Celebrating Service to Lake County
Earlier this summer the City of Leadville renamed one of its parks. It’s one that many may not have given much notice to; its boundaries creating a triangular shape at the intersection of US Highway 24, E. 12th Street and the Mineral Belt Trail. Of course, re-naming anything in one of Colorado’s most historically significant cities is no light matter. But when word hit the streets that city leaders were considering renaming Triangle Park to Howard Tritz Park, the idea saw little push back. For good reason. And if you know Howard, then you understand that it’s a worthy honor. But for readers who may not know him, and for the sake of posterity, Leadville Today offers you this two-part series on The Man, The Legend and now, The Park: Howard Tritz!
Part One: Growing Up in Leadville
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Howard Tritz has the kind of commitment, integrity and loyalty that defines old-school Leadville leadership. So it probably comes as no surprise that he is a native son of Lake County, growing up on Leadville’s east-side. It was Leap Year, Feb. 29, 1936, when Howard arrived as the firstborn son of four boys (Howard, Kenny, Donny, Michael). His arrival marked the 3rd generation of Leadville Tritzs, which boasts such notable as his Irish-jigging, saloon-running Great Grandmother who lived in “Finn Town,” east of Leadville. And a Great Grandfather arriving in 1879, the same year the Tabor Opera House, the old St. Vincent Hospital, and the Silver Dollar Saloon were built.
Tritz’s father was one of 8 children, so the Tritz family name grew with each generation. His dad worked at the Climax Mine as a re-grind operator. His mother suffered a stroke at 36, leaving the oldest Tritz to help his mother with the younger siblings.
When Howard was 10 years old he secured his first job as Leadville’s east-side newspaper boy. His faithful companion along the route was a pony name Muggins. Up and down, side to side they would go, making the door-to-door deliveries. Muggins was a well-known “free spirit” in the neighborhood, roaming as he cared, getting into mischief from time to time. This also made Muggins the “butt” of a practical joke or two. Tritz recanted one such gag attributed to childhood friend and neighbor, George Webster (yep, that George!) While it would be years before the prankster admitted to the feat, it was George who put those oversize pantaloons from the big German women’s clothesline, onto the back half of Muggins, sending that pony back home, and disgracing his young owner.
But growing up on Leadville’s East Side during the Depression wasn’t all bloomers and sunshine.
“There were some tough kids in the neighborhood,” recalled Tritz in an exclusive interview with Leadville Today. One such east-side bully was a boy by the name of Rupert, who had challenged Tritz to a scrappy after-school fight. Even back then, Tritz was a solid negotiator, and had managed to convince his opponent to re-schedule the battle with a more formal boxing match. He had even secured two pair of leather boxing gloves, ironically, from his cousin Don Moffett, who would go on to become a Lake County Commissioner. Hey kids, you never know what future leaders you could be going to school with in a town like Leadville!
The afternoon of the boxing match finally came. The east-side Irish kids gathered round to see the showdown between skinny Tritz and the more formidable Rupert. Then, in a first-one-out-of-the-corner, take-no-prisoners, punch, Tritz came at that bully, stiff-armed, and broke that boy’s nose, sending blood and snot flying everywhere! It was over, just like that.
The kids walked away one by one, disappointed in the brevity of it all as if they had a right to ask for a refund to a prizefight they never paid admission to. At the end of this battle, the victor’s trophy was worn by the loser, in the form of a metal nose guard, used in those days to stint broken nose. Needless to say, Tritz entered adolescence with a certain “don’t mess with Howard” reputation. Not a bad middle-school carryover for the torments of high school.
The Years in the Courthouse
From growing up on Leadville’s east-side to two decades in the courthouse serving as the Lake County Assessor, to the thousands of hours dedicated toward the creation of the beloved Mineral Belt Trail, Howard Tritz’s stories are one-of-a-kind. So be sure to check back for Part Two as Leadville Today celebrates the namesake for Leadville’s recent, rededicated park.