Canon City, Colorado

30 Mar

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and ArtistOne of Dad’s early letters after he was inducted into the army in 1943 had an account of his rescuing a sergeant from drowning. I read that when I was a grandmother, and it was pretty exciting. He was trained in water purification, so that explains how I’ve always been interested in clean water.

Our lives in Canon City were full of interesting things to do. On Sunday afternoons, Mother took us to the small park across from the prison for a band concert. I believe the band members were convicts or cons as we called them. To us, it was the best music in the world and a great source for learning patriotism.

Mother loved to tell the story of the time the band played, “The Star Spangled Banner.” Suddenly I gripped my little brother by his collar and jerked him to his feet saying, “Stand up … Star Spangle.”

We listened to the radio a lot. During the daytime if Mother didn’t have a job that day, she’d iron or sew and listen to soap operas. She loved “Stella Dallas. I’m sure the tales were full of warnings and cautions and were probably good for a little girl to hear, though I’m sure I didn’t understand half of it. We listened to “Fibber McGee and Molly.” It started with the opening of a closet where everything fell out on the floor with great crashings and bangings. We thought that was hilarious – every time. I always thrilled to the opening music of “Let’s Pretend.” I wonder now what those captivating stories were about. Maybe I can look them up on the Internet.

One special evening, David and Mother stayed home and my Grandparents took me to the Pen (which is what we called the prison) for a guards and wives night out. We had dinner in the “dining room,” which was full of long tables where the cons usually ate. They then set up a projector and showed the movie, “April Showers.” Afterward we toured the rows of cells and I was surprised to see how many of the men had decorated with serapes, pictures, and anything else they could find to make their spaces homey. I believe at that time the cells only held one man, two at the most.

We went back to the Colorado State Penitentiary a few years ago. They’ve made the old part into a museum.

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Prison Museum 

Video

The building was pristine, the air inside cool on a hot summer day. I recognized the name Alfred Packer, infamous cannibal. The museum had a model of the first gas chamber to be used in Colorado and the big wooden, “horses,” they laid the men over to beat them with a paddle for punishment.

To me, though, as a child, the prison was a friendly place. When we walked past the cells, the inmates looked out not with evil intent, but seeming to long for home and family.

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Another reason I was well disposed toward inmates was that one of them made a doll cradle for me. My old pals, Teddy and Raggedy Ann, got a lot of use from that.

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Doesn’t Teddy look like a good listener? Believe me, he is. Notice how somebody kissed him on the nose so much his nose wore off.

 

 

4 Responses to “Canon City, Colorado”

  1. itsrebekahlyn March 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    My how times have changed. I can’t imagine a dinner for guards & their families at any prisons these days. I like knowing you so I can be connected to a time that seems to have been more civilized all around.

    Like

  2. Bill March 30, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    Very interesting blog about some of your childhood adventures. Tell us more.

    Like

  3. Old Things R New March 30, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    I enjoyed this post, DiVoran. It is a rare glimpse into a time when even those who broke the law still maintained a sense of family and commuinity.

    Like

  4. Louise Gibson March 30, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    You had very interesting childhood, Divoran. I”m surprised they let a child enter the prison..but then, times were a lot different and rules have changed.

    Like

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