Written by Ruth Price
Every time I meet Karin she beams with enthusiasm, yet as a child, she hid under the dining room table when visitors arrived. It’s hard to account for her shyness. Her Italian father never met a stranger, and her Swedish mother was always welcoming.
Karin still lives in the house her parents bought in 1948 for $5000. “Everybody stayed here,” Karin says about the Italian side of her family. Starting as ranchers and railroaders, many later founded businesses in Salida including a liquor store, car/mobile home dealership, and candy store.
Her eyes brighten as she describes her childhood on F Street. “We could do whatever we wanted.” There were nearby vacant lots to play on and plenty of kids. When it rained, little boats were launched in the gutter. In winter, snowball fights, snow angels, and snowmen were common. A woman, whom the kids imagined was a witch, yelled down at them in a scary voice from a peaked roof with a gabled window, “You can’t ride your bikes on my sidewalk.” One summer the woman received a Black Valentine to repel her. The young girls involved got a firm parental lecture.
After high school, an unpleasant reality came to Karin when a male friend said he couldn’t date her because she was Italian and Catholic. Karin was shocked. “Where did this come from?” Later, she went to her aunts who described the Ku Klux Klan activities that once targeted Catholic weddings and church services. It was then Karin understood why she had never been invited to one friend’s house. Her father was in the Klan. Despite that experience, Karin felt “when we grew up, we were free from prejudice.”
In an early job, Karin’s shyness faded. “When I worked at The Chamber I had to come out.” She later was one of the first people in Chaffee County to market cell phones and then went on to own a shoe store. Once she fearlessly confronted a customer about abusing his wife and child. “If I’d been shy, I wouldn’t have said anything.”
Today homeowners in her block are constantly shifting as people come and go. She misses the community stability of her early years when everyone knew everyone else. “Parents didn’t hesitate to talk to each other about what their kids were doing. It kept us safe.”
Showing me a photo of the Angel of Shavano, Karin laments the multiple, large homes populating Mt. Shavano. Regarding the changes, she wishes the county and city had better-controlled growth. Nonetheless, she is proud to describe herself as “a lifer.”