Native Writes: Pulling the memory triggers


Each day I discover more interesting things about Alamosa and how some of my memories must be triggered or they lie dormant.

Lower Downtown Alamosa or LODO south of the tracks wasn’t always sleeping quietly.

Every summer, a traveling performance troupe would set up their huge tent on a vacant lot. “The Brunks Comedians” was a great break from the oaters at the Grove and color movies at the Rialto. The town had its theaters, but the tent show was welcomed.

I collected pop bottles for admission. We could do that, then, with three bottling companies in busy operation, just at the other side of the tracks from LODO.

The trains were running, but passenger operations dwindled as the automobile caught on and the railroad yards yawned and stretched.

Bus operations were good and shared the railroad terminal ticket stations.

People came and went. Two large hotels just south of the tracks along Seventh Street housed railroad workers year-round and welcomed harvest crews in the summer. One is gone, but the other remains.

Adams State was drawing attention as a top-notch teacher training institution. My memory trigger launches laughter.

The “Normal” on the front of Richardson Hall definitely doesn’t mean the students were. Back then, persons entering the teaching profession studied “norms,” meaning accepted methods of instruction, and before Gov. Billy Adams was able to engineer the building of a “teacherage,” students attended classes in the Masonic building and various churches until their certificates were awarded.

The word, “Normal,” remained. Photos exist of students in the ‘70s making odd faces in photos in front of the building, making sure the carved sign appeared.

Caretakers and night employees around town lived where they worked. I lived in the second story of the fire station, since my dad was the night engineer. He was also jailer until a new jail was built and street superintendent because he knew the town.

There weren’t many streets back then.

Many of my childhood friends recall the joy of sliding down the brass pole from our home to the cement floor below, where the fire engines were parked. The pole is still at the main fire station, but no one uses it.

Lower Alamosa didn’t get the attention the city north of the tracks did. I still don’t know for sure why. I have my suspicions, but there’s no proof.

It was pretty much the bedroom area for the railroad and home to the families who were here when the train first chugged in.

There’s little evidence of the once-busy railroad shops, save for a lengthy vacant area on La Due Avenue and a string of almost-empty lots between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Many houses appear alike from the front, designed by the railroad. The insides differ, since occupants were allowed to decorate.

Business buildings were generally confined to that — business. Some enterprises closer to the tracks accepted animal pelts and sold coal and firewood. They disappeared around the time I went to school and that was fine with me. The odor is unforgettable.

Alamosa was built alongside the tracks. If one drives along Sixth Street and looks south, the backs of the old buildings tell the story of an early industrial area.

They faced Eighth Street, which held its own in supplying the community.

State Avenue south of the tracks was also a place to be. That may be why Brunks chose to set up there, as did carnivals and other itinerant fun.

I will find another old-timer and figure it out.

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