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Guest column: Boyhood 'posse' played in empty lot that became Dairy Queen

By Ron Wright

      
Ron Wright stands with a garden he planted one recent summer at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. His connection with the ranch is noted in his guest column and further clarified in the editor's note at the bottom.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Growing up on the “Westside” of Colorado Springs in the 50's was an interesting time.
       Many idyllic times after school and on weekends were spent with what might be called our “posse.” Where that name came from, I suppose, was from the old western nomenclature. Whatever term was used then or now, really all the “Westsider” kids had their own special groups that they hung out with.
       Our posse of about 12 gathered at an empty lot at the southeast corner of 22nd Street and West Colorado Avenue to play games we just made up or to play baseball. We chose that spot since the original Blunt Park (now part of the Goodwill complex) on Cucharras Street always had their own posse and it was their “turf.” Blunt Park has since been moved to the 2300 block of West Vermijo. This allowed the expansion of Goodwill on the south side of Colorado Avenue after the building was purchased from the Golden Flake Potato Chip Factory. (I digress.)
       Our “little piece of turf” was suddenly dug up, and we were notified not to play baseball or hang around because a building was going in there! Lots of feelings were hurt over this, and our group of kids decided to find another weekend and after school place instead of joining up with another posse that just wanted to get into trouble and fight all the time. Our place, it was decided, would be the “White House Ranch” and the lake behind it in the Garden of The Gods.
       As time passed and we saw what was being built at 22nd and Colorado, we resolved that perhaps this was going to be all right. It was going to be a Dairy Queen! We were as a group pleased with that, because we all were having a good time hanging around “Whitehouse Ranch” and the lake.
       Our family lived in the house next to Blunt Mortuary at that time. “Little Harry,” the son of Harry Senior, and I watched the Dairy Queen being built daily and let the owners know that they had taken our playground from us. We were pretty good about complaining, and the owners told us to be sure to show up for the grand opening - they had a surprise for those of us who had used the plot of land. Side note to this: Harry Senior served as Colorado Springs mayor in the mid-1960s.
       At the grand opening, we all gathered and were told that each of us would be given ice cream cones for the next two weeks! We could come back every day and have a free cone. The news got around, and the other posse we had stayed away from thought they were entitled also and began showing up, saying they were part of us. Needless to say, the cones did stop after two weeks, but most of us continued to be customers and said thank you.
       My son in later years worked there as a fry cook. It was one of his first jobs as a teenager. My sister also worked there. Mr. and Mrs. Karlson (who took over the business in 1975) helped a lot of kids get experience in being employed. Thank you.

       Editor's note: Wright's reference to playing at “White House Ranch” in his youth is noteworthy, in that the 230-acre location later was bought by the city, renovated into a historic site and renamed Rock Ledge Ranch; and Wright has been president of its volunteer Living History Association since 2005. His column was inspired by the Westside Pioneer report that the long-time Dairy Queen at 23rd and Colorado had closed in December. See article at this link.

(Posted 1/12/17; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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