Gene Amole wrote his last column for the Rocky Mountain News to be
printed the day after his death. It appeared last week. He wrote,
"Before the fact, I wonder what my last thoughts were. I suspect they
were about my family which is really my measure of immortality . . . Now
I'm gone. Good-bye."
Often known as the Voice of Denver, Gene loved his native city and
talked it and wrote about for all his adult life. Late in October he
told his readers that he was dying. For six months he wrote
extensively about his condition, his thoughts, his feelings -- and his
love for his family and his native city.
In the last few days I have read most of those wonderful columns off
the web, alternating between laughter and an occasional tear. In March
he took his entire family along with his Hospice nurse to Maui. In Maui
he battled his daughter's aging laptop computer, much to the amusement
of his family which questioned his taking it at all. Hey, Pop, why mess
up a vacation with writing? He knew why. The columns written there are
very moving, varying from pain to the absolute delight of watching his
grandson play in the surf.
Gene Amole took column writing to an amazing level of passion, knowledge
and personal feelings. Reading his last columns took me back to the
Denver I knew once. He and I were of the same generation and grew up in
the same place. Denver was known as a Cow Town in those days. The
sophisticates who live there now probably deny it, but I hope it will
never quite shed the title. Of course even by the twenties there
weren't many cows close in.
I don't know DIA or LoDo or the Pepsi Center, and I shudder to think of
Elitch's downtown, but I remember what it was like in the twenties. My
mother and I rode the number 3 street car from Englewood to 15th and
Stout every other Friday afternoon for my visit to the orthodontist.
And then Dad drove in after work and we had dinner at Bauer's -- it was
on Curtis then and they had the world's most luscious candy -- or
Pell's, a block up the street. Pell's was the only fish house in town,
and my dad considered it the only place in Colorado where you could
safely eat a lobster.
Then we took in a show, usually at the Orpheum. It was a vaudeville
house. Remember vaudeville? Lots of stars got their start there.
And it had one of the biggest pipe organs in America.
Or some nights we went to the American. The American was a movie house
on 15th & Curtis. It was there that I saw the first talkie, "The Jazz
Singer," which came out in 1927. No one who heard it could ever
forget Al Jolson in black face on his knees with his arms outstretched
singing "Mammy." I think Gene Amole was too young for that one. He
would only have been 3 years old.
Up the street at the Broadway Theater I can still remember seeing the
famous Scotsman, Harry Lauder. When he asked people of Scotch descent
in the audience to stand, I couldn't understand why the men were wearing
suits. I though Scotsmen had to wear kilts. And one night Bea Lillie
had the entire audience rolling in the aisles. She was the funniest
woman of her generation. Somewhat later, in 1932, a depression
presentation of "The Green Pastures" came to the Broadway. The top
ticket price, I believe, was $1.00.
One of my favorite things to see as a kid was the steer that took up a
large part of the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel during Stock Show
week. Whether the cow in the Brown or the Cow Town title came first I
don't know. I think I read somewhere that they are still inviting a
prize steer to the hotel for that week. Must be a very sophisticated
Denver in those days was a great place to grow up. Gene Amole thought
I would like to think that when the time comes -- after we get a woman
President -- I will be able to say good-bye with the grace of Gene
Amole. Denver will not soon forget him.