For the most part this section has little to do with "model railroading". To justify in my own mind why I build the structures/buildings that I do, I come up with stories to explain particular scenes on the railroad. Most of the have stories have some facts associated with them. I use Lesley El Sondo Tempest, a reporter for the Chamita Gazette, as a means to tell the stories. I named her after Lesley Poling-Kempes. Lesley is an amazing author that lives in Northern New Mexico. Her books include:
The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West
Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest
Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place
Canyon of Remembering
Photo History and Stories by the Chamita Gazette
In 1947 the Chamita Gazette, is the local and only newspaper in Rio Arriba County. The editor of the Gazette is Jose Cabeza de Vaca. Jose, originally from Texas, is a direct descendent of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Álvar was an explorer born around the year 1490 in Extremadura, Castile, Spain. He was part of a Spanish expedition that landed in the current Tampa Bay Florida. This was around the year 1528. During the expedition most of his fellow explorers died. By September of 1528, he and the remaining explorers made it to what is now the American South West. Upon arrival, they settled down and lived with the natives for almost four years. Álvar ended up coming back to the southwest on numerous occasions at one point ending up in what is now Socorro New Mexico.
The Gazette had on staff two photographers Jose Roberto Dulce and Bruce Guillermos. Guillermos loved trains. He traveled up and down the Chile Verde Line taking photos. Dulce wasn't quite as driven to take photos of trains. He was more interested in the people that rode the trains and those that worked for the D&RGW. You will see many of their photos herein. The Chamita Gazette also had a female reporter named Lesley El Sondeo Tempest. She was the Lois Lane of Chamita. She was a tenacious reporter and was once arrested for trying to gain access to the Los Alamos Lab. This took place during WW II. What she didn’t realize is that the lab was working on the bomb. It was her belief that the federal government was hiding some kind of top-secret alien aircraft. Little did she know that in June of 1947, the very month and year that this railroad represents, an alien aircraft was being stored in a Roswell New Mexico hangar. You will be hearing from Lesley via her articles as this website progresses.
Note from Bob: As a retired NASA employee I can tell you that there is ample evidence that shows that the military is hiding alien aircraft. NOT! Darn.
Placing of Descanso for Alejandro Diego Gomez
Chamita Gazette – June 27th 1947
By Lesley El Sondeo Tempest
Photo by Jose Roberto Dulce
Friends of D&RGW Brakeman Alejandro Diego Gomez attended the placement of the Descanso adjacent to the track in the Chamita Yard yesterday where Alejandro tragically lost his life on Friday June 13th. Alejandro, a resident of Hernandez, was 32 years old and had been working for the railroad for ten years. In the all too common railroad accidents, Alejandro died of a head injury as he was setting the brakes on cars. While the exact cause of the accident is not know it is believed that he slipped and fell between the two cars and hit his head on the coupler.
Friar Juan of Capilla de San Jose, Chamita’s Majordomo George Hernandez, Chamita Station Agent Michael McCaffery, Engineer Bruce Williams and Fireman Chipper Thompson were in attendance. Williams and Thompson were crewing the locomotive at the time of the accident. As is the custom, nothing was said during the placement of the Descanso. Not in attendance were Alejandro’s wife, Maria, and their five children. No reason was given. (Note from Bob: the real reason is that I do not have a scale figure that would adequately do justice to mourning Hispanic looking women nor do I have five scale kids.)
In the way of explanation for those readers that do not know why a Descanso is place near the location of where a New Mexican lost his life, or what a Descanso is; a Descanso is a spirit/death marker, typically a cross or crosses, placed where someone, or multiple individuals, died. In New Mexico, and other parts of the Southwest, Descanos have been around since the Spanish settled here in the late 1500s. Descansos are deeply rooted in Southwestern culture. The word means, “resting place” and refers to the days when coffins were transported by horse and cart or carried by hand over the miles for burial. When the mourners rested for the evening along their journey, they erected markers made of stacked stones. The tradition has changed over the years to designate the site where the loss of life occurred and where the spirit of the deceased was released from the body. It isn’t unusual that during the “Day of the Dead” for family members or decedents of the dead to maintain the Descanso.
Photo as it appeared in the Gazette.
