In their own words:
Fred Bishop looking forward to family’s 130th reunion
Long-time Westside resident Oliver Frederick “Fred” Bishop will turn 88 in August – the same month that the family of which he is the patriarch will hold its 130th reunion in Thorndale
Park on Uintah Street. A man who loved farm work in his younger days, he still rises early. “There’s no reason for it,” he said in a recent interview. “I just roll out of bed and get with it.”
Q. How did your family first come here?
A. My grandfather (Sam) Samuel Jasper Bishop came to Colorado on a cattle drive sometime in the 1870s before it became a state (1876). After Sam returned to Illinois, a wagon train went west including great-grandfather Oliver Hazzard Bishop and his wife Zelphia Maria (Crocker); brother William Weily and his wife Alma Elmira (Howard) Bishop; and Oliver's two sons, Samuel Bishop and wife-to-be Nancy Ellen Layton (later married in Colorado Springs Dec. 28, 1876), and Albert James Bishop and wife Rebecca Jane Catherin (Fuson).
Q. Where did they live?
A. Oliver and Zelphia homesteaded near Husted, in Jack's Valley [now a training area on the Air Force Academy grounds]. Sam and Nancy homesteaded near Table Rock [east of Monument]. They had nine children, including the twins (Fred and Ed), who were born Aug. 19, 1878, at Oliver's ranch. Others in the family also settled in the Husted or Table Rock areas.
Q. Who were your parents?
A. Oliver Fredrick “Fred” Bishop Sr. and Lilley May French. They were married Jan. 21, 1908. Ed had married her sister Nancy six years earlier. Both girls had lived on a ranch near Ramah, but their father died in a coal accident. The year my parents got married it was leap year, and my mother said she asked my father if he would marry her, and he said yes. My father and mother lived all their lives in Colorado, mostly in the Calhan and Peyton area, until they moved to Colorado Springs in 1931.
Q. The twins stayed close all their lives, didn't they?
A. Both had handlebar mustaches and lots of people couldn't tell the difference between them, but they'd never let on [if one got mistaken for the other]. Once when they were kids, Fred took a girl to a party and Ed took her home. They didn't do everything the same. Once Dad grew a full beard, but Uncle Ed never went for that.
Q. Would you talk about what it was like growing up?
A. I was the sixth of 12 children, born Aug. 22, 1920, west and south of Calhan. Living on a farm was a good life, but when I was 11 years old, my parents moved to Colorado Springs. By this time, my oldest sister Ila was married. We lived at different places, some of them on the Westside, including the 2900 block of West Pikes Peak and four years at 218 S. Eighth St. Schools I went to included Whittier, Washington and West. Times were a lot harder for a big family living in town; fortunately, we did bring a cow in to have milk. And we also had two goats for milk as brother Vergal could not keep cow's milk down. He was what they called a blue baby - only lived to age 4. (Another brother, Walter, who was born in 1912, only lived half a year.) We had some chickens in town and Dad always had a large garden to help feed us. We would make our own hominy from hard corn. We dried apples to have in the wintertime. We all worked together and my mother canned beets, carrots, peas and all kinds of jellies and jams and mincemeat. My mother also made a lot of our clothes and quilts and saved the feathers off the turkeys and chickens for pillows. The Depression was on [during the '30s], and we kids sold papers and did anything we could to help the family progress.
Q. When you got out of high school, what did you do?
A. I did not graduate from high school, but later I got a GED. After I left high school, I did farm work, a thing I liked to do. I worked two years for Edith and Ivan Johnson, north of the Babcock hog ranch and near what's now the intersection of Powers and Constitution. After that I went up to a farm in Monument, where some of my work was cutting corn, filling the silo and milking cows. When you're filling a silo, you've got to keep the pitchfork going because that stuff is coming down all around you. And when you get to the top of the silo, it's pretty risky because if you get too close to the edge you could fall off. Some of the cows gave as much as five gallons of milk morning and night - 10 gallons a day. I also worked on a large dairy farm south and east of Falcon, milking 15 cows morning and evening.
