Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:27

The Hills of La Vereda

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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

Read 2654 times Last modified on Friday, 01 November 2013 00:46
Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Allan MacGillivray III Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:11 posted by Allan MacGillivray III

    A wonderful story Mike. I remember that area well. Once my brother Duncan fell out of my mothers moving station wagon on Gonzale's Rd. while we were returning from an arrow head hunting trip near the quarry. While creeping along the road I told my mother: "hey Mom! Duncan fell out of the car!!" she really got pissed thinking I was trying to scare her till she looked at the back seat and there no Duncan! we turned around and quickly found him sitting along the road no worse for wear and happy.

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