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Gleanings of Alice, Colorado History

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

Eula Werber recalls memories of her childhood in Alice

When we started school in Alice, Colorado; which was the Fall of 1913, we lived at the Seaman Tunnel where our father was overseer of that property, no longer in operation. Today there is not one thing to show what an active place it was at one time.

We lived in Idaho Springs where my brother Frank was born in May 1913 and my father was living at the Seaman Tunnel. We were glad when school closed that year as Mom let us take the passenger train as far as Fall River where Dad would meet us with Maude, the old white horse and a light weight wagon for a visit of a few days.

My father could never make my hair feel just right. I had two long braids and he would brush and brush my hair OK but when it came to braiding that took quite awhile! I always had ribbons which he had trouble tying just right.

Eventually we all were with Dad –Richard 11, Eula 8, Rudolph 7, Ruth 5, Mom and baby Frank. We children decided we wanted to go to the Alice School rather than go back to Idaho Springs so when Mom asked us our choice she was as glad as we were. At that time and I believe all the time we went to school at Alice, everything was furnished. This I understand was due to Clear Creek County being very wealthy.

Before school opened that fall our family rode to Alice to see the school, meet the teacher and the route we would be traversing early every morning. As we were leaving, Pete Sweeney came out to the road and that is when we met and thereafter were friends.

After the opening of school, every morning Pete would be watching for us and wave. We planned to leave home at 7:00 AM to get to school by 9:00. It was part of Dad’s job to watch the road and keep it clear of boulders that often rolled down the hills and stopped! Maude the horse, learned to rest at every culvert, as the tools were in the wagon and Dad worked from culvert to culvert, so Maude wanted to rest at each of these places same as she always had which resulted in our four mile trip taking two hours.

The buggy in which we went to school could have two seats but as Dad needed room for tools sometimes the second seat was eliminated. The boys sat up in the seat and we girls in the bottom with the big lunch basket fitted under the seat. Also we were never supposed to sit at the end with our legs dangling out (another story).

When the weather turned cooler we sat on a quilt and had one over us and the boys had one around their legs too. These quilts were made of “tailors samples.” Pete would see us off –often tucking the quilts around us a little better. We also liked his asking, “How’s the little feller today?”

Occasionally we thought we would like to walk to school. We took a shortcut that made it less than the four miles. One morning that I especially recall Mom packed individual lunches for us. By the time we reached Alice, Pete was out looking for us as usual. He asked us to come and “get warm”. Bless his old heart. He had made a peach pie — dried peaches, all plumped up too and was it ever good! His kitchen was so nice and warm. He was a kind old codger to take four wedges of pie out for “kids”! One thing he told us was not to bring school kids to his place. For some reason he disliked all of the other children except Harry Walder. Maybe it was something that happened before we moved to Alice. He called the little Westlake girl a “Banshee”. I forget the alias of her brother and sister. It seems to me it was from old Irish Folklore.

We went to school through October then it became too cold and the snow got quite deep, three to five feet. Dec., 1913 became known as the year of the “Big Snow” (another story). The remainder of that school year we went to school around the dining-table. We dressed like for school, had lessons and did some singing — until noon. Our Mom had been a teacher in Nebraska for a dozen years and it worked out well — a renewal of the old profession! Of course she met Dad and in due time her profession became one of home economics and child-rearing.

When it was time to think of school again the folks felt it was best in many ways to live at Alice, Colo., and Pete offered the three-room-cabin next door to him. Between woven carpeting and the building paper put up with shiny tin discs, curtains from our other homes we had a very comfortable cabin. By the time we made this move my brother Frank was walking and the day we moved in Pete and Frank became acquainted and were pals until we had to move away about four years later.

The day we moved in, every time Pete got a glimpse of Frank he showed him an apple. With some coaxing Frank would go get it. Each time Pete got him a little closer to his door. When it came to six or seven apples Mom put them in a sack and sent one of us youngsters over to Pete’s so they were used several times — so began the bond of friendship.

There was a large vacant cabin beyond the “Playhouse”. People by the name of Musgrave lived there at one time then Mr. Ed Alexander. Through Pete we moved into this larger house and by that time Dad was no longer at the Seaman Tunnel. Again my folks did a lot of work on this cabin, which eventually held the Post Office while our Mom was post-mistress. Often our living room was a meeting place three times a week for the residents — Mr. or Mrs. Kaminky, Mr. Hall, Tom Minner or those who didn’t work regular hours. There were many miners who dropped in and out after work.

