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"The Wondering Jew"

2001-02-26 - 22:37 MST  

February 26, 2001

Odd Mood

There is a little box which shows up near the front of the Rocky Mountain News now and then called "Coloroddity" which has items about something unique to this state.

Today their item takes me back, remembering passing this place on the way to see my uncle, aunt and cousins.

The Humpty Dumpty Barrel Drive-In at 2776 Speer Blvd.

Occasionally I could get Dad to take us in for a root beer on the way over. I was there introduced to Mr. Louis Ballast's invention, The Cheese Burger." He got a patent on the name "Cheese Burger," in 1935.

Like so many of the good things in life, that treat came infrequently as we had either had our meal shortly before leaving home or were on our way to Edgewater environs to eat with kin. But I treasured the few Cheeseburgers I did get to eat there. It was a fun place to go then, and the only place in Denver I think I ever saw that was built to resemble something else. It did look like a barrel, a big one.

I did get to go there with some of the kids once in a while and even had change in my pocket to indulge my craving, or arranged a trade of one kind or another with a kid who had some money. Think I wrote a report for one of my friends once for two cheeseburgers and a root beer.

Then I quit school, went to work, the war came. I thought the the one piece of music that reminded me of what I visualized Germany as being was popular shortly before the war. "The Beer Barrel Polka," played I believe by the Glahe Musette, it was on all the Jukes. Not too long after that came the Spike Jones, "Right in der Fuhrer's Face." I think one of the romantic parting songs then was, "Don't go under the apple tree with any one else but me," Not too sure what the title was, but the music is in my mind. I digress I guess.

It was war time, I bought a 31 Model A Ford Victoria, the one with the funny hump in the back, and the black treated cloth top. It was a very individualistic beast, the gear shift stick could be pulled up and rotated to be out of the way when hanking and panking was in process. The dashboard was mounted on the back of the gas tank, which fed the carburetor by gravity. A bit of plumbing I was made aware of by one of my fun loving friends was the shut off valve in the gas line just below the gas tank. It took more than one of his pranks before I caught on and threatened to make him walk.

My first car, a new wife and not too long after that a new baby. The grand slam of my life's firsts.

We were in War, rationed were a lot of things. Tires and gasoline were hummers. The farmers were better off than us city folk as they had a certain amount of leeway, due to extra ration stamps for farm equipment with gasoline engines etc. I managed to drive back and forth to work and go see our folks by running the gas line through the manifold heater, mixing the gas with diesel fuel and putting shots of mothballs in the gas tank. It worked for as long as I had the Model A.

Speaking of Model A's - later, after the war and we were living in Moline, Illinois I had a model A. Being familiar with it, I was happy. One afternoon on the way home the engine sputtered and died. I managed to find an auto supply shop and one by one replaced every replaceable item on the beast. I had though failed to remember one thing until in a fit of frustration I banged my forehead on the dash and saw the gas guage go to one half full. The guage was a flotation thing and had hung up. Whatever caused the engine to die had been cured -- maybe by the first thing I replaced. Autos have a way of teaching lessons in an unpleasant way.

Back to the previous history again.

We moved closer in, close enough I could ride the street car almost to work, and Heather and I could ride the Denver Union Tramway where we wanted to go. Even then some of that company's vehicles were gasoline busses.

Once, after the war and we had returned from living in Florida ten years, things had settled down pretty well and we were riding with a friend over to Lakeside Amusement Park, I asked him to go over Speer Boulevard and stop at the Humpty Dumpty and offered to treat for root beers.

Sure you know the answer . . . . . it was not there, period.

Other places where firsts were initiated in Denver were Baur's, a real fancy eating place which also had those fancy bakery goods counters and fabulous candy counters and a soda fountain. Oh, it was Society's darling back then. Mom took me in once or twice, me on my best behaviour and my eyes as big as hen's eggs. Otto Baur (I think his name was Otto) had invented the ice cream soda, one day the establishment moved uptown toward Broadway, we went in there a time or two, it wasn't anything special up there we decided.

There was something in the way of food preparation that was invented by a chef at the Manhattan Restaurant on Larimer Street, something he threw together once which became popular, I can't remember what it was though.

I am sure I know where to look. There is a Denver historian Mr. Noel who has written several books on the town history and those will be my next book purchases, and then of course the hunt in the used book stores for the out of print ones.

It is always titilliating to read the scandalous doings of our early denizens. At one time Denver was a rip roaring, wide open western town. Gold miners, Indians going to and from reservations and the cattlemen who were in town for a royal toot. The builders of and the workers on the railroads, the smelters, the Merchants who supplied the miners with grocery items, the establishments who sold mining equipment were all pretty open people.

Speaking of mining equipment, I believe that the original "jackhammer" was designed and manufactured at Gardner Denver over in north east Denver. Their huge drop hammer thudding, giving the feel of the impact to the soles of my feet, making a hell of a noise in their factory over near the Union Pacific Railroad shops. Their rock drills were big items in the mines, supplanting the sledge hammered, hand held drills in the mines.

So, my memory meanders like a twisty path in the woods, sometimes by pretty flowers, sometimes almost doubling back on itself, maybe near a stream which is reciting beautiful poetry, chuckling a bit, stopping to listen and then going under the shade of the giants of the plains -- the trees. I enjoy the trip, but I guess other people get bored when I go off on a tangent into an Odd Mood . . . . . . .

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