Brawling on “The Fax”

Brawling on “The Fax”Southern Gables Neighborhood Association

By Ken Fischer

Colfax or U.S. Hwy 40 is a colorful and historic avenue. Wherever you look, it’s got stories. Colfax is known as the “Main Street of America,” the longest commercial street in the country. The ancestral origins of U.S. 40 include portions of the “National Road System” designed in 1806 and the national “Victory Highway” after World War I. Its passage through Denver and Lakewood was characterized by the new modern concept “motor hotels” for motorists. Restaurants, shops, and entertainment such as drive-in theaters sprung up near these early motels, catering to travelers. And there were bars. 

Oldsters recall Lane’s Tavern which was an actual “roadhouse” on Colfax staffed by Bunny and Benny Lane featuring two 7 oz. “scoops” of Falstaff for a quarter. Trays of this grog resembled an assembly line. Outdoor restrooms were a 1920s feature which endured 60 years of operation. When some enthusiastic historians forged a plan to move the old log building to Belmar, they were sadly disappointed to find that any attempt to transfer the structure would result in a collapse. Thus the final rest for the beer-soaked roaring 20s venue of fun times: Rooney Road landfill. 

A Curious Link to Colfax… Boxing

When we think of Colfax in the old days, we have to admit that many amateur boxing or brawling events — mostly spontaneous — occurred at the rough and tumble bars on the strip. The following episodes have no relation to those time-honored Friday/Saturday night “one round, two hit” bouts in the alley. Two hits? Yes. ”He hit me and I hit the pavement.”

Eddie’s Pig ‘n Whistle

The motel, restaurant, and bar are gone, but the iconic sign is still there.

Going way back to 1924, Eddie Bohn purchased property from his father at Colfax and Wolff. A native of Denver’s west side, Eddie was an adventurer who set out for California by motorcycle, became a successful professional boxer (64-0-2) and was a close friend and sparring partner for Jack Dempsey.

Fortunately for the gregarious Eddie, in 1924 the interstate roadway legislation had just been enacted and Colfax was to become arterial. On Jack Dempsey’s birthday that year, he opened the Pig ‘n Whistle bar/restaurant/motel. It became a training base for boxers and was frequented by a variety of sports and movie celebrities including Dempsey (room 39), Billy Martin, Roy Rogers, the Dorsey brothers, Sugar Ray Robinson, Clint Eastwood, and many more. Eastwood filmed part of his movie, “Every Which Way But Loose” at the famous site. Eddie was a philanthropist and fundraiser for many charities and used his celebrity connections to advantage. For one event he hosted, he had the Coors brothers come and work the taps. 

In the 65-year run, Eddie himself was a main attraction of this original “sports bar.” If you didn’t meet Eddie, you missed a great storyteller referring often to the multiple pictures on the walls. According to his son, as Eddie sat and ate with his guests, he could hardly have cared less if you were the governor or a plumber. Eddie died in the 90s but left a legacy of charity and camaraderie tough to match. 

Bronco Lyle Alzado’s Short Boxing Career

Trading card showing Alzado in his Denver hero days

Just down the road and a few years later, the Broncos went to the Super Bowl for the first time. Their spirited, popular, and fan favorite all pro defensive end, Lyle Alzado embodied the spirit and gusto of the team and their ecstatic fans.

In the following summer, Lyle later admitted that he was “reading his own press clippings” and got “too big” for the Broncos. One ill-advised endeavor in the wake of the Super Bowl was an exhibition boxing match with Muhammad Ali at the old Mile High Stadium just off Colfax. Ali was aging, out of shape, and going broke. What was billed as an exhibition soon evolved into what Alzado determined was to be a test of boxing skill. Alzado had golden gloves experience and felt he was significantly above the novice level as a boxer. A chance to show well against “the greatest” was very alluring. Fans were divided about Alzado’s venture. As it turned out there were probably better brawls in the bars and taverns along Colfax, over whether he should do it or not, than at the main event.”

Alzado came out throwing haymakers and attempts at hard body punches. Ali danced and fended off any serious contact. Alzado became verbal and challenging which seemed to surprise Ali, who showed several quizzical looks. Alzado continued his “Rocky-like” posturing for several rounds with Ali blithely backing away, throwing “puff” punches, biding his time, just attempting to complete his contractual agreement. Alzado’s frustration was evident and he appeared to feel he could match if not better the timeworn champ. He continued power punching but landed no significant blow.

