California to Colorado, a 1996 History Lesson


This story began in August 1996 a few months after I had graduated from a 2-year community college with my first post secondary degree in broadcast journalism with an emphasis in visual communications.

Twenty-years of life and it all fit inside a bankers box, a backpack and a duffel bag. Those prized possessions included a stack of Outdoor Life photography magazines, a box of art supplies, a Canon AE1 camera with several lenses and a large blue duffel bag full of clothes and shoes. Everything would have fit nicely in the backseat of my ’84 VW Golf GT, had I not blown up the engine’s manifold two weeks earlier by pouring cold oil into a hot engine!

Sometime during September 1996 while wandering across the quad I physically bumped into another student “hey watch where you’re going man!” I said to the smaller person who just collided into my side. As I turned to look at this smaller person instant recognition crossed both our faces. “Bolger?” There he was a guy I had known since I was thirteen. We started talking about campus life, where we lived and what our major weekend activities looked like?

Bolger said he was living in a dorm room with a guy named Ken, from Southern California in the senior dorm near the campus Library. Then I let him know where I was living, and he said. “Campus housing obviously fucked up your application, by placing you in the first year dorms except you’re probably loving all the young ladies around you!” After this encounter we started hanging out more frequently then he introduced me around his dorm to other students closer to our age: Ray, Kelly, Derek, Ryan, Keith, Zach F., Zach Y., D. MacKay, Mathers, Heather, Amy, little Heather, Kylie, Kevin, Jason, Frazier, and Mary.

Due to my living situation I was constantly being asked to come down to Fraternity row to check out the houses and meet the brothers. These guys were looking for younger adults to select and invite into their houses as pledges during the September ‘rush week’. Two of the sixteen fraternity houses were interested, Phi Delta Theta and  Phi Kappa Tau. After several weeks of meeting the brothers in the houses, I was selected to by ΦΔΘ (Phi Delts) and I agreed to pledge.

The interlude of fraternity life lasted about three months until my grades which weren’t strong to begin with started to suffer even more as I continued to spend more time at the Phi Delt-house than on campus. And constantly getting into more trouble with hazing and pranking the other fraternal organizations. Shortly after an incident that involved the police is when I departed the fraternity lifestyle.

Shortly after my fraternity interlude, the guys and gals in the senior dorms started talking about moving out of the dorms and into off campus housing. A whole whack of our friends moved into a quadplex on the north side of campus. Our friends occupied 3 of the 4 units. During this transition Bolger, Mathers, MacKay and myself found a house of our own to the west of campus up on Ponderosa Drive. We all chuckled at the street name as it reminded us of Bonanza, that old country western TV show.

One night we are at Ray’s unit in the quadplex when Bolger introduces, Schmidt who was a new transplant from California and interested in culture, arts, and history. As it turns out Schmidt had a bunch of similar characteristics and interests to Bolger with their love of history, pranks and being the peace keepers when things went sideways. They were the guys who could talk their way out of any situation. Which was great for a guy like me, as I was constantly the guy causing a scene or creating chaos with my antics. Also these two enjoyed their Newcastle beers.

Our first half-semester in off campus living was a barrage of partying, working, running into old friends, making new friends, screwing with fraternities, punching out frat brothers, stealing kegs of beer, borrowing clothes from someone’s roommate or being a part of a student riot! Whilst participating and watching students set fire to couches, tip over cars and break shit. It was one hell of a first year.

Sometime in the Spring of 1997, Mathers, Bolger, MacKay and myself are sitting around our backyard talking about what the up coming summer will be like? This is when Mathers and MacKay inform they are going home for the summer. Bolger and I agree we need to find summer roommates in order to keep the house. Over a couple of weeks we talk to our friends and learn both Schmidt and little Heather are looking for summer living arrangements. Little Heather’s roommate is moving out and she needs a place until classes begin in the fall. Schmidt needs a place until he transfers back to So-Cal in late August. We all agree to this new living situation.

Although the four of us lived together for a short period of time, it was the best four months in the Ponderosa house. Little Heather took Mather’s master bedroom whilst Schmidt took over the basement suite. One afternoon I caught him on his computer playing a video game called Doom. When his character died, he offered up his position and taught me the game. We bonded over playing Doom, hanging out in the kitchen nook, talking about art, culture and our futures.

When the original four moved into the house, I claimed the kitchen nook as an art studio because it was next to wide glass patio doors. Tons of natural light entered into this space. Everyone enjoyed the transformation of canvases through the life cycle of each piece. Usually the art was given away to friends and sometimes sold for a commission. Always one for discussing art Schmidt constantly encouraged expanding our knowledge of our crafts.

Before we knew it the summer of 1997 was over. Schmidt packed up then departed back to So-Cal to begin his next journey. Shortly after Heather moved into her new apartment and our old roommates Mathers and MacKay informed they weren’t returning to the house. Bolger and I, found a two bedroom apartment closer to campus and moved-in together to begin the next chapter.

Continued in Part Two. A Travellers Jumping Off Point

Back row: Dave Middle row: Heather, Derek, Ken, Aaron, Keith, Jorlean, Ryan, Bolger, Schmidt Front row: Zach [not in photo: liittle Heather, MacKay, Mathers] (c) 1997