Tag Archives: Westcliffe Colorado

The Depot

23 Jul

My Take

DiVoran Bowers Lites




My parents renovated the old train depot in about 1950. My friend from childhood Patricia Franklin sent me the above photo from the Pueblo Chieftain, and I really appreciate it, and her. The two of us met in our two-room schoolhouse, when she was in first grade and I was in second. She was the only person in her class, so the teacher moved her into second grade where there were at least four students. We’ve been friends ever since.

This is how the house has looked recently. There were no Amish in town when our family lived there and the building closer to the range wasn’t there, but the mountains were, and I think my dad planted the big pine trees on the property when he renovated the house.



This is the third building from my younger years that is being turned into a museum. The second two were the Westcliff schoolhouse and the original women’s prison of the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. That was where Granddad worked as a guard for most of his adult life. Being this familiar with the history of historical museums makes me downright ancient.

Mother and Dad along with my brother, David, and I moved to Westcliffe right after dad came back from WWII in 1945. They bought Min’s Café with a low-interest loan from the G. I. bill and money they’d been saving since marriage.

In a small town like Westcliffe (at the time…population about 500) it was a big job to build or renovate a house as building supplies had to be hauled to the valley from Canon City or Pueblo and there were few people who could help. Mother said she never wanted to restore another house. But Mother and Dad were business people and they wanted to live upstairs and make the downstairs into rooms for rent. We ended up calling it, “The White Cloud Motel.”

You can see in the original picture that the station had a boardwalk around it that isn’t there in the more recent picture. I have a rather sad tale to tell about that. When dad lifted the first boards, he found nests of baby rabbits underneath. Dad let me play with one and carry it around for a day, but then I had to give it back because rabbits multiplied like … well, you know like rabbits, and they were overrunning much of the ranch grasslands.

The White Cloud motel was finally finished and we moved into the upstairs apartment. It had the main floor, a cellar, and an upstairs, as well as a baggage room. Dad used the big room for storage, mostly of camping gear for trail rides and as a place for the game to cure.One of the giant shelves he built was open underneath and just the right size for a small bed and a play-house for me. I read, played with my dolls, and tried to keep my brother out. But one thing we did together was to go out the bathroom window on the second floor and slide down the roof until we got to the gutter, then climb back up and do it again.

Here’s someone else who lived in the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad station.

“Cornelia Caroline Wadleighwas hired (at nineteen) to teach at the Ula School for the 1911-1912 terms…she lived with her parents at their home in the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Station at Westcliffe. She rode the train to the school each day on its morning run to Texas Creek, and caught the afternoon run back to Westcliffe when the school day ended.”*

Because the building was derelict when my parents bought it, I have never once in the sixty-seven years since we moved in the thought of another family living there. I wonder if Miss Cornelia Caroline Wadleigh loved it all as much as I did. And did she slide down the roof? And how would she feel about it being made into a museum if she knew? Does she know? Maybe I’ll meet her in Heaven and we can talk it over.

*Quotation from One Room Schoolhouses, Custer County, Colorado, by Irene Francis.




Author, Poet and Artist

DiVoran has been writing for most of her life. Her first attempt at a story was when she was seven years old and her mother got a new typewriter. DiVoran got to use it and when her dad saw her writing he asked what she was writing about. DiVoran answered that she was writing the story of her life. Her dad’s only comment was, “Well, it’s going to be a very short story.” After most of a lifetime of writing and helping other writers, DiVoran finally launched her own dream which was to write a novel of her own. She now has her Florida Springs trilogy and her novel, a Christian Western Romance, Go West available on Amazon. When speaking about her road to publication, she gives thanks to the Lord for all the people who helped her grow and learn.  She says, “I could never have done it by myself, but when I got going everything fell beautifully into place, and I was glad I had started on my dream.”

My Parents in a Nutshell

14 Oct

My Take

DiVoran Lites

When they were six years old Ivan and Dora became playmates in their Canon City, Colorado neighborhood. When they were fourteen and their Author, Poet and Artistparents took them to the Fireman’s Ball a spark was struck that would warm them for the rest of their lives.

Three years after graduating from high school they were married in April of 1937 and set up housekeeping in Lovelock, Nevada. Ivan was a meat-cutter at Safeway and Dora worked in the commercial laundry downtown. DiVoran was born in October, 1938.

In April 1939 Dora’s dad died and they moved back to Canon City. There Ivan worked at the gas plant. David was born in June of 1941.

The next move was to Crowley, Colorado. Ivan kept the machinery running at the tomato factory while Dora fed the crew their noon meal for five dollars a week each. They raised chickens and goats to help with milk and eggs.

In 1944 World War II became personal. Ivan joined the infantry that slogged, in mud up to their knees, all over Europe while Dora and the children lived upstairs over Ivan’s parents in their apartment house in Canon City. Dora picked apples and did odd jobs as they came up.

When the war was over and Ivan came home, they bought Min’s Café and moved to Westcliffe, Colorado. After a few years, they purchased the old train station and renovated it. The family moved there and they rented out rooms downstairs. Ivan learned to fly and bought a Piper Cub which crashed on Pike’s Peak one cold winter day. Ivan and friend, Sweak Jeske walked away from the crash, even though Ivan’s heel was broken.

Toward the end of 1951 Ivan and Dora sold the café. For a while Ivan was a molybdenum  miner in Leadville and Dora clerked at Tomsick’s Hardware in Westcliffe.

A break came when Ivan got hired on as a security guard for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Los Alamos, New Mexico. At first, Dora worked in a jewelry store, but she soon got on as a bomb sample counter with the AEC.

By 1955 Ivan was promoted to courier, which required a move to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dora’s job with Sandia Corporation had her shredding secret documents by hand.

By 1960 Ivan’s job took them to Livermore, California. There, Dora got a job with Lawrence Laboratories sorting microfilm.

Both retired from government jobs in 1975. Ivan bought a commercial salmon trawler and they moved to Fort Bragg. Dora kept house, gardened, and raised chickens. She had time to do a bit of beach combing while Ivan was fishing.

When fishing was no longer good, they bought a vacuum cleaner store in Vista, California. But Ivan wanted to try commercial fishing one more time, sold the store and became a lobsterman. When they finally retired they fished every summer at a remote location. For years it was in Washington state, then it was Salton Sea in Colorado, and their last place was Sapinero at Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado. They lived long full lives, died peacefully in Vista, and went to Heaven to be with our Lord, where we will most certainly see them again someday.

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