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ScenicByway Neighborhood Association
Trivia,Memories, and Miscellaneous Musings
Madrid,NM—A Look Back
ByBruce Hawkinson, Sandia Park
(Author’sNote: After interviewing Madrid owner Joe Huber, I wrote this articlefor the June 1, 1973 Sandia Lab News. We’veincluded it in our website because Madrid is a popular destinationfor many of East Mountain residents. Please keep in mind that itreflects conditions some 30 years ago, when the town was up for sale.The last section below brings you closer to the present time.)
Madrid,New Mexico’s usual label is ghost town. With reason. Abandonedhomes—windows broken, doors swinging, walls that can’tremember paint, roofs that no longer protect but simply sag. Everyyear the pinons creep farther down the hillsides.
Butit’s not totally abandoned. The outskirts may be empty, butdowntown is really very much alive. The filling station, the antiqueshops, the saloon-restaurant, the coal mine (now a museum) attract aconstant stream of visitors and patrons.
Memoriesof the way it used to be are strong. Nostalgia is the antique shop’sstock in trade. The saloon is dim and large—anything butintimate. It was built to accommodate a minefull of hard-talking,hard-drinking, hard-coal men on a Saturday. Even a good crowd oftourists doesn’t fill the vacuum they left behind.
Themuseum costs 50 cents (kids free). And here the way it used to be isstrong indeed. The visitor wanders among a bewildering array ofmining equipment. Much of it was used on the surface, but otherpieces were used to work the underground coal seams.
* * *
Miningbegan in Madrid about 1835, but it was the arrival of the Santa Ferailroad through Glorieta Pass that made commercial productionfeasible (in 1880 or so). Coal was vital to the new railroad—aspur track from Madrid to the mainline at Waldo made delivery simple.[Waldo is now just an exit from I-25 south of the rest area a fewmiles south of Santa Fe; when I-25 was designed, Waldo was supposedto be a Santa Fe suburb; you can drive from Waldo to Cerrillos.]Madrid was unique in those days: its coal mines produced eitheranthracite (hard) or bituminous (soft) coal—in fact, the No. 1mine featured bituminous on its left side, anthracite on its right.Whichever the demand, Madrid could fill it. Production reached a peakin 1928 when 87,000 tons of anthracite and 97,500 tons of bituminousdeparted Madrid by the trainload.
Productiondeclined slightly, then rose again in the early 1940s when a remoteboys’ school in the Jemez Mts. doubled its usual order, thendoubled that, doubled it again, and still needed more. “My dadprobably knew what was going on [at the place we now know as LosAlamos],” says Joe Huber. His father bought Madrid in 1947, andJoe’s recollections are vivid. “I don’t think themen did though. They just knew a lot of coal was moving out and thatthe number of men on-roll was climbing back up to the 750-man peak ithad reached in the late 1920s.”
Justas the arrival of the railroad started it all, the arrival of naturalgas after WWII signaled the end. By 1959 the mines were shut downcompletely. And Madrid went from company town to ghost town.
* * *
Inits heyday, Madrid left its mark on New Mexico. From 1920 until 1950it boasted one of the finest baseball parks in the state. It featuredNew Mexico’s first electrical scoreboard (electricity wascheap—the generator was power by “bugdust,” finegrains of coal that had little market value). The ballpark was one ofthe first to sport electric lights for night games. And the Madridballclub was one of the saltiest in the area. How could a man swing apick all day and then swing a bat—well—at night? Simple.Like many college athletes today, the good ballplayers somehowmanaged to end up on the softer jobs—no hardrock stuff forthem: the reputation of the town was at stake.
Madridhad culture—the band was known, if not heard, for milesaround—and aesthetics too. The Fourth of July celebration wasdynamite—literally. Every year the powdermen came blinking outof the mines to rearrange a mountaintop or two as a climax to thefireworks display.
Butit’s the Christmas decorations that old-timers remember best.The practice began on a small scale in 1922; by the late thirties noNew Mexico Christmas was complete without a trip to Madrid to marvelat the dioramas, wreaths, and decorated pinons—with the wholevalley bathed in the light of 40,000 light bulbs. A hundred thousandpeople used to gape through the town, some by car, some by specialtrain. And, reportedly, some by commercial airplanes whose pilotsjust happened to get a bit off course. The lights were turned off forthe last time on Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the attack at Pearl Harbor.
