Meet a Westside Pioneer!
Joan Bakken

What kind of career have you had?
I went to UNC (back then Colorado State College of Education) and received a degree in elementary education. When our youngest was in fifth grade, I went to work at North as a teacher’s aide in special education. It was only going to be a temporary position but I liked it so much that I stayed on for 17 years and retired in 1998.

C.C. and Ella Skinner, Joan Bakken's grandparents, are shown in the midst of a move in Telluride in the 1890s.
Courtesy of Joan Bakken

Can you tell us about your marriage?

I met my husband while going to Colorado Springs High School, I was a sophomore and he was a senior. But we actually started dating in college and married in 1958.

Did you have children?
We have three sons, Kurt, Kevin (who lives in Connecticut) and Erling (who lives up in Aurora).

Two granddaughters and four grandsons.

Any of your family members still here?
Yes, our son Kurt and his family live in Pleasant Valley.

Little girls then - Joan (right), her sister Carol and their dog Brownie.
Courtesy of Joan Bakken
Can you tell us about your grandparents/parents?

My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Reynolds, came from Iowa in the late 1890s with her second husband, Joel Reynolds, who was in the insurance business. They lived on 13th Street. Her first husband, John Skinner, had died from his wounds from the Civil War. Elizabeth and John had two sons, and one was my grandfather, Clarence Charles Skinner. He and his wife Ella were in the clothing business in Kansas. They moved to Colorado Springs about 1902, and Clarence became a carpenter in “Carpenters’ Alley,” behind what is now the City Auditorium downtown. They lived in the first house in the 1400 block on West Pikes Peak. My father, Clarence Joel, was born in 1915. My mother, Maurine (Peggy) Smith moved from Holly, Colo., in 1932 to attend Blair Business College. At the time, my father was with the Conservation Corps out in Black Forest working on waterways and cutting trees. He and a friend got a pass to

The 1958 wedding day for Joan and Ole Bakken.
Courtesy of Joan Bakken
visit town and that’s how my folks first met. They eloped about 10 months later (1934) and married in Castle Rock. Just before World War II started, he helped build the barracks down at Camp Carson as his way of helping the war effort (he wasn’t able to enlist because he was 4F.) When the war started, he worked at Aircraft Mechanics (AMI) on North Nevada, in the old Alexander Film building, and made motor mounts for the bombers. After the war, they built seats for the crew and my dad invented the take-up reel for the crew seats. My mother helped keep it all together. During the war, while the men were working on aircraft, she and the ladies would work the gas station at the corner of Bijou and Cascade (now World Savings). They would pump gas, change tires and change oil. My sister and I spent a lot of time there. After the war, she went to work for District 11 as a school secretary. Starting at Buena Vista she followed Principal Robert Dairy to Garfield, Palmer Elemen-tary and then West Junior. After Dairy passed away and Holmes Junior High was built, she went there until she retired.

What are your best memories of growing up on the Westside?
The best memory was in our own backyard. The lots are very irregular and ours was large with a sideyard and it turned out to be the neighborhood playground. One corner of our sideyard ended up bare and that was used as homeplate for baseball. We also used it to play kickball, croquet, badminton and other outdoor games. Another favorite memory is of buying penny candy at Mrs. Dearing’s ice cream shop at the northwest corner of 14th and Colorado when I was about 7 years old. Most of our childhood was spent on the north side of Colorado Ave because Colorado was a busy road (before Cimmaron/Highway 24 was built) and my mother didn’t want us crossing the trolley tracks.

I read a lot of historical fiction. Right now, I’m reading a British WWI series, “Maisie Dobbs,” by Jaqueline Winspear. The main character is Maisie Dobbs, a nurse who becomes a detective. I also like to dote on our granddaughters who we get twice a week during the school year. And I spend a lot of time volunteering for the “Sons of Norway,” a fraternal lodge.

Joan and Ole's three sons (from left) Kevin, Kurt and Erling, on Kurt's wedding day in 1999.
Courtesy of Joan Bakken
What is gone from the Westside now that you wish had stayed?

I miss Schoch’s Hardware Store. It was like a rummage sale but organized in its own way. Edna knew where everything was, even if it was underneath several boxes. She’d find it for you and you could buy one screw at a time and not a package of forty.

What has stayed that you wish had gone?
I can’t think of anything really. I kind of accept changes as they go along.

How about the way things have changed? A good change is the Gold Hill Mesa development. In the springtime, when the mill was still in operation, Golden Cycle was interested in refining, not rehabilitating. We’d get this thick sand on our window sills when the wind was blowing and you couldn’t breathe. Also, before King Soopers was put in and the storm sewer installed, the rain would pour thousands of gallons of water into our neighborhood and cause not only mud but water in basements.

Overall, is the Westside better or worse than when you were a kid here?
I think it’s better. The crowning glory of the Westside was having its own high school. A lot of folks were involved in making that happen. They wanted the kids to have a sense of identity and purpose. When I attended Colorado Springs High School, the northend kids thought they ran the show and the kids from the south & west were left out. So it’s nice that the kids from this side of town have something of their own. Besides the physical – Monument Creek dividing the town (and now 1-25) – the Westside is unique and divided from other parts of town because it is filled with individual families and ordinary working folk.

With their parents, Clarence and Peggy Smith, are Joan (left) and sister Carol.
Courtesy of Joan Bakken
“Meet a Westside Pioneer” interviews people who have lived all (or nearly all) their lives on the Colorado Springs Westside. If you meet that criteria (or know someone who does), please give us a call at 471-6776.