I met him in November and it was love at first sight. I was in my early 30s and he had just turned 96. As I saw him walking toward me at the elderly care facility where my grandmother lived, Florenz immediately captured my heart. I used to take my five young daughters to visit regularly. We would sit in the “gathering lobby,” and the blessedly aged were excited to see the girls, even if only for a little while.
On that special day, a distinguished gentleman, still in excellent physical and mental condition and about 6’4″, asked if he could join me (at 5’9″ I’ve always been a sucker for the tall ones). I was in love before he took his seat, and thus began a relationship that would bring great joy to both our lives for the next few months.
Over time, I found the proud and stately Florenz had been secretary to General Palmer (founder of Colorado Springs) when he was 18 years old, and was close friends with Marjory, one of General Palmer’s daughters. He had also been a driver for Spencer and Julie Penrose (he built the Broadmoor Hotel). His wife died several years earlier, but one of the many businesses Florenz and his wife had was chauffeuring the rich and famous around Colorado Springs and up Pikes Peak in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.
People often asked him about General Palmer, and he was usually polite in his replies. But there was no genuineness in his responses, so I asked him about it one day. He told me it was a puzzle to him why people were so enamored with the General, when there were so many more likable people who had helped to establish the City.
One story I remember him telling was after Palmer had been thrown from his horse and paralyzed (in 1906), it was Florenz’s job to transport him from his bed to his wheelchair, to push him wherever he wanted to go, and to lift him in and out of his chair when he wanted to sit in a normal chair.
One day while carrying out that duty, Florenz caught his hand in a mechanism on the wheelchair. There was a moment of jostling as he arranged Palmer for his daily stroll. Palmer yelled at him, called him all sorts of names, and told him he would fire him. As he stood silently being verbally battered by his employer, the blood pouring from the injury to his hand became noticeable. Palmer told him to go take care of it, and termination was never mentioned again.
Marjory Palmer was at Glen Eyrie for a good portion of the time Florenz was there, and she threw a memorable dance for him in the Grand Ballroom for his 21st birthday in October. After Palmer died, it was Florenz who was employed for several years to oversee the minimal staff that remained at Glen Eyrie. He would ride his bike to the City and back to the castle, and often encountered Indians peacefully sitting along the way.
The Navigators purchased Glen Eyrie, and it was open for public viewing. I contacted someone on staff, explained who I wanted to bring for a tour, and would they like to talk to him when we arrived? In the 1980s, technology was a cassette recorder, so the person from The Navigators who met us recorded our conversation and tour with a cassette tape.
What an experience! As we approached the door with the plaque that read “General William J. Palmer Bedroom,” Florenz turned and reported that the room had NEVER been the General’s bedroom. Upon seeing a plaque on a door across the hall, he said – that room was REALLY a supply closet, and the place where most of the staff went to have quick afternoon “indiscretions.”
When asked about Queen Palmer, Florenz was thoughtful as he explained that times were different then. That Queen Palmer was long dead and it was common knowledge that the General was in love with Queen’s half-sister, Charlotte. When Charlotte and her husband, W. L. Sclater, came from England for a visit, Palmer made his brother-in-law the overseer of Glen Eyrie, and built them a beautiful home near the castle, known as The Orchard House, formerly The White House Ranch. At the time they completed it in 1907, it cost more than $20,000 to build.
As we entered the Grand Ballroom at the castle, Florenz was transported to another place, another time. He told wonderful stories of the balls and the Indians and his 21st birthday, and of his deep (platonic) affection for Marjory Palmer.
The man from The Navigators got a light in his eye and offered to host a celebration in the Grand Ballroom for his upcoming 97th birthday that October. With a private smile and a wistful look, he explained he wouldn’t be here in October, but thanked him very much for the offer.
Asking him later where he would be in October, he gently touched my face and replied, “I just won’t be here.” Florenz died in August that year. I mourned his passing as that of a life-long friend. There is not a time I hear of General Palmer or Glen Eyrie or Rock Ledge Ranch that I don’t think of my dear friend and wonder how he knew.
24 thoughts on “Somewhere in Time”
What a great story! How interesting that “history” isn’t always accurate “history”. I learned something from your post today…thx Mimi!
Thanks, Betsy! He was sharp as a tack, and there was no question in my mind that he knew what he was talking about.
Did they change the names on the doors?
What an awesome experience to be able to look back through the eyes of the living to see the past.
Thanks, Bev. It really was. And no, they didn’t change the names. I have been up there a few times since then. Bugs me . . .
This is really great stuff. I wonder if they archived the recording of Florenz’s tour. It would be interesting to hear it and find out what they did about their room mistaken identifications.
It’s been almost 25 years. I would LOVE to find the tape, and wonder if anyone at The Navigators even knows about it.
What an incredible story – The real stories of history usually are more personal that the traditional published words……This story reminds me of a story my Great Aunt Maggie used to tell about Baby Doe Tabor – and how she used to share her lunch with her when Baby Doe was wandering the streets of Denver…..
That’s definitely one you have to share with me, Rich. Baby Doe has long held a fascination for me . . .
This is such a neat story, Mimi. I love the old photographs! Would also love to go cassette sleuthing with you up at Glenn Eyrie this summer . . 🙂
It’s a DATE! My recollection of the time was that the young man did not have an appreciation of the treasure that he had at his fingertips. Let’s plan on it! 😀
Wonderful story! THANK YOU Mimi!
One quick note, the photo shown for the Rock Ledge Ranch is actually of the Rock Ledge House. The Schlater’s home is the Orchard House, across the ranch from the one pictured. It can be seen here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/scampychamp/375180147 . I volunteered at the ranch for many, many years and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! My favorite was the Orchard House – especially the service side and quarters (although I was also quite fond of the Galloway Homestead) Very good times!
Thank you for such an excellent piece!
OH! That makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE! Didn’t want to get into the details of the Orchard House and Rock Ledge and White House and Westland Ranch (that’s for another story 😉 ) but couldn’t find anything that resembled what I thought the Orchard House looked like (named by the new owners after Palmer’s death, Mr. and Mrs. Dent). THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING . . . PERFECT PICTURE
And, I didn’t know it, but Sclater also taught at Colorado College. Kinda makes you look at things through new eyes, when you know that Queen Palmer had a heart attack at the age of 30 and went back to England in the 1880s with their three girls, and after her death in 1894 (at the age of 44), General Palmer went back to England and got the girls and brought them back to Glen Eyrie. But, again, that is for future stories 🙂W. L. and Charlotte Sclater
I love this! Very intriguing and a little sad. I love that place though and always take visitors there. Interesting they got the rooms wrong though ~ I look so knowledgeable when I explain that on our visits!
Absolutely the truth, Amelia! And you can tell them that the coat closet across the hall is where they used to take the maids for some smooching 🙂
What a great story and what an AMAZING picture of Glen Eyrie. I forgot how beautiful that place is and want to make a point to visit next time I’m in the Springs! Thanks, Mimi!
Wasn’t that a great picture? Glad you enjoyed it. We’ll go for a tour and high tea the next time you come to the Springs!
You just raised the bar my friend, great story, reads like a novel.
When you retire from Real Estate you have a second career waiting–Bravo!!!!!
Thanks for your encouraging words, Nick!
Wonderful story!! I am always fascinated by history and you just gave me a very healthy dose of it. Thanks Mimi for this beautiful story.
Thank you, Ashesh! If you ever make it to Colorado Springs, I would love to be your Tour Guide!
You seem like you know exactly what you are talking about! Bless you
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