Denver traffic, 1959

A Cloverleaf on the Valley Highway in 1959
A Cloverleaf on the Valley Highway in 1959

The Story of Denver traffic—100,000 cars in 1945 and 200,000-plus today

In Denver in the early Twentieth Century water wagons to keep down the dust were an institution. In the 1930’s road oil was sprayed on many streets to keep down the dust and thus eliminate the water wagons. By the start of World War II Denver had a fairly good street system, adequate for the traffic, and attractive in its tree-lined setting.

The wartime and post-war boom unhinged a lot of things in Denver, but streets most of all. The road oil streets flew to pieces. There hadn’t been much for the oil to mix with—they were almost useless against heavy traffic.

But this was just one part of the problem. One-way street systems had to be installed on a wholesale basis, traffic control systems had to be revised, new routings became essential and planning, in general, had to leap ahead by years.

Mayor Quigg Newton, whose regime coincided with these early days of stirring growth, led the fight for another phase: the Valley Highway. This great system, knifing across the city southeast to northwest, was completed in late 1958. It has brought the Twentieth Century to Denver more than any other public work. Motorists can speed across the city in about one-half hour, or go to work downtown from a suburban residence in 20 minutes.

Denver citizenry was at first shocked by the swiftly changing traffic surgery brought on by growth, things like the “anyway-walk” system to allow pedestrians full use of each intersection during their own phase of the stop light.

But no one has questioned the need for all this. It’s been startling: 100,000 cars in Denver in 1945—205,000 in 1959. And this doesn’t even count the mushrooming suburbs.

Note: Text and image from “This is Colorado – a special centennial magazine section of the Denver Post, June 21st, 1959”

Because It Had To Be Done

Don Ziska's War Protest at 1999 Broadway
Don Ziska's War Protest at 1999 Broadway

Those who know Don call him a saint, but he just shrugs off such idle talk. For the year that ended this Veterans Day, Don could be found each Saturday morning at the foot of the memorial to a fallen soldier, next to Holy Ghost Church, in the shadow of 1999 Broadway. He took this protest action on because, in his words, which I can only faintly reconstruct, it felt like it had to be done. Most Saturdays during the year, only Don and his pet sheltie Juliet could be seen between 8 and 9 in the morning. Some mornings, a few of Don’s friends or his nephew would stand by him. Sometimes the dogs outnumbered the people.

If you know the memorial, it is one of those sad scenes depicting the reality of war, a soldier draped with a blanket lying prone atop a ten-foot pedestal. Those who stood with Don on many of those Saturdays also recognize this spot as one of the coldest in Denver. At first, he might’ve raised a few eyebrows from the security personnel at the shiny high-rise beast that envelops the church and memorial, but they soon ignored Don and his motley attendants, who could be seen shivering out in the cold. Instead, the homeless who would visit Holy Ghost Church for a cup of coffee paid attention to Don; he could always be hit up for a bit of change or a dollar.

Through the summer, Don and his cohorts imagined if the Democratic National Convention would pay attention to this protest, but it seems that the feds were much more interested in masked activists. Not a fellow who makes his voice heard in more private ways. Not a middle-aged slightly built man bundled up sitting on a campstool reading Thomas Merton. Not someone who will always give money to a person asking for a handout. Certainly not a person who had gathered at this same memorial some twenty years earlier in support of Vietnam veterans gathered for peace; he sometimes arranged food for their meetings, even though he had not served in that war. The DNC paid Don no attention. So, there never was publicity. Only the regular weekend drivers and riders of light rail might have noticed Don. But that was fine with Don – it still felt like it had to be done.

M. Thornton

Remembering Sand Creek

Before dawn on the 29th of November 1864, a force of 700 soldiers under the command of Colonel John Chivington attacked the sleeping camps of Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek in what is now Southeastern Colorado. Over 150 tribespeople were killed that day, mostly women, children and elders. Though the American soldiers were initially hailed as heroes upon their return to Denver, within weeks a congressional investigation has been started and the “battle” had been renamed a “massacre.” More information on the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is available from the National Park Service website.

For the past 10 years members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes have organized the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run as a way of bringing closure to this pivotal event in the history of the American west. The 10th annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run is taking place November 27-29th, 2008. For more detailed information, download the event brochure.

