In their own words:
Neil Luehring and Bob Edgar – recalling the Westside of old
Both born in 1927, Neil Luehring and Bob Edgar became friends while attending Westside schools and have lived in Colorado Springs all their
lives. While Bob grew up in the Old Colorado City area, Neil’s childhood home was Gen. William Palmer’s Glen Eyrie, where his father and
mother, Carl and Ethel, had been made caretakers by then-manager Raymond Banning-Lewis.
Both Neil and Bob served in the military during or just after World War II. Luehring went on to become a city fireman for 25 years (including 17 as a station captain). Edgar’s career was in cooking, including 23 years at the early Village Inn in Colorado Springs. Both men are now retired.
Q. Where did you two meet?
Neil - At Whittier School, in the second grade. We went on through Whittier, then we went to West Junior, then Palmer High [called Colorado Springs High School at the time].
Q. What kinds of things did you do?
Neil - We got in trouble all the time. (Both laugh.)
Bob - Neil’s parents were caretakers at Glen Eyrie, and they decided to bring him into Whittier. And when you were in the same grade, you were in all your classes together. And of course, he and I were in sports; we liked to do track and all that sort of stuff, all that normal stuff in school.
Neil - Weekends, I used to go around with him on his paper route. I’d ride my bike in from Glen Eyrie and go around with him and deliver his papers, and get in trouble. (Both laugh.)
Q - What paper, what year?
Bob - The Advertiser. It was a weekly paper that was delivered all over town. Democrat Publishing would pay us a small amount.
Q - What kind of trouble would you get in?
Neil - We just had a good time, like a couple of boys do.
Bob - We never got in any serious trouble [although] there were outhouses at 30th and 31st near Pikes Peak that we tipped over. But we got caught and had to put them back up.
Q - Outhouses? Did the city put them there?
Bob - No, houses would have them. That was before sewers and stuff.
Q - Were there more places to explore then?
Neil - We used to go down in this red rock field that the city just bought [Red Rock Canyon Open Space]. Bob and I went down there, and up on the old mill hill, all the fine sand and stuff. In those days you went everywhere.
Bob - In those days, the Bocks would let us in up there, but this one year, a boy from our school went up there and fell off into the quarry and drowned, so that's what stopped us from being able to go up in there. Another place we'd go was the old mill there on 30th and 31st, which wasn't there when we were kids, but the old buildings were there. And we'd go down to the fire station and you know, this is not to be published, when the fire trucks would go out, a bunch of us kids, whenever we were around, we'd all run up the steps and slide down the poles.
Q - We've got to put that in. Who's going to get you in trouble for that now?
Neil - I done it for 25 years. (laughs)
Bob - We had this one girl who slipped and broke her ankle, so they locked the doors on us and we couldn't go in there, but we could always go down there and the firemen would sit out in front; they could sit out in front in those days. We'd sit out there and bat the breeze with them and watch the traffic go by, and play mumblepeg with a knife - you know how you play mumblepeg. And over in those days east and back of the fire station were two big vacant lots, and that's where us kids would meet and we'd play baseball games there and at night we'd gang up around there and play tincan nirty, You know, you never worried about anything; our parents didn't have to worry about us, everybody was safe. And in the wintertime, the city would block off the Pikes Peak Avenue hill from 25th to 28th streets, and we could go up there and do our sled riding after school and come down that hill. There were just an awful lot of things to do and there were a lot of us kids who grew up together and we'd play our games and do whatever.
Q - (to Bob) Did you know the Bock family?
Bob - When I was a kid, where Safeway is now, Bock had his stables, and they had a house right there. And they'd take the horses at night over the bridge across Fountain Creek and run them over into Red Rock Canyon. We'd go down there and help clean the stalls just to be around the horses.
Q - You knew the older Bock?
Bob - And Richard and John too. They were 4 and 6 years older. Richard was nice. John was like his dad, a little hot- headed.
Q - Did you do stuff with them?
Bob - They were just around there, working. And of course, we knew them from school. They were a few grades ahead, but they were from the Westside.
Q - Where else would you play?
Bob - One thing that we used to do, was down on South 28th street, down below Cucharras, where Fountain Creek runs through there, there was a big sand dune deal and we'd fill gunnysacks with sand and fill the creek up and make us a swimming pool, and we'd go down there and we'd swim. It was cold water.
Neil - We'd have a rope hung up there on the tree that we'd swing across the creek and just jump in.
Q - (to Neil) How did you get into town when you were living out at Glen Eyrie?
Neil - I rode my bicycle, I rode my horse in once in a while. I always had a horse out at Glen Eyrie. My mom was getting paid to run the school bus. She'd drop me off at Bob's house, then when it come time to go to school we'd go up to school. He and his brother and I used to ride our bikes over to West. Then I'd go back to their house and fool around till Mom took me back home.
Q - Spend the nights sometimes?
Neil - I don't know if we ever did much of that.
Bob - I would come out to Glen Eyrie and spend overnight, and then we'd go horseback riding and running around.
