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Mosquero Municipal Schools

 
 
 

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Mosquero School History

Mosquero School Reunion 1982

RED BRICK AND BLACKBOARDS
By Cee Savvy
(Cecile Lunsford Crosthwait, '28)

When the officials of newly created Harding County opened offices in Mosquero's cramped three-room rock schoolhouse in 1921, the need for another school building was evident. The following year a red brick, two-story school was erected at a cost of $25,000.

In the interim, the pupils and teachers were housed in various available rooms around town. The primary grades were in the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was located then just north of the village. Intermediate and upper grades were assigned to the rambling Kress store building. (I was a sixth grader there.) A half dozen beginning high school students were shifted about the teachers' chairs.

During our stay in those makeshift facilities, a coal train was wrecked near Cabeza about five miles south of Mosquero. Supt. J. W. Shotwell arranged for transportation to allow the entire student body to visit the site. I remember the huge shovel digging into a mountain of spilled coal, searching for the bodies of two men buried beneath. We understood the disastrous event; we had seen the coal and the twisted cars. Decades later they might have called it "show and tell."

In 1922 we pridefully moved into our new red brick schoolhouse, the most attractive structure in Mosquero. Topped by a flat roof, the almost square plant could accommodate all twelve grades, including recently consolidated Bradley and Fifty-Nine. The front door on the south opened to the wide, steep stairway that led to all the upstairs rooms. Convenient to the administrator's office at center front, the hand-operated gong in the hall announced recess, class periods and fire

Narrow hallways descended to the partly underground auditorium. The stage at the east end was equipped with a heavy canvas curtain that heaved up crookedly and banged down emphatically. Advertisements adorned it: Bernstorf and Reynolds, Spivey Garage, Elite Pool Hall and Barber Shop, Mesa Hotel, Mosquero Variety Store, Wynne Hotel, Pioneer Garage, and others,

On the ground floor the two primary rooms had steam radiators attached to the ceiling perhaps for burn protection; but how could a child warm hands or feet at an "unreachable heater?

Upstairs warmth was better although the radiators did collect water from the boiler. Mina Woods Johnston was ever grateful to Supt. W E. Rose for the big Potbellied stove which he installed in the auditorium in later years. It especially benefited those children who rode an unheated, drafty school truck. She remembers everyone unloading when the truck got stuck in the snow or mud, so that the big kids could push while the little ones shivered. When the truck arrived late at school, no one was marked tardy.

By the first of April that first year in the building, pupils were so well oriented that some of the seventh and eighth graders decided to play hookey. They went down into the auditorium and hid in the offstage dressing rooms, but they were not as secure as they thought. Rounded up by the superintendent, they were lined up at the front of the room before teacher Bertha West, who brandished a leather strap.

"Terrol Randel was at one end of the line and I was at the other, "Elma Lee Johnson Randel recalled. “I was thinking that by the time she got to me she would be so worn out that I wouldn't get much."

After a few stern warnings, Mrs. West told them, Now you may take your seats and consider yourselves well April-fooled."

Some years afterward, Elma Lee and Terrol were married.

Our second year in the red brick building was memorable, not to say a trial. My classmates and I were now important eighth graders who would graduate if we passed the long written examinations prepared by the state education department in Santa Fe. But the world seemed to conspire against us. Early in the spring of 1924, a severe windstorm lifted the building's roof and dumped it into the school yard. This occurred on a weekend, so no one was at school to be injured. The upheaval and downfall, however, were more than janitor J. W. Johnson could handle alone. Roofers were called in, and again we occupied diverse spaces around town. Since the county government offices were in the Kress building while contractors put up a permanent courthouse on the former school site, my group was crammed into a yellow house which was the former home and office of Dr. McKinney, by then departed. Mrs. West, who was still our teacher, got so sick that she had to go to the Lakeview Hospital for treatment by Dr. D. C. Daniel and his wife, who was also nurse. At the same time, Mrs. R. O. Moore, a high school instructor, developed appendicitis and followed Mrs. West for surgery. The innocent substitute teacher who was sent from Clayton was teased and bedeviled by all of us. Back at the red building, the repair crew received bricks of a slightly darker shade to replace those damaged at the top of the front wall. The result was a ragged line that suggested—on purpose or not—the letter M. Subsequently the emblem above the office meant "Mosquero".

We got back to our homeroom in time for another change. Since problems left on the black boards were long ago wiped out, the superintendent offered to relieve Mrs. West's work load by taking over our arithmetic class. We resisted his instruction so strongly that he soon sent us back where we came from. Leon Hill summed up our attitude: "The only thing that I learned from Mr. Shotwell was how to clean a pencil eraser. You rub it on the underneath, unpainted part of your desk."

