Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. The annual symbol of romance, of sparks flying, of long-lasting love, of what poets say makes the world go round.
It is a day to remember that first tender or sizzling kiss, a proposal, or the many years of caring, understanding, forgiving and compassion, as well as passion.
It is a day for roses, chocolate, fancy dinners with champagne, Hallmark cards, a massage, an overnight getaway, a diamond necklace.
In some cases, Valentine’s Day is nothing more than any other day, filled with the things one does when marriage has been a 50-year affair. When life together is what it is. You greet the day together and say goodnight to each other; and in between, you enjoy and relax in each other’s company, you get things done and move forward, building on yesterday and anticipating tomorrow.
Barbara and Roland Siebold agree that their marriage has been built on common interests and the step by step dealing with what life throws at them. Their eyes smile at each other, as if they are sharing secrets only they will ever know.
When Roland says what he loves about Barbara is the fact that she is a great homemaker, she laughs, “I am a horrible housekeeper,” she says.
“But you have made a wonderful home,” he tells her, looking around the room that is filled with books and pictures, knitting projects, mementos of a life well-lived.
Barbara Siebold spent her youth in Newport, Rhode Island where she was inspired in junior high school by a gift of a beading loom which became her muse as an artist. Seeking a mentor, she wrote to an Indian beader in La Junta and they corresponded, discussing Indian beading techniques.
She graduated from high school in 1963 and was contacted by by Buck Burshears, the founder of the Koshare Indian Dancers which led to Barbara’s enrolling in Trinidad Junior College in Colorado, studying anthropology and art, devouring 22 credits a semester.
Roland had been a photographer during high school and said he used a journalism scholarship and selling his pictures to pay for his college education at Trinidad which he entered in 1963. He studied mechanics and English and wrote poetry.
“I was a week late coming to school as a freshman,” says Barbara, “and when I walked into the central facility I saw him. He was wearing fatigues, had a hat on his head and a piston in his hand and was whistling. He didn’t notice me. I thought he looked interesting. We were both in the same English class.”
They were also in Chess Club together, but Barbara says Roland didn’t notice her until a year later when she was decorating the gym for a dance. Roland was usually behind the lens of a camera and more concerned about what he took pictures of than the world around him.
That day, however, while Roland was documenting the decorating of the gym, Barbara was at the top of a ladder, which was wobbly, when someone walked by and shook the ladder, knocking her off. She landed on Roland and he finally noticed her.
“I must have made an imprint on him because he asked me to go to the dance with him,” she says. “Even though it turned out to be more of a date with a camera.”
The couple agrees that the sparks were slow to ignite. They had breakfast together, but didn’t really date.
After college, Barbara went back to Rhode Island where she typed orders for boats at the Pearson Yacht Company. When Pearson downsized, she worked in an upscale ladies’ store as assistant manager.
The couple had exchanged letters during this period. Roland graduated with an Associate Degree in Auto Mechanics and returned to Denver and took a job as a line mechanic in an independent repair shop. Five months later, Dec. 26, 1965, he was drafted into the army.
When he had two weeks off before leaving for Vietnam, he went to visit Barbara. He had never been on a coast before and didn’t like the ocean.
Barbara said she was concerned for his safety and the two of them exchanged letters constantly and even sent tapes of each other talking.
Although in the Army, Roland was trained in the Air force, making liquid oxygen and nitrogen. He went on to produce acetylene gas for the Army. He left Baltimore for Vietnam in a 26-year old C-2 tramp steamer, the US African Glade, where he was listed as chief of maintenance on the oxygen plants, repairing them when they broke down at sea.
It was Roland’s job to transport the equipment to the eastern foot of Pleiku Pass, where for the next 13 months, he took both friendly fire and enemy fire. On a trip to Da Nang, the plane he was on blew an engine and crashed into a mine field at the end of the runway, but no one was hurt.
After 13 months he hitch-hiked on a plane to Cam Ranh Bay and caught a commercial airliner to the states. He changed into dress greens in a hanger in Fort Louis, Washington and was mustered out of the service on Sept. 30, 1967, when he flew to Newport.
Staying in her house in Rhode Island, Roland told Barbara that he wasn’t leaving without her and the couple were married on Nov. 7.
“There was no great flaming romance,” says Roland, “We were comfortable with each other. We had an understanding of each other and were willing to share. It made sense. It felt right.”
They took a train back to Denver, which they agreed was a fun trip. Only the wealthy people took planes then. They moved into a one-car garage in Adams County and Roland worked as a parts manager for a Toyota dealer in Boulder. It was then that they discovered Barbara had extreme allergies to the brown cloud in Denver at the time. The couple had spent many weekends rock hunting in the mountains and realized that her allergies disappeared at altitude.