Theft at the CONOCO Gas Station
June 29th, 1947
Story by Lesley El Sondeo Tempest
Photos by Jose Dulce
Between 10:00 pm last night and 6:00 am this morning the CONOCO gas station on State Road 56 was robbed. The proprietor, Jorge Alvarez, said that the only things taken were pin-up posters that were hanging in Sniffing Wolf’s Garage. The posters belonged to Miguel Salazar. Miguel, the garage mechanic, is a WW II veteran. He served aboard the USS Capelin, SS-289, as a Machinist Mate. Fortunately he was transferred off of the Capelin in August 1943. In December of 1943 the Capelin was reported missing and presumed sunk while on patrol.
During his tour of duty Miguel was able to admass a large collection of pin-ups. Many of which were autographed. Miguel says that his collection has special meaning as he won half of it from a friend, Peter Grabnickas, in a poker game. Peter and the rest of the crew of the Capelin were lost at sea. Miguel provided a picture of his friend Peter in his bunk on the Capelin. Many of the missing pin-ups can be seen in the photo. When asked why he displayed the pin-ups in the garage Miguel said that his wife, Maria Lupita Francesca Salazar, would not allow him to keep them in their house. Missing pin-ups include Rita Hayward, Bety Grable, Lana Turner, Carole Landis, Lucille Ball, Veronica Lake, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Russell, Ingrid Bergman, Ida Lapino, Jean Harlow, and several others. Also taken were pin-up art including “Elvren Girls”, Zoe Mozert, and Alberto Vargas (Varga Girls).
When asked if he had any idea who might have taken the pin-ups, Miguel stated that at first he thought that it might have been one of the guys that belong to the local hot rod club. He quickly discounted that idea. For the most part, club members are WW II veterans. They all have two things in common, pin-ups and fast cars. They call themselves El Bólido Caliente Amigos.
Jorge Alvarez hired a local investigator, R.E.C. Thompson to find the thief and recover the stolen pinups. A $50 reward was offered for information leading to the recovery of the stolen items and the conviction of the perpetrator.
June 30th, 1947
Thompsons note to file:
Subject: The Theft at the CONOCO Station
Yesterday, Maria Lupita Francesca Salazar, the wife of Miguel Salazar, and a very devout Catholic, brought the pin-ups to my office. When asked why she took the pin-ups and subsequently returned them she stated that they were sinful and caused men to have evil thoughts. Mrs. Salazar said that the reason for returning them was that her husband makes $1.10 an hour, they have three children and they’re expecting another. Fifty dollars will go a long way in taking care of her family. I gave the pin-ups back to Mr. Salazar and decided not to inform him who had stolen the pin-ups. I told him that an anonymous third party had recovered the pin-ups. As a reverend, I was compelled to tell Mrs. Salazar to go to church and repent or sins. I gave her the $50 reward money. I waived my fee.
This is a copy of the photograph provided by Miguel of his shipmate, Peter Grabnickas, aboard the Submarine USS Capelin.
The photo was taken in August 1943.
Note from Bob: The photo above is an actual photo taken aboard the submarine USS Capelin four months before it was sunk while on patrol. As I served aboard a submarine for 3 years and six months making six patrols aboard the USS Kamehameha (SSBN 642 B) and as I am quite familiar with how my shipmates adorned their bunks, I felt compelled to gin up the story about Miguel and his stolen pin-ups.
The Case of the Stolen Chile Peppers
Chamita Gazette Article, October 21, 1939
By Lesley El Sondeo Tempest
Investigator, R.E.C. Thompson on October15th was hired by the D&RGW Railroad to find who stole two tons of Chimayo chile peppers and 500 pounds of red chile pepper powder from a D&RGW boxcar that was located at the Taos Junction siding. According to the railroad bill of lading, the chile peppers and chile powder was being shipped by the Bond and Nohl Company of Espanola. Taos County Sheriff Isidro Montoya told the D&RGW representative that he did not have the manpower to continue an investigation. According to Sheriff Montoya he was able to follow two sets of truck tracks heading towards Taos. Unfortunately, the tracks ended where State Road 567 crosses the Rio Grande. It could not be determined if the trucks turned north towards Taos or south towards Santa Fe. The Sheriff did say that the front passenger side tire on one of the trucks had a different tread pattern and that it was wider than the other three tires.
