Arvada resident and Apex ice desk employee Gene Chavez, 87, has lived a fascinating life including attending several Super Bowls, serving in the Army with Elvis Presley and being a guard and the Nuremberg Trials. The Arvada Press sat down with Chavez at the Apex Center to talk about his life.
What was your time in the Army like?
I enlisted in the Army in 1947. They were finishing the Nuremberg Trials at the time. The first assignment that I had, they made me a guard at the Nuremberg Trials. I was a young 17 year old kid and didn’t know anything about them. In Germany, the mission was to get all of the displaced persons fed and find homes for them. That’s when Elvis Presley joined the same unit that I was in. He was a typical solider. People knew him because it was the beginning of his career. He had gotten drafted. I met all different types of people the 25 years I was in the service.
When I was stationed in Panama, our unit was on an island two-and-a-half hours from Panama City. I got interested in the kids who were from that island. Two of the fathers, they used to take me fishing every weekend. Those people made a living as shrimpers. One day, they came down dragging a huge tree from Columbia. I was watching them and I didn’t know what the heck they were doing. But, they were taking this tree and making a boat out of it. And they were making it for me because I was doing so much for their kids. What had happened was, the first Christmas there, I made arrangements with my captain to start ordering more turkeys and more hams, so I could feed these kids on the island. Then, the following year, I got permission to make a collection from all the GI’s in my unit. At the end of the year, we took that money and bought toys. I was a paratrooper, so we came in dressed as Santa Clause on a helicopter and jumped right there on the beach. All the kids were there so Santa could give them gifts. I was there for five years and when I left, every unit in Panama had to do something for kids there for the holidays.
After my tour in Panama, I went to Korea. Then I took a tour in Okinawa. I retired as a senior non-commissioned officer in 1971.
Tell us about going to the Super Bowl.
I was on active duty when the Denver Broncos started here in Denver. I bought season tickets then. I was told that if I ever wanted to go to the Super Bowl, since I had season tickets, I just had to write a letter with my payment and indicate that I wanted tickets to the Super Bowl whether the Broncos go or not. So that’s how I managed to get my super bowl tickets. And it kept on that way. I retired and Joyce, my wife, and I, that was our vacation. We went about four times to the Rose Bowl, when they played the Super Bowl at the Rose Bowl. San Diego a couple times. We’ve been to Michigan one time, New York a couple times. We’ve been to Tampa one time and a couple times in to the Miami area. The old Orange Bowl, the last Super Bowl they had there, we were at that one. And New Orleans, we’ve been there about three times.
But to get tickets to the Super Bowl anymore, it’s hard for the working man. It’s just all big business people that can get tickets. I paid $17.25 cents for my first Super Bowl ticket in 1965. And now, my god, they’re in the thousands if you can get them.
I traded in going to the Super Bowl to a 55-inch TV.
But I’m a very avid Bronco fan. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wear something Broncos. Usually Broncos socks.
How did you start working at the Apex ice desk?
We have a 44-year-old handicapped daughter, Crystal. When she was 17-months-old, she had a seizure and that seizure set her back about eight to10 years. She’s an amazing person. Crystal is our life really. We just think the world rises and shines on her.
What happened was Crystal was an ice skater for Special Olympics at the other rink and when they opened this new Apex Center up, Crystal was skating here. They asked me if I wanted to go to work here because they needed somebody they can depend on to open up in the mornings. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about Crystal paying for ice time.
I’ve been here since they opened. I’m one of the real old timers. In September, it will be 16 years. I come in at 4 a.m. and get the ice arenas all ready.