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Harold 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.”

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