Neil - We'd bring city kids and scare the hell out of them in that castle.
Q - Was Bob a city kid?
Neil - He was a city boy. (laughs)
Bob - But I used to tell him things about the castle he didn't know. My grandfather was carpenter foreman for Palmer on the finishing end. But when we were kids the castle was all locked up. So when I'd tell my grandfather I was going to go out and visit, he'd say, well, now you go here and there, and here and there's these hidden compartments, so Neil and I would explore around. If you go out there, they'll show you where fire hoses are behind these panels by the fireplaces, stuff like that.
Q - So you knew where all that was?
Bob - At one time we did (laughs).
Neil - In Queen's room, she had a panel in there like a wainscoting along the wall. There was a spot right on top of this, where the wood was shaved down real thin and you push there and it springs open this panel and there was a safe behind the panel…. Palmer was way ahead of everybody. Everything in that castle… Did you know, when they sold that castle, it had been sitting vacant for 37 years, I think it was, and there wasn't one leak when they turned the water on. It was all brass plumbing.
Q - Were you the only people living on the property then?
Neil - Except for Burghart Floral. They lived up on the hill. They had a greenhouse. We were the only family when we first went out there, until George Strake bought it and brought his family out there and moved into the pink house. Believe it was '35 when he bought that. He made my dad manager of the whole place.
Q - Wasn't 1935 also the year of the big Colorado Springs flood?
Neil - We rode into town that day to see my grandmother. She lived downtown, above what used to be the Davis Sweet Shop. Her gas was out so we were going to take her out to Glen Eyrie. We didn't know there was a flood. Out at Glen Eyrie, the weather was beautiful. I remember coming in, my dad wading in front of the car. We crossed the bridge at Monument Park, and a minute later we looked back and the bridge was out. That was quite a flood. It took out several of the bridges. There wasn't much left to cross to the other side of town.
Q - But there was no flooding at Glen Eyrie?
Neil - The flood of '35 didn't hit out there. The flood of '47 came down Queen's Canyon. We had a crew of about 50 men working out there all the time and cleaning up all that stuff that washed down, all the trees.
Q - You were about 20 then, right? Did you get involved in the cleanup?
Neil - Oh yeah. I was working with Dad, we had crews of 50 men. We were down there from May into December, cleaning that up.
Q - Did anybody get hurt in that?
Neil - No, it just wiped everything out. There used to be a real rustic, twisted cedar bridge that came from the castle over the crick to the school at Glen Eyrie. That was the way the Palmer kids would go to the schoolhouse. That flood picked it up and moved it up onto the lawn. They finally just tore it down and hauled it off. Anyway, a lot of stuff got damaged, really pretty stuff. When we first went out there, you'd have to see it to imagine what it was. Burghart's had to keep the terraces and flowers all along the slopes, and they'd have to plant those in flowers every year. That was their lease for the greenhouse, they had to keep the flowers out. They had to do it even when the thing was vacant, nobody really living there, so they could keep their lease on the greenhouse. Of course their home was up there; the greenhouse was attached to the house. You can still go up there and see the marks where the greenhouse was torn down from that house. Anyway, why, they really kept it up like somebody was living there.
Q - What was your Dad's usual job as caretaker?
Neil - Dad's job at that time basically was to keep the lawns mowed. By the time he got done mowing the 2,000 acres or whatever it was, why, the lawn would be about so high and he'd have to start on the other end and work his way back around. In the summer, that's about all he got done was mowing the lawns out there.
Q - (to Bob) Your dad, what was his job?
Bob - He was the manager for Mrs. Osborne that had Patsy's Candies. Around Busy Corner, he would work there in the wintertime, and then he would go to Manitou and open that one and run that one for them. And he worked for them for 55 years.
Q - 55 years! He was the cook there?
Bob - He cooked all the taffy, all the popcorn and the caramel corn. He started before I was born, in about '24. My parents and I and my wife (Evelyn) started a restaurant down on South Nevada across from Dorchester Park, and so he left Patsy's from '49 to '55, and then he went back to Patsy's, and that's when the Niswongers bought it, and he worked for them for quite a while. When I'd get off work over at the Village Inn at 2 o'clock, I'd go over to Busy Corner and make up a bunch of cans of popcorn, patsies and chocolate popcorn.
Q - (to Neil) What else did your dad do?
Neil - My dad was the one of the first to start hauling coal into Colorado Springs from the Florence coal fields. This was in the '30s, before we moved out to Glen Eyrie. They used to put me on top of a load of coal and I was 5 years old, and a guy was up there with me and I'd sleep all the way home. On the way down, he'd stop in Penrose and there'd be apple trees with apples hanging over the fence, and he'd stop and get me a couple of apples.
Westside Pioneer interview and transcriptionEditor’s note: The conclusion of the interview with Neil Luehring and Bob Edgar is scheduled to appear in the next issue of the Westside Pioneer July 7. Read it here.
“In their own words” question/answer interviews are an occasional feature in the Westside Pioneer.