Friday, June 17, 2011

Fountain - Main Street

Of the many older houses along Main Street, a number were built by LA Toothman.  The county assessor [ ] dates these between about 1910 and the mid-1920s.  The owners of each house over time are not known.  Other houses in town attributed to him, based on interviews, include 214 S Fountain, 316 N Main and 316 W Illinois.

Nettie Toothman's Home Cafe, Fountain
ca. 1920-30s

Pioneer Essay July 1976, Security Advertiser & Fountain Valley News
by Clarissa W “Toots” Toothman Wilson

This essay is not, by any means, all in chronological order.  The events have come to my mind and, since I am not sure of all the dates, I have just written about them. 

My father, Louis A Toothman, came to Fountain from Mount Hope, Kansas, in 1895.  Since he was a carpenter, he built a few houses and then returned to get my mother, Nettie P (Haskins) Toothman, and my sister.  They came back to Fountain in the Spring of 1896.  My eldest sister, Mrs. Coral Miller of Colorado Springs, was six months old at the time.  In 1900, another sister, was born in Fountain, Mrs. Daisy Torbit.  My brother RB was born in 1902.  I was born August 3, 1910 at 310 W Illinois.  The cottonwood tree at the east corner of the yard was planted by the parents the day before I was born.

RB and Toots Toothman, 1914

My brother died of influenza in 1918.  I was only eight years old at the time and I can well remember the terrible deaths that resulted from this disease.  In fact, my sister Daisy and I almost died from it.  But even in those days, they had good doctors.  The mortuaries in the Springs were so crowded that we had to keep my brother’s casket in our home.  The hearses in the Springs were also so busy with the deaths in that town that we had to use a horse-drawn hearse for my brother.  This hearse was locally owned by Mr. Farrington.  I can remember the huge crowd that attended my brother’s funeral.  There was a vacant lot where Fountain Skelly is now located and this low was filled with horses and buggies, as well as a few cars.

I recall my father telling me about the big explosion in Fountain, May 18, 1888.  There is still one house standing in Fountain that survived that explosion.  It is located at 232 S Main St.  School district #8 had another house torn down on S Main Street that survived the explosion.  My father was acquainted with several people who were in Fountain at the time.  One man especially, Mr. Loomis, who lost his leg in the explosion. 

As I remember Fountain, it was a beautiful little town. There were a few cars in town, but most of the transportation was by train.  It was quite a thrill for me to ride the train into Colorado Springs.  The one outstanding thing was listening to the horses’ hooves on the pavement.  Our mail was delivered by train and was met by a man who loaded the mail into a push cart and then it was taken to the post office.  We had many business places since transportation was a problem.  We had real estate offices, an investment company, bakery, restaurants, grocery stores, a notion store, drug stores, a lumber yard, hardware store, blacksmith shop, a bank, newspaper, churches, transfer and storage company, barber shops, a paint shop, Continental Oil Storage Company, a billiard hall, doctors’ offices, and a dentist’s office.  Later, when cars grew more plentiful, we had garages.  We also had our local clubs and lodges.  One of the men’s clubs would put on minstrel shows which were almost professional. The Women’s Community Club was another active club.  They put on wonderful plays and different types of entertainment. 
I recall the people who would drive their horses and buggies into town.  They had a big watering trough for the horses south of Fountain Furniture Store.  They removed the watering trough, but the rings, where they tied their horses, still remain in the sidewalk south of the above store on East Ohio Street [Woodmen Hall].
My little girl friends and I used to skate all over the town.  I am sure some of the older people used to grow tired of the noise of our roller skates.  Everyone was well acquainted in our town and our parents felt we were safe in our skating.  But in 1916, a little girl was kidnapped in the Springs and this curtailed our skating for a while.  A kidnapping was almost unheard of in my day.
Another thing my little friends and I loved to do was sell lemonade on Saturdays to earn money for the movies.  The old theatre is presently located north of the barber shop [on Main Street].  Of course, our mothers furnished the lemons, sugar, glasses, etc., so the sale of the lemonade was all profit for us.  We had our stand on the sidewalk back of Barney’s Market. 
The churches and schools played a big part in our lives.  We always had big programs in the schools and churches at Christmas.  Ice cream socials were another thing that were held quite often.  They were usually held at someone’s house who had a big yard.  Japanese lanterns were quite popular at the time.  We always had big crowds at these gatherings even though people had to walk.  I can remember how the snow in the winter time would sound under our feet when we walked to church or school.  We had more snow in these days than we do at the present time. 
My parents moved from my birthplace to a home north of Fountain Skelly Station in 1915, before my brother’s death.  This house was located at the edge of town.  At this time, Hwy 85-87 did not exist.  The main highway went right through town.  We had woods, irrigation ditches, and a field of alfalfa north of our house.  July 4 used to be a big celebration for everyone.  We would have the Wallace family, the Christian family, and most of the west side gang over, as we called them. Everyone would bring ice cream freezers, as well as mountains of food. My father would fix up tables out of saw horses and big boards. We would play all types of games and a great time was had by all.
After my brother passed away (in 1918) my parents took over the Brunswick Hotel.  This hotel was situated on the northwest corner of Race and Missouri Streets.  Since we were quite a thriving little town, salesmen would arrive on the trains and spend the nights at our hotel.  We had a beautiful dining room and a huge lounge with a fireplace.  The rooms were not modern so the old pitchers, wash bowls, etc., were used at this time. Plus the use of the old coal and wood burning stoves. My mother was a wonderful cook and the salesmen would always brag on her meals, especially her pies.  One salesman had a camera and asked to take our pictures.   This was the type of camera where you used powder that was ignited by flint.  Needless to say, we couldn’t see for quite awhile after the powder was ignited.  Usually, our eyes were closed in the pictures.
One of our drug stores was located where the Catholic Church stands now.  One of our local doctors, Dr. Broadway, had his office in the rear of the store.  He was our family doctor and even though he gave me a lot of pills, I have good thoughts about him.  The home we always called Dr. Broadway’s house is located where the Cushman family now lives at 237 S Main St.
I distinctly remember when Fountain has its street lights turned on for the first time.  Fountain had a big street dance, bands played, and there were all kinds of concessions.  Everyone had a great time.  One of the songs they sang that night that I remember so well was “Fountain Will Shine Tonight”. 
Another thing that comes to my memory was my parents telling me about the big snow storm in December, 1913.  Most people had fences around their homes and the snow was over the fences.  My father made the older children skis and during the snow storm, they would go to the grocery store on these.   I should give the reason for fences around people’s homes, it was due to cattle drives though town.  The ranchers from the surrounding cattle ranches would drive their cattle to the stockyards, located near the railroad on the east side of Fountain.  The cattle were loaded there into the stock cars and sent to the market.  Again, trains played a big part in our transportation. 
Houses along Main Street

