Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

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.


 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


Christmas Dinner


Clam Chowder             Chicken Giblet


Ham    Corned Beef    New England Boiled Dinner


Suckling Pig, Apple Sauce       Beef, Brown Gravy

Veal, Dressing             Turkey, Cranberry Sauce

Duck, Jelly       Chicken, Cream Gravy


Breaded Veal Cutlets, French Peas

Pork and Beans           Fricasseed Chicken, Dumplings

Quail on Toast             Lamb Chops, Tomato Sauce

Macaroni and Cheese             Irish Stew


Irish Potatoes, Mashed and Browned

Baked Sweet Potatoes      Green Peas      Corn     Beets

String Beans    Tomatoes        Celery


Worcestershire Sauce             Tomato Catsup

Chow Chow      White Onions              Horse Radish

German Pickles           Lettuce

Shrimp, Lobster and Potato Salad


English Plum, Brandy Sauce               Corn Starch

Nelly Bly, Nutmeg Sauce


Mince              Cranberry        Pumpkin          Custard


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!


Billy’s New Restaurant

1 to 4 PM

Blue Point Oysters


Fresh Oyster


Red Snapper, Shrimp Sauce


Capon, Sauce Velouette


Turkey, Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce

Loin of Kansas City Beef, Au Jus


Baked Loin of Elk, Orange Sauce, Currant Jelly


Brunswick Stew           Roast Quail


Fresh Shrimp               Potato


Browned Potatoes       Tomatoes La Royal     French Peas


Almonds          Nuts     Raisins             Apples


English Christmas, Brandy Sauce


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

Source:  Johnny Valdez, longtime Chair of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council, creator of the list

Provided by Adelina Ortiz de Hill, Santa Fe Living Treasure and 1940s Santa Fe Fiesta Princess

Friday, 11 October 2013 18:59

First Holy Communion At Cristo Rey


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

Saturday, 05 October 2013 17:12

When It's Apple Picking Time Down In Tesuque


My father must have had a secret fantasy to be a farmer because, in 1956, he moved our growing family from our ancestral home on La Vereda to a two-story adobe house in the middle of a Tesuque orchard.  For my brother and me it was a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, we could roam among the hills and arroyos, fish in the Tesuque River and the ponds and hang out with people like woodcarver Andy Anderson and saddle maker Slim Green.  On the other hand, we were expected to be the hired farmhands.  And the pay wasn’t much.

The Tesuque Valley then was primarily agricultural.  There were numerous orchards, truck gardens, a chicken and egg ranch and a dairy within walking distance of our home.  Both sides of the river were irrigated by a series of acequias and the amount of water one received was based on how much property you had to water.  In our case, we had about an acre of fruit trees around the house and another acre of trees up the lane behind the house.  This was a mature orchard, consisting of 3 different varieties of apples, a cherry tree, some pear and plum trees, a few apricot trees and quite a few peach trees.  We soon learned that one didn’t just water and wait until fall to reap the harvest.  There was always something to be done during the summer months, and my brother and I did a lot of it.  Our house included all of the tools necessary to maintain the orchard.  Shovels and hoes for cleaning out the ditches, 12 foot tall folding ladders, pruning saws, devices to grasp the highest fruit, picking bags and bushel baskets.  In the late spring we pruned out all of the dead branches and cleaned the ditches.  Once that was done, the irrigating began.

Our acequia water allotment was for 2 hours twice a week.  You walked up to the main ditch, closed the big gate and opened the gate that sent the water to our place.  You then opened a series of small gates, one at a time, and flooded everything.  When the 2 hours had passed, you walked back up to the main ditch, closed the small gate and opened the big gate to send the water down to the next user.  The timing was essential because, if you were late starting you would lose that water, and, if you were late finishing and sending the water on down, your neighbor would be at your doorstep.  All of this seemed like a pretty fun job except for one thing.  Our allotted 2 hours were from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM.  My dad thought that this would be a good way to teach my brother and me responsibility (not to mention allowing him to sleep,) so he showed us how to do the job once, bought us an alarm clock and some flashlights, and wished us luck.  I hated that job.

