Money ran out long before the love did.
December 18, 2014
PART TWO OF A THREE-PART SERIES:
GERALD HAD RENTED three small, furnished rooms within a large house at 1340 Josephine Street just off Colfax Avenue for fifty dollars a month with all utilities paid. I said, “We cannot afford that much rent . It is half of your monthly check!” The living room had a hideaway couch and a wobbly chair, a small kitchen table and two chairs. There were drapes that I assumed covered a window, but the kitchen sink was behind them. The actual kitchen was a very small closet-like room with only a two burner stove and refrigerator. A half bed was on what once was a back porch. We did not have pillows, so we rolled up a blanket for our heads. We shared a bathroom with Al and his wife. The room was in the basement about six steps down. We could not leave any of our belongings in the bathroom. When we hear the songs “Puff The Magic Dragon”, by Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby and the Romantics, and Skeeter Davis’“The End of the World,” we can still envision the apartment.
My first day in Denver was spent catching up on sleep , unpacking, and waiting for Gerald to come home. I smile when I remember seeing him trekking through three feet of snow wearing his fatigues and boots, long wool overcoat, and dragging his overloaded duffle bag behind him. The wind was bitter cold , but my heart was warm. When he finally reached the house, he said, “I can’t wait to shovel the sidewalk.” Natives could not understand that he enjoyed that chore. The snow was beautiful and so much fun!
Many days, I carried that same duffle bag filled with dirty clothes several blocks to the laundromat. Because I didn’t have money to dry them, I pulled the bag filled with wet clothes along the sidewalk back to the apartment, then, hung the clothes on a line. After a couple of months, the bag had a hole in it.
I adored our landlady, Mrs. Ewert. She took care of me like a daughter. She took Al, Jo and us to Central City in the Rocky Mountains, located thirty-five miles west of Denver. At an elevation of 8,496 feet, we saw the historic mining settlement that was established during the Gold Rush West that was started in 1859 by a small group of men looking for gold. Many crossed the Great Plains in covered wagons in search for riches. It was a quiet mountain town with the charm of the west. We visited the Teller House Bar where we saw the famous painting “The Face on the Barroom Floor.” We heard the sorrowful tale of a painter who took to drinking after his lover deserted him for a fair head lad. The scenery above the tree line up the winding Rocky Mountains was breathtaking as we looked at snow-covered Pike’s Peak in the distance. As we neared Aspen, we saw magnificently symmetrical form of blue spruce, the state tree, that were sprinkled with a fine white powder of snow. We saw snow plows and snow banks for the first time.
Traveling from a low elevation to the mile high city gave me altitude sickness. Until my body had time to adjust to a lower level of oxygen, my respiration and heart activity increased. I was dizzy with nosebleeds due to a combination of elevation, cold weather, and low humidity.
I worked at various jobs through Manpower, a job finder. The first one was with an insurance company. I quit after a few weeks because the boss asked me to “show my sex.”
The second job was answering the phone for an income tax attorney. I was not comfortable there because I had a linguistic conflict. My southern drawl was misunderstood by his clients. After income tax season, the job ended. I was inventory clerk for International Harvester until Gerald’s training was completed. I took public transportation to work. Being raised in the south where passengers were separated by race, I stood up when a young black boy sat next to me. Immediately, I realized what I had done. Embarrassed and ashamed, I sat back down.
I soon learned that diversity in speech reflects the regional dialect . I asked the bus driver to let me off on Lah-FAY- et Street. I was informed that the word is pronounced La fa’yet. In my area, a soft drink is Coke regardless of brand of a particular carbonated beverage. In that area , it is soda. Tennis shoes were called sneakers. Worse of all, nobody understood “Y’all!”
We were very young and inexperienced even in buying groceries. Denver’s cost of living was higher than at home. Bread was thirty cents a loaf where we paid only ten cents . We carefully selected a fresh pineapple by considering size, coloring, weight, firmness, and smell.
What we didn’t carefully do was read. The large sign said, Fresh Pineapple .50. The small print read @lb. Our consequence for not reading the fine print was a dollar and ten cents, which was tough to pay.
We needed a car. My dad sold our turquoise 1957 Chevrolet for six hundred dollars. Taking the city transit, we rode two miles to a car lot, and made a deal on a 1954 Ford. Because the bank transfer was not final, we could not get the car that night. The bus fare was twenty-three cents. We had one quarter. Since that was not enough for both of us to ride, we walked.
The temperature had plummeted. The winter wonderland was a new phenomenon for us. We had to brave the icy conditions . Although the snow was beautiful and appeared to be dancing as it accumulated like a white blanket , the air was cold , sharp , and treacherous as it bit our fingers . The wind froze our cheeks . As we inhaled the freshness, of the air, our nostrils were icy cold. By the time we reached the warmth and coziness of our apartment, we had no circulation in our hands and feet. We hurt. The next day, Gerald picked up the car. We were introduced to snow tires and chains that were used to reduce skidding.
To Be Continued: