Friday, September 13, 2013

Colorado Floods

Growing up, I attended school in Longmont, Colorado.  Over the last couple of days Longmont has experienced what is being called a 500 year flood. The rising water forced neighborhoods to evacuate and major streets to close.   City officials have evacuated a dozen neighborhoods totaling 7,000 homes.

It is so sad to hear of all the devastation in the area, not only in Longmont but also in Loveland, Estes Park, Boulder, and many smaller towns such as Niwot, Lyons and Jamestown.  Having grown up in this area it has brought back many memories of my childhood.

I attended school at the Longmont, SDA Elementary School from first though eighth grade. The school was a two room school with the first through fourth grades in one room and the fifth through eighth grades in another. Here is a photo of the upper grades taken during my sixth grade year. I am in the farthest corner just barely visible.

Here is my school photo from that year. It must have been taken at the beginning of the school year as I am still sporting my "summer" haircut.

We never lived in Longmont, but did our shopping there. One of the things that I remember about Longmont was the Great Western Sugar Factory. On our drive from Frederick, and later after we moved, Erie, I could always tell we were getting close to Longmont when I could see the gleaming white silos of the Sugar Factory. The factory was the first thing you would see if you were coming into Longmont from the east.

The Sugar Beet industry was a major force all along the front range of Colorado from the turn of the century up until the late 70's and early 80's. Why did beet sugar in Colorado mostly fade away? The common reasons I've read are competition from cheaper cane sugar abroad, and other sweeteners such as corn syrup. My first job out of high school was working for Dalton Truck Sales near Longmont. They specialized in taking old 2 ton trucks and refurbishing them fitting them with special made Sugar Beet Boxes to haul sugar beets to the factories. These trucks were only used for the harvest season, but were needed to haul the beets. I have painted many sugar beet trucks similar to the one in this photo.

My favorite place in Longmont was the Public Library. During the time I was in school I read just about every book in the kids section of the library. I still remember being disappointed that I was only allowed to check out three books at a time. I also didn't understand why I couldn't check out books from the adult section on my kids library card. I would take my three books home and have them read in a day or two and then begged my Mama to take me back to the library. I kept a flashlight handy for reading after I was supposed to be asleep. The Longmont Public Library was my access to knowledge.

As I got older I loved shopping at the Woolworths Store. There is just something about a Woolworths. One of my favorite singers, Nanci Griffith, wrote a song about Woolworths titled "Love at the Five and Dime". She tells the story of growing up in Austin, Texas and changing buses in front of the Woolworths store. she said that she had just enough time get a vanilla Coke, dig through the record bin, wink at the boys and get back on the bus. My favorite thing to do at Woolworths was digging through the discount record bin. As a kid Woolworths was the only place where I had access to music. I have a large and eclectic music collection and I can say that it all started at Woolworths.

There are so many memories that I have of those years of going to school in Longmont. The Dairy Queen and A&W Root Beer Stand were favorite places for a special treat. We shopped at Ranch Wholesale Supply and The Corner Pantry. Our bank was First National Bank, and they always gave a little box of gum with two Chiclets inside to each of the kids in the car.

Longmont will always hold fond memories of my childhood. The last time I was able to go back and look around was in 2009. The town is no longer the sleepy little town that it was when I was going to school there. It has grown exponentially. While we were there I went by the old school grounds. The building that I went to school in is still there, and really hasn't changes much except there is now a gymnasium attached at the back of the building. I would hate that, because I remember spending a lot of time looking out the full wall of windows that lined the back of the school and daydreaming.

My Elementary School

I will be going back to Colorado in a couple of weeks for my wife and I's 40th High School Reunion. It has been four years since we have been back for a visit.  The last time we were in Colorado, we stopped by Campion Academy where Gina and I went to High School. The campus looked pretty much the same. Our visit brought back lots of memories. I remembered the beautiful blonde that walked the halls and didn't know that I even existed. We both worked at Harris Pine Mills. I would go back to the area where she worked during break time. She thought that I liked her friend. I was so painfully shy that I never had a date during High School. I finally got up the nerve to ask her to to march with me during graduation. We started dating during the summer. This is a picture of the girl that captured my heart.

Puerto Rico Gina

Here we are once again walking the halls of Campion Academy. We found our class picture on the wall and took our picture by it.

Campion Academy Alumni

From Campion we drove into Loveland and walked the downtown streets. After we were married we lived in Loveland for six years. The downtown area still looked about the same, but the old buildings have been well maintained and the shopping is now antique stores and art gallerys. Sculptures now line the streets. From Loveland we drove up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. On July 31, 1976, while we were living in Loveland, a violent rainstorm sent a rampaging wall of water through Big Thompson Canyon. The massive flood killed 144 people. Gina and I along with my family had been picnicking along the banks of the Big Thompson River that afternoon. When it started to rain we packed up and drove home through heavy rain. We didn't know there had been a flood until the next morning. The drive up the canyon brought all those memories flooding back.

One of the areas that is flooding this year is the Big Thompson Canyon.  Once again the area has been devastated.  Here is a photo from yesterday.

My prayers are with all those affected by these floods.


  1. The devastation from flooding in CO is ongoing. Now, the S Platte going into Nebraska is rising rapidly. At high altitude, we've had weeks of non-stop rain and our streams are running high but are mostly contained within their banks - unlike the severe flooding on the Front Range and in the Boulder area. The almanac says we're going to have a harsh winter, so perhaps this is the start of it. I hope the leaves are still pretty when you visit. They're just starting to change in the mountains.

  2. So often these days we are reminded of how precious each and every moment of life never knows what our future holds. There have been so many natural disasters that have changed people's lives...healing thoughts for all those in CO affected by the floods.

  3. I pray for those involved in this calamity.

    Thanks for sharing your walk down memory lane!

    PS.I adore the song 'Love at the 5 and Dime' !!

  4. a thorough photo story; the sadness is bold and vivid; prayers for God's mercy and speedy reconstruction

    much love