Q. Can you talk about your marriage?
A. I married Yvonne Helen Schneider (who was born in Victor) Aug. 21, 1941, at her mother's apartment on Dale Street. We were married nearly 60 years. She passed away May 5, 2000. We met through the job I had then at a restaurant off South Tejon. I was working as a dishwasher/cook and playing guitar and singing Western music. Yvonne would listen sometimes, and I asked her if she wanted to go to a show. She told her mom, and her mom told her to tell me that I had to go and ask for her permission. After six weeks, I said, “How about you and I getting married?” Yvonne said, “You'll have to ask Mom.” We got married on what I thought was my 21st birthday [his mother always told him he was born at 11 p.m. Aug. 21, 1920, but the birth certificate says Aug. 22].
Q. How were you affected by World War II?
A. In August 1942, when Yvonne was pregnant with our first child [Fredda, who was born Dec. 18 that year], I got called up to the Army Air Force. Our second child, Oliver Frederick III, was born July 10, 1944. Eventually I was shipped overseas and served in England, France, Belgium and Germany. I was a supply sergeant with the 1925th Ammunition Ordnance Company, and my job was to see that our troops got food, clothing and blankets. Our company moved up the line as the war moved up.
Q. When were your other children born?
A. Rickie was born Oct. 15, 1946; Samuel was born April 28, 1950; and Shawnee was born May 5, 1954. All five are still alive, with families of their own; and Shawnee still lives in Colorado Springs. Rick and Sam live in Colorado (Rick in Meeker and Sam in Leadville).
Q. After the war, what kind of work did you do?
A. After returning home in August 1945, I went back to work for George Eldebrand. He owned a group of businesses at Sawatch and Cucharras, including the Midland Creamery, Union Ice & Fuel and Hollywood Butter. I'd been working inside, in the creamery, just before the war. I said I wanted an outside job, and they said we've got plenty of that, and so they made an ice man out of me. I delivered ice on the Westside, from Conejos to the 3200 block west.
Q. What do you remember about the Westside in those days?
A. There used to be a grocery store and an ice cream shop near 15th and Colorado. Most all the grocery stores took some ice. This was before everyone had refrigeration. Mrs. Daring was the ice cream store owner. She needed a lot of ice. At Christmas she said I'd been such a good ice man, she'd give me five dollars. I said, “You've been such a good customer, I'll give it back.” The ice came in 300-pound blocks. Each was sawed part way, so you could cut it apart with an ice pick into smaller blocks. A lot of homes had 100-pound freezers or ice boxes. At one apartment house, I went in one time with a 150-pound block on my back and a 50- pound block with another set of tongs. The elevator wasn't working so I walked with that ice up to the third floor. Wouldn't you know, nobody up there wanted any ice, so I tossed it all out a back door . No way I was going to carry it all back down.
Q. What was your longest job?
A. In June 1947, I went to work for the TimKen Company's Rock Bit division. I worked there 34 years and retired in September 1982. I started out as a janitor. After two weeks, I told them I could do a lot more than sweep and mop the floor. They said in two weeks, we will put on another shift. So I moved up to operating machines. Over the years, I also worked in tool grinding, maintenance and as a foreman (my last 15 years).
Q. You've lived in the same house more than 50 years?
A. We bought our home at 1710 W. St. Vrain St. in 1954, where I still live. There was a contractor building homes on the Westside, and I liked his work. He told me to see his agent. I did, and he set up so I could get a G.I. loan to buy our house. When we moved here, we had a mailbox over on 17th Street, then later we got our mail here at the house. At that time, St. Vrain was a dirt street, and when it rained or snowed, our street was one big mud puddle. After so much of that, they brought in a lot of gravel, which helped a lot, and later the city put in curbs and paved the street.
Q. How many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren do you have?
A. Nine grandchildren, 11 great-grand children and 1 great-great grandson (born Sept. 6, 2007, in Hutchinson, Kan.).
Q. How close-knit is your family?
A. Back in those earlier days, my dad and his brothers and sisters were very, very close. Most of them lived in this general area and they'd visit each other a lot. It may have had something to do with so many members of the family coming out to Colorado originally on that wagon train. Since August 1878, there has been a Bishop reunion, so the one this year will be the 130th. The first reunion was at my great-grandfather's ranch, when the twins were born, then at different places. In recent years it has been at Thorndale Park. Since 1919, at the suggestion of Albert James Bishop, it has always been the first Sunday in August. That way, those that don't come each year will know when and where the reunion will be held. I think it's pretty great that the younger ones want to keep the reunion going.
Editor’s note: “In their own words” question/ answer interviews with interesting Westside residents is an occasional feature in the Westside Pioneer.