My father, who lived in Detroit, enlisted the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was stationed at Camp Carson (now Fort Carson) from February to October of 1942, preparing for the invasion of North Africa. My mother came out to visit him and stayed at the Buffalo Lodge in Manitou. Neither of them had previously been west of the Mississippi. They decided Colorado Springs was the most beautiful place they had ever seen and vowed to move here after the war. They did so in 1946.
They rented a small house on Ridgeway until they built a house at 1854 Arroya St., on the edge of what is now the Stratton Open Space. They moved into the house in late summer of 1951 and adopted me in November of that same year.
As a consequence, I had the great joy of growing up adjacent to hundreds of acres of open space which the owner, Myron Stratton Home, leased for pasture land for horses. The acreage included two storage reservoirs then operated by the South Suburban Water District. It was a childhood paradise for me and my neighborhood friends. Our family used the land to pasture our two horses and we would frequently have to "round them up". One, a Palomino named Nugget, typically wandered to the farthest reaches of the pasture. Another, an elderly horse named Bard, was more of a family pet and usually stayed within sight of the house. We kids regularly built elaborate forts and conducted childhood "war games" throughout the Stratton acreage. I can still recognize the location of one such fort when I hike the Ridge Trail in the Open Space.
The neighborhood kids also became accomplished fossil hunters. When the reservoirs were created the blasting efforts sent sedimentary rock hundreds of yards down the hill. These rocks were full of remarkably well preserved fossils that evidenced the area was once covered by sea. But none of my fossil finds matched the excitement I felt when I found an arrowhead while searching for fossils.
For several decades beginning in the early 1900s there had been a trash dump adjacent to the road used to access the reservoirs. That created another childhood pastime. We would dig in that location and find lots of old bottles, license plates, etc.
One of my most vivid childhood recollections was the time one summer when South Suburban drained the easternmost reservoir and water came cascading through the areas below and created ponds in which we successfully caught fish.
I have so many fond memories of growing up in Colorado Springs and they certainly include the hundreds of hours I spent exploring what would become the Stratton Open Space. So it's not surprising that I find so much joy hiking in the Open Space today and being flooded with those fond memories.