Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.


I write of Christmas 1938, the last year my father was alive. He loved these occasions. The Christmas tree, a beautiful, well-shaped blue spruce, was selected early in the year on one of his horseback trips to tend to his cattle at the Valle Grande (now Valle Caldera). Just before Christmas, he would make another horseback trip to bring the selected tree.

The December celebrations started with preparations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Peña Blanca. The mayordomos, two couples from the parish, had the honor of overseeing the celebration. White-washing the interior church walls, organizing parishioners to bring piñon trees to line the area of the procession for the vespers, and preparing the luminarias which would be lit and burned on the evening of December 11. Luminarias were made from piñon wood which would have lots of pitch to burn brightly. A luminaria is a formation of interwoven piñon logs and to purists like me, the only luminaria. The candle in a paper sack is a faralito. On the evening of December 11, there was a procession with the parishioners singing the Rosary, as well as other prayers. Little girls in their white First Communion dresses carried the Blessed Virgin Mary’s banner. Older women carried the banner of the Sacred Heart. At this time in Peña Blanca, there were still old ladies wearing long black dresses down to the floor and a tapalo (shawl) on their heads, not unlike what we now see in pictures from the Middle East.

The church functions were followed by a dance. Everyone wore their finery. We would estrenar our winter coats, and the soot from the luminarias could be catastrophic on a light-colored coat. Estrenar means first use of something, be it clothes or other objects, and there does not seem to be an English equivalent. The following day, a high mass was held. Franciscan priests from Cuba, Gallup, and Santa Fe came to celebrate. After the church function, a fiesta followed at the home of the mayordomos.

After the Fiesta of the Patroness, came the novena in preparation for Christmas. For some reason, unknown to me, these nine masses were held at 6:00 a.m. in the dead of winter. We walked in pitch darkness in bitter cold weather to the church for mass. (I hope St. Peter will take note of this when he marks down the Sundays I have missed mass.) At school, we had Christmas plays, ending with a visit from Santa Claus who gave us each a paper sack with peanuts, candy, and an orange.

The winter solstice marked the Ember Days—days of fasting and abstinence. With the cold, it was a time to butcher a yearling. According to my mother, her Tio (uncle) Amado Baca would say, “Cuando el pobre ya tiene carne siempre se atravieza La vigilia.(When the poor man finally has meat, along come the Ember Days). It never failed.

Butchering was only one of the preparations. There was also baking of biscochitos and candy-making. Empanaditas and tamales were made the day before Christmas. Making tamales entailed soaking the white corn in a lime solution, then it required many rinsings before grinding the corn for the masa. The masa was then beaten very well until a sample of it would float in water. Boiling and shredding a pork roast was next. Then the red chile sauce was added and the tamale could be assembled in cornhusks which had been soaking. There is little wonder that this was the only time of year that we had tamales. Chaquewe was another thing. It was much easier to make and the results were not too different.

The meat concoction for the empanadas (probably a cooked beef tongue) had been prepared with raisins, chopped apples, piñon nuts, whiskey or wine, and aged for a few days. The pastry is similar to a sopapilla. The empanadas were stuffed and deep fat fried on Christmas Eve, so they would be fresh.

Rural electrification came early to New Mexico compared to other parts of the country. Governor Clyde Tingley was a political supporter and friend of President Franklin Roosevelt, so New Mexico profited from the New Deal projects early. In December of 1938, we were hoping that the installation of electricity would be completed, and it was. My older sisters Elda and Margaret had brought us Christmas tree decorations. There is no comparison between the beautiful General Electric decorations of those years with the lights we have today. The lights were blue, about one-and-a-half inches long, and shaped like bells and stars. We had a blue tree for many years as those lights lasted twenty or thirty years. While my mother baked, Fita—one of my older sisters—decorated the tree. After the tinsel and icicles came a covering of “angel’s hair.” This was a spun glass covering. This decoration was removed from the market quickly, perhaps because it could cut and was very irritating to the skin. We would try to peek through the keyhole into the room where the tree was, but we were not allowed to see the tree until we returned from midnight mass (La misa del gallo). The nativity scene at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was, and still is, especially beautiful. The manger was lined in piñon boughs. The nativity set had been purchased with funds donated by the students, also with bingo games and raffles and, like our tree at home, it was not put up until Christmas Eve.

Immediately after mass, we opened our gifts. By 1938, the depression was receding and we received dolls. In previous years, we received paper dolls and were just as delighted with them. After opening gifts, we had tamales, empanaditas, and coffee.

