Shirley Valentine's Family Has Lived in Swansea More Than a Century -- and She Plans to Stay

The train whistle cuts through the roar of the interstate, and the smell of the nearby Purina dog food plant lingers in the air. On this cold morning, Shirley Valentine shoves her walker across her garage floor, loses her balance and then catches herself on the back of her Chevrolet minivan, which sports a Colorado Native sticker and a Jesus fish. As she laughs at her near-fall, her breath floats through the air like the smoke rising from nearby factories and the exhaust fumes coming out of semis streaming along the I-70 viaduct that splits Swansea off from most of Denver.

The cold doesn't bother her; Shirley Valentine is tough. She studied auto mechanics and learned to change her own oil; she knows how to ride a motorcycle, shoot a gun, gut and skin a rabbit and chop off a chicken's head. She's weathered a lot of changes since she was born in this neighborhood in 1931; her family has lived here since 1906. No other family has stayed in Swansea as long. See also: I-70 Talk Is Getting Ugly, But New Murals Beautiful the Neighborhood

Swansea and Elyria, just to the west, were once industrial towns on the outskirts of Denver, enclaves occupied by workers laboring in the surrounding factories and smelters that sprang up by the railroad tracks on the north side of town. In 1902, Denver annexed Elyria and Swansea. The neighborhood, now called Elyria-Swansea, is home to approximately 6,400 people, as well as the National Western Complex, two schools and several churches. Soon light rail will come through, connecting these neighborhoods to central Denver once again for the first time since the interstate arrived.

Interstate 70 was part of President Dwight Eisenhower's dream to create a national network of high-speed cross-country routes that would give the military as well as civilian travelers easy access to all parts of the country. The viaduct that takes off west of Colorado Boulevard and continues through the Mousetrap, passing over Elyria-Swansea as well as Globeville, was built in the early 1960s and designed to last thirty years. It currently carries between 47,000 and 205,000 vehicles a day, and parts of it are crumbling. For more than a decade, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been working with the feds to come up with a solution for replacing it; CDOT's preferred plan calls for tearing down the viaduct between Colorado and Brighton boulevards and rebuilding the interstate belowground. In that proposal, one cap will be put over the underground interstate between Columbine and Clayton streets and another possible cap will span from St. Paul to Cook streets. Playgrounds, plazas and community gardens will fill in the area above the interstate, attracting new businesses and reuniting the neighborhoods. That's the plan, anyway.

But right now, if Shirley wants to go to a grocery store -- as she does today, since she's shopping for her church's food bank -- she needs to travel several miles outside of her neighborhood. The nearby Stop-N-Shop Food Store, stocked with overpriced potato chips and candy bars, is not an economical or healthful option. Every month, Father Felix Zermeño-Martin, the priest at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, gives Shirley $300 to spend on food for the parish's 32 families in need. She founded the food bank three years ago and has operated it on a shoestring ever since. To keep the project going, she has to find bargains -- and the best are nearly five miles away, at the Save-A-Lot discount store in Commerce City.

A few blocks from her house, Shirley crosses herself as she drives past the church at 2645 East 48th Avenue, a humble, orange-brick-and-cinderblock structure. She has attended Our Lady of Grace since it opened in 1955, nine years before I-70 cut through Denver's north side and changed the neighborhood, once a thriving community of immigrants from many European countries. When I-70 came, she says, "the whites left and the Spanish moved in." But her family stuck around.

Her father had bought the family home at 47th Avenue and Columbine Street, and Shirley inherited it. The house was worth so little, they could never afford to move. So they stayed, despite frustration with Swansea's shifting demographics. Shirley doesn't speak Spanish; many of her neighbors don't speak English. Neither do some of her fellow parishioners. Since taking over Our Lady of Grace a few years ago, Father Felix has shifted the focus of the church; today he celebrates Mexican holidays and hosts processions for Our Lady of Guadalupe. "Most of the people here are Spanish, so if you don't cater to them, you don't have a church," Shirley says, adding that the language divide has torn the community apart just as much as the highway did. People just don't look after each other like they used to.

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos. Shirley Valentine's grandparents came to the United States over a century ago. Their journey here involved no coyotes or cartels, but it was hard just the same.

