Boulder County Biographies/Family Records : Kautzman

The following information on the Kautzman Family was submitted by: By Kathy Kautzman, ©1999, all rights reserved.

Memories of Boulder
Written by Byrl Kautzman 

Byrl Kautzman was the third child in the Joseph Frank Kautzman Family, which moved to Boulder, Colorado about 1914.  My father, Alton Lyle Kautzman, was the last child in that family, being born in October of 1920.  Byrl's story describes the life of the family from 1911 to 1930, when her Mother died.  I have continued the story including the life of my Father until he and my Mother, Gwendolyn Walton, married in Boulder.

Joseph Kautzman married Nellie Mae Ferrill in Endicott, Nebraska, in 1910.  When a son, Richard, was born to the couple in 1911, her mother, Carrie Ferrill, moved in with them and never left.  Grandma Ferrill had raised Nellie and her older brother, Clyde, alone by being a washerwoman, and had a strong grip on her children.  When Clyde moved to Sterling, Colorado and then to Boulder, with his job, Carrie insisted that Nellie and her family follow him.

Joseph Kautzman was, like the rest of his family, a painter and paperhanger.  When they first moved to Boulder, there was not much work for Joe and the family took a small house in the Colored section of town.  A fourth child in the family had just died and that is where Byrl's story picks up.

"We lived in a small house in the colored part of town where rent was very cheap.  In 1915 Mother had another baby.  She only lived a year but Mama finally got to name it Belva Ruth, the name she had wanted to give me.  The year Belva died, I got polio, and Mother and Grandma and those wonderful colored ladies saved my life.  They wrapped me in hot and cold wet sheets.  I didn’t walk for two years.

"Daddy only worked occasionally, Mother and Grandma did laundry.  At Christmas time there was no money for a tree or presents.  Mother said all I wanted was a big bear and a banana.  On Christmas Eve we all went to the Salvation Army Church.  When we got home, the front porch was piled high with a Christmas tree, presents, and food.  They had to go the back door to get in and there on the back porch were more boxes.  It was a very happy, wonderful Christmas for everyone.

"Things were looking up for us.  Daddy had a steady job working for Mr. Tinsley( Linsley) and he worked for him for the rest of his life.  We moved into a nice house and Mom didn’t have to work anymore.  In 1918, Randall was born.  He was such a beautiful baby.  When we got sick Mother made such a fuss over us.  When we had smallpox Daddy put up a swing for us in the apple tree.

 "Grandma nagged at him and picked on him so much he didn’t spend much time at home.  He would go to work early and not come home until everyone was asleep.  Merle and Richard were afraid of him but I never was.  That was a happy period in our lives.
"Merle and I had long hair and Mother put it up on rags to make us beautiful curls.  She loved to do all the things Grandma never did for her, fuss over us.  She told us about how Grandma always kept her hair in braids and that she would braid it so tight that Mother couldn’t even shut her eyes and if she made a sound she would get cracked with the comb.

"Daddy found a house to buy so we moved into the house where Alton was born.  It was the first house we ever lived in that had two floors.  I didn’t like the new school so I played hooky.  When I finally got caught, I received a good hard whipping and had to go to bed upstairs all by myself.  I was more frightened than hurt and kept thinking something was going to come out of the closet and grab me. 

"Grandma had the downstairs bedroom and shared it with Richard and Randall.  Mother, Merle, Alton, and I had the big bedroom upstairs.  Daddy had the small back bedroom upstairs by himself because he always talked in his sleep.

"The day Alton was born, Grandma fixed our breakfast and told us to hurry off to school.  The big bed had been moved down into the living room and Mama was in it.  We kissed her good-by and she smiled and said we’d have a little brother or sister when we got home.  Richard was 11, Merle was 9, I was 7, and Randall was 2.  I ran all the way home from school and found Mama sitting up in bed holding a big fat baby boy. 

"He was so cute but he cried all the time.  The only time he wasn’t crying was when someone was walking the floor with him or he was asleep.  The neighbors called the police to investigate his crying.  Mother was so angry but she took the police into the bedroom to see him.  He was so clean and healthy they could see he was alright–the policeman picked him up and as soon as he started walking with Alton, Alton smiled and cooed at him.  The police just laughed and went out.

"One day when Alton was about 3 months old, Daddy came home with a walker in his pickup.  First one we’d ever seen and from the minute they put Alton in it and he found out he could move it, he never cried again.

"Once in a while Daddy would take us for a ride in his pick-up.  One time Mama was getting ready and I was sitting in Daddy’s lap when Richard and Merle called me into the dining room and whispered in my ear.  I went back to Daddy and whispered that we wanted a gyroscope.  They were very popular in school and Richard wanted one really bad.  Daddy said, "Is that what you were whispering about?"  I said yes then he called Merle and Richard in and told them "From now on when you want something from me you come and ask for it yourself."  Before we left town he stopped at a store and bought us each a gyroscope. 

