21 January 2009

moins ça change

My family lived in Boulder, Colorado from 1955 to 1961, after living in northern Wisconsin and before we moved to central Nebraska. This week, fifty odd years later, I'm visiting Boulder before ALA Midwinter in Denver. I walked several miles in Boulder today, passing the homes we lived in and the schools where I went to 4th to 9th grades. It was quite a day. As expected, everything looked a little small but, wow, what an expedition.

I'm staying with Elaine Paul, the art history visual resources curator at the University of Colorado, who couldn't be a more gracious and wonderful host. She lives in a house that was built about 1960, a low-pitched roof ranch house with a wonderful mid-century feel and a great sidelight window which is perfect for Annabella (dog) to look out of as she luxuriates on the big dog pillow. I've also visited with James Ascher (cataloger) and Lia Pileggi and her kids (Lia's the assistant VR curator at CU).

My pedestrian expedition today was anything but pedestrian. I started out from Elaine's on 35th Street near Baseline and walked over to the Chautauqua campus at 11th Street on the South side of Baseline. It is quite a bit higher than Baseline and the buildings are those wonderful camp meeting buildings one would expect of a Chautauqua. Back down 12th Street which was my Denver Post paper route when we lived here. Some of the houses seemed, at least generally, familiar: the type of porch I might have aimed a paper at. Midway between Chautauqua and the collegetown area is the Boulder History Museum, set in the Harbeck-Bergheim House which was built in 1899. It's a good solid stone house, not too fancy with historical exhibits and a dandy little bookshop.

After the museum, I checked to see if I could find the record store that had been mentioned on College Avenue. I didn't see it. When I asked if they had CDs at the Colorado Book Store, she said "like you mean pre-recorded." It used to be that "vinyl" seemed ancient but now who'd do anything but download music? More anon. I did find a record store downtown.

Back to 12th Street and down to University. When I got to Marine Street, I turned West since we had lived in the basement for a few months at 601 Marine Street while they got the parsonage next to the church ready. I remember the house as white clapboard with a pleasant peach arbor in the backyard. It looked really small, plaster, no peach arbor but some evidence of fancier backyard at some point in the past. My younger sisters used to take their baths in the laundry tub. We were rather camping out in the basement, the house being owned by one of the older couples in the church where my dad preached. I also remember my mom cooking what she called polenta there but now I'd probably call it corn meal mush (rather like Cream of Wheat but corn).

Continuing on, I walked on 6th Street to Arapahoe, past the house (I think) that retired Pastor Hurley and his wife lived in and where my grandmother stayed when she visited us after my little brother was born. Next door is a wonderful but boarded up classical revival house. When Elaine got home and I was describing my expedition, she told me about some women artists who did their inaugural ambush performance at the long-deserted house. The group is called The Bridge Club and their performance entitled "Pillows & Pantyhose" is described on their blog in an post from December 2004.

The Boulder house we lived in longest was at 1648 9th Street, next to the Seventh-Day Baptist Church. The house is now painted a creamy color. The church is now a social services agency. The big blue spruce tree in front of the church is gone and replaced by a deciduous tree. The back yard of the house now has a couple infill houses. Highland Elementary School (my 5th and 6th grade school) is kitty corner from the church and is now condos. The school grounds where Billy and I played cars is now mostly filled with additional condos and townhouses. Other than scale, it seemed pretty familiar.

I continued down 9th Street to Pearl, the main street in downtown Boulder with several blocks turned into a pedestrian mall. I stopped at Trident Book Store, found a Patty Limerick book for a good price, had a good cup of coffee (actually two since the refill was free) and read some more of Other Colors by Orhan Pamuk. After a bit of refresher, it was more Pearl Street window shopping and dawdling. I turned at 13th to go get a schedule for the Boulder-Denver bus and the post office. Back to Pearl and I even resisted stopping at one of the used bookshops but found an Alan Bennett book from some years ago for a dollar at another used book store.

A little further along, I turned up 20th Street to find Whittier Elementary School (my 4th grade) which is now billed as an international elementary school. It's a lovely building, very school architecture. I sat at the picnic table in the side yard and wrote postcards to my siblings.

I hadn't been able to remember the exact address of the first house we lived in in Boulder. We'd only lived there a year when the house next to the church came on the market and the church bought it. When Elaine and I were looking at the map to find Whittier Elementary School, I blurted out "1918 Bluff Street." Weird how memories can come up from the deep. Anyway, I went on from Whittier School to Bluff Street to look at 1918. Oh, it's a cute little house. The picket fence and yard were familiar but I don't think I remember a second floor (half a second floor, really) or that it was T-shaped. Perhaps we only lived in the back half of the first floor. The picket fence had a sign that indicated the owners had applied for a solar exception review. I'm sure my brother will be pleased to hear that. I sat on the retaining wall of the house across the street for quite a while, looking at the house. Of the houses we lived in, this was certainly the most attractive to me now. A nice little clapboard cottage, with some diamond shingles in the front peak of the roof.

On to 19th Street and I passed the house that I think the Halls lived in. In 1955-1956, we didn't have a television but they did. It was pretty exciting to go visit and get to see the TV. Back to Pearl and a stop for some lunch: nice spaghetti ($5.95 for all you could eat, and homemade spaghetti at that!). Satisfied, I continued on my way back to Elaine's, stopping at the Boulder Map Gallery. The fellow there had also first experienced Boulder in the mid-1950s so we talked a bit about the good old days. He had some nice postcards and wonderful little painted globe marbles which I couldn't resist.

Phew, tired feet, happy feet.


e said...

I just bought Other Colors. I really like his writing style.

Ilaria said...

Hi Sherman,
it wounds like you are having a fabulous trip! At ALA look for my friend Lisa Norberg from Chapel Hill. She is the subject of my Twitter social experiment on turtle^haus, if you've followed.
Was your father a preacher/pastor/reverend? If so, wow, I did not know that!
Love you!

Carol M. Clarke said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane! I remember most of it.

Sherman Clarke said...

My dad was a pastor in the Seventh-Day Baptist denomination. It's a small Baptist denomination which observes Saturday as the Sabbath. It has turned much more fundamental than the good old days, much to my father's distress. My father was Baptist in the libertarian mold, socially conservative but willing to accept that other people wouldn't find the same answers he did.