Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:27

The Hills of La Vereda

 

From The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 18, 1910

While attempting to scale one of the 'peaks' a half mile or more behind the home of A.B. Renehan, to show off the climbing powers of his automobile, Frank Owen had a narrow escape from serious if not fatal injuries yesterday afternoon. His car turned turtle and he saved himself by a magnificent vault just in the nick of time. With him but several minutes before Mr. Owen took the leap were Dr. J.M. Diaz, who
is one of the greatest auto enthusiasts in the territory, A.J. Griffin and J.H. Walker. They made a rapid descent from the car before it turned turtle and in order to save it if possible from attempting the feat.

The scene of this account is north of my great-grandparents home on La Vereda Street, which is at the top of East Palace Avenue.  It had been built on the site of the Fischer Brewery, which closed in 1896.  In 1910. East Palace ended there and past that there were nothing but farms on both sides of the Santa Fe River, bordered on the south by Canyon Road.  My grandfather grew up there, as did my father.  And, in 1950, it was my turn.

We had lived in Los Alamos from 1946 – 1948 where my dad was a contract dentist.  In 1948, we moved back to Santa Fe where he joined my grandfather’s practice.  By this time, La Vereda had grown into a complex of apartments and small houses that were owned by my great-grandmother (my great-grandfather died in 1928.)  My grandparents lived in my great-grandparents original house, which had been built in 1908 on the site of the Fischer Brewery.  We first lived in a small penitentiary tile house below my great-grandmother’s and then moved into the stone house at # 12.  Behind this house was my great-grandfather’s off-road course and it became my brother’s and my playground.

In those days, my dad encouraged independence and we were allowed to play in the hills unsupervised, as long as we were home for lunch and dinner.  I say we because my parents made it clear that wherever I went, my little brother went.  Directly behind the house was a small arroyo where we played army games.  WWII had ended just 5 years earlier and shooting Japs and Krauts was what small boys did.  We built machine gun nests and discovered that dirt clods made excellent hand grenades.  We also snuck matches out of the house and built small campfires which, amazingly, never burned anything down.

Climbing out of the arroyo, we were in a series of small hills that ran all the way east to Gonzales Road.  Directly above the arroyo were large piles of glass shards, the remains of broken beer bottles from the brewery.  We would sometimes dig into them in hopes of finding a complete bottle, but we never did.  The intact necks we found were interesting, though, as the method of sealing the bottles was with a cork held in place by a wire fastener.  Metal caps had yet to be invented.  I understand that these piles still exist.

To the east, toward Gonzales Road via a 30 minute hike, was the quarry that yielded the clay for the penitentiary brick manufacturing process.  My mom would make us sack lunches and we would walk over there and spend most of the day.  It was a wonderful place.  There were pools of water that teemed with tadpoles and frogs.  There were large reefs of rock that were full of fossils.  And, best of all, once a week, there were convicts!  And guards with shotguns!  We were absolutely forbidden to be there when the convicts dug the clay, but we managed.  It was a dangerous game, because if the guards caught you they would take you home and there would be hell to pay.  The plan was to listen for the trucks to arrive and then go hide as close to the work area as possible.  Listening to these guys talk to one another was our introduction to cursing – both in English and Spanish.  It was a few years before we understood what some of the words meant, but we used them whenever there were no adults around.  There was one instance when we were spotted by the guards and one of them told us to come to him.  We took off running the other way and he chased us for about 5 minutes.  We were sure he was going to shoot us, but we desperados made our getaway.

Today, all of this is gone.  The hills and the quarry are covered with houses and condos.  I wonder who lives on top of the peak where Frank Owen made his car turn turtle.

-- Mike Lord

Monday, 09 September 2013 18:42

Josiah Gregg's 1844 Map of the Santa Fe Trail

 

In 1831, due to poor health, Josiah Gregg followed his doctor’s recommendation and joined a merchant caravan which travelled to Santa Fe from Van Buren, Arkansas (at that time there were several routes to Santa Fe from the East.)  He returned to Arkansas in 1833 with his health improved and in 1834 he became a business partner of Jesse Sutton, returning to Santa Fe as a wagonmaster.  It was on this trip that he brought the first printing press to Santa Fe, selling it to Ramon Abreu who used it to print New Mexico’s first newspaper.

