Family Histories (67)

Sunday, 27 October 2013 19:19

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

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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

Sunday, 13 October 2013 01:50

Matias Rivera

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Friday, 11 October 2013 18:59

First Holy Communion At Cristo Rey

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My parents were married in Los Angeles in 1944.  Dad was in the Navy and met my mom through her cousin.  She was a Basque Catholic and he was a Santa Fe Episcopalian, which didn’t seem to present any problems until, in 1946, we all returned to Santa Fe to live permanently.  When my mom brought me to meet dad’s family, my great-grandmother informed her that all of the arrangements had been made to have me baptized at Holy Faith on Palace Avenue.  As an Episcopalian.

It must not have gotten cold enough for hell to freeze over that year, because I was baptized a Catholic.  After living in Los Alamos until 1948, we moved back to Santa Fe and I began my spiritual education at Cristo Rey Church.  The earliest memories of Cristo Rey I have were going to Mass every Sunday and learning the ritual of standing, kneeling, genuflecting and sitting at the proper times.  When I began school I also began catechism class for an hour every Saturday afternoon.   The class was held in a schoolroom that was part of the Cristo Rey Parish School, located behind the church.  We were first taught the basics:  the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostle’s Creed and the Sign of the Cross (which, we were told, the Episcopalians did backwards.)  As I grew older, heading for my First Holy Communion, the lessons focused on the life of Jesus, the stories in the bible and the 7 Sacraments.  We were each given a scapular which consisted of two small squares of cloth, each with its own picture of Jesus on one and Mary on the other, connected by two long strips of cloth.  They were worn under your clothing, with one picture against your chest and one against your back.  We were expected to wear them all the time.  I remember how mine itched.  I think  that it was supposed to, kind of like a hair shirt.

Monsignor Patrick Smith (Father Pat) was our parish priest and he had a unique way of making sure that we were absorbing our lessons.  Cristo Rey had 3 Masses on Sunday.  The 7:00 Mass, for those who wanted an early start, the 9:30 Mass which most parishioners and families attended, and the noon Mass for those who couldn’t attend the other two and for the sluggards who slept in.  At the 9:30 Mass, all of the kids in catechism class sat in the first 3 pews up front.  There was no escape.  After the sermon, Father Pat came down from the altar to the aisle and began randomly questioning us on what we should have learned the day before.  We were expected to answer in a loud, clear voice and Heaven help us if we whispered or didn’t know the answer.  Remember, we were all just kids and not accustomed to public speaking.  We initially tried to make sure that we sat as far from the aisle as possible, which led to a lot of jostling as we arrived, but we soon learned that Father Pat would question those kids first.  The girls almost always answered correctly.  The boys, not so much.  If we faltered, Father Pat would announce to the world that we must not be paying enough attention and we would be singled out during the next class.  The adults behind us were quite amused by the entire spectacle and, believe it or not, by the time we made our First Communion, we knew the material pretty well.

The Saturday before First Communion, we all had to make our first confession.  One of the Sacraments is Penance, which is an acknowledgement of and atonement for one's sins.  The confessional was a small wooden chamber with the priest separated from the confessor by an opaque curtain.  You entered, knelt down and said “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been (X) days/weeks/months since my last confession.”  You enumerated your sins and the priest then assigned your penance, which had to be completed, kneeling in a pew, before you could leave the church.  Penance for a 7 year old was pretty simple.  It usually was saying 5 Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys or, if the sin was really egregious, praying a Rosary, which took about an hour.  My sins then consisted of things like fighting with my brother, disobeying my parents and once swiping a popsicle from the Palace Grocery (that one got me a Rosary.)  Impure thoughts and deeds came later.

The next day, we made our First Holy Communion.  Everyone was scrubbed clean and dressed to the nines.  The girls all had white dresses and mantillas and the boys all had on white shirts and grown-up ties.  Our scapulars were in place and we took our seats in the front pews, this time as the guests of honor rather than the uneducated urchins we had been before.  When the time came, we were first at the altar rail and we knelt (again).  I put out my tongue and received the Host, a thin, white wafer which immediately stuck to the roof of my mouth.  Picture a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of its mouth.  That was me.

When Mass was over, we all gathered outside for congratulations and photos.  There were parties and, in my case, breakfast at a sit-down restaurant.  It was the biggest day thus far of our young lives and I recall the pride I felt because I had finished a complicated task successfully.

Looking back, I realize that the first foundations of who I became as an adult were laid at Cristo Rey.  And I am most grateful.

--Mike Lord

Photo by Jerry Kerr

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