Memorable Characters of South LakewoodSouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

By Ken Fischer — Part 1 of 2

Today marks the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, the end of World War II. On that day in 1945, the United States celebrated an end to the war that had cost over 400,000 American lives, and worldwide, almost 60 million. Can you imagine the joyous celebration at knowing it was really over? All over the country, people ran into the streets, church bells rang out, and the feeling of shared elation must have been something we can hardly comprehend now. Imagine the joy, the hope for a lasting peace!  Imagine! Or are you among the few who remember it?

A legendary kiss. V-J Day in Times Square, photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

The numbers of those who endured and survived that war, at home and serving abroad, are decreasing by the day. For what they did, they have been called “The Greatest Generation.”

As that generation of our elders recedes into history, it seems incumbent on our generations to recall some of the notable folks who found themselves, after that terrible war, in what would later become Lakewood. With hard work and foresight, they contributed to making our area the great place it is now. They thrived in this area for almost 50 years before Lakewood became the largest municipal incorporation in US history at that time.

These reflections and memories come from personal contact with these rock solid Coloradans both personally and professionally during the time of their leadership and contributions to the community, and later in their “golden” years.

Don Burleson was an early arrival in Lakewood about 40 years before it officially became Lakewood. He bought acreage south and east of Alameda and Garrison and erected numerous single family homes where about a half dozen of his progeny lived and some still do.

Don was an able man who trucked most of his life and had associated skills to boot. As the Sixth Avenue Expressway was being established, he obtained and moved his personal home from the northwest cloverleaf area of 6th and Wadsworth. Footings were meticulously measured in the center of his property where the log cabin stands today. This log cabin was built with amazing skill in 1929 and was one of about a dozen in Lakewood cut with maple, 3 sides planed, with 12” nails holding them square and rags soaked in oil as sealant. Several still stand.

Don was known for his love of peacocks and maintained a pond for their habitat. In evening hours it was not uncommon for area residents to call in mayhem with “women screaming” in the area of the Burleson compound. Of course it was most often the birds sounding off.

Don was a character and enjoyed having his family close, often transporting his grandkids in the bucket of his aged yellow industrial tractor. He was quite savvy as well and when the city determined that they needed to widen and pave Garrison, they approached Don with a plan to give him two curb cuts. Don politely disagreed, noting that he had three dirt drives entering the street from his property. Lakewood advised that by the new city code, he could only have two to be in compliance. Don reflected and asked if he could come down with his original plat documenting that he actually owned the street to its midpoint running the length of his property north and south. “No way,” he was told. “I’ll be down.” After examining the early plot issued in the 30s, Lakewood engineers asked where Don would like his three curb cuts. In the spirit of cooperation, he ceded back to the city the east side of what is now Garrison street.

Moving just slightly south as the crow flies, we remember Art Henke. Art built the second structure on Belmar about six blocks east of Garrison. It was notable as a square block home with few luxuries. Art was an original neighbor of the Addenbrookes and knew Tommy well. This was the family who worked one of Lakewood’s many prosperous farms. The area is now Addenbrooke Park.

Art was an engineer by profession and he delighted in quizzing youngsters on the proper names of peaks in the foothills. Art had a collection of old Chevrolets dating back to the late 40s and early 50s.

He was usually dressed in khaki work clothes and took the majority of his meals at the Carnation Restaurant, driving one of four classic cars to 14th and Wadsworth. He knew everyone there and vice versa. Occasionally a new patron would feel sorry for him, driving those old cars and dressed so poorly, and offer to buy his meal. Art thought this was pretty funny and sometimes took them up on the offer.

These are just two of our forefathers, men I knew and admired, who contributed to build Lakewood into the great city it has become. In my next article I’ll tell you about a few more.

— 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. A longtime resident of Southern Gables, he is an experienced woodsman and now runs a firewood business. 

One thought on “Memorable Characters of South Lakewood

  1. I truly enjoyed reading Mr. Fischer’s article on Memorable Characters of South Lakewood! So many characters, heroes and caring Americans to write about, but so few take the time or have the skill to remember them in this way. Thank you!

Comment or reply? Please do.