In 1844, he published Commerce of the Prairies which detailed his time spent as a trader on the Santa Fe Trail from 1831 through 1840.  Included in the book was this map of the Santa Fe Trail and the surrounding plains, which was the most detailed at the time.

To download a high resolution copy of the map, click on the “Download attachments:” link at the bottom.  It’s 7 MB, so give it a minute.

--Mike Lord

Sunday, 25 August 2013 19:09

The Peefee Meets Zozobra

 

In 1953, I belonged to a Cub Scout pack in Santa Fe.  My mom was the Den Mother and had the responsibility of keeping ten 8 year old boys engaged and focused on Scout activities.  I have to admit that I was more interested in the uniform than I was the various tasks, but since completing the projects got you more patches and made your outfit cooler, I persevered.  That fall, she announced that we were to be Little Glooms during the Fiesta burning of Zozobra.

The burning of Zozobra (Old Man Gloom) is one of the more bizarre public celebrations in America.  Predating Nevada’s Burning Man event by 60 years, he was created by artist Will Shuster in 1924 as an artistic addition to the Santa Fe Fiesta, which was celebrated then over Labor Day weekend.  By the time I was a boy, the event had become the signature beginning of the Fiesta on Friday night.  The week before, we would eagerly await his transport to Ft. Marcy Park and his hoisting to the site of his execution.  My dad would tell us stories about how he had been captured in the mountains above town and was being held until he would be condemned and sentenced to burn.  He represented all of the bad thoughts and events of the year and his demise would clean the slate and give everyone a fresh beginning.  I totally believed him.  I still do.

At dusk on Friday night, the entire town gathered at the park.  Zozobra, 35 feet tall, loomed above everyone, emitting the occasional groan and pointing an accusing finger at his tormenters.  A mariachi band played at his feet.  Illuminated by spotlights, he became increasingly animated and his groans were louder and more frequent.  When it was almost dark, all of the lights, save 1 spotlight, went out and the execution commenced.  A group of about 20 kids, dressed in white sheets as miniature Zozobras, slowly walked up the platform and lined up at Zozobra’s feet.  He roared his disapproval and one could imagine him trying to snatch them up and eat them.  After the Little Glooms were in place, the Fire Dancer, dressed in red, arrived and begin to weave around the monster’s feet, taunting him with fiery torches.  Throughout the dance, the crowd became more and more frenzied, screaming “Burn him!  Burn him!”  After about 10 minutes, the dancer put his torch to the hem of Zozobra’s gown and the giant began to burn.  As the flames rose, his moans and groans became shrieks and screams, until the flames burst from the top of his head and the noise subsided.  By this time, everyone was cheering and the skies behind the charred remains were starred with a magnificent fireworks show.  When it was over, everyone walked down to the Plaza and Fiesta began.

Now, for an 8 year old kid, the opportunity to be a part of this and stand at Zozobra’s feet during his immolation was the equivalent of Christmas morning.  Our moms made our costumes out of white sheets from Bell’s Department Store and, the week before Fiesta, we had 2 dress rehearsals at the park so that we would know where to go.  It was, after all, a bit dangerous with all the flames and fireworks.

Friday evening came and it was showtime!  We all lined up and waited for our cue.  It came, and up the steps we went, with me bringing up the rear.  That’s when it started to go bad.  My sheet was too long and I tripped and fell on the stairs.  This caused the shroud over my head to cover my face so that I couldn’t see where I was to go.  Zozobra by now was making so much noise that I couldn’t hear the adults yelling at me.  When I finally got my act together I was all alone on the stairs.  I looked around, saw the rest of the Glooms and ran toward them.  Bad idea.  Fueled by adrenaline, I fell again.  And a third time.  If Zozobra had wanted to, he could have picked me up and torn me limb from limb.  By the time I got into place the Fire Dancer had appeared and we exited.  I took off my sheet as we left, lest I fall into the flames.  Of course, this made me stand out like a sore thumb among the other Glooms.  I will say that the experience of watching him burn from 50 feet away somewhat made up for the humiliation but the damage had been done.  My stature in the peefee world was rising and I don’t think that the taunting stopped until Easter.