* * *
Madridis unique today  too. Until last month, all the buildings andall the land were for sale, lock, stock, and specter. The new owner,Fred Ballentine, is a ghost town buff who intends to restorebuildings that are structurally sound to their turn-of-the-centurycondition. And he plans to upgrade the museum so that visitors nolonger will spend half their time asking, “Now what was thatused for?”If he can get some of the old-timers (like Pete Garcia or John Ochoa)to assist the new curator, he’ll end up with a first-ratemuseum. Ballentine plans a “quality tourist” area thatreflects as faithfully as possible Madrid’s early period. “Eventhe eventual 200- to 300-room hotel will be build in 1890’sstyle,” he states. He’s saying the right things—infact, he’s already stopped calling in MadRID and now saysMADrid, as the locals do.
SoMadrid is on the upswing again—if you want to see it the way itwas, now’s the time.
ENDOF ORIGINAL STORY
Today,in the middle of the 21st Century’s first decade, Madrid seemsto be a village that is doing well by catering to tourists from theEast Mountains, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and across the country who arelooking for a unique shopping experience in a unique setting. Most ofthe buildings in Madrid that can be salvaged have been salvaged andare being used as shops or homes.
Duringthe summer, the ballpark is the site for several concerts—evena few ballgames. The soda fountain in the xxxxz shop is a favorite ofmany locals. And, though you probably can’t buy a pair of shoesor a bag of flour in town, you can buy all kinds of memorabilia,including various New Age amulets.
Fordecades, the town’s social center has been the Mine ShaftTavern. Here’s what the Tavern’s chatty menu says of thetown:
When you“belly up to the bar” at the Mine Shaft Tavern, you willbe served from the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico. In 1944 theconstruction of the Mine Shaft Tavern was begun, the last of the“company town” buildings erected. The 40-ft. lodgepolepine bar, as well as some of the tables you see, were here in 1946when the Tavern first opened its doors.
Although youmay now partake of lunch or dinner, little has changed since themining heydays. The Tavern was built by Oscar Huber, who becamemining superintendent in 1919, and who established the Albuquerque &Cerillos Coal Co. He bought the town lock, stock, and mineral rights.Paintings above the bar by renowned Sandia park artist Ross J. Ward(creator of Tinkertown Museum) colorfully portray Madrid’s richhistory. (The Latin phrase on the angel’s banner, freelytranslated, reads “It is better to drink than work”—acall to the weary miners!)
In1959 when Los Alamos, Madrid’s last major coal contract,switched to Public Service, the town that had been home to some 3,000people during the peak production years of the ‘20s and ‘30sbecame, virtually overnight, a “ghost town” of 13! Itremained that way until the mid ‘70’s when Oscar’sson Joe sold the miner’s shacks (in what may have been theworld’s greatest “yard sale”!). Madrid’srevitalization was documented by Harry Reasoner on TV’s “60Minutes.” Madrid’s current talented population at 600,with 200 residing in town and the rest “out on the land.”The Mine Shaft Tavern, purchased from the Coal Company and restoredin 1982 is open seven days a week at 11 a.m.
* * *
Continuinginto the Old Coal Mine Museum, you will step back into a time whenthe last train carrying Madrid coal left town and everything groundto a hasty halt. The few houses still occupied were evacuated, thelights in the few stores still operating were turned off for the lasttime. At the “nerve center” of the whole mining operation(now the Old Coal Mine Museum), offices were deserted. These fewacres, which once controlled 9,000 acres of underground works, areessentially intact after more that 40 years. The Museum, on fivebrowsable acres, preserves mining and railroading relicts (as well asvintage vehicles) of the days when the economy—and survival—ofthe area was dependent on both. The focal point of the Museum isEngine 769. This Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad engine wasbuilt in 1900 and purchased for the now incredible sum of $18,000! .. . Engine 769 is currently the most complete non-operating steamlocomotive in the United States. The Museum is open every dayyear-round, weather permitting.
* * *
When you stepinto the Engine House Theatre, you enter the old locomotive repairbuilding. The Theatre burst into life on Memorial Day 1983 byreviving melodrama in the Ortiz Mountains. This may well be the onlytheatre in the world with a full-sized steam engine nosing onto thestage! The stage and balcony were constructed from recycled relics,salvaged railroad track. The original track can still be seen in theback seating area. Classic turn-of-the-century melodrama is performedevery weekend from Memorial Day through the Balloon Fiesta.
My“Connection” to Madrid
WhenI interviewed Joe Huber, I asked him why most of the town’sbuildings at the time were identical—small, rectangularcrackerboxes, unpainted for decades and slowly decaying. He said thatin the 1920s or 30s, his dad had contracted with the owner of athen-closing coal mine in Osage City, Kansas, to buy several dozenhouses and have them shipped by rail to Madrid to serve as miners’homes. They served their purpose but were vacated after the mineclosed. (Most have since been purchased from whatever entity now ownsthe buildings and the land under them, and many are now serving asbusinesses or as homes again.)