Despite the mixed-up year, all of us passed the state exams. This entitled us to receive our diplomas at the county-wide eighth grade graduation, held at Mills that year. I won the dubious privilege of giving the memorized response to the welcome address of the county school superintendent, Mrs. W. Charles Cason. I did get my diploma, all rolled up and tied with rose and green colored satin ribbons.

High school in the fall offered the freshmen four subjects; Spanish, Algebra, History and English. One day in Spanish class, when the students were studying the accomplishments of South American hero Simon Bolivar, teacher Winnie McCoy asked, "Who was Simon and what was his greatest accomplishment?"

After an excruciating pause, Macario Belarde, whose parent had the same name as the soldier, answered, "Simon was the father of Macario and Macario was his greatest accomplishment."

The petite lady instructor also was the coach of Mosquero's first basketball team and its five star players -- Malaquias Baca, Ray Hazen, David Pittman, Ed Arbuckle and Marvin Drake. The boys wore shirts and trunks.

When the girls learned to play they wore middy blouses over full, roomy bloomers. Always better at yelling than catching a ball, I concentrated on noise, without a uniform. Games with Solano, Roy, Rosebud and Amistad all were outdoor matches, complete with standing ovations.

During our sophomore year, Mosquero High School went into the printing business. The local newspaper, “Harding County Developer," provided us with a hand-operated press and trays of lead type, and W. G. Root patiently taught us to set type, one inky letter at a time—backward! We named our just-born school newspaper "The Broadcaster." In class we studied news writing; in the production room, we set the type, jumbled the copy, and pumped the treadle that slammed the quickly snatched paper against the letters. One day Mattie Mac Johnson Lofton painfully mashed her thumb in the press. Besides the paper and an occasional thumb, we printed programs, cards and tickets.

In her last year of caring for the press, Audrey Smith Linder carefully cleaned the sticky rollers with gasoline and left them in the sun to dry while she went to class. When she returned, the rollers had melted. This closed the print shop.

Throughout the service of Donald Moore and another high school boy as janitors, ringing the big iron bell was an important part of each day's schedule. This bell, mounted on a sturdy outdoor frame, once had hung in the belfry of the rock building that became the courthouse. For many years it announced school time. Today, it is rung only on special occasions, such as beating one of the bigger schools at basketball.

Donald especially remembers supplying the school's water needs with a gasoline engine which brought up water from the well located on the school grounds. After he had filled the water fountains — five-gallon metal-covered cans — he then filled the storage tank, a former gasoline barrel. (Another water note: Mary Ellen Hazen Menapace treasured her collapsible drinking cup more than her speller).

Donald also cranked and tended the four-cylinder engine, kept in the basement, which provided electric light for evening events in the auditorium. Parties, programs and forensic meets were held here. Genevieve Brock Duncan was proud of first place in piano solo awarded in one of the meets. I participated in orations and declamations.

The Baptist congregation, with no building of their own at the time, conducted Sunday services in the big room. During one of their revival meetings, I went forward with other teenagers to accept Christ. I recall no debates concerning the separation of church and state in those days.

Once a week during school hours, the whole school filed into the auditorium for assembly. While Nina Belle Spivey Trujillo played the piano, the rest of us sang "My Old Kentucky Home," "The Star Spangled Banner," and other favorites. We always saluted the flag, too.

In 1927 Ruby Doloreas Hamil became the first Mosquero High School graduate. She received her diploma with the grammar school class of 12 which got eighth grade certificates.

The next year, six of us conducted the first full-scale high school commencement. Elma Lee Johnson was our deserving valedictorian. She and I are the only members of that class still living in 1982.

Before graduation time, our class flippantly put the names of six prominent Americans into a hat. Each senior was to draw one and send that person an invitation to our exercises. My name was Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce. I still have Mr. Hoover's gracious letter in reply. He didn't attend the exercises.

After graduation I attended college in Las Vegas for a time. I was delighted when the Mosquero basketball team came to Las Vegas, defeated the University team, then went on to the state tournament to make a good score.

Mosquero also had a football team for two years during that period, coached by M. T. Burget and Dee Householder. According to dim recollection, some of the players who helped win all their games before Thanksgiving, 1930, were Jack and Bentley Williams, Fred Martin, and Ira Lloyd (who quickly got a knee injury), Clyde Kimber and Dallas Keller.

When I returned to Mosquero in 1931, to teach in the red brick building for three years, I found a brand new dugout gymnasium for basketball and volleyball had been built. The University of New Mexico’s “Pit” arena today has nothing on Mosquero.

