Last updated 10/2/2019 at 4:11pm
In the Winter of 1934, Colorado, as well as the great plains, suffered a drought. I have told stories about bad winter storms, here more than once. Reading the old newspapers in this winter it gets interesting. Colorado was on the west edge of the Dust Bowl in 1934. This is the first part of a story about how different our weather can be.
In the early thirties this area was just getting interested in reservoirs. Colorado Springs relied on the lakes on the south slope of Pikes Peak for all their water. Denver got their water from several mountain reservoirs, but in 1934 things were grim. Denver's dwindling water reserves stood at only 10,715 million gallons. That sounds like a lot, unless you think about how they could go through that in a few weeks. To consolidate their reserves Eleven Mile reservoir was drained, the water traveling down to Cheeseman reservoir. This did not fill Cheeseman, but Eleven Mile and Antero reservoirs were now empty.
This left Colorado looking like Nevada! What happened next is pure Colorado magic. As many of you already know, we get our moisture in the spring. In April between 30 and 40 cars were stalled on the Denver road between Monument and Larkspur. as a result of a spring blizzard. Remember, this is long before 1-25 was built! Heavy snow, estimated at a foot on the level, was whipped by high winds into drifts four to five feet high. Motorists abandoned their cars and walked into Palmer Lake, where they spent the night. The few hotels were straining to take care of the stranded visitors. Even the railroad was stalled in the storm. A passenger train was stuck just north of Monument some ten hours.
Two weeks later another heavy snow storm covered the entire state. It assumed blizzard conditions in this area. Schools throughout the area were closed at noon, and sent the children home. A few automobiles were able to make it on area roads, but county roads were expected to be blocked by drifting snow soon. Denver reported six inches of snow and at least that much fell in Colorado Springs. Warnings were issued against travel in the Limon area and anywhere east! Several cars were reported already in the ditches in that area. The dust bowl was still with us as soon as summer came.
COBWEB EXPRESS by Mel McFarland (#1103) A Problem
I have talked a bit about conditions that were fairly common a hundred years ago. This is one of those that bothered many a wife, storekeeper, and even school teachers. If you look at pictures of any town you may notice along the street are hitching posts, and maybe even water troughs. One thing you may not think of is the dust.
I read in the old Fountain newspapers about the concern about the dust in the dry times. In bigger towns they had horse drawn water wagons to keep the streets damp. The afternoon rain helped out sometimes, except too much water and you had mud! After a good rain you might have lots of mud. After a snow storm you had mud, maybe with ice in it. Along the streets there might be a wooden plank sidewalk. In nice neighborhoods maybe they had rock slabs. In most areas it was grass or weeds for escape from the muddy street.
When it was dry, clouds of dust followed every traveler, coating everything around, including the one causing it. Some of the yards had fences, mainly to keep animals in, or out. There were few lawn like we have today, but almost everyone had a garden out back for fresh vegetables, except where the ground was too rocky. Gardens were not watered by a hose, but by dishwater thrown from a pan or bucket.
Transportation around town was usually walking. If you wanted to go far you went by train, even only as far as Colorado Springs. Only those who really needed one had a horse or even a buggy. There were few "riding" horses, most were "working" horses. In town few had a stable. There was a livery stable here in Fountain. I do not have a location for it but, they were usually not far from the railroad station and hotels. I have been told the rock "barn" over off Race street was used as one. All this activity brings us back to the dust. On a dry day it does not take many people walking, or horses going by to kick up enough dust. With all the Colorado Springs to Pueblo traffic passing right up Main Street it might have been a pretty dusty place. In some old western movies you will see cowboys wearing long "slickers" mainly to keep the dust off.