by Greta Hanson Maurer and Laura Lee Amman
Just one conversation with Carol Wright will reveal a multitude of layers of a life well lived, by a fiercely strong and independent woman, a trait that may have caused her mother to lose more than a few nights sleep. Her love for nature (she knows the trails of Beulah like the back of her hand), her passion for art (a seed planted early by her mother), and her joy for travel (near or far) have ultimately given her energy. Behind her piercing blue eyes, Carol has a wicked good since of humor, tenacious spirit, never giving in to the pressures of what society thought would be best for a young woman in the 1940s. Ahead of her time, she chose her own path, finding great joy in the simplicity of life, and the joy of nature all around her in Beulah, CO.
Carol was born on Oct. 3, 1926 in Ogden, Utah, moving to Pueblo with parents, Paul and Margaret (Marge), and older brother Joseph after they purchased Herman's Department Store in Bessemer (on the corner of Northern and Abriendo, the old 'Vic Baines' building) in the summer of 1929, unfortunately in October, Wall Street crashed. The store's main clientele were steelworkers, and many in the area were laid off. Despite the hard times, her father never laid off a single employee, recognizing the impact it would pose for the employees' families. Carol's memories of the two-floor department store included being gifted 'sample' dress by visiting salesmen, and hiding out in a nook to watch the store's cobbler at work. When the war ended in 1944 they sold the store ready for something new.
As a young girl, Carol recalled some of the highlights of her childhood were trips to Beulah with her friend, Dorothy Major's family, who had a cabin on Pine Drive across from the Mountain Park. She would come up for a week at a time, and the pair would find great adventures in the Mountain Park, hiking Devil's Canyon several times in the summer. They would purchase milk from across the street at the Klipfels, she recalls hauling water, sliding down a hill on pine needles, Square Dances with Ray McKnight calling at the Mountain Park Pavilion, and riding double on 'Queenie' the Major's old horse to meet friends around the valley. The girls witnessed the rock walls of the Mountain Park being built by WPA and CCC workers in the 1930's.
After graduating high school in 1944 from Centennial High School, Carol did not hesitate, and headed north to start summer classes at Colorado University - Boulder. She studied a variety of courses because 'everything appealed to me', finding great interest in Geology/Minerology, because of her love of 'rocks and the mountains'.
At the end of her first year, she and her friend set their sites on 'getting a job at a ranch' to maximize their new independence, and find new adventures. When school let out, they hitchhiked to Estes Park, and upon arrival, directly headed to two different ranches—five to six miles out of town. Quickly realizing they had to work smarter. So they headed back to town where they used a local pay phone, located next to the soda fountain, where fate was seated.
After making repeated calls in the back of the drugstore, with no luck; the soda jerk kindly guided them to the two women sitting out front at the counter. One was Helen Gates, heiress of Wonder Bakery and owner of the H Bar G Dude Ranch; and the other her Ranch Manager. They hired them on the spot as dishwashers, and while most girls thought being a 'cabin girl', a 'cooks helper' or 'waitresses' was preferable, Carol preferred her dishwashing job because it afforded more time to explore.
Carol had always had the desire to learn how to ski, so she enrolled in a Snow Skiing Phys. Ed. course in college. She asked her dad for the equipment, knowing her mother would never agree, given her history of 'bad bones'. He lovingly obliged his daring daughter. When her moment arrived, she and her classmates were included in plans to travel to Winter Park.
Carol started in Boulder taking the bus to Denver, where she, and her friends, boarded the ski train at 8pm at night. The ski train was still a new concept, and passionate skiers would board a box car with crude, old seats bolted to the floor. She vividly recalls everyone removing their parkas to pull over their head to avoid breathing the smoke that filtered into the car while traveling through the Moffat Tunnel.
When they finally arrived into Winter Park at midnight, the determined group walked three miles with all their ski gear, sleeping bag and food to the bunkhouse that the Park Service ran, where they would stay. Exhausted and excited, they stayed in the women's barracks heated by a single stove in the middle of the room, sleeping on iron bunks.
The next morning, the group made their final trek to the new t-bar, and after falling a few times on the way up, she epicly arrives at the top of the mountain, only to begin to learn to ski! Her dryland instructions did guide her, and she recalls, "I just had to learn the hard way. Our class did teach us how to get up if we fell down, and that came in handy."
