Sunday, August 14, 2011

Home Lives On In The Heart

There is a place that now only resides in my heart.  That place is the home where my family and I once lived in Leadville, Colorado.  When I think of a time where I was most happy as a young girl, I think of Leadville.  When I think of a place that greatly shaped me into the person I am today, I think of Leadville.

This past weekend, my sister who lives in California was here in Colorado for a visit.  She and her husband and my husband and I spent a few wonderful days together.  During that time, we drove to Leadville to revisit the place where we once lived.

Our father was transferred to Leadville with the D&RG Railroad to serve as the agent for that location just before I was a senior in high school.  My younger sister, shown with me in the photo above, was just starting kindergarten at the time.  We were both at different stages in life when we lived there, but we both think of the happy times and wonderful memories made in this special place.

Photo from Colorado History Directory

The house were we lived was actually an old depot for the railroad.  My mother and I think this is an old drawing of the place.  We think our house would have been the center section minus the second story of the building.  Others in the family may not agree with us, but my mother and I studied this sketch quite throughly and decided that is how the building was adapted.  We have no idea when this occurred.  Our house, a company house, had been occupied by others for quite some time before we lived there.  The house actually sat next to an unused portion of railroad tracks.  The depot where my father worked sat back on the property behind our house.  Behind the depot was a round house where the engines were repaired.


My father went in and gutted the place before we moved in and brought it up to his standards.  It was actually quite nice inside when he finished.  The main part of the house was heated with a Stokermatic coal furnace.  In other words, it was warm around the furnace, but not so warm the farther away you moved from it.  We would actually sit on top of it to get warm.  We would also dress in front of it on really cold mornings.  The back of the house, an addition that included the kitchen and bathroom, was heated by propane.

Everything is gone now: the house, the depot, the round house.  My sister and I walked the property last Friday trying to pinpoint where the house must have been.  It is impossible to know for certain.  As we walked, I said, "The coal shed must have been here.  Look at all the coal."  In truth, there was a lot of coal everywhere.

The house now sits in the middle of a lot outside of town serving as a storage shed.





Since the house is gone from its original site, we hope to connect to the place where it once stood.


We walked back to where we thought the depot might have been.  Suzanne said, "I think this is where Daddy's office was.  I am typing on his typewriter."  Sally said, "You are not the one who had to type your senior paper on that old thing."  The typewriter was an old upright.  I had typed a very messy looking senior paper on it.

We walked back to where the round house had been.  I really have little memory of this building.  Suzanne said she actually got to go in and watch the men work underneath the engine.

We find little to mark the place where we once lived and where our father once worked: just one weathered piece of a railroad tie and a spike.  "It's not a golden spike," I say as we look at it.  Only an old rusty bucket seemed to have left.  I pick it up to bring home.  "I might plant flowers in this," I say.

We work our way east on the old railroad yard to the objects that I know are really drawing my sister.  Three old abandoned cabooses sit on what remains of a set of tracks.  The caboose of the family heads to that magical railroad car that embodies so many of her childhood memories.


When she was in kindergarten, only going to school half a day, when the weather was bad, my father would have her picked up by the railroad crew on its way back to the depot if he couldn't pick her up.  Her tiny little figure, dressed in a red coat, the hood pulled up over her head, would climb aboard the caboose and ride home.


Once on the platform of railroad car, she struck a pose.  It is hard to see in this photo, but according to her, it was the pose that she saw in all the girlie posters that lined the inside of the caboose.


I soon joined her on the platform at the end of the train.  From there, I looked out at the mountains in the distance.  Mt. Elbert rose above my former high school and town.





I looked down at the tracks.  I was home.  I felt connected to my past, my roots, my history.  I remember who I am, and where I have been.  I am: a railroader's daughter,  mountain girl,  and a third generation Colorado native.  I once lived two miles high.  I identify with Molly Brown. It takes a lot to sink me.  

39 comments:

Linda Myers said...

My grandfather was superintendent of the D&RG Railroad in the 1950s. Small world!

Arkansas Patti said...

What a neat nostalgic trip you two took. Sad when the home that defined you is now bare grass with only small traces of the life it once held but the memories never disappear do they.
That was an awesome view you had to enjoy while growing up.

Jeanie said...

