Listen: Denver is a Broncos town. Love it, or hate it. It’s a fact like thin air, bad California drivers and buffalo everything.
Where I come from, if you’re not talking football between September and December then you must be asleep.
I grew up with the understanding that if the Broncos were down in the fourth quarter, it was time to be quiet. The game was now serious business, son. In John we trust. If the Broncos had a winning record by November, Dad made green chili and invited over the neighbors for games. And if the Broncos made it to the playoffs, the guy down the street painted his house.
All of that stuck with me, but the house painter really stuck with me.
As a 7-year-old, the “Broncos House” was a matter of fact more than a labor of love. I didn’t comprehend the amount of effort that must’ve gone into painting one’s house. I didn’t care. This was Broncos country, and of course someone would paint their house. But as I aged, and the idea of painting your house for football set on me, I had to know: Who paints their house for a week — maybe — for football? In a world of HOAs, covenants, cash and stucco, painting the outside of your house amounts to turning your front yard into a biker bar for maybe a week. Maybe a month.
Bob Juergens was that kind of guy.
His house was on South Lima Street, between my grandmother’s and the grocery store. Sky blue and shocking orange, the two-story home was proof that in this town, the Broncos in the playoffs meant business. His daughter Teri, who grew up in the house, said she felt a little differently.
“Sometimes I pretended I didn’t know where I lived so people didn’t see the house,” she says.
The alarm wasn’t contained to Teri.
“None of the neighbors have talked to me yet. They’re still just looking out their windows, wondering,” Bob told the Rocky Mountain News in 1987.
It’s understandable. The three times the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl in the 1980s, Bob pulled out the brushes and went to work. Three times he painted his house orange and blue, put the players’ names between the front windows and usually a logo or two. Bob even was bold enough to draw a tombstone for the Giants (Broncos lost), a lasso around the Redskins (Broncos lost) and the defense pummeling a 49ers runner (Broncos lost).
“I was pretty embarrassed at the time, but now it’s pretty special,” says Teri.
Bob was a housepainter by trade, so materials came cheap and labor was free, so to speak. Every Broncos loss meant that Bob had to brave the cold and repaint the house a grown-up color — sometimes a little later than the neighbors would have liked. It was about $800 for the whole getup, and through bitter defeats, Bob still flew his Broncomania banner for as long as he could get away with it.
“(The neighbors) got a little irritated that it didn’t come down sooner,” Teri says.
And for years, Aurora children like me looked at the house like a rite of passage from fall into winter. It wasn’t that some guy just painted his house, it was our way to show solidarity with the team and players that kept us quiet in the fourth quarter, and made us all pick No. 7 when little league jerseys were being assigned. It makes 31-year-old men ask their friends and neighbors, “Do you remember the Broncos House?”
Bob and Teri went to Super Bowl 24, when the 49ers drubbed the Broncos, and that was about it. Teri doesn’t carry the tradition over to her home — although she says she’s a fan — and Bob died a little over a year ago.
The house on South Lima Street looks like every other house now because there are new owners living there.
But for most of us who lived in Aurora and grew up here, the Broncos House meant one thing. Aurora is a Broncos town, too.
Aaron Cole is managing editor of the Aurora Sentinel.