Vince Alishio is a portly five-foot inches in height, weighing in at one-hundred ninety pounds (he swears that his home scale registers only one-hundred seventy five pounds, but his doctor's scale indicates otherwise). He is a blue eyed carefree fellow known around Trinidad for his passion for golf, hunting, and, now and then, a trip to a pristine mountain lake for a bit of fishing for Colorado rainbow trout. But his real forte is that great old Scottish game of golf. Especially adept with a putter, he plays often with a cadre of buddies who meet him on the number one tee box at the Trinidad Municipal Golf Course during warm spells. He is referred to by his friends and golfing competitors as "Lefty," (he is obviously right brain dominant), or sometimes simply, "Shorty." And, of course, there is an assemblage of other nicknames that are unfit for publication.
He didn't start playing golf until the ripe young age of fifty-two. His old boss from his dairy-business days, Charles Taylor from Pueblo, Colorado, would often send him dozens of "culls," (scuffed golf balls) from the City Park golf course driving range. Mr. Taylor shipped them to him in bulk on a Meadow Gold transport truck. With an unlimited supply of golf balls, Lefty was able to practice without the distracting need to run hither and yon, across the links, retrieving his wild drives. Thus began his sojourn into the mystical world of the kingdom of golf. From this time forward, the old left-hander was forever hooked on the sport. But we talk of his golf, let us turn back the pages of this book, back to an earlier time in the life of this avid sportsman.
He was born in Sopris, Colorado to Arthur and Mary Alishio on June 11, 1925, the oldest of three boys and one girl. Louis is next in line in the Alishio birth order. Louis married Donna Van Matre who hailed from Model, about twenty miles east of Trinidad. Brother Sam is now deceased. Then there is Carrie, who is the baby of the family. She currently resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Carrie married the tall and lanky Ivan Stadjuhar, also a former Trinidadian, and, much like his brother-in-law, an irrepressible golphomaniac.
The Alishio family thrived in the coal camp of Sopris, Colorado, just a five mile buggy ride west of Trinidad. Like most of the eligible working men of the community, Vince's father was employed by the Daldosso coal mine, a clinker's throw to the south of town. Most of the working men were employed by the Daldosso coal mine. Vince graduated from Lincoln High School in 1943.
His only sporting venture during his high school years was softball where he played second base. "The real big thing back then," mused a pensive Alishio, "was basketball. But I was too small to play that sport. I was only about five feet seven inches tall. I was too short and not too fast." Running buddies during his high school years were Paul Fantin, Bill Salvatore, and Pete Coszalter. Unfortunately, he was separated from them when he registered for the draft in June of 1943, then, as expected, he was promptly called by Uncle Sam to defend his country that following September.
So off young Vince went. The United States Army 8th Air Force was beckoning. He was sent to "Flexible Gunnery School" at Yuma Air Field in Yuma, Arizona, graduating on June 22, 1944 with extensive training in radio and gunnery. Then to England where he was stationed at an air force base just a skip and a hop from London. Ultimately, he would be assigned to thirty-nine hair-raising combat missions, flying deep into the heart of Germany, most of which were over Berlin, Hitler's last bastion of defense.
"There was nothing to it," explained Alishio. "I can not even remember being scared. There was anti-aircraft fire every time we went over the channel, but we were doing this in 1944, after the really tough years. They were softened up quite a bit by then. The line kept moving back farther and farther. By then we had to get quite a way into Germany to get flak.
"It was a fascinating time, though. When not on alert we could do anything we wanted. Our time was our own. We would often times go into London just to bum around. If we were on alert we had to stay on base and be prepared. Our names were posted on a board the day before each mission. Then we knew we had to hang around and be ready."
The Yuma school had prepared him well. He was an expert practitioner with guns and radios and tinsel, and for his work in the big, humming B-I7's.
"I handled the fifty caliber machine guns that we used to fire at attacking fighter planes," explained Alishio. "I was also responsible for throwing tinsel out the window of the radio section to distract the radar over our bombing area. And I used the radio for landing instructions. Sometimes that was pretty hairy. There were at times as many as fifty planes trying to land at the same time on the same landing strip in heavy fog. I would look out my window and see planes flashing by no further than fifty yards away."
Like a scene right out of a James Bond movie. And as it would have been for Mr. Bond, it was nothing more than an ordinary afternoon venture into a thick cloud of flak, then back to dangerous fog- laden landing strips. For Bond, a piece of cake. For Vince Alishio, well, we'll let him tell you about it.
"We were hit on every mission," reflected Alishio. "We had holes all over the fuselage from flak anywhere from about one to three inches in diameter, but they didn't seem to effect the flight of our reliable B-17. My biggest scare came on one takeoff. Once we were up in the air on that particular mission when one of our engines caught fire. We had to turn around and land quickly. When we hit the runaway one of our wheels collapsed and the plane spun around in a complete circle.
And that big momma was loaded with tons of high powered bombs. All the crew jumped off before the plane stopped. I know I did. They put the fire out, stuffed us in another plane, and we took off again."
Alishio returned home the victorious warrior in late 1945 with the ranking of Tech Sergeant. Back home (his folks had since moved to Trinidad) he loafed for about one year, then started a freight line service to Springfield, Colorado. In 1965 he took over the Meadow Gold delivery business and supplied the entire Las Animas County with dairy products until his retirement in 1983.
Then the serious stuff really began. Like playing some golf, and then some more golf with a little hunting thrown in for good measure.
"I would have been lost without it [golf]," explained Alishio. "Between that and hunting I kept myself busy after I retired. Initially, I used to play a lot with John Kilpatrick, Fred Sawaya, Les Sena, and Sonny Pfalmer. We'd gamble like mad.
"I liked the time it took. I was never bored. It is time well spent, and, oh that challenge. The challenge was always trying to get better and looking forward to when I could beat all the bros."
Vince is also an enthusiastic hunter, and the owner of a collection of hunting weaponry that would make Saddem Hussein salivate.
"Hunting is neat because it too is an outdoor sport," continued Alishio.
"There is always the thrill of the hunt. And when I bag game I never throw any of the
meat away. I love wild game."
But golf is the name of his real game. He captured the club championship several years ago, firing a phenomenal seventy eight gross on the first day of the tournament. Henceforth he would never relinquish that most despised of all titles in the kingdom of golf, "Vince the Sandbagger." In 1989 he placed second in the Rough Riders tournament hosted by Trinidad's own Gene Torres in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He also once placed first in Trinidad's Happy Valley two-man tournament (paired with this sandbagging writer), and placed in the money in numerous other tournaments.
"I do really like golf," concluded Alishio. "Most of all I like the challenge of beating my buddies and trying to score better. And there is always the challenge of talking them into more strokes for our bets. Sometimes that is more difficult than flying in that big B-17"
And like an aging barrel of Joe Terry's excellent vintage wine, old "Lefty" just keeps getting better and better as he patiently awaits the warmer seasons. And all his playing partners and betting "bros" will now be ever so wary. And the strokes they once allotted to the old sandbagger from Sopris will be doled to him as readily as wild dandelion sprout in, well ... December.