This year, The Gray Zone is spending time with North Denver centenarians. We’re learning about their lives and the many intersections with histories of our neighborhoods, city, and beyond. We began in March with Clorinda Trujillo and continued last month with Barbara Tramutt. This month we bring you Mrs. Adeline Cic.
“My next move will be to the cemetery,” Adeline Cic chuckles as she points over her shoulder to the west. She’s settled into a plush loveseat in her North Denver living room, surrounded by family, recounting stories from her 100 years. “I’ve lived here my entire life,” she says.
Adeline’s father Carl Luchetta came to North Denver in 1911 from Calabria, Italy, the southernmost peninsular region just across the Strait of Messina from Sicily. He left as a result of poverty: Carl’s father pointed him toward better opportunities in America. The Denver that Carl Luchetta arrived in was indeed a city in economic growth-mode, teaming with immigrants from many countries. It was also an American city expressing the latest national racist hierarchy.
By the time Adeline Cic was born in March 1921, North Denver was known as “Little Italy,” a tightly knit community where neighbors knew and relied on one another for everything from the telephone party line to numerous small businesses, each meeting a specific need. The Luchetta home-base was the bustling neighborhood center at West 37th Avenue and Navajo Street. Carl Luchetta Sr. and Marie Luchetta nee Amicone raised Mike, Adeline, and Carl Jr. in their home on Navajo Street close to what is now West 38th Avenue. Luchetta Sr. drove a team of horses in the city’s growing transportation network.
Adeline remembers having everything they needed right there on the corner: grocery store, department store, creamery, gas station, liquor store, drug store, movie theater, shoe repair, and pool hall. Kids, nickel in hand, tortured clerks behind the penny candy counter with the eternity it took to make final selections.
Adeline’s family tended a big garden nearby where they were also able to keep a cow and chickens. Grandma and Grandpa Luchetta lived near 38th and Pecos, and grandpa walked to nearby Carbone’s every day for a loaf of bread. Adeline’s father made his own wine. According to Ruth Wiberg’s Rediscovering Northwest Denver, Italians who were originally from winemaking regions came together every year to ship grapes from California.
Adeline says families played cards on Saturday nights, neighbors visited over coffee and donuts, and couples occasionally went dancing at the 39th Club or the Sons of Italy. Especially worth noting: the large crowds and festivities surrounding street processions for the feast days of saints.
The Luchetta kids attended Webster (which became Bryant-Webster in a new building in 1931), Horace Mann, and North High School, with Adeline herself cutting her studies short to start work for tailor Louis Keller, downtown at 16th and Welton. Hand-stitching was a popular feature on suits, and Adeline learned how to do it well. Numerous viaducts and an elaborate streetcar system enabled people to commute into downtown Denver. Early in life, Adeline learned to value family above all else. So, she’d often walk home along the 16th Street viaduct, saving her streetcar fare to buy a toy for her younger brother Carl who had rheumatic fever.
Adeline Luchetta married Anthony Cic, an Austrian fellow, at Mt. Carmel Italian Church in 1942. They raised three children—Donna, Anthony and Mike—just a few blocks away from Adeline’s childhood home on Navajo. The children followed the same trajectory through neighborhood schools: Bryant-Webster, Horace Mann, and then North H.S.
By 1970 the family had moved to the home on Zuni Street where we all sat recently, listening to Adeline’s stories and marveling at the contrast between then and now. It’s been a long time since the man with the tamale cart came around in the neighborhood.
Adeline dusts off a photograph of her great granddaughter Krystal. Krystal always says, “Grandma will tell you what she thinks without hesitation.”
“You mean what do I think of North Denver now? It’s dead!” She pauses and smiles, “Well, you know what I mean.”
Kathryn has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.
Do you have story ideas for The Gray Zone? Email Kathryn@DenverNorthStar.com