“They Literally Danced All Night And Went Home In The Morning”
by Richard Spencer
Shawn Kelley is an anthropologist and oral historian who has talked with all kinds of people throughout the Southwest. As part of the Abo Canyon Second Track Project, Shawn has interviewed over 60 people about their communities and life experiences along the Belen Cutoff.
In 1887, B. B. Spencer moved from White Oaks, New Mexico and established the first sawmill in the southern Manzano Mountains. After contracting with the Santa Fe Railway to provide ties for the Belen Cutoff, his sawmill eventually employed almost 70 individuals. Many workers lived in the nearby communities of Cienega and Eastview. These settlements were similar to others in the area with small-scale subsistence farming and ranching, often on 160-acre homesteads. Here, Richard Spencer talks about how the community of Eastview functioned during his grandfather’s time and the importance of local churches and schools.
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Shawn: What do you know about the community of Eastview or Cienegita or Cienega back in your grandfather’s time? What kind of community was it? Was it mostly a farming and ranching community with the mills there? “They Literally Danced All Night And Went Home In The Morning,” Richard Spencer (Author)
Richard: Yeah, and again, if you probably could equate it—and I haven’t been to Alaska—but I would guess that it was like Alaska is now in the smaller communities, where people were helpin’ each other, those kind of things that were goin’ on. The harvest was done as a community, neighbor helpin’ neighbor kind of thing. It was a subsistence living as far as they were thinkin’ about the winter and food, and money was not necessarily the commerce that was goin’ on. You traded a chicken for a goat, and they killed a beef in the wintertime because they had no refrigeration, so when they killed a beef, everybody got a little beef around the neighbors and those kind of things. So the community aspect of that day is gone. It totally changed, compared to today. I mean, there’s a little bit of neighboring going on, and there’s a little bit of helpful folks around, and whatever. But back there, they had to help each other. They talk about the flu, my dad talked “Musical group from Manzano, New Mexico,” Unknown (Photographer) about the flu when everybody died. And they just put ’em out on the porch because they couldn’t bury ’em yet. It was wintertime, the ground was frozen. And how when the funeral happened, then everybody was there and helped the family. And maybe it was the dad that died or whatever, so there was kids. Yeah, the helpful part of that community was there, that I think we’ve lost. And again, the subsistence part of it, there was no money, and so it was basically a trade, and labor for trade, or whatever kind of society. My dad talked about his dad payin’ off those guys, the sixty or seventy that was workin’ up there, in silver dollars, and they got a dollar a day. So the economy was totally different, and the society was totally different
The recreation part of it, which you think, “Oh, those guys, all they did was work.” But the recreation part of it was centered back around the church, and church activities. You know, the old ice cream social thing. The dances that they had was either in the school or the church. And they danced all night, they literally danced all night, and everybody went home in the morning. And so those community things were centered around the church and the school, but primarily the church. So that, of course, has changed now: society doesn’t acknowledge that much.
Shawn: No, something that was across ethnic lines, like everyone was part of the community. “Main Street In Mountainair,” Dale (Photographer)
Richard: Yeah, you had one church—well, you had two, basically. You had a Protestant church and a Catholic church. And of course the Catholic churches were here at the community, so Punta and Manzano and Mountainair. As an example, Mountainair got, somebody said, eight or ten churches one time. But the Methodist church was the first church that was there. And the Methodists and the Baptists both met in the same church house, and it was also the school at the same time. So that’s kind of the influence of the community at that point. You know, they really didn’t have a community, like as far as you’re talkin’ about the designated area. As they were buildin’ up, there was only one guy and his family or whatever, and then they got two or three or four or whatever, and that’s when they needed a schoolteacher, and so my grandpa went to get a schoolteacher, and then you had a school.
Shawn: You talkin’ about Eastview?
Richard: Yeah, talkin’ about Eastview. The process of building that community was not streets and businesses, like we think of a community, I guess, at this point. But it was people, and then people gathering. You know, the horse racing, that was a gathering part. The celebrations, the Fourth of July things, were races: people races, horse races, those kinds of things that now things are so commercialized that we think of Disneyland as a recreational site and a place to go. And of course those guys were thinkin’, “This Fourth of July celebration, let’s have pie and race horses and race kids,” or whatever.
Shawn: It was all local.
Richard: It was all local.