Memories of Margaret Evans
In 1979 I decided that I wanted a career in the automotive business. Thirty-five years later I still can’t decide if that was a solid decision. In the beginning, it was very exciting and fun. I was a veteran of five years of service in the U.S. Air Force, attended a year of university at Wayne State in Detroit, and had been attending the University of Colorado at Denver for more than two years trying to finish a degree in engineering. I found engineering difficult and changed my major to History just before I suspended my studies. Sometime in 1978 I decided that my GI Bill stipend was not enough to live on and looked for employment. Working for a temporary employment service they had placed me at the Mobil Oil offices in downtown Denver. I was pulling oil well records and found the job very unrewarding. I decided I would leave at lunch and put in applications at car dealers along Broadway. It was 1979. At the time, there was a car dealer about every block, south of the Capitol. At the time I wanted to do something I longed to do, work on cars.
I was hired with-in a few weeks at a Datsun car dealer at 1144 Broadway. My new boss was local celebrity in the midget race car circuit, Roy Bowe. I was just thrilled to be working in a field I was excited about. My first duty was to “shag” cars. I would spend the day moving cars between the parking we had across Broadway and the mechanics. When a customer picked up their car from being serviced I would go and get it from the parking garage and deliver it to them on the curb in front of the dealership.
Roy thought a lot of my dedication and trusted me with numerous different tasks. One day he pointed at an orange Datsun 610 and asked me to deliver it to a customer. He gave me specific instructions to the house, gave me the work receipt and told me to bring back a check. He told me to pull the car up the driveway behind the house, and knock on the back door. The owner would greet me there. I didn’t recall a private house where he directed me, so I just followed his instructions and hoped it would get me to where I was to deliver the car. When I saw the drive off 13th avenue I was relieved. I had not noticed the drive or the house in the past. I was impressed, and surprise I had missed such a treasure in downtown Denver.
I recall that I went twice to deliver the car to the house. It may have been two deliveries and one pickup. Or, one delivery and one pick up. At the time, even though I was officially a History student at UCD I knew nothing of Colorado History. It was only years later, when the Byer-Evans Mansion was turned into a museum, that I realized the luck of my visits.
When I first walked into the kitchen from the rear porch I was taken back. I thought I was delivering a car to a “nice old lady”, one of many of the people Roy Bowe knew, because of his minor celebrity status in Denver. What I saw was a kitchen that stretched decades. To my left, was a stand-alone, inexpensive white enameled gas stove that needed cleaning. Across the room was a massive black cast iron stove. I think Margaret seen the surprise in my eyes. It was one of those times that there was a “pregnant pause”, I didn’t know what to say. She, soothed my surprise and said, “come-in, come-in”. Of course I explained that Roy sent me up to deliver the car. I remember asking if she wanted parked in the garage. She said it was fine where it was, on the long, steep drive. I remembering I checked to make sure the car would not roll, because the driveway was steep. I handed the bill to her, but she could still see I was taken back by that stove. I think I asked something goofy like, “does it work?” She said “sure, but it was much easier to turn on the gas then start a fire in that big thing.” I have the impression that she told me they used all the time but now the small, “modern” stove worked better for her needs. That enameled stove had to be from the mid-50’s or just after. It stuck out like a sore thumb, not matching any of the kitchen, but it worked. I remember the floor was worn linoleum. She said to sit at the wooden kitchen table while she got her check book. As she slowly shuffled to another room I sat their taking in the surroundings. I was definitely in the past. You could tell there was no intention of remodeling the kitchen, it served its purpose.
When Margaret came back to the table she took the bill and looked at it. It may have been for something like seventy dollars for the repair. It could have been more, as Roy had a sense of who had money and who didn’t, and made “needed repairs” accordingly. She started to write the check, and then in a trusting manner said, “You fill it out, I’ll just sign it.” Wondering if it was legal to do that, or if someone would question two distinct styles of handwriting, I did what she wished. Margaret was obviously suffering from arthritis. Her fingers had taken that familiar course you see with advanced arthritis, instead of straight they were curved, pointing outwards. Her signature was slow and deliberate. I still thought the most important part of my delivery was returning with the check, and I waited in anticipation while she finished her task.
We talked. She knew I was totally shocked by that stove. I looked around the house from what I could see from the kitchen table. I asked if she lived there very long. She laughed. Pointing with her arthritic hand she said, “See that bed over there?” There was an iron bed, the foot of it sticking out of a nearby room. She continued, “I was born in that bed and I’m going to die in that bed.” I was a bit shocked that she faced her mortality so bravely. We talked some more and then I said I had to get back. I had a sneaking suspension Roy sent me on that errand not to get the car delivered but to meet Margaret, and enjoy the visit. He said nothing when I showed up in 45 minutes for what should have been a 15 minute delivery.
The second visit was not as memorable as the first. I believe I picked up the car and brought it back to the dealership to get it ready for a trip to the mountains. Margaret told me they were going to the mountains, I was a bit puzzled, and asked if she was going to drive. She said she had a relative coming from Nebraska to drive her. For years I thought the relative was a son, but now I find out it couldn’t be. I suppose it was a nephew, but I have found no supporting evidence. I only remember that the white haired, tall gentleman was quit old. I thought that he would have as difficult time driving to the mountains as Margaret. I didn’t deliver the car, but the older gentleman picked it up from the dealership. I remember being disappointed I was not going to visit with Margaret. I never remember seeing Margaret or the person who was driving to the mountains again. Of course years later I realized “going to the mountains” meant going to the Evans Ranch.
I have written of these encounters before but mailed them to Evelyn Waldron to share with Barbara Edwards Sternberg who wrote THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN THE GOLD IS GONE. Somehow that original writing is lost somewhere in one of my computers.