Now and Then

Now & Then: 702 Griffin South Cañon, Colorado (1938 – 2008)

By Loretta (Stevens) Bailey

702 Griffin Ave., November 1990. Object ID: 2005.002.090; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Now:  The address above may seem a bit confusing.  For those who don’t know, at one time North Cañon and South Cañon co-existed as two separate towns, for 68 years.

A printed certificated regarding the election of Henry C. Pauls for mayor of South Cañon, April 4, 1944. Object ID: 1992.039.018; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Then:  An article in the Cañon City Daily Record dated September 30, 1959 announced the Unification Ceremonies to be held.

Less than 24 hours remain for the existence of South Canon as a separate incorporate town.  Promptly at 11:10 the celebration will begin at the ceremonial site, an area just west and adjacent to the First Street bridge.  Cars may be parked in the State Park area by the State Prison.  The outdoor ceremonial site will be roped off to accommodate approximately 450 people.  All Main Street merchants have been requested to put their old-time flags on display.

At noon when the ribbon cutting ceremony, at the center of the First Street Bridge, will occur.  The First Street bridge across the Arkansas River is to believe to be the first link between the two communities. Mention is made of a bridge in that area as early as 1861.

In July 8, 1931, the City Water Department of South Cañon, ordered fifty 5/8” x 4/3” Hersey Model F. Meters and Connections at the cost of $1,075.00.  The Hersey Manufacturing Company was in South Boston, Mass.  South Cañon City was starting to build a water system and was placing the water meters on residents’ property.

Water Meter receipt, July 8, 1931. Object ID: 2001.201.022 collection; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center South Cañon Archive Collection.

In 1938 the South Cañon Hall was built.

Then:  From 1938 to 1958, South Cañon had its own municipal building and governing body.  A mayor was elected, a town marshal was appointed, and secretarial staff was hired.  Among other duties they were to keep a water consumer, a water and general fund, and transfer water ledgers. They hired workers for a Streets Department and a Parks and Recreation Department along with the purchasing equipment.

South Cañon Storage Barn (P.W. Water) at 702 Griffin Ave., November 1990. Object ID: 2005.002.091; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

My Memories

Now:  South Cañon is near and dear to my heart, where, along with four other siblings, I was raised.  South Cañon kids had (thought they owned) the most varied playground you ever could ask for.

Expanding from the Eagle Wing trailhead east to South Ninth Street, then south from the Arkansas River to Temple Canyon, we either hiked or rode our bicycles.  Our mother would cut us loose in the mornings and sometimes it would be close to dark when we returned, our curfew time. So, I would like to include some of my family, my friends, and my memories of the South Cañon Hall, along with its diverse history.

Then: This building was a popular place for youths that lived in South Cañon.  My memories begin in the late forties to late fifties, especially during Halloween.  South Cañon Hall hosted the parties and this is how we celebrated Halloween. 

We left our home on 226 Riverside Drive shortly after dark.  Our costumes were usually homemade and our masks that covered our whole face were of some paper product and paint that would dye our faces when wet. Also, I remember how very dark it was in South Cañon and numerous irrigation ditches by the sidewalks.  In these fragile masks you had only straight-ahead vision. I was one (among a lot of others) that stepped or fell into a ditch on our way to the South Cañon Hall’s wild undomesticated Halloween Party.

(At that time children were pretty much on the loose.  Almost all houses did Trick or Treat and the treats were also unrestricted. My siblings and I never got ill or had anything dangerous given to us.)

When we showed up with our wet paper bags and painted faces, we had already sampled our treats and were on a sugar high.  We met a host of other children from South Cañon in the same condition as we were in.  However, our elation and eagerness on a scale from 1 to 10 was 10+. We crammed into the brightly lit-up hall for more fun and treats.  

The noise level was ear-piecing as we found tubs of water with bright shining red apples down in the basement.  The challenge of bobbing for apples I never was able to meet.  (Can you imagine what all kinds of germs were in that water?  Yet myself and my siblings or friends were never sick the next day.)

Another earlier attraction at the hall was a boxing club.  The gloves were donated by the Territorial Prison and were not cleaned.  My brother Roger, a year younger than me, challenged me to get into the ring with him.  We both had these huge stained boxing gloves on.  The match did not last long as a I took a punch in the face. A man there lifted me to my feet, took off my gloves off and told me, “girls are not supposed to be in the boxing ring!”  From that time on I just used their jump ropes and watched.

When I got into my teen years my best friend Mary Alice (Bloom) Clark would have her mother drop her off at my house.  We had heel taps on our shoes (a fad) and we would take the same trek to the South Cañon Hall, as on Halloween, making clicking sounds.

“Rhythm Round-Up” was at the hall was where western bands played on stage with the hardwood floor just made for dancing.  The jitter-bug, waltz, polka, and square dancing were popular at that time. This attracted teens from Florence, Penrose, Rockvale, and Williamsburg.  (We all were starting into puberty years and both Mary Alice and I were elated and eager – not sure for what.)

Now:  On May 10, 2019, the chair below was donated as a gift to the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center.  Curator of the museum, Katie Conrad, cataloged and accessioned the chair.

Armchair used at Cañon City Water Treatment Plant, ca. 1955. Object ID: 2019.032.001; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Captain’s Chair Story

The chair is not currently on display and is kept in collection storage.

Provenance:  This chair belonged to Marvin Willyard (824 South 4th Street).  Willyard worked as the water commissioner in South Cañon, then became the Water Superintendent for Cañon City.  The chair was painted by Earl Williams, former city employer.  The chair was used at Cañon City’s current water plant until May 10, 2019.  The chair was painted multiple times over the years in different colors.  It is styled like a captain’s chair, with some modern fixes under the seat for stabilization.

Cañon City Daily Record, Tuesday, August 20, 1963

Now:  Both the hall and the barn are still standing on private property at 702 Griffin.  On the east side of building was a playground, with wood and metal swings, teeter-totters, and a merry-go-round.

One thought on “Now & Then: 702 Griffin South Cañon, Colorado (1938 – 2008)

  1. Such a wonderful story! I love that all of the new trails are a continuation of the history of kids playing in the South Canon area. Thank you for sharing!

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