By Maggie Magoffin
From “Life in the Early Days” By James K. Ramstetter (1910-1996). Permission of use granted by Mary Ramstetter.
An Evening Affair
The upstairs hall of the home place was the center for many neighborhood activities. The Guy Hill Grange used it for holding its monthly meetings. Square dances were held there regularly. It was also a meeting place during election years. The local school used it for its programs and the annual graduation exercises. Any meetings of a special concern to the community were usually held there.
The upstairs hall was a large room. It had six windows on the west side, two on the south end and the north and east sides had no windows. On the north end was a chimney used for a heating stove. The east side of the room had the entrances to the stairway and a large sleeping room which was used by travelers and hired help. Benches surrounded the room on all sides for people to sit on. Folding chairs were also used to take care of large crowds.
Many meetings were held at night. The hall was lit up by a dozen or more kerosene wall lamps that had special reflectors behind them, which seemed to magnify the amount of light. A piano was located at the northeast corner of the hall. Later, the piano was replaced by a player piano. The neighborhood was blessed with quite a number of musicians who played various instruments. Most played by ear with the exception of the school teachers. One of the neighbors played the ‘bull fiddle.’
All the affairs were well attended. The outside yard would be full of buggies and horses; later when the road was improved, there were quite a few automobiles. A nighttime affair usually lasted till sunrise, as most people did not like to travel with their horses at night.
At many of the gatherings a box social would be held. At such affairs, the ladies would bring a box lunch, always wrapped up fancy, to be auctioned off later in the evening. The boxes brought by the young ladies of dating age were always auctioned off at the highest prices the young men were willing to pay. The owner of the box was supposed to be secret, but usually by some telltale mark the buyer would know who the box belonged to. This would often cause the price to go sky high. The money raised always went for a useful purpose.
I was nine years old when I attended my first box social. I had no idea about how it worked. Our father gave my twin brother and me each a quarter so we could each bid on a box. We had no understanding about the eating arrangements, so with some of the other boys, we headed for our barn with our purchased boxes, figuring on a great nighttime picnic to eat our fill. Soon, our mother located us, telling us that we had to share the box lunch with whoever brought it. In spite of pairing with some lady, we enjoyed the boxed meal very much.
July 4, 1917
This was our first Fourth of July since the United States had declared war on Germany. The behavior of the American people had changed to a war economy, but the Fourth of July still had to be celebrated.
The Golden Gate Canyon people always celebrated the Fourth of July with a big picnic on top of Guy Hill, and this was followed by a dance that evening. The dance always extended to daylight as people did not like to drive their horses late at night. This particular Fourth, about forty buggies and their teams showed up for the picnic and dance. There were few automobiles because at that time much of the Golden Gate Canyon road was too steep for most cars.
At the picnic there were all kinds of games for the children to play. The grown-ups had horse racing and other activities where horses were involved. The picnic lasted till right after sundown and then everybody headed for our grandparent’s house, which had been known as the Eight Mile House back in the days of the stagecoaches.
The ladies conducted a big drive to sell Liberty Bonds. After the bond sale, we had the usual box social. The dance, which lasted through the night, was enjoyed by all. At sunrise the ladies who had been selling Liberty Bonds decided that it was only fitting that we have some kind of ceremony. They rigged up a small platform with a tall pole to fly Old Glory from. There were some short speeches. Our little brother Walter rendered one of the speeches, “I see Germany, I see France, I see the Kaiser with a hole in his pants.” Then the final thing on the program was to raise the flag.
The flag was raised and was vigorously flapping around when pandemonium broke out. There were over forty buggies with their teams of horses. The horses had never seen a flag waving before. Some of the horses were unattended and tried to run away. Many of the buggies tangled with other buggies. Most of the drivers finally got their teams quieted down and proceeded to go home. Our father made us walk behind the buggy as he was having trouble controlling the horses. It was a good thing we were walking as the horses finally turned the buggy over. When we started up a steep hill, the horses calmed down and we finally got home safely.
The only creature that seemed undisturbed was the grey donkey owned by our neighbors Joseph and Elizabeth Jully. The donkey was saddled and they both rode him home that sunrise morning without any problems.
From Maggie: If you have any interesting stories about family or acquaintances who have lived or still live in Gilpin County or the surrounding areas, please contact me. You can reach me at 303-881-3321. Email me at Maggie@Maggiempublications.com, or mail me at P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80006-6495.
Be sure to check out my website for past columns at www.MaggieMPublications.com.
The first two books in my Misadventures of the Cholua Brother’s Series are available on my website, on Amazon.com, Lulu.com and BarnesandNoble.com for $12.99 ea. + shipping. They can also be bought through the Gilpin Historical Museum and Mountain Menagerie in Central City. Watch for the release of the third and final book in the series Bonanza Beans available Spring 2016
Cholua Brothers Mining Company specialty coffees can also be purchased at Mountain Menagerie in Central City or from their website at www.choluabros.com.