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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Smaldones

The time was the 1920’s, gangsters in pin striped suits and wide brimmed hats roamed the streets, and bootlegging was common. Prohibition obviously didn’t stop many from the use, sale and consumption of alcohol, especially the mafia. As a Denver native, I was curious to learn more about the three notorious brothers who controlled the local crime ring in Northwest Denver. Not to mention, I caught the bouqet at Smaldone wedding Yes, Denver's own "mafia."
There was Eugene “Checkers,” Clyde “Flip Flop,” and Clarence “Chauncey,” and they opened Gaetano’s Restaurant, which is still in operation, under different ownership. The bulletproof front door the brothers put in to protect themselves remains, so it seems that the only thing missing is the mafias offices in the basement, where some say they organized crime and conducted illegal business.
The brothers all had criminal records, and all plead guilty to loan sharking. History suggests that they loaned $30,000 dollars a day at 5 percent interest a week. Between them also came tax evasion, bookmaking, gambling, burglary, and possession of illegal firearms. On a much more serious scale they were believed to have been involved with a number of murders but were never convicted.
While they had their negative connotations, there were also positive ones. History also suggests that they put at least five North Denver kids through school, fed struggling Italian families and donated money to churches and charitable organizations.
As a kid I remember catching the bouquet at a Smaldone wedding. Not until learning about Northern Colorado’s leading crime figures did I start to wonder if there was any relation. Turns out there is, Pat Smaldone, who was the groom and a friend of the family, is a relative to the brothers. I met up with him and his wife at Galeton’s, where they told me about going to Clyde’s funeral and some other Smaldone stories. I noticed the incredible artwork on the wall and Pat informed me that Clyde painted those while he is in prison.
One day when Pat was golfing, a retired health inspector inquired about his last name. When Pat told him he was in the Smaldone lineage, the inspector told him about a time he went to check a walk in refrigerator and found a group of men inside playing cards in suits. The inspector said he nodded and exited the restaurant.
The Smaldone tales still live on; to this day Pat still receives calls asking if they have the right Smaldone family.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Genghis Khan Exhibit


If there is one person I would avoid a run in with, I would choose Genghis Khan. A walk through the exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science would most likely have you thinking along the same lines. I quickly learned that Genghis Khans' distinctive leadership style led him to conquer more than half the known world, starting in his teenage years. The Mongolian leader crafted nomads into warriors and rewarded them for their loyalty.
The exhibit will take you on a journey through the 11-16th century. This follows Genghis Khans life, his sons and grandsons, who continued his legacy. Many objects that were crafted and used by the tribes are on display, such as robes, ornaments, their version of passports, trebuchets and catapults. Several of these have only been seen in Russia and Mongolia, which makes Denver one lucky city!
I would have gladly followed Genghis Khan, seeing as they were the most powerful tribe. However, I thought seriously about joining another team when I learned followers had to wear their shirts till they disintegrated. Even if I had to wear every last stitch of my shirt, it would be a 'stitch in time' that would be worth it.
Make sure you see Genghis Khan conquer Denver at the Museum of Nature and Science before February 2010 or it will too late, they were nomads after all.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jump Street


When is the last time you said the words, “one, two, three, four, I declare a seat war!” Lucky for me, that was today. That’s right, I am past the prime of my childhood years, but I brought it back!
Driving past Jump Street quite often, has made me more than a little curios about the laughter I could hear bellowing from the walls as I drove by. Finally, I had my chance to run up the walls of this indoor trampoline playground.
My friend Gina and I stepped onto the trampoline that was 30 times the size of the one I played on growing up. We were running up walls, sliding down the walls, practicing cart wheels, having seat wars, knee wars and even made a new friend. She was about 2 feet 7 inches and she came to see if we wanted to play tag.
The game Gina and I were playing earlier definitely needed some pizzazz so we agreed. As we chased our new 5 year old friend around I turned to Gina and asked her if this was considered bullying. But we soon learned that the little girl was darting left to right in speeds that I could not keep up with.
After our heart rates came down from an intense game of running and leaping from trampoline to trampoline a little kid ran right up to and said, “Look there’s a big kid!” I nodded my head with a smile, knowing I still had the “kid” status.