Growing up in Great Times
The years following WWII saw unprecedented growth all around the country, with the countryside around urban centers sprouting new housing developments. Our neighbor Judi tells of her growing-up days in the booming new 1950s suburbs of southwest Denver. The days of such great freedom…
By Judi Puncec
My parents moved us to Denver in 1953, and the following year they found the perfect place to live. It was a brand new development called Mar Lee. The majority of the homes were already occupied. However, at the time my parents were looking at homes a builder in the development had gone bankrupt. The remaining, unoccupied, homes were then sold at a reduced price. My parents were lucky enough to purchase one of those homes. It was on South Newton Street.
The neighborhood was mostly occupied by young families. It was what you would call a blue collar neighborhood. Because everyone was basically a new buyer it was a very friendly area with everyone eager to meet each other. The street we lived on had many children, some younger than me, some older and a few my age. There wasn’t an elementary school nearby so we were bused to a school out of the area.
An elementary school did open a year after we moved in and it was within walking distance of our home. This is when I met and became friends with three other girls in my class. It was nice to have girls my age living nearby. On our street there was only one boy who was in my grade at school so I was very grateful for the girls!
By the time summer arrived that first year, because it was a new housing area there were no big trees and many houses still were in the process of planting lawns. Kids playing outside were restricted from new lawns so we mostly rode bikes or played jacks and hopscotch on the driveways. There was always something fun to do.
We did have an indoor swimming pool, Progress Plunge, about 8 blocks away and by the time I was ten I was allowed to ride my bike and go swimming without a parent accompanying me. It was great freedom during the summer months. Also by then a strip mall shopping center had been built four blocks from our house. I was allowed to go there by myself or with a neighbor girl. We eagerly looked forward to trips to Hested’s dime store to buy 10 cents worth of candy or going to the drug store to buy a milkshake at the soda fountain.
By the time I went to junior high our neighborhood was showing the signs of permanency with the trees and shrubs getting bigger and change of ownership in many of the homes. Also, the undeveloped land to the south of us was now all homes and growing fast with new builders coming in every year. When we first moved to Mar Lee we were on the very outskirts of the city. Now we were well within the city and developing suburbs to our west. We even had bus service to downtown. The bus stop was two blocks north of us and one had to change buses at Broadway to get to downtown Denver. I was allowed to take the bus downtown when I turned 12 years old. The girl next door was 14 then and my parents trusted us to venture alone into the big city! Oh, how we loved to shop by ourselves. We felt so grown up. We now also had the first McDonald’s in southwest Denver and were thrilled to be able to buy hamburgers and cheeseburgers. The hamburgers were 15 cents and the cheeseburgers were 19 cents! It wasn’t quite close enough to walk or bike to so we depended on a parent to take us.
When I was in high school (10th grade) we had a new school that had only been open one year. I was in the second graduating class from the school. It was really too far to walk to and there was no bus service so we had to take a public bus or depend on a parent or older student of driving age to take us. By 11th grade I had a driver’s license and my Grandma Rosie had bought us a second family car which was mainly for my use, getting to and from school.
I lived with my parents in that home until I got married in 1966. My parents lived there the rest of their lives. My father died in 1975 and my mother in 1996. A lot changed in the neighborhood during those years. Houses were added onto or remodeled, the trees grew to majestic heights, and families from all over the world became our neighbors. When I go by there now, the neighborhood of my growing-up years is recognizable only in my memory.
Judi Puncec was born in Rockford, Illinois and lived there until the summer she turned 7 (1953) when her parents moved to Denver. They lived in an apartment until February of 1954 when they bought the house in Mar Lee. Now she lives in Southern Gables with her husband Harry, who told us about their move to a different new development, Memories of Early Southern Gables.