Chapter 3: Colorado II - Edgewater Years (1958-1960)
Chapter 3: Colorado II - Edgewater Years (1958-1960)
The summer before I turned five we moved to Edgewater, Colorado, so Dad could attend Baptist Bible College in Denver.
We lived in a cool house at 1900 Gray Street, on a dead-end street that now belongs to Lakewood but the town’s name was Edgewater and on the western side of Sheridan Boulevard from Sloan’s Lake. An open canal or ditch of some type was at the end of the street we lived. No one thought of suing for our protection; we were told not to go near it. Several Sunday mornings we woke to find a car crashed through the fence because the end of the street wasn’t well marked.
My high school civics teacher, Mr. Leadabrand, told us the background of Sloan’s Lake as an example of political significance. Sloan’s Lake was originally a shooting range for a private firearms club. The club magnanimously decided to open the park to the public except for certain hours when they were shooting. After a few years, the public voted that guns of any type would not be allowed in the public’s park. Perhaps the significant moral of the story was “get it in writing.”
There was a covered well of some type in the backyard. When Dad opened it one day, I ran over to ask him what he was doing. He sternly told me that I should stand back, way back, because the well was filled with water and if I fell in, I’d drown because it would go over my head. No sugarcoating!
Anne and I shared a room in the basement. I’m surprised we weren’t scared more often, considering how far we were from Mom and Dad’s room. One specific time was after going to the Denver Zoo. I think Dad and his friend Bob Fulton probably discussed Daniel in the Lions’ Den when we looked at the lions but whatever, I was sure lions would come downstairs and get us. (Logically, lions could not have opened locked doors and if they did, I doubt they would have gone downstairs to get us when other humans were more easily accessible, but when you’re little, logic isn’t a primary consideration when you’re afraid!) I talked until Anne got all worked up, too, and pretty soon we were screaming and crying. Mom came down and gave us the first, but not the last, lecture about God taking care of us. She told us several other stories and soon we were peacefully asleep.
I loved one of her favorite stories, about Noah’s Ark and how rainbows are a reminder that God will never again allow a flood to cover the entire world.
The big screen of a local drive-in theater was visible from our back yard in Edgewater. I thought nothing of it until our friends, the Fultons, came over. Their sons, Mark and Justin, were slightly older than we and not allowed to watch TV or go to movies either. So, they liked to spend time at our house in the backyard watching movies. When I figured out that what they were actually doing, disobeying their parents, I wasn’t sure whether to tattle to their parents or join them.
In addition to church work and his studies, Dad held down three jobs. Dad thought the large yellow sculpture along I-25 in Denver silly because he saw it each day as he drove to his job at the now defunct department store called Montgomery Wards.
One year a blizzard occurred on Labor Day while Dad read meters for Public Service Company. That is the earliest snowstorm most people talked about and he talked about it whenever people mention a bad storm.
The Broncos began playing in Denver in 1960 but to us at the time it was a non-event!
We attended Beth Eden Baptist Church, home of Dad’s college, the first two years of his college work because the college required all students to do so. One Sunday evening I went to church alone with Dad. We sat in the balcony and I felt so grown-up, special and loved being with him without the others. I made sure I sat quietly during the entire service so he’d would not be embarrassed by me being there.
Halloween that first year in Denver wasn’t what I expected because “we no longer did Halloween”…not that we ever had! Mom still made popcorn balls to hand out with a lady friend whose name was Lucille but I wasn’t allowed to trick-or-treat as expected. Looking back, that decision may have had as much to do with moving to the big city of Edgewater, instead of living in a small town like Brush, but I saw it as just another one of the rule changes resulting from Dad’s Biblical studies. We were allowed to choose between a cowgirl outfit Mom had in her cedar chest or something non-evil to school but we never went trick-r-treating.
When we moved to Edgewater, Mom was pregnant with Mark. She experienced very bad, uncomfortable boils during most of the pregnancy that later made her Sunday School lessons about Job vivid but at the time made her miserable.
