Good morning, everyone!
During my vacations I like to explore places close to home that I may not pay much attention to or appreciate as much when there is more to do on my schedule. The great thing about being single is that I can get up and go whenever the mood strikes. This means there is not usually a lot of planning that goes into my outings which sometimes works to my benefit and sometimes it does not.
On my list for today was Johnstown, Colorado. Greeley, the town where I live, is surrounded by quaint little farming towns. Windsor to the west, Eaton and Ault to the north, and Milliken/ Johnstown to the south. I love these towns and am trying to get to know them and their histories a little bit better. There has been so much growth in the area the past 20 years that the small town way of life is coming to an end for these little boroughs as the farm land that has always surrounded us is disappearing in favor of auto complexes and strip malls and the towns slowly start to sprawl towards each other.
Johnstown holds a special place in my heart since my mom lived their for a time as a little girl. I have been there several times but have never taken the time to explore the town. My trip was off to a rocky start as I could not find the address of my mom’s childhood home. My uncle had shown me the house several years ago when he came out on a visit but I did not remember the exact location. I remember the house being somewhat small and modest, yet charming. Much like you would expect WWII era home to look like. In my mind’s eye I could see my grandma tending to the flowers, my grandfather ( Who I never actually met. He passed away before I was born) looking on in admiration at my grandmother while smoking a cigarette, and my mom and uncle playing in the yard. No matter, I would trust my instincts and if I couldn’t find the exact house I would enjoy the exploration anyway.
Johnstown is settled nicely in very rich, beautiful farm land with train tracks running near the town. I notice almost immediately upon entering the town limits that the main street is named Parish street. I found this intriguing since around here Main street is usually about as creative as it gets. The downtown is very picturesque with old buildings dating back to the early 1900’s. Flowers and small trees line the street. There is a combination of older cafes and doughnut shops along side cross fit training centers, art studios, and more modern businesses. It is much smaller than Greeley, only about 10,000 people live here; and it is peaceful. I parked my car near a barber shop to get ready for an afternoon of walking. I love to see towns on foot.
As I got ready to cross the street I noticed there is a pedestrian crossing which is not at the corner. I dutifully stopped to wait for oncoming traffic to pass. To may amazement two cars, each coming from opposite directions stopped and waited for me to cross. I Must have looked confused when they stopped because there was no stop sign for them, they had the right of way. I smiled politely at the gesture. In return, I received a nod from one driver, a slight wave from the other, and a smile from both. Neither driver had a cell phone in their hand or appeared to be in a hurry. Amazing. 🙂
After walking the length of Parish St. I decided it was time to start exploring some neighborhoods and maybe find my mom’s childhood home. Passing the city park was the only stressful time I had because there was a group of men working on the road. I get nervous walking by groups of workmen. I think most women will understand this. Anyway, one of the men smiled and said ” How are you today, young lady.” This made me really smile because I have been asked one too many times recently if I am the required age to receive the Senior discount. So for me a little innocent blarney goes a long way. Most of the houses in Johnstown are very well-kept. Lawns are lush and green, and everyone seems to have plants, bushes, or a garden of some sort. It was rather like walking the streets of Mayberry. I felt very relaxed and safe. I definitely wanted to stay and absorb the atmosphere for a while. I did not find the exact location of my mom’s house but I didn’t care. Every house I passed seemed to resonate the feelings and images of small town life in the 1940’s and a reach back into a simpler time of national innocence.
Soon I came to Parish House and museum. I started to see a theme. Parish, it turns out, was the Surname of the man who founded the town in 1902. The town was named after his youngest son, John.. The museum was closed. I missed it being open by one hour. Such is my lot when I don’t plan a head. I walked around the grounds and admired some roses,lilies and a sun dial. During this exploration I upset a young robin who cried for its mama. Mama robin flew low, landed by her baby, and scolded me. I dutifully told her I meant her or her little one no harm. A police officer drove by and waved hello. He was genuinely friendly and not at all concerned that I was on museum property after hours. Wow,this is great.
My last stop before I wandered back to my car was St. John’s church. I am a historic church geek. It was a beautiful old church on the outside. Being a Tuesday afternoon I held little hope that I could walk in but… small town luck, the doors were open for those wanting to come in and pray. The church sanctuary was surprisingly small and somewhat in need of some TLC. Still it was a good place to stop and meditate for a few moments. It had a beautiful tabernacle and one painting of our Lady with the infant Jesus caught my eye. The church’s patron, I found from the pamphlets near the door, is St. John the Baptist. There were plans near the entrance for a new St. John’s church along with the statement that the present building would eventually be sold. This made me sad. I was happy to hear their little parish was growing and needed more space but sad to hear the building would go up for sale. It is very hard these days to find places that by their nature foster a meditative and contemplative spirit.
After spending some time on the grounds of St. John’s it was time to wander down a few more streets and back to my car. I was a little sad to leave this peaceful, quaint, little town with family ties to my past. Driving out of Johnstown I was blessed with several miles quiet farmland before reaching the ever sprawling outskirts of Greeley. It was a great little road trip.
I encourage everyone to explore the areas around your home town. There are hidden gems everywhere. If you are single, don’t wait for someone to go with you. Actually, you may have more fun exploring things on your own terms!
As always, I would love to hear any thoughts or comments you may have. Have any of you explored some nearby sites recently?
Thanks for stopping by the blog!
Until next time,