Today, it’s one of my most precious memories.

--Mike Lord

Saturday, 17 August 2013 17:03

The Death Trails and the Peefee Bicycle

 

It was the fall of 1955 and I was anticipating my first bicycle.  Most of my friends had either Schwinn (sold by Cartwright’s and Sebastian’s Firestone) or J.C. Higgens (Sold by Sears) single-speed bikes with  heavy frames, coaster brakes and 26” balloon tires.  I prowled all over downtown Santa Fe, looking for the perfect bike, and I found it at Gerkin’s Bicycle Shop on Water Street.  It was made by British manufacturer Raleigh and, unlike the behemoth machines of my friends, it had a lightweight frame, skinny 27” tires, a 3-speed Sturmey Archer rear hub with the shifter on the handlebars and front and rear caliper hand brakes.  It also had front and rear fenders, front and rear lights powered by a generator, a down tube mounted pump and a leather saddle with a little bag full of tools underneath.  That bike was made for me and I begged my parents for it as my Christmas present.   Since it was considerably more expensive than the bikes everyone else rode, I was told to lower my sights and find one that was reasonably priced.  I did, but the anticipation became lukewarm.

Christmas morning arrived and I trudged down to the tree.  And there – with a red bow on the handlebars – was the Raleigh English Racer!  I don’t think I ever got a Christmas present before or since that took my breath away like that bike did.  I received a serious lecture from my dad about understanding that it required a lot of care and upkeep, that I was responsible for getting it licensed (Santa Fe had a bike license ordinance in those days and for 50 cents you got this cool little plate to attach to the rear fork) and, above all things, I was NOT to ride it in the dirt.  I assured him that I understood and spent the rest of the day taking it apart and putting it back together with the nifty little tool set.

Spring came and I rode that bike all over town.  I would put it in high gear and rocket down East Palace from my home on La Vereda, cruise around the Plaza, ride up College Street to Manhattan Street, down Delgado Street to Alameda and then put it into low gear for the stretch back up Palace.  I was so cool!

The only downside was that my friends with the big bikes immediately branded mine a peefee bicycle.  The word peefee is unique to Santa Fe and its origins are from the nickname given to a slight, effeminate and very flamboyant waiter named Epifanio who worked at the Mayflower Café in the 1930s.  The word came to mean weak, unmanly or timid.  To make matters worse, I was labeled as a peefee because I wouldn’t go with my friends to the local off-road bicycle course, the Death Trails.  Located between Don Gaspar and Galisteo near the powder house, the Trails were a series of hills, valleys and arroyos where kids had built jumps, banked curves and the like.  This was before Cordova Road was built and there were no houses out there – just open country.

As one might guess, it wasn’t very long before I made my first trip out to the Death Trails.  There were a lot of kids out there, both Hispano and Gringo, and what was most important was how well you could ride.  I figured that my 3-speed gears would give me an advantage, especially on the uphill parts.  I was wrong – that bike was a real dog off-road.  While I could ride fast on the flats and downhill parts, the skinny tires were worthless in the sandy arroyos and the bike would come to a halt almost immediately.  I would have to get off the bike, push it up the other side, and remount.  This led to hoots and catcalls, further cementing my reputation.  I was no longer a peefee – I was their king.  Thoroughly humiliated, I left and pedaled the long 3 miles home.

Now, for most people, that would have been the end of it.  But it was at this point that all reason and promises to my father went right out the window.  I had noticed that the really good riders had stripped their bikes of all unnecessary hardware, and I figured that if I did the same my bike would be much lighter and more nimble.  So a couple of days later, after my dad left for work, I got out my little set of tools and went to work.  Off came the fenders, the chain guard, the generator, the lights, the pump and the toolbag.  When I finished, I was certain that I could reclaim my manhood and off I went.

