Olietta Moore for Colorado Reflections

Material Information

Olietta Moore for Colorado Reflections
Series Title:
Colorado Reflections
Moore, Olietta ( Interviewee )
Cullis, Harry ( Interviewer )
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
1 sound cassette (25 min.) : 1 7/8 ips, mono.


Olietta Moore, first Black woman miner in Colorado, tells of her discovery of oil on their homestead in Weld County when she was 14 years old and from then on decided to stake mining claims and become involved in hard rock mining.
General Note:
Recorded sometime between 1983 and 1984 and later broadcast on KOA (Radio station) in Denver, Colo.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
This item is licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.


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Moore_Olietta_148.wav Harry Cullis [00:00:03] I am very pleased to have as my guest on Colorado Reflections today, a charming lady that I just met for the first time about 20 minutes ago. Her name is Olietta Moore. Many of you in Denver undoubtedly know the name and accomplishments of Olietta Moore. Olietta you were born, what, 1903, I believe you said. Olietta Moore [00:00:19] That's Right. Harry Cullis [00:00:19] Where were you born? Olietta Moore [00:00:21] I was born in Denver, Colorado, in the vicinity of Barnum, which is on the west side of Denver. And it was the winter headquarters of the Barnum and Bailey Circus people. Harry Cullis [00:00:37] I never knew that. I've heard Barnum. I've only been here about 11 years. I've heard the name Barn um. I have been there, but I never knew that it was connected with P.T. Barnum. Olietta Moore [00:00:45] Yes. And then later, the animals couldn't stand the cold weather, so they moved to another location. But Barnum was a very beautiful place because we had such lovely people in Barnum. They were very appreciative of one another and they were very neighborly. And everybody's sorrows were all taken into consideration and the people were kind and helped in any manner that they could. Harry Cullis [00:01: 11] Now, you have one specific event that you reminded me of was the death of your father that you were talking about. The neighbors all came in. Your father, you have a very interesting racial history. Explain what your background is. Olietta Moore [00: 01:22] Well, my father was Walker Anderson and his tribal name was Blackhawk. And he was born on the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma. He came out to Denver as a young fella and settled here in 1882. And my mother was a Henrietta Harrison and later came to Denver about nineteen hundred and to visit her sister and went back to Atlanta and finished her training and came back in nineteen hundred and two and married my father. And my mother, Henrietta Harrison, her father, John James Harrison, was the son of the pres ident, the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison. At the time that my grandfather was born, was about in 1835. And at that time, he was a general in the United States Army and he fought the battle of Tippecanoe. And as a child, my gr andfather taught me to sing "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too." And he was, he was born, I think, in Virginia, as I remember. And he was taken to another state. Harry Cullis [00:02:39] Right now, go back to Barnum in the area of Barnum in those early days. Was your family one of the few black families in that area at the time? Olietta Moore [00:02:47] Yes. He settled there in 1882 and there were few, but predominantly the neighborhood was German and Irish. Harry Cullis [00:02:56] Any discrimination problem? Olietta Moore [00:02:57] No discrimination. You had to look in the mirror to see what color you were. Marvelous people.


