’s doing very well now. So now were in a process of going to sell our home here at 129 East Rainbow Blvd. in Salida and we’re going to build 28 condominiums down in the pasture and we’ll live in one of those. So, that’s our big deal right now that we’re working on.

GP: What was the address of this, where the store and the filling station and the motel, do you remember?

MK: It was, it’s, ah, the station up there is 101 West Rainbow Blvd. And then when you come down past the motel that goes to East Rainbow Blvd. So our house is at 129 East Rainbow Blvd.

GP: So this was a pretty big parcel of land when your Father originally bought it.

GK: Yeah, it was. Ah, about 13 acres there.

GP: Now, I, a couple other things, there was, you mentioned a “sabo” or someone in Japan that, or a place you were stationed in Japan, the last of the war. Do you know how to spell that?

GK: S A S A B O.

GP: Ok. Then there was a Klarenbeck? How do you spell that?

MK: K L A R E N B A C H . Remember when they had this great big house over here that burned, on “F” Street? And he was a contractor. He built a lot of homes around and he built an awful lot of houses here in Salida.

GK: Oh, Al Klarenbach.

GP: Oh, it was the one that’s across from what used to be the Reedy Gas.

MK: Yeah, yeah, that house over there, that big gray house. And it burned. But, and she was real active in Eastern Star. A very smart lady.

GP: Well, I really thank both of you. This has been most enlightening and interesting to me.

GK: I got to tell you another.

GP: Ok, you go right ahead.

GK: When I got on the Highway Commission, why, of course, I had to have votes to get on there. And so in campaigning, why the people around here that knew me, why they said, now George, we’re expecting to get something done up here, because our road conditions were in horrible shape.
Well, to make a long story short, why I started in on that. And Charlie Shumate (?) was the head Engineer for the State of Colorado, on the Highway Department. And Charlie and I was super friends. And anyway, Charlie he turned to me, he said, I know George that you have a lot of obligations to fulfill to get the votes on this Board. Now, let’s get into those and work on ‘em as we go along. So my first proposal was Rainbow Blvd. Here it was a dirt road.

GK: I was going to ask you if it wasn’t a dirt road.

GP: Yeah, it was a dirt road and it was in terrible shape. So anyway, to make a long story short, my buddies on the Highway Commission, why we had a terrific bunch of guys on there. Ah, stuck together, if you had something that was wrong or that you needed an extra push on, why take it up before the Board and then they would go along and. So, anyway, they said, well, let’s put that on the agenda and we’ll get that on next year’s work. And so we started construction on this Rainbow Blvd. And ah, of course, moving dirt and everything, there was a lot of dirt and filth you know around. And people, there were so many of them, instead of being happy about seeing progress and getting something nice, they, there were so many of them, just raised cain. We couldn’t go into a restaurant and sit down and eat without somebody chewin us out. About what a mess I was makin and everything. So there was the side that wasn’t very happy.

GK: Was that when they made it wider?

MK:
(( Can’t separate conversation between these two people))
GK: It used to go down through town.
Then, also I was head of the Masonic Order here in Salida. And the _______ bodies; not many of them I haven’t had a, had a foot in. I did never go through the __________in the Elks,
because I was too involved with the Masons, and stuff. But I’ve always enjoyed working on public stuff and being a part. Right now, there’s one other thing; The South Arkansas Fire Protection District. Ah, Woody Bennett and I are the ones that got that formed.

GP: Now who did you say that was?

GK: Woody Bennett. He was the Fire Chief. Ah, how this come about; the City Council in Pueblo, they had a fire down there and they, it was out of the city limits, it was across the road and out of the city limits. And, they went to it, and while they were there, why there was another fire and of course the people living in the city they got-up-in-arms about that and they said there’d be no more. So the City Counsel here in Salida they said, ah, well this is the way it’s going to be here in Salida, if you’re in city limits you’ll be covered with fire protection. If you’re across the highway you’re out. You don’t have no right and we’re not going to take care of you. And my Dad, oh, he got scared, with all the investments and everything. And we went down before the City Counsel, Dad and I, and talked to them and said isn’t there something we can do to be protected ourself? How about getting something organized so that we will have some protection and not lose everything that we’ve got. And they said, well, we will take care of you if you show us that you are makin an effort, you know, workin on this to get some protection of your own. So Woody Bennett, I talked to him as Fire Chief, and I said Woody, my proposition was, I said would you help me and let’s see if we can get a District going here. At first, we tried to organize the rest of the county into the South Arkansas, or into a Fire District and to go for a vote of the people. And they voted it down. So, we worked like the dickens to get people out,, and it was a good turnout. But they was afraid of the money it was going to cost. So, we decided, well, somebody recommended, well it was the Fire Chief from Englewood, who was a relation to Woody Bennett. He said, you guys are trying to take off too big a piece of that pie. He said, back up, and he said, just annex, take the outlying area of the city and figure out how many people that you think you would have and the equivalent that you’re goin to have. And then form a district out there and you, as time goes by, why you expand it. And so we did that. We went around and seen everybody within a three mile area and got them to sign this petition. And, of course, a hundred percent. And ah, so the South Arkansas Fire Protection District was formed there. We was able to generate enough money from the people that was going into the new District that we was able to order a new fire truck. It come out of New York. And a beautiful red fire truck. Boy everybody was really proud when we got that. But that’s how we got started.

