Meet Florence “Bobsie” Pachak, the unofficial queen of Bonnyville.
I am crowning her queen of the little neighborhood of about 325 homes north of downtown Colorado Springs. Who else? She’s one of the original residents of the neighborhood.
Bobsie and her husband, Walter, bought their home in July 1948. She has lived there ever since! That’s 61 years watching Colorado Springs grow from a small resort and military town into a city that ranks about 50th in size in U.S.
Heck, I think we ought to start calling it “Bobsieville.”
Bonnyville has an interesting history. Pachak lived it all, but she was busy raising six children and didn’t recall much of it. So, as a gift for Pachak on her 90th birthday on Nov. 12, neighbor Joyce Dearing put together a history book for her, to remind her of all she had witnessed.
Bonnyville was developed by John Bonforte, who had a fiery relationship with the Colorado Springs City Council and Planning Commission. Below is how it looked from the air in an old newspaper clipping.
The view is to the southwest. The Santa Fe Railroad tracks are visible running at a diaganol from upper left to lower right. In the foreground is the Templeton Gap and the Rock Island Railroad lines:
The Bon Shopping Center was built soon after the houses.
A story in The Gazette Telegraph marveled at the “ultra-modern” look of the city’s first strip mall.
It still boasts the original sign, which reflects the “ultra modern” design of the center.
The shopping center has always been an integral part of the neighborhood.
Originally, a Safeway store stood on the far north end of the center in a space now occupied by an Ent Federal Credit Union office.
Over the years, Safeway moved to the south end of the center and expanded. It was that expansion that led Pachak to become a neighborhood activist.
She said Safeway wanted to buy four houses, including her house, and tear them down to allow a larger building. She and other homeowners resisted. Eventually, two homeowners sold out.
The Pachak worked to limit Safeway’s expansion because she feared truck traffic would endanger neighbors. In fact, her car has been struck seven times parked outside her home.
But, ironically, the expansion came to benefit her family. First, Walter, a carpenter, was hired to build the project. And now, decades later, she likes having the store so close.
Bonnyville has mostly been a quiet neighborhood of modest homes. But it has had its share of excitement and been home to a few folks who would go onto to become famous.
For example, Bonnyville found itself in the newspaper headlines in November 1948 when a B-29 Superfortress crashed and burned just north of the Patty Jewett Golf Course.
It had just taken off from Peterson Field – now Peterson Air Force Base — headed for Smoky Hill Air Base in Salina, Kan., according to the Nov. 5, 1948, Gazette Telegraph report.
The story said the No. 4 engine went out, and the No. 3 engine caught fire.
The newspaper reported: “Eyewitnesses to the crash said the burning ship was headed directly for the Bonnyville subdivision at a very low altitude.”
Unable to turn the plane around, the pilot, Capt. E.J. Cook, instead guided the plane away from Bonnyville to open fields near Patty Jewett Golf Course for an emergency landing.
The burning airplane first struck the ground just east of the golf club, where leaking gasoline started a brush fire. Then it “cut a path 300 yards long, ripping down barbed wire fences and bouncing over several gullies before coming to a stop without nosing over.”
The late Leon Young, left, longtime Coloardo Springs City Council member who, for three months in 1997 served as the city’s first black mayor, had this recollection of Bonnyville in a 1993 interview:
“I came back from the Navy, and in 1947 I wanted to buy a house. The first veterans housing project, Bonnyville, had a big sign saying `GIs $250 down.’ I went up to the trailer there and the man asked me what I wanted. I said, `I’m a veteran. I want to buy a house.’ He said, `We’re building houses for veterans, but not for you.’ I was turned down for two FHA loans and by that time I had saved $3,000 down.”
While Bonnyville lost the chance to host Young, it was the home for several years of Harry Hoth, a co-ounder of the Bonnyville Improvement Association, who became owner of Pikes Peak Broadcasting Co. and its KRDO TV and radio stations.
Hoth, left, used the neighborhood association as a springboard to the City Planning Commission, on which he served in1951-62; then to the City Council in 1959-67 and finally served as mayor of Colorado Springs in 1963-67.
And Bonnyville was the inspiration for perhaps the most popular comic strip in history.
In 1951, cartoonist Charles Schulz spent a year living in Bonnyville while his comic strip, “Peanuts” featuring Charlie Brown, left, made short-lived debuts in seven newspapers. Two decade later it was featured in 2,200 newspapers reaching 200 million readers in 68 countries.