Several graduates then and later returned to the Mosquero school system. Classmate Leon came back to teach in the same building before he went on to become an Army major, and later the head of Region 5 of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Among those red brick graduates who attained substantial military rank were Frank Choate, Frank McDaniel and Gilbert Bradley. Two graduates lost their lives in World War II, Sammy Montoya and Eugene Ladd.

Sammy was an only child, whose sparkling eyes brightened my fifth grade class. His dad swept the schoolroom floors and dumped the wastebaskets during that time.

Tina Lovato, the girl who sat behind Sammy, came to school one morning with her thick curls pinned on the top of her head and her mother's high heeled shoes on her small feet. That was the day Tina fell down the stairs.

Esther Trujillo Andrada, an A student who received two medals as valedictorian when she graduated, read the test questions on the blackboard and explained them while Lawrence Smith (who never quite mastered reading or writing) mumbled aloud the answers which the other kids gleefully wrote on their papers.

Corrine Gonzales Ediger still reminds me of little songs which we learned from phonograph records, especially the ditty "This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes... "

Interest was 100 percent in physiology recitation the day that Russell Goodhue dug into his lunch pail to produce a piece of chicken which we tore apart to examine the little sheaths of thready fibers neatly wrapped and fit together to form a muscle. My last year of work as a teacher in the red brick building was with a roomful of second graders who had trouble with the unfamiliar English language. When the room overflowed, part of the group was sent to an improvised classroom in a corner of the gym with another teacher.

Our blackboards were much used because there were no workbooks or free textbooks, and sometimes no new tablets or pencils. I often would send the youngsters upstairs to borrow a sheet of paper and a pencil stub from a big brother or sister. Most of the pencils were slender staffs with tiny erasers, called “penny pencils” for the amount they cost.

That year we emphasized health, with samples of toothpaste and toilet soap for each child. Near the end of the term, Leo Vigil suddenly quit the hygiene habits which he had followed so faithfully. When I asked why, he explained, “I don't got to brush my teeth no more. My chart is already full with gold stars."

I married and moved away while a grade school building and a proper (above ground) gymnasium were begun for the school complex. Some years later my family (husband Lynn Crosthwait and daughters Ann and Agnes) moved back to Mosquero in time for Ann to start primary in the red brick under Mrs. Josephine Wallace. Both girls also had high school classes in the building.

New Mexico celebrated Coronado’s Cuarto Centennial in 1940, and Mosquero's ambitious high school published its first annual. Inevitably called El Coronado, it was bound with gold-marked heavy purple construction paper. Nineteen persons worked on the volume, with Harry McDaniel the editor, Tony Velarde business editor and Robert Keirsey staff adviser.

That was the year Eugene Ladd won the Kodak Contest., and two women were on the school board — Mrs. L. C. Kingsbury and Mrs. F. H. Daniel. Both later were employed by the Mosquero Schools.

In the winter of 1940-41, Supt. W. W. Wallace almost lost his life when he was caught on David Hill in a prolonged blizzard. Finally rescued and moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. H. T. Pittman, he still was five miles from his home in Mosquero. He had food and warmth and care, but no much-needed insulin to treat his diabetes. Snowdrifts were so high that plows could not open the road for cars.

When it appeared that horses could get through, Shollenbarger Mercantile Co. provided a shallow, metal-bottomed cement mixing vat to which Eliseo Montoya hitched a team. He took Mrs.Wallace, with insulin and bedding, to the Pittman farm and the next day brought the sick man and his wife to Mosquero in the same improvised ambulance.

Recovery was slow for Mr. Wallace after his exposure, and W. J. Atha came early in 1941 to finish the superintendent's term.

The ten young people who graduated in 1941 comprised the last class to hold high school commencement exercises in the big red landmark. The rooms, however, served the secondary program until the early sixties.

The 1942 class was able to celebrate graduation in the new (and still used) gym because individual students helped sand and varnish the new floor, just in time. Nora Vigil Balzano typed the solicitation letters to area ranchers to secure money for the velvet curtain.

Before additional rooms were attached to the gymnasium, English teacher Jane Drake conducted class recitation, study hall and library in the auditorium all at the same time.

Billie Middlebrook Stinebaugh taught bookkeeping on the stage along with typing. Those students carried their tables and typewriters to class then removed them for the next activity. Her shorthand group met in the office, where she sat at the superintendent's desk so much that she became quite fond of it. Years later, when the desk was retired and offered for sale, she bought it.

After more than 40 years of service, the red brick school was demolished in 1965 by Earl Stull, who salvaged the bricks for most of his pay. He found numerous crudely scratched initials on those bricks, including "CJM".