Mom always bragged that they planned their children to be born every two years; 53, 55, 57 and… Mark was due in 1959 but came early so Mom went to the closest hospital, St. Anthony’s Hospital for his birth.
Later I found it funny that a friend who grew up in that area referred to the hospital as Holy Tony’s. I also thought it was funny to tease Mark that a Catholic priest baptized him, so maybe he was Catholic! Mark didn’t seem to care. He never was as intense or easily bullied as I was.
Beginning at Thanksgiving that year Mom and Dad often repeated, “There is no Santa Claus,” it’s just your parents, etc. We were told not to correct other children, like Debbie the girl next door, who did believe in Santa but our parents loved us enough to tell the truth to us from the beginning. They also said that since they told us the truth about this, we would know we could trust them about everything they said, including God.
Well, Grandma James decided that just because her son-in-law studied to be a preacher we children should not miss out on the fun of Santa childhood fantasy.
Mark was born three days before Christmas so we woke up at Grandma and Grandpa James’ house that year on Christmas. For the previous few days, Grandma told us that even if Santa hadn’t gone to our house, he ALWAYS appeared at hers. I, being the oldest, feeling responsible for the morals of my siblings (not the first or last time I felt responsible for someone else when I probably didn’t need to do so) argued with her.
Before we went to bed on Christmas Eve, because they didn’t have a fireplace or mantle, we each selected a chair and put one of our socks on it. One last time, I argued that if they didn’t have a fireplace or mantle Santa definitely could not come because he must come down the chimney, according to my extensive research of Christmas songs. She convinced me to select a chair because that act would prove her wrong if it were empty in the morning!
The next morning, we woke up and went out to the living room. To my surprise, stuff covered “my” chair: candy, nuts, presents and a yellow hula hoop – the gift of the year in 1959. This excited me but didn’t totally convince me until I took one of each of the nuts on my chair to compare to the nuts in Grandma’s nut bowl. She anticipated this and must have smiled with satisfaction that she prepared by separating the nuts precisely! She converted me!
I’ll bet it took Dad and Mom another year or two to convince me that Santa was NOT real but for the next forty-some years as long as she lived, every Christmas card I received from Grandma pictured Santa on the front. Santa never came to our house, regardless!
When we returned home, I loved Mark as much as I loved Anne and Wes. I find it so cool that our love can multiply as new people come into our lives. I read the biography of John and Charles Wesley’s mom who homeschooled the 16 children she birthed. She even taught her daughters to read, a radical concept at the time. She was my heroine on the days that homeschooling ONE child seemed like a lot of work! She replied when someone asked how she divided her love between that many children, “My love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.” I felt love multiplying with siblings.
Wes wasn’t interested in walking when Mark was born so Mom carried both of them if Dad wasn’t around. She didn’t worry about his lack of mobility and said she was sure he’d walk before he went to school – he did!
She wasn’t as calm about being able to tie your shoes before going to school. This was a requirement in our house, and I worked hard to be able to accomplish this skill. No one heard of Velcro straps on shoes!
Some friends asked me to be flower girl in their wedding. The dress’ underskirt stuck straight out and itched like everything. “Beauty has a price,” I heard often.
I proudly practiced tossing pieces of paper in the aisle during the rehearsal using someone’s Easter basket instead of the “real” one. On the actual day of the wedding the aisle was longer and threatening with so many people looking at me but I meticulously tossed the flower pedals and saved the basket from the wedding intending to use it at my wedding but, alas, I had so many boxes in storage from my condo move I couldn’t find which box it was packed, so Becca carried a new basket as my flower girl.
Anne had a special pair of panties with a pocket containing a penny. She was so proud of of them but I was confused that we heard many times that you weren’t supposed to show your panties to anyone. One day we received a gumball machine and Anne decided to sacrifice her penny for gum. I don’t know if I expected Mom and Dad to replace the penny (they didn’t) but her panties weren’t quite as interesting without that coin. I felt bad that she didn’t have her penny panties anymore!
