The majority of my ancestors settled in Denver in the early 20th Century. My mother’s Italian relatives took refuge in the various brownstones of North Denver and my great-grandfather, an illiterate fruit peddler, was one of the founding members of Potenza Hall (an Italian lodge that is still standing today amidst a landscape of Rite Aids and Taco Bells). My father’s Slavic ancestors settled in the Globeville area; a hard neighborhood know for its rail yards, smelting and meat packing industries. My dad grew up in this community in a small house amongst Slavic kin who liked to drink, cuss, smoke and hate anyone who was not Slavic (my great uncle is still getting his “Gran Torino” on in a Globeville neighborhood that is now predominately Hispanic). The Western Slavonic Lodge was founded around the same time my great-grandmother arrived in Denver from what is now modern-day Russia. I think these lodges are indicative of the mindset of immigrants at the time. It was a place to gather with fellow countrymen, drink, offer support and learn about the idea known as “America.” Being “American” was important to all of my ancestors that settled in Denver. My great-grandfather, for example, when asked by his children to teach them Italian would reply, “We are in America, and in America you speak English.” I often ponder what happened to this mindset; where people identified themselves as American first and their ethnic background second. Perhaps it withered away as class systems divided. Or maybe it disappeared with our manufacturing base when we decided culturally that it was better to consume goods rather than produce them. Perhaps it vanished when people accepted that being friendly was merely waving hello to your nameless neighbor at Starbucks. It could be all these things, or it could just be that a fucking McDonalds became more important to us than a community center.
Nice entry, Matty. It’s always interesting learning more about some of the old Denver neighborhoods.
And being that I live in the ghetto with a very mixed population, I couldn’t agree more.