"We sat in the back of the pick-up and Mother, Daddy, and the two babies sat in from.  We went far up in the mountains and had a lovely picnic lunch. 

 "On the way home something happened to the pickup.  Daddy stopped in a resort to get help.  Evening was coming on and they couldn’t get it fixed.  The man that owned the garage had a empty cabin so he gave it to us to use until the truck was ready. 
 "We went to the little grocery store to get some food and went back to the cabin.  Daddy built a fire in the fireplace-the first one we’d ever seen–and we roasted wienies and marshmallows and it was such a wonderful time.  For once we were away from Grandma.  It was the happiest time of my life.

"Grandma got a summer job.  She did the washing and ironing for a big resort up above Estes Park (the one in Shinning).  What a treat the summers were with her gone.  Mother could use her kitchen and she liked to try new things.  We could really be a family for a little while.  Then fall would come and Grandma would come home and it would all end.

"One summer Daddy took us to visit where Grandma worked.  Where the road ended there were picnic tables _ so we sat out lunch while we waited.  All was ready but no Grandma so Mama, Merle, Richard, and I started up the trail to meet her.  Daddy watched the little boys and kept the Blue jays from stealing out food.

"When Grandma got there we ate and she took up back to see where she worked at the lodge.  We saw where she lived and worked and we had dinner in the big dinning room.  It was the first time we had all eaten out and we were nervous.  Grandma’s good friend who worked in the kitchen had baked us a special lemon meringue pie.  In the fall when Grandma came home she used her money to buy our winter clothes. 

"The only time I ever remember Daddy telling us we couldn’t do something was one evening when he came home from work and found us and the neighbor kids playing statue.  He watched a few minutes and then called us into the house.  He explained that it was dangerous and never wanted us to play it again.

"Here is another story I forgot so it won’t be in the right sequence.  It happened the summer after the Christmas story I told.  We were living in a house by the railroad tracks.  Mother and Grandma, Richard and Merle had gone somewhere.  Daddy, who had broken his leg, was baby sitting me.  We had moved here after my baby sister Belva died.  I was 3 years old.  Somehow I got away from Daddy and was walking down the railroad track.  He was following me on his crutches.  I would stay just ahead of him when here came the train.  The engineer and the fireman knew Daddy so they blasted the whistle and stopped the train as close to Daddy as they could then the fireman jumped off the train and caught me.  After Daddy got off the track they put me in the cab and I sat on the engineer's lap and went on into the station on the train.  I don’t know if I got a spanking or not when I got home.

"Two more adventures happened to me while we lived in that house.  I was helping Richard fix the fence and stuck my head through a hole at the wrong time and he hit it with the hammer. 

"In the back yard of that house was a bottomless well.  They would and next thing you know it would all be gone.  They thought there must be a river underneath it.  It was covered with planks.  One day I fell down the hole.  Somehow I caught on a ledge and they were able to get me out.  Just wasn’t my time I guess.

"Another close call I had was when we were visiting at the home of Daddy’s Partner at work, Mr. Perry.  They had 2 daughters and we were outside playing.  Their house was built on a hillside with stairs going down to the road.  Daddy and Mr. Perry were down in the road fixing a flat tire.  It was dark and Richard came around the corner of the house with a sheet over his head and scared us girls.  I was near the stairs and ran down them.  I fell down the stairs and my head struck the iron rim.  I was unconscious for days.

" Richard had a bad accident too, before Daddy died.  Near our house were some grain elevators.  The trains ran into the lot to load and unload grain.  One night or late afternoon when no one was working, Richard and several other neighborhood boys climbed up a freight train and jumped to the roof of the building.  They were playing when Richard grabbed a live wire where the insulation had worn off.  The current threw him away from the wire.  He was knocked out and burned the four fingers off to the first joint and burned the bottoms of his feet.  While some of the boys were getting him down off the shed some others ran to tell Mama. 

"I was looking for him to call him to supper and the boys told me to go tell Mama that Richard had been electrocuted.  I didn’t know what that meant so that’s just what I told Mama.  Her face went white as a sheet and Grandma screamed.  They both were running to Richard.  A doctor lived near us so we took Richard there.  He bandaged Richard’s feet and hand and said it was a miracle he wasn’t killed. 

"We were doing fine and then tragedy struck.  Daddy had been sick for several days; he had a bad cough and was in bed.  Grandma noticed when you touched his skin it looked like fluid under the skin.  The Doctor said it was nothing but Grandma was worried and so was Mama.

