Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Father Joseph Albert Meznar

"Dear family in Christ" the bulletin would begin. The following pages, sometimes as many as four two-sided sheets, would continue with the scripture readings for each day, Mass intentions, prayers for the sick (and those who cared for them), comments on Sunday's readings, and parish activities as diverse as bingo nights, the fall festival, parish breakfasts, bake, craft and rummage sales. Although the grade school had been closed in 1969, the building was used for religious education classes, receptions for First Communion and funerals and meetings of the ladies society, men's club and Knights of Columbus.
Father Meznar was particularly proud of his Slovenian heritage and was thrilled when Rich Eurich and the Preseren Glee Club from Pueblo would celebrate a Polka Mass during the month of October (to coincide with the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7th), followed by a breakfast of Klobase and Potica. Another expression of Slovenian culture was the Easter procession around the block, parishioners singing Zvelichar (Savior), with a strong man carrying the statue of the Risen Christ.   
Father Joseph Albert Meznar: was born in Denver on July 11, 1932. His father Joseph P. Meznar emigrated from Slovenia (then part of Austria-Hungary), worked as a bookkeeper at ASARCO's Globe Smelter and died in 1951. His mother Mary Rose Berce was born of Slovenian parents in Golden, and was a homemaker until 1951, going to work at the Denver Dry Goods for 29 years. She passed away in 1996.  Joseph Sr., and Mary Rose were married at Holy Rosary Church on May 7, 1928. Father Joseph and his brother Father Robert P. Meznar were both baptized and confirmed at Holy Rosary Church and graduated from Annunciation High School and St. Thomas Seminary. Father Joseph was ordained in 1958, Father Robert in 1960. Father Joseph served at Holy Rosary from 1982 until 2009,  overseeing a complete restoration and painting of the church in 1995, funded by the Western Slavonic Association and obtaining state historic designation for the church, convent and school in 1999 (5DV.349).  After struggling with many health issues, Father Joseph retired in November 2009 and passed away June 6, 2015.

Rich Eurich entertaining the crowd in 2006

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Globeville and the Platte River Flood of June 1965

Like many frontier towns, both Denver and Globeville started near a river, the usually 
sleepy, muddy Platte. The Arapaho and Cheyenne respected the river, gypsies camped along its banks, but white settlers mainly used the stream to dispose of refuse and paid little attention to what went on there over the years.
As Denver and Globeville grew, so did their abuse of the Platte. Animal carcasses from meat packing plants, refuse from factories, railroads and the city of Denver found their way into the river. Power stations, chemical plants, oil storage tanks, landfills, weeds, car bodies, tires and hobo camps lined the river's banks as it meandered through Denver. Storm drains poured road salt and raw sewage into the Platte. No one seemed to notice. Over the years, the river gained attention only when it overflowed after cloudbursts or record amounts of snow melt. There were periodic attempts to remedy the problem in Globeville, including a WPA project during the 1930s that redirected parts of the river and installed riprap along the banks. But the neighborhood, like much of Denver, wouldn't pay much attention to the river until June, 1965. 

The spring of 1965 must have seemed like the end of the world along Colorado's front range, with small earthquakes, cool temperatures, rain, hail and tornadoes. Streams were running high with heavy spring snow melt. On Wednesday afternoon, June 16, a cloudburst dumped record moisture over an area south of Denver, turning normally quiet creeks into powerful rivers that  joined the swollen South Platte near Littleton to become a half-mile-wide rampaging flood. 
By early 7:00 pm, mud, cars, trailers, dead animals, parts of houses, uprooted trees, propane tanks and boxcars slammed against bridges in Denver, propane tanks exploded, power outages darkened much of the city, and radio and television stations periodically went off the air. 1.
The rail yards near Globeville, the Slovenian Gardens, the Polish Hall, Holy Rosary Church and 
the meat packing plants all sustained flood damage. When the power went off, the city’s north side sewage treatment plant near East 52nd and Franklin shut down and raw sewage spilled into the river and backed up through floor drains the in neighborhood. Holy Transfiguration, as well as St. Joseph's Polish Church lost records and many homes and businesses suffered damage. 
The Colorado National Guard was mobilized Wednesday evening, June 16, and remained in the damaged areas all summer, while neighbors helped each other put things back in order. Denver and Globeville would be forever changed by the 1965 flood, but it would take almost a decade for any meaningful change to take place. One of Globeville's citizens would play an important part in the change.

John Zapien remembers, "This river trail, the whole thing came about under the administration of Mayor Bill McNichols, who appointed his Republican rival, Joe Shoemaker, to form a committee to decide how to 
use $1.9 million in federal revenue-sharing money." The Platte River Development Committee [PRDC] included Dana Crawford, Hiawatha Davis, Jr., Daniel Trujillo and John Zapien. 
"So we formed this committee and we got busy and our biggest adversary was the city! They washed out their concrete trucks in the river and they wanted to put an asphalt plant right where that little park is by the McDonald's.
"We identified 240 places that were polluting and got all but 40 of them to agree to change. Do you remember the old dynamite plant, the Hercules Powder Company, that used to be where the Pepsi plant is now? They had these elevated stands and balls of black powder with little tin roofs over them! That's the kind of challenge we had." 
The first successful projects were Confluence Park and Globeville Landing, with a multi-use trail connecting the two sites. More parks and trails were completed and hundreds of sources of pollution were identified and eliminated. Over the past 40 years, the committee has evolved into the 501(c)3 Greenway Foundation, responsible for over 100 miles of hiking and biking trails, 20 parks and natural areas and has improved the quality of the South Platte River. 2.
Zapien sums it up, "That's the best thing we ever did."

1. Deluge of Century Unloads Fury Upon Foothills, Plains. Denver Post, June 20, 1965 
2. The Greenway Foundation

John Zapien

Globeville Landing Park

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Globeville Feasts, Festivals and Food Summer 2015

Where can you experience the faith traditions of Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Croatia and Mexico and enjoy pierogi, pelmini, potica, tamales and beer? At one of several religious feasts, festivals and parish events in Globeville this summer.
The first event, the feast of Corpus Christi (the body of Christ) occurs at St Joseph Polish Church at 46th and Pearl on Sunday, June 7, after 10:30 am Mass. Four altars are decorated throughout Globeville and parishioners form a procession under a canopy, praying, singing, and scattering rose petals at each site. The first Altar will be decorated by the English-speaking congregation, and the rest by the Polish-speaking members of the parish. This tradition is observed in Europe and also in Mexico. St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church

One of the Polish altars

The largest festival is the two-day Orthodox Food Festival and Old Globeville Days, July 18yh and 19th. There will be lamb roasting on a spit, every kind of ethnic food a person could want, craft beer (and that Eastern European specialty a shot of Slivovitz - Slovenian plum brandy - and a beer) Irish dancers, Ukranian choirs, Serbian musicians, Aztec dancers, bands, and accordions provide entertainment, as well as activities for the children, crafts, books, toys and representatives from neighborhood associations. There will be demonstrations of icon painting as well as tours of historic Orthodox Cathedral

Tour the beautiful Orthodox temple

The Annual Polish Food Festival will be on Saturday, August 22nd and Sunday, August 23rd in the parking lot behind the school. Galumpkis, pierogi, sauerkraut, kielbasa, sausage and Polish beer. Polish bands and Krakowiacy dancers entertain you.

Holy Rosary Parish bazaar, Sunday, September 5th. Plans are underway for a festival that features Slovenian, Croatian and Mexican food, music and entertainment.
Holy Rosary Parish