Whenmy grandfather emigrated to the US in the late 1890s, his first jobwas in the coal mine in Osage City. As I visit Madrid, I always findmyself wondering whether Grandpa once lived in one of thosecrackerboxes.
HOUSES weren’tluxurious, but were adequate for a family or several singleminers—and the commute to work was easy.
MADRID is located in acharming mountain valley about 25 miles north of the Frost Road-North14 intersection.
THIS LOCOMOTIVE oncehauled coal cars to the Santa Fe mainline. These days it sometimesmakes an appearance in melodramas (you know, the ones with thebeautiful heroine tied to the railroad track by the cruel villainshe’s rejected).
JustCharter a Wrecker for a Tail Car
Justa decade or so ago, Highway 536 was the east end of what was thenHighway 44, which stretched from here to Bloomfield, in northwest NewMexico. On NM state maps, Highway 44 looked like a scenic alternativefor travelers from the east who wanted to avoid Albuquerque trafficand get to, say, Durango, CO. So travel planners, such as AAA,prepared routes for travelers (many of them in 40-foot RVs or towing30-foot travel trailers) That routed them off I-40 at Tijeras, sentthem north six miles, then west and northwest via Highway 44.
That meansthey traveled up the paved highway to a point a half mile or so abovethe Sandia Peak Ski Area, then down a very scenic but narrow, bumpy,twisting, steep, and sometimes muddy, sometimes snow-blocked 10 or somiles down Los Huertas Canyon past Sandia Man Cave and (sigh ofrelief—IF they made it!) into Placitas, at the north end of theSandias. Many of these “big rigs” were not able to makeit without getting stranded; hence, emergency phone calls for help;hence, complaints to travel planners; hence, outrage at the NMHighway Department; and, finally, hence, the birth of Highway 536 andthis sign west of the Triangle:
(Hiway44 is now 550, a four-lane road from Bernallilo to Bloomfield.)
Mychoice for the most memorable road name in our area is Four WheelDrive.* it’s a fitting name; it’s steep—withoutfour-wheel drive and/or tire chains, you’re not going to makeit home sometimes. In fact, as I can attest, you can be drivingforward and skidding backward simultaneously. Not pleasant. (Anyoneknow who gets credit for the name? Call me.)
*Four Wheel Drive goes south off Ranch Road, which heads east fromCienega Canyon Road, goes up over a steep hill, descends into asecluded valley where several of our members live, then dead-ends atthe Ponderosa Estates fence; actually, it dead-ends for us—itreally ends on Hiway 14.
Mychoice for second-most-memorable road name out here is not in ourcommunity, but it’s pretty close to it. Go east on Frost Roadabout 0.6 miles from Hiway 14, and you’ll find Lois Lane!
Oneof our nearest (and best) restaurants is Kokopelli’s (a halfmile north of the Triangle). But you still hear the mountainold-timers call it Pete’s. Now why is that? Pete Jojola was alocal boy who realized there was money to be made by catering tohungry skiers heading home from a day on the Sandia Peak Ski Areaslopes. He set up a push-cart site on what’s now Hiway 536 nearthe Cienega Canyon Road intersection, and he did a pretty goodbusiness. Good enough, in fact, that he leased a place in thevicinity of what’s now Cedar Point Grill. Pete was a good cookand a natural at relating to customers. So his business wasthriving—until Hiway 14 was widened and straightened in thelate 1970s [see NM 10 vs. I-10 item below] and his restaurantwas in the path of the bulldozers.
Petethen moved temporarily to the Windmill Bar and Restaurant*— hewas, in fact, the restaurant, Tom and his son Mike Coyne owned thebar (and Mike may have been its primary patron). Pete served somepretty wicked Mexican food—I remember that part of his new,upscale décor was a little stream that was pumped through aconcrete-lined “canal,” complete with goldfish, aroundpart of the restaurant. One night I ordered a dish that, I realizedtoo late, a gringo should never order. I ended up desperatelyscooping glass after glass of water right out of the “canal”in a desperate attempt to drink enough to quench the fire in mymouth. (I survived, my vocal range went down half an octave, and Icould eat it now.)
*TheWindmill was located just about where Brewer’s Shell Station isnow.
Peteand Priscilla did well enough that they were able to raise a familyand, about 1980??, buy the property where Kokopelli’s is now.The north part of that building was to have been a meat market, butPete used the west end of the building (now the office) as the bar;the eating area was in the middle, and the east end was the kitchen,as it is now.
