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Chapter Twelve
Johnstown, 1926

In the spring of 1926 the company transferred me to Colorado to be chief chemist at their new Johnstown Sugar Factory. This was a new venture for any American sugar company. Without boring you with technical details, it was an attempt to profitably, on a commercial scale, refine sugar from otherwise discarded waste molasses by the barium process. This had been attempted on rather small scales in Europe, but no one had ever made it pay. My company, The Great Western, was, in a sense, forced into such a project, because they had thousands of tons of molasses each year that were becoming more and more difficult to dispose of. After several years of research and pilot plant work they had built the plant at Johnstown to start operations in the fall of 1926.

In March of 1926, they sent me to their research laboratory in Denver so as I could acquaint myself with this new process, with the intent of my being the first chief chemist. Florence remained in Bayard until school was out for Henry, then she went to Idaho Springs to stay until we were settled in Johnstown later. She rented a furnished house in Idaho Springs; it would have been too much of an imposition and too crowded to have lived so long with the Jaynes'. I would go up to the Springs by train every Saturday afternoon and return to Denver either Sunday evening or Monday morning. It was a glorious summer for all, just like a mountain vacation for the kiddies.

One of the treasured memories of my life is of one day during this summer I had little Anne in Denver with me alone, for one day and one night. I took her to Elitche's gardens, nice place to eat, we stayed at the nice Oxford Hotel and I put her on the little narrow gauge train in the personal care of the conductor to return to Idaho Springs, about a two hour ride.

Another thrill for me that summer was one Sunday when I took little Henry up to Georgetown, Silver Plume and over the famous Georgetown Loop, on the train from Idaho Springs. As I gave the tickets to the conductor, who was an elderly man, I said, "This little boy's great grandfather pulled the first train over this road and the loop." Obviously the old gentleman thought I was just telling a tale, so he asked, "What was his name?" I replied, "Jim Mullen who then lived in Golden and whose wife was Margaret Mullen." That convinced him, from then on little Henry owned the train. This old conductor had been a young boy and news vendor on that first train and knew Grandpa Mullen.

I came to Johnstown August 1, 1926, Florence and the family followed on September 1, and we have lived in this little town ever since, in a sense a normal small town family life, we believe it has been a good town in which to raise our family, its good points have far exceeded its bad or weak points, and I believe all of our children will agree.

Sons Don and Dick were born after we came to Johnstown; Donald Everett on September 8, 1927, in the hospital in Greeley; Richard Langdon on February 19, 1929, in the hospital at Milliken.

The second terrible tragedy in our lives hit during our first fall here. Son Henry, a large husky boy, was a freshman in high school and played football. As a result of carelessness upon the part of the coaches, he contracted a terrible cold coming home immediately after a game in nearby Windsor in a very cold unheated bus and without having showered off. It soon ran into pneumonia and he passed away. Thus, we lost our two eldest sons in tragic ways. Having our other children was our only salvation; no child can replace another in any parent's heart, but other children can alleviate the loss better than anyone else can.

Henry's loss being connected with football embittered me against high school football, so I never allowed Bill to play and did not give the desired permission to John until his senior year, when at the insistence of the coach, I let him play the last few games. I then relented and permitted Don and Dick to play. It was actually Bill's arguments that made me relent and eventually permit the younger boys to play. So, whatever fun they ever had in this sport they owe, in a large sense, to their brother Bill.

Each of the children were leaders in high school, in their own various ways, Bill in class offices and the tennis champion of the school and the town; Anne in music and the center point of the finest boys and girls in school; John scholastically, general leadership, music and athletics; Don, scholastically, music and athletics, and Dick in general leadership and athletics. As I look back through the years, each one of the boys was or could have probably done what the others did. Each one excelled in whatever his own interests were. Fortunately, their interests differed, it would have been most unfortunate it they had all been identical, how they would have despised each other if that had been the case.

All the boys were big and over six feet tall yet Anne was little. Small as she was, she was the boss all through the years and always let her big brothers know it, the truth is they liked it that way. To a large extent Anne is still today sort of a second mother to her big grown brothers. We have always thanked God that our family was large and very clannish. Whenever necessary, they were self sufficient. In their minds and hearts each of them just assumed it to be an accepted thing that they and their brothers and sisters were something special, in their minds just a little superior to anyone else. This is a wonderful thing, if not carried too far, which I don't think they ever have. All worth while families should have family pride and to a marked degree be clannish and always stick together.

All through their school years the children were interested in Sunday school and church; Florence and I made it a point to see it was that way. We took active part in this with them. For years, Florence taught the high school class, as well as did her singing and directed the junior choir, while I taught the adult men's class and was on the church board.

Our home was definitely the gathering place of the young folk. Florence and I played with the gang both outdoors and indoors and many, many mountain picnics, often over night.

The boys were good boys, but certainly were never sissies or good-goodies. They got in their share of mischief, but nothing basically bad. One should never compare one's own children, but I will in this way, as a proud, loving dad. Each of our children was and is superior. They have definitely proven this to be so. As school children, circumstances and associates more or less directed their interests in different roads as they each excelled in his own personal way according to his interests. In one case, one was more interested in leading and directing people and through the years Bill has achieved national recognition as a leader in the business world. In another case, one became especially interested in athletics, especially football, so John became a nationally known football player, being mentioned on national polls for All America and actually being picked on the All America service team during the war. Sometimes each of the boys, even to this day, tends to envy one of the others; none should do so for in the final analysis they are equal and each superior in his own chosen life. Best of all, each one is a fine Christian American; what more can be said?

