Crosson, Ruth Evelyn Kissner
(1918 – 2014)
Ruth was born in Arriba, Colorado and lived in a Christian orphanage in Denver after the age of one when her father abandoned the family, although her mother paid for room and board for Ruth and her brother and often visited them. Her grandmother would put her in a buckboard and take her to Kittredge for extended stays.
During her visits with her grandmother, who worked downstairs at the Evergreen Hotel, she would briefly experience a side of Evergreen few would ever know about years later. The rooms above, she learned on one occasion when she was six, were occupied by women of ill repute with their names on the doors. “One had a satin garter hanging on the knob,” Ruth wrote one time in a creative writing class. “It welcomed me inside with a scent of perfume, talcum powder and flowers.” The lady who occupied that room invited her in, curled her hair and put makeup on her cheeks and lips before Ruth’s grandmother awakened from her nap and screamed for Ruth to get down the stairs immediately.
When her mother remarried, the family reunited and moved to Kittredge when Ruth was about 12, living in a small house adjacent to what is now Kittredge Park, land once owned by the family (Kissner). She would walk from Kittredge to Evergreen to skate on the 65-acre lake created by construction of the dam, which commenced in 1926. A 1928 photo showed thousands of skaters and onlookers lining the lake, mostly people from Denver.
Ice skating during the winter months became Ruth's passion. “We would skate from Thanksgiving to the end of February, on the average,” she recalled. The young wannabe was inspired by skating shows put on by the Denver Figure Skating Club. It was George Cranmer – manager of the Denver parks system responsible for many notable accomplishments under Mayor Ben Stapleton and also an accomplished figure skater who gave skating lessons on Evergreen Lake – who taught Ruth the art of dancing on skates. (Ruth and George Cranmer pictured right.)
In 1940 she married Melvin “Swede” Crosson. The couple had four children: David, Carrol, Bonnie and Ann. In 1944, after their first child had been born and while Ruth was pregnant with their second, Melvin was drafted into the Marines, spending two years away from the family fighting in World War II, including time on Iwo Jima. “I skated my tears away,” she said of that period.
Ruth made “teaching every child in Evergreen how to skate” her life’s mission, although never charging for her services. With parking at the lake $1 per car, she would either walk to the lake from her home along Hwy 73 near Brook Forest Road or load up as many kids as she could pack into the car and drive there for the day. She took along first-aid kits and changes of clothing for the children, as the only restroom facilities were outhouses 30 steps up on the hill on the opposite side of the lake, mission impossible for kids on skates. She'd prop the tiniest ones up in "pumpkin seats" on the side of the lake and turn up the car radio for music.
The earliest warming hut was on the north side of the lake in the basement of Eddie Ott’s, built in 1938 where Lakepoint Center is now. In those days skaters cleared the snow off the lake themselves, pushing chairs with boards attached to the front.
When the Evergreen Kiwanis Club held its Ice Karnivals, Ruth was one of the judges and the one who gave out the ribbons. They were big occasions, significant enough for kids to be out of school for the day; and accounts of the Karnivals made write-ups in the Denver papers.
Supporting her fledgling family on the $100/month she received from the Marines proved difficult, so she catered parties for the wealthy who owned homes along Upper Bear Creek Road. She also cleaned those houses, opening them up in the spring and closing them up in the fall. She often had a first meal ready with ice boxes chilled and filled with groceries. Among the many well-to-do she worked for was Baronness von Poushenthal. Cleaning and catering provided a second income for the family for 20 years, enabling her kids to take lessons in piano and ballet.
Daughter Carrol See remembers that her mother did the baking at El Rancho in the late 50s, producing spritz cookies, meringue pies with nut crusts and the tiny cinnamon rolls, for which the restaurant was known. In the 1970s she also worked in the lab at Denver Biomaterials, walking to work from their home in Marshdale. At one time they owned the land now known as Evergreen Memorial Park along North Turkey Creek Road near Highway 73.
When the Evergreen Kiwanis Club held a pancake-flipping contest in 1957 – up and down Main Street, no less – and offered a new clothes dryer as a prize, Ruth was up for the competition recalls Dwight Souder, a relative who grew up along Blue Creek Road. She needed a dryer, so she practiced flipping pancakes while running, he recalled, referring to her competitiveness and determination. (She did win the race.) “She even wrote a cookbook of wild game recipes because that’s all they ate,” Dwight added.
She participated in numerous sports activities from bowling to racewalking, roller skating to bowling, shooting hoops to tossing softballs. She also loved bingo, making it into an active sport by doing a 5K walk both before and after visiting the bingo hall. In the 1970s she participated in the Senior Olympics held in Greeley, qualifying to the International Senior Olmypics in St. George, Utah, where she competed against men in some sports because no other women were registered for a particular competition. She won five medals. Over the years her homes and apartments were adorned with numerous medals and mementoes of competitions large and small.
One year she roller skated for 12 hours straight from noon to midnight to participate in the Jerry Lewis Marathon at Roller City on Alameda in Lakewood. But ice skating was always her passion, and many of the old-timers will remember her as Queen of the Ice, the lady who skated Evergreen Lake for 57 consecutive years.
Source: Daughter Carrol See, Ruth Crosson scrapbooks