This was all so interesting, Sally. I'm glad you got to revisit these memories with your sister.
How lucky you are to have lived in the beauty of Leadville.

Lynilu said...

Oh, this sparks memories for me of the couple years we lived in Salida! Thanks, Sally!

DJan said...

What a great post! Going back to visit your beginnings and taking them from the past into the present. I think you were very fortunate to live in Leadville. I visited it a few times when I lived in Boulder, two miles high indeed, with brilliant blue skies and lots of Big Sky. Thanks for sharing this.

Dee Ready said...

I loved this posting, Sally. My blog is called "coming home to myself" and when you talk about Leadville there is a coming home within you too.

Have you ever read the novel "The Cape Ann" by Faith Sullivan? It's about a little girl growing up in the railroad station house and her mother longing for a Cape Ann house.

Sullivan is a fine writer and the book has been compared to "To Kill a Mockingbird" because the little girl who tells the story is only six. She was in kindergarten, just like your sister Suzanne.

Beth said...

It has been said that one can never go home again. You and your sister proved that to some extent you can. The photos are wonderful and made me miss my sis in WV so much.

I enjoyed this post and your photos very much Sally!

Olga said...

That is a great post. I have been wanting to visit my old home lately. Something about the age that turns us nostalgic?
I smiled at the pose on the back of the caboose. There was a railroad shed behind our house and my brothers were forever conniving to boost themselves up enough to get a peek in the window to see the girlie pictures.

Sandi said...

Hi Sally, I loved the photos and memories you shared with your sister. It's neat to think about the different perspectives, with the age difference between you and her. Even though I still live in the same town I was born in, I love "going back" and looking at houses I lived in. Last Friday I stopped at a yard sale at a house I lived in when I was "on my own". The woman was so welcoming, and invited me in to take a tour. What a treasure to go back 40 years and see the inside of the place I lived in with 5 other girls!
PS ~ thank you for you recent comments on my blog! You are right, it was scary putting the swim suit back on and walking out to the pool!!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

This is a lovely post of coming home, even more special because you shared the experience with your sister whose life stage differed but shared many warm memories. What a beautiful place to grow up, Sally! Mt. Elbert rang a bell: about 20 years ago, my husband and some friends who live in Colorado climbed Mt. Elbert. It was one of his favorite adventures.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

This is a lovely post of coming home, even more special because you shared the experience with your sister whose life stage differed but shared many warm memories. What a beautiful place to grow up, Sally! Mt. Elbert rang a bell: about 20 years ago, my husband and some friends who live in Colorado climbed Mt. Elbert. It was one of his favorite adventures.

gigihawaii said...

Since my childhood home still exists (it was built in 1950 according to my dad's specifications), I can't imagine how you must have felt not being able to see your former home. What a loss!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

This is a great post about a lovely experience. It's wonderful that you and your sister got to do this together, and that you found such wonderful connections to your history.

Kathy Anne Hernandez said...

Great article, Sally. I remember going to that house once and no one was home. I guess it must have cost to much for a long distance phone call. Mother told me once that you and Carol Anne, would lay on the roof of the house to get a sun tan. I also remember all the coal that was around the tracks.

Caroline said...

I just moved to Leadville and can't imagine living anywhere else. Thanks for all the history on Leadville.

#1Nana said...

How wonderful that you were able to revisit your childhood with your sister at your side. My brother and I attended a family reunion in England several years ago and it was such a fun experience. No one really understands that shared past but your family.

Buschy said...

I am so glad you were able to share this with each other and your guys too!

LC said...

History through your first-person perspective is fascinating. Thank you for inviting us to tag along as you and your little sister reconnected to a happy time in your early years. Loved that she was the caboose of this railroad family and rode the caboose home from school on occasion.

Linda said...

Sounds like you spent a wonderful day making new memories to add to your old memories.

LC said...

History through your first-person perspective is fascinating. Thank you for inviting us to tag along as you and your little sister reconnected to a happy time in your early years. Loved that she was the caboose of this railroad family and rode the caboose home from school on occasion.

Sandi said...

Hi Sally,
Thanks for your comments today! My surgery was June 27. I'm glad to hear about your husband's positive recovery! I agree, I think the kids will be supportive and encouraging!

Joanne said...

