The world-class Broadmoor hotel resort opened in 1918 to great fanfare with a golf club and luxury amenities at the base of Colorado Springs’ Cheyenne Mountain and poised at the edge of man-made Cheyenne Lake. Once the site of a casino, hotel, and later a girls’ boarding school, the current 450-acre property and the multiple towers, buildings, and outdoor features constructed since its opening have hosted U.S. and World Figure Skating competitions, dozens of U.S. Women’s Open Golf tournaments, and a 2003 NATO summit. A long list of U.S. Presidents and celebrities have stayed at the five-star hotel during its century-plus history.
I don’t know if my father brushed shoulders with any of these dignitaries, but I do know he visited the Broadmoor in 1945. While sorting a box of family photographs, I discovered a photo documenting his visit among dozens of pictures taken during Dad’s tour of duty in Germany during World War II. I’d seen this one before and tossed it in the pile with the other European pictures from the months previous, categorizing them as Dad’s “war years.” It wasn’t until recently that I read the stamped date—May 30, 1945—and Dad’s handwritten inscription on the back: “Broadmoor Hotel—Col.”
In the faded and spotted color photo, Dad’s wearing his Army uniform and familiar wire-rimmed glasses, sitting on a wooden rail, and grinning at the photographer. Behind him are Cheyenne Lake and the slightly unfocused edifice of the Broadmoor. I can’t know what brought him to Colorado Springs. There are several military facilities in the area, so perhaps he was sent to a training session shortly before he shipped out to Germany.
Since 2009, my husband and I’d visited Colorado Springs three times to vacation with my brother and sister-in-law, who own a condo there, or with our daughter and her family. Each time, we’d been aware of the Broadmoor’s existence, but we’d never done more than drive by. I hadn’t known of this tenuous connection to my Dad, who died in 1994, long before our first trip to Colorado Springs. On our fourth visit in 2020, I made a point of locating the vantage point from which Dad’s photo was taken. After a couple of trips by and around the hotel, we realized the lake was completely enclosed by the dozens of buildings that had been built around it and wasn’t visible from any of the roads surrounding it. We parked across the street and walked casually around the manned entry gates to reach the heart of the Broadmoor where Dad had posed in 1945.
My husband took various shots of me on the grass by the water’s edge, at a black iron railing more recently constructed than the one Dad sat on, with the pedestrian bridge in the background, from the bridge, and more. Newer buildings were built in the same style, and though at first confusing, the original hotel is distinctive in its placement. A glance at our Broadmoor portraits, now side-by-side above my writing desk, fills my heart.
“I got shot in the butt, and then they sent me home,” was all Dad would say about his Army combat service. He’d enlisted in 1943 and was discharged in January of 1946 at the rank of Private First Class. It’s not clear how long he served overseas; it may have been only months before that stray piece of shrapnel pierced his flesh.
A scar was the only obvious effect of his injury. I suspect the pain of that hole in his butt paled in comparison to the sorrow he encountered not long after returning to civilian life: completing university, marrying, starting a family, institutionalizing his schizophrenic wife against her will a few years later, then caring for three young children on his own through more than a decade after.
The 1945 photo is a reminder of a younger, happier man who dreamed of a different future. His smile is radiant, broad with the promise of life with the woman waiting to marry him once his service ended, as broad a smile as I’d seen in the 41 years he was my father.
I wish I’d known that man.