Meet a Westside Pioneer!
What kind of career have you had?
I went to school at Whittier, West Junior and Colorado Springs High School. I worked at Barthel’s as a soda jerk during my high school years. Barthel’s was a soda fountain and chocolate candy store located on the southeast corner of Bijou and Tejon. After graduating, I worked as a telephone operator for Mountain Bell from 1943 to 1945. I went back to work for Mountain Bell from 1955 to 1958. I worked for School District 11 in the West Junior cafeteria from 1969-1975. I worked for The Colorado College as their switchboard operator from 1975-1986.
I married Alfred (Bud) Downing Nov. 29, 1942. We eloped and were married in Pastor Marion Hill’s home, which was in the 500 block of West Willamette Avenue. I was a senior at Colorado Springs High School. Bud and I had been in the same class at school. He was born in the 1700 block of West Colorado Avenue. But his family had moved to California when World War II started, and he went to work in the shipyards. We weren’t going to tell anyone we were married until I graduated, but the information was published in the newspaper the next day. My father [Clarence Hemenway] was a little bit angry, but he and my mother [Ethel Hemenway] loved my husband, and he said to him, “Jean’s going to finish school,” and I did. Bud went back to California, and by the end of March 1943 I had enough credits in school, and I said I’d like to be with him. We came back from California in May. Bud couldn’t get into the military because of his feet. I graduated with my class and worked for the phone company. He became a plumber and did that for 26 years. He was a good worker and a good provider. He built this house, where I’ve lived since 1951. He died of a heart attack in 1981.
Did you have children?
I had five children: Robert Downing born June 13, 1945; twin girls, Karon and Karol Downing, born August 20, 1948; Kathy Downing, born June 12, 1954; and James Downing, born December 19, 1958.
I have 11 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Any of your family members still here?
All of my children are in Colorado Springs. My grandchildren are scattered from San Diego, Calif., to Washington, D.C.
My grandparents moved to the Westside in 1898. They lived on North 24th Street. My grandfather’s name was William Hemenway, and my grandmother’s name was Mabel Springer Hemenway. They came to Colorado from Missouri in 1894. I often heard stories about their trip in a covered wagon. My grandfather worked for the Midland Railroad as an engineer. His route was from the Midland terminal to Leadville. After a disastrous train wreck, he started the Hemenway Wet Wash Laundry, located in the 500 block of West Colorado Avenue. You can still see the Hemenway name-stone embedded in the new facade on that building. He owned and operated the Spruce Street Garage through the 1930s and 1940s. It was located at Spruce Street and Colorado Avenue (long before the interstate).
What are your best memories of growing up on the Westside?
I think playing at Thorndale Park and swimming at the Monument Valley Park pool and Prospect Lake are some of my favorite memories. I have always loved going to the Westside library. As a young girl, I rode my bicycle all over the Westside. I liked the band concerts at Bancroft Park and going to Cross drugstore [Cross & Sons Confectionary] for a milkshake. Cross drugstore was located where La Baguette is now, in the 2400 block of West Colorado Avenue. The Westside was always very safe while I was growing up.
What is gone from the Westside now that you wish had stayed?
The band concerts at Bancroft Park I wish could have stayed. Henry’s Shoe Repair was in the 2400 block on West Colorado. It was always a very friendly place. I looked forward to going into Mrs. Haynes’ popcorn stand. It was right down from Cross drugstore. I really liked Rogers’ Bar, even though I was not a customer. Schoch’s Hardware was always an adventure and Micci’s Grocery (where the tattoo parlor is now at 21st and Colorado) was my salvation while I was raising my family. I could send my kids to the store with no money; they would come home with everything I had on the list, and I could pay later.
I don’t know of anything that I wish would have gone. I just wish that George Cross, who owned and operated Cross’ drugstore, could have seen the Westside as it is today. He always tried his best to improve that part of Colorado Avenue that we know and love as Old Colorado City.
How about the way things have changed? I don’t like any of the changes for the Westside schools. I went to Whittier, my children went to Buena Vista, my grandchildren went to Whittier and Buena Vista, and I feel empty in the fact that those schools are gone today. When I travel east of Union, I am so thankful that we have the traffic that we have on the Westside. I fmd the traffic here very laid back. The shops in Old Colorado City are as vital today as they were when I was growing up. There was a time that the Westside became neglected and I am really thankful and proud that it has revitalized so well.
Overall, is the Westside better or worse than when you were a kid here?
It's hard to recapture what was. I grew up in a time when everyone knew everyone and we were like family. There is a lot of pride and love connected to the Westside today, and I think that the family feeling is strong here. That makes the Westside different, but good.
“Meet a Westside Pioneer” interviews people who were born, raised and still live on the Colorado Springs Westside. If you meet that criteria (or know someone who does), please give us a call at 471-6776.