Henrietta Hay Column January 02, 2009

Recollections on growing up in Denver

“January 2, 2009.”

It never really occurred to me, one way or the other, that I would write that date some day. After all, it has taken 95 years to get here.

On a recent morning, some friends and I had a conversation about our common experiences growing up in the Denver area, known in those days as “Cow Town.”

He was a Wheatridge High School Farmer, I was an Englewood High School Pirate and she was an East Denver Angel.

My grade school was a square brick building housing six grades. We marched in each morning to the “Stars and Stripes Forever,” played on the tinny (but loud) phonograph in the front hall.

Most of the grade-school days have long gone into the forgotten file in my brain, but I do seem to remember that my first-grade teacher was fierce and my second-grade teacher was beautiful.

We had a really great fire escape. It was a big metal tube running from the second floor to the ground, just big enough for kids to slide down in case of fire. And, of course, when the teachers weren’t looking, we climbed up the inside so we could slide down for fun.

In those years, kids made their own fun with games like Kick the Can, Pom Pom Pull Away, Hopscotch and Speedball, which we played in the middle of the street. I wonder what a snowboard expert would think of a Flexible Flier. It was a sled with two narrow runners. You sat on it and guided it with your feet.

The movie theater (that is too grand a word for it) let kids in free on Saturday afternoon. Charlie Chaplain was my favorite.

I arrived as a freshman at Englewood High School in 1926. High school was very different than it is today. From 1920 to 1933, it was illegal for anyone to buy, sell or, presumably, drink any alcoholic beverage. This is not to say that nobody ever broke the law. But high school kids did not drink. And we didn’t know anything about drugs except for those our mothers gave us when
we were sick.

And as to sex, well, let’s just say that it was not a required subject. It was not discussed in class and certainly was not a common activity.

Something else we didn’t have were cars. Our senior prom was held in the YWCA ballroom in downtown Denver, and we went on the street car.

In spite of all that — or perhaps because of it — we had a great time, and actually learned a lot.

We had good teachers and solid subject matter — like math and history and chemistry. Oh yes, and Latin.

My recent breakfast companions and I compared notes on some of the things that were a part of living in or near Denver. The East High Angel had to ride a No. 13 street car to school. I walked to school, but I had to ride No. 3 if I wanted to go to downtown Denver. The Wheatridge Farmer took a No. 6 to get downtown.

We danced at Elitch’s Trocadero and remember well the music of Glen Miller and his band.

We went to football games at Merchant’s Park, next to Gates Rubber Company on Broadway.  In my opinion, the best games were on Thanksgiving between Colorado University and Denver University. It later became Bear’s Stadium.

It was really a great time and place to grow up.

January 2, 2009. Here’s hoping it will be a better year for the world, our country. And for each of you, Happy New Year.


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