Fern Opal Julian-Carlson: Seventy years have given me many memories

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Disabled, with lots of time on my hands, I sit here in my LaZboy in Seattle, thinking about my beloved hometown in the shadow of the Rockies. I remember our little house next to Foster's Garage on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Victory Way across from the Fairgrounds. It had that awful fake-brick siding on it, but it was home.

It was torn down in the late 1970s, I believe, and some kind of a Trading Post was built there which eventually burned. The last time we were there, in 1991, it was a vacant lot. Wonder what's there now.

A.V. Spurgin, my grandfather, moved his family into town from Elk Springs in Badger Valley in 1933. My mother, Alberta, married Ed Julian four years later. We lived next door to my grandparents until my folks split up and we left town. I continued to return to Craig every summer to stay with my grandparents.

We went to the Congregational Church, where Mr. Best pastored. He was my hero. He came from England, wore a black three-piece suit, smoked a big black cigar, and always carried candy in the glove compartment of his car for little children. He never had a wife or children of his own but loved children.

He taught the nursery class Sunday mornings and held a service in Maybell on Sunday afternoons.

I remember a lot about Craig. The people were wonderful, and I had loads of friends. We watched the mail train come in from Denver in the late afternoon and waited for the mail to be sorted so we could walk downtown to the post office for our mail. We talked to everybody on the way.

You could smell popcorn coming from the 'new' drug store next to the post office. Sometimes I even got to buy some. Craig was a small piece of Americana where people loved God, country and one another.

I'm proud to have been born in such a place.

When my grandfather died in 1948, we couldn't afford a tombstone but my mother vowed to come back one day and erect one. The cemetery above Dead Man's curve was just a big dirt and weed field. In the summer of 1976, my mother and stepfather, my husband and four children and I came to finally get the tombstone. I was horrified when Mother told us her plans.

She wanted to make a tombstone for grandpa's grave. She insisted on pouring cement in a cardboard box with the bottom taken out.

I couldn't believe it. I argued against it, but she finally won me over.

She said her dad was a cowboy, born in the 1800s and that many of his contemporaries were buried beside the trail. She just knew he would want something simple and homemade. We did it.

It was hard to keep the cement from drying too quickly in the July heat, and a big crack streaked diagonally through the piece. I wrote grandpa's name with a stick and drew his cattle brand - Bar-S-rafter - reading from the bottom up.

Then I lined the edges with small pretty stones and signed my fjc in the corner.

The last time I got to Craig was May 1991.

We were there for Memorial Day. It seemed like the whole town had a giant yard sale and all the stores had sidewalk sales.

There was a big parade through town ending at the cemetery. No longer a field of weeds, it was well maintained with statuary and nicely manicured lawns. Grandpa's "stone" was still there.

I wonder how many of the townspeople have ever noticed it. To my astonishment, I saw that everyone had picnic lunches and they sat on their family tombstones to eat them. Children scampered here and there, and a great time was had by all.

Then a detail of ancient veterans marched in carrying flags. Some had parts of their uniforms on. Some had only a hat, but they stood tall and proud and made me proud to remember the America of my youth.

The America that cared so much about their soldier boys that large stars hung on the doors of the homes who had a son in the World War II. Blue for still living ones and Gold for the ones who never made it back. My Uncle Hubert and my father came home. On this Memorial Day, my last in Craig, the names of all those who had lost their lives in battle were read aloud, and we enjoyed a patriotic program.

I hope this tradition continues and that Craig is still the same warm, wonderful, caring city of my past.

God bless her.

Happy Memorial Day!

Fern Opal Julian-Carlson

Comments

bigrred1576 6 years, 5 months ago

There is just enough truth in this story to Know that the writer does know about Craig, but i have never know a parade to end at the cemetary, nor families sitting on gravestones having a picnic. There is always a ceremony on Memorial day and I encourage everyone to come out at 11 AM on monday for that service.

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bigrred1576 6 years, 5 months ago

I have been here all my 54 years, and parades used to form on Ranney or Pershing streets and then go east on Victory and north on Yampa and disband at the the schools on north Yampa, but never to the cemetary.

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grannyrett 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't know about picnic's at the cemetery. I do know that in history there used to be picnic's at cemeteries. It was traditional back when they used to call it Decoration Day. History books I have seen show pictures, or drawings, of this happening. I lived in Craig since 1952 and don't remember a parade ever ending at the cemetery, but please remember--this lady is in her 70's, so it may have happened when she was a child. Someone should ask Dan Davidson at the museum.

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50cal 6 years, 5 months ago

1952 wow,was craig incorperated then? I can't remember any parade going up to the cemetary either but could have. in all my experiance the honor guard would have been to old to want to walk up that hill. maybe next year i will have to get off my butt and help out a little more kid graduating or i would of this year. i hope as many people show up at the cemetary as can

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50cal 6 years, 5 months ago

seems to me i was overseas just before memorial day of 1991, i was home for that one. my grand mother died that may and was buried up there. i remember it because being on active duty and my first memorial day home was special. it was also very cold. But you gotta love the patriotism.

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