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Saturday, January 4, 2014

God Lives Above Eddie's Red & White

One of the earliest memories I have as a child was my mother dropping me off at my grandmother's house in the dark of the early morning. The year would have been around 1949 or 1950. My mother was off to her job at a hospital where she was a telephone operator. My dad was in Greenland working on building Thule Air Force Base.  So in those early years of my life, my grandmother was the guiding force in determining who I would become as a man.
My big brother and me outside the hospital where my mother worked
 My grandmother's house was located on Yates Street in North Denver. The Denver Tramway (streetcar) ran down the middle of her street and terminated near the Lakeside Amusement Park. I have read that amusement parks were typically located away from city centers - out at the edge of towns where land was cheap.  Houses in her neighborhood were mostly modest bungalows built in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  This was at a time before subdivisions were built where all houses looked pretty much the same and before there were shopping centers. Instead, neighborhoods had a small shops where are residents would buy the necessities or get a haircut. This was also a time before everybody had a personal car and when many people relied on public transportation such as a bus or streetcar.  I remember riding the tramway to downtown Denver one summer day where I purchased a goldfish at Woolworths. The lady at the store put my goldfish in a container that looks like a modern day Chinese take-out container.  By the time we got home, the fish was dead. My first funeral. The tramway went out of business in Denver in 1950. I was three years old.
Eddie's Red and White was a two story building located at the opposite end of the block where my grandmother's house was located. The grocery was located on the ground level.  The owners (Eddie and Mrs. Eddie) lived on the second floor. My grandmother and I would walk the block quite often to buy whatever it was she needed on any given day. Two picture windows flanked either side of the entry door. Shelves lined the walls from the floor as high as the ceiling and from front to back, at least that is how I remember it. Small tables with fruits and vegetables were located near the shelves.

Mrs. Eddie was the greeter and cashier. She stood behind a counter that ringed the front part of the store where customers would place the canned goods, vegetables, and meats. Mrs. Eddie was such a sweet older woman. She always smiled at me and was pleasant to my grandmother. They exchanged comments like they were friends.

Eddie was the butcher.  He stood behind the meat counter where he would cut and wrap meat in white paper which he would then tie with a string or tape. The floors in the store were wood. However, sawdust lined the floor behind the meat counter where Eddie worked. I will never, ever, forget the image of Eddie. He always wore black trousers, a white shirt with the cuffs turned up, a black tie, a long white apron with straps tied behind his back, and a white hat tilted forward on his head. His hair was white. He always wore gold wire framed glasses that almost disappeared against his pale white skin. Eddie always had a smile on his face and he always had something kind to say to me.

My grandmother and I would walk the block back to her house with our groceries.  Life was simple then.

I attended the Berkley Methodist Church at the corner of 43rd and Sheridan Street which was located between my grandmother's house and where my family lived a few blocks to the west in the tiny little Town of Mountain View. I attended bible school and church services from as early as I can remember. Whenever the Sunday school teacher or the minister would say the word "God" Eddie's image appeared in my mind's eye. Still to this day whenever I think of God, I see Eddie.

In February 2013 I traveled back to Colorado to attend memorial services for Judge Francis W. Jamison.  I clerked for him when I was in law school.  I had not been back to Colorado for twenty years. I arrived just as a snowstorm hit Denver and left in a blizzard a few days later. The temperature was 20 degrees when I landed. I instantly remembered why I left.

During the following two days I drove past various places that were a part of my life before I moved to Key West. I took photos of my elementary school which now looks abandoned. My childhood house had been added onto several times. The white picket fence, the trees, and gardens my dad put in were all gone. My high school was torn down but had been replaced with a larger building. When I was a kid we would drive the A and W Root Beer stand on 38th or to Wheat Ridge Dairy for a malted milk. The dairy is now an Italian bakery. The places and streets of my youth were totally foreign to me. The first house I purchased as an adult, however, looks great.
What used to be Mountain View Elementary School
The former Wheat Ridge Dairy
The first house I purchased as an adult
I drove by my grandmother's house. Her house, Mrs. Bunger's to the north, and Mr. and Mrs. Simpson's house to the south were still there. But none of the houses looked like they did over sixty years ago. Instead of walking I drove rental car the one block south to see Eddie's Red and White. The building was no longer a grocery.  The brick was painted a lighter shade of red. The Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola logo on the side was painted over. I stood there and reminisced. I saw Eddie and Mrs. Eddie and my grandmother and little me.
Eddie's Red and White
I got back in the car and drove a couple of blocks to my see my old church. I wanted to cry. No the church was still there. It had not been torn down. The Spot Grocery, another small neighborhood grocery and the adjacent three seat barber shop were gone. One of the major moments in my life was graduating off the booster chair and onto the regular barber chair. A liquor store sits on that location.
What bothered me about the church of my youth was the neon sign in front of the building. I remember the church as it was in the 1950s when the nice men and women would walk out the front door after Sunday service and shake hands and converse. They wore suits and dresses and were kind to one another. Where they once stood is now that neon sign. NEON.

On New Years Day I had coffee with a buyer from several years ago. We meet a couple of times a year when she and her family are in Key West. Her son Harry was little more than an infant when we started to look at properties. He is now five. Like a lot of little ones in America, Harry often uses his mother's iphone.  During Christmas week he was asking a lot of questions about Jesus Christ. He looked at his mother and asked "Can you FaceTime with God?"

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.