Born and raised in Evergreen. The family operated the town’s only filling station starting in 1921, in a building rented from Prince McCracken on Main Street. Because the family had to drive a truck to Denver frequently to obtain gas for the filling station, transportation was readily available for Gerry to get back and forth to Denver for “proper schooling,” something his maternal grandmother insisted upon. He attended Denver schools from 2nd grade until he graduated from East High School, living with his grandmother most of the week and returning to Evergreen for weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. He knew the roads well.
During his youth, the family spent the winter months in California because their Evergreen home did not have running water. Gerry worked in the family Texaco filling station on Main Street from the time he was 13, a tradition for the Olde family that has continued for more than 90 years – Gerry’s kids and grandkids are introduced to work at the station at age 13. Olde’s Garage was also known as Herman’s Olde’s, Herman Olde & Son, Olde’s Texaco over the years, selling only Texaco gasoline for the first 73 years until 1995 when it changed to Shell.
In the early days, Olde’s Garage served in many capacities: a general store selling clothing and dry goods, notary public, the place to purchase fishing/hunting licenses as well as worms and ammunition, the fireworks store prior to July fourth, the toy store at Christmastime. Before banking came to Evergreen, Olde’s helped locals by cashing checks.
Olde’s was the only business in Evergreen that stayed open throughout the Depression. Gerry’s father, Herman, did “lots of good things for folks” during those times, Gerry recalled, by extending credit for fuel and heating oil until the growing season and sale of crops. “Evergreen was a lonesome town then.”
Gerry served in the Pacific during World War II as part of the army/air force. He married Lois the day after she turned 18 (he, at 19, was still required to get permission from his parents).
The main route between Denver and Evergreen was Bear Creek, which had 16 bridges between Evergreen and Morrison – at least before the floods of 1933 and 1935 when many of the bridges were destroyed. As a result, for years a motorist would have to drive through Indian Hills and down 285 to get to Denver. It was the Civilian Conservation Corps and Public Works Administration that rebuilt the rock walls and roadway along Bear Creek, Gerry recalled. “It was a slow process.”
In the heyday of Troutdale in the Pines, Gerry washed cars for the likes of Ethel Merman and other celebrities. Wearing rubber aprons and high boots, he’d do the detail work required of the spoke wheels and whitewalls on the fancy cars. He remembered that the garage was much in demand, as there were lots of mechanical problems in the early automobiles. The radiators had to be flushed out because bugs and grasshoppers would clog the grilles, especially on those cars coming from Nebraska and Kansas.
As a teenager, he remembered racing cars from Evergreen to Colfax and rolling a 1940 Chevy on the dirt road near where the Catholic church is now. Before I-70, parts of the roadway from Floyd Hill to El Rancho were just one-lane, meaning cars would have to back up if they encountered an oncoming car. Travel between Evergreen and Idaho Springs was an all-day affair. Traveling old Highway 40 from El Rancho to Denver could take 3 hours on weekends with 2-lane traffic but no passing.
Gerry was a charter member of the Evergreen Kiwanis Club, the first service club in Evergreen in 1952. He was also a charter member of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce (an organization that was on-again-off-again in the early years), the Evergreen Fire Department, and the Evergreen Rodeo. He joined the Masonic Lodge in 1952 in Sunset Heights, which merged with the lodge in Idaho Springs in 1995.
With a keenly sharp memory, Gerry has been a source of historical information for the community whenever anyone asks.
Source: Gerry Olde