At the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Memory Lane

This week, Westword took an end-of-the-summer road trip down colorful Colorado Boulevard, from Weld County to Highlands Ranch, with many stops in between. This essay is a part of that project.

In a city with few highways, Colorado Boulevard serves as a major thoroughfare, connecting everything to everything, as well as being a destination in itself. At rush hour, it can take a twenty to travel a mile. A busy Saturday can have the same effect.

I have spent more time on Colorado over the past forty years than any other street in Denver. The places I've been read like mile markers to my life. And while its ghosts are still living for me, its present and its future continue to call.

In 1970, my parents chose to buy a house ten blocks from the University of Colorado medical school, then located at the corner of 8th Avenue and Colorado, so that my dad could walk to work. A doctor and professor there, he retired just two years ago, before the university moved all of its operations east to Aurora.

Everyday life took place on Colorado, whether it was a trip to the vet with our cats as a kid or a visit with my accountant as an adult, take-out from the original Ming's Dynasty in the early 1980s or longer trip south to Jerusalem for Middle Eastern food.

There was Hatch's and Hodel's drug stores, play time by the sculptures (burning hot in the sun) at Burns Park, and fill-ups at Bob's Place, a gas station near Alameda (Howdy, Folks!).

But the boulevard was for special occasions too. As a kid, I took plenty of rides in the back of my mom's Chevy 2 on our way to the U-Hills shopping center, where trips to Fashion Bar (usually before the first day of school each fall) were capped off with an Orange Julius inside the mall.

Before the first day of school this year, I took my own children to the SuperTarget on Colorado to look for school supplies and backpacks, clean jeans and flash drives.

I celebrated my tenth birthday at Celebrity Sports Center, which serves as the Pantheon of scraped memories for anyone who grew up here in the '70s, '80s or '90s. We had pizza and cake. There was bowling and skeeball in the basement. Oh, the skeeball. More than any other aspect of Celebrity Sports Center, that's what I miss.

My own son has begged to have his birthday at Monkey Business, one of the newest businesses to call Colorado Boulevard home. There's no skeeball, but it might be fun.

I learned to drive in classrooms in the now vacant Gove Middle School, at 14th Avenue, which had trailers out back with driving simulators. Just a few months, and a few blocks, further on, I had my first run in with the law when I was pulled over for making a U-turn at 1st Avenue from the southbound lane into the northbound. Where was I going? To House of Pies (now gone). A friend and I had decided after passing the place around midnight that we were hungry for Boston Creme Pie.

Just about every movie I saw growing up was somewhere on Colorado Boulevard, whether it was the big premiers like The Empire Strikes Back or Raiders of the Lost Ark at the massive and long-gone Cooper or Century 21 theaters, or everyday flicks like Oh, God! with John Denver and George Burns at the Colorado 4 Cinema, also demolished.

My kids see their big premiers, like Ice Age 3, Up and Iron Man, on Colorado Boulevard, too, at the UA Colorado Center 9 near I-25. It's not the Cooper, but they do have an IMAX.

In high school, I had a friend (still do) who grew up in a Park Hill house right on Colorado Boulevard. He lived in a room atop the third story and used to tell us he could tell the difference between fire trucks, police cars and ambulances just from their sirens. He could also tell which direction the emergency vehicle was headed.

In the winter, he and I and a bunch of other guys would gather across the street in City Park and play snow football. A couple of trees marked the end zones. Bushes were out of bounds. People driving by were our fans.

Other memories come in a jumble. Walking or riding by bike through vacant lots in Glendale with friends; taking the bus at age twelve with my sister to the Museum of Natural History (as it was called then); a green Colorado Boulevard street sign acquired via suspicious circumstances and hung on my bedroom wall; the way the street looked after the Blizzard of '82, when my mom and sister and I strapped on cross country skis to check it out. It was silent, vacant aside from a stranded car or two. Like nothing I'd ever seen.

After college, in the early/mid-1990s, a couple of friends drove through town on a road trip. They had only one thing on their minds and they found it, first at Hooters and then at Shotgun Willie's just up the street. They liked Colorado Boulevard so much, they stayed the night in a motel nearby, at what is now the Courtyard by Marriott, I believe.

More recently, Colorado Boulevard has still been a part of my life, whether it was a 4 a.m. run to the electronics and office supply stores on the day after Thanksgiving in a half-hearted attempt to buy some inexpensive gifts for my kids and my parents, or a quick trip to Smashburger, to Liquor Mart or Anthony's pizza for a large pie with pepperoni.

Two weeks ago, I tried to check out Snooze, the incredibly popular new breakfast place across the street from where Annie's Café used to serve the same purpose.

The line was an hour and a half long on Saturday and again on Sunday. I went somewhere else, but I'll be back. Because I always return to Colorado Boulevard.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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