Early in the morning on Christmas day, less fortunate children came to beg for “Mis Crismas,” much like children go from house to house for trick-or-treating at Halloween. The children were given peanuts, nuts, and candy.

Our Christmas dinner was roast beef and my sister Celina made fruit cake. In the evening, we went to see the lights in Madrid in Elda’s car. My sister had recently completed her education as a public health nurse and had purchased a new car. Our family had never had a vehicle other than a caraje (carriage) and wagon.

Madrid, a mining town, assessed the miners a fee from their monthly wages and used volunteer help to put on a spectacular display at Christmas that was famous far and wide. We had never previously been able to see it.

During the Christmas vacation, every evening, my mother would come out with her cache of goodies. She hid the candy, peanuts, and nuts in her square sewing machine cabinet. She thought no one knew where they were. Each night, she doled out a handful of these goodies. The candy had to last through January 6.

The Feast of the Epiphany was the end of the Christmas season. We had early dismissal of school, and we would go to Santo Domingo Pueblo. At each home, in the pueblo, where someone was named Ray or Reyes, the family celebrated their Saint’s Day by throwing gifts from the rooftops to the crowd. The gifts might be a loaf of bread wrapped in muslin, or a pretty printed material from a flour sack, or candy, or, if you were lucky, one of the squares of cloth might have a turquoise ring.

Our Christmas tree was up for several weeks after Epiphany, perhaps my mother kept it up until the beginning of Lent.

This article’s author, Amelia Montoya Andrews, is a member of the Sandoval County Historical Society and contributor to their quarterly publication El Cronicón.

Thursday, 05 November 2015 01:50

Garcia Street Club - The Early Years

Who remembers?  1950s.

Saturday, 17 October 2015 00:08

Cisco Gormley WWII Rationed Food Postcard

Thanksgiving, 1942.  Wartime food rationing was an American reality and  Cisco Gormley, who owned Gormley's store on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, was printing and mailing penny postcards weekly to his customers, offering foods that were avaliable that week.  Cranberries, corn and cookies were avaliable but coffee was very hard to obtain.  Piñon nuts did not seem to be on the ration list.

Thanks to Kathie Leyendecker.

Saturday, 05 September 2015 19:45

Maria Trujillo, Truchas

This is a wonderful story by Rey Montes, Montes Santa Fe

This is a photograph of Mary/María Trujillo and my puppy Lisa Marie/Lisa. They loved one another. It was unusual for Lisa to love a human since she was in a puppy mill for the first seven years of her life. She had been a champion Toy Poodle, but was imprisoned in a cage while she produced other little champs. But she loved Mary. Mary died September 1st. It was because of Mary that Montez Gallery was able to find a home in Truchas. The last time my father was in a hospital, St. Vincent’s in Santa Fe was short on rooms so he had a roommate, Eliseo Trujillo. During the time we were in the hospital, Eliseo’s wife, Mary, and I became great friends. They say that it is near impossible to form close friends in later life, but Mary and I became very close very fast. As both men were dying, Mary would yell to her husband, “montate!” I had not heard that word since I was a child. “Get back on the horse!” It made me think of my father’s story about the stallion that his father, a horse trainer for the U.S. cavalry in Santa Fe, could not train. One day, while my grandfather was out, my father spent the entire day being bucked off that horse. Finally, in the evening, before my grandfather returned, my father was riding the horse. He had gotten back on. My father told me many stories during his last days in the hospital. He told me where he kept his “treasures”, he asked me to guard them, like his WWII memorabilia which he hid in a trunk in his back shed. He told me many things I had never heard before. And he repeated that Truchas was “Paradise”, his favorite place to fish for trout (“truchas” means trout). My father was an avid fisherman and, after falling in love with my mother from Chimayo (the village below Truchas) he would spend many hours fishing there, often with my mother. A month after my father died, I received an e-mail from Eliseo’s granddaughter that Eliseo had died. I drove up to Truchas to give Mary my condolences and during our meeting she asked me, “?No has visto la capilla?” I answered, “?Que Capilla?” Mary said that when she was a girl she went to a church that was just a few minutes walk from her home and I should see it. At the time, I was wondering how I could save my 22-year-old gallery in downtown Santa Fe (which has the same square footage costs as Manhatten) during the recession. As I opened the beautiful blue doors of the old, adobe church, my heart flew out of my heart! It was the perfect place to place the santos made by the more than 100 families of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado that I represent. And the rent? 1/6th of the cost! Mary helped me hang every retablo and display every bulto in the capilla. We started in one corner and went around the old church as everything fit in place naturally. At the end, I told Mary, “Eliseo and my father are with us.” Now, Mary is watching over her family, Lisa and me. Mary taught me many old traditions and many archaic words in this village of Truchas, the highest and most protected in New Mexico. And so, to my great friend, Lisa and I miss you dearly. “Has montado, Maria. Cuidanos.”