In 1904, Thomas Valentine and Catherine Madden were married in Oxfordshire, England -- or at least that's what they told people. "I never saw a marriage license," says Shirley. By 1905, Catherine was pregnant. The couple wanted a better life, so Thomas emigrated to the United States. Lured by advertisements for carpentry jobs at the steel mills, he headed for Pueblo, Colorado, but failed to find work.

Back in England, Francis "Frank" Walter Frederick Valentine was born, and Catherine had him baptized in the Catholic Church. Later, his father would have him baptized in the Episcopalian Church. "Frank would always say he would go right to heaven because he was so well covered," says his daughter.

In 1906, Catherine and baby Frank traveled by ship to the United States. "All the people with children were at the bottom of the ship, like it was with the Titanic," Shirley remembers her grandmother telling her. Catherine and the other mothers would take turns staying up all night on the twelve-day journey, forming a circle around their sleeping children. "The rats were so plentiful on the ship that they would eat the babies' fingers and toes," Shirley says. "Catherine always said, 'A ship with that many rats will never sink.'"

When Catherine and Frank landed at Ellis Island, Frank was covered with sores. Mother and baby were quarantined for two months while he healed. When he finally did, they traveled to Pueblo -- only to find Thomas hospitalized with pneumonia. It took three months for him to recover.

When Thomas couldn't find work in Pueblo, the family left for Sidney, Nebraska, to help manage a hotel and restaurant owned by Thomas's brother. But their time in Sidney was short-lived, too. They lived in a duplex, and their neighbor would trap muskrats, beavers and skunks. When he skinned the animals for fur, blood would run from his kitchen into Catherine's. She was already stuck with most of the tasks at the restaurant, and between the animal blood and the unfair workload, she wanted out.

So they moved to Denver and bought a home at 47th and Josephine Street in Swansea, a working-class community of immigrants. Catherine put down $300 that she'd saved from working; they paid off the other $450 they owed at a rate of $8 each month. For years, Catherine held it against Thomas that she'd had to pay for their house.

While the neighborhood parents, who often spoke different languages, were too busy working at the nearby smelters, packinghouses, stockyards and factories to socialize, their children built friendships that united the community. They played Kick the Can, hopscotch and jacks. Young Frank enjoyed shooting marbles; when he won, he'd put his trophies in a bucket, and he saved those marbles into adulthood. When he got older, he played baseball for a team owned by Joe Ciancio, owner of Ciancio's Groceries -- one of the small markets that used to dot the neighborhood -- and eventually a city councilman. Ciancio's Swansea team competed with players from Elyria and Globeville, holding games in abandoned lots. Although those communities are often lumped together today, tension bubbled among them a century ago.

Neighborhood feuds turned into fights. Although the gangs of today didn't exist, there were definitely turf wars. Swansea would beat up Elyria. Elyria would beat up Globeville. Then Elyria and Globeville would unite and come after Swansea. One of the biggest battles took place every summer, when Swansea and Elyria kids would show up at Globeville's much-coveted community swimming pool. If the Globeville kids weren't successful in fighting them off, the interlopers would be kicked out anyway; sharing was not an option. As kids got older, swimming-pool wars turned into liquor-fueled fights at dance halls and taverns and then at job sites, where some belonged to unions and others were scabs.

For the Valentines, the fights weren't limited to school and the streets. Frank's dad, like all the Valentine men, had a terrible temper. One day, Swansea Elementary called because Frank and his brother, Tom, had been fighting other kids. Thomas Sr. went to the school for a conference, and when he returned with his sons expecting supper on the table at 5 p.m., it wasn't there. "So Grandpa Valentine beat Grandma," Shirley says. "She picked herself up and told him, 'We are in America, and if I get supper on the table or not, you will not beat me.'" While he never beat his wife again, Thomas's children inherited his drunken, violent tendencies.

The Valentine family owned a tavern in the neighborhood, at 39th Avenue and High Street, across from a dye factory. Workers would eat there during the day and drink 3.2 beer at night. Catherine hung a sign on her back gate so that train-hoppers coming into Denver would know that they could get a hot meal at her place. "The bums ate on the back porch," Shirley remembers. If they came without shoes, Catherine would find a pair of her husband's and hand them out. She quit serving the train-hoppers when she realized some of them were dumping out her food.

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos. Shirley uses a shopping cart as a walker as she navigates the Save-A-Lot. She pushes the cart to the cereal aisle and pulls a King Soopers flier from her pocketbook to compare prices. She can't waste a penny if she's going to stick to her $300-a-month stipend.

