Beulah & Family

09-01 Family 1952 in mountains

Beulah is in the mountains 20 miles west of Pueblo, and has always been linked to our family.

We moved to Beulah in 1953 when I was about one and a half. My earliest memories are of Beulah, and I know my sisters also have great memories of our lives in the beautiful valley. When Dad bought Gayway Park, we lived in the little house just west of Gayway for a few years. Then we moved to what was known as "The Davis House,” which was directly behind Gayway.

09-02 Family 1939 Wedding announce

Matilda (Trabucco) Johnson, known to everyone simply as "Tillie." Mom was the rock that held Buddy’s incredible life together. This is their wedding announcement from 1939. They were married exactly 47 years, to the minute of Dad’s death on December 5, 1986. Buddy Johnson would not have become "Buddy Johnson" without Tillie Johnson.

09-03 Gayway 1953 grand opening

Gayway Park, a restaurant and large hall more recently known as 'The Songbear," is centrally located in Beulah Valley. Dad proudly painted the sign on the front window in the summer of 1953 for the Grand Opening dance. The Beulah years at Gayway were simply a wonderful time in all of our lives. It was an idyllic time. Pat remembers how much fun the very first opening night of Gayway was! It was the beginning of a fun, wild ride for us and the valley.

09-04 3 kids on Chubby

Kitty and Chubby give Pat and me a ride around Gayway. He was so gentle and calm. When Dad wasn’t taking Chubby off to a parade or an event someplace, Kitty was usually riding him.

Everyone has formative memories of Gayway and Beulah. Pat remembers her first date at age 12. Jack Neelan was to take her to the dance at Gayway, but broke his arm, so it was rescheduled. Then she got the mumps, so the date never took place.

The whole gang in the restaurant at Gayway, Mom, Pat, Kitty, me and Dad. Gayway was a family affair. When Dad was away, Mom cooked and ran it all. Sometimes Buddy’s parents, Bill and Roea, who had a cabin in Beulah for years, would give a helping hand, along with Buddy’s brother Doyle, and Grandma Roea’s brother, Uncle Bud. Gayway had a restaurant, a small gift shop, a pool room with two tables, and a very large dance hall. In total, the property was five acres. It accommodated lots of cars, and lots of horses. A very busy time even when Dad was away. Good, exciting and busy times!

Often, after we closed up Gayway at night, Dad would say to us all “Let’s go see some deer.” So we would drive up the highway, past Pueblo Mountain Park on what we called “the new road,” 12 mile road, and we’d always see deer. Sometimes at night, it would be snowing with big flakes floating in the air. It was magical and yes, even then we usually saw deer.

09-06 Family 1956 Pat & Tinkerbell

Here my sister Pat feeds Tinkerbell in front of Gayway.

Buddy did lots of things with the Pueblo Army Depot. One day when he was there for an appearance, they told him of a female antelope that had been killed, leaving a baby. Dad brought her home and she became our pet named "Tinkerbell." We always had lots of dogs ("Buttons", “Spot"). Then all the cats and for a while, we even had a pet skunk, though he was mean and would hiss. But Tinkerbell was so special, she would just wander around with us. I was so little at the time, when I stood next to her, I’d put my arm out and it just barely went over her back. She’d just stand there.

09-07 Mom, tinkerbell & buttons

Tinkerbell thought she was a dog. She would stick close to our dog Buttons. Pat remembers that when Buttons would lie down under one of the beds, Tinkerbell would lie near him with her long legs sticking out. She was such a sweet animal, very domesticated. She was family, too.

09-08 1st Beulah house & car

This is the first house in Beulah where we lived for four years. It’s on the Gayway property, just west of the large building at 8908 Harmon Drive. I remember when I was tiny with Dad listening to the cool summer rain on the tin roof of the room on the right.

09-09 Family Beulah house 2 - 8872 Central Avenue Beulah Colorado behind Gayway in 1900s

The last house in Beulah where we lived for five years was  known as "The Davis House.” It is shown in this wonderful late 1800s photograph. It’s located directly behind Gayway at 8872 Central Avenue, but it was totally rebuilt in the 1990s, and just vaguely looks like this old photograph today.

The Davis House originally was a stagecoach stop and boarding house. There are many fond memories of that great old house. Photograph courtesy of the Beulah Historical Society Museum. By the way, we don’t know who all these people are.