--Montes Santa Fe

Saturday, 13 June 2015 01:04

La Carréta

"Travelling this morning quietly over the plain, we heard in the distance of several miles a singular, awful noise, like a combination of falling rocks, breaking of bones, screams of anguish and cries of children, but the deep impression which the mysterious concert had made upon my ears was but surpassed by the surprising effect, when with my own eyes I descried the wonderful machine whose action produced that unearthly music - a Mexican carréta.  Imagine to yourself a cart, made without any nails or iron of any kind, and with two solid wheels formed out of the trunk of a big tree, and in the circumference rounded, or rather squared, and with a frame of ox-skin or sticks fastened together by rawhide, and this machine then put in motion by three yoke of oxen, and carrying a load, which on a better vehicle one animal could transport much faster and easier, and you will have an idea of this primitive and only known vehicle used in Northern Mexico."

Memoir Of A Tour to Northern Mexico
A. Wislizenus, M. D.
January, 1848

 

Two of the most pejorative terms in New Mexico - Greaser and Gringo Salado - came from the 1830s when the Americano wagon trains began to arrive in New Mexico. The term Greaser referred to the individuals that accompanied carretas, carrying buckets of tallow, whose job it was to "grease" the wood on wood hubs and axles of the carreta . Gringo salado (salty gringo) was directed at the American wagon train crews who, after 3 months on the trail with little or no bathing, were very dirty and odoriferous when they arrived in Santa Fe. Transportation industry insults. Using either term could spark a fight.

 

--Mike Lord

Friday, 15 May 2015 23:48

San Ysidro, Patron Saint of Farmers

May 15:  Dia de San Ysidro

The patron saint of Madrid and of farmers, San Ysidro was born to a poor family in 1070. While young, Isidore’s devout parents instilled in him a strong work ethic and deep Christian faith. This was reflected in his life as a farmer on the estate of the wealthy Vargas family (ancestors of Don Diego de Vargas, governor of New Mexico in 1691-1697 and 1703-1704) outside of Madrid, where he was renowned for the hours he prayed each day while still managing to complete all his farming tasks. According to legend, another laborer on the estate complained that Isidore was taking too much time off to pray and was not doing his share of the work. When the overseer investigated this complaint, however, he did indeed find Isidore praying—and an angel taking his place behind the plow.

Although quite poor all his life, Isidore was known for his generosity to both his fellow humans and to animals. It is said that once when he was returning home with a coveted sack of grain he saw some birds foraging for scarce food. He punctured the sack and allowed the grain to escape, but when he arrived home it was full again. Another legend recounts that his wife, María, insisted that he work one Sunday rather than attend Mass. Isidore agreed and the Lord subsequently threatened him, first with torrential rains, then with a plague of locusts, but was not successful in getting him to go to church. In the end, it was the threat of a bad neighbor that got him to abandon his plow and attend Mass. When he returned home, however, his wife was not angry because an angel had guided the plow in his stead.

Isidore was canonized as San Ysidro Labrador in 1622 for the many miracles associated with him. His wife, to whom miracles are also attributed, was canonized soon after as Santa María de la Cabeza. Devotion to San Ysidro spread to the Americas, and in New Mexico, the Saint became an important part of local lore and agrarian life.

Thanks to Maria Montez-Skolnik

 

Sunday, 12 January 2014 19:26

Santa Rita Café, 1938

This is from Rita LeFevre Speer.  Santa Rita, NM was the location of the Chino open-pit copper mine.  It was once the largest open-pit mine in the world.

"My mother, Etna Lancaster,  was an 18 year old waitress at the Santa Rita Café, near Silver City, in 1938. My father, G. B. LeFevre, worked in the copper mine until he joined the Army when WWII broke out. My mother spent the war years back in Fort Worth, TX (near family), where she was a "Rosie the Riveter" at the Ft. Worth bomber plant until the war was over. It wasn't until 1948 or 1949 before they could get back to New Mexico, moving first to Española, then to Santa Fe in 1950, where they lived and raised a family for their remaining years. Bye bye Texas..."