When she shops for herself, she buys ingredients for boiled dinners: pigs' feet and sauerkraut, stews and corned beef and cabbage. But she can't hand out perishables at the food bank, so she settles on eighteen boxes of Frosted Flakes, eighteen boxes of cornflakes, 24 cans of mandarin oranges and 24 cans of pears. The stacked cans and boxes soon tower over her head. She pushes the cart toward the checkout line, ignoring gawking children. The cashier, a young woman with a nose ring, grins at the sight of this small, elderly woman stockpiling groceries.

Shirley pays the cashier. "Thank you, dear," she tells her, and pushes her haul outside. Back in the van, Shirley pulls the handicapped-parking permit off the rearview mirror before she drives to the next store; she'll put it up again when she parks. A cop once fined her $90 because she had a pine deodorizer hanging from her rearview mirror, and she doesn't want to risk another ticket. That would cut into what she's able to use for the food bank.

Father Felix never joins her on these drives. "I wish he would," she says. "That would give him a better idea of the needs of the food bank and how much we do for the church." It would also demonstrate why she wants more money for these trips. The church does not reimburse her for gas or for wear and tear on the van; if she goes over budget, she takes the hit.

Shirley drives down Monaco Street toward the Commerce City King Soopers, passing an abandoned lot where the old dog track once stood. Her mother, Minnie Memmer Valentine, loved betting on the races; it was good family fun. "The refinery, Suncor, will be putting in a Boys and Girls Club there," she says. Although Shirley misses the dog-racing days, she's happy that the kids of Commerce City will have somewhere to go. She passes the Commerce City Recreation Center, where she volunteers, cutting elderly people's toenails. She often goes on outings with fellow seniors -- to dinner theaters, to restaurants, to museums, to the zoo. While she lives in Denver, Commerce City provides for her social needs; there is no community center in Swansea.

She pulls into the King Soopers parking lot, puts up her handicapped-parking permit, gets out and pushes an abandoned cart into the store. At the entryway, she gets into an electric cart and zips off toward the canned-goods aisle, nearly clipping oblivious shoppers. She stocks up on 24 cans of tomato soup, 24 cans of chicken noodle soup and forty cans of spaghetti sauce, then heads to the checkout. She knows the bagger and the cashier. "Thank you, dear," she says, as she always does.

On Thanksgiving, she will pick up her 93-year-old hairdresser, and they will head up to Black Hawk to try their luck at the casinos. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Father Felix will read a mass for Shirley -- one of her daughters paid the church $10 for the service -- and she will celebrate her 83rd birthday at a party with family and friends at Red Lobster. "They said, 'What do you want for your birthday?'" she recounts. "I said, 'I don't want anything.' I've got everything I need. If I want anything, I go and buy it. I'm at the age where I don't need all this junk. I'm trying to get rid of some of it as it is."

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos. Growing up, Shirley didn't always have everything she needed. Her father, Frank, drank daily, and drank a lot. He often spent his entire paycheck on booze, and Shirley and her mother would go without food. On a normal day, "he smoked ten cigars, took a can of Copenhagen, drank a quart of whiskey and two cases of beer," Shirley says. Despite his drinking, he maintained his job as a multigrapher at the Denver Post, preparing the paper for print. Sober, he loved his family; drunk, he beat them.

As their family grew, Catherine and Tom Valentine bought land and a shack where the Rocky Mountain Arsenal stands today. Their plan was to homestead it as an investment in the future, while Shirley, Frank and Minnie stayed at the house on Josephine. But during the Depression, Catherine and Thomas couldn't afford having both a city and a country home, so they sold the shack and returned to Swansea. Rules were rigid in that crowded household: Minnie barred her daughter from playing with other kids and did not allow her to keep pets at the house. Her father would not let her ride her bike to school, so she would walk two miles from her home to Annunciation Catholic School, where the Sisters of Charity taught her classes. "They were strict. Very strict. But we learned," Shirley says.

The Valentine men's tempers punctuated Shirley's childhood. She adored her father when he was sober, feared him when he was drunk. Frank and Uncle Thomas were both boxers and union organizers who drank to excess and let their rage flare, at home and on the streets. Thomas beat his wife. Once, he thought he killed her, so he stuffed her body behind the stove until he could figure out what to do with her corpse. Several hours later, she woke up and dragged herself out.

