Gustav and wife Matilda Anderson left Sweden in 1881, made their way to Evergreen, and homesteaded 160 acres in Clear Creek County on Yankee Creek. Son Frank arrived on May 22, 1884. Soon thereafter, Gustav and Matilda leased their land, worked on the railroad in Clear Creek, and returned to their farm in 1895.
Simultaneously, Pearl Spencer was born into a harsh reality. She never knew her father, and when her young mother died, Pearl and her sister were placed in a convent. Opposed to negativity, Pearl claimed, “I got through it because I believed in the Lord and prayer.” The convent sent Pearl to a childless couple in Indian Hills who had requested a boy. “They wanted to send me back to the convent,” Pearl reveals, “so I did everything to please them. I worked in their hay fields, fed chickens, milked cows, churned butter, baked bread, and learned how to break horses.” Pearl rarely shared that when the wife was stricken with cancer, the husband wanted to marry Pearl. “I prayed for another man to marry and met Frank Anderson. Having not a dime, Frank bought my wedding dress and shoes.” Pearl was 18. Frank was 29.
Son Walter (“Walt”) was born to Frank and Pearl on October 7, 1925. While attending Evergreen High School, Walt accepted a job as a fuel distributor and mechanic for the Oldes family who established Olde’s Garage in 1921. In the late ’40s, Doris Saxe traveled from Illinois to Denver to have “a summer fling with my friends and fall in love with a cowboy.” Doris’s friends discovered Evergreen the year before and talked her into working at The Hamilton Tea Room, located on Main and across the street from Olde’s Garage. Going to Olde’s to buy herself a cowboy hat and jeans, Doris met Walt. They married on September 4, 1950, and had five children: Steve, Jodey, Mary, Pete, and Beth.
Of his great-grandfather Gustov, Pete shares, “Gustov was a teamster, not in the sense of belonging to a labor union, but as a driver of a team of animals. He grew whatever crops he could and broke burros which he sold to miners. In the 1900s, Frank drove people to and from Idaho Springs and Morrison by stagecoach. When Gustav died in 1915, Frank and Pearl moved into their meager ranch house to care for Matilda. My grandparents lived out their lives on the ranch after Matilda’s death. Frank did everything from road construction to ranching, farming, operating a sawmill and delivering the mail between Brookvale and Troutdale, which Pearl also did for 50 years. Initially, they delivered mail by horse and carriage, and then in a Model T. Pearl was famous for her cooking and catering cooking her legendary meals on an old woodburning stove/oven combo that remains in good working condition in the original homestead.”
Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s allowed Evergreen kids to roam free and unite in pranks that if happened today would garner more trouble than fun. “We definitely ran amuck,” Pete confesses. “We helped ourselves to leftover lumber to build forts since houses were being rampantly built, but not your ordinary one-story forts. Our forts had seven stories. Fourth of July was also amazing. Every kid in town stocked up on bottle rockets, which we bought by the bushel basket from Mountain Drug and Evergreen Drug. Never were we questioned what we’d do with them, even though we did the same thing every year. Being an altar boy, I received an occasional $5.00 tip for a wedding that helped me purchase a tremendous stash of pop bottle rockets. On July 4th, nearly every kid in town gathered on downtown rooftops, and with united precision, we pelleted every car that passed with pop bottle rockets. When our Jeffco Sheriff pulled onto Main Street by Little Bear, we turned our rockets on him. He’d attempt to back up on Douglas Park Road to miss our line of fire. We also battled one another from both sides of Main Street. Never was there a crash and no one got hurt or arrested. Making handmade cannons by drilling holes in brass blocks and filling the holes with gunpowder from the pop bottle rockets was fun. We shot them across Evergreen Lake and never was anyone hurt, nor did we start fires. We never thought about fires like we do now,” chuckles Pete, a career firefighter.
Downtown Evergreen was destroyed by a fire in 1926 that was valiantly attended to by a bucket brigade comprised of locals who established a line from Bear Creek to the raging fire that destroyed 11 buildings. The official Evergreen Fire Department (EFD) was established by Evergreen residents in 1948, with Walt Anderson among them. Pete reveals, “Red phones were placed into eight homes serving 177 phones in Evergreen. My mom was one of the women who volunteered to be a home dispatcher. My siblings and I were sternly silenced when that phone rang. I’m forever proud of my dad’s service to the fire department. He drove the fuel truck and I rode along with him when I was 12. He also took me on fires when I was big enough to help. I was hooked. I joined EFD in 1977. My dad retired in 1978. As Assistant Chief of the Lakewood Fire Department (LFD), Lloyd See encouraged me to apply to work for them. I got the job. After several mergers, LFD became West Metro Fire Department, where I served for 32 years.”
Walt and Doris initiated their fuel distribution business in 1960. In 1975, they installed a couple of gas pumps and built a single room hut. Pete recalls, “I worked there the first day it opened. By 1983, Walt expanded his underground fuel storage from 24,000 to 84,000 gallons of capacity and converted their three-pump station to 12. With business booming, they added a mini grocery store, deli, and changed their company name to Anderson’s Mountain Market.”
Like his ancestors, Pete reveals, “At one time, I had four careers going at once. I worked as a volunteer firefighter, worked for Anderson’s Mountain Market, was with a federal Incident Management Team, and pursued my career as a firefighter for West Metro Fire Protection District. Fighting large wildfires made me realize Evergreen had a bad wildfire problem, so we campaigned to enlighten the fire department and community. Because I was a bit forceful, I was nicknamed ‘Dr. Doom,’ a name I’m proud of because our community needed to become aware, which it now is.” Pete beams when he shares how he fought fires shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and women of EFD as well as firefighters throughout our nation.
EFD is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, and to commemorate, Pete is working with current Fire Chief Mike Weege and coauthor Kim Marklund on a book to preserve EFD’s first 75 years of history. “I’m proud my dad was one of 46 men who signed the charter to create The Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department. Those 46 men, including Walt and his brother Buster, chipped in money to buy the needed equipment and built the first fire station that stood where our downtown parking lot is now located.”