Summit Old-Timer: Dodie Bingham
It’s rare anymore that generations of one family live in Summit County, but for Breckenridge resident Dodie Bingham, her’s is a great big family affair. At 88, she is surrounded by family – all three of her children live in Breck, as do some of her seven grandchildren (she also has four great grandchildren, but none living in Summit County). “Family is so important,” said Bingham Tuesday morning from her colorful apartment above The Bay Street Company in Breckenridge. “We’ve always been a close family. Probably because of my mom, she always wanted to keep everyone close together.”She was born Dorothy Anderson on Oct. 31, 1916, to William and Anna Anderson on the north side of Chicago. Her father emigrated from Ystad, Sweden when he was 19, his father’s parting words: “Wilhelm, the world will tame you.”Like his father, he was a blacksmith and got a job shoeing horses for the Union Pacific Railroad. He mostly worked along the West Coast, but later traveled to Wisconsin, where he met Anna Olson and married her. Her family’s heritage was French.
“My father opened a machine shop in northern Chicago, which became very successful,” said Bingham. “Successful enough that he took his children, sons-in-law and grandchildren through Europe in 1957. That just wasn’t done very much back then. We had, after all, grown up in the Depression.”Bingham graduated from North Park Academy in 1934, then worked as a secretary. She married Leroy Bingham on June 25, 1937 – the son of one of her parent’s close friends. He was working at the American Pencil Company at the time, but later went to work for Dodie’s father.They remained on Chicago’s north side and had three children – Judy, Candice and John.Bingham recounts when Judy was 9 months old (in 1940), she and Leroy took a trip to Colorado where they instantly fell in love with the Rocky Mountains.”We went to Rocky Mountain National Park and thought it was so beautiful. We didn’t have a place to stay, and when it started getting dark, we saw a campfire,” said Bingham, thinking back more than six decades in her mind. “We stopped to see what was going on, and it turned out to be a dude ranch (it was the Holzwarth Dude Ranch, which is no longer there). After that, we tried to come back every year.”
In the early 1950s, the Binghams bought property in Aspen and built a house along the Roaring Fork River.”It was fun then. Its growth was just beginning,” remembered Bingham of early Aspen. “There were a lot of hippies and lot of free spirited people. We kind of felt like we pioneered it back then.”Colorado had gotten under the skin of all the Binghams and in the late ’60s Judy came to Breckenridge with her husband, Bob Girvin, and their three children.In 1975, Leroy died of a heart attack.”When he died, I thought, ‘Where should I go?'” said Bingham.
“My son-in-law was in real estate, and he called and said there was a nice piece of property in town (it was the corner lot of Main and Adams streets where The Bay Street Company evolved),” said Bingham. “It had a little cottage on it, but it was pretty primitive.”I asked him if there could be a garden and he told me it faced south,” she added. “I always wanted a garden.”She bought the property in 1977, where she started a long love affair toiling in the soil of her corner lot and starting a small business.”It was a fun thing to do. I didn’t take it too seriously, it just kind of grew on its own,” said Bingham, of her business and her garden. “Judy joined me in the business, then Candice called from California and asked if she could join us. Now my two daughters are running things and doing a fine job.”Tourists often stop and take pictures of the rich garden she began cultivating back in the ’70s, and she says it has been gratifying to be a colorful part of Breckenridge’s Main Street.”The years I have been here, things have changed a lot, but what hasn’t?” she said. “I wish I could turn the clock back sometimes, but I am happy. I really love it here.”
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