Sjoden, Thomas Francis

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .


Tom Sjoden

1927 - 2014


Born and raised in Leadville, CO.  Served in the Navy at the end of World War II.  Married to Alice for 60 years.

Tom spent his career working for Mountain Bell, starting part-time after returning from the Navy.  He served in a number of towns before being transferred to Evergreen in 1959.  At that time there were 1,600 phones in Evergreen, and he and Alice were provided living accommodations in a small house on Main Street that also served as the headquarters for the telephone company.  He remembers when he and Alice were first checking out the accommodations ... one of the interior doors opened, and an operator announced, "There's a call for you."  Alice immediately insisted that the door be wall-boarded over so that would never happen again.

A year later, construction was started on a new, larger building on Main Street to house direct-dial equipment;until then all calls to Denver were toll calls. This enabled people to begin working from home and was a key factor in the growth of Evergreen that followed in the 1970s. By 1979 there were 11,486 phones in the 80439 ZIP code.  The addition of 2,243 square feet in 1967 created the structure that's present in 2011.

Private lines were unheard of, with 8 parties to a line being the norm and 12 parties to a line in Bergen Park.  In the early 1980s, 4-party lines were standard outside of the concentrated population areas in town.  In the mid-1980s getting a private line cost $4,200 for installation and could be as high as $20,500 when mileage was added to general installation costs.  In 1986 the Public Utilities Commission approved a rate hike that allowed for rural improvements, thus bringing down the costs considerably.

Until the end of 1981, locals were used to giving out just four digits as a phone number because all residents shared the same "674" prefix.  A second prefix – "670" – was added in January of 1982.

A customer service presence for the phone company in Evergreen ended in 1983; the switching equipment to service the greater Evergreen area remains in the Main Street building.  Tom retired from Mountain Bell in 1983 after 37 years with the company.

Tom was one of half a dozen key players who founded a recreation district for the community.  He, along with Byron Angevine, Harriet Strand, Linden Wood, Warren Hobbs, and James Nienaber recognized there were no recreation facilities in the area except for those in the schools – and no swimming pool whatsoever.  There was considerable resistance – "bitter resistance" according to the Sternberg book – to increasing property taxes for the purpose of recreation.  Many felt that living in the mountains was recreation enough.  Some of the founders even used their own money to fight the resistance in court, according to Tom.

The first attempt to form a district failed.  When Jefferson County Schools agreed to lease 6.5 acres of land above the existing Evergreen High School, the tide turned.  Voters approved the formation of the district in 1969 and in 1970 approved a $400,000 bond issue for a building to include a swimming pool.  The recreation center (now known as the Wulf Recreation Center) opened in 1973.  Tom served as the first president of the board of directors for the recreation district and continued in that position for 10 years.

In addition, Tom volunteered with the fire department for 13 years.  "I told them I just wanted to be a POF -- Plain Old Fireman."  He was an ambulance driver for 8 years – back in the days when an Oldsmobile stationwagon served as the ambulance.

As a member of the Evergreen Kiwanis Club, he was asked to serve as "New Club Chairman" and thus became a founding member of the Blue Spruce Kiwanis Club here in Evergreen.  He also was an active parishioner of Christ the King Catholic Church, teaching children in catechism classes there for 15 years.

After retiring from his career job, he worked for 9 1/2 years for Ted LaMontagne at The Hardware.  "The Hardware was a little jewel -- everyone loved The Hardware," he recalled.  Tom was recognized community-wide for his outstanding customer service in that position.


Source:  Evergreen, Our Mountain Community