Songs, trains & service
By Annette Brand
Published Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:50 am
Photos courtesy Al and Jo Smith Al Smith (center) has been making music in the Cedaredge area for a long time. This summer, The Elderly Brothers (pictured above) -- Smith, Jim Hakanson and Ray Carpenter -- performed at the Chapel of the Cross. Carpenter (
For the June 22 concert at Chapel of the Cross in Cedaredge, directors of the summer concert series cautioned the public to arrive early. The concert for these favorite performers sold out in 2016.
The Elderly Brothers -- Ray Carpenter, Al Smith and Jim Hakanson -- arrived, bringing their guitars, vocals and charming repartee to give their audience an enjoyable evening.
The audience erupted with an enthusiastic, standing ovation at the end of the performance and their fans and friends gathered around Ray, Al and Jim outside the Chapel to express appreciation and share memories with these favorite musicians.
Ray had flown in from California especially for one more concert with his Elderly Brothers.
On July 27, the Dobie Brothers -- Al Smith and Jim Hakanson -- were back at the Chapel of the Cross with guitars and Americana vocals.
Jim is leaving Cedaredge also, which leaves only one of the Elderly Brothers in the community.
Al Smith continues to call Cedaredge home. He and his wife, Jo, rejoice in having found the right place to retire. They both bring music and community service to Cedaredge.
Jo plays clarinet with the Cedaredge community band, The Grady Brunch, which played at Chapel of the Cross on July 2.
Jo plays the piano in addition to clarinet.
When they first moved to Cedaredge and Al was mingling with the musical groups in town, singing three-part harmony, he was told that he would need to play an instrument if he was serious about joining a group.
"I went to Starr's Guitars and David sold me a base guitar and an amplifier," Al said. "I took lessons from Roy Martin."
As a sophomore in high school Al sang in a 16-voice all male choir.
"Thirty years later here I am at Calvary Episcopal Church in Golden singing in the Messiah chorus," Al said.
Jo and Al met at Calvary Episcopal Church in Golden.
"We had three tenors at Calvary Episcopal -- Phil Ill, Harry Olsson and I -- and we created a group. With a lot of input from our musical community, we came up with the name "Sons of the Burbs" (suburbs).
"We opened for Buffalo Bill Days in Golden for 20 years. We opened for performers, such as Hazel Miller.
"Harry had two sons who went to Berkley School of Music in Boston, Harry, Jr. and John. When the sons moved back after graduation, they joined Sons of the Burbs and we added drums and upright bass to the two guitars. I played percussion.
Along with music, Al has another passion -- trains! Jo joins him in enjoying this passion.
Al's grandfather and dad both worked for railroads in Michigan. His grandfather was a wire chief, the head telegrapher. His dad was a dispatcher.
"When I was a little kid, my dad would take me into the cabs of steam engines; to the office; to railroad crossings where I watched the guy in the tower turn the lever 180 degrees to turn on the crossing lights," he remembers.
"Christmas of 1950, when I was four years old, Dad took us all down to the railroad waiting room. There was a Christmas tree and it was packed with people.
"As the train was approaching, everyone got up and went outside. In came a huge steam engine with this big cloud of steam that rolled out over the crowd. I still remember the warmth and moisture of that cloud of steam."
Al graduated with his Bachelor of Architecture in 1969.
"I worked for three years for the Penn Central architect responsible for all the railroad's buildings from the East Coast to Chicago," Al said.
He moved to New Mexico and worked in private practice to become a Licensed Architect. But he heard that lonesome railroad whistle.
"I joined the Rock Island in the fall of 1976. It wasn't long before Colorado called, which resulted in my working at the Transportation Test Center in Pueblo until 1980," Al said.
"I finished my railroad employment with Pandrol, Inc., a rail fastening supplier, and Rocla Concrete Tie, Inc. in Denver when I retired in 2010."
Al and Jo have a collection of train china and crystal, used when elegance was a part of train travel.
Jo, a Mississippi native, completed two years of study at Mississippi State and transferred to and graduated from University of Colorado Boulder. She earned her Master's Degree in Elementary Education from University of Northern Colorado. She taught elementary school in Longmont for 13 years.
Jo moved to Golden and took a job with Lockheed Martin Space Systems in the communications department.
She said, "My job was about all things computer: cell phones, managing cell phone accounts, computers, laptops, security devices, and ensuring security in remote situations." Jo brought to the job skills in planning, organizing and implementation.
When Jo and Al moved to Cedaredge, Jo continued in her job, but remotely.
"I worked from home, arriving at my home office at 6:30 a.m. I had the same kinds of problem-solving conversations, but remotely. Sometimes near the end of a conversation the person sitting at Lockheed Martin would say, 'I'll drop by your desk and we can finish this up.' I would then tell that person where my desk was."
Jo worked remotely for two years before retiring. "Lockheed Martin was very good to me," she said.
As they began to think of retiring, Al and Jo visited several places in Arizona, the Texas Hill Country, New Mexico, Utah and some places in Colorado. While attending an Episcopal regional meeting, they were talking with Daphna Russell about retiring. Daphna asked, "Why don't you move over here?"
They came and Becky Hurford drove them all over Paonia, then Cedaredge. They found the golf course and found their lot there.
Both Al and Jo are involved in their community.
Jo volunteers at the Surface Creek Food Bank. This year she volunteered to assist a second grade teacher at Cedaredge Elementary. Teacher aides are no longer in school budgets. Jo helped in areas an aide would have covered: in the classroom some, but assisting the teacher with filing, photocopying, making things the teacher would otherwise have had to make, and other tasks.
A helper has to reapply each year and Jo plans to reapply.
Al was elected to the Cedaredge Board of Trustees in 2014. Prior to becoming a trustee, he served on the Planning Commission for three years.
Al also walks dogs for the Friends of Cedaredge Animal Control, something he has done for seven years. "I do it for the joy of it," he said. "I meet a lot of dogs, get to know a few, and am glad when they are adopted."
Jo and Al both sing in the choir at Eckert Presbyterian Church. Jo is a member of the Mountain Echoes Bell Choir, and Al substitutes on bells if a member is absent. Al leads congregational singing. On occasion he has stepped into the pulpit when the pastor has been away, giving interesting and unique talks to an attentive congregation. Jo serves on the governing body of their church.