Travel adventures, word adventures and community – that sums up the life of Carolyn Florea Newman.
When she was only nine months old, her parents Harold and Margaret Florea put a crib, with her in it, into the rumble seat of their coupe and drove 1,000 miles from their home in Mt. Morris, IL to Ohio. Her father, a writer for agricultural magazines, had lost his job and her mother, a home economics college instructor, lost her job because the college closed. This was in 1932 during the depression. But her father soon was rehired and they returned to Mt. Morris.
At only four years old she ran away with the boy next door. They got four blocks from home.
At nine she began taking trains by herself across several states to visit her grandparents.
Then Carolyn was off to Eureka College, IL where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in pre-library science. She served as president of her sorority and editor of the school paper. Her master’s degree from Adams State College in Alamosa was in secondary education. She also taught classes for Trinidad State Junior College.
The real travel adventure was when she was in her 20s and teaching English in Chenoa, IL. This was back in the days when teachers wore dresses, heels and jewelry. After two years she decided to see the world and headed to London to find a job. There she taught English to English children in a London boarding school.
With time to kill before school started, she headed by bus to the continent. In Denmark she came across a New Zealand girl hitchhiking. She asked to join her – and together they hitched through Denmark, Sweden, Norway above the Arctic Circle, Scotland and back to London.
Working and living in a boarding school with old maid teachers was confining. Her relaxation was hitching during holidays and weekends – to France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and others. She even decided to try a Communist county, Yugoslavia. So few cars there that her friends and she took to the coastal ships.
Her former Mt. Morris high school sent a message – come home – we need for you to finish out the year for a teacher. She did but headed back to Europe for hitchhiking again.
That fall she asked herself -where she would really like to teach. The answer was Colorado. She came to Walsenburg in October to Huerfano County High School, with a position in Fort Collins waiting for her in the fall.
A young man named Alfred Newman Jr. who worked for the Post Office in Walsenburg, asked her to refuse the Fort Collins job. She did and they were married in November 1958.
Three children later – Bruce the sheriff here, Neal with NASA in Washington DC in international relations, Dawn a kindergarten teacher in Aurora, traveling was within the state. But she still kept writing – this time for The Pueblo Chieftain as Huerfano County correspondent and photographer. She returned to teaching in 1971.
Retirement in 1990 opened a new opportunity. She imported English literature materials or designed her own and began traveling to teacher conventions across the United States to sell them. Alfred and she drove or flew from California to New York City. The funniest comment was when a teacher said to her, “A business like that in Walsenburg!” That business ended in 2004 when Alfred died.
Now her interest in local history grew. Her files had been jammed packed before with history articles and her home is filled with stacks of papers and notes. She has promised that someday she will get them all properly filed!
She manages the Tirey Local History Center in Washington School, volunteers at the Walsenburg Mining Museum, serves on the Tourism Board, and is currently serving as president of the Huerfano County Historical Society. Weekly she writes the History Detective series for the Huerfano World Journal, and during 2013-14 wrote some 35 articles on the 1913-14 coal strike. That led to portraying the strike leader Mother Jones in classrooms, for union leaders, for mining professors and local groups. Leading historical tours gives her a chance to tell the stories of local settlements and people. She also serve as secretary to the board of the United Church. She assisted Dorothy Ree with her book of Walsenburg history, Walsenburg: Crossroads Town and finished it for her when Dorothy died. Of course she did the usual young mother things such as Cub Scout den mother, Brownie Girl Scout leader, and she was a Sunday School teacher for 65 years.
A few years ago she went to Australia’s outback by herself when son Neal was posted with the State Department and NASA for four years to Australia’s capitol, Canberra. But she didn’t hitchhiked there – she caught a ride with the mail man on his 13-hour mail route.
She was named an Outstanding Young Woman once upon a time, as she puts it, and is very proud of the fact that the John Mall High School paper, which she sponsored, was named best small high school newspaper in Colorado.
She has had a great life after retirement even at 82! She has great joy in reconnecting with former students, however, Bruce and Jolene, Neal and Carolyn, Dawn and Ruben and the ten grandchildren are by far her best adventure.
Huerfano County is certainly lucky this ‘globe trotter’ calls Walsenburg her home and has dedicated so much time to keeping the history of the Spanish Peaks area alive for us all to enjoy. For all these efforts Carolyn Florea Newman is truly a Spanish Peaks Legend.