An era ends but decades of memories live on
Here is the house, in readiness for you:
Empty, as far as any eye can see.
But I must warn you that lingers here
Some incredible part of me.”
That’s the opening stanza of “To the New Owner” by Lucile Hargrove Reynolds, a heartstring-stretching discovery marked only by the torn corner from a note tablet that emerged while going through my mother’s books while emptying the family home in preparation for the sale of 1147 Main St.
Those decades on what was then our town’s main drag began in June of 1946 when Jake Spehar succumbed to Helen’s nesting instincts just a couple of months before “little Jimmy” was born, paying $8,000 for a former nursing home a few blocks down the street from their apartment. More than 70 years of Spehar family history on Main Street ended with the closing just before Thanksgiving.
So many memories, happy and sad, were made in between.
Six children came home from St. Mary’s to the nursery just off my parents’ bedroom, a sunny room hand-painted with floor-to-ceiling kid-friendly decorations by my father, utilizing skills honed while making signs for his father’s Crested Butte store.
That extra lot on the east side of the big old house became the site of baseball and football games held between flower beds blooming with peonies and roses. On occasion, the front yard grass sported a circular oval worn to the dirt as some of us worked our way through go-carts and motor bikes. Snow forts were built out there and, in the days before bypasses when Main Street was really the main route through town, sugar beets were gathered as they fell off trucks rounding the corner at Twelfth Street. My foot still bears the scar from a mumbly-peg game that ended when my brother’s off-mark toss stuck the knife through my shoe.
For quite a while, my mother’s parents lived with us, a chicken coop and rabbit pens in the back yard testament to a coal miner’s love of agriculture. With a pen knife, my grandfather practiced grafting various species of fruit from tree to tree. One of my last backyard acts was taking cuttings from the grape vines he planted in hopes of keeping them alive out in Paradise Hills.
The refinished ancient butcher block that now decorates our dining room once lived in the garage off the alley on Main Street. It bears the marks of the knives I still have that my father would use to cut and package beef and an occasional hog from the farm my uncle and grandfather had out on 21 Road or elk hanging from the rafters after a successful hunt. The old red commercial meat grinder from my grandfather’s store made its way from my mother’s basement and rests now on its top.
Those grapevines were turned into the wine I helped my grandfather make in that same garage… a vinegar-like concoction nevertheless good enough to smuggle along on a memorable high school ski trip in the small wooden cask now displayed on a shelf in my house. One Christmas, a Shetland pony, saddled and bridled, emerged from that garage to the delight of the Spehar kids.
The saddest memory is of my mother, early one February morning, waking me from a sound sleep to tell me my father had died in a Glenwood Canyon car crash and of Sam Suplizio arriving shortly afterward in my basement bedroom to help a shocked teenager and his family pick up the pieces.
In her last years, Helen Spehar worried about the “mess” she’d leave behind, decades of accumulation that filled most nooks and crannies of house and garage.
“We’ll just lay you out on your dining room table and burn the place down around you,” her thoughtful eldest son reassured her.
It was a more traditional ending… both her funeral and the disposition of her property. The house and most of her possessions are gone. Memories of the life she built for herself and her offspring during 70-plus years at 1147 Main St. live on.
“So, if you hear a small, thin sound at dusk,
A rustle of someone on the stair,
Please do not stir – it will likely be I,
Hoping to find a mislaid dream somewhere.”