After a forceful push away, Ali clinched Alzado and apparently outlined the potential result of trying to turn the event into a reality show. Subsequently, Ali “tapped” Alzado several times to demonstrate the difference between pro and golden gloves boxing. 

The fight ended with a disappointing gate and a disgruntled Lyle Alzado. The angst persisted to a boiling point on the gridiron and Lyle soon left the Broncos, to the dismay and sadness of Orange Crush fans who had loved him. It may well be said that it was the boxing that took the fight out of him, and he became a Cleveland Brown. As if that wasn’t enough (“Say it ain’t so, Lyle”) he finished his football career as an LA Raider. 

Courage and Determination, Tough Times

Public domain photo, Ron Lyle

Ron Lyle (Photo: Wikipedia, public domain)

Another Lyle, Ron Lyle, was a convict who rose to contender. He had a power punch which “could have disintegrated a cement block.” A troubled young Denverite of humble means, he challenged Muhammed Ali at the peak of his career in 1975 for the world heavyweight championship. The fight was in Las Vegas and Howard Cosell did the play-by-play. Lyle was winning on points until the eleventh when Ali landed several hits, stunning the challenger and a TKO was called. Many felt that the referee prematurely ended the fight; Lyle was on his feet and vociferously protested the stoppage. Even though he lost, he “showed up” that night and was at his best. It was to be the pinnacle of his career. 

In later years, Ron Lyle opened a gym on Colfax in Lakewood. He would train youngsters in the fight game. He was a well-known character with diverse business and recreational interests, some of which got him in trouble — and in debt. One sunny afternoon, Two west Denver brothers with a tough reputation showed up at the gym and awaited Lyle. Their patience had run out over a debt he allegedly owed them. These fellows had some “smoker” experience 1 around town and were by no means novices to the boxing game. 

Witnesses’ accounts differ minimally, but in short, Lyle was ambushed. He arrived and exited his Lincoln then was immediately accosted by the dynamic duo with a “power advance”… which evolved into a 4-hit “Laurel and Hardy” short. Final score; two thugs down. When police arrived some minutes later, the would-be “Rocky Balboa” brothers were still attempting to recall what was the number of the human locomotive that ran them over in 12 seconds. Colfax Avenue could be a tough place. 


Ken Fischer holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Iowa and was involved in organizing Iowa’s first Law Enforcement Training Academy. He was on the SWAT Team in the Lakewood Police Department, and retired as a Senior Sergeant. His experience includes refereeing altercations between contentious Colfax Gladiators. A longtime resident of Southern Gables, he is an experienced woodsman and now runs a firewood business. 

Kindness to the Land

Kindness to the LandSouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

By Paul Fleischer

We wrote about the Southern Gables annual leaf collection event a few weeks ago, mostly about how it was such a wonderful example of the neighborhood coming together to support one another and the planet.  The project kept  hundreds of bags of leaves out of landfills, and enhanced our sense of community by working together for good and having fun doing it.

United States Department of Agriculture

We didn’t say much, though, about the huge amount of good this project is doing for the land. As a small scale food producer, I can tell you that this event helps us incredibly.  The seasons to come will be more prolific and the crops more abundant because of all of this organic matter which will be worked into the soil to enrich fertility.  When we first purchased this property, the ground was really nothing more than dead dirt.  Over the years though, we have utilized cover cropping methods, added leaves through this event and multiple trucks of organic compost and manure, implemented a crop rotation schedule and focused on low till organic farming methods to improve the land.  Now the soil is just exploding with microbial activity and life, and this has led to an improvement in the overall ecosystem of our land.

We now have 3 families of red-tailed hawks that are constantly perched somewhere around the property.  They are so used to us now we can nearly get close enough to touch them.  When the sun hides behind the mountains for the evening the hawks end their shift, a beautiful barn owl takes over.  He is not quite as unintimidated by us, but equally important to our living system.  We have now seen foxes and deer, raccoons and skunks, snakes and  unlimited numbers of birds and insects come back to the land.  All of these creatures add to the diversity that we have been working to improve and are returning to this land because of what we are doing to the soil.  This really is where all life begins.  Good soil creates a ripple effect through the entire ecosystem and without it, there can be no ecological diversity, no life. Kindness to the land will always be rewarded with generous returns.

We are thankful for this community and for what we can all do together for our planet.  We will keep doing our part here at the farm, and look forward to producing healthful food here for years to come. As we feel the changing of the seasons and shift over to the farm tasks of winter, we think of the coming holidays and wish our neighbors the best. Stay safe.

