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1 was born. April 1928. Sopris, Colorado which was a coal mining camp of 300 to 400
people, and located 5 miles west of Trinidad, Colorado. The mine was owned by The
COLORADO FUEL AND IRON Corp (CF&I). My Grandfather operated the mine and my father and uncles worked in the mine.The DOW industrial average was 300, in 1932 it hit 90, and today December 1999 it is over 11,000. From the great depression years up thru the great 
inflation .. A loaf of bread was 5 cents, and today its $1 to $ 3 dollars, and a gallon of gasoline was 12 cents and today its $1.35 to $1.56.


     All the of the houses in the coal camp were owned by the CF &1 and were four rooms, with wood lath and plaster interior finishes and a stucco plaster exterior. The interior was painted with a paint that was a water base, called CALCIMINE and, unlike Henry Ford black, came in white, cream, pale blue, and pale green period. Calcimine was a powder that was mixed with water, applied with a 4 to 5" brush and required at least a full day or more to dry. The exterior was un-painted, therefore was a natural grey cement color. THEN came oil based paint with some colors and today you can have any computer matched color you want.  By the way todays finishes are also available in Latex, water based and then there is, lacquer, varnish, polyurethane; in satin, low and high gloss, also there any number of stains pre-stain and other finishes.To say nothing about the other surfaces and finishes that are available today, i.e. dry wallplaster board with various textures, plywood paneling, wall paper ,fabies, formicas, stone etc.                                                                              .

     Our house was heated with a coal burning stove, and all the cooking was also with a coal burning stove. If you keep feeding coal as it burned you had heat, if not it would be very cold in a few hours, especially in the winter AM. You had to remove the coal ash from the stove daily . Of course you spent a good part of the summer cutting the kindling (wood) , several cords, to be able to stand the coal fire in the AM.


     There was no bath-room, It was out side to the OUTHOUSE, and you heated water on the coal stove to be used to have spounge bath with the aid of a wash tub (About 30" in dia. by 14" height)


     Clothes were washed with an agitating wash machine, and again with water that was heated on the coal stove, and the bucketed into the wash machine. You did a wash, then a rinse then hung the clothes outside on a cloth line to dry, However in the winter month they just froze stiff, so when you brought the clothes back in the house the were stiff as a board. Today its an electric or gas washer and dryer, or go to the cleaner or laundry mat.

      Our water supply was from a gravity feed tank up on the hill behind our house. We used a Ford model A or T engine to drive a pump to pump the water up to the tank.My brother Wayne was in charge of this operation. In the winter the 2" dia. Pipe line would freeze and break, and we would be with water for a few days until a repair was made. Then after a few winters we put in new line that was about 6' deep so that the freeze problem was solved.

We did have electric lights, one light per room, and if I remember right there was one elec. outlet per room.  And we had a radio (Vacuum Tube), which was only played in the evenings, and some time on Saturday afternoon.


We had an Ice box, that we used in the summer months, Ice was delivered approx. Every
three days by a truck. In the winter months, you just keep thing on the back porch .


     Our school was one building for all 12 grades, Grades 1 through 8 each had their room and the same teacher for all subjects. Grades 9 through 12 rotated to different rooms and different teachers. The school was in the main part of Sopris, about a mile from where 1 lived, Therefore I had to walk to and from school. We had a gym, for school plays, and for Basketball. Other Sport was limited to Track events and softball, because of our limited number of students. I.E. In 1946 my senior year, There was only eight (8) in my class, and 32 in the High grades 9-12. Of the 8 Two when on to college, first Trinidad State Jr. College, and Then to the Univ. Of Colo., A thankful mandate by my Dad & Brother. I majored in Civil Engr, and the other Bart Antisita, majored in Elec.Engr. Bart spent his career with North Amer. Avaition, While I spent mine with Boeing.(37 yrs). As a point of referrence, Tutition at the Univ. Of Colo. In 1949/1950 was $49.00 per Quarter. 


     My parents car was a 1927? Oldsmobile, until 1936 when they got a new Plymounth, 4 door for $749.00. Which was a Deluxe model, However there was no Heater, no defroster, no radio, These items had to be purchased seperately, i.e from Montgomery Wards and then installed by yourself, or a friend. For the heater you drilled two holds in the fire wall , installed a mounting bracket and two hoses to the radiortor. For the Defroster, It was a small fan (3-4 in dia.) That you mounted to the steering post, and you point it toward the windshield. In 1951, my first car, was a new 1951 Ford for $2100.00 Today cars are $18,000 to $50,000.


     In 1937 we moved to the main part of Sopris, right across the street from the  school.The House was older, not CF&I company owned, However it needed a lot of work to bring it up to be more liviable. Some interior wall were removed, an the living/dining room was re-lathed and plastered and new floors were installed .During the WWIl years a basement was dug, and a foundation added,The original house was sitting on rocks, (That is, the wall bottom plate was sitting on the rocks). Now with the basement dug out, all by hand. We installed a Coal burning Furnace for heat. A new roof was put on, and the outside was stuccoed ... This is like the mid 1940's. And about 1945 I closed a back entry and used part of a pantry to make a bath room. Of course we still had an out house, However now we had to dig a cess pool, 8 ft. Dia, by 21 ft. In depth, for the bath room waste, this was another one of those all by hand jobs. 


