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Walking in Worland


March 1, 2016

I like to walk. We’ve always lived close to downtown Worland and so I developed habits of walking to the grocery store, to my office, and to the courthouse, bank, post office, etc. Unless a trip is more than, say, seven or eight blocks, I walk. And when I walk somewhere I look for changes.

Worland’s downtown alters quite a bit, sometimes very rapidly, and I can always find some new feature I hadn’t noticed before. But more interesting to me are the patterns in the residential areas close to downtown.

I think I’ve mentioned before that until sometime in the 1930s the southern edge of Worland was the north side of Grace Avenue, and whenever I walk east on Grace, I can’t help but notice the contrast in the houses on the south side of the street and those on the north side of the street. Those on the south side are usually houses built before 1920 and those on the north side 15 to 20 years earlier. As with all such rules, however, there are exceptions.

In a surprising number of instances new homes have been built on a lot, I think usually because the old home has burned, but sometimes because the old house had just become neglected, moldered, and died. I think this happened more in the early years of Worland than it does today. The first homes built in the town were frequently little more than shacks and such structures were torn down after 10 or 15 years and a larger house built. Too, modern people are less likely to build in these older parts of town, because they want larger garages than did the earlier folks. The standard city lot (50X140) is not large enough to accommodate a modern home and a big garage.

As a boy I carried the Daily News for four years and came to know a three-block area intimately. Every time I walk through my old paper route I carefully notice changes. Foliage always changes, but, also, people built patios, porches, and garages. In one case I know that a new owner took the earlier little cabin and built a big, two-story structure around it.

In my youth, I became expert at finding shortcuts, very important so that you could proceed more expeditiously to, say, Wilson’s Drive-in. I didn’t worry about the trespass laws. My pathways were much influenced by my shortcuts, and as I go by the places of my old shortcuts I’ve noticed how often they’ve been cut off, thus frustrating the creativity of the present kids of the town. Of course, I don’t use such shortcuts anymore, but I can see how frustrated I would have been had a cherished path through a neighbor’s back yard and behind a row of trees been blocked.

My old paper route was just on the western edge of one of the most interesting places of change in Worland. You’ve probably all noticed that 12th Street between Culbertson and Coburn kinks, unlike any other street west of 15th. The reason is because about 1920 a new high school was built and as the Lower Hanover Canal then lay, the ditch interfered with the school. So, the canal was moved to its present location. As near as I can tell, before the new high school was built, the Lower Hanover ran across what is now Sanders Park, then proceeding north (following the kink) until it reached the corner of 12th and Coburn, when it ran east for a couple of blocks along the south side of the street. I’m not sure where the canal went then, but guess that it jogged northeast, proceeding out into what was then open country.

For some time, a large water tower sat in the southern part of what is now the first lot on the northwest corner of 12th and Coburn, but I don’t know how the water tower fit in all these arrangements.

Next time you’re in that area, note the differences between the houses on the south side of Coburn versus the houses on the north side (and east of 12th). Most of the north side houses were built during Worland’s boom time during the 19 teens. The south side houses, on the other hand, were built anywhere from the 1930s to the 1950s. Foliage has grown in and obscured these different times of development, but if you look closely, you can see them well enough.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is mostly retired. He is the author of several books.


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