Museum of Northwest Colorado: Friendly service from a homegrown guy
December 4, 2015
Growing up as a younger child in a large family with 16 children, Dan Kawcak quickly learned the desirable assets of being personable and hardworking.
The Kawcak family was a bustling ranch family living 16 miles out of Craig in the Elkhead area. Dan, born in 1935, learned to love the ranch life early on, and it has stayed with him even now into his 80s.
In a house bursting at the seams with lively personalities and energy, Dan recalls that the boys were "booted out to the bunkhouse at the age of 5" while the girls were allowed to sleep in the main house. By age 20, Dan was a married man with his own business when national cartoonist Chet Klock came to Craig to create his series on local businessmen. Dan's eager willingness to work hard caught Klock's attention, and so, exactly 59 years ago today, his column on Dan appeared in the Craig Empire-Courier.
Dan's Texaco filling station was located on the northeast corner of Victory Way and Yampa Avenue where the RE/MAX Real Estate office is located today. He had worked in filling stations while in high school, and early in 1956 he purchased the 20-year-old filling station with its payroll of five employees.
Located on the main highway linking the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, Dan understood the need for round-the-clock service for travelers and kept his station available 24 hours a day to help the motorists.
When interviewed by Klock, young Dan claimed that "work was his hobby" and that has appeared to hold true over the last six decades. When Dan later sold the filling station, he went to work for locally owned Stanton Trucking Company and traveled throughout Colorado and the neighboring states. Dan's daughter, Betsy Overton, says that throughout the years, it seems her dad often had two or three jobs at a time, on top of running a ranch west of town with his son, Frank.
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By the early 1970s, Dan owned two trucks of his own and was self-employed delivering coal from the Colowyo coal mine to the tipple on Ranney Street, where it was loaded onto train cars heading for Denver. In 1974, Dan bought Craig Sports, which was located at 29 W. Victory Way where the Jungle Pet Store operates today. In 1979, he sold that business and went into real estate.
Dan's three children, Frank, Tamra and Betsy, were involved in 4-H during their youth, and Dan had a soft heart for that organization. In the early years of this century, he began annual turtle races at the Moffat County Fair to benefit the 4-H Foundation. He would send back to Kansas to acquaintances, who would catch wild turtles and have them shipped to Craig for the big event. The last year of the event, Betsy recalled that there were no turtles to be found in Kansas, so she and her dad drove the six hours to Salt Lake City to pick up turtles there to bring back to Craig for the races.
Dan is still just as active as ever with his Western United Realty business while continuing to care for his cattle on his ranch. Certainly, he still clings to the motto of his youth, that hard work is indeed his hobby.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado loves to collect family stories that reflect our unique heritage in this valley. Be sure to bring your holiday guests in for a visit to the museum this month. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, with free admission. Call for holiday hours at 970-824-6360.