Historic B&B Cafe reopens

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At 6 a.m. July 14, Castle Rock’s historic B&B Café, closed for months because of a dispute between the café owner and landlord, reopened.

New owner Robert Schoene didn’t plan for his opening time to be quite that early — but some longtime B&B customers, rancher types and others, kept telling him they needed their cup of coffee at 6 a.m.

And they were there.

“Mr. Anderson came in at 6 a.m.,” he said. And soon the round table, which over the years has been an essential morning gulp-and-gossip gathering spot, was full.

Schoene — who was a longtime Castle Rock resident until moving to Parker recently for family reasons — has another restaurant, Great Beginnings, in Englewood. So why take on the B&B?

“Who wouldn’t?” he asked. And he raised his arms, and gestured toward the stamped-tin roof, and the marble back-bar originally from Leadville, and the old booths — and the bullet holes in the ceiling and back bar.

There’s all of the history through the years, in this circa-1918 building at 322 Wilcox St., which has been a café since the 1930s.

And there’s all of the tragedy that happened on one day: Feb. 14, 1946.

Son recounts events

The bullet holes were left that day, the day that Castle Rock Town Marshal Ray Lewis was killed trying to subdue a Denver fugitive, leaving a wife and four children.

In a 1991 Douglas County News-Press article, some of Lewis’ relatives, primarily son Bob Lewis, then 48, recounted that day’s events:

Bob Lewis then, in 1991, still lived in same white-frame house, 104 Fourth St., that in 1946 his father walked away from one night and never came home.

Ray Lewis was town marshal for a much smaller town of 400 people, who all knew each other. He had no office, no uniform and no gun. No need to because there was no crime. His main responsibility was to check business doors to make sure they were locked, said George Gammon, then 75, Ray’s nephew, a Castle Rock resident.

“The biggest crime was turning over outhouses on Halloween,” Gammon said.

Ray Lewis, 44, an average-sized man with dark wavy hair, was thought of as a good-hearted man who helped neighbors in his spare time. He was the father to four, ages 2 to 12, and husband to Ruth — and was a jack of all trades who did handyman work.

He also worked for the town, watched over the water tanks, was a volunteer fireman and known as a skilled carpenter. He and his father built one of the town’s most beautiful old homes on Lewis Street, Bob Lewis said.

The marshal’s last day

On Feb 14, 1946, Ray told Ruth that he had to check the water tanks. Apparently after doing that he went to his friend Ross King’s grocery store, located in the rhyolite-stone building on the northwest corner of Fourth and Wilcox streets, kiddy corner from the B&B. He was there when cafe customers noticed someone who looked just like Manuel Perez, 17, pictured in the Rocky Mountain News, who was wanted for shooting two Denver police officers several days before.

According to a 1946 magazine, Timely Detective Cases, the officers were shot after responding to a house on Denver’s Lawrence Street, where Perez was arguing with his girlfriend. He pulled out a pistol, shot both in the kidney area and escaped. Both would survive and a massive manhunt began.

Perez had headed south working his way along creek beds. One night he slept in a Douglas County haystack and eventually ended up at the B&B Café ordering some hamburgers.

Two Castle Rock men, recently returned war veterans, were having a cup of coffee and noticed him.

According to the magazine, Dale Ridenour, 22, nudged the other.

“Hey, Martin, look at that bird in the third booth!”

Martin Nelson, 23, glanced toward the third booth.

“Queer-looking duck,” Nelson said. “And acting strangely, too.”

Perry Ridenour walked in and the three of them decided it was Perez. They told Mrs. Barker, the café owner, to stall Perez while they went to find Lewis and Undersheriff Duncan Lowell. So the hamburger-cooking process became very slow while Perry went for help and Nelson went to get his gun.

Perry found Ray Lewis at King’s and brought him back. Ray sat at the counter, ordered coffee and watched Perez by looking at him in the café’s mirror behind the counter. Perez seemed to sense he was being watched and got up quickly and headed for the front door. Dale leaped up, bolted the door and Ray stood in front of the door. Ray told Perez he was under arrest and to put up his hands. Perez instead yanked out his revolver and shot Lewis directly in the heart.

Lewis, clutching his chest, crumpled to the floor near the café’s front window. Perez fired again, this time glancing Lewis’ shoulder.