Thomas, a member of the carpenter's union, was working with a crew digging the underpass at 46th Avenue and York Street in 1936 when the union went on strike and scabs took over. Thomas drank too much and stormed to the work site, where he started yelling at the scabs. They brawled. Detectives who had been hired to police the railyards told him to go home. He started to, but instead of going down York, he headed down the railroad tracks. The detectives shouted for him to stop. He didn't, and the detectives shot him dead.

In 1945, Frank bought a house across the alley from the Valentine home, at 47th Avenue and Columbine Street, where Shirley lives today; her grandparents stayed on Josephine. The new home, with a large yard and a big garage, was an ideal spot for raising chickens; Frank kept fifty for eggs and meat. He hated to kill them, so he taught Shirley how to slaughter and dress a bird, and that became her job. Her routine was simple: Go to school, go home, do chores, and on weekends join the rest of the family for a hunting or fishing trip to the mountains.

After high school, Shirley married; her husband moved in with the Valentines. She had her first of four children at nineteen.

Frank continued working and drinking hard. In 1952, he tried to unionize the Denver Post, and tempers were high. Frank Copeland, a maintenance man, lost his cool and shot him in the elbow. Copeland was arrested and sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. He wrote Frank and apologized for shooting him -- something he said he never would have done if he'd known that Frank had grandchildren.

Shirley attended a nursing program and began working the night shift; during the day she took care of her kids and her grandfather until he passed away. Her husband wasn't much help: He drank too much -- just like her father and grandfather. Shirley's daughter, JoAnn "Jody" Vail, vividly remembers her father's cruelty. As soon as she could talk, she began asking if she could move in with Shirley's parents to get away from her abusive father. Frank and Minnie liked the idea, and Shirley was okay with it, too: The house on Josephine Street didn't have enough space for Grandma Catherine and the four children to each have a room.

So Jody moved in with her grandparents. Both households shared supper each night; Frank often came home drunk. One night he started screaming at Minnie, then hit her. When things had simmered down, Jody climbed onto her grandfather's knee and told him, "I don't like it when you get this way. You've got to stop drinking beer." He looked her in the eye and replied, "Okay. Because you asked me to, I will stop drinking whiskey and beer."

"He quit that day, cold turkey," Jody remembers. "He never went to AA or anything like that."

Minnie continued to rule the home with an iron fist. Like Shirley before her, Jody was not permitted to leave the house -- and children from Swansea Elementary could not come inside. If Jody wanted to see neighborhood kids, they had to stay on the outside of the fence, and she stayed on the inside. The restrictions kept her from having friends, so she turned her affection toward pets.

Frank still had his chickens, goats and ducks. He crafted a pond out of an old horse trough and filled it with well water, goldfish and daylilies. In the early '50s, Denver passed an ordinance against urban livestock, and the family had to get rid of their beloved agricultural animals. Jody had dogs through most of her childhood, but they lived in the garage; she'd sneak in blankets during the cold winters.

Jody remembers when the construction started on I-70. The family was looking forward to faster drives on their weekend trips to the mountains. But as construction dragged on, it took the Valentines an hour just to navigate their way out of Swansea. The smell of construction added to the stench from the stockyards, the smelters, the train yards, the Purina plant and the Colorado Serum Company, which kept acres of horses, sheep and cattle that the company killed in order to produce vaccines for farm animals. And the odor only got worse after the roadwork was done and semis and cars began puffing smog into the sky.

The people who could afford to leave did. They sold their homes to newly arrived immigrants, most of them Spanish-speaking. The gap between English and Spanish speakers divided the community; it seemed like nobody was willing to learn a new language, Jody says. By the mid-'60s, Swansea was transforming, and over the next decade or so, white people would become the minority.

Once a year, the Valentine family would have a potato bake. They would gather fallen leaves, wrap up potatoes in aluminum foil, set the leaves on fire and cook the potatoes. The last year they did it, the fire department came and put out the fire. Jody remembers looking into the window of their new neighbors, a Latino family, and seeing a woman there smirking: She had called 911.

In 1965, Catherine died in a nursing home. Soon after, Shirley divorced her abusive husband. Nobody mourned his departure. She moved in with her parents and started taking care of them.