Harry Cullis [00:03:04] So the people were literally colorblind. Olietta Moore [00:03:05] That's right. They loved one another. And that's the thing that made it so interesting. I love that because it had a great impact in my life that I then became more desirous of meeting a lot more people to see what all the rest of the people, how they behaved. And I found it very interesting. Harry Cullis [00:03:25] You went now to Eagleton school. Olietta Moore [00:03:27] Yes. Harry Cullis [00:03:28] And then on to North High School. Olietta Moore [00:03:29] That's right. Harry Cullis [00:03:30] Were you still living in Barnum at that time? Olietta Moore [00:03:32] Yes. And I still live there now. I won't move out. Harry Cullis [00:03:35] What changes? We want to talk a little bit about the growth of Denver from your own perspective, just within the Barnum area in the last 50 to 60 years. What kind of physical changes, what kind of changes have taken place in the area? Olietta Moore [00:03:45] Oh, tremendous. Tremendous. You could count the houses from one end of the place almost to another. You know, the people knew each other fro m West Colfax over to Alameda and from Sheridan Boulevard to Federal Boulevard. Everybody knew each other in that area. But as time has gone on from World War One, it began to develop somewhat. And then from World War Two, after World War Two, then the nei ghborhood filled up completely. So you can't hardly find a vacant lot of any kind, hardly in Barnum today because it's so built up. And that's the way it has been in the city of Denver. You could almost count the streetlights in Denver when I was a little child. But now when Denver's so lit up, it seems like I met Alice in fairyland. It's tremendous. You can't hardly realize what a tremendous change it has been. Harry Cullis [00:04:42] Olietta go back again to those early days in Barnum. What are some other reflections you have of your early days in the neighborhood? What did you you kids do? What are some games did you play, for example? Olietta Moore [00:04:51] Well, we played we we played baseball and we played most anything the children would play and we fished in the streams there. Harry Cullis [00:05:03] Really? What kinds of fish did you catch? Olietta Moore [00:05:03] Well, we caught some trout in that stream that came through from the mountains. The Bear Creek. And and the, well, there's tw o branches of it. One comes from one part of the south part of this, the mountains and the other comes from the north. And they come together someplace in there. And we used to catch carp and mostly carp and trout. Harry Cullis [00:05:32] Any fishing in that area today? Olietta Moore [00:05:33] No, no, no fishing. I don't think there's a fish in the stream today.


Harry Cullis [00:05:37] Is the stream still there? Olietta Moore [00:05:39] But over to Sloan's Lake, it used to be called Cooper Lake, we could fish over there at the lake and we just had a grand time doing everything we practically wanted to do: horseback riding because we had ponies and donkeys and everything we wanted to ride on. And we had a very good time riding there. Harry Cullis [00:06:01] Music has been a very important partner in your life, hasn't it? Olietta Moore [00:06:03] Yes, very much so, yes. And I wanted to be a pianist, a concert pianist, but I couldn't afford it. But after I was married, I decided that I would go to University of Denver Lamont School of Music at the time. And there I was awarded the honor of being the best composer in the school at that time. I have written a number of compositions and I have broadcast on practically all the stations from time to tim e. I play tallent operation for Denver Public Schools and I use my concert pianist to entertain the children of the various schools throughout the city. Harry Cullis [00:06:51] You also did some entertaining right after the First World War, didn't you? [00:06:57] Yes, I played in programs and churches and played for weddings and played for dances and various other things. Harry Cullis [00:07:08] But didn't you play for soldiers? Olietta Moore [00:07:09] Yes, at Fitzsimons. Harry Cullis [00:07:10] Tell us about those days. Olietta Moore [00:07:11] Well, Fitzsimons was just a mud field at that time. And the fellows start coming back from World War One, about 1919 and through 1920s. And we had to raise and wade in mud up to our knees to get into the barracks, what few wooden barracks they had, it was a horrid looking place. And I wondered how it ever amounted to anything. But as I look at Fitzsimons now, it seems fantastic to think that such a development could have taken place in this short length o f time. Harry Cullis [00:07:45] Olietta, would you go out as an individual to entertain these soldiers? Or would you go out with like a troop, like a USO troop, for example? Olietta Moore [00:07:51] Well, we went out with the girl reserves of the YWCA. And we'd go out with chaperones and so forth and and put on these programs and so forth. Olietta Moore [00:08:00] What kind of programs would you put on? Olietta Moore [00:08:01] Well, we we would put on a, well, regular musical programs. Some violini sts. George Morrison was a violinist. Harry Cullis [00:08:12] George Morrison, senior. Olietta Moore [00:08:13] That's right. And he was a wonderful violinist. And he would go out and play for them and I'd accompany him on the piano. And then I'd play piano solos,