Bill went to California soon after graduating from high school, on supposedly few months jaunt, which has run into his lifetime. There he soon met and married Marjorie Griffin; they now live in Pasadena, California and have three wonderful children, Karen Louise, Steven Michael and James Henry, Jr. (named after me). Bill has been in on the very start of the American rocket and missile industry, is now Vice President and General Manager of Aerojet-General, the largest rocket company in the United States.

Anne married Herbert Hansen about a year after high school. They are living on their farm about two miles south of Johnstown. He has just recently gone into politics and is now county assessor for Weld County, which is the third largest county in the United States. They have three marvelous daughters, Judith Anne, Katherine Jayne and Greta Christine.

John served as a fighter pilot in the Navy during World War II, went to the University of Colorado where he received two degrees, law and business administration. While there, he married Shirley Wolfe. They have four children Lynn Anne, Jennifer Hall, John Howard and William Eugene. They live in Chicago, La Grange, where John is in the advertising division of the great McGraw-Hill Publishing Company with a brilliant future ahead of him.

Donald served in the Navy for his two year tour, then went to the Universities of Colorado and Denver. He finally decided to be a Doctor of Chiropractic and then went to and graduated from Logan College in St. Louis. Before going to St. Louis he married Vesta Dove. He is now starting to practice in Denver and we all know he will be an outstanding doctor in this comparatively new field.

Dick also served his trick in the Navy. Then, went to University of Colorado, transferred to and graduated from University of Denver, with a degree in business administration. While at the University of Denver, he married Peggy Young. They now live in Covina, California and three wonderful children, Richard James (Rickey), Christi, and Robert Bradley. Dick is now Director of Business Administration of the Wianko Engineering Company of Pasadena, California, having already made his mark in the business end of the new electronics industry.

Our thirty-three years in Johnstown have been good years, probably normal in general for small town life in an agricultural area. Johnstown is somewhat unusual, it actually is superior culturally than most towns of similar size, certainly more cosmopolitan and it has been said that its payrolls are larger in proportion to its population than any town n Colorado; its population is about 1,200. All this results from the fact that there are many more jobs here than families; also because it is quite an industrial town as well as being in the heart of what is probably the richest agricultural area in the state, so it is prosperous and a town of nice well kept homes and good schools and churches.

Our life here has been centered mainly around our growing family, my work and many, many wonderful trips, the most of the latter have been to California since 1937 visiting Bill's family, then John's and Dick's as they moved out there. Of course we have had the usual normal social life and groups of friends as the years have gone by. It does not seem that we have associated with the unusual people or characters here as we did in mining places as I have previously explained, possibly I feel this way, because our Johnstown people are still so close to us. So, I have no stories to tell along these lines.

I want you to know a little about my work during these past forty years with the Great Western Sugar Company, as it has been my life and probably none of you will ever be exposed to the sugar industry which in itself is a romantic work and history of achievement, far more important to the peoples of this country than is realized. It has been said by leading scientists that best sugar refining is the most complete chemical-engineering industry there is, i.e., it involves more complexities. It is not spectacular any more than is any agricultural industry, yet ironically, all the great and spectacular industries are completely independent upon agriculture and the reverse is not entirely true. I mentioned this to you in the hope that you will never fail to realize the importance of all phases of agriculture and its related industries to you and your country.

Our Johnstown refinery was and still is unique. In fact, it was the first commercially successful plant of its kind in the world, where pure high quality sugar is refined from otherwise useless discarded molasses, a by product of ordinary sugar factories. For many years it was the only factory of its kind in the entire world and still is the only one in the United States. Since World War II, Italy has started and is operating a somewhat similar process, but it operates under a heavy government subsidy; otherwise, it would fail. Recently the West Germans have erected a somewhat similar plant, after studying ours, but as yet have not been able to make it pay after four years. We have had visitors here from many countries. Capitalists, technical sugar men and foreign government commissions, sometimes staying several weeks studying our place, but with the exceptions mentioned, none has as yet had the nerve nor money to attempt it, so we are unique.

I came here as chief chemist and we started operations late in 1926. In 1929, I was appointed Technologist, which sounds formidable, but actually meant sort of a technical superintendent in charge of all technical and chemical research phases of our operations. In 1946 I was appointed plant manager and continued as such until I retired in October 1958. To let you know that your Granddad was not a failure and to help your family pride that I always want to emphasize, I will briefly tell you of some of the recognition given me in my work.

As a sugar chemist I had several chemical articles published in national technical and sugar publications. One in particular gained international recognition, was translated and published in French, German and Italian. It was on a method I developed to accurately analyze molasses for certain constituents that formerly had been impossible on a practical basis. In 1958 I was thrilled when the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists presented me with a special award and plaque reading, "...for faithful and devoted service to the beet sugar industry of America."

Putting this all in writing has been most interesting to me and to Florence as she has checked and reviewed each word, but it has also given me a major interest and chore during the first months of my retirement. By necessity, I have had to omit many interesting stories; otherwise, this would have gone on into volumes; on the other hand I have doubtless written much that may never interest anyone. Between these lines you may discern some lessons about various facets of life, I entreat you to profit by my mistakes of which there have been far too many. It is my hope that some of you read this story in its entirety and from it obtain some degree of interest, history, and above all, the added incentive towards family pride and clannishness. Tradition, far more than any other factor, contributes to the pride and loyalty as well as the dignity of any family, town, nation or even religion. It is my fervent hope that this story will, in some small way, persuade each one of you to forever emphasize your family tradition, pride and loyalty.

What the remaining years of our lives may have in store for us only time will disclose, but two things are certain; Florence's and my everlasting love for each one of you, even though we may not have the great privilege of knowing you, and our eternal prayers for your well being, "May God Bless Each One of You!"


©1958 James H. Zisch, ©1974 James H. Zisch, III