Yellowed papers, colorful past
Ebersole recalls his dad's Westside publishing days in the '30s
LaRue Ebersole recently visited the Holly Leaf, an arts gift shop at 10 S. 25th St. |
He wasn’t shopping. He was looking for part of his past.
The Westsider-since-1925 found it in one place only – a covered hole in the wall where the coal stove’s chimney used to vent into the alley. The stove was a memory from more than 70 years before, when that same business space was used for a newspaper and his father, C. LaRue (“C.L.”) Ebersole, was the owner.
The paper was a weekly, called the Colorado Springs Independent (no connection with the current local paper by that name.) Library records are incomplete, but it apparently lasted (initially as the Iris) from 1889 to 1950. Ebersole owned it from June 1930 to May 1932 before selling it back to its previous publisher (and father-in-law) John C. (“J.C.”) McCreary.
LaRue, now 79, was only 6 years old when his dad bought the paper. A lot of the memories have faded with time, though he recalls the basic layout of the business, which encompassed 10 as well as 12 S. 25th St. (the news office at 10, and the press equipment at 12).
He clearly remembers his job there. After his father printed the several hundred papers in the weekly run, he and his sister, Nadine, 4 ½ years his senior, would help fold them, write people’s addresses in a corner and take them to the post office for mailing.
Folding was no small job for a little boy. Each paper came off the press in a single sheet and required three folds. The first fold was to distinguish the pages, 1 through 4. (Side note: These were much bigger pages than those in modern papers – each was 17 ½ by 24 inches, compared to the Pioneer’s 11 ¼ by 16 ½ or the Gazette’s 12 ¼ by 21 ½). The second fold was horizontal, across the front page, and the final fold was vertical to make a mailable size of about 12 by 9 inches.
The post office in those days was on Colorado Avenue, in the west half of the building where Latte’s is now, recalled LaRue, who would go on to become a World War II Navy veteran and a 38-year employee of Colorado Interstate Gas.
Now retired, he volunteers at the Old Colorado City Historical Society – work that helped inspire him recently to look back through the yellowing copies of his father’s newspaper that had sat in a milk box for decades.
He has some vivid recollections from that era of the people and what it was like. These include walks with his sister from his parents’ house near Whittier School to his grandparents’ house at 3317 W. Colorado Ave., and the day in the early ‘30s when Whittier School – then illuminated only by natural light through its large windows – sent students home because haze from Dust Bowl winds had made the sky too dark to allow reading.
He also recalls Colorado Avenue only being paved as far west as 30th Street, streetcar tracks down the middle of the avenue, and most of the land north of West Platte Avenue being undeveloped land where youngsters like him could play.
Another memory is of his mother, Vera, telling him about earlier days in Old Colorado City, when the brothels still operated on the south side of the avenue, and that she had been told never to walk over there.
A lingering mystery involves C.L. Ebersole’s coming to own the paper and then sell it. A mechanically minded man, he had no experience in newspapers before moving to Colorado City in 1925 and going to work for McCreary at the Independent in 1925.
After 1932, LaRue said, his father never worked in newspapers again (he went on to work for a number of years at the Golden Cycle Mill off 21st Street). More mysteriously, he never went back to the paper to visit McCreary nor would he join the family in visits to the McCreary house.
“They must have gotten cross-ways somehow,” LaRue said. “I figured that out as I got older.”
His father didn’t discuss his publishing days. “He never really talked to me about newspapers at all,” LaRue said. “He talked more about his childhood in Ohio, driving tourists out here (when he worked summers for a Colorado Springs tourism company).”
His mother didn’t talk about the newspaper in later years, either. But she did write poetry and he thinks her father (McCreary) published it at times. Now, with both his parents having passed on, LaRue said he regrets not having interviewed them more deeply about that part of their past.
When C.L. Ebersole took over the paper, the information appeared under the headline, “Change in the Independent,” in the June 5, 1930 edition: “With this issue a change takes place in the Independent, the plant being sold to LaRue Ebersole, who has been employed on the paper the past five years. We are getting out because of age, eye trouble and rheumatism.”
The “we” clearly refers to McCreary, whose writing style was easily recognizable (despite the lack of bylines on stories) for sometimes excessive informality, a vast knowledge of Westside history, an obvious belief that most politicians cared little for ordinary citizens, support of the business community and a love of puns. He was a dominant Westside journalist/printer for half a century, owning three papers (the Iris, 1904-1906; the Argus, 1908-1917); and the Independent from 1923-1930 and 1932-37), as well as writing a column for the Independent until about 1950.
Obviously, McCreary had a hard time “getting out” all the way. Even though the paper’s staff box changed from “J.C. McCreary, prop.” to “C.L. Ebersole, prop.” McCreary-esque articles continued to dominate the pages. The return to McCreary ownership came with no fanfare. The paper of May 26, 1932, showed Ebersole’s name in the staff box; the June 2 paper did not.
There is no record of when the stove and chimney went away.
Westside Pioneer article