The only reason that the boxcar with peppers and powders was on the Taos siding was because there was a mistake on the train orders. The boxcar was supposed to be delivered to the Gross Kelly warehouse siding in Santa Fe. The boxcar was on the Taos Junction siding waiting for the following day’s south bound train.
Thompson had signs posted in Taos and Chamita offering a $50 reward for anyone providing information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the chile pepper ladrones.
Investigator Thompson received a tip from a Taos resident, Jose Dulcehombre, that two local Taos artist, Roberto Tomas, and Bracero Guillermo, were selling Chile peppers along Rd 68 near Ranchos de Taos. Thompson approached the two and inquired how two subpar artist that did not have a farm could have a truck load of chile peppers and chile powder. Thompson inspected the truck tires and found that the front passenger tire was a different style and type than the other three tires. Thompson knew that that would not be sufficient evidence to have Tomas and Guillermo arrested as it was not unusual for cars and trucks in New Mexico to not have matching tires. Thompson contacted Sheriff Montoya, but Montoya choose not to do anything as he did not believe that his brother-in-law, Bracero Guillermo, would be involved in a crime.
As Rio Arriba, as well as most counties in New Mexico, are based on a barter economy, the Chimayo farmers sold their products to the Bond and Nolh Company in exchange for commodities such as flour, beans, lard, sugar, coffee, and clothing. Chile itself substitutes for cash. The chile peppers and chile powder belonged to the Bond and Nolh Company. It was customary at the time for Bond and Nohl to ship their peppers in sacks or crates and the chile powder to be shipped in tin containers., The railroad tagged each sack/crate, but all the tags were removed, and Tomas and Guillermo placed the peppers in wicker baskets. Investigator Thompson new that it would be highly unlikely that the Bond and Nohl Company could definitively identify the chile peppers, but he also knew that Chimayo peppers were distinctly different than any other chile peppers grown in New Mexico. The chile is grown from original heirloom seeds passed down from generation to generation. It has an intense red color that comes from the drying process; the batches that are sold are oven-roasted, which gives the peppers a distinctive flavor. At roughly four inches long, Chimayo pods are much smaller in size than a traditional New Mexican Sandia or Hatch chile, or any of the types, including Anaheim, that are grown in Colorado. Taos was not a chile pepper growing region.
Tomas and Guillermo said that they purchased the chiles from a Colorado farmer. They could not produce a bill of sale or remember from whom they had made the purchase. Thompson reached out to a chile expert from the New Mexico State University. As of this writing, New Mexico State University has had the longest continuous program of chile pepper improvement in the world. The chile pepper improvement program began in 1888 with Fabian Garcia. All New Mexican type chile peppers grown today gained their genetic base from cultivars first developed at New Mexico State University. Professor Pulgarverde and his assistant Pulgarrojo, from the university agreed to go to Taos to inspect the chile peppers. As a side note, it is believed that they coined the phrase “Christmas” when ordering both red and green chile sauce.
The D&RGW, with the support of the AT&SF RR, arranged for the professor and his assistant to travel to Taos to inspect the chile peppers. According to Thompson, the professor and his assistant were able to immediately identify the chile peppers as those grown in Chimayo. Thompson went back to Sheriff Montoya with his circumstantial evidence. Montoya still refused to do anything.
The case finally broke for Thompson after he went to the home of Guillermo and found a fresh burn pile on his property. Digging through the burn pile he was able to find D&RGW shipping labels and burlap sacks marked Bond and Nohl. This evidence was brought to Sheriff Montoya, and he was forced to act.
It has been said, but this newspaper is unable to prove it, that the D&RGW RR told Montoya that if he did not arrest Tomas and Guillermo, they would provide funding for someone to run against him in the next election. Tomas and Guillermo are awaiting trial.
Note from Bob: I did extensive research trying to find out how chile peppers and chile powder were shipped. Were the peppers shipped in crates, sacks, or barrels? I could not come up with a definitive answer. There is at least one vintage photo of red chile pepper ristras hanging in the warehouse of the Gross, Kelly and Company Warehouse circa 1920s.