Sense of right keeps Craig resident on track

Twila White still has the sign on which her grandfather listed rules for living in the apartment complex he built.

She laughs about them and pauses to muse:

"They haven't changed much."

Like the rules at the apartments she runs, White lives by a creed many would consider old-fashioned, but that incorporates a sense of fairness that's difficult to question. She expects others to do the same.

White says what she thinks, laughs when it's time and expects young people to respect their elders.

Now 60 and a grandmother, White concedes she's mellowing.

"I'm becoming my mother," she said.

She dotes on her grandchildren in the same frustrating way her mother doted on White's children.

White was born in St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction -- the closest hospital to the small town of Yampa, where her parents owned a ranch.

When her 5-foot mother and 6-foot-4-inch father left the hospital with their 9-pound baby, one nun whispered to another "the littlest lady came in and had the biggest baby," White said.

White was 3 years old when her family moved to Craig to run Hix Apartments, which her grandfather built. He worked at a sawmill, which enabled him to get lumber during World War II.

The apartments had running water and indoor showers. One of the rules was that tenants couldn't let strangers come in and use them.

"Back then, it was pretty special to have showers," White said.

Tenants also were expected to clean their messes and keep their children under control. The same rules adorn the walls of the coin-operated laundry White owns.

She and her husband bought the business, A-1 Laundromat, from White's father. White said she never expected to run such a business.

"It involves physics, chemistry and math," she said. "My strong points were English and biology, but I learned to never say never."

White attended what was then Mesa Junior College in Grand Junction. She had planned to be a teacher, but "it was getting to where you couldn't discipline children," she said. "The kids were starting to control the schools and pull all sorts of garbage."

She said she couldn't let a child talk back to her.

When White's sister asked her to move to Iowa, she dropped out of college and went. Her boyfriend, Bill, went with her. The two were married in 1968, and he was drafted into Vietnam War.

"I was stuck in Iowa with all that snow," she said.

The town was small and reminded her of Craig, except that farmhouses dotted the landscape instead of wide-open spaces.

White said she also was surprised to learn that the animals she thought were too long to be sheep and too short to be cows actually were hogs.

"By gosh, they've got hogs there," she said.

When her husband was discharged from the military, the couple moved to Colorado Springs.

"We wanted work, but not a big town," White said.

Her husband worked at a 7-Eleven, and White became the assistant manager and bookkeeper at a Burger King.

They moved back to Craig in 1975. White's father repeatedly asked the couple to buy the business from him. They nearly did, but a family tiff stopped them.

"It's not always good to work with family," White said.

Her father sold the business twice, and the buyers defaulted twice.

"He kept getting it back, so finally he came to us," White said.

They bought the apartments in 1989 and the laundry business in 1990.

"I always liked the idea of investing my money in property, because if everything bottoms out, you've still got a patch," White said. "You may have to pitch a tent, but it's yours."

Her father had just constructed a new building to house the laundromat, but the apartments weren't in great shape. The former owner left without winterizing them.

When they turned on the water heater, it sounded like a pool filling, she said.

"It's a good thing my husband is a very handy man," White said. "It's sad now that kids don't learn different things, they just learn one thing."

White said they're losing their enthusiasm for running a business. But she'd miss the people if she sold the laundromat.

"Some drive you crazy, but the regular customers are fantastic. I enjoy seeing them come in," she said. "I don't know that I could be somewhere where I don't see people. I can't even stand in line at a grocery store without talking to people."

On the other hand, she said, owning a business can constrain a person.

"The dream of owning your own business is not what it's cut out to be," she said. "You don't own the place, it owns you."

White's two daughters have learned the lesson well, and it's not likely that when she decides to sell, they'll be among the buyers.

White isn't ready to step out of public life. She once was an active volunteer, serving on Craig's beautification committee, on the board of the Community Budget Center and working as a Girl Scout leader. She cut back after having been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. She said she's feeling better now and volunteered to serve on the city's charter review committee.

"I'm nosy," she said with a laugh.

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