‘We didn’t have a stranger here’
GYPSUM – On Saturday, Esther Stanley of Gypsum celebrated her 95th birthday. Stanley has seen the better part of a century go by – all of it right here in Gypsum – and she has a wealth of memories and friends to show for it.Stanley is Gypsum native, born on the Andrew Olson farm in Gypsum Valley, where the Lloyd Gerard family now lives. Her parents, Alfred and Lena Hendrickson, grew potatoes, alfalfa hay, wheat and oats for a living. Stanley’s earliest memories are of the family’s move from the farm to Gypsum proper, when she was 3 years old. That was when her father decided he was not making enough money from farming and got a job with the county grading roads.”He needed more work so as to make a living for the family,” Stanley says.She still recalls what a momentous occasion it was when her father got a new horse to pull the road-grader. When Stanley was in elementary school, however, the family moved back onto the farm. From there, she could walk to the elementary school at the end of the street. Stanley remembers that she rarely left Gypsum in her early years. Travel was strictly by horse and buggy, and roads were often impassible until the family purchased the shiny new, black Maxwell. In the touring car, the family braved the difficult, dirt roads taking all-day trips when weather permitted to visit friends – the closest of which lived five to seven miles away. “We were excited,” she says of the car “We thought we were king of the road, there.”About 300 people lived in Gypsum when Stanley was a child. It was a farm community with a bank, post office and two hotels – busier than it is now, Stanley says.
Downtown, there were several stores, including the Lundgren Store Building, the Stremme Store and J.P. Oleson’s – all combination dry goods and groceries. The town also had a train depot, through which four trains ran each day bringing bread and groceries. In the summer, townspeople got a cultural thrill, when the Chataqua came to town performing Summer Stock Theater. Stanley’s Cash GroceriesIn 1928, Stanley graduated from Eagle County High School in a class of just eight students. Her most vivid memories of high school revolve around basketball games, she says.”In earlier years, we didn’t have a gym at the high school,” she says. “We played games in the old Odd Fellow Hall. The viewers sat on the stage, and the players had the main floor.” The hall was also used for dances and entertainment.Stanley moved away only briefly to attend Barnes Business College in Denver. She returned home shortly afterward, in 1931, to become the bookkeeper and clerk at the Gypsum Mercantile, a job she held for four years. She remained there until securing a job as postmaster at the Gypsum Post Office, where she worked until 1942.It was while still at the Gypsum Mercantile that Stanley married her childhood acquaintance, Bill Stanley. Bill was originally from Rawlins, Wyo., but moved to the Gypsum Valley while still quite young. They married on Aug. 19, 1934.
“I knew him a lot of years in grade school,” says Stanley. Together, they bought a house on Eagle Street, and opened Stanley’s Cash Groceries on Broadway in Eagle, which later became Beasely’s. Bill had previously worked in a grocery store in Gypsum, as well as at the Koonce Chevrolet in Eagle. The couple retired from the grocery business in 1972, selling to their nephew, John Beasley, who renamed it and moved it to where the Beasley Building stands now.But even in retirement, Stanley and husband Bill didn’t sit still. They traveled extensively for years – to Europe, Hawaii and around the United States. They also made a sweep of the Scandinavian countries, where they visited relatives. Her father was a native of Finland, although he moved to Gypsum while still in school. Stanley is still impressed with how well the children in Finland spoke English, she says.’Nothing to complain about’Stanley’s niece, Margaret Collett of Gypsum, and her brother John Beasley, now deceased, spent many a happy memory with “Aunt and Uncle Stanley,” Collett says. “We did a lot of traveling with them when we were younger, traveling to Kansas, Utah and places in Colorado,” she says. “My brother and I were always welcome with them. We always had a good time.”She also remembers Stanley and her uncle, who never had any children of their own, often attended their niece’s and nephew’s sporting events and musical performances.
In addition to Collett and another nephew, Bob Stanley of Denver, there are six great nieces and nephews, 10 great-great nieces and nephews and a great-great-great niece and nephew. And many of them live in the Gypsum area, near Stanley. For years, the couple attended many of their grand- and great-nephews’ and nieces’ school events as they could as well.Bill Stanley has since passed away, but Stanley has stayed involved in her community and her family. Until recently, she pursued her passions of gardening and crocheting. Although she is now unable to follow those pursuits, she continues to stay busy reading her Bible, watching TV and visiting her many friends by phone.Stanley says she has seen countless changes in her 95 years in Gypsum, most notably, of course, the area’s growth.”I used to know everybody. We didn’t have a stranger here,” she says. “Now, I hardly know anyone.” But she still has many good friends in town, including several other longtime residents, she says. Stanley will celebrate her birthday at home, with a lunch and, of course, a birthday cake with her extended family.”Quite a few of the kids are leaving for college this week” so they hope to gather as many relatives as can make it, Collett says. Stanley says that although her 95 years haven’t always been exciting, she adds she has “nothing to complain about, and a lot to be thankful for.”Vail Colorado
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