Yesterday’s Trash

All Our Yesterdays
I’ve been researching the history of Parfet Park. I plan to write about it later in the week, in anticipation of Buffalo Bill Days and Movies and Music in the Park, which both take place in Parfet. Park. While researching the park, I was drawn off into an interesting tangent: trash.

Before the Kiwanis Club created Parfet Memorial Park, that piece of ground was the town dump. When the dump was dislodged from that location, the city was forced to find somewhere else to serve in that capacity. So I began researching how Golden has dealt with its leavings over the years.

For decades, the accepted practice was to take your refuse beyond the city limits and dump or burn it there. A June 18th, 1903 article in the Colorado Transcript chided residents for using streets and alleys as common dumping grounds for old shoes and clothes, decaying vegetable and animal matter. An October 8, 1903 article added that both sides of Washington Avenue on the north side of the creek were used as a dumping ground for old bottles, trash, and dead cats.

The dump seems to have moved around over the years, and the Transcript generally didn’t specify the location, since its readers at the time would have known where “the dumping ground” was. In addition to Parfet Park, various articles implied that the dump had been located on10th Street, on 11th Street, on 44th Street, “on the main Golden-Morrison road,” and near the water treatment plant.

Rats were a recurring problem. A 1921 article says that “people living near the city dump–especially those who keep chickens–are being plagued with rats. Some exceptionally large specimens have been trapped on 12th St.” A 1923 article reports that rats from the dump travel all over the city. In 1928, “the marshals” poisoned the rats, so citizens were advised to keep their pets away from the dump. In 1929, the city “made war” on the rats. They used poison, and “one man with a small rifle killed several dozen in the space of a few minutes on the creek bank at Eleventh Street.” One promising Golden High School student was praised for spending much of his spare time shooting rats at the city dump.

Even into the 1940s and 50s, disposing of trash by dumping it in the city streets and alleyways was standard practice. More fastidious people drove it out of the city and dumped it along country roads.

In 1948, the city instituted curbside garbage pickup. It was collected every day in the downtown section and twice weekly in residential neighborhoods (thrice weekly during the summer). The city paid a company $1200/year to provide this service. Garbage was strictly defined as food waste, because the collection was used to feed hogs.

Follow-Up on Yesterday’s Trash Talk:
Some of my readers wondered why the city would have placed the town dump in such unarguably residential areas as 11th Street or 10th Street. The theory was that people would only bring “sanitary” waste to the dump. That meant things that weren’t going to decompose, attract rats, and produce undesirable odors. For our first 100 years, almost every house, business, and institutional building would have been burning either wood or coal all winter. Every building would have had an ash pit, where the ashes and cinders from the furnace/stove were stored until they could be hauled off to the dump. The cinders, along with branches, leftover construction materials, and other reasonably “hard” things were considered a good way to create landfill.

Golden in 1884 – Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library Western History Collection. Click to enlarge…

The creek bed used to be much wider than it is now. The ground holding the Clear Creek History Park is all landfill, as is some of the land supporting City Hall. When the City wanted to move the dump to 11th Street, it’s because they wanted to extend the bank and make 11th Street wider.

The members of the council had considerable discussion regarding a suitable dumping ground. Previous to a decision made several weeks ago to use Eleventh Street, between Arapahoe and Cheyenne Streets as a dumping place, everything was piled east of Parfet Park. Very strenuous objection, however, on the part of the Eleventh Street residents against using their street as a general dump makes it necessary that a new location must be sought where ashes and perishables may be deposited. Dirt, cinders and clean debris will be permitted to be dumped on Eleventh street to widen out the street.
Colorado Transcript, October 10, 1929

Once again, thanks to the Golden History Museum for putting the historic Transcripts online, and thanks to the Golden Transcript for documenting life in Golden since 1866!

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