Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Denver Post Operas

When I was in high school and college, I worked during the summers at
The Denver Post Opera.  I worked as a carpenter and stagehand and we
actually built the whole set on the fountain in front of the Cheesman
Pavilion in the middle of Cheesman Park.  Miss Helen Bonfils, the owner
of the Denver Post invited the whole city and the suburbs too to bring
picnic dinners at enjoy the operettas.  This was a dream job for a high
schooler like me and I enjoyed every minute of it.

 From time to time Miss Helen would drop by the pavilion to see how the
stage, wiring, lights, and sets were progressing.  She would roll up in
her Rolls Royce; at least I think it was Rolls Royce, with Number 1 on
the Colorado License Plates.  This one day she arrived for inspection of
the troops with Fr. John Anderson who taught me at Holy Family High
School. So Fr. Anderson sees me in my overalls with my hammer,
screwdriver and saw, and he says, "Oh, Dennis! Come over here and meet
Miss Helen."

John Famularo, head carpenter and Al Birch, Denver Post employee and
producer of the show, gave me quizzical looks like "Who the hell is this
Gallagher who thinks he knows Miss Helen."  So sure enough, I came over
and Fr. Anderson said, "Oh, Miss Helen, I want you to meet Dennis
Gallagher, he's one of my brightest students at Holy Family and he's got
a great future and I know we are going to hear more of him."  Fr.
Anderson made praise a virtue and we all appreciated the accolades he
heaped our way. Fr. Anderson made you feel like a million dollars and
you could do anything.   I told her how pleased I was to meet her and
trying to think of something special to say I told her my family and I
always appreciated her building Holy Ghost Church, the beautiful
downtown city parish. Architects agree that Holy Ghost shines one of
Denver's architectural treasures on 18th and California in the heart of

And Miss Helen said smiling gracefully, "Oh, Dennis, I built that church
to get my father into purgatory."

Fr. Anderson reminded me that her dad, Frederick G. Bonfils, owner of
the Denver Post, converted to the Catholic Church on his deathbed. Ah,
one of those last minute sinners who slip into paradise just in the nick
of time. So kiddingly I asked Fr. Anderson, "Well, father, do you think
Mr. Bonfils is out of purgatory yet?"  And Anderson said in an
artificial judgmental tone right there in front of Miss Helen, "With his
editorial policy, Dennis, he'll be there until the end of time."

So Miss Helen turned to me frowning coyly and she said to me, "Oh,
Dennis, you and I are going to have coffee and we are going to leave Fr.
Anderson at home." Fr. Anderson laughed and flashed his gold cuff links
with dollar signs on them holding his starched and pressed French cuffs.


And I have to tell you, one of the worst mistakes of my life was, I
never made that appointment to have coffee with Miss Helen by myself.
And I wish I would have. We would have had a great talk about Holy
Ghost, her dad, and Denver's history and future.  And may Miss Helen
rest in peace.  And I bet she is out of Purgatory because she gave us
those many wonderful years of the Denver Post Operas.

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