Friends of theirs found a property on Stinky Gulch in 1972 and they became Nederland residents and live in the same house to this day.
Since then, Roland has served on the town council in every position except mayor. When he was the police commissioner in the late 70’s, he had a town marshal and a deputy under him and in the first week on the job, his deputy was shot in the parking lot of the convenience store. The officer had responded to a call that someone drove off after filling their tank with gas. The suspect was drunk and on drugs and brought out a gun. He fired point blank at the officer and the bullet went through the man’s neck. A couple of street people jumped the suspect. Former Dominican Father and Nederland Town Marshall Jim Hughes showed up and firefighters controlled the bleeding of the fallen officer. There were no EMT’s at the time. The suspect, it turns out, had shot his finger off. Roland turned the crime scene over to the sheriff’s department.
It was then he noticed the angry mob walking up the street, carrying a noose, to avenge their deputy. “I hollered to the sheriff and he shook his head and said, ‘Only in Nederland,’ and took charge of the prisoner. Ultimately, the deputy lost his hearing and had to resign.
Roland says he was appointed police commissioner because he was the only short-haired member of the council at the time and the only one BC deputies would deal with.
“It was a Peyton Place back then,” says Roland. “There was not much TV and people went to the town council meetings for entertainment, something to do. Jim Miller was the mayor at the time and there was a war going on with the hippies camping on the outskirts of town.”
Roland recounts the Nederland rule that would allow only local people to help with a gurney on medical calls because there were four incidents in which medics from down below did face plants because of the altitude. “Only locals allowed on the stretcher.”
It was life in the old west, he chuckles.
Roland was also the Lions’ Club president, co-founder of the Chamber of Commerce with Laura Coombs who had Grandma’s Popcorn Wagon parked across the street from the town hall.
It was at the height of the rodeo events and Roland helped build the rodeo chutes and stands, which were located at Chipeta Park. He says even professional bull rider Larry Mahan came to ride between pro events in the area.
“But we had built the rodeo for locals and we didn’t really want the professionals to come in,” says Roland. After a while the town lost interest in rodeo and began to work on building a park.
Stories, maybe rumors, abounded about the actions of locals during the hippie invasion: dynamite found in the exhaust pipe of a hippie bus outside of a bar; a pickup truck filled with men carrying loaded shotguns and shooting up the campsite outside of town, a body found frozen in a shallow grave.
“Nederland hasn’t changed that much, though,” says Roland.
Their children Amber and Dirk grew up spending summers with their parents who engaged in historical re-enactments, camping, in costume, cooking food over a fire, living in a tent and going about their lives as if it were 100 years ago. Both kids attended Nederland schools and have ventured off into the world. The Siebolds have two grandchildren.
Roland became the public works director in charge of running the water and sewer plants and grading the streets at a time when the underground pipes were still made of wood.
Later in the the 90’s, he worked as an armed security guard for the US Department of Commerce and today he holds a commercial driver’s license with Homeland Security clearance to transport hazmat chemicals to government labs in the Boulder area.
On Midnight of June 30, 2016, Roland says the government made him redundant and he took the buyout, spending most of his time now working on cars, especially his collection of old Jeeps.
Over the years, Barbara drove a post office route in the Nederland area and worked at the Boulder Army Store. She knits constantly, creating hats and scarfs for the senior fund-raising events and often just giving them to people who look like they would like or need a handmade hat of many colors.
What they do, they do together. Last Tuesday, Feb. 7, the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary. They attribute their marital longevity to the fact that Roland is a slow learner and to the way they deal with things as they come.
They say they have had small upheavals, both of them have undergone heart surgery but have never had a disaster that shook their marriage.
Barbara says she was and still is attracted to Roland because, “He is the most interesting man I know. He is too intelligent for his own good and is a perpetual punster. Both of us have a wide variety of interests that we share. Also, he is very easy going, weathers it all and messes with people’s minds. I really like him, most of the time.”
“She is the ultimate homemaker,” says Roland. “She cooks and bakes and sews and will live in a tipi with me while making accurate historical clothes and food. Occasionally, however, when I come out with one of my puns, she will raise an eyebrow at me.”
Communication and companionship, the desire to do things together. Roland says, “If you can’t stand to be together, you’re not going to stay together.”
They both believe that they shouldn’t make a big deal about things, that you can break them down into little components and then deal with them as you go.
They say they might go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day but they don’t make a big deal of it. It’s just another day in their 50-year commitment to each other.
In a letter to his 50-year college reunion classmates, Roland wrote:
“Often as Barbara and I take a drive on our Russian motorcycle with its sidecar, our son Dirk shakes his head and says, ‘When are you guys going to tell me I’m adopted?”