Oh I loved this post! All the pictures told another bit of a great story! and It is yours. I wanted to read more! Any chance that you'll share more stories of when you lived there? I would love to read them!
Blessings, Joanne

Jeanie said...

I love posts like this that take me to a spot of which I've heard but never seen and to see it through your eyes. I'm sorry the home is gone, but so glad you were able to visit this spot that is so much a part of your personal history.

Thisisme. said...

I'm so sorry I'm late in commenting. Your post did not show up on my blog roll. It is so annoying when that happens. What an adventure you had with your sister and your hubbies, and what lovely memories. I loved it that you picked up that bucket and took it home. I loved your description of your sister as a tiny little figure in a red coat, with her hood pulled up over her head. Lovely post.

Friko said...

what a wonderful post. I love posts that describe a life that has gone except for what we carry around in our memories.

This is warm and funny and happy, I am so glad for you.

I Wonder Wye said...

That was a fun read. WOW the mountains are gorgeous. I am reading a book you would like, I think: Nothing Daunted. It is the true account of two friends, 'society' girls from the east who in 1916 went to the Colorado Territory to teach school...

Terry said...

I'm glad you got to reconnect with your old home, even if it's no longer there. It brought to mind where I grew up. Like you, we moved quite a bit, but the place that tugs at my heart is Maryland, where I spent most of my growing up years. Although it's geen almost 40 yrs since I lived there, I remember being very content there. This made me feel very nostalgic for a place in time that now only exists in my mind.

Vagabonde said...

What a lovely post of reminiscence. It is nice to go back to the place where you grew up, even if the house is no longer there, the scenery the mountains are still there. When I was in Paris last we went to the building where I lived in a 6th floor apartment. I looked up, the windows had been changed, but the feeling was the same. I could see everything with my memory like you remember your house in Leadville.

gayle said...

There's no place like the home of your youth. I lived in CA in one place until I was 12 years old. Those are where my best memories are. I still have cousins, aunts and uncles in CA and whenever I go to visit I always go and sit outside "my home". Maybe one day I will get the courage to ask the owners to look inside. Then again maybe not.:)

Kay said...

This is so beautiful, Sally. I can really relate to this post. The home I grew up in is no longer there. We can't even figure out exactly where it stood because the area was plowed over, graded and buildings and roads put on top. It's sad actually. I'm glad you were able to figure out where those important places were and to do it with your sister. That makes it EXTRA special.

troutbirder said...

Great memories there. I've lived in a small town in southern Minnesota all my adult life. But fond memories of childhood take me back to the St. Paul neighborhood where I great up. It hurt a little when familiar places are gone there but the memories live forever.

Isabelle said...

Goodness. How interesting. It looks like a beautiful place.

Twenty years ago we moved about, oh, six miles from where I'd always lived before. This seemed quite a wrench...

Maggie May said...

It must be really sad to see that a place you once held dear is no more.
Sometimes I think that it is best not to go to such places that hold precious memories. However, I think you were glad you went back?
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Barb said...

What a great story about roots, Sally! I like visiting Leadville - it's come a long way in the last 10 years. I like hiking and biking the trails out of town. Sounds as though you and your Sis had a great time reminiscing.

Deb Shucka said...

Such a wonderful story. It's so nice to learn where home started for you. I'm glad you had this incredibly special time with your sister.

KleinsteMotte said...

Sis and I are 10 years apart in age. It was on my recent trip to Germany together that we reunited. I was born over there but she was not. For the first time she was able to understand the gap between us. She just wrote me a beatiful thanks note about her feeling we have been reunited. Home is in the heart and I'm so happy that she feel rekindled. I never lost hope that she would get back to me.

Terri Tiffany said...

This was beautiful!! So nice that you could return together and gather memories. I'm happy you added pictures for us. It makes the story come alive more! What a lovely place to have lived. :)

Betsy Adams said...

What fantastic memories, Sally... I know that you and your sister had a wonderful visit to Leadville... I loved reading your post.

Hugs,
Betsy

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Wonderful post and memories,Sally! We have not yet traveled up yo Leadvillville, but hope to one day. I grew up and lived as a married woman on the same residential block in Brooklyn, NY, my entire life until 3 years sgo, so all my memories are there. Turning a page at almost age 60 and moving west was a big step and a big adventure, but it's so good to be close to my children and grandchildren so I have no regrets.