Damon Runyon’s Pueblo, where the famous writer grew from a boy of 6 to a young man and reporter in frontier era Pueblo, Colorado.

The grandeur, grime and realism of Alfred Damon Runyon’s formative years in Pueblo, Colorado are traced. His street-wise adventures, early journalistic years and Spanish-American War experiences led him to become the highest paid story writer of his time.

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His father, Al Sr., was a second-generation newspaper man who moved the family from Kansas and joined the Pueblo Chieftain as a typesetter. Al Sr., a single parent, was quite the storyteller who had served with Custer. He was known to electrify listerners at the Arkansas Saloon, especially young Al.

"Damon Runyon's Pueblo" is a period semi-documentary film about the famed author's formative years in the turn-of-the-century West. It was in Pueblo that Runyon developed the writing skills that eventually made him the toast of Manhattan and Hollywood.

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At 15, Runyon began a lifelong career as a newspaperman. Of those early days Runyon stated that the peak of his aspiration "was to be the City Editor of the Pueblo Chieftain."

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Runyon’s native curiosity and passion for storytelling propelled him toward enriching adventures and a self-made career in journalism which began with his internship on the staff of the Pueblo Chieftain.

The Pueblo years gave Runyon an approach to life that pervades all his writings: contempt for the upper crust and empathy for the common man.

The tales Runyon wrote in New York provided the basis for such highly successful movies and stage productions as “Guys and Dolls," "Pocketful of Miracles" and "Little Miss Marker.” Yet many characters and incidents Runyon depicted were suggested by his Pueblo years.

The Pueblo adventures of Bat Masterson, for example, were echoed in the fictional "Guys and Dolls" exploits of Sky Masterson, described as "a pistol-packing gambler from a Southern Colorado town." Many incidents and characters he heard about in Pueblo figured prominently in his later writings.

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Bat Masterson, who played the law from both sides, and Doc Holiday were involved in the Colorado Railroad war capturing the Denver and Rio Grande roundhouse in Pueblo.

Many years later Runyon and Masterson became friends when both Westerners were writers in New York.

The 40-minute film traces Runyon’s Colorado influences and includes two of the many short stories and poems he wrote about the city of his youth. Damon Runyon always considered Pueblo as his home town and wrote the book "In Our Town" about Pueblo.

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Runyon’s literary career began when he was 13. The Pueblo Advisor printed two of his short stories including 
"Doc Brackett," a short story about the kindly town physician whose death was distinguished by a whimsical grave marker which captured the essence of the good man’s lifelong dedication.

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Presented in the film from Runyon’s book “In Our Town” which he wrote about Pueblo, he tells of the many colorful characters from his youth, one of which was “Doc Brackett,” a short story centered on a dedicated and kindly medical man whose death was finally distinguished by “the sign of his life." 

Also in the film is one of his best Pueblo poems "The Funeral of Madame Sarah Chase,” a touching piece of poetry based on the hypocrisy and surprising honesty of people who had known a notorious prostitute.

Filmed in Pueblo’s Historic Union Avenue District, the poem is typical Damon Runyon, in which he brings high society and low to the same level.

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Runyon knew Union Avenue and downtown Pueblo very well having organized his East Side Gang of four young boys who ranged far and wide, using the Chieftain doorway as its headquarters, playing in the nearby prairies and swimming in the Fountain and Arkansas Rivers.

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Years later he’d write: “I was accounted a bad little boy in my home town of Pueblo because I was permitted to run around loose by my only parent, especially when he was up in the Greenlight gambling house . . ."

From 1911 to 1946, Damon Runyon churned out millions of words that delighted readers the world over. Nearly 20 motion pictures were adapted from his works.

Though he covered the major news events of the day and rubbed shoulders with the rich and the powerful, Damon Runyon always preferred the company of the denizens of the streets.

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From multi-award-winning filmmaker John Henry Johnson 
(“Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain” and “Curse of the Blue Lights”), the docudrama “Damon Runyon’s Pueblo” focuses on the famed writer’s roots in Pueblo and its many colorful characters.

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The filmmakers are indebted to the hundreds of Puebloans who devoted time and energy to this project. Over 200 actors appear on screen, all in vintage costumes in 79 locations, many of which Runyon frequented.

More than 100 organizations and individuals helped ensure the film's rich authenticity. Their contributions included the loan of Spanish-American War uniforms, horse-drawn carriages, sleighs and even a small cannon.  As part of the refurbishing of historic Union Avenue, the city covered the street with dirt to achieve an unpaved look.


Council on International Nontheatrical Events (CINE) Golden Eagle Award,
Washington, D.C.

Selected for its excellence to represent the United States in international motion picture events. Sponsored by Encyclopaedia Britannica, the film’s original distributor, for this prestigious award. Britannica translated “Damon Runyon’s Pueblo” into 30 languages.