What’snow Hiway 14 was once Hiway 10 (see next item) Until the late 1970s,Hiway 10 was narrow, almost shoulderless, and very curving—socurving, in fact, that the locals complained frequently about thedifficulty in passing a slow-moving “flatlander” or“turista” heading off the mountain anywhere on the sixmiles from Hiway 44/536 to US 66/I-40 in Tijeras.
Therewas one exception. In front of what is now the carcass of the BellaVista Restaurant (see below) and the Villages at Bella Vista was astraight stretch of maybe half a mile. There, if you were luckyenough to face no upcoming traffic, you could pass the picnicker andget your speed back up to 40 mph or so.
NM10 vs. I-10—Guess Which One Wins!
Hiway14 (see History [HOTLINK TO THAT WORD]) was once a dirt road calledHiway 10. But when the NM Dept of Transportation (then the NM HighwayDepartment) completed Interstate 10 from El Paso through Deming andLordsburg to Arizona, the State decreed that the state wasn’tbig enough for two Hiway 10s. Poor little Hiway 10, which ran fromMountainair (or points further south) to Santa Fe, came out a poorsecond in the naming struggle. It was summarily renamed Hiway 14—andit’s taken old-timers years to make the adjustment.
Inthe early 1970s the only exchange in the East Mountains was 282, andthe last four digits began with a 3. But in the 1980s, Mountain Bell(precursor to Qwest) declared 282 to be obsolete and mandated the 281prefix. (I remember joining our community water system in 1972, whichinvolved a visit with a most-imposing Mrs. Baker, who looked at myapplication and the phone number I’d written on it—282-5239—andtold me that I’d obviously submitted an erroneous application.Only when I brought her written proof that my assigned number was inthe 5XXX series would she let me have “her” water.)
Oneof the decades-old landmarks in the East Mountains was the BellaVista Restaurant on North 14. Mushrooming over the 1960s through the1990s from an average-capacity place to a mega-munchery, the placebecame for some time the largest restaurant in the state, in itsprime seating some 1,200 people at one time. It lured both localresidents and “city folks,” thanks to its all-you-can-eatspecials—chicken or fish and fries with cole slaw for (way backthere) about $3.
Old-timer’smemory: A sudden and vicious snow storm would hit the mountains. Thestaff working for the Guelfi brothers, who owned the Bella Vista,would start phoning the local folks, telling them to call all theirneighbors to tell them that “The BV” had cooked up anormal (big) batch of chicken and fish that was going to go to wastebecause the “city folks” would never head for themountains “in weather like this.” All they had to do fora free meal was to get to Bella Vista. We had some great times—eatingourselves into satiety, warming ourselves in front of the fireplaces,staring out the picture windows at the blizzard, and knowing weshould start heading home, but having such a good time that we’dalmost resign ourselves to not making it. Free food, fine friends,and fantastic scenery don’t come along very often.
Anofficial US Coast & Geodetic Survey marker located at thejunction of Cienega and Tejano Canyon Roads notes that the elevationat that point is 7,010 feet above mean sea level.
Hmmmmm,Bernalillo County Doesn’t Serve East Mountain Residents?
Aquote from the “Bernco.gov” web site: “BernalilloCounty … Government serves over 600 thousand people who maketheir homes between the Sandia Mountains and the West Mesa.”What about those of us who live between the Sandia Mountains and thecounty line?
WHENYOUR HOME’S AT 7000 FEET, IT’S HARDNOT TO LOOK DOWN ON OTHERS!
Incrediblygorgeous, amazingly brave, and astonishingly powerful, hummingbirdsare nature’s quintessential magic. Vibrantly dressed in a hostof jewel tones, these tiny, graceful beauties are a colorful andcheerful addition to any outdoor haven.
Whois this fantastic fellow?
Hezooms from heights loftier than tall buildings in a single bound sofast he sounds like a speeding bullet. He’s barely heavier thana dime, yet has the wing power to complete a 2,000-mile journey.Through scarcely bigger than a man’s thumb, he’s capableof flying nonstop across 600 miles of open water.
IfSuperman were a wild animal, he wouldn’t be a lion or an eagle;he’d surely be a hummingbird. For when it comes to sheer grit,energy, and strength—as demonstrated by a host of staggeringstatistics—no other warm-blooded creature can rival this tinyavian wonder.
Possessingwings that operate like miniature helicopter rotors, hummingbirds areable to zoom straight up and down, dart forward, then reverse theirwings and fly backwards. In mid-flight, within a fraction of asecond, they can flip onto their backs and reverse directions. Their80-times-a-second wing beat is so rapid that all you see is a blur.Macho male hummingbirds attract mates with a dramatic courtship dive,sometimes plunging 100 feet and reaching speeds of 60 miles an hour.