One year during a Sunday School program we kindergarteners received candles which were lighted as we walked into the sanctuary. At the time I felt proud that I could carry a lighted candle and listened carefully to the teachers’ instructions. The parents watched, horrified, as this bunch of little kids walked to the platform, carefully holding candles. I’m sure they had nightmares for weeks afterwards about what could have happened to the wood paneled sanctuary, if not their babies!
Mom proudly displayed cakes she baked and showed them off in a special silver colored cake plate and holder. One day she worked all day creating the perfect cake to take to a college event. As we walked down the steps into the cafeteria decorated for the party, the cover slipped from the cake plate and her beautiful creation lay in ruins on the floor. When she began buying Tupperware, she proclaimed they allowed perfect travel!
For our birthdays Mom always put our cakes on a special stemmed glass plate. It was trimmed with gold paint and everyone could see how beautiful the cakes looked.
Several people who attended BBC with Dad stand out in my mind.
Esther, born in China, once gave me a small purse made in her birth country. I’m sure her life story about leaving China was interesting but being a small child, I didn’t ask.
Another lady whose name I forget played the violin. This heavyset lady who played classical music didn’t impress Mom much. Mom wanted to play violin as a child but her style was fiddling, not classical. When this lady played her flabby triceps swinging back and forth distracted me but she played beautifully. I know Mom would have liked seeing you and Becca play your violins.
Jothi, a missionary from India, spent a lot of time with us over the years, but I’ll talk about that later.
On my sixth birthday, Dad took us to the train station and Mom, Anne, Wes, Mark and I rode the train to Grandma and Grandpa James’ house. I asked Mom if this, taking a train trip to Grandma’s could be a tradition every year. It didn’t necessarily have to be my birthday…maybe whenever anyone turned six, we could go on a train trip. I’m sure she told me to just enjoy the trip and quit planning the future.
I could have started kindergarten when we first moved to Edgewater when I was five by being tested but Mom felt from her education at Colorado Teachers College that it’s better for children to be the oldest child in the class than one of the youngest so I waited.
Mom used the 8mm movie camera Jess sent from Germany to record me all dressed for my first day of school. The day at Edgewater Elementary was so exciting for me with my new dress, anklets, patent leather shoes and perfectly coiffed hair. To that point my hair had never been cut, so before the invention of blow dryers and curling irons for the average person, styling my hair was a major production. Mom told the younger children to stay out of the way for the picture and for the most part they complied. Wes only walked out once wearing his most ragged shorts and shirt. This bothered her initially but when you watch the 8mm film you can’t help smiling because his casual look is so endearing.
I loved every part of kindergarten and came home ready to “teach” Anne, Wes and Mark new things. Their interest waned after a few minutes but I kept trying. Since we didn’t live in districts with kindergarten classes after Edgewater none of my siblings attended kindergarten. I like to think they didn’t need it because vicariously they learned everything they needed from me!
One memorable thing that happened in kindergarten involved an incubator in which the teacher put two fertilized chicken eggs. We kindergarteners watched until they hatched and grew from cute yellow chicks to scrawny chickens. Dad and Mom horrified me by answering my question, “Where will the chickens go after the school year?” I expected something gentle like; “They will live as pets in your teacher’s house until next year when they return as the school mascots.” Instead the blunt reply was, “Someone will probably have them for dinner.” Since they grew up with chickens, I guess they didn’t think THEIR kid would get so upset by honesty.
At that point in Colorado public education, Spanish was required in kindergarten and third grade. I freaked Dad out one day when I pointed to a cat as we drove along, excitedly saying the Spanish word for cat. It must have sounded like a bad word. I’m not sure whether I said “gato” or “felino” because neither of those sounds bad. It’s too bad I didn’t retain that language…it would be useful today!
Dad borrowed someone’s motorcycle one day and wanted to take us for a drive. For some reason all four of us rode with him. I sat in back, with Mark in front of me, Anne in front of him and Wes right behind Dad. Dad must have enjoyed the ride because when we arrived wherever we were going, he jumped off the bike and headed indoors without realizing, until we screamed, that the bike and four kids had fallen over. No one was hurt but it was quite an adventure!