"Exquisitely directed and photographed by John Johnson — to a superb script by Joel Scherzer and soundtrack by Dan Treanor, Tom Trapp and Rick Terlep — "Damon Runyon's Pueblo" displays like a diamond being cut facet by facet a picture of what life was like in this growing community when Union Avenue was the Frontier West's epitome of elegance and style and a two-horse buggy was far more important than any newfangled horseless carriage.

The Pueblo Chieftain, Bob Thomas

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As seen on Rocky Mountain PBS.

“an eye-opening and vastly entertaining semi-documentary based on the life and work of the author who became the highest-paid writer of his time.”

KRMA TV Channel 6 Denver


“The semi-documentary dramatization reveals the author as a street-wise school drop-out growing up in the alleys, brothels and bars of turn-of the-century Pueblo, Colorado. . . . But few of his admirers know that many characters and incidents in Runyon’s stories were suggested by Pueblo people and experiences.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corporation


A John Henry Johnson Film 

Tamarack Productions, Incorporated

Starring Andrew Meagher - Young Damon Runyon
Eric Austin - Damon Runyon

Runyon’s Father - William Meagher
Doc Brackett - Robert Festerling
Runyon’s Gang - John Georgis, Douglas Niemeyer, Bobby Simmons
Banker Hammerslough - Armand Vorce´
George Gruber - Tim Trask
Dougal - George “Gabby” Hayes Jr.
Pitkin - Kevin Mackey
Madame Sarah Chase - Alice Hayes
Bat Masterson - William Campbell
Doc Holiday - Tim Abrahamsen
Mexican Family - Anthony Gallegos, Yvette Bustillos, Cecily Bustillos, Julian Rivera
Runyon’s Mother - Lana Lipich
Runyon’s Sisters - Tammy Legan, Melissa Meagher
Miss Cromwell - Margaret Trask
Sheriff - Buddy Johnson
Wounded D&RG gunman - Mike Cronin
Referee - Q. B. Pryor

Primary funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Colorado Humanities Program with a great deal of in kind support from the citizens, local government and businesses of Pueblo and Beulah, Colorado.


Director/Cinematographer - John H. Johnson
Scriptwriter/Research - Joel Scherzer
Producer - Al Kochka
Art Director - Joseph Pachak
Film Editor - Jackson Cravens
Production Assistant - Nadine Johnson
Casting - Barby Halvorson
Camera Assistant - Al Maisel
Stunts & Wagons - George “Gabby” Hayes Jr.
Makeup - James Winget, Larry Winget
Sound Editor/Mixer - Bill Turnbull, Rainbow Pictures, Inc.
Casting Calls - Clay Roehl
Bookeeper - Jane Bailey
Historian - Joanne Dodds
Costumes - Betty’s Costumes, Betty Rae Hegler; Impossible Playhouse of Pueblo
Props - Floyd Marriott
Horse Drawn Vehicles - Katherine Keating Capt. USN (Ret.), Emory Trask, Griffy-Crist Funeral Homes of Fowler and Manzanola, Hillside Dairy

Livestock Coordinators - Mike Anaya, Henry Palacio, Cecil Butler
Music Composed , Arranged & Recorded - Dan Treanor
Additional Music Composed by - Tom Trapp, Rick Terlep
Musicians - Dan Treanor, Tom Trapp, Doyle Trantham, Rick Terlep, Bob Quintana, Larry Hill
Voices - Dave Clark (Narrator), Bill Mattoon (Runyon Voice), Helen Wade Roberts (Schoolteacher)
Additional Production Services - Mike Dicino, Tony Oreskovich

“Thank You" to the hundreds of others who were in or helped us make this tribute to Damon Runyon.

The newly digitized "Damon Runyon’s Pueblo" DVD is now available for purchase at:

Pueblo Heritage Center 201 West B Street located in the Union Avenue Historic District. (719) 295-1517

Beulah Historical Society Museum located at 8505 Hwy. 78, “at the fork in the road” as you enter the beautiful valley of Beulah, Colorado.  (719) 485-1976

Part of the purchase price will go to these wonderful museums.

Also available at John Deaux Gallery 221 S. Union Avenue, Pueblo. ‭(719) 545-8407‬

Or you can purchase a copy below for $25.00, plus a $5.00 shipping/handling fee.


You can use PayPal, your debit or credit card.

For bulk or special orders please email me at tamarackprod@mac.com.


Other websites on another film and book by John Henry Johnson:

The book “Buddy Johnson A Colorado Original” about his father, a pioneer Colorado broadcaster,  bandleader and performer for four decades.  buddyjohnson.net

The DVD “Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain” based on the journals of the early American explorer and his journey through the Southwest.  zebulonpike.net

Copyright © 2022    John Henry Johnson    All rights Reserved.