Etna is fourth from the right in this photo.

Friday, 13 December 2013 22:07

Christmas Dinner at the Bon Ton - 1891

Pictured above is the Bon Ton Hotel and Restaurant which was located on San Francisco Street just to the west of the Claire Hotel.  While the Claire was considered a first class establishment, the Bon Ton catered to a less affluent clientele.  

Nevertheless, in 1891 they offered a Christmas dinner far more elaborate than one would find today.

 Jan Whittaker blogged about the event in 2012.

 http://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/tag/conways-bon-ton/  

 Christmas dinner in a restaurant, again?

I suspect that a lot of people living in the Wild West in the 1880s and 1890s had little choice but to eat their holiday dinners in restaurants. The majority of the residents of western mining and ranching towns were males living in “hotels” which were nothing but crude rooming houses with a saloon, pool hall, and none-too-fine restaurant attached.

John W. Conway ran such a place in Santa Fe NM, but judging from the spread he laid out for Christmas in 1891, he was making a generous effort to please his guests with a delicious meal. On this particular day he served a genuine feast for only 25 cents, the price of an everyday dinner.

Conway’s Bon Ton Restaurant

Menu

Christmas Dinner

 Soup

Clam Chowder             Chicken Giblet

Boiled

Ham    Corned Beef    New England Boiled Dinner

Roasts

Suckling Pig, Apple Sauce       Beef, Brown Gravy

Veal, Dressing             Turkey, Cranberry Sauce

Duck, Jelly       Chicken, Cream Gravy

Entrees

Breaded Veal Cutlets, French Peas

Pork and Beans           Fricasseed Chicken, Dumplings

Quail on Toast             Lamb Chops, Tomato Sauce

Macaroni and Cheese             Irish Stew

Vegetables

Irish Potatoes, Mashed and Browned

Baked Sweet Potatoes      Green Peas      Corn     Beets

String Beans    Tomatoes        Celery

Relishes

Worcestershire Sauce             Tomato Catsup

Chow Chow      White Onions              Horse Radish

German Pickles           Lettuce

Shrimp, Lobster and Potato Salad

 Pudding

English Plum, Brandy Sauce               Corn Starch

Nelly Bly, Nutmeg Sauce

Pie

Mince              Cranberry        Pumpkin          Custard

 Cake

Gallagher’s Marble     White’s Jelly

Tea      Coffee              Chocolate        Milk

Nuts     Raisins             Oranges          Grapes

Wine List furnished by the waiter

 Dinner from 12 to 1 o’clock, 25 cents

Just down San Francisco Street, Will Burton offered a more refined, pared-down dinner. Judging from the menu, the 50-cent meal might well have equaled one served in more sophisticated big city restaurants. Unlike John Conway’s, his dinner began with oysters and featured fish and game courses. And there was no Pork and Beans or Cornstarch Pudding on Will’s menu.

Merry Christmas!

 Menu

Billy’s New Restaurant

1 to 4 PM

Blue Point Oysters

 Soup

Fresh Oyster

Fish

Red Snapper, Shrimp Sauce

 Boiled

Capon, Sauce Velouette

Roast

Turkey, Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce

Loin of Kansas City Beef, Au Jus

Game

Baked Loin of Elk, Orange Sauce, Currant Jelly

Entrees

Brunswick Stew           Roast Quail

 Salads

Fresh Shrimp               Potato

 Vegetables

Browned Potatoes       Tomatoes La Royal     French Peas

Dessert

Almonds          Nuts     Raisins             Apples

Pudding

English Christmas, Brandy Sauce

 Pastry

Mince Pie        Apple Pie

 French A.D. Coffee      Cheese             Green Tea

 Dinner, 50¢

 Will C. Burton & Co., Props.

Will, aka Billy, had lived for a time in San Francisco where he may have acquired elite tastes. He hosted game dinners, kept vintage French wines in his cellar, and poured expensive Scotch whisky. He opened this restaurant in Santa Fe on Thanksgiving of 1891 but, alas, by the next spring he was ruined and reduced to running the short order department at Conway’s Bon Ton.

