The Old Stomping Grounds in Good Old West Denver
Here are photos of what remains today from venues around our old neighborhood in West Denver and some attached memories for each.
P.T. Barnum allegedly dwelt in this residence located in Denver’s Barnum neighborhood on King Street. In reality the home belonged to Robert Flailing who spoofed people by telling them that he was “Bart Barnum” and that his relative P.T. resided in the house for 10 years. Oh well….
This is an open space in Barnum Park located just west of Knox Court and adjacent to 6th Avenue. This field is where a bunch of us from West High School would gather after school to play tackle football. Our most notorious game was against Eddie Duran and his “gang”. That was an intense encounter because Eddie and Company were more known for fighting than playing football. But all went well. I remember tackling Eddie in his backfield and being a little nervous. But Eddie was cool.
Bowlero was my Saturday morning gathering spot where the West High Bowling Club would gather. Jack Myers, Larry Walsh and John Miles (both deceased) were my teammates. Others I remember in the league were Dick Jones, Bob Hartman, Dennis Ribble and Carol Simpson. Carol was real cute and the best female bowler in the league. Bowlero is now closed. It was the premier alley in Denver back in the day with several local professionals emerging from the lanes.
It was owned and operated by the Byers family, which included Verne Byers, the owner of The Robin’s Nest on Lookout Mountain, and also a concert promoter. He also owned Club Baja in downtown Denver. Verne fronted his own orchestra starting in the 1940’s. As a concert promoter, Verne brought the Beatles to Denver on their first tour and also Peter, Paul and Mary, Otis Redding, Glen Campbell, James Brown and others.
This was the home of “Buddy Burrows” a one-time member of the dreaded west side “Barnum Gang”. Buddy was real quite – a guy a very few words – but one with whom to exercise discretion. I remember one afternoon on the bus ride back from junior high school when Buddy challenged the bus driver to a fight. The elderly driver (Mr. Hanson) wisely declined.
“The Circle” was my culdesac in West Denver. These houses were built in about 1952 and for the most part were purchased by veteran’s from WWII who finally had saved enough for a home of their own. Nearly the entire landscape to our south was still undeveloped with only a smattering of older farm houses still standing. That would soon change as the families of the “baby boomers” would flood into the neighborhood.
This was the street corner of Knox Court and 1st Avenue down in the heart of the Barnum neighborhood. The building in the forefront (right side) was a music shop back in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s. They didn’t carry any records in the store but would mail-order for about $1.00 per 45. I remember riding my bike down there to order a copy of The Letterman’s “Silly Boy”. I just couldn’t find it at Woolworth’s and the discount box stores hadn’t popped up yet.
The spot occupied in the background by another newer structure is where the Comet Movie Theater sat. The Comet would be jumping every Saturday showing serial cliff hanger westerns, non-stop cartoons, and great monster shows. I remember complete chaos in the theater with kids hooting and running around and throwing empty popcorn boxes at the screen, and juju’s at each other. Management didn’t really care, just as long as we filled the place. The Comet would eventually undergo a tragedy, burning to the ground and leaving the nearby Westwood Movie Theater as the major local venue.
This is myself during my senior year along with friend and neighbor Jack Meyers out in front of my house – obviously during the holiday season (see the decorative lights). We thought it would be interesting to take a jab at composing a hit record, so one day we huddled up in a den inside of my house and began to sketch down a new set of lyrics to the tune of Paul and Paula’s “First Day Back at School” excepting transposing the lyrics to a bubblegum-type-theme.
Needless to say that little tune never made it to the charts, and our days of being aspiring Brill Building composers came to an abrupt end.
The fellow who owned this house (which was just across the street from mine) and I had one unfortunate confrontation – Two actually. The first of which I was innocent. One day when I was out playing with the gang, he came busting out of his house yelling at me, grabbing me by the arm and then dragging me home. He alleged that I had hurled mud onto the side of his house. My mother took him on and sent him packing – but he would forever more become known as “the dragon”.
The second encounter – not so innocent. One winter night two of us decided to blast a passing car with an ice ball. Guess who’s care it was? And guess who was driving? I ran down the block eventually ducking onto a neighbor’s patio where I attempted to conceal myself. Didn’t work. Once again I was escorted home (not dragging this time).
