Friday, June 12, 2015

Near Routt Avenue, on either side of Canal Street

My TBT is a fairly recent one.  Last week I was finishing research in Pueblo, CO.  I'm going to write a book about my family and how their lives in the Southwest reflects specific experiences set in particular social contexts.  Reading that last sentence makes a bit of smoke come out of my ears and sends my brain into gentle seizures.   Which means that I still have a good deal of refining to do before anything I write is ready for prime time.

The short version of the story would highlight the fact that my folks were immigrants that lived in a company town.  In this case the company was the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company owned by members of the Rockefeller and Gould heirs.  The steel mill was the primary industry for the city.  It was here, in the part of town known as Bessemer, that my family worked and died.  Their lives and how their history was shared is a part of the story.  How did this place transition from the town where the mill was omnipotent to the place that I knew that seemed a bit of the American Dream? 

Bessemer was a city whose community members had strong ties to their ethnic and racial roots.  Some groups still exist but are in small numbers.  There are restaurants and signs that hearken back to to Black, Czech, German, Greek, Italian, and Mexican communities from which the CF&I workers came.  It was here that many families immigrated in search of the American Dream.  

The children of the working class reached the plateau that their parents dreamt about.  Some of the children stayed and many moved on, only to visit on occasion.

Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture from the corner of Evans and Jones
Beginning in the early 1980s Pueblo, known as Steel Town, saw their economy plummet.  A generation struggled to find other ways to develop a solid economic base for their community.  And with this yet even more community members left.

At this point in time there are a lot of absentee landlords who own property in Bessemer.  Modernization has taken out some of the brick buildings of the 20th and century and replaced them with stucco painted Navajo Beige buildings with nondescript style.  

I have questions about the past.  Who were people who lived in the old neighborhoods?  Who kept the businesses viable a century ago?  I have questions about the future.  How will gentrification manifest itself in a town that has become more vibrant in areas to the North and West?  What will the major sources of income be for a town of over 100,000.  So many questions came to mind as I was doing my research.

Research is not the heavy work that was done in the mill, but it can make you hungry.  Luckily there are cafes and diners in the area that were established "back in the day".  Aunty Bev's Bessemer Inn is "Dedicated to the Bessemer Community".  I didn't go in, but I'm betting that Mexican food is available.  Being in Southeast Colorado, you likely have your choice of red or green chile with any dish.

I had lunch at the Mill Stop Cafe.  It was recommended by a local.  The restaurant to the left was closed, but the Mill Stop continued to have customers come through the door.  All generations, all sorts of languages, all sorts of tanning ability. Not bad for a cafe that is only open Monday through Friday.

I ordered chile verde for lunch.  It arrived with a red sauce and was topped with pan fried potatoes.  It came with a sopaipilla. Bliss topped with honey.  Some folks call this style Pueblo-Mexican food.  I called it yummy.  Yes, I think I need to come back and do more research in town.


  1. I think I'll enjoy the progress of this research.

    1. There are small surprises throughout the trip.