I walked to school with our next-door neighbor Debbie. On Christmas Eve Santa rode a fire truck with several firemen to Debbie’s house. Santa alighted with many gifts and took them to her. I didn’t understand why he didn’t come to our house because, after all, we had four children while Debbie’s house only had one. Mom explained that Debbie’s dad was a fireman, and Santa was just one of the firemen dressed up.
At the end of kindergarten, we made mortarboards and our teacher explained them to us. We wore the caps and smiled for pictures. Adults said either, “How silly to have little kids do this” or “How adorable.” I wonder what those people would think if they could see the huge cap and gown ceremonies some kindergarten children have now or how adorable you were in your Kindergarten cap and gown?
At least one black girl and several Latinos in my class picture surprised my grandparents. They didn’t think I should “Have to go to school” with other races; particularly the one they still referred to with the “n” word. Fortunately, Dad and Mom didn’t make a big deal about it and I was told to treat all children the same. We were told the polite term for black people was “Negro”.
Speaking of pictures, a photographer came to our house one day to take pictures of the four of us children. I think it’s interesting to notice how the picture shows our unique personalities. Mark’s right hand pushes Wes almost as though he’s trying to be equal to Wes. Wes sits up perfectly straight with a slight smile, doing just what he was told. Anne’s head is tilted to her left as if to say, “I’m the cutest, right?” My mouth is tightly clamped shut because I was missing a couple front teeth and I didn’t want anyone to know!!! No wonder Dad affectionately referred to the picture as the “Four Monkeys”.
Traumas and Phobias
A few years later, I think Mom and Dad decided it would be good for us “city slicker kids,” to experience the realities of food processing when we were at Grandma and Grandpa Kemper’s house during chicken time. It took years for me to learn to eat any style chicken as a result after seeing my loving, huggable Grandma Kemper, whack chicken’s heads off without blinking. However, I understood the expression “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”
They hired a heavy-set mentally handicapped lady named Goldie to help. Grandma fried one or two chickens for lunch and everyone else was thrilled saying, “fresh chicken is the best.” I’ll never get that and do this day the smell of fresh chicken nauseates me.
One of us (probably me because I contacted more other children at the time) contracted chicken pox—maybe it was from watching the chickens dieJ The disease spread one child at a time so Mom later said that she was stuck in the house for over a month because she didn’t want to leave a sick child. I appreciate her hours of rocking and reading to keep us from scratching.
Romper Room, my favorite TV show, advertised for children to be on the program and Mom called, unknown to me, to schedule me on it. I walked around pretending to see children in my mirror like they did on the show. I thought it miraculous that the person holding the mirror on the show knew children’s names. I confidently believed that one day I’d hear my name.
What are the odds that they would use an unusual girl’s name like “Lonnie”? I know it bothered Dad and Mom that I wimped out when we got to the show and I didn’t want to go with the other kids. I felt bad later because she went to a lot of trouble to arrange it. Romper Room never held the charm it had before.
We didn’t often go to restaurants except maybe McDonalds, a new place in town, which became my favorite. Their limited menu and walk up window uniquely called to us. Chicken nuggets were not even figments of anyone’s imagination at the time. Hamburgers, fries and a coke were the only items on the menu and usually two of us shared one hamburger and fries. The idea of a play area or indoor seating was unheard of!
Wes did not like pickles, and I liked to share with him because I did. It saddened me when the old-style McDonalds on North Federal Boulevard was torn down and replaced with a new model including a children’s play area because that I remembered going there as a child.
Your Grandpa Moore was transferred to the United Kingdom (England) at RAF Alconbury AFB where Daddy began school. Kindergarten wasn’t part of the curriculum so he didn’t begin school until first grade.
He was very popular with the girls and remembers a picture taken of him surrounded by six or seven of his “girlfriends.”
The base housing bordered a pig farm and he remembers feeding the pigs. The pigs would eat nearly anything but their mother would only let them feed the pigs table scraps.
While they lived in England, your Aunt Ruth was born.