Maudie Holland, who once sat on a bench in the school entrance because she had no ticket to the chatauqua program inside, studied that particular lettering until Genevieve Brock's father came along and bought her a ticket.

Years after Maudie was married to Carol J. McCleary she happened to mention that autograph to him. He admitted it had been a hard undertaking to engrave his initials there.

A few months ago, I was gratified to see some of those original bricks in the walls of an attractive dwelling 10 miles north of Clayton. When I asked the rancher about the particular marking, he was unable to find it anywhere in the home which he had constructed.

Today, in 1982, an elementary school building sits on almost the same spot as that big red brick school. It without doubt will be part of another graduate’s fond reminiscence at a class reunion, someday.

Red brick school students and dates of probable graduation:

1927: Ruby Doloreas Hamil

1928: Elma Lee Johnson, Leon Hill, Cecile Lunsford, Ray Hazen, Faye Hamilton, Joe Permenter

1929: Essie Livingston, Frank Choate, Clarine Weir

1930: Hilda Jones, Audrey Smith, Christy Connell

1931: Fred Martin, Clyde Kimber, John Ross, Elizabeth Martin, Ollie Thomas, Grace Latham, Anna Trujillo, Katherine McGuire

1932: Ira Lloyd, John Dee Spivey, Vaughan Choate, Bentley Williams, Maudie Holland, Dallas Keller, Genevieve Brock, Worth (Buster) Thomas, Jack Upton

1933: Frances Daugherty, Josephine Garrett, Geraldine Garrett, Mary Lewis, Alice Hazen, Donald Bradley, Ralph Rush, Julio Lovato, Feli Cordova, Mina Woods, Harold Woods

1934: Helen Goats, Novelle McDaniel, Ruth Grossaint, Ruby Shrum, Alma Winters, Mary Hames, Jack McGuire, Joe McGuire, Edith Galey, Patricia Norris, DeLynn Fancher

1935: Velma Shrum, Bernadine Garrett, Louise Stevens, Pau1 Pacheco, Emma Beller, Jonathan Norris

1936: Gilbert Bradley, Mary Ellen Hazen, Betty Keller, Edward Goats, Estelle Hazen

1937: Andres (Tito) Trujillo, Alice Smith, Raymond Moery, Frank McDaniel, Laura Mae Hammer, Mary Beller, Sidney Faye Gore, Amelia Salazar, Jewel B. McGlothlin

1938: Simona Pacheco, Phillip Baca, R. J. Ladd

1939: Esther Trujillo, Leo Garcia, Tommie Baca, Glenn Hammer, Richard Stevens.

1940: Russell Goodhue, Lucy Baca, J R Morgan, Evaristo Crespin, Calvin Goats; Bennie Lovato, Vennie Martinez, Moschelle Smith.

1941: Antonio Velarde, Harry McDaniel, Donald Hammer, Mae Firestone, Ray Firestone Arthur Hazen, Jr., Alfred Blea, Ezekiel Vigil Tina Lovato, Joe Vigil.

Superintendents who occupied the red brick building:

1921-24: J.W. Shotwell.

1924-27: Harvey C Hooser

1927-33: Warner E. Rose

1933-37: Earl McDaniel

1937-41: Waldemar W. Wallace

1941-43: W.J. Atha

1943-45: Fred S. Witty

1945-48: Don Lemmon

1948-51: W. E. Kerr

Various teachers, high school and elementary, a very incomplete list:

Ethel Allen
A. Archuleta,
Carolyn S. Bell
Gilbert Bradley
Frank Brookshire
Mr. and Mrs. M. T. Burget
DeLila Burton
Sarah Choate
Mae Cromer.
Lucy Daniel
Oscar Daniel
A. L. Davis
Mrs. L. N. DeWeese

Jane Kindred Drake
Wayne Duncan,

Louise Farlow

Thomas Griffin
Elizabeth Goats
Leon Hill
Ruth Hill
Dee Householder
Robert Keirsey
Albert Kleeman
Pearl Lawhon
Virgil Lofton
Cecile Lunsford
Wilma Lusk
Paul Masters
Kerthel Maddox
Winnie McCoy
Ralph Mock
Gladys Murphy

Solon Newton
Thelma Pearson
Mabel Procter
Clara Romero
Geneva Archuleta Roybal
Lena Schmidt
Jere Stevenson
Billie Middlebrook Stinebaugh
W. S. Stuart
Helen Tobler
Nina Belle Spivey Trujillo
Margaret Vance
Josephine Goats Wallace
Bertha West
Ruth Winter