Written by Mrs. Neal (Lucille) Ritchey. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”
Rose Caporale was twenty one years old when she married Efisio (Tony) on July 21, 1917. Tony, 33, had traveled and worked in gold and silver mines in California before settling in the Berwind-Tobasco area to work in the coal mines. Tony, a mine foreman, earned a comfortable living and enjoyed his work, but Rose constantly worried that he would be injured in the mine and by 1922 had talked him into moving to El Moro. They settled near her family and Tony took up farming.
Adequate water for farmers has always been a problem in the area. The North Side Irrigation Company had rights to 9-acre feet of water from the Purgatory River running through Trinidad. The diversion gate was (and still is) just below Commercial Street Bridge. Tony was soon elected “Ditch Boss”. His job was to get the water to stockholders along about ten miles of ditch. Further down the ditch he diverted water again, some to Baca, Lujan, and Chicoso ditches.
Tony worked diligently at his job. Water was a precious commodity. At flood time Tony was allowed all the water his ditch could carry. The farmers depended on this to fill their ponds. At first threat if rain, he was immediately at the Head Gate to open the gate. This needed to be carefully monitored. If he allowed to much water to go down the ditch, there would be breaks in the ditch and the stockholders down the line would get no water. Also, as soon as the water went down the Head Gate needed to be lowered or the Meter Box would show North Side getting more water than it was entitled to and there would be big problems with the Model and other ditches with water rights further down the river.
This was before the Trinidad Dam was built and many devastating floods rushed down the river. Many times water flowed over the Commercial street bridge and backed up to the Old Santa Fe Depot. It was not uncommon to see telephone poles, trees, and cars rushed down the river. If debris wedged the Head Gate, it needed to be removed or it would constrict the floe of water.
Rose worried that Tony would have an accident, and always insisted on going to the Head Gate with him if a flood was imminent. All the children were piled in that car and, if it happened to be meal time along came the roast, stew or whatever. They ate at the Head Gate and stayed until the water went down. The fact that Tony held his job for almost 40 years speaks as to the excellent job he did in getting their fair share of water to the farmers in the area.
Tony’s heart was not in farming. After surviving the depression and dust bowl days, he sub-leased a mining claim from State Senator Sam T. Taylor and on October 2, 1939, he and sons, John and Angelo began operating the old Tobasco Mine as Berwind Canyon Coal Company. They trucked coal to the power plant in Trinidad, also to customers in the Trinidad, El Moro, and Hoehne areas, and shipped by rail to destinations in Denver and Pueblo. Tony operated the mine until his death on May 4, 1967.
In 1945 Tony sold the farm and moved the family to Trinidad. In 1949 he and Rose built Skateland and Skateland Cafe at 424 W. Main Street. This proved to be a wonderful recreation facility for many, many Trinidad children. Rose and Tony enjoyed watching the children have fun, but tolerated no nonsense. Parents were secure in the knowledge that Skateland was a safe, well chaperoned place for their children to spend an evening.
After Tony’s death Rose and son Bill continued to operate Skateland and Skateland Cafe. Rose operated the Cafe exclusively for the skaters, neighbors, close friends and some of the boys from Trinidad State Junior College who she hired to help in the skating rink. She was well known for her delicious homemade pie, cream puffs, pancakes and her hamburgers. She was especially proud of a letter she received from one of her college students addresses only to “The Best Cook in Trinidad”.
Rose died in Trinidad on December 27, 1980. At that time Bill leased Skateland to Sam and Marge Tapia who are currently operating it.
This story would not be complete without a few additional word about Rose. She and Tony had nine children; John, Angelo, Lucille, Orlando, Katheryn, Jaqueline, Efisio, Jr., Ted, and Bill. She was a feisty woman, stood about five feet tall and was not afraid of anybody or anything. She worked with Tony on the farm, played ball with the children, could shoot the head off a rattlesnake, then calmly go in and bake a lemon pie that would melt in your mouth. Meal time was always fun. Angelo was a natural born comedian and he kept the family in stitches, sometimes we laughed so hard we couldn’t eat.
She was always intrigued by our legal system and took every opportunity to sit in as a spectator whenever court was in session. Her proudest moment was when her youngest son, Ted, a prominent Cheyenne attorney, was admitted to the Wyoming Bar.
Of their nine children, Oralndo died of pneumonia in 1926 at the age of three. Angelo graduated from Hoehne High School, entered the service with the U.S. Army Engineers in 1942 and served in Germany and the Asiatic-Pacific theatre. He received the Asiatic-Pacific medal. He returned to Trinidad after World War II and graduated from Trinidad State Junior College. He helped Tony operate Berwind Canyon Coal Company and Skateland, also farmed for awhile, worked Burlington Northern Railroad as an Electrician, then re-enlisted in the army in 1955. He died of a malignant brain tumor on October 16, 1960.
Efisio Simola, Jr., graduated from Holy Trinity High School and enlisted in the army. He met and married his wife, Mary Ann, while stationed in Germany. He was a Sergeant in Special Forces and died March 16, 1962, while in route to Vietnam aboard a Super Constellation belonging to the Flying Tiger line, which had been chartered to fly army personnel to Vietnam. The plane disappeared on a 1600 mile hop between Guam and the Philippines. All 93 U.S. Army personnel, a crew of eleven, and three South Vietnamese perished. They have one son, Jimmy and two grandsons.
John graduated from Hoehne High School and Trinidad State Junior College. He taught school in Model and El Moro. He married Bernice Kettler in 1939. He served as a Lieutenant in Military Intelligence during World War II. He owned a Used Car Agency and several Real Estate offices in southern California. He retired in 1969 and resides in California as do his three sons, John Gary, Jimmy, and Bob. He has five grandchildren.
Lucille graduated from Hoehne High School and Trinidad State Junior College. She married Neal Ritchey in 1947. He recently retired as a Supervisor of Locomotive Equipment for Burlington Northern Railroad, Denver Region. They live in Aurora, Colorado. They have one daughter, Kaye Slaten, and one grandson.
Katheryn graduated from Hoehne High School and married Maurice Dole in 1947. She owns and operates Aurora Realty in Aurora, Colorado. She has two daughters, Gaye Torrey, and Trayce Jeffries, and four grandchildren.
Jacqueline graduated from Holy Trinity High School, married Bill Weidman in 1949. He recently retired as a foreman for Thatcher Glass Company in Elmira, New York. They currently live in Cheyenne, Wyoming and have three daughters, Bonnie Baumgartner, Cheryl Meier, and Jackie Gunn. They have seven grandchildren.
Bill graduated from Holy Trinity High School, worked for the Chronicle News for years and is currently a custodian in the Sheriffs Department in Trinidad. Ted graduated from Trinidad High School, attended Trinidad State Junior College, and the University of Wyoming Law School in 1966. He married Phyllis Ortega in 1967. He has a law office in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was co-founder and director of the Equality State Bank in Cheyenne. He is founder and President of Caporale Energy Corp., Capeco, Simco Petroleum, and Simco Exploration. These are oil and gas exploration and gas gathering systems in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Other interest include land development and ranching in the Cheyenne area. They have three children, Ted Jr., Joe, and Jackie Michelle.
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