"Every morning she made us kiss Daddy goodbye before we went to school.  On the evening of October 5 we ate supper and went to bed as usual.  Richard, Randall and Alton were downstairs, and Merle and I upstairs.  Mama and Grandma were still up when Daddy got sick to his stomach.  He started down the stairs to the bathroom but never made it.  What had been seeping through his body was blood from a small rupture in his jugular vein.  When the blood hit his stomach it made him vomit.  The strain enlarged the opening and he hemorrhage.  There was never a chance.  The blood spattered all over the wall and stairway.  Mother and Grandmother heard him and came running to help him to the bottom of the stairs.

>He had a stool there where he loved to sit with his back on the water heater and talk to Mama and Grandma while they were working in the kitchen.  On that stool he bled to death.  His blood went all over the floor and on Mama and Grandma and they held him.  Richard came to the dining room door and looked in and ran outside and hid.  Randall and Alton would come until their little feet would touch the blood and track blood into the living room until there was a solid path of blood. 

Merle and I were at the top of the stairs and once Daddy was on the stool she fled down the stairs and out doors where Richard caught her and they stood trembling out in the cold.  I couldn’t walk through the blood so I just knelt and screamed at the top of the stairs until I lost consciousness.
I never knew when he died or they took his body away.  The neighbors came in to help clean up the blood.  I only remember how scared everyone was.  How no one would go from one room to another without everyone going.  I hardly remember Daddy’s Mother and Father and brothers coming for the funeral.  The funeral– I never saw so many people–how everyone must have loved him.  There were so many flowers and he looked like he was just asleep with a smile on his face.
One evening a knock came on the door and when Mother answered it she jumped back with a scream.  On the porch stood a group of KKK’s men in their robes and hoods.  The leader told her he was sorry they frightened her and handed her a sack of money.  They said how sorry they were for our loss and left

After Father died we moved into a little 4-room house that Mother bought with the money from the KKK men..  In the bedroom there were two double beds and a single bed.  Mother, Meryl, and I slept in one bed.  Richard, Randall, and Alton in the other and Grandma, of course, had a bed alone.  If one of us got hurt or sick we got to sleep with her.  The only time I got to sleep with her was when I broke my arm.  That was something special. 

After the lights were out we each said our prayer starting with Randall and Alton saying "now I lay me down to sleep..."  Then the rest of us would say the Lord’s prayer.  Grandmother always ended with her long prayer and if her day had been good it was a nice prayer but if anything bad had happened, it could be terrible and frightening.  Sometimes I’d hide my head under the covers and pillow so I couldn’t hear her.  She would ask GOD to do the most terrible things to anyone who wronged her. 

 We couldn’t stay in the house so Mother sold her equity in it and bought a 4 room house in another part of town.  There wasn’t much money left after the funeral expenses were paid.  Grandma still worked summers at Estes Park and Mother got a job doing housework and taking care of children and doing laundry.  She would come home on the streetcar so tired by every evening after supper until bedtime she would read to us.  Stories like Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Little Women, Treasure Island, and Les Miserables were some of them.  Once in a while on Saturday we would go out to a movie and she would buy us all a sucker.

Sunday was always a quiet day spent at Sunday School Church and Evening services.  We were still going to the Salvation Army. 
Grandma made most of our clothes.  Merle and I cleaned house and ironed and mended the clothes she washed for others.  We had a wagon that we delivered the laundries in; that we hated the worst.  Our life was filled with work and school.  Merle was poor in school and didn’t like it.  Richard and I were doing alright.  Mother said she would see we all graduated from Jr. High but if we wanted more education we would have to get it on our own. 

She had a wonderful way with children.  She loved them and they loved her very much.  She worked for the professors and their wives at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She was small and plain with brown hair but she had beautiful, grey, eyes.  So sad and empty. 

 When Alton was four years old (1924), Grandma lost her job at the Park.  Poor Mama, she could do no more, she was already using up all her strength.  One of the professor’s wives told her about a boy’s school in Denver called Clayton College.  It wasn’t for orphans, these boys had to have one parent.  She hated the thought of giving up her children but she thought at least they would get an education, plenty of food and clothes.  That was more than she could provide now.  Alton was just right age for Clayton College but Randall was too old.  Randall was sent to a Catholic School.  The small boys were devastated at being separated and did not understand why they had to leave.

Randall had a photographic memory and was a good student and loved school, but at the Catholic school, he only had overalls to wear and the taunting of the other kids made life miserable for him. 
After the babies were sent away, Mother just seemed to get smaller and sadder and more tired.  She started suffering with bad headaches.

"Later, when Grandma’s Father was dying, Uncle Clyde took us all back to Nebraska.  Randall got sick so Mother stayed with him.  The doctor thought it was Rheumatic fever so she stayed to take care of him.

"After Alton was in Clayton College, the school in Denver, we enjoyed his visits so much.  He would always bring some other little boy who wouldn’t have anywhere to go.  Alton always looked so nice–he was always dressed so nice. Clayton College gave each child five new sets of clothes each year and an allowance.   Mother was so proud that one of her children had all the things he needed and extras. 

