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Dealing with this milestone 

Between the Lines

On a sunny August day long ago, the 24-year-old journalist pulled into Colorado Springs, moved into an interim apartment, started looking for houses, and began building a new life here underneath Pikes Peak.

His first day on the job, Elvis died.

Several afternoons later, the kid visited Air Force football practice, and he still remembers how several generals wasted no expletives in making their frustrations known. Lesson No. 1: Try to stay on the generals' good side.

Then came the newcomer's first work trip to Denver, checking out the Broncos and talking to a brash quote machine named Lyle Alzado who spoke outlandishly about going to the Super Bowl that season. Little did anyone realize how clairvoyant he was.

On Aug. 29, less than two weeks after arriving in Colorado, the young sports editor turned 25. "But don't tell anybody," the managing editor whispered. "When we hired you, we told the publisher you were 30. He didn't want somebody younger."

That was 1977. Powers Boulevard was a narrow county road on the empty plains. Academy Boulevard was the bustling, convenient center of business activity, but development going north on Academy stopped shortly after Flintridge. The Citadel was our only full-blown mall, less than half the size it is now.

Downtown felt anemic. It was slowly losing its place as a retail center, though a new restaurant called José Muldoon's was doing fine. Downtowners joined Colorado College students in flocking to a small spot on Tejon named Pizza Plus (now Panino's, and much larger, but run by the same family). If you wanted a special dinner, locals recommended Castaways in Manitou Springs, the Whale Inn on West Colorado Avenue, or Luigi's on Tejon Street.

Old Colorado City was mostly rundown, seemingly destined for wrecking balls. High school football was a big deal, with Mitchell and Wasson the top rivalry, chased by Air Academy (District 20's only high school then).

I'll never forget walking out of King Soopers on Uintah Street, thinking it had the best view of any supermarket on earth. Just like no public golf course anywhere could beat Patty Jewett's scenery.

Politics? Republicans were dominant, but not strident. Everyone got along much better. It really was a much more tolerant place.

At work, we never imagined growing older here. Many moved on. A few, including myself, eventually would leave but soon return. Because there wasn't a better place to live.

Today, after 35 years of accumulating memories and friends, the kid hits a milestone. I'm 60 years old.

And that was one of the most difficult sentences I've ever written.

Wasn't it just yesterday that I bought a nice tri-level on Inspiration Drive in Village Seven for a whopping $37,500, marveled at paying 45 cents a gallon for gas, and enjoyed driving the seven miles to work in about 10 minutes, often avoiding every red light?

Wasn't it just yesterday that I quickly incited the wrath of readers who felt this stranger had no right to criticize the Broncos, the state's college programs or anyone else? But soon we embraced the U.S. Olympic Committee's arrival, enhanced by the first National Sports Festival in 1978 (then the second in 1979), along with the U.S. women's volleyball team living here. We giggled when Air Force football beat Notre Dame four straight times, then Texas and Ohio State. And could it have been 25 years ago that we campaigned to bring minor-league baseball back to the city?

All those experiences led to countless more, as Colorado Springs grew.

In recent weeks, though, I've thought about how other things haven't changed so much. Back then, folks complained about needing a new interchange at Interstate 25 and Cimarron Street. We griped about the lack of a downtown arena and convention center, but voters never would approve funding. We dreamed of at least three lanes on each side of I-25 all the way to Denver. Still waiting, despite several hundred thousand more residents.

That's enough reminiscing. The fact is, this journey isn't done, just moving into a new decade.

But the kid isn't 24 anymore. He's trying to accept being 60, not ready to call it a career. So he'll keep on plugging away — loving every minute of it.

routon@csindy.com

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