Family Histories (66)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 19:08

New Mexico in My Rearview Mirror

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Santa Fe and New Mexico in My Rear-view Mirror

By

Arthur Scott

 

 

   This poster is my reminder when I left Santa Fe, the city of my children’s birth as well as mine, my father’s and grandfather’s; permanently in 1976.  I always liked Georgia O’Keefe’s work.  I was told she would never allow the New Mexico art museum to exhibit her work. Years ago one of the Directors had refused to do so. In return she would not allow the exhibit of her work by the state.  When the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival was started in 1971, she did allow them to use one of her paintings as an annual poster and fund-raiser. My physician at the time, Dr. Bergere Kenny, was a significant supporter and every year he gave me a copy of the poster.

    Nineteen seventy six was a necessary time for me to leave New Mexico. I had spent several months working for US AID in Brazil, gone through a bad divorce ending a bad marriage, and was offered a good promotion to enter the fast life in Washington DC in the U. S. Geological Survey headquarters in Reston, VA. This was probably one of my better decisions. The two-year detail turned in to an eighteen-year stint in headquarters and extensive travel. My journey resulted in my working for generally short periods in every US state except Rhode Island and Wyoming, and all US territories except American Samoa.

   Along the way, my daughters graduated from high school in VA, I remarried (33 years now), learned to sail, charted sailboats in Greece, British Virgins, sailed from Key Largo to Key West and back, spent most of the summers on our boat on Chesapeake Bay, we sailed the Galapagos Islands on a crewed catamaran, and most of the Caribbean Islands on a Windjammer. We also managed to independently travel to Ecuador, Costa Rica, Kenya, Morocco, Great Britain, Spain, Southeast Asia, Canada, Mexico and Taiwan.

   As I look back over almost 76 years, it has been a good life and nothing I expected as a kid growing up in Santa Fe and whose longest trip had been by train to Cleveland, where we were to spend a few months.. A country kid that had to ride a streetcar to school and one who tearfully lamented a “dirty” city almost daily. I did find life after Sana Fe and as I look back; I would make few changes. But at times I still miss the mountains, the Santa Fe that was, but NOT the Santa Fe that is, and I am ever grateful for the memories of best of times-- being alone measuring the flow in some very isolated mountain stream for the USGS in north, south, east, or west New Mexico; from Antelope Wells to Shiprock and Carlsbad to Tucumcari.

 

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

Sunday, 25 August 2013 19:09

The Peefee Meets Zozobra

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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

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