"For my Dad, little Alton, the experience was traumatic.  He and two other boys were beaten with a rubber hose.  The attendant who did that was fired.  Daddy also wet the bed sometimes and was forced to sit on the stairs under the wet sheet for the whole day.  He would beg to stay with Randall, every Sunday when we put him on the bus to go back to Denver.

"Merle was determined to find a husband.  She had three serious boyfriends.  One was studying to be a teacher and had a car.  He taught me how to drive so they could sit in the back seat and smooch while I drove around.  Another friend would take up on camping trips.  The one she married worked for the railroad.  She was 16 and very happy.  She had been married for a little over a year then one Saturday morning, she called Mother. We had no phone, Mrs. King next door let us use hers.  She asked if Mama could come and stay with her for the afternoon.  Howard and his family had to go to Denver to a funeral and she wasn’t feeling well.  Late in the afternoon Merle was lying on the couch and Mama was sitting beside her on a chair.  All of a sudden Merle had a convulsion and fell on the floor unconscious.  Mother ran to the phone and called an ambulance.  In the Hospital they put them both in isolation because it was Spinal meningitis.  Merle died before noon the next day.  Mother was with her all the time watching her suffering until the end.  Merle was Mama’s favorite child.
"A few months after Merle died Mother noticed the limp under her arm.  When the doctor examined it he found lumps all over her body.  He diagnosed Hodgkin Disease.  Doctor’s didn’t know much about it in those days.  They sent her to the Mayo clinic then back to Denver.  How she must have suffered not only form the disease, but having all those people looking at her and poking and prodding all the time.  They operated on the one under her arm.  It was awful.  Finally they brought her back to Boulder and put her in the county hospital.  Since she had no money the only way she could be treated was to be an experimental patient.

" At least we could visit her in Boulder.  In the wards at the hospital she still read to the people, especially the Bible.
By this time I  had a job at the Community Hospital which was about a mile from her.  The first time I visited her she called me her pretty little nurse.  They were giving her so much morphine that she was delirious.  The nurse told me she was in so much pain that they had given her enough to kill any other person.  (A tribute to the strong  IRISH blood running through her veins.)

"On Thanksgiving morning (1930) we were busy in the kitchen at the Hospital, because it was a special day.  The lady from the office came downstairs to tell me Mama was dying and I was the one they sent for so I could go.  I sat by her all day.  The door and the window was open because the smell was so bad.  I could count to twenty between her breaths.  Finally at 10 o'clock that night they told me to go home and come back next morning.  Next morning I rushed to the neighbors to call the hospital and they said she had died at 4:00 A. M.   Poor darling, she died so hard and all alone.

"It was a lovely funeral.  Kitty, who became a doctor at John Hopkins, played the piano and her sister played the violin.  Another lady sang.  These were friends of Mother.  Wives and children of professors she had worked for. 
When Daddy died, Mother had bought 3 lots.  Belva was buried next to Daddy and Merle was next to Belva.  Mother asked for a lot as close to them as possible for her.  Mother would have been glad to know that she was buried next to Mother Madison, and old Salvation Army friend and her son, Tom.

I’m sure there are more memories that are lost and forgotten.  Like how many years she worked for a doctor to pay for taking out Richard and mine and Merle’s tonsils.  Also, her love for Bill Boltz.  He was an oil driller that Clyde introduced her to.  He brought her beautiful clothes took her out to restaurants and the movies.  He had 2 cars and took us all places.  He taught Richard to drive his little Pontiac.  Grandma was very jealous of that affair and did everything she could to spoil it. 
He took us way up to Montana and Wyoming on one trip.  Bill taught us to play cards.  He bought us our first radio, so we could listen to the Dempsy/Tunney fight."

(End of Bryl's story)

When his Mother died, Alton, my Dad, did not get to come home anymore.  He was ten years old and he became very mean tempered after that.  He fought, was a bad student and ran away several times and the authorities kept bringing him back to Clayton College.  When he turned sixteen, they did not follow him and he caught a freight train to California to find Randall. 

They bummed around the country until early in 1941 when they went came back to Boulder.  Bryl was married and had four kids, so Randall and Daddy stayed with them and paid room and board to help with expenses. Daddy met Gwendolyn Walton during that stay and soon they married. Randall married Mother's best friend, Ruby that same summer of 1941.  In the Fall of 1941, Randall was drafted and sent to the Pacific. He was killed on one of the pacific island skirmishes. Daddy and Mother moved to Idaho Springs and I was born in May of 1942. They weren't getting along well, so Daddy joined the Navy and was sent to a clean-up ship in the Pacific.He made it through the war and we all relocated to Tabernash, Colorado.


This page was updated on Aug. 20, 2011

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