The bike certainly was faster and by pedaling insanely, I could ride down a hill into the arroyo sand where momentum would carry me across to the uphill side without dismounting.  After spending some time getting the feel of things, I headed over to the more technical part and decided to try the jumps.  The good riders could get 2 or 3 feet in the air and I figured that I could do at least that.  I waited in line for my turn and when it came I rode for the jump as fast as I could.  I catapulted into the air, came down on the front wheel and the bike simply quit working.  After I picked myself up from a major faceplant I got the bike and tried to figure out what was wrong with it.  There was plenty wrong with it – I had broken the frame where the top tube connects to the handlebar headset.  Realizing that I was still king of the peefees, I pushed the bike home, arriving an hour after I was supposed to be there.  My parents had no idea where I was and I was in big trouble on so many levels.  Coming home late – check.  Riding way out Galisteo Street – check.  Dismantling my bike – check.  Riding in the dirt – check.  Breaking my bike – check and check.  I spent the next two weeks under house arrest.

After my dad cooled down, we took the bike back to Gerkin’s to see if it could be repaired.  Mr. Gerkin was able to braze the broken frame back together, but the bike was never the same.  It would pull to the left instead of going straight and the front brake would shudder whenever it was used.  The last time I rode it was in the fall before school began.  It wasn’t until 30 years later that I discovered today’s mountain bikes and learned to ride in the dirt.

Peefee no more.

--Mike Lord

I recently obtained this high-definition image of Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco's map of the 1776 Dominguez-Escalante Expedition.  It is one of the most beautiful maps of the period I've ever seen.  In addition to his prolific mapmaking, Miera y Pacheco was a santero and created the altar piece for the military chapel on the Plaza, La Castrense.  The altar piece is in Cristo Rey church today.

I've included the image file as an attachment which can be downloaded and viewed in great detail.  It's 3MB, so give it a minute to download.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013 00:59

Urrutia 1767 Map Of Northern Mexico

Urrutia was in New Mexico from 1767 to 1768.  His most noted map is of Santa Fe, which is the home page of this website.  I recently found this map of the Rio del Norte which came from the same expedition.

--Mike Lord

In the summer of 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado arrived at Hawikuh (today's Zuni Pueblo) in search of gold, silver, land and souls for the Catholic church.  He brought with him the attitudes of arrogance and cruelty that had already demolished Indian cultures in Mexico and Peru.  He stayed for 2 years before admitting failure and returning to Mexico, where he was tried and acquitted of cruelty to the Pueblo Indians.

There remain a few eyewitness accounts of the activities of Coronado and his army, most notably Pedro de Castañeda's narrative.  These document the brutal attempts of the Spanish to force the Indians into submission and the Indian's fierce determination to resist.  Dennis Herrick has written this historical novel to present not only Coronado's story but also what could have been the Indian's perspective.  The events are historically accurate and the entire story is a worthy read.  It has a semi-happy ending:  Coronado left in defeat and the Pueblos had another 2 generations before the Spanish returned to stay.

--Mike Lord

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 00:09

1943 - 1945 Los Alamos Home Movies

In 1943, the top scientists from the United States and other nations gathered in Los Alamos, NM for the Manhattan Project. Among them was physicist Hugh Bradner. With informal permission from the U.S. Army, he shot a collection of home movies of life in a place that officially didn't exist, and of people working on a project that ultimately changed history. His footage represents the only look at life in the Los Alamos area during that time.  I understand that there exist about 4 hours of film.  Here are the first 10 minutes to be released.  I can't wait to see the rest.

My dad, Dr. DeForest Lord Jr. was the first civilian dentist in Los Alamos. In 1946, he, my mom and one year old me moved to Los Alamos where we lived until early 1948. My earliest memory is sitting on the floor of our converted barracks home playing with a red toy truck. During the next 5 years we regularly went to Los Alamos to visit my parents friends. They partied there, worked there, skied there, hiked there and passed it all on to me. These images are very dear to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SLb1O_W5Oyw

Built in the 1850s, the Nusbaum House was located on the corner of Washington Ave. and Nusbaum St.  It was torn down in 1960 to make room for a City Hall parking lot. The Hotel de Chimayo is currently on the site. The demolition was a result of the deliberate "adobification" of Santa Fe and led to the founding of The Historic Santa Fe Foundation, which has been successful in saving many other 19th century buildings.

http://www.historicsantafe.org/

This is an extremely comprehensive history of the Code Talkers.  Give it some time to download.

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