Nelson, with an exclamation, leaped on to the gunman’s back, throwing him to the floor. Dale Ridenour and Gene Dodge, a railroad station employee who had entered the café shortly before the shooting, closed in to help. Perez was putting on a terrific struggle.

Nelson fired twice, one of the slugs clipping Perez in the ear lobe, another nicking a finger. Perez fired twice, one bullet wounding Nelson in the hand. Perry meanwhile had seized a heavy potted plant and was maneuvering around the three thrashing men on the floor trying to get a throw at the gunman’s head.

Dodge finally managed to get out his hunting knife, held it to Perez’s throat and ordered him to “drop that rod.” He did.

Angry crowd wants lynching

Lewis’ relatives told the News-Press that a call over the telephone about the shooting reached the telephone operator’s ears first, Grace Prescott, Ray’s sister. She immediately called their sister, Lenore Prescott, to tell her Ray had been shot. They didn’t know he was dead.

Gammon and Lenore, Gammon’s mother, who lived on Lewis Street, hurriedly drove to the B&B. They got there before the undersheriff had arrived.

“Ray was on the floor, a sheet over him,” Gammon said in the 1991 interview. “A couple, three people were holding Perez.”

He remembers Lenore saying to Perez, “Why did you kill my brother, he never hurt anybody.”

About that time, Ruth received a knock on the door. When she opened it, she was told Ray had been killed. She though he must have fallen off a water tank. She couldn’t imagine something like this, Bob Lewis said.

Douglas County Sheriff H.R. Campbell was on vacation in California and before Lowell arrived on scene, an angry crowd had gathered and taken Perez across the street to the trees in the front of the old courthouse where they were going to hang him, Bob Lewis said.

Lowell arrived just in time to stop it and had him taken to the El Paso County Jail so the angry crowd wouldn’t have an opportunity to yank Perez out of the courthouse basement’s county jail.

Community mourns for days

Town businesses were closed for several days after Ray’s death and the courthouse was filled with hundreds of mourners as Ray lay in a casket banked with flowers.

“If Ray, as everyone called him, could speak, he would say for us to carry on,” The Rev. Cardin reportedly told the crowd. “The greatest tribute we can pay him is by carrying on.”

Stacks of shingles, part of the remodeling job Ray never got to finish on his house, lay in the yard. Relatives remember one of Ray’s sons, 6-year-old Wayne, looking at the incomplete work and ladder leading to the roof, saying, “I guess I better get up there and finish the job.”

Ruth, a homemaker, with a $2,000 house mortgage to pay, would receive offers for jobs, but she was adamant about staying home with the children, so she started a telephone-answering service. She also did laundry for the DeSpain’s Motel, at Third and Elbert streets.

To help the family, a fund was established and many, including Adolph Coors and May Bonfils Berryman, contributed.

Perez was sentenced to life in prison and was later killed in a knife fight behind bars. Bob said he had always planned to visit him in prison to ask if he was truly sorry, and thought he might have felt a little sorry for Perez because he was so young at the time of the shooting.

The B&B Café and the penny candy stores next door to the north were the hot spots for local children. Kids loved the café’s pinball machine, which was near the spot where his father had lain. Bob said it didn’t really bother him to spend time at the café when he was a child, but “it does now.”

Ruth, who died at age 85, is buried next to Ray in Castle Rock’s Cedar Hill Cemetery. Ray’s son Wayne Lewis, a general manager in Texas for Continental Airlines in 1991, said he remembered seeing her cry, even in recent years, about Ray. She never remarried. She didn’t want another man raising them, Bob said.

She kept the clothes that he died in that day. Bob remembers seeing some of his father’s shirts, lots of his tools.

“She missed him the rest of her life,” Bob said.

In later years, Ross King gave teenager Bob a job in his grocery store, and he continued in the grocery business and was working for Albertson’s in 1991.

Today, Bob Lewis, 69, still lives in the area and works part-time as a meat cutter at Sprouts grocery store in Castle Rock. He said the bullet-hole story has become kind of a wild-west tale for customers walking into the B&B. But it’s also important to remember that unlike today when such an event would soon be forgotten, in 1946, for little Castle Rock, “It was a devastating thing, a big thing…those things didn’t happen,” Bob said.

And he lost his Dad.