Next day my mother had me go to his home and apologize. She stuck by me when innocent but demanded the right thing when I was not.
This was the former location of The Denver Drumstick out in Lakewood just off Colfax on Pierce Street. They had a little train that traveled from the kitchen, routed overhead, which would carry out boxed fried chicken orders to waiting customers. We – like everyone I knew – hardly ever ate out – and there were no other “fast food” outlets yet. So visiting the Drumstick was a real treat – especially the train delivery.
Later in the 1960’s the business would move down the street on Colfax in the same lot where the JCRS Shopping Center was located. That structure is still standing but is now a Burger King. No more trains.
Eddie was something else. He was a brawler and a trouble maker and unfortunately I fell in with him shortly after moving from innocent Greeley, Colorado into my new West Denver neighborhood. This was his home (next to Buddy from the Barnum Gang). One summer day when I was passing by on my bike, out of the garage shown here came Eddie’s family car spinning onto the street and turning down the adjacent alleyway, speeding away and kicking up gravel.
Trouble was, neither of Eddie’s parents were at home. The driver? Eleven year-old Eddie accompanied by his younger brother.! By the way, I officially met Eddie one day as he and his brother walked past my house. I was new in the neighborhood. I was with another young neighbor friend, and I was eating an apple. Eddie stopped and introduced himself, then punched me in the nose bringing me to tears (I was seven years old).
Eddie passed on early in life. He died while a patient in the mental hospital down in Pueblo. I remember his father attempting to sue that establishment over alleged mistreatment.
Francine was my sister’s girl friend from the Class of 1960 at West High School. She lived in this house down on 4th Avenue in Barnum. She was an Italian – gum chewing – rock and roll chick and was admired secretly by me!
This is the house where my heartthrob from the late 1950’s resided – Francine! She was my sister’s best friend from the Class of 1960 at West High School. A gum chewing, Italian – rock and roll girl and my dream!
The Galaxy was our West Side 3.2 Joint located on Alameda Blvd., just east of Sheridan. Spent some great nights here watching and dancing to The Soul Survivors and The Police.
This alley was where I and several of my friends in Junior High were chased by a gang of hot rodders who discovered that on that long ago Halloween night – probably in about 1959 – that one of our gang had “soaped” one of their hot rods. We escaped. I ran down this alley (behind Xavier Street) and hid underneath a parked car for about 1/2 hour until the heat was off.
This is where my friend Ken Aldrich resided on Utica and 5th. He had the honor of working at Jack Kaufman’s “Harmony Records” shop in downtown Denver – a great rhythm and blues vinyl outlet.
This was the former location of “Hartman’s Grocery” one of two neighborhood family groceries. This is where we would all gather after a pick-up sand lot baseball game to buy a soda pop (Duffys) and to purchase the latest series of baseball cards by Topps – with myself hoping to find a few New York Yankees’ items inside.
Bill Hartman was a couple of years ahead of us at West and was an All-City Pitcher for the West Varsity Baseball Team. I faced him only once in a Varsity/Sophomore practice game. Fanned on three straight fastballs. I was scared to death.
This house was the sight of a large Catholic family – featuring 8 beautiful sisters! They were located just one block from my house on Zenobia. This is also where one of the sisters would be entertained by her boyfriend for a time – local Colorado singer Michael Johnson. He would come to the house and play his guitar and sing on the front porch. I came around a few times to listen but thought “This isn’t rock and roll”. Michael went onto a very successful recording artist first as a pop star then later as a country and western singer.
Our first year in Junior High was at a new South Denver school – Kunsmiller. These were my buddies from school and the neighborhood celebrating my December birthday: Left/Right: Craig Clayberg, Charlie Krebs, birthday boy, Dale Holtzinger, Ken Aldrich and Gene Smith.
The Lakewood Theater as another neighborhood Saturday Matinee venue located on Colfax. The Lakewood too featured serial movies and cartoon festivals. It is now occupied by a motor cycle dealer. My wife to be – Janet – often attended this theater and I was probably in the audience at the same time – throwing popcorn boxes at the screen and perhaps at her head.
