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William Compton's Cherokee Park Resort
Cherokee Park Resort

"Working for a Dollar a Day"

Florence Lucile Baxter

July 19, 1990
Interviewer: Scott Battista
Excerpt from The Triangle Review

"I worked for a dollar a day," Florence Lucile Baxter West told the reporter as she cooked him a breakfast of fried eggs and sausage. Her job was at a big ice house at Cherokee Park, northwest of Fort Collins. (This was before refrigerators, when ice was cut in the winters and stored for summer use.) She worked there for three summers waiting on tables in the dining room, scrubbing floors and setting tables. She also took care of a dozen cabins, doing the laundry, sweeping floors and making the beds. She had to empty the toilet pots because only two cabins had modern plumbing! All for a dollar a day and "very few tips."

Once while she was serving meals to guests at a dude ranch at Cherokee Park, she did receive a big tip -- a silver dollar! She laughed as she told the reporter she didn't even know it until she got undressed that night and a silver dollar fell out of one of her stockings!

"Why that old so-and so," she laughed, recalling that as she'd served one guest dinner; he'd reached up her dress and touched her leg. She worked at the ranch summers in 1924, 1925 and 1926, the year she graduated from high school.

Silver dollars figured in another of her memories. Her grandfather, who was postmaster in St. Cloud, near Cherokee Park, bought his booze a barrel at a time. Friends, including Buffalo Bill, came to hear him play his fiddle and mandolin and pass around a bottle of booze. When the bottles were empty, it was Lucile's job to refill them from the barrel, which was kept in a shed in the back; when she'd return with a full bottle, one of the men would give her a silver dollar.

Ten dollars a day was her pay when she worked for a doctor in Fort Collins in the years before World War II. She didn't feel deprived during the Depression, however, as she lived with her parents who had a garden and raised chickens and rabbits. They did a lot of canning and, like everyone else, lived on what they had. "I never remember feeling deprived of anything." She was aware, however, that many people lacked ready cash. Her father owned the general store in LaPorte and people traded butter, milk, eggs and saddles for needed supplies. And some had to buy on credit. "I was surprised at some of the names on the notes at the store, but Dad couldn't turn them away, especially if they had kids."

When she worked for an abstract company, she made a grand purchase with her first check -- "a Victrola." This first record player was something special. It folded up like a suitcase. Her first record was "My Blue Heaven." The music shop was next to her workplace, and on her lunch hour she and a friend enjoyed listening to records in the soundproof "listening booth." This job paid $65 a month; a record cost 75 cents.

Cost and distance kept her from enjoying movies as often as she liked. Living in LaPorte meant she and her mother only came to Fort Collins once a month, but then they did enjoy seeing a movie and stopping at the Sugarbowl restaurant next door afterwards. The movie was 25 cents; hot chocolate with whipped cream and two vanilla wafers cost 15 cents. "That," she said, meant you'd "spent your allotment for the month!"

Lucile was born on February 6, 1908, to Florence and Frank Baxter in LaPorte.
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