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Danny 'No-Middle-Name' Archuleta
Yes folks, he really doesn't have a middle name. But everybody in good
old Trinidad knows this bubbly guy. At one time, in his prime, he weighed in at a
cool two-hundred twenty five pounds of nothing but muscle and sinew. During his
stint in Uncle Sam's Army, he was referred to as that 'old mean sergeant' by the
troops under his supervision. He was born in Cokedale in September of 1918. Way,
way back then, professional midwives were as scarce as fresh roses in Antarctica. So
he was assisted into this worldly world by Grandma Philamena Tarazini. Grandma's
had to do everything, including bringing new babies into the world.
The mean sergeant was born to Pete and Emma (Tarazini). The family
moved east to Sopris when he was just a baby. Can you imagine Danny in a diaper,
weighing just a meager ten pounds? In their new home-town of Sopris, poppa Pete
opened a grocery store, but soon went bankrupt. Seems that too many of his
customers would not, or could not, pay their grocery bills. Old Pete just couldn't turn
away all those hungry folks, so he gave to much, and eventually had to shut down
the grocery shop.
His next endeavor was working in the coal mine in Sopris, then later the
mine in Bon Carbo. Coal was king back then, and there were jobs aplenty. When
Danny got older, he and brother Frankie would drive the old Model T to Bon Carbo
and fill the vintage sedan with chunks of coal canvassed from the coal dump fronting
the mine. By the time daddy Pete emerged from the darkened burrow at 2:00 p.m.,
the boys.had filled six to seven gunny sacks of the black gold which they safely
stashed in the back seat of the old man's Model T. They rarely, if ever, had to buy
coal to heat the old homestead during those frigid winter months in Sopris. Dad
would eventually work the coke ovens in Cokedale too.
Meanwhile, Danny continued his schooling. He attended the St. Thomas
Elementary School through the eighth grade. The little school was a stone's throw
from his home just behind the church. Then he moved on to the big time; to old
Lincoln High School. He played the trombone under the watchful eye of bandmaster
Virgino Fantin, and excelled in baseball and basketball. He played the guard
position in basketball and was selected captain of the team. Chuck Davidson was the
basketball coach, and the ever engaging Primero Bulldogs were the primary enemy
of the 'fightin' Panthers from Sopris. On one occasion, Danny and his boys played a
basketball game against the Bulldog's in Parson's old barn out by the river in
Primero. They used gas lamps for light. During one game, the lamps went out and
the competition had to be delayed until air was pumped back into the archaic
mechanisms to re-light them. In Sopris they played in the old cracker-jack gym on
the east side of town. Heating radiators reposed on the basketball floor against the
wall. The wall and the radiators were out of bounds! There were many painful
'burned butt' incidents on the part of the home teams, and to any enemy who dared to
invade the puny, but hostile home of the Panther's.
"I was a catcher on the baseball team, but basketball was our game,"
reminisced Danny. "We really looked forward to our games with Primero. We beat
them once in a while, too. We had boys and girls basketball teams. We used to ride
the bus together to the games and hold hands and smooch with the girls. The girls
used to wear big bloomers for uniforms, orange and white for Primero, and blue and
white for us. Our girls had good teams. They went to state in 1936. It was a great
And a good time it certainly was. Danny continued his education at
Trinidad State Jr. College where he competed in track in the two mile run with Bob
"Red" Makloski, and also played football. He completed his education at Trinidad
State in 1938 and proceeded to attend summer school at Western State College in
Gunnison for three consecutive summers. His education earned him a five year
teaching certificate from the Las Animas County Superintendent of Schools.
And then there was always all those comrades from his high school days
hanging around. He and about six of his running-buddies would occasionally visit
Borsa Candida at her house in old Sopris in clandestine pursuit of a pint of home
meshed whiskey. Borsa kept their favorite booze hidden deep in the depths of her
cellar. "By the time she went down for it and came back with the merchandise, we
drank a barrel of her com moonshine that she had upstairs," mused Dan. "And at one
time we had our own still. I came from a family of bootleggers. We used to pay for
our rent with moonshine whiskey."
And all during high school, 'Danny Boy' played the trombone and kept a
perceptive eye on a cute little Panther gal by the name of Mary DeAngeles. To him,
she was much more important than a bottle of bootleg whiskey. And much prettier
too. Her poppa was Andrea. He went back to Italy in search of a wife, and in Venice
he found Maria Telina. She brought back with her, not only the affection and
companionship that only Andrea could minister, but also some of the work habits of
her old homeland. She used to carry firewood on her head from the canyons around
Sopris to bake bread in the homo (oven) Andrea constructed for her in the back yard.
And then Andrea and Maria created Mary. That made Danny happy. Especially all
through his high school years.
Meanwhile 'Danny Boy' had to go to work. He found employment with
Bill Seals, selling tires and batteries and doing maintenance chores. Shortly
thereafter he moved on to Cherry Motors and McClain Motors where he began his
career as an entrepreneur, selling automobiles. It was the beginning of a lifetime of
work as a salesman and fix-it man. He did a little coaching, too. Coached the baseball teams at Starkville and St. Thomas. And he ran around a little more with
the boys for a while. Used to frequent Ringo's Dance Hall in Valdez and Charlie's
Bar in Starkville and Angelo Brunelli's place in Sopris. At Angelo's Bar they
gambled heatedly for beers in the bocci alley out back.
Suddenly it was 1941. By this time the Japanese had already devastated
Pearl Harbor. It was time to move on. But first, there was a little unfinished
business. There was that pretty little Mary, the very one he had had his eye on since
the ninth grade. "It was," said Danny, "a decision that was really mutual. It just
came automatically." And so Danny Archuleta and Mary DeAngeles were married.