Here’s the neighborhood gang from along 5th Avenue in north Barnum during a rehearsal of “The Angels with Dirty Faces” (named by my mother (at left). She was the director for our hastily assembled Christmas Choir. We would perform for a couple of evenings out in front of my house near to Christmas. I would always pray that the Barnum Gang would not come by during a performance and decide to pound me.
I delivered the Denver Post for a few years while in Junior High at Rishel. This was the location of the distribution garage where about 15 or 20 carriers would gather on their bikes each day to get their papers, fold them, and load up their canvas bags on our paperboy heavy duty front axle bikes.
This is Kendall joining me for an early Sunday morning run on my Denver Post Route – We would bring Sunday papers back to my house from the distribution station, (thanks to my Dad getting up at 1 AM on Sunday) then take off from my house to Perry and 1st Avenue where my route began (about a mile away).
Ken and I most likely had skated at Roller City in Lakewood the night before so we were running on a few hours of sleep (notice that Ken is in the middle of a big yawn).
This is the building where Roller City was located – now a Thrift Store. A lot of great memories here from my Junior High Years, skating on Saturday nights and then at the end of the skating session, removing our shoes and enjoying a “sock-hop” DJ’d by one of the KIMN Jocks.
A big old Home Depot now occupies this spot across from Roller City where the “Rugged Room” once resided. That venue did not feature 3.2 beer and so teeny boppers could attend performances by national pop stars. I remember The Lovin’ Spoonful appearing there.
One night when I was home alone – about 13 years old – my sister called from this house located on Yates. It was the home of Donna Courtney – her high school chum. They were alone and were sure that they had seen a “peeping Tom” looking through the living room window. So I came over with a baseball bat and sort of looked around the outside of the home.
I was really scared. They pulled me inside and all three of us trembled through the rest of the evening imagining all sort of horrors creeping around the Courtney’s house.
This now neglected lawn section of Newlon Elementary was the sight for great 1950’s neighborhood pick-up tackle football games in the fall, and wiffle ball games in the summer. More than once during a game, members of the dreaded Barnum Gang would stroll by and threaten to pound us but they actually had better things to do and would ramble on…
I had a friend – Gary Hall – who lived here – Like me – he loved music – But had some different tastes. I remember him calling me over and playing a slow tempo folk song which I was listening to for the first time – He flipped over the song thinking it was very “heavy”…. Simon and Garfunkle’s “Sounds of Silence”.
Back in the 1950’s – parents would block off this hill of Wolf Street adjacent to Newlon Elementary – and then about 100 or more local neighborhood kids would take to the snow covered street with sleds. Kids got creamed by out of control sleds but nobody sued… (It is steeper than it appears here)…
This was the home of my school days friend Dale Holtzinger – This is where – as 6th graders – we had our first dance – fully chaperoned by Dale’s mom and Dad – We did “The Hokey Pokey” – “Mexican Hat Rock” and the “Bunny Hop”. Dales mom served what I perceived to be a very strange snack – pizza! Didn’t think I would like it with all that tomato paste on it – but I did acquire a taste as did all my friends. (Mexican Food had not yet appeared)
This is my home and the sight of our second “Sock Hop” (in my Garage). This one again in 6th grade and this time we each “asked a girl” which absolutely scared the heck out of me. But as the night proceeded we managed to dance a few slow dances with the girls, very nervous….
This experience was bittersweet for me because later I learned from a teacher at Newlon that one of my male classmates was devastated that I didn’t invite him. She found him in tears after class the Friday before the dance. Wish I could do that one over again… I would have invited my whole class,
I only went to the Surfside Pool located on Sheridan and 9th Avenue once. That was enough. Eddy Duran’s whole gang was there and after the pool closed, some of the gang members decided to pound me. Thankfully Eddy intervened. He and I had bonded one summer during a summer vacation school program at Newlon where we played Soft Ball together among other things.
He gave the word and the Gang backed off. They did toss a few rocks at my Dad’s 1956 station wagon as I drove away with my friends.
And this is the Westwood Theater located up on Alameda and Knox Court. Another neighborhood venue which later became and X-Rated outlet theater before evolving into the “XXX Arcade” that stands there today.