Museum of Northwest Colorado: War vet makes good in Craig
So many of the businessmen who formed the backbone of Craig’s economy in the mid-1950s were transplanted here following World War II. Many of those men actually were war vets who had moved to Craig following the end of that tremendous conflict. Often referred to as the “Greatest Generation,” these young men rode the impetus of change and a strengthened economy to establish new homes, families and enterprises.
Craig, with its rural aspect and a multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities, offered appeal to those looking for a new home. Additionally, the town’s location on Highway 40, which linked the West and East coasts, promised a viable business climate. So for myriad reasons, the young men trickled into Craig, some with families already established and some single, but all looking to build a life in this beautiful corner of Colorado.
Nationally acclaimed cartoonist Chet Klock, came to Craig in 1956 to create a six-month series titled “Familiar Faces” which featured local businessmen. So many of his cartoon subjects were comprised of those who had served in the military, and Chuck Conner was one of those.
Chuck came to Craig in 1947, after serving with the Army in New Guinea during the war. His wife Wanda rode out on the train to Craig with their baby Charlene in 1948. Chuck began his illustrious business career as a janitor at the Craig Sales Company which sold Cadillacs, Ramblers and Jeeps in addition to carrying International Harvester equipment for the farmers. The sales office was in the building at the corner of Russell Street and Victory Way, which today houses the American Northwest Realty company. The show lot was across the street at 37 E. Victory Way which is today the new home for Cramer Flooring.
By 1955, hard work and good salesmanship had earned him the title of general manager in addition to the distinction of being co-owner of the firm. The company name later was changed to Northwest Sales. Chuck, along with his business partners, was instrumental in the 1970s in the Craig East Development, above the cemetery.
Chuck and Wanda made their home in Craig for over forty years. After the last of their four children graduated from Moffat County High School in 1978, Chuck and Wanda continued to live in Craig until Chuck’s retirement. In 1989 they moved to Oklahoma where they had both grown up before the war. Chuck died in 1997, and Wanda still lives in Oklahoma with her daughter, Charlene.
Chuck, as was typical of most local businessmen, was active on the social scene and in areas of community service. Aside from being an active outdoorsman, he served as president of both the Softball League and the Little League baseball organization. He was the director of the Chamber of Commerce and belonged to several local fraternal organizations, which benefitted the town.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado in downtown Craig hosts various displays, which highlight our local businessmen and businesses. Be sure to stop by for a cool visit on a hot summer day. The museum is open Monday through Saturday and as always, admission is free.
Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar at the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig.
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