Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Memories and photos from Frank Werber and his family while living in Alice 1915-1918. Includes photos from Frank and Eula Werber's collection.
As of 1915 (Previous to moving to Alice)
My father was caretaker for the Seaman Tunnel property, which consisted of a few cabins for the workers and a huge boarding house where the men had their meals. The property was vacant so the 7 of us lived in the boarding house.
I couldn’t have been only about 2 years old. That would be about 1915. There was a big snow storm and I remember mother carrying me to the door to watch a six-horse supply wagon coming up the steep hill. Men were shoveling trails ahead of the horses as the snow was so deep.
On arriving at the boarding house – they unloaded the whole cargo in the living room (formerly the dining room). Slabs of bacon 3 ft. long, barrels of flour and other provisions intended for the miners above. This was as far as they could get. Mother fed them lunch and they returned to Idaho Springs.
This is my first memory of this world: We kept our butter, milk and perishables in the tunnel where it was cool but not freezing. I never went in there alone as I was sure I could see cow’s eyes back in the tunnel. And animal would go in there once in a while for a drink. I have seen a cow come out of there once!
A short time later we moved to Alice, where my father found a job at a mine. He did not work underground as he was handicapped with a stiff leg. He was climbing on a wagon via the wagon wheel when the horse started up and twisted his knee. He went through life with one stiff leg.
His trade was Harness Maker so he did leather work at the mine, sharpened steel and drills. The mine was about a quarter mile from our cabin, which was just north of the original school which was vacant.
We got our water from a nice spring a few yards from the cabin. Dad had buried a barrel so we could dip up pails of water for working, etc. Our “privy” was a little farther out near a swamp. One day Mother was in it (contemplating life) when a big wind came up and blew privy and contents into the swamp! Mom was badly bruised and had a bed cut on the top of her head.
Across the small bridge from Alber’s Store were two cabins, one occupied by a gruff old miner named Pete Sweeney. He and I became great friends. Mother let me go down to visit him by myself. I would always return with a big red apple and a chunk of yellow cheese. I found later that sometimes the treats would be returned and he would give them back to me on my next trip, which was practically daily. In the winter when the snow got deep, Pete would shovel one way and one of the family would shovel towards his place. Hence my trips sometimes were like walking in tunnels.
A lady named Alexander lived in the cabin next to Pete. One day she committed suicide by taking Ether. I went down their with Mother. What we called “The Dead Wagon” was there from Idaho Springs. I will never forget that Ether odor!
A school teacher (Miss Slater) lived near the road to the “94” mine. A gentleman friend from Idaho Springs visited her quite often and always brought a box of chocolates. Beautiful boxes, pretty ribbons and the smell when you opened the box was heavenly! I never found even one chocolate in any of them!!!
There was a big snow storm in 1917 or 1918 that completely covered the cabin. I had a clipping from Reader’s Digest that said….”6 ft. in 48 hours at Silver Lake, Colorado”. My Dad woke thinking it was still night as the cabin was dark. The snow had covered the windows and little light got in! When we opened the cabin door, the snow slid across the floor to the opposite wall! My parent placed tubs under the window and pulled the snow into them in order to reach the shovels that were outside the door. It took a day or two to get out to our barn, which was next to the mountain. We had one horse, one cow and chickens. When the door was finally opened, steam rose sky high. The anim als were hungry but warm. The chickens were sure happy.
The older boys used the barn roof for a ski jump and sailed out into the clearing between our house and Pete’s. As I recall there were no trees between the new school house and Alber’s store. (I am using a 95 yr. old memory of a 5 yr. old experience here.)
One day my two sisters and a brother took me with them to investigate a mine which was not working. There was a small ore car on a track from the entrance to a waste dump a couple hundred feet long. The others were having a great time coasting the car down the track. There was a brake on the back to stop the car. When the others grew tired and turned to something else, I thought I should give it a try. Well, I wasn’t heavy enough to stop with the brake! I hopped off and the car went end over end down over by the dump. I think the miners must have appreciated that when they returned!!
Alber’s had a son my age I played with. One day we were chopping up twigs on a stump with a small hatchet. He said “Put your finger on the block and I will cut it off”. So I put my finger on the block and if I had not been quick, I would have been missing a finger because he’d meant what he said! Whew!!
Our living room was quite large. It was partitioned off for a small Post Office which Mother ran until we left Alice. I remember a wicket for stamp sales and about 20 Post Office boxes for the miners and families. Mother had some arrangement for pay from the stamp sales. I’m sure it couldn’t have been more than $1.00 a week!
Times were so bad. We had very little besides food. Meat was scarce, many times my brother Rudy would shoot a rabbit for supper. Sometimes fish from Silver Lake or the stream through Alice.
In later years I asked Mother why she let me have coffee at 4 yrs. Old. (I remember drinking crackers in coffee under the oil lamps in the evening.) She said that was all she had to give me! Christmas at age 5, I picked a dozen things from the Sears Roebuck catalog, but when Christmas came I only got one thing. I was told Santa had trouble making all the stuff!
1918- Most of the mines had closed. We moved to Idaho Springs, then to Golden and I am still here!