Paul Fleischer is the co-owner and farmer of Fleischer Family Farms. He is also a high school agricultural education teacher. He cultivates the land on his Southern Gables property alongside his wife and co-owner, Chelsie. 

Southern Gables Leaf Day

Southern Gables Leaf DaySouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

The morning started off a little chilly in the Southern Gables neighborhood, with a warming trend promised for later in the day. Doug and Judy Whitten arrived early at the Fleischer Family Farm, and set up some tables with coffee and doughnuts, and a jug of cool lemonade in anticipation of working in the warm afternoon. Signs were set up on the nearby street corners, with arrows pointing toward the farm, “Leaf Drop.” Paul Fleischer, the farmer, and Christy Cerrone of Sustainable Southern Gables went about setting up some traffic cones and more signs, and making last-minute arrangements. Some of the trees around the farm released a few of their remaining leaves to the early morning breeze, and leaves rustled around on the ground. They would be joined by more leaves during the day — bags and more bags, boxes and truckloads of leaves. All the leaves would be put to use as mulch and compost on the neighborhood’s own “urban farm,” rather than ending up as useless trash in a landfill. Leaf Day!

Photo by Paul Fleischer

Leaf Day in Southern Gables is a special event, bringing community members together and doing a good turn for the environment. In the seven years that the leaf collection day has been held, 35 tons of leaves have been saved from going to landfill.

It wasn’t long before Doug and Judy were joined by volunteers (all wearing masks of course), a few at first and then more, until during the course of the day there were 64 people working together. A car or truck would come up and be met on the street by Judy and her friend Monica Abelein, and logged in with a count of how many bags were being brought. Judy and Monica also tended a registration table with community information and a “donations” jar to benefit Green Gables Elementary, the school that holds our little neighborhood together. A good number of neighbors noticed it without mention, and offered donations. After being counted in, the vehicle would be sent ahead to be marshaled into place by Bruce Loftis. When it stopped it would get swarmed by volunteers — mostly teenagers — unloading the bags of leaves and using a fleet of wheelbarrows to take them to be dispersed. Students from Carmody Middle School, Lakewood High School, D’Evelyn High School, Alameda High School, and Westwoods Community Church all worked together while doing a pretty good job of social distancing. Christy Cerrone was the liaison for the student volunteers, and Tyler Amedon, the principal of Denver Christian Academy, came and helped as well.

Photo by Paul Fleischer

A big part of the leaf project took place the day before; students from Denver Christian Academy were dispatched to rake leaves for disabled and seniors who could not do their own. Then on Leaf Day the bags were collected by volunteer drivers, headed up by Ken Fischer with his two-ton dump truck. Greg Abelein made the pickup rounds too, bringing load after load. Helping to unload the trucks, and going out to disperse the leaves along with the students were Drew Cole of Westwoods Community Church, Bruce Loftis, Monica Norvall, Kim Ryburn, and me.

Photo by Bruce McDonald

There were two areas where the leaves went: first, the Pumpkin Patch near the entrance. That plot will be expanded and used in the coming year for pumpkins again, and there will be squash and other gourd crops too. Paul said that part of the plot might be used for a trial run of corn, provided the squirrel community can be convinced to let him grow some for us. After that area was covered with leaves, packed down, and covered with a tarp (visible in the top picture), all the rest of the leaves were sent to a far corner of the two-acre farm to form a new mountain. “Leaf Mountain” will eventually turn into rich compost and be spread over other plots and rows, but for the near future it will be a mountain for Paul’s two children and their playmates to conquer.

Photos by Christy Cerrone

This year’s haul added almost 800 bags of leaves to the Fleischer fields, to turn into compost and enrich the soil for years to come. This is the second year that the neighborhood has put the leaves to use at the farm, after five previous years sending them in 30-cubic-yard dumpsters to a commercial composting facility. Dale Trone was the neighbor who proposed the idea of using them at the farm rather than sending them to the composting facility for other people to buy. Having them benefit the local environment directly is a great feeling. As Paul Fleischer told us in summarizing the results of all that work, keeping this leaf mulch out of landfills and amending it into the soil provides nutrients for the farm that provides food for our community.

And that’s all good.

If you like numbers, here are some for you.

2020 2019
792 804 All Leaves Brought to Farm
280 Bags Picked Up at Senior Neighbors
30 30 Lawns Raked for Senior Neighbors
82 85 Neighbors who brought leaves
64 Total Volunteers  –  Students and Others