Orlando Pecora is a man who was born, raised, educated, and worked locally since 1936.
Born at home in the CPR house just south of Nicholson, the history of the Pecora family goes well back into Golden’s past.
“My family goes back to the 1890s when my mother’s uncle sponsored my father to come to the valley from Italy in 1927. My older siblings and mother joined him in 1935,” he said.
Pecora grew up on a farm where he has many fond memories of his childhood.
“I was very active and you had to work hard. We had cows, chickens, pigs and raised potatoes in a big garden. We were self sufficient,” he said.
Pecora also remembered tobogganing by moonlight which would take him over three sets of fences due to the amount of snow on the ground.
Getting power to their farm was a great benefit for his family.
“It made it simpler for Mom. She had electrical equipment to help with chores and she was a very hard working women,” he said.
Pecora is involved with many community groups in Golden and credits his parents for instilling the idea of giving back.
Pecora remembers during the post-war years people would stop by the family farm looking for something to eat.
“Some people were veterans, others unemployed, and you never worried about them. They would come and knock at the door. Mom would make a sandwich for them and away they would go,” he said.
As for Golden, Pecora said the changes over the years have made it very hard to recognize.
“I can think back to when we had the wooden sidewalks which were destroyed one year when there was an ice jam. There was water and ice all over the place,” he said.
Pecora worked eight years in Yoho National Park during the summer as part of the “Warden Trail Gang.”
“We were responsible for cleaning the trails and fighting fires which was exciting in those days with very little equipment,” he said.
He explained that fighting some fires was impossible for the crews at that time and a great deal of beautiful timber was lost.
“I was caught on the side of a hill with my crew when the wind came up and whipped the fire up from the bottom of the valley to where we were. We had to run along the top of a mountain scree. It was scary because it was upon us in minutes,” he said.
Pecora also had a close encounter with a grizzly bear which he has never forgotten.
“We were on the trail gang and all of a sudden out of the bush came a grizzly. It came for me and the warden was down the trail. When he saw it was almost on top of me, he hollered and the bear went after him,” he said.
The warden was Pecora’s brother-in-law who had to face off with the bear with nothing more than an axe. “The bear growled and then went into the bush. Meanwhile I went up a tree,” he said laughing.
“I know it was big. To me it looked like a CPR engine.”
After going to University Pecora got his first job teaching at the Columbia Valley School in 1958.
He was principal at the school until leaving to work at the Edelweiss School before finishing his career at Alexander Park Elementary.
“I taught for 38 years without missing a day’s work,” he said. “I enjoyed working with kids and I still do.”
Pecora still enjoys seeing many local residents whom he taught when they were children.
“It is nice to hear them call me by name from across the street,” he said.
One of the more interesting trips Pecora took with his students was in 1967 when he, with the help of his wife, went to Montreal for Expo 67 with 28 of his students.
“We were gone for most of the month of July,” he said. “There was no problem. Each crew had a job to do and they did it.”
After some bus concerns the trip was on, and the groups camped their way back and forth across the country at a cost of $50 per student, after a little fundraising knocked down the price. The group made it as far as Quebec City before they had to turn back.
Pecora also said the schools would have great carnivals and sports days which would get the whole town involved.
To this day he is still heavily involved as a volunteer in the area and enjoys his time in and around Golden.