both classical and popular music and just really a grand entertainment. And then we'd take food and delicacies that we thought the veterans liked out to them. Harry Cullis [00:08:34] How often would you go out? Olietta Moore [00:08:35] Wel l, about once a month. Harry Cullis [00:08:36] Oh, really? Olietta Moore [00:08:37] Yes. Harry Cullis [00:08:37] OK. Now, this is the 1920s. Let me jump back to 1913, because there's a specific event that I want you to recall for us. You were telling me before we began taping that you remember specifically, I think you said it was in early June of 1913, the opening of the Colfax Viaduct. Olietta Moore [00:08:52] That's right. Harry Cullis [00:08:53] What do you remember about that? Oliett a Moore [00:08:54] Well, I remember that Sunday that they opened up the viaduct. I went to Sunday school to start with. And that afternoon, they had the big celebration and the celebrities from all over Denver came to participate. And they were in horse an d buggies and had fancy carriages and so forth and dressed in these long skirts full at the bottom. Harry Cullis [00:09:16] And you were, what, 10 years old at the time? Olietta Moore [00:09:17] Yes, about 10 years old at that time. And it was a grand affair. I was very frightened by having to ride the streetcar on the north end of the viaduct because I was afraid it would fall off. Harry Cullis [00:09:30] How did you get down there all the way from Barnum? Olietta Moore [00:09:33] Well, the Barnum car ran through there. We at our home walked about ten blocks to the streetcar line and caught the streetcar. And it went down Federal Boulevard over to the viaduct and then it made a turn to the east and went over the West Colfax Viaduct. Harry Cullis [ 00:09:52] So that was a really big day. Olietta Moore [00:09:54] Oh, it was a tremendous celebration. I remember seeing the Mayor Speer was there at the at the dedication because it was under his administration that the viaduct was completed. And so there were just many, many people at the viaduct celebration. Harry Cullis [00:10:11] Bansds? Olietta Moore [00:10:12] Well, they had some music there, too. Yes, they had the city band, I think that was under, oh, I can't think of that man's name right now. But he was the director of our symphony at that particular time.


Harry Cullis [00:10:26] Olietta let's pause just long enough to let people know that they're listening to Colorado Reflections, which is a weekly program produced by the University of Colorado at Denver. My name is Harry Cullis and we are talking today with Olietta Moore about a whole variety of subjects. You've been a businesswoman now in Denver for almost 50 years. What business are you in? Olietta Moore [00:10:43] I'm in the insur ance business. I work for a North American Company of Chicago. And I started working for them in 1932. And I will be 50 years there in January of 1982. Harry Cullis [00:10:57] Speaking of the 1930s, something happened in 1931, the year I was born, by the way, that was very significant in your life. And that was the founding of the Cosmopolitan Club. Tell us about the Cosmopolitan Club. Olietta Moore [00:11:09] Yes, the Cosmopolitan Club was founded by 14 people. And Dr. Holmes was elected as the preside nt of the Cosmopolitan Club. Harry Cullis [00:11:19] Clarence Holmes. Olietta Moore [00:11:20] Yes. And we had, I was the chairman of the membership and held many offices in there. And we had about 28 different nationalities there,. Harry Cullis [00: 11:30] Really? Olietta Moore [00:11:31] We put on various entertainments, had dinners at the Jewish synagogues and the Spanish churches and the Catholic churches and all the various other churches. And and we had practically every kind of civic entertain ment that one would want to have. Harry Cullis [00:11:51] Olietta why was the Cosmopolitan Club formed? What was the purpose of it? Olietta Moore [00:11:55] In order to have a better relationship between all people. And to impress upon them that there was only one race and that was the human race. And that was a very delightful, big thing because people so greatly appreciate it. And they look forward to the events that the Cosmopolitan Club sponsored. Harry Cullis [00:12:17] Such as? Olietta Moore [00:12:18] Well, it was events of, we would help with those in distress and help with political things, help to break down segregation in this city and to make a better place of Denver. Harry Cullis [00:12:32] And you actually could become a member of the Cosmopolitan Club? Olietta Moore [00:12:34] Oh, absolutely. Harry Cullis [00:12:36] At your zenith, how many people would you have had as members of the Cosmopolitan Club?


