DIA, Westminster, and Estes Park

We returned to Colorado in mid-November to spend a few days (Friday through Sunday) with my cousins and aunt, and to continue to try to answer the question, “why did my grandfather, Louis Pol, leave France in 1920 and come to the U.S?”. The time with my peeps was excellent. We yapped at and with each other the entire length of our visit. We were able to spend most of Friday driving to, and lunching in, Estes Park (by the following Monday 32 inches of snow had fallen on the park)—and on to Loveland which is one of the coolest car trips in the U.S. All of us had been to the Stanley Hotel before, but none of us had ever eaten there. So, it was lunch in the hotel that is best known for “The Shining”, a movie about an incredibly crazed character, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

While it had snowed a bit Thursday night, our drive to Estes Park was without delay or incident. The road was clear, and there was a light cover of snow on the trees, giving them a soft and welcoming pre-holiday look. We took the long way, getting off Highway 36 to explore Boulder. Then it was on to Lyons and Estes Park, and the twists and turns that match those of the Little Thompson River.

The drive from Estes Park to Loveland follows the Big Thompson River, winding through the alternating wide and narrow Big Thompson Canyon. In addition to the scenery, the Big Thompson is known for the devastating floods in 1976 and 2013. The 1976 flood was the result of 12-14 inches of rain that fell around Estes Park over a period of four hours. Imagine a 20 foot wall of water on the rampage through the v-shaped canyon, heading your way. There were an estimated 4,000 persons in the canyon that day/evening, 144 perished and over 250 were injured. The 2013 flood was fueled in the same way, but only eight people died. Why do humans continue to build homes and businesses along the Big Thompson?

I think that we are getting closer to an answer to the why question I posed earlier. As I have noted in previous posts, for most of my grandfather’s life he worked as a coal miner. We visited the city of Louisville’s (Colorado) museum to learn more about the history of coal in that part of Colorado (my grandfather lived in Louisville at the end of his days as a miner).  

Here’s a picture of him, in 1942, at shift change outside a mine in Superior, Colorado. We learned that there had been 30 working mines in and around Louisville during the 19th and 20th centuries. The last one working, The New Crown, ceased operation in 1955. The only other mine that was still functioning in the 1950s was Centennial (closed 1952). We know that when the coal ran out, Louis Pol went to work at Rocky Flats, aka The Bomb Factory. That’s interesting, but it does not help much in answering the why question.

We know that there was coal mining in the part of France in which my grandfather lived, and we suspect that he mined coal before coming to the U.S. My aunt, his daughter, told me that he did not like to talk about France. He never returned for a visit and made vague references that as a young boy he was forced to do things that he did not want to be part of. From age 10 to 15, he lived in a war zone. His town, Abscon, was near the Belgium border. The Germans crossed that border and many battles ensured, including the largest tank battles of the war. That action was only 10 miles from where he lived. So, it’s becoming clearer. When he and his family left France, World War I had been over for a bit more than a year. His town was a wreck. He had some skills in coal mining, and the coal fields of southern Indiana had some openings.

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