By Jo Cross
M. Josephine “Jo” Cross, local author and former La Veta mayor, joined the Huerfano Journal in July of 2008 in order to write a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant series reminiscing about the funny things that have happened, and about the people that have made things happen in the Cuchara Valley. She told the Journal in November of 2008 that she expected that many of her pieces would be published posthumously. She died Dec. 5, 2008 at the age of 93. We honor her memory by running the remainder of her stories this summer.
La Veta Business
LA VETA- In the early 1900’s, La Veta was a thriving community. The town began in 1865 by a civil war veteran who passed through the area during the war. He didn’t forget its quiet beauty and came back to establish a town there. By the time of WWII, it had grown and prospered.
The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad built a track to La Veta from Alamosa. The roadbed came over the old La Veta Pass, which meant a mighty steep and often treacherous route. This caused them to build a roundhouse in La Veta for servicing the three engines, the freight cars, and the one passenger car. Since the downhill trip from the pass meant using the brakes a lot, every wheel had to be checked for oil level and the engines overhauled for the return trip.
The train crew had to stay overnight in La Veta, and they always stayed at the Springer Hotel on Ryus. This hotel was on the alley west of Main and burned down several years later, but was never rebuilt.
The hotel never closed and meals could be had at any hour. In the 1930’s after dancing at Sulfur Springs, we kids would go there for coffee and cinnamon rolls. Those rolls were huge— nearly filling a plate— and were hot and buttery.
Main Street was unpaved, but a narrow center strip from Ryus to Francisco had a row of light standards— six or eight, I think. By the time we came in 1931 the lights were gone and Highway 12 was paved through town.
There were, on both sides of Main, four grocery stores, two filling stations, several eating places, and other shops as well. A bank was located on Main and Francisco and the Lamme brothers had their hospital in a two story frame building on Main and Field Streets.
Mr. and Mrs. Stream had a large department store across Francisco from the bank. They had well-stocked grocery shelves, a meat counter, a hardware section, and yard goods. They were charming people and did a lot of business.
Charlie Masinton and Joe Rubino were partners in a grocery farther north of Charlie’s later place. Charlie then moved south and Joe opened a shop on Ryus. Joe dealt mostly in meats, as he had bought Asa Arnold’s old cabin across from the upper Cassai ranch and did his butchering there. The Kincaid grocery was on Main and Ryus. The second story of the building was a large ballroom where dances were held each weekend.
When Streams retired, they sold to the Briscoe family, who later sold to Lewis Hastings and Mars Combs for their hardware store. Joe and Ruth Rubino got contracts to carry rural mail routes— Joe over Cuchara Pass and Ruth over La Veta Pass— which they kept until they retired. Kincaid sold to a liquor store owner when he retired and Charlie rented the upstairs for his extra supplies.
Although La Veta has changed in many ways, it will always be the friendly small town below the mountains.