After high school, Jody married and had children. She went on to earn a master's degree in business administration and had a long career working for Lockheed Martin. She had the opportunity to buy the house on Josephine that Frank and Catherine Valentine had bought back in 1906, but her husband feared the neighborhood, the gangs, the Spanish speakers and the schools. Instead, Jody's family settled in Northglenn. She regrets not buying the house -- which is still standing, but is no longer in the family -- and wishes she still lived in Swansea. No matter how much it has changed, it is still home.

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos. Shirley arrives at Our Lady of Grace with her minivan loaded with packaged food. Jody is waiting for her, and the two join up with Christian, a church employee. He helps them cart cans, 25-pound bags of rice and beans and boxes of cereal down the stairs to the church basement. Christian knows enough English to help Shirley and Jody speak with Josefina, the cleaning woman who helps out with the food bank. Jody and Josefina discuss the weather, the church and the food bank. Because of the holidays, parishioners have given more cans and boxes of food than normal; Jody hopes Josefina will tell Father Felix what a good job the parishioners did. The conversation is warm, but difficult for Jody. She wishes more people at the church spoke English, but she understands it can be hard to learn.

After Josefina leaves, Jody arranges the food on the shelves, separating cereals, soups, vegetables, fruits, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, tuna, rice, beans, ramen and a mix of spices, baking supplies and crackers. She doubles plastic bags and begins the long process of bagging each item. She works carefully; Jody's had back trouble ever since she was rear-ended on Highway 2 on her way to visit her mother, a trip she takes almost daily.

Jody takes two bags up the church stairs to make sure the pantry is full; there are now 23 bags for the staff to hand out over the next week, in addition to more supplies in the basement. She says her goodbyes to Father Felix and the parishioners counting money in the office.

As she walks downstairs, she talks about her time studying the catechism and learning how to pray the rosary. She remembers her First Communion. She points out Father Felix's changes to the building, how he installed hardwood floors and a marble altar; the archdiocese has given the church $50,000 to replace the roof. After many years of neglect at the building, Jody welcomes these changes -- but they also make Our Lady of Grace feel less and less like the parish she grew up in. She misses the shabby carpet, the old-fashioned wooden altar and the people who used to install Christmas decorations. Mostly, she misses English being the major language of the church, the way it was when she was a kid. "It just doesn't feel like our church anymore," she says.

Back in the basement, Jody locks up the food pantry and packs up the cardboard boxes to take to her house in Northglenn for recycling. She loads the boxes into her SUV while she waits for her mother to climb the stairs. Finally, the two get in Shirley's minivan, and again, Shirley drives out of Swansea to Commerce City and their favorite Mexican restaurant, La Casa del Rey.

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos. When the Denver Post modernized, Frank's boss told him they no longer needed a multigrapher to lay out type by hand. He thought he was done for, but his boss gave him a new job cutting the paper. When it came time to retire -- after working at the Post for 52 years -- Frank took a couple of months off and then stopped by the offices of the Commerce City Sentinel. He said he only wanted a part-time job, but soon they had him cutting the paper seven days a week, longer hours than he had when he worked full-time for the Post.

Quitting drinking had not only improved Frank's behavior, it had improved his marriage. Frank now lived for his wife. If she asked for water, he would get it. If she didn't like how he served it, he'd make it right. She died at home in 1989.

The neighborhood was changing again. Shirley watched as gangs took over. Shoes dangled from the phone wires, advertising drugs for sale. Graffiti coated the garage and fence, which she repainted again and again. Once she found an injured young man in the alley, the victim of a local gang's initiation ritual. She has no idea if the man survived; Frank dealt with the cops.

But with her father getting older, Shirley knew she had to learn how to protect herself. In 2004, she joined the Citizens' Police Academy, where the Denver Police Department trained her in self-defense and taught her how to shoot to kill.

Frank turned 100 in 2005. Buckingham Palace sent him a letter of congratulations. So did Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and the Pope. At the request of his family, a flag hung in Frank's honor at the State Capitol.

One year later, the spry centenarian donated blood at Mile High Stadium and had his photograph taken with the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. One month before his 103rd birthday, Shirley took him to a casino. He gambled and won. "When he came home," she remembers, "he got his walker from the garage, took off his coat and sat on his bed. I took off his shirt, and he took his last breath."