09-10 Gayway 1955 Buddy cadillac

A 1955 photograph of Dad and one of his many Cadillacs. The Beulah Post Office and Beulah Historical Society Museum now occupy a building which is located in the area to the right of the Gayway building. In this photograph, on the window, is a painted sign promoting the Sunday Gayway Jamboree.

The Beulah Historical Society Museum has a nice display about Buddy and Gayway, which includes a number of the original framed images cherished by our family. It even includes his banjo from the Jamboree.

09-11 Family Jamboree Kitty singing

Kitty, as a teenager, sings with Buddy and The Colorado Rangers, during a Sunday Jamboree performance. There were a variety of performers as it was a welcoming event open to all. Kitty sings as Roy Leatherman plays in the background.

09-12 Gayway 1954-57 Melodrama posters

Gayway was the center of all types of activities in the valley. Here are posters for some of the four years the Beulah Melodramas were held at Gayway, 1954-1957. Posters courtesy of Bess Hanratty.

Sometimes in summer, large picnics would be held in front of Gayway, with music from the Rangers or others. At Halloween, Buddy often made a large bonfire and handed out treats and cider. Gayway celebrated all the holidays.

Dad made it into a destination.

Beulah was our home and Tillie and Buddy were very involved with all the community’s activities. Mom and Emily Allee were our Cub Scout den mothers. I remember all of us climbing Mt. Elbo and eating lunch among the rocks at the top.

Buddy and Stan Hiatt constructed a large, five-sided Christmas Star erected on the top edge of Beulah Hill, left of the Pueblo highway. It was on E. M. Christmas' property where it could be seen from the valley. They would light it at Thanksgiving and keep it on through New Year’s Eve. It had a number of white lights through each of the eight foot 2" x 4"s that outlined the star. They maintained it for years. After Thanksgiving, Dad would light the pot-bellied stove in our garage and there in his woodworking shop, our scout troop would make gifts for our mothers for Christmas.

The Beulah Valley Saddle Club with their horses and in this case their wagon, often gathered at Gayway. I believe this is Jimmy Armstrong, a Beulah rancher who was heavily involved with the saddle club. Photograph courtesy of the Beulah Historical Society Museum.

09-15 Family 1957 0r 58 at Carlsbad, NM

In spite of an intense schedule on TV, radio and the band we traveled once a year. This was taken on the way to California in 1957 at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. This photograph was taken after the previous night’s big dance at Max’s Hall in Rouse, Colorado.

09-16 Family 1940’s 2 trucks Kitty Pat

The band was always a large part of our family life. Street dances were major events for the fair and other events, like this one, which was to promote the new “Sunset housing development.” Kitty crouches at left as she smiles at Pat who is dancing.

09-17 Family 1959 Kitty Beulah Queen Attendant

The Colorado State Fair involved not only Buddy, but the whole family. Here’s Kitty, at the right, as a Beulah Valley Saddle Club Queen’s attendant in 1959 waiting for the State Fair parade to begin. Lynn Genge is at the left with Susan Hurd in the middle.

Tillie had her own interests and was an extremely successful Avon representative for decades. At fair time, while Buddy was off entertaining, Mom was picking up quite a few ribbons. Dad would play music or host events. Mom entered foods and won, while Kitty rode in the rodeo grand entries. Pat and I would just have fun. L o n g, but great days, lots of memories!

For as long as any of us can remember, the band members were large in our lives, like we had lots of uncles. In this image, the girls dress up appropriately in cowgirl outfits, Pat is on the left and Kitty is on the right.

The band members, the practice sessions, the music were ever present in our family, to the joy of everyone. Before we moved to Beulah, when we lived in Pueblo, Kitty remembers that all the neighborhood kids would come sit on the porch in the evening to listen to the band's practice.

Tillie, Kitty and Pat in 1951 with Buddy’s new car, a Buick, the last one which wasn’t a Cadillac, and one of the very first of many band trailers. Probably taken near Beulah.

09-21 Family 1955 trailer loading John

The band and me with a different band trailer, probably about six years later than the upper photograph.