My father was appointed the first marshal (and street commissioner) in Fountain in 1903.  My sister Daisy Torbit still has his billy club that he used instead of a gun.  The most trouble that he had at the time was the drunken cowboys that came in from the ranches.  After he gave up the marshal’s job, he ran a butcher shop north of Barney’s Market.  This butcher shop had a sawdust floor.  My father was quite a contractor-carpenter in those days.  There are many houses, bridges, etc. still left around the community and El Paso County that he built.  He also helped build the train bridge at the Royal Gorge. 
An elderly lady who lived in our town, Mrs. JO Quick, used to tell us about the Indians on the warpath coming in from out east near Hanover.  The cowboys would ride in and tell the people in Fountain.  Then the people would get in their wagons and go to the fort which was located near B Street at the entrance to Fort Carson.  After the Indians settled down, the word was given to the people and they would return home. 
My eldest sister graduated from the old brick school building (torn down some years ago) in 1913.  My other sister graduated from the same building in 1919.  I attended school in this building until 1925 when they built the junior high building (which has recently been torn down).  The janitor and his wife had their living quarters in this old brick building and as lunch time grew near, the odor of food would drift up to our classrooms and how hungry everyone would be!  No hot lunches were served at the time.  The janitor would always ring the big bell in a tower located by this old school.  This bell can be seen in front of the present junior high. I have the little notebook that one of the school board members kept for the taxpayers who voted on the bond issue for this old school building. 
During World War I, people would knit little squares which were sewn together to make into comforters for the soldiers.  The trains would stop at the station in Fountain and they would be filled with soldiers heading for the fighting.  Usually, people would line up to wave to them and give them words of encouragement.  (I might add there would always be quite a few older girls – I was too young.)  The soldiers would throw all types of souvenirs out of the train windows. 
Sunday afternoons were the time for baseball games.  Our team was made up of the younger men in town.  The baseball field was located near the stockyards on the east side of town.  Our team would play teams from other small neighboring towns. 
Gypsies played a big part in my life.  We would always be so excited when someone would say “Gypsies are coming to town”.  After they toured the local stores and came away, I am sure, with many things in their pockets, they would drive their wagons and horses south of Fountain and camp in an open field.  The women always wore skirts with huge pockets which were real handy to put things that were taken from the stores.  The women always wanted to tell your fortune for a nickel or dime.  They wore colorful clothes, but were not too clean.  They always had many children and dogs.  I was often told that they stole chickens and eggs from the neighboring farms.  In later years, they would travel though the country in old Cadillacs, but it was never quite the thrill as the wagons and horses.
Another highlight of my childhood were the chatauqua shows.  They were held in tents pitched on the school house lawn.  They had wonderful entertainment and the people with the company were considered very high class. 
When I was in the lower grades, we had the big “May Pole” celebration on the school’s lawn.  This was quite an event with just the Fountain Grade School participating.  It was also something when you were chosen to wind the May pole.  We also used to have a “May Day” where all of the El Paso County Schools participated.  They were held in Stratton Park but as the weather was so independable, they were finally moved to the Colorado Springs City Auditorium.
I graduated from the old junior high in 1929.  The seniors always had a sneak day and one of the favorite things to hike down Royal Gorge.  We used ropes, steps made out of the rocks and all in all it was quite dangerous.  We hiked down where the cable car now runs.  We hiked back up the mountain on the other side and this wasn’t quite as dangerous.  We had girls’ basketball teams all during my high school years.  Our longest distance to travel was to Victor and Cripple Creek where we would spend the nights at the homes of the opposing team.
After graduation, I worked for the Superintendent of Schools for one-half day.  My parents had in the meantime opened a restaurant north of Barney’s Market (the present barber shop) so I worked for them the other half day.  Highway 85-87 was under construction at this time so our little town was a busy place.  Telephone men, construction workers, as well as many other men working.  In 1929, we had a terrible hail storm.  The hail stones were as big as golf balls.  The storm broke the windows out on business places, ruined all the roofs on homes and businesses, and any cars that were out in it suffered great damage.  I can remember the roofing companies coming down from Colorado Springs en masse.
