Harold Starbuck & Judy Paquette Starbuck
Written by Ruth Price
The Starbuck Dairy is woven into the history of Chaffee County. Harold relates his family history with pride, telling me “It’s all about the dairy.” The Starbucks came to Salida in 1906 and Harold’s grandfather, who had ten children, went into the dairy business with his own labor force. Sadly, three of the children died in the 1919 flu epidemic.
As we sit at the kitchen window, Harold points to what remains of the family property. “The dairy business worked as long as it was a family operation.” Machinery became available during the 1930s which accommodated a smaller family and Harold’s dad continued with three sons. Growing up dairy, Harold and his two brothers got up at 4:00 in the morning to milk the cows. They’d change clothes, go to school via bikes and come home to milk again, finishing up about 7:00.
After the three sons left home it became necessary to hire help. Workers didn’t always show up which created problems, leading to downsizing.
The bigger dairies wanted to take over the smaller ones so Harold went to work for the competition - Meadow Gold. He stayed for 40 years. “I knew I couldn’t compete with them, so I decided to join em.” Meadow Gold was pleased to get a foothold in Salida and collaborated with Harold’s dad, allowing him to keep the dairy into the 1980s.
Harold delivered milk mostly in Salida, Buena Vista, and Leadville, working 60 plus hours a week. His tone turns wistful as he describes the grocery stores he dealt with over the years. There were family-owned small stores on almost every block in Salida and four good-sized stores. “They were all just like family. I was lucky to be in business when we were dealing with local people.”
He went into raising beef cattle while still working in the dairy business. When he realized it wasn’t worth the cost, he sold his herd. Asked if he was ever a cowboy, he replies with a laugh, “I never knew where I was. I didn’t know whether to wear cowboy boots or muck boots.”
As Harold discusses change, he taps the table with his empty coffee cup and quotes his mother, “Nothing comes to stay; everything comes to pass." Growth is necessary. It brings in new businesses and ideas. He would like to see controls in place so the community grows yet doesn’t lose what makes it special. Harold believes he is lucky to have lived in Salida. “There is no place, even with all of the changes, better than here.”
Judy Paquette Starbuck is a person who opens her arms to life and the people she meets along the way. From a girl who grew up in what she describes as a “simpler time,” she became a secretary for several local offices including the Buena Vista Reformatory, assisted her husband Harold in both the dairy and cattle business, and married the boy who rejected her in the 7th grade.
The Paquette pioneers emigrated to Canada from France and later settled in Centerville in 1881 on a ranch where her father grew up. After her father returned from WWII, Judy’s family moved to Salida. As a child, she and her brother Fritz grew up on Dodge Street in a little neighborhood where she felt safe. After the kids played games in the late afternoons, families went inside and listened to Inner Sanctum on the radio, enthralled with the scary stories and the creaky door.
Her family took one vacation. Judy’s father who co-owned the former Boys’ Market (located where Mixing Bowl is now) came home one night with some containers of silver coins. He had managed to save $300, enough to take a tour of the western states.
In high school, Judy was the ideal student until one night after choir practice. She and some friends painted 62 with green paint on the incinerator and sidewalk going into the school. It was a tradition for each graduating class. The next morning Judy was summoned before the police chief, Sheriff, Superintendent, and the Principal Mr. King. Fortunately, they were exonerated by Mr. King who mediated for them by pointing out it was customary.
When Judy went to work at the reformatory the administration was not happy due to the risk to women in that environment. She once typed the history of a man who killed his parents. He later became a doctor.
Judy became “smitten” with Harold Starbuck in the 7th grade. After one date she put Judy P + Harold S on the back of her clipboard. A few weeks later her best friend passed on a message from Harold “Get my name off your notebook because I don’t like you.” She still has the clipboard. As an early teen, she was devasted. Not one to be overdramatic, she clips, “That was the end of that little relationship.” After high school, when Judy’s boyfriend chose hunting instead of a date and Harold’s date got sick, they went to a dance together. They were married two years later. After 57 years of marriage and raising two daughters, they still love Salida.