     We got our first telephone in the mid 1940's, It was a six party line, each party had a different ring, It really didnt any difference, since when ever the phone ring ,every one would pick it up and every body listened to ever on else conversation.  No secrets in that camp.

My Great Parents had a Cattle ranch in Stonewall, Colo. about 30 miles west of Sopris.  This was from lat 1930's to mid 1950's.  Therefore I spent a lot of weekends and during the summer weeks at a time on the Ranch. Fun in the early years and just plain old work in the  later years.i.e, in 1948 My Uncle Jack, myself. and one hired hand, cut .baled, and stacked approx 150 ton of hay in three weeks. We did this with two tractor, one to mow the hay, one to rack the hay,and then for the pick-up baler, and then a truck to pick up the bales and haul them to the barn to be stacked for the winter feed. In the earlier years, This same jobs was done with about fifteen (15) teams of horses (30 ho~s), and about 20125 men. It still took about three weeks. except that the hay was put up in hay stacks. that in two to three months, the hay would baled at each hay stack, and then hauled to the hay barn, with a wagon an a team of horses. Then in the winter with a team and wagon you would go and spread the hay out for the cattle to eat. This task happen every day snow or shine.                           .


The electric Power for the Ranch House was provided by a Delco 32 volt battery system, aprox. 30 batteries in series (?). The refrigeration was an Ice House. the size of a one car garage, filled with sawdust and Ice Blocks the were cut from a lake in late spring, and hauled to the Ice House, with a Team of horses and wagon,. Of coures there was also an underground cellar for the vegetables and. the milk and where the butter was churned. The closest phone was ~ miles away and it was 15 to 20 miles to the post office in Wesston, Colo. In the 1940's I had a pair of cowboy boots from Montgomery Ward for SI2.00, and my Uncle Jack had two pair's of custom made boots by Naccona. I declared that some day I will get a pair of Custom Naccona. Therefore in 1972 I decided it was time to get the custom boots made, and the Seattle store wouldn't work with Naccona, so we started with Tony Lama for S120.00, and one year later, and two different pair of boots we gave up on Tony Lama, because of a poor fit Then when to Justin and after their making two different boots in the second year, for the same the orginial $120.00, I had my custom boots. Then in 1981, at a different store in Seattle I got a second pair of Justin boots off the shelf .This time for $180.00. In approx. 1900, A Texas long horn steer was sold for $2.00 and today they bring $550. Thats a much better return on your money today than making cowboy boots. 


     The Coal Camp was very clean of metal debris. There was a junk man with his horse and wagon that came to Sopris from Trinidad. to collect all the scrap metal that the l could find. mostly from around the mine and the railroad, This was a summer project. The Junk man paided per pound as following; copper and brass=3 cents, zinc=1 1/2 cents, alum=5cents. This cost data was provided by the Fantin brothers, Paul & Louis. You could buy a candy bar and a bottle of POP for 5 cents. Today brass sells for $3.50 per pound.. Back to the clean coal camp, after the camp was cleaned up, there was still a desire for certain group of kids (I was not included) to continue to made some money. Therefore they managed to get into the mine property, and was striping copper from an old genertor to sell to the junk man. My Grandfather, became award of the sitution, and layed a trap, and the "Copper Kings", were taken to Trinidad, and spent about 6 hours in the city jail, until the parents could pick them up. Lesson leaned,and no more problems after that I wonder what would happen today?

Sopris, named after Eldridge B. Sopris, early Trinidad surveyor, came into being with the opening of a coal mine in 1887.  Sopris was typical of the warm life in a coal camp.  Thought far from a bed of roses, life was simple.  Families and friends were closely knit.  Sopris settlement made one of the largest coal camps in the area.  There were four bars, three grocery stores, a pool hall, Lincoln High and St. Thomas grade schools, Catholic and Protestant churches. Grocery stores were modified hardware-clothes-grocery, selling clothing, materials, shoes, gasoline, oils, kerosene, and a full array of groceries. A small WalMart in the Depression davs.


In the late 1960's Sopris came to an end. After decaded of debate and political pork barrel exchanges, the Purgatoire Dam Began to take on reality. By the mid 1970's construction of a dam began, and the coal camp was demolished.


     "Coal camps have come and gone. and each was unique in its own way. The days of laughter and tears too soon fade into memories. As it was then. it is now: time will take its toll (or none o(us were promised a rose garden.  Sadly----so be it for Sopris ". This paragraph and part of the two previous paragraphs was taken form "Echoes o[ Yesteryear" by Patrick Donachy.


  The last paragraph really covers growing up, working. and living in the last century quite well, however in my own words, I really feel quite lucky for my  background/training/experiences, and proud and fortunate for the lucrative life I have ... I WOULDN'T HAVE CHANGED A THING .....•.


Al Portrait red.jpg
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