09-22 Gayway 1957 roof collapsed COLOR

In April 1957, Beulah was caught in a terrible blizzard. The snow was so deep and weighed so much that it caused the roof of Gayway’s octagonal dance hall to collapse. Everybody was isolated in Beulah for about a week before they could open the roads again. I was six at the time and the snow was so deep, it reached way over my head. Jess Downey had appendicitis and had to be air lifted out of the valley by a Camp Carson helicopter to the hospital. The rectangular dance hall that exists today, was rebuilt by Buddy, beginning in the summer of 1957. Photograph courtesy of the Beulah Historical Society Museum.

09-23 Gayway 1957 Chubby snow

Here’s Chubby near his stable which was toward the back of the Gayway property at the time. Poor Chubby looks like he'd rather be anywhere else!

It took a long time to dig out from this record-setting blizzard. At left, snow is stacked deep on the roof of one of the three cabins which existed along the far west edge of the Gayway Park property. They have been gone for decades. The snow was deep even on the roofs. Luke Pierson, a long-time Beulah resident, lived in one for years.

Other long-time Beulah residents who were always around Gayway were: Luke, Adele Russell, Mr. Arend, and Mr. Porter. Adele was a crafts person who made many custom items for the family. She did wood burning decoration on picture and mirror frames, footstools and other items which the family still has today. Adele also made wooden lamps and arrow head encrusted items, some of which were sold in Gayway’s gift shop.

09-24 house, car & snow

It took Beulah a week to dig out. School was closed for two weeks and it's obvious why we were cut off for so long. In the foreground is our brand new 1957 Chevrolet station wagon, and in the background is our house on Central. Notice how the snow even stacked up on the TV antenna!

09-25 Family 1957 Beulah blizzard pat & me

It’s amazing that even in the midst of utter devastation, kids still have fun. Gayway was such a large part of us all. In my case it actually was in me. That spring, while playing by jumping off the edge of what had been the raised dance floor to the ground below, I ended up with a good-sized sliver in my right hand, part of which is still there.

Here Pat and I mug for Mom’s ever present camera. Buddy is in the background beginning the seemingly overwhelming task. There never was any question, Gayway would be rebuilt.

09-26 Family 1958 January Gayway rebuilding

Spring 1957, digging out and Gayway without some walls and a roof. Buddy in cap at far right starts clearing the debris with the help of the people of Beulah. You can see some of the remaining walls of what had been an octagonal dance hall. These too would be taken down when Dad rebuilt Gayway that summer, in its current rectangular shape.

09-27 Gayway 1962 Bud Chub behind CLR

Easter Sunday 1962, Buddy and Chubby are getting ready for something, maybe an Easter egg hunt? They are in the backyard of our second Beulah house at 8872 Central Avenue. The Gayway dance hall, which had been recently reconstructed, now as a large rectangular building, is in the background. The empty area at the left, is now occupied by the Beulah General Store, the Post Office and the Beulah Historical Society Museum.

The last time Buddy and The Colorado Rangers played Gayway was in the mid 1980s. From left to right, Jim Harrington (steel guitar), Roy Wilker (guitar), Buddy on drums, Jim Lacy (bass guitar), and Laura Lacy (piano). This was the final lineup of the last few years of the Rangers. The drum’s front design was the last of many since 1945, and can be seen in the Pueblo Heritage Museum.

Among these seasoned musicians, are probably more than 200 years of playing music. It was second nature to them all, like breathing.

Christmas time in Pueblo in the 1980s. We moved back to Pueblo in September of 1962 to 1224 Lake Avenue. This is where the band practiced on Thursday nights for decades, and where Mom became famous for her chocolate cakes for all the band members and their wives. Thursday nights were practice and cake nights.

This Christmas shot shows our decorations, which we made in Buddy’s workshop in Beulah. It was a family affair. Dad would stoke up the old pot belly. We’d decide what to make, then Pat would draw them, Dad would cut them, and we’d all chip in and paint them. Each year after Thanksgiving, we made a new Christmas decoration. When Mom passed away in 2004, the family had lived in this house for 42 years.

Buddy’s surprise retirement party from the City of Pueblo, but not from the Rangers, was held at one of the Pueblo Eagles clubs where Buddy and the band had played for decades.

In a rare occurrence, Dad was speechless, when he saw the packed crowd of coworkers from the City of Pueblo, musicians who’d played with him over the decades, TV and radio buddies, and countless friends.

The happy couple at Buddy’s surprise retirement party March 24, 1984.

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