The fall, however, was magical.  It was like living in the middle of the Garden of Eden.  The whole Valley smelled like apples and there was fruit hanging everywhere.  We ate it all day long – apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries and plums.  My mom made countless jars of apricot and peach jam, applesauce and pies.  But there was still far more fruit than the family could use, so back to work we went, picking the rest of the fruit.  We had picking bags, which were made of canvas with an open bottom.  They were worn on the front of your chest and the bottom was folded up and fastened with a clip.  After the bag was full (about a bushel) the bottom was unclipped and the fruit was dumped into a basket.  These were not used for peaches, as the fruit was too soft and would bruise in the bag.  Peaches were picked by hand, one at a time, and deposited in the baskets.

In the 1950s, many of the orchards and gardens sold their produce by the side of the road.  My dad agreed to let my brother and me keep the proceeds of whatever we sold, so one Saturday we took a few baskets of fruit, a couple of folding chairs and a small table out to the side of the road and waited for customers.  To our great surprise, they came and stopped.  The going rate for fruit was two dollars per bushel for apples and five dollars per bushel for peaches.  We had about 5 bushels of peaches, which sold out immediately.  The 20 bushels of apples took longer, but by the end of the day they were gone and we had the princely sum of sixty-five dollars.  This was an enormous amount of money for 2 boys in the 1950s and we decided that all of the work was worthwhile.  Had we taken the time to calculate the amount of labor, we would have discovered that we probably made less than ten cents an hour.

We discovered another use for apples that was much more fun.  By poking an apple on the end of a 3 foot long stick, one could hold the other end and throw the apple a long way.  A really long way.  It was an apple atlatl and we began having apple wars.  When we tired of this, we began launching them toward a neighbor’s metal roofed house about 100 yards behind us.  It took her a while to figure out what was clanging on her roof and, when she did, my parents were not amused.

Today, Tesuque is all estates and galleries.  There are still a few producing orchards (the apples in the photo above came from the orchard that is across the street from our old house.)  And the roadside stands are long gone.


--Mike Lord

Saturday, 21 September 2013 16:16

Zozobra - 1943

In 1943, America was at war. Despite this, the Santa Fe Fiesta, with its opening night burning of Zozobra, was held. That year produced the most unusual Zozobra before or since.

Zozobra (Old Man Gloom) had been created by artist Will Shuster and his friends in 1926. His immolation was a sign of sending up in flames all of the bad thoughts and events of the previous year, giving everyone a fresh start. It is difficult to imagine a year where this would be more meaningful than 1943.

That year, Shuster combined the eyes and glasses of Emperor Hirohito, the hair and brush mustache of Adolf Hitler and the prominent chin of Benito Mussolini into a Zozobra that he named Hirohitmus.

However, in late July, 1943, Mussolini was deposed and imprisoned by the Allied forces. In the Sunday, August 15, 1943 issue of the Brooklyn Eagle there appeared an article under the heading “Sign of the Times” which commented:

“Famed Fiesta at Santa Fe, N.M., each September used to have a three-faced figure called Zozobra, “Old Man Gloom” which was burned at the stake. This year artist Will Shuster thought it would be a nice idea to call the effigy “Zozobra Hirohitmus.” So he did. Last week, however, he announced that he had changed the name, of necessity, to “Zozobra Hirohittlepus.” Added that he was in the market for more changes.”

Hirohitmus or Hirohittlepus, he was burned and Santa Fe felt a little better. By 1945, it was evident that it must have helped.

This photo also shows the way that Zozobra was ignited then.  There is a wall of tumbleweeds 3 - 4 feet deep in front of Zozobra and stacks of wood in front of the tumbleweeds.  The wood piles (luminarias) were lit first and then the tumbleweeds.  Zozobra burned from the ground up after that.


- Mike Lord


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.

Note:  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 Epifano who worked at the Mayflower Café in the 1930s.  The word came to mean weak, unmanly or timid.

--Mike Lord

Page 7 of 17

Additional information