Regarding the first menu, I am left wondering what Nellie Bly pudding might be. Under Relishes on the same menu, German pickles were, I think, pickled green tomatoes with onions and green peppers. Chow Chow was a mixture of pickled vegetables. On Billy’s menu, Velouté Sauce, of meat stock, and creamed flour and butter, is incorrectly spelled. “A. D. Coffee” is short for after dinner coffee. Both menus use the French meaning of entree, a side dish usually of smaller cuts or chopped meat or fowl.

I find it interesting that Christmas dinner menus in most of the restaurants I looked at from the second half of the 20th century were far less elaborate than these.

© Jan Whitaker, 2012

 

 

Sunday, 03 November 2013 17:15

The Capilla at Plaza del Cerro - Chimayo, NM

This Capilla (Chapel) was built on the west side of the Plaza del Cerro in the early 1700s, 100 years before the Santuario was constructed.  It is an exquisite example of a Colonial New Mexico church.

This is a Holy place.  My first thought when I walked in was "Wow!  How many people worshiped and professed their faith here during the past 300 years?  Thousands, I'm sure."  Muchisimas gracias to Chimayo for preserving it.

Photo by Mike Lord

Sunday, 27 October 2013 19:19

Where's My Nickle, Where's My Dime?

 

When Acequia Madre Elementary School opened in 1954, my little brother and I were transferred there from Carlos Gilbert.  I was in the 4th grade and he was in the 1st.  We knew a couple of kids who also were moved, but most of our classmates were unknown.  As outsiders, we were befriended by a few boys and girls and we were picked on by the rest.  This all eventually sorted itself out, but the first couple of months were scary.

The school was a 20 minute walk from our home on La Vereda.  My father dropped us off every morning and we walked home every afternoon.  The route was down a small path from Acequia Madre to Gormley’s store on Canyon Road, then down another path, crossing the back yards of a few homes, to the Santa Fe River.  We went over the river on a small footbridge, crossed Alameda, walked up a short road to Palace Avenue and arrived at home.

Since there was no cafeteria we took our lunches to school every day.  The more affluent kids had lunchboxes (mine was Hopalong Cassidy) while the less fortunate brought their lunches in brown paper or bread bags.  We originally took drinks in a small thermos, but they were easily broken and, after I destroyed the third one, my parents began giving us each a dime to buy a small cardboard container of milk.  It wasn’t long before we stopped buying the milk and instead used the money to buy candy at Gormley’s after school.  There were quite a few Acequia Madre kids there, none of whom we knew, and they let us know that, because we were rich, we should share our candy with them.  When we refused, we were threatened with mayhem, but Mr. Gormley would come to our rescue and send them packing.

Eventually the showdowns at Gormley’s ended and our adversaries took up a new tactic.  One day we arrived at the footbridge over the river and were met by a kid from my class and his 6th grade big brother.  They told us that, beginning the next day, we would have to pay them ten cents in order to cross the bridge and, if we didn’t, big brother would beat us up.  They weren’t totally greedy, since we had twenty cents between us, but we found ourselves in a position that was terrifying.  The next afternoon, we got to the bridge and there they were, asking “where’s my nickel, where’s my dime?”  We paid our toll and went home.

After about a week of this, we decided that it was time to tell our parents and ask them to bail us out.  The first thing that happened was that my dad grounded us for 2 weekends for blowing our milk money on candy.  The second thing he did was to tell us that, since we created this problem, it was up to us to solve it.  We didn’t sleep much that night.

When we approached the bridge the next day, we told our tormentors that we had no money.  They pushed us around a bit and threatened us with a beating if we tried to cross.  Instead, with them throwing rocks at us, we climbed down the 4 foot wall to the river, splashed across it, scrambled up the wall on the other side and ran like hell for home.

For the next 3 weeks, we walked the long way home.  Up Acequia Madre to Delgado Street, Delgado to Palace Avenue and then Palace up to La Vereda.  It took a good 15 minutes longer and had a long uphill stretch.  The Billy Goats Gruff would threaten us at school but they could do us no harm there.  We finally decided to try the short way again and, when we got to the bridge, there was no one there.  For the rest of our time at Acequia Madre we crossed that bridge without incident.  And we always drank our milk.

The bridge (pictured above) is still there.  The paths have been fenced, walled and otherwise made inaccessible by the current property owners.  There was a time in Santa Fe when people did not so jealously guard their land.  We were fortunate to be able to experience it.

Photo by my little brother, David Lord

September 13, 2013

--Mike Lord

Page 4 of 15

Additional information