This cabin was near the road to the Gold Anchor and near a swamp that was gorgeous in warm weather with many wild flowers including Columbines in the edge of the woods and nearby. In the winter the snow was quite deep so my Dad would start at our house and shovel toward Pete and Pete would shovel toward our place. It had become a rule that after Frank’s nap he was allowed to visit Pete which is why those two men made this particular path. Sometimes Frank was much shorter than the sides of the path. Often Pete would fill Frank’s pockets, mostly with an apple or crackers and cheese. Mom always investigated as no child that age could have managed so much cheese. As I recall Pete was a wonderful “baby sitter” and the visits lasted about two hours!

One time when I was on watch for Frank’s return to see “Pete’s Friend” arrived home OK, Pete beckoned me to come back after I saw that Frank was safe inside. He had made a rice pudding for the Werber family supper. He had a big towel wrapped around the pan to keep my hands from getting burned. Mom tasted the pudding as she had a hint of too much cinnamon. She quickly put on more rice to cook. Pete’s pudding had enough sugar and cinnamon that with the additional rice we had pudding for two suppers.

I remember several small patches of wild strawberries between our place and Pete’s. Frank had a little toy bucket that held about a coffee cup and every morning he picked strawberries for his breakfast.

The Kaminky family lived in a little home beyond the “94” mining property on Yankee Hill. There was Rosalie, about four. I believe I would call her a golden blonde. Elizabeth had pretty brown hair and Alice was the tiny baby. One time, in the summer Mrs. Kaminky had a party for her girls. She invited Harper Westlake; Edith and Evan Graham, my sister Ruth, brother Rudolph and me. She gave each boy a pail and sent them to a mountain that had snow the year around and when they returned she made ice cream for all of us. What a wonderful surprise! I do not remember what the other refreshments were. I do recall that while we were there she took two lovely loaves of bread out of the oven. She had a roll of toilet tissue from which she used two or three sheets to dip in butter for the beautiful brown crusts. Although nowadays we do have paper towels to this day I do the very same thing.

To go back to the party, Rosalie recited “Mother Goose” rhymes one after the other. Elizabeth seemed to prefer to talk to us rather than recite. I always remember Elizabeth’s ice cream kept “getting juicy.” She was dressed in a light blue plaid dress, Rosalie in bright pink plaid with a pink bow in her golden hair. My sister and I loved the little girls and wished we could see them more but our mother was one to impress upon us not to “barge in” on people unexpectedly. “Wait until you are asked.”

Miss Catherine Slater was our teacher most of the four years we lived at Alice, followed by Miss Nathalie Riley and then Mrs. Madge Johnson. It was when Miss Slater left Alice that the Post Office was moved to our home. Mrs. Harper had the P. 0., at one time but she had many boarders and even packed their lunches so decided to give it up. Miss Slater qualified and it was in her home for several years. It was when they left my mother went to Denver, took the exams and was appointed post mistress. When we had to leave Alice on account of Mother’s failing health, Mr. Hall who was assistant postmaster took it over and by that time he was living in the cabin next to Pete Sweeneys.

Miss Slater was a very good teacher and we all liked her very much. Her father Tom was such a nice person, so nice to us children and a good friend of Mom and Dad. One summer Miss Slater’s cousin Ellen Corbett (age 12) spent several months at Alice. One Sat., we hiked past the Kaminky home way up on Yankee Hill. No grass, no trees, no water to our knowledge. The one thing I still recall was all the tiny little pebbles of pretty pinks, turquoise, yellow, white and white with threadlike colored veins about the size of tiny pearls. Another nice thing to remember about that day –Miss Slater had baked brown bread in cans about the size of Calumet Baking Powder cans. It was still warm and so good.

Our parents had come to Colo., on account of my father’s asthma. The higher the altitude the better he was health-wise. Mother, victim of heart disease, was the reason we quite suddenly left Alice for a lower climate. Our plans were to go to California but the Drs., advised to do that a step at a time. We landed in Golden and the Dr., there was a young man just out of the army World War I. He seemed to understand Mom’s case and in two years she was so improved she didn’t want to leave Golden. Our father didn’t fare so well but lived until 1930.

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Eula Werber, thank you for sharing your history of Alice Colorado.

My grandmother, Mrs. Madge Johnson, taught school at Alice in 1918, I believe. She lived in Lawson and hiked "over the hill" to Alice during good weather. I believe she stayed in the teacher's quarters when necessary because of weather and snow conditions.

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