And they were very happy.
It was nice for just a brief time, because young Danny had been beckoned.
That old uncle of his with a long white beard and a blue and white top hat was
unrelenting. The army needed him. He was assigned to a position as a physical
education instructor because of his experience as a coach, as well as being assigned
to the Military Police, then eventually shipped to Chicago with Mary. He was soon
promoted to staff sergeant. Chicago was their home for one year, and it was here that
Gary was born, on December 27, 1942.
"He was an unpaid baby," recalled Danny. "I was making $21.00 a month
and couldn't pay the hospital bills. He still owes Memorial Hospital a lot ofmoney."
Danny was then transferred to Washington state where he continued his
work with the mi litary police and added the role of supply master to his resume. He
was put in charge of all supplies at the base, and also assigned the responsibility of
training candidates for the military police. "We forced them through the infiltration
course laden with barbed wire and used live ammo," explained Danny. "We taught
them to save their own lives. That was most important. I was a mean old buzzard
Then he was off Okinawa where he and a gaggle of his comrades landed on
Purple Beach. He was again assigned to supplies and the Military Police. It was a
most interesting experience. "They shoved us off the ship and everybody was
stepping all over each other," Danny remembered. "The shells from the ships were
flying over our heads and landing on the beach in front of us. The Marines were
firing like crazy. They just dumped us off and said, 'go to it.' I contracted jungle
fungus that stiII bothers me. My feet are rotten because of that."
Danny remained in Okinawa for the nine months remaining on his tour.
They not only had to be wary of the human enemy, but there was also the battle with
Mother Nature. It was hurricane season and numerous typhoons ravaged the camp.
At one-point Danny and five of his comrades had to sleep 011 a single, undamaged
cot. They accomplished that by straddling the small bed and sleeping back-to-back.
But the day finally came when he would return home to Mary and little Gary, both of
whom had moved from Chicago back to Sopris. After forty-six long, arduous
months of duty, from 1941 through 1946, he earned enough points to return home.
The United States Army used a point system back then. All his hard earned points
were finally collected in January of 1946. It was time to go home, back to Sopris.
'Danny Boy' returned to his old job with McLain Motors in Trinidad. Back
to selling cars. This he did for two years before finding employment with the
Montgomery Wards store situated on downtown Main Street in good old Trinidad.
And here he remained for thirty-eight productive years as a salesman and
repairman. His first paycheck was for $37.50 a week. He sold an array of products
and repaired television sets for 'Monkeys' as it was known back then. Soon after he
was hired, he was promoted to Department Manager.
He remained in Sopris where he bought a house, dug out a cellar, and
completely renovated his new abode. He learned carpentry, and electrical systems
and plumbing while still in high school. Many times he hired himself out to builders
who were remodeling homes in the community. And he built an orno for Mary so
she could bake that delicious homemade bread that her mom used to make.
Mary, too, kept busy as a self-designated nurse who would care for all the
sick kids in town. Throat problems for her were a piece of cake. She would force the
mouths of the kiddos open and line the walls of their throats with iodine. Used a
paint brush to do it. A small, soft paint brush, of course. And it was here in his
newly remodeled edifice where the rest of the kids were born, and also where Mary
painted the throats of numerous Sopris children with iodine. After Gary, there was
David. David was a whiz in academics as well as athletics. Then came Andy, and
finally, Loretta. She was the baby of the family, born in 1946. All the kids were born
in Sopris, and all the kids excelled in school. David and Andy and Loretta
completed their education at Trinidad High.
And once again big Danny had to move his family. The great Trinidad
Dam had come. The United States Congress proclaimed the law of immanent
domain, and Danny and all his Sopris neighbors had to move on. The year was 1976.
He found a little house on Baca Street in "T" Town where the family resided for a
brief time before relocating a larger house, a much more convenient abode for his
growing family, the newer house on 8th Street.
"Sopris was a nice little town to live in," Danny remembered. "We never
locked our doors. We never knew what keys were. And there were other things that
were fun too. One time Pat Donachy drove through the alley behind our house too
fast. He kept doing it and wouldn't slow down. I asked him to slow down and he
wouldn't, so I dug a ditch eight inches wide and about six inches deep in the alley.
Sure enough he came down the alley like a bat-out-hell and hit the ditch. He nearly
went through the roof of his car. He never did come back through there again."
His dear Mary passed away on her birthday on July 20, 1986. For about
nine years, Danny lived alone on 8th Street with his memories and his kids. The kids
came down to see him often. Gary and Andy and Loretta live in Denver and visited
frequently. David lives in Florida, so his visits were somewhat fewer. And in the
interim, he bumped into Eleanor Brito once again. He worked with her at
"Monkey's" for seventeen years, eons ago. They were co-workers and good friends,
back then. And so the relationship was renewed. On November 22 of 1996, Eleanor
and Danny were married. They were happily ensconced in his nicely remodeled
home on 8th Street. And the kids continued to come down to see Eleanor and
Danny. Danny's kids and Eleanor's kids.
"It's just great to live in Trinidad," concluded a most contended Danny.
"All the kids come to visit. I still go deer hunting and do a lot of fishing. I still
belong to the LaVeta Fishing Club and I love to cook and garden. Cooking is
especially pleasurable. It's a great life. I really enjoy it.
"Yea, living in Trinidad is just great. I've got so much to be thankful for."
NOTE: Danny Archuleta passed away shortly after Thanksgiving, 1996.
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