Olietta Moore [00:12:40] Well we had had throughout the years when I went before I gave up so much work in the Cosmopolitan we had a hundred and so members. Harry Cullis [00:12:50] Oh really. What do you think in that 40 years, what do you think the Cosmopolitan Club actually accomplished? Olietta Moore [00:12:57] Well, it a ccomplished that understanding then the love of people, one for another. It broke down a lot of prejudice. Harry Cullis [00:13:06] Really? Olietta Moore [00:13:07] Absolutely. And people felt more at ease to be in the presence of other people because, you know, after all, education is science living among people. And so, therefore, if you don't know how to treat your fellow man right, to live among people and to provide the best you can for their welfare as well as your welfare in all phases of life, th en you have missed a great deal of your educational background. Harry Cullis [00:13:37] Olietta Moore, you have seen a great many changes in Denver since 1913. There undoubtedly would be some things that would be categorized as pluses. There'd be probabl y some things that would be categorized as minuses. In the years that you have lived in Denver, what are some of the positive things that you have seen change? Olietta Moore [00:13:55] Well, I have seen a lot of discrimination vanish. And that discrimina tion wasn't always here, but it came in right after World War One. Harry Cullis [00:14:07] One or two? One? Olietta Moore [00:14:08] One. That's when a great deal of it took place. Because up until that time, we had practically no discrimination that I ever encountered. But after World War One and these people started coming in from the south, they were used to that. And they made a lot of trouble here for the rest of us. We got rid of that. And then that horrid situation in connection with the Ku Klux Klan, Harry Cullis [00:14:34] In the 20s. Olietta Moore [00:14:35] Which ruled the city in a 1927. Everybody was thoroughly disgusted about that. And that's one of the most terrible stigmas we had on the character as far as Denver is concerned. Now, some of the very good things that we've had is the elimination of a lot of segregation. And people are more friendly and they seem to want to be more friendly. Harry Cullis [00:15:04] Really, you think they are more friendly? Olietta Moore [00:15:06] I think they want to be more friendly. Absolutely. Maybe other people won't look at it as I look at it, because I'm used to all kinds of people. Olietta Moore [00:15:15] I suspect you're the type person who looks for the good in everybody. Olietta Moore [00:15:17] Absolutely. I don't look for the negative.


Harry Cullis [00:15:20] You'll find it if you look hard enough. Olietta Moore [00:15:21] I look for the positive. And in that way, I appreciate. Now, the Vietnamese and the Cambodians and all that are coming in here. I find them they're very shy to start with. But if you just step up to them and say, how do you do? How are you? Do you like our country? And then they are so happy to tell you how much they appreciate being here. And that makes me feel good. Because when you feel that you can do some good for somebody, then you feel better yourself. Harry Cullis [00:15:48] That's right. What are some of the positive things that have taken place in this city physically? Have you seen it change? Oliett a Moore [00:15:54] Well, I've seen a change in many population growth and I've seen it change in economy. People. There's a lot more money to circulate. And Denver's becoming the energy capital of the United States. Harry Cullis [00:16:10] That's right. Olietta Moore [00:16:11] Another thing, I am a hard rock miner, so I'm in the mining industry, too. And I'm looking forward to see a big improvement in the mining industry. Yes, I'm a hard rock miner and I'm mining claims, and I'm right now trying to get them on a footing with with two or three big corporations that I have met at the American Mine and Convention that met here a few weeks ago. So we'll put gold mining back on the standard. Harry Cullis [00:16:40] On that note we have to close. We have been talking for all too short a time with Olietta Moore, who was born in Denver 1903 and has some fantastic reflections of Denver and Colorado and Olietta we thank you for sharing in this very brief period of time some of your own accomplishments, as wel l as giving us some very interesting and insightful Colorado reflections. Olietta, thank you. Olietta Moore [00:17:01] And I thank you for inviting me. Harry Cullis [00:17:03] It was our pleasure. Olietta Moore [00:17:03] Thank you.