In 1930 I went to work at Beth El Hospital (Memorial Hospital now) in the Diet Laboratory.  I went to night school at Blair’s Business College. In 1933, I married William H. Wilson.  Two children were born to us, William Jr. Oct 10, 1935 (deceased) and Patricia L. Englert, Sept 4, 1941.  My husband and son graduated from the old junior high school and my daughter graduated from the present high school. 
At the time Fort Carson was being constructed, 1942, we lived on a ranch north of Fountain in the Widefield Community.  A road was purchased through our farm so people would have access in the building of Fort Carson.  No other road was available at the time.  We raised sugar beets on this farm and had a small dairy.  During World War II, we used German and Italian prisoners for labor in our beet field.  Later we had Mexican Nationals. 
I was working for the telephone company when it was converted to the present dial system.  All of the officials from the telephone company came from Colorado Springs and Denver for the big change-over.  It was quite an adjustment for all the people in the community because they had been used to their local operators.
Widefield and Fountain schools were practically the same until the school year 1958-59 and Widefield took its last class from the Fountain-Fort Carson High School.  Widefield’s grades 7 & 8 and the high school students always came to Fountain before 1958.  Sometimes when their little school became crowded, they would send some of the lower grades.  My husband and our children attended the old original Widefield school, which is presently the Lions’ Club building I believe.  This building is located across from Security.
I have a few more interesting facts to add that have just come to my mind.  When we lived on our farm north of Fountain, A P-38 plane crashed about 100 yards from our house.  (Very fortunately for all of us, our Sunday School picnic scheduled for that very time and place had been cancelled- due to rain).   The pilot managed to escape by turning the plane upside down.  After he escaped, the plane started burning immediately.  People swarmed over our farm like bees- walking over all our crops.  A bomber crashed about ½ mile from our house- killing all the crew but one.  This plane also burned.  I might add that this all took place during World War II.
In 1950, Fort Carson had a terrible fire.  The refugees came by our house in buses from Fort Carson.  Fountain High School dismissed so they could use that as a temporary shelter.  Some of our high school boys helped put out many of the small fires that started.  The wind was blowing at this time at about 70 miles an hour.  We thought we were going to lose our home, but the wind changed directions and we were saved.  They were afraid the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was going to burn and the men had to move a lot of the animals.  The fire quieted down after the wind changed and the velocity wasn’t so strong.
We had a big flood in 1935.  This flood took lives, and did a lot of damage to the southern part of Colorado Springs.  It washed bridges out all over the county.  This was the first big flood that we had since the terrible flood in Pueblo in 1921.  That flood practically washed away downtown Pueblo and many lives were lost.  Pueblo sent a lot of its refugees to the YWCA in the Colorado Springs.  My sister and I had just returned to Colorado from Nebraska, on the only railroad that hadn’t been flooded out.  We had to wait for my brother-in-law at the YWCA and to see those refugees was sad.  Many of them had lost relatives in the flood as well as their homes.  When we started home to Fountain, they stopped us because they were trying to keep people out of Pueblo – due to looting there and they thought we were headed to Pueblo.  My brother-in-law finally convinced them we lived in Fountain.  One of the bridges we has to cross on our way home had been washed out, but a farmer put a load of hay on the mud so cars could cross.
In bringing this essay to a close, I forgot to mention that I worked as a secretary at the Fountain-Fort Carson High School from 1954-1973.  When I first started work, the principal and superintendent were in the same building.  As we grew, the superintendent moved his office, and I remained with the high school.

Houses along Main Street

After we sold our farm in 1955, we built a home on some land that had been owned by my husband’s grandfather, which we had purchased from my father-in-law many years ago.  In 1973, the State Highway Department condemned our home for Highway 16.  We had our home moved to Fountain at 408 Iris Drive, where we presently live. 

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