The following letter was written by Captain Silas S. Soule, who was present at Sand Creek on the 29th of November, 1864. Soule was assassinated in Denver in April of 1865 (close to what is now the corner of 15th and Arapahoe), most likely due to his refusal to fire at Sand Creek and his subsequent testimony against Colonel Chivington.

Drawing of Sand Creek Massacre
Drawing of Sand Creek Massacre, courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Department

Silas Soule
December 14, 1864
Letter to Edward Wynkoop

Dear Ned,

Two days after you left here the 3d Reg’t with a Battalion of the 1st arrived here. They then declared their intention to massacre the friendly Indians camped on Sand Creek. As soon as I knew … I was indignant … and told them that any man who would take part in the murders, knowing the circumstances as we did, was a low lived cowardly son of a bitch. Chivington and all hands swore they would hang me before they moved camp, but I stuck it out, and all the officers at the Post, except Anthony backed me.

I was then ordered with my whole company to Major A with 20 days rations. I told him that I would not take part in their intended murder, but if they were going after the Sioux, Kiowa’s or any fighting Indians, I would go as far as any of them. They said that was what they were going for, and I joined them. We arrived at Black Kettles and Left Hand’s Camp at day light.

Anthony then approached to within one hundred yards and commenced firing. I refused to fire and swore that none but a coward would. for by this time hundreds of women and children were coming towards us and getting on their knees for mercy. Anthony shouted, “Kill the sons of bitches”. When the Indians found that there was no hope for them they went for the Creek, and buried themselves in the Sand and got under the banks and some of the bucks got their Bows and a few rifles and defended themselves as well as they could.

By this time there was no organization among our troops, they were a perfect mob every man on his own hook. My Co. was the only one that kept their formation, and we did not fire a shot. The massacre lasted six or eight hours, and a good many Indians escaped. I tell you Ned it was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized. One squaw was wounded and a fellow took a hatchet to finish her, she held her arms up to defend her, and he cut one arm off, and held the other with one hand and dashed the hatchet through her brain.

One Squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their lives of a dozen soldiers, within ten feet of them all firing – when one succeeded in hitting the squaw in the thigh, when she took a knife and cut the throats of both children, and then killed herself. One old Squaw hung herself in the lodge — there was not enough room for her to hang and she held up her knees and choked herself to death. Some tried to escape on the Prairie, but most of them were run down by horsemen.

I saw two Indians hold one of anothers hands, chased until they were exhausted, when they kneeled down, and clasped each other around the neck and were both shot together. They were all scalped, and as high as half a dozen taken from one head. They were all horribly mutilated. One woman was cut open and a child taken out of her, and scalped.

White Antelope, War Bonnet and a member of others had Ears and Privates cut off. Squaws snatches were cut out for trophies. You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did there, but every word I have told you is the truth, which they do not deny.

I expect we will have a hell of a time with Indians this winter. We have (200) men at the Post – Anthony in command. I think he will be dismissed when the facts are known in Washington. Give my regards to any friends you come across, and write as soon as possible.

Yours, SS
(signed) S.S. Soule


At 8am on Saturday, November 29th, there will be an honoring ceremony at Riverside Cemetery in Denver, where Soule is buried. The healing run then continues on for an 11:00am presentation at the Colorado State Capitol and a noon reception at the Colorado Historical Society, 1300 Broadway, Denver. Everyone is welcome to attend this event.

Thanks, Highland Style

For the past twenty-four years, Virgil and Rosalinda Aguirre and their family have spent their Thanksgiving offering free meals to the needy people of Denver from their restaurant in the Highland neighborhood at 33rd and Tejon. This year, the family (and their numerous volunteer supporters) will serve over 2,500 meals while offering up more than 40 turkeys, 20 gallons of green chile, and three hundred pounds each of beans and rice.

As this cover from the Rocky Mountain News in 2002 shows, the Aguirre’s have received quite a bit of positive press on their positive community program over the years, but no more than they deserve. Here’s our vote of thanks for Rosalinda’s Restaurant (and for good green chile too).

Preparing Thanksgiving at Rosalindas Mexican Restaurant
Preparing Thanksgiving at Rosalinda's Mexican Restaurant