The News Informs, Entertains, and Exercises Us Every Month
By Jack and Pam Farrar
For the GPHN
The esteemed editor of this publication, on the occasion of its 60th year, has asked us to trip down memory lane. We’re glad to oblige.
We moved to Park Hill in 1975. Some people expressed sympathy when we did so. “You’re moving to Dark Hill??!!” Yes, people actually said outrageous things like that. Looking back on it, what was most surprising and disturbing was that people thought we would be amused, that we would see the humor in an innocent racial slur. “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that.” Yes, they did.
In any case, 45 years later, we are Park Hillians, living in the same modest, archetypical bungalow, and rediscovering, a day at a time, especially during the pandemic insanity, why we settled in this part of the world. Many reasons. The diversity of ideas and cultures. The trees, the gardens, the boulevards. The wide streets. Alleys with art (more on this below). The charming little business districts. A great monthly newspaper. A dedicated board of governors that oversees the Greater Park Hill Community, an organization that provides a wide range of services, including a food pantry.
Perhaps the highest compliment we can pay to Park Hill is that it is genuine. It feels like a neighborhood should feel. People care about one another. We know every single person and family on our block. We shovel each other’s walks. We form baby-sitting co-ops. We have block parties. This feeling in the community has been severely tested during the pandemic, but we adjust and move on.
Many of our Park Hill memories are tied up with the Park Community Bookstore, originally the Park Hill Cooperative Bookstore, on the business block at 23rd and Dexter. The bookstore was founded in 1971, established as much as a gathering place and daycare center as a bookshop.
“The founders were a bunch of liberated young women treating their boredom” – in the words of charter bookstore manager Barbara Charnes. You could bring your kids. You could buy Kurt Vonnegut’s latest novel. Or take pottery lessons. Or participate in strange feminist rituals involving bongos, candles and, sometimes, tasteful nudity. Governors, congresspersons, mayors and other big shots have been customers and/or members of the store, including Dick Lamm, Patricia Schroeder and John Hickenlooper.
Just as the Greater Park Hill News is owned by the community, not an individual or a corporation, no one has an ounce of equity in the store. There are no employees. It is managed by an unpaid board of directors. There are no profits. Net revenue is plowed back into the store. Members can bring in their old books for credits to purchase more books. As far as we know, the bookstore is the oldest (maybe the only) nonprofit, volunteer-operated bookstore in the metro area.
Park Hill used to be a restaurant desert, but that is clearly no longer the case. Despite difficult births, often because of liquor license and parking density issues, restaurants have sprouted here and there, opened up our cuisine options and revitalized some business districts once considered decrepit. We are especially pleased with the extensive availability of espresso and related drinks, as we are hopeless caffeine addicts.
Park Hill is a very “walkable” community, as people with Urban Planning degrees are wont to say. We encourage everyone we know to include alleys in their walks. You find the darndest things and the darndest people. We love hiking along the trails behind our homes, shopping in dumpsters. This recreational activity has led us to install art all along the alley behind our house, and to sponsor the now-suspended Park Hill Alley Art Contest, which has publicized weird and wonderful art installations.
For years, we participated in the annual Park Hill Home Tour and the Park Hill Garden Tour. (Two of those years, Jack wrote the descriptions of the homes for the GPHN.) We applaud the managers of both events for including smaller, more modest homes and gardens to those that are showcased in these events in recent years.
We don’t know if people fully appreciate the influence the Greater Park Hill News has had on the community. It has not only informed us and entertained us, but has supported a number of causes that keep Park Hill vital. It has also provided exercise to dozens of volunteers who bundle and deliver the paper to more than 9,000 households (with thousands more copies delivered to local businesses). We have delivered the paper to three blocks for eons and it’s still a great way to reconnect with old neighbors and meet new ones.
Pam and Jack Farrar have been involved in just about everything interesting that has happened in Park Hill since they decided to make it their home.