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Rohling's Department Store, located at 125-137 Linden Street, c. 1909.
Rohling's Department Store, located at 125-137 Linden Street, c. 1909.

Linden Street Isn't What It Used To Be

Thoughts from Home Range
by Doris Greenacre

Wellington News ,  April 10, 1986, Page 2

Linden Street in downtown Fort Collins is not the Linden Street of times past. Saturday afternoon in Old Town Square the Colorado State University student organization La Cultura de Las Americas presented their Fiesta '86 Festivities. There was vibrancy and energy in the air. Presented in the open space just beyond the fountain, the colorful dancers whirled, dipped, and tapped there feet. Musicians furnished Latin rhythms and intricate, primitive drumbeats. As I stood there entranced with the scene, suddenly mind pictures flashed through my brain-mind pictures of childhood memories of the Linden Street of long ago.

I could see a drab, busy street crowded with Saturday afternoon shoppers-women dressed in pre-depression clothing, bundled for winter on a windy spring day. I could see myself, a little child in a heavy coat and hat with high-laced shoes and long ribbed (ugh) stockings. My Mother was wearing a long, dark woolen coat and a velvet hat with a feather plume. We had ventured down Linden Street to the old Rohling's Department store in the middle of the block. The street was crowded with farm wagons, trucks and antiquated touring cars. There was a strong odor of beet pulp on the crisp air. Sidewalks overflowed with tight groups of farmers chatting and gossiping-comparing farm prices and weather. German women wore white babushkas tied on their heads and the Mexican women wore black shawls over their heads and down across their shoulders. Farm families in town for their weekly trading spared time to visit cronies and friends.

Colors were drab darks and grays. It was a bustling Saturday afternoon in-town-day for those times. Edging through the crowds, tightly clutching my hand-my Mother opened Rohling's door and we entered. Trading was brisk and the overhead baskets, carrying merchandise and change crisscrossed above the customers on the way up to the office where a clerk would wrap the packages, make change, and send the purchases in the baskets back to clerk and customer on the floor. Bolted dress goods were stacked on shelves. Bins of long underwear and stockings were displayed. There was a "she" department in the back of the store. In the central portion there was a large heater stoked with coal to provide heat for the entire store. Women's merchandise was on one side of the large sales room and the men's on the other. There were no hilariously laughing children in the store or on the street. No bright colors-no balloons and striped umbrellas.

Over half a century had passed since that time of yesterday. All those participants of my mind pictures were either gone forever or, such as I, a grown woman with grandchildren of my own. But I was in the "Here and Now" of 1986. No farm traffic-the street is now paved with red paving brick. There are benches and a tall, bubbling fountain. The store buildings are there, but greatly changed with a new-old look. The street is clear and free for strolling. It gives a feeling of openness. There is a sort of old world-old time charm. There is merry laughter, gaiety and people are attired in casual clothing of bright hues.

Suddenly the CSU Folklorico dancers were announced to the crowd. With a rainbow effect of brilliantly flowered skirts, whirling and flashing as couples pirouetted in their elaborate dance patterns. Next came Colombian dancers-girls in vivid polka-dotted, full skirted gowns, men dressed in white-danced to haunting melodies of South America. Our musical group composed of guitar, drums and a variation of a pan flute played distinctive songs of the high Andes.

All of the performers were talented and wonderful, but my favorites were the famous Aztec dancers. Spectacular in costume and looks, with free and wild abandon, they performed dance patterns and drum beats in perfect unison, identical to those established centuries ago-those danced at their temples prior to the time of Colorado. The men wore brightly patterned breast plates and hip girdles and elegant headdresses topped with numerous three feet long similar to our pheasant feathers. They were arranged in fan shape designs. The women wore long colorful tunic-like embroiled gowns. They, too, wore elaborate headdresses. All dancers wore wide ankle bracelets which, rattled as they danced to the syncopated beat of the small, flat drums carried by the dancers.

One of the petite women stepped the patterns like a feather. It reminded us of when we saw some of the Aztecs in Arizona years ago and one small woman danced so lightly that it appeared as though she were floating. These beautiful people are exciting to watch. It was a glorious afternoon of vivid dances, costumes, colors, and melodies. For the most part, it was a young crowd relaxed and having fun. Children were everywhere, clutching bright colored balloons, mimicking dancers, and eating ice cream cones. I decided that there were not many in the crowd who remembered just how Linden Street of Old Town Square really looked and smelled and sounded those times of long ago.
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