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ADAMS COUNTY, COLORADO

 

 

FORGOTTEN PAST OF ADAMS COUNTY, VOL. I



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PASCAL CELERY


The Men Who Started Pascal Celery

The first known growers of Pascal Celery in the Denver Area were the Spano Brothers - Samuel, Salvatore and Tony.  The exact time of when they moved into the area around Welby is not known, but it is known that they first started selling their celery for market sometime during 1902.  Later on, after they had been in the business a few years, they had acquired enough money to send to Sicily for their mother and sisters.  After they had arrived in the country, the family moved to a different farm, located on West 38th Street.  It is not known if the family still owned land in Welby or not, only that they moved to a different location somewhere in Arvada, where they were to settle down.  In 1912, there was a man named Joseph Elliot, who, after marrying Clara Spano, the Spano brotherís youngest sister, began to grow the celery also.

By 1944, the Pascal Celery Industry in Colorado had reached itís peak; Joseph Elliot & Son were shipping a car load of celery a day to people all over the state and all over the country.  At this time, one of the shippers of celery, in the Metro-Denver area was the Green Brothers.
They shipped for many people in the area surrounding Denver, including the Elliots, Spanos, and a man named Kohlahan, who had also been growing the celery since 1910.  It is not known when the Green Brothers got into the shipping business or at what time they got out of it, only that around the 1940ís they were about the biggest shipping firm around.

Some of the other growers who had made the scene around this time were Henry Felhman, John Buck and Tony and Adolf Wieh.  There was undoubtedly many more men growing celery at this time, but their names are to numerous to mention.  In the 1930s and 1940s the Pascal Celery Industry was undoubtundoubtedlytís


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peak.  The men responsible for this were referred to by their fellow growers as the "celery kings." There were undoubtly many more growers, but none that could match the acres or the knowledge of the Elliots and the Spanos.

The Area In Which The Celery Was Grown

The area with which these men worked was remarkably small compared to the output of celery they produced.  At its peak, It is estimated that just in the Metro area there were 500 to 650 acres of celery in the ground.

The land most suitable for farming was along any river flood plain. Cherry Creek and Sand Creek had extensive farming but nothing to compare with Clear Creek and the South Platte flood plain.

Another area that was successful as farm land was the Globeville area.  A region, referred to as the "Poor Farm," near Globeville, was productive to three different families--the Stravaccis, the Peilos, and the Talericos.

The residential and light industrial growth have forced most celery farms to the Brighton area.

What Happened to the Celery Industry

Where did all the delicious Pascal celery go, ask some people; others hunt endlessly around their corner grocery store looking for just a few stalks to brighten up their Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.

There were only really three reasons for the celery industry to fade away: one was Safeway; Safeway used to buy all the Pascal celery it could lay its hands on in the 1940ís, but later on in 1943, they started to buy a strain of green, tough celery that was grown in California.  The growers in California were able to grow more celery for a cheaper price because it didnít have to be bleached out like the Pascal celery does so it took less time to grow, and


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less labor to grow it so they took the market right away from the Colorado growers.  So if there was no market for the celery there was no need to grow it.  Another reason was a disease the celery was getting when it was about six inches tall.  This disease was making the celery go to seed. There was no explanation they could find for the celery going to seed like that and spoiling the crop.  A few years later some professors from Colorado State University came down to Mr. Maryon Elliots land, which was located down where all the oil refineries presently are down on Brighton Road.  These men tried just about every chemical on the market at that time and there was no success.  This disease started sometime during 1943, but during the past ten years Mr. Elliot has been planting a crop of Pascal celery on some land that he had acquired in Brighton, because the City of Denver annexed his land down near where the refineries are today to make a city disposal plant.  The last reason for the farmers to quit growing Pascal celery is that in 1943, the Army started to buy a green "stringy" strain of the celery.  This created an alternative for the farmers to turn to instead of growing the Pascal bleached celery.  This green type of celery that the government was buying was hardly fit for a horse to eat, let alone a person.  It grew to be much larger than the Pascal, in fact, Joseph Elliot, in 1943, won a prize at the Welby Fair for a fifty-nine pound bunch (twelve stalks) of this green celery.

How Celery Is Grown

Celery is a crop that farmers can grow year-round, which means they can always, no matter what season, have a crop in the ground.  This may be why it was so popular to grow years ago.  Most farmers who grew the celery planted in early spring.  This makes the date for sale around August or September.  Then hehe canheck and see when all the other men are planting and he can plant his so that it will ripen in a different month, so that there will be a guaranteed market.  So if no one planted to have their crop


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ripen for Christmas, he can plant his in early May.  That way it is underground being bleached.  Bleaching is a process that only very few vegetables go through.  In this process the celery is put underground in a trench for approximately twelve to fifteen days.  After that it is taken out of the trench and it is all white like someone had poured clorox all over it.  This gives it a crispness and mellow taste that you would appreciate if you had ever tasted it unbleached.  One other way that the celery can be bleached, if it is warm weather when itís being done, is to wrap newspaper around the stalk while it is still in the ground, and then pile dirt up about one-fourth the way up the stalk.  Then in about the same amount of time as the trenching method, the celery is bleached.

Marketing

The selling of Pascal celery was usually done through a middleman.  Which means that the farmer sold his crop to a grocery store or to a vegetable and fruit market, which is then sold to the customer.  The going price in the 1930s and 1940s for twelve stalks of celery, or a bunch as the farmers call it, was approximately twenty-five cents wholesale.  Freight for shipping the celery across the state or across the nation, which was frequently done, was somewhere in the area of thirty-five to forty cents per crate.

The principle shipper for celery in this area was the Green Brothers Trucking Company.

Acknowledgment

Mr. & Mrs. Maryon Elliot


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This Page Was Last Updated On: 09/30/2004

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