The next morning, Carol was so stiff and sore, she initially couldn’t unzip her sleeping bag. She eventually worked out the soreness with a second day of skiing, drawn by the remarkable alpine view at the top of the slope, and the beautiful trails. "It was entirely different than it is today, there were very few people. I had someone share some of their lunch with me on a trail." She found her way back to ski often, as she met kids with cars, giggling that she played hooky on Thursdays, because she always got her work ahead of time, in anticipation of skiing. Another tenacious story that proves where Carol had a will, Carol found a way.
After World War II ended, her parents became emptynesters with Carol’s brother in the Army, and she away at college, so they sold their Pueblo home. "It'd be nice to spend the fall out in Beulah," declared her mother, Marge, one day. So they inquired about renting a small cabin in the Valley. after becoming friends with Bill Reynolds (owner of the Pine Drive Store), who worked with Carol's father at the airbase.
Carol, fresh from her summer adventure at the dude ranch, was picked up by her parents for a visit that fall, when they declared they had moved to Beulah! And she couldn’t have been happier about it.
Not long after, Carol realized that petroleum was the direction most geologists took, and that field did not hold interest for her. “'I only wanted to live in the mountains.' So she left school, came 'home' to Beulah, and did not return to academia, in its structured halls.
So with the savings she had accumulated from the dude ranch 'burning a hole in her pocket', she signed up for flying (airplane) lessons at Pueblo’s Sunset Park. Her mother was so against the idea, she and her sister sent Carol to New York for distraction and to continue her education in New York City. "So that was good!" She and her aunt took the train into the city to see shows, performances, concerts—according to her aunt “a drama, a comedy, and a musical” for best enlightenment. An afficionado of New York , her Uncle Paul, who worked for Bell Labs, would accompany her to a host of museums, a short list to include Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Frick Museum, and New York Natural History Museum. "I got an education, alright!" She watched Lily Pons, a French-American operatic soprano and actress popular at the time— perform for NBC radio network’s Bell Telephone Hour, a gift that has lasted a lifetime.
Carol explained that she never got a chance to start her flying lessons again (a big win for her Mother) after she returned to Beulah, as she was too busy helping her parents run the GayWay (frying hamburgers, cleaning dance floor, dishwashing). She and her friends, Ray Traeber, Jimmy Armstrong, the older Faricy kids, Janie and Ted Ligget —found the happiest times ‘racing around’, going on hayrides, having a beer, or two up at the park, or watching the Simonson ranch oil well (never hit pay dirt), transfixed by the process and the conversations until the sun started to rise the next day. It is the perfectly simple joys that hold her to the Beulah area, then, and still do, today.
K. G. Brown and Jimmy Armstrong were well known for leading folks on trail rides throughout Beulah. Groups of friends would have the best times when they went on overnight trail rides, and it was on one of these outings that the group talked about forming a Saddle Club. Open to all, no matter if they had a horse, or not—Carol was a charter member. Folks gathered at a designated spot for a trail ride, while others would join later and travel by car.
The Saddle Club brought the community of Beulah together, the 'Summer People' and the 'Ranchers'. "People all came together for a good time!" When the event was on Pine Drive, riders would come from 3-R Road by way of Oldham Road, a ride to the Don K Ranch would start at North Creek Road. Everyone would join for a dinner, and it didn't take long before folks figured out they had more in common with each other than they thought.
Mountain Bell would eventually capture Carol's attention in 1951, and draw her out of Beulah. She landed a job at the business office as a service representative in Pueblo at 4th and Court. Six years later, she received a promotion, which required she move to Denver. She measured the quality of service for the service-conscience company, trained and supervised service analysts for a seven state region; compiling, summarizing and sending data. Carol thoroughly enjoyed the travel that went along with the job. However, after the company reorganized, she was moved to the new computer programming department, and just never enjoyed the new field. So, after 20 years, she quit.
Moving to a tiny home on Cascade Avenue in Beulah in 1970, she was blissful once again. "I could just take off hiking! And I did that for awhile before I needed to get a job again!” She worked part-time for the Board of Water, and a Hallmark Store in Pueblo, as well as the U.S. Post Office in Beulah.
Carol has been involved with the Beulah Historical Society when it began in 1976; she served two terms on the board of the Beulah Water District; as well as serving two terms for the board of the newly formed Beulah Ambulance District in 2007.
Her close friend, Tammie Stevens sums up Carol’s spirit ‘I wish every kid could spend a day with Carol. She is self-less, which means her mind and her heart are open to anyone.”
Carol’s easy-going nature, refreshing perspectives, eye for detail, pursuit of nature and education in all forms, alongside a positive view of life have surely served her well throughout her 92 years. Our Beulah community, and the world could use a few more just like her.