GP: What year was that?

GK: That was in ’63 or ’65, something like that. It was way back.

MK: He was made President of the South Arkansas Fire Protection District at that time and he’s been President ever since. And they meet at least once-a-month.

GK: Yeah, still President. The equipment we got down there, that used to be a Skelly (?) Service Station and we bought that building and remodeled it. And we’ve got four trucks, two new ones we’ve just bought in the last couple of years.

GP: Now what station did you say that was?

GK: Oh, right on the corner, right next to the First Street Café.

GP: Oh, a long time ago. Skelly, from a long time ago.

GK: Let’s see, about where the City Hall is, ok, that belongs to the city. And then ___________. But we own , the South Arkansas bought the rest of that property there, and remodeled it, and spent many dollars on there to fix it up. And all our equipment is paid for and the building is in beautiful shape.

GP: You’ve had a busy life George.

GK: I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.

GP: Well, thank you again, I don’t want to wear you out, you might not want me to come back. Do you have anything else Mary?

MK: No. No, that’s all.

GK: People in Salida have been nice to work with. Ah, course, there was ups and downs, but most of it was all up-hill going, it was easy going. Very accommodating. We tried to make a good name for us. And with Mary’s help, our workin together, and it was successful. Thank gosh.

GP: Mary who were you before you were married?

MK: I was a Brooks.

GP: And have you lived here all of your life?

MK: No. I came after I graduated from a little business college in Paris Texas, I came here and kept books for Stapleton Chevrolet. And that’s where we met. He came in and made a down payment on a new car.

GK: (( Can’t make this out, with several voices overlapping ))

MK: He had a little money and paid cash for a new car. Anyway, then we went together a couple of years and got married, and been workin ever since.

GP: You had three children and how many grandchildren?

GK: We have three children. Two girls and a boy.

MK: And we’ve got seven grandchildren, and three Great.

GP: Three great grandchildren. Well again, I thank you.

GK: So glad to do it. So glad to do it.

MK: Hope we didn’t bore you too much.

GP: I didn’t intend to get so wound up.

MK: He got wound up.

GP: Well, that’s what I like.

GK: You know the history about the Shrine building down there.

GP: Well, that, as I say, I really would have wondered about that.

GK: Oh, Lawrence Hampton, he and I are the only, the oldest……..

MK: George did you throw that away? I put that picture of you and Lawrence up on the shelf. Anyway, they are the only two original members of the Shrine still living. And they just received their 50 year pins a few months ago.

GP: And that’s the A L K A L I. (local Shrine Club name)

GK: Yeah, we just had a clinic here last month, and there was five kids that showed up. And what we do is, people bring their, if they’ve got any child that’s got a disability or is sick or stuff, being them and we’ll send them to the hospital. Our hospital is Salt Lake City, unless it’s a severe burn or stuff like that, they’ll either go to Galveston or San Francisco. And those expenses are all covered by us.

MK: They pay their transportation for the child and one adult.

GP: That’s what I was thinking.

GK: Ah, there’s a company, I can’t tell you the name of it now. I’ve got it, got it written down. But he’s got a private plan and their working the whole State of Colorado, for the Shriners, and they’ll fly ‘em where ever they’ve got to go, fly ‘em there and bring ‘em back and it don’t cost ‘em nothin.

MK: You’ve seen a lot in our day, being a nurse. Were you born and raised in Buena Vista?

GP: No, I’m from Kansas.

MK: Oh, you’re a Kansas girl. I’m an “Okie.”

GP: I was thinking that you were from Oklahoma, but I wasn’t sure about that.