Atiny hummingbird simply hovering before a flower expands 10 times theenergy of a person running 9 miles an hour, proportional to bodymass. And whereas a person’s heart beats an average of 70 timesa minute, a hummingbird’s average heart rate is 1,260!
Tohelp conserve energy, hummingbirds can slip into a state of suspendedanimation at night. Experts speculate this survival mechanism may beespecially helpful when the weather is cool and food supply is low.While in this hibernation like torpor, a hummingbird’s bodytemperature drops, and it uses only one-twentieth the energy itspends during normal sleep.
Exoticappearances to the contrary, hummingbirds are far from rare. Nativeto the Western Hemisphere, they come in 340 species. If you live inthe East, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the one you’ll mostlikely see, as it’s the only species nesting east of theMississippi River; western North America is home to 13 species. Theother 326 species are found throughout Central and South America.
Innature’s infinite variety, each kind of hummingbird flaunts itsown unique jewel-tone coloration. Interestingly, those ruby,sapphire, topaz, turquoise, and emerald hues aren’t generatedby pigment in the feathers but rather by their structure. Flat,microscopic plates filled with air bubbles cover each feather,bouncing sunlight much the way an oil slick in a rain puddle willflash a rainbow. The thickness of the bubbles (which varies with eachspecies) influences the way the light bends, and which colors willglitter.
Themost brilliantly colored hummingbirds are males. Females generallydisplay more subdued hues – an advantage because it makes themless visible to predators such as magpies, road runners, and hawks.The female hummingbird needs every advantage she can get: Following abrief mating, she’s left to the tasks of nest building, egghatching, and baby care, while the male, with his “love’em and leave’ em attitude, resumes life in the fast lane,seeking new females to bedazzle with resplendent plumage and dramaticdives.
Themother hummingbird builds an exquisite walnut-size, cup-shape nurseryout of cobwebs, plant down, moss, flowers, bark, and lichen. Somehummingbirds construct nests almost entirely of spider silk.Ornithologist Herbert Brandt estimates that a single blue-throatedhummingbird nest may contain 15,000 miles of spider silk and insectthread.
Thefemale hummingbird lays two pea-size eggs, which hatch about twoweeks later. The hummingbird mom feeds her nestlings by thrusting herscimitarlike beak far down their throats and regurgitating – analarming sight that appears as through she’s stabbing them. Intwo to three weeks, the babies learn to fly. For a little whilelonger, mom continues to feed them. By the time her offspring are ontheir own, you’d think she’d take a well-earned rest.Often, however, female hummingbirds raise two or three broods aseason.
Despitetheir small size, hummingbirds are feisty. They are fiercelyterritorial and will drive off not only rival hummingbirds, but evenhuge hawks. Fearless in the presence of humans, they’re wont tofly up close, buzz over your head, play in the spray of a handheldhose, and even sip nectar from cut flowers while you’re pickinga bouquet.
ByShelley Goldbloom – Garden Shed
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RECIPESFROM “The Sandia Mountains”
GreenChile & Bacon Quiche
Prep &Cook Time: 1 hour - Makes 2 quiches for 12 to 16 servings
2 c. of half & half milk
3 c. grated cheddar cheese
8slices crumbled bacon
2 c. medium-hot, chopped green chilies
Mix eggs, milk, cheese, bacon and chile. Pour intoprepared pie crusts. Bake 350 degrees for 1 hour, let it cool a bitand cut servings like a pie.
Three-GenerationHerbed Spinach Pasta
Prep & Cook Time: 18 minutes,Makes 4 servings
2 cups uncooked pennepasta
½ medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon basil
1 medium red,yellow or green pepper; cut in strips
1 can whole leaf spinach,well drained
Cook pasta according to package directions; drainand keep warm
Cook onion, garlic and basil in oil in skillet untilonion is tender.
Add pepper strips; cook 3 minutes. Stir inspinach; heat through.
Toss with pasta and top with parmesancheese, if desired.
Bear Mountain Lodge Salsa
3 green onions, trimmed
6 sprigs cilantro
¼ inch coin of ginger
1 ½to 2 t. chipotle in adobe puree
salt to taste
Placegarlic, cilantro, ginger, jalapeno and peel of lime on a cuttingboard. Add salt and mince. Cut onions and tomatoes in smaller pieces,add to the pile and
Scrape into a bowl, addjuice of lime and chipotle puree.
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