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos. Shirley and Jody wait to be seated at La Casa del Rey. "This is the best Mexican place we've found," Shirley says. A waiter comes up from the back and greets them with a flamboyant kiss. "They can come with me," he tells the hostess.

Shirley orders a burrito supreme, and Jody orders a fried burrito. They both get raspberry iced tea because the Commerce City water tastes so bad.

Through lunch, they talk about life in Swansea today. They talk about the undocumented church members who fear deportation and the church's classes to help them learn English and secure citizenship. They talk about the plans for I-70. For more than a decade, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been telling the neighborhood it will be expanding the interstate; this fall, CDOT published an environmental-impact statement on the proposed plan that would put the highway underground through much of Swansea. More than 900 people commented on the report. Community activists and faith-based leaders have condemned the expansion, citing environmental racism and drainage problems and saying it will further the economic destruction of Swansea, Elyria and Globeville. But others say the I-70 expansion will bring opportunities for economic growth to the neighborhood.

Several of Shirley's neighbors will lose their homes to the construction project. Because of the language divide, she doesn't know any of them. Still, she says she feels sorry for the residents of the more than fifty homes that will have to come down to accommodate the plan; she doesn't believe the government will pay them enough for their losses and is skeptical that they will be relocated within the neighborhood, as CDOT suggests.

Many people are pushing the idea of rerouting I-70 through Commerce City. Shirley likes that idea. "Nobody would have to lose their homes that way," she says, and the neighborhood wouldn't have to put up with years of construction.

Jody no longer drives under the viaduct, not since a chunk of concrete fell from it and nearly smashed her car. Something needs to be done, she says.

Newspaper reporters have been knocking on Shirley's door to ask about the neighborhood's changes. She met a man from the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development who was walking through Swansea, photographing properties block by block. When she asked him why, he said the city was planning to revitalize the neighborhood. Shirley does not know what that means -- though she suspects it won't be good for current residents.

The North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, a project of Mayor Michael Hancock's office, has dubbed Elyria, Swansea and Globeville part of the Corridor of Opportunity, which spans from downtown Denver to Denver International Airport. The city's 2015 budget allocates $47,000,000 for projects in this area. "The nearly 23-mile stretch is one of the most compelling commercial investment opportunities in the world, with thousands of developable acres," the collaborative's website boasts. The mayor has gone on record supporting the CDOT plan for putting the highway underground.

"In 2013, I formed the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative (NDCC) to strategically align six key planning efforts, including the National Western and the Globeville, Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods. These catalytic projects will not only better connect the neighborhoods and their residents to resources and opportunities, they will transform a gateway into our city and a cornerstone of our community," Hancock writes in an introduction to the Globeville neighborhood plan, which Denver City Council reviewed last week.

"In Globeville," he continues, "two transit stations will re-energize this cornerstone by increasing access to other parts of the city. In addition, we are investing in infrastructure to provide a safe, multimodal corridor on Brighton Boulevard. And the National Western Center master planning team is exploring the potential of the site and thinking creatively about the role the neighborhoods play in its future."

The Globeville plan calls for a host of roadway expansions, the addition of new murals and streetlights, and an emphasis on mixed residential and commercial spaces in the neighborhood, in an attempt to tap into the community's rich history. On December 1, city council voted unanimously to support the plan. In talking about the two years of work that Globeville residents put into it, Councilwoman Judy Montero was moved to tears. Only one person spoke out against the plan at the meeting, saying it would contribute to Denver's rampant gentrification and push poor people out. Others, many of them developers, praised its merits.

In the coming months, Montero will present a draft of the Elyria-Swansea Neighborhood Plan to city council; it proposes beautification projects, new recreation spaces, mixed-use buildings combining housing and light industry, the redevelopment of the National Western Complex, improved connectivity between adjacent neighborhoods and public gathering spaces over the I-70 caps and near the incoming light-rail stops.

Hancock says he hopes the development projects will bring greater economic growth to the neighborhood. But Shirley suspects that developers will be buying up people's old one-story houses, knocking them down and building condominiums. "That will only divide the neighborhood up more and separate people from each other," she says.

After Jody and Shirley finish their lunch, they begin chatting with a Latino family at a nearby table, talking about the holidays and how cute their kids are. As the family leaves the restaurant, Shirley points to them. "See, people are people. There are good people and bad people. Take those people," she says. "It just goes to show you, there are good ones, too."

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris