Recuerdos De Los Vientos:
Growing Up in Santa Fe
Ann Breese White
Denver Fortnightly Club February 16, 1993
So many times, over the years, I have been asked what Santa Fe was like "back in the thirties", when I was growing up there in its heyday, and so many scenes from those days have come to mind, that now, sixty years later, I have decided to record some of my childhood recollections and research. A mixture of ethnic groups make up the population of Santa Fe; and it is part of the city's charm that it is a remarkable repository of native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo cultures and histories. To better understand some of Santa Fe's local customs and celebrations, such as the annual fiesta, I am including brief histories of these cultures whose descendants make up the city as we know it today; but the focus of the paper is to share my memories of growing up in Santa Fe when I lived with my father, mother, two older sisters and younger brother at Los Vientos, the name of our ranch on Upper Canyon Road.
One hears more and more, especially from older Santa Feans, the complaint that the city is altered - violated, some say - by so much modern change. True, it is certainly no longer a quaint New Mexican village known for its charming adobes, art and bohemian life style of transplanted anglos from other parts of the country. I find it hard to believe Santa Fe has become a city of over 70,000 people, who list crime and jobs as their biggest concerns. In a sense it has become two cities -- an historic old town around the plaza, catering to tourists, surrounded by many sections of Anytown malls, strips, and developments stretching the city physically and economically. So many old buildings have been torn down or adversely altered, that Santa Fe's National Historic designation is endangered.
Also disturbing is the increasing tendency for Santa Fe to become economically segregated along Anglo-Hispanic lines. Hispanics are no longer the majority of the population. There is beginning to be racial resentment in a town that prides itself on harmony between Anglos, Hispanics and Indians. In the 20's, 30's, and into the 40's, the city contained culturally and economically mixed neighborhoods. Struggling artists lived in the same neighborhood with well-off merchants and poor Hispanic families. As my childhood friend, Am Baum am, who grew up in Santa Fe when I did, remembers and writes, "There was an apparent lack of social structure in Santa Fe. As children we were not aware of differences between rich and poor, Indian or Spanish, and those kids who went to public schools and those that attended the private schools."
The demand for Indian art has helped make Santa Fe the tourist mecca we see today, and skyrocketing prices have been, to some degree, an economic bonanza. But this success has brought a change that concerns many of the pueblo people. Rina Swentzell, a Santa Clara pueblo member and architectural historian, writes: "The relationship that the pueblo people established here with the land, clouds and mountains was unique because it was so strong, developed over thousands of years." And with the growing popularity of Santa Fe, Swentzell worries about too much change. She says if that continuity gets broken, you lose your sense of connectedness to the world around you. You lose a sense of balance. Besides the scenic attraction of Santa Fe, it has the cultural
draw, and by marketing that culture, she fears Santa Fe is destroying it; when tourists realize that all that's left are T-shirt shops and painted plywood coyotes, they'll quit coming. There seems to be an ongoing struggle between those who know that Santa Fe's visible heritage is her most precious attribute and those that would erase evidence of a past which can never be reclaimed.
But enough of gloomy observations and predictions, and on to a brief review of Santa Fe history, as a background for some personal memories of living at Los Vientos some sixty years ago. It is important to remember that northern New Mexico has been home to Pueblo Indians and their ancestors for thousands of years. The known prehistory of New Mexico ranges from before 2,000 B.C. to A.D. 1549. During the earliest period, man lived in the open or in cave shelters and hunted animals. Sandia Cave, one of the oldest known archeological sites in the Southwest, and the Folsom site near Clovis, New Mexico, are two of the most famous. Deposits in Sandia Cave, located in Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, show that it had been occupied by men 25,000 years ago. In the bottom layer of this cave were found fairly large, crudely shaped stone spear points. With these points were found bones of prehistoric horse, bison, mastodon and mammoth, debris from meals of ancient hunters who lived in the cave. I was studying anthropology in 1941 'with Frank Hibben at the University of New Mexico when he discovered tools and other evidence of what he labeled Sandia Man. We students were fortunate to have the weekly field trips to the site as part of our course curriculum.
The early sedentary developments in Southern and Western New Mexico became known as the Mogollon culture -- the first group to make red and brown pottery in New Mexico. They influenced the people of northern New Mexico, and by 200 A. D. introduced the idea of pottery and village life to them. The Anasazi pattern of living grew out of these contacts throughout the four-corner region. By the year 1000, the Anasazi began to surpass the Mogollon in architectural accomplishments and in the development of large communities that included huge ceremonial lodges. They used latter devices to control irrigation of their fields and developed a complex of roads. Their towns represent the highest developments achieved on the west side of the Continental Divide prior to 1300. Apparently because of devasting droughts in the late 1200's, sites such as Mesa Verde were abandoned, and there were many population shifts. As a result, most of the major pueblos which survived into historic times got their start, including the Zuni Pueblo, Hawikuh, in southern New Mexico - the first pueblo contacted by the Spaniards. By the time of the Spanish entry in 1540, most of the pueblos in New Mexico had adopted a square or rectangular ground plan, with a central plaza surrounded by multistoried dwellings terraced back from the plaza. The only major change in the pueblos brought about by the Spaniards was the addition of a mission church. New Mexico is fortunate that the direct descendants of the late prehistoric group, today's Pueblo Indians, have for the most part survived to the present day. Their contributions to the cultural mixture which makes up Santa Fe have provided a unique heritage not found in any other Western city.
Persistent rumors of gold and legends of great Indian civilizations were responsible for the first Spanish explorations of New Mexico. A young aristocratic Spaniard, Francisco Vasques de Coronado, led his ill-fated expedition of 300 soldiers and 800 Indians up from Mexico to Hawikuh in 1540. He had heard of great riches to be found in the seven cities of Cibola. What a bitter disappointment on reaching the Zuni Pueblos to find no golden cities, only agricultural communities! Several more expeditions followed. During the more than half-century which elapsed between European penetration in 1539 and permanent settlement, the Indian world shrank still further; and many pueblos were abandoned, drought again being the major factor.
Early settlement of New Mexico started when Juan de Onate led his expedition of 10 Franciscans, 129 soldiers and some colonists, many with families and all their animals in tow, out of Chihuahua, Mexico. The pueblo leaders took oaths of allegiance to Spain, and Onate's conquest of New Mexico was completed in 1599, after his soldiers stormed the rebellious pueblo of Acoma. Other colonists moved into New Mexico and established haciendas and ranches all along the Rio Grande Valley. However, there was much bitterness toward the intruders. After 80 years of sometimes murderous religious and cultural persecution, in 1680, there was the famous pueblo revolt under the leadership of Pope, a San Juan Indian living in Taos. The pueblos for the only time in their history united and exploded. Most of the settlers and Franciscans in the outlying areas were massacred. Those who escaped fled into Santa Fe and the rebels laid siege to the Palace of the Governors, within whose walls the surviving colonists gathered.
Indian Governors ruled New Mexico for the next 12 years from the headquarters they established in the Governor's Palace. Pope tried to keep the Indians limited, but individual rivalries were strong and the leaders soon fought among themselves and with the Apaches that had joined them in the revolt. In 1691, Captain Diego de Vargas began making plans for a systematic reconquest of Santa Fe. His small army had no trouble with the pueblos as he marched up from El Paso, and by September 14 he was in possession of Santa Fe and the Palace of the Governors without having fought a single battle.
The annual celebration in September in Santa Fe, called Fiesta, has been observed ever since 1691 to commemorate this Spanish re-conquest of New Mexico. From this time until 1821, Santa Fe, built on the ruins of an abandoned pueblo, became the northernmost capitol of Spain in the New World. The Franciscan friars returned to the missions and reestablished abandoned pueblos, repairing churches which had fallen into ruin. During the last two decades of Spanish rule, New Mexico was untouched by changes of government in Mexico, but it was in deplorable condition when Mexico declared her independence from Spain in 1821. Under Mexican rule, however, the Spanish policy of excluding foreign traders was abandoned, a crucial change which resulted in the opening of the Santa Fe Trail linking New Mexico with the United States.
The next era in Santa Fe's history started in 1846, when President James Polk and Congress declared war existed between the U. S. and Mexico. General Kearney led the Army of the West out of Ft. Leavenworth, Missouri, to take over New Mexico and California and, late in the afternoon of August 18, the tired Army finished its march from Ft. Bent on the Arkansas River and reached Santa Fe. The colors of Mexico were hauled down, and the U.S. flag was run up over the Palace of the Governors. The acting Mexican governor, Juan Bautista, surrendered New Mexico to become a territory of the U. S.; and, in case of efforts to retake Santa Fe, he ordered Ft. Marcy 10 be built. This era of history is also reenacted during Fiesta. With the coming of the railroad and the continuing westward expansion, there was in the early part of the 20th century an ever-increasing flow of settlers to New Mexico, including many Anglo artists and writers who came to live in or near Santa Fe and Taos. These newcomers added their own unique contributions and exchanged ideas with the existing Hispanic and native American cultures.
And what was the look of this place, so rich in history, so fought over through the centuries? The land reaches terrace-like from the Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico and opens into the grand plain of Santa Fe at an altitude of seven thousand feet, outlined by spurs of the Rocky Mountains - the Jemez range far to the west and the Sangre de Cristo nearer on the east. To the north lie other ranges, hidden from the plain by intricately eroded foothills. Much has been written about the pure desert light in Santa Fe, and all artists who have come here try to capture it in their paintings -- the golden mesas, the incredible turquoise skies, the silver blue-green sage, and the purple shadows of pinions against the red hills. As a painter, I am never lacking for images, long ago imprinted on my visual memory, of those wondrous New Mexican landscapes.
It was quite by chance that I happened to grow up in Santa Fe. My father, a pioneer aviator, had been asked by Pan Am to scout a route in the Southwest to fly tourists to the Grand Canyon. It was near Santa Fe that his small single-engine plane ran low on gas, and it was necessary to make an emergency landing on the little airfield south of town. He took time to look around and was fascinated with what he saw. When he walked up Canyon Road, he noticed a sale sign on a charming old adobe rouse with a long portal overlooking cherry and apple trees and lawns, with terraced stone walls stepping down to a large field bordered by the Santa Fe River. He had fallen under the spell of this "land of enchantment" and decided then and there he wanted to buy the house and move his family and business to Santa Fe. I doubt if my mother, back in Lake Forest where we were living at the time, shared his enthusiasm at the thought of suddenly pulling up stakes with four young children; but apparently, after a quick trip to Santa Fe, she approved of what she saw and went along wholeheartedly with the move. There is a small snapshot of her standing on the desolate train platform at Lamy, 25 miles from Santa Fe, where the trains were met. She is smiling bravely, with my two-year-old brother Jim on her arm, my two older sisters NC and Frances and Ann, age 4, all lined up along with the luggage, Chi Chi the dog, and a cat. There was also a young rouse guest, who had thought she would be staying with us in Lake Forest, but went along with the revised plan of moving West. The year was 1928.
My father at that time was developing and applying for patents for an oil burning device he had invented, later known as the Breese Burner. There were some old stables on the property that he remodeled for laboratory space for his heating experiments, and he had an office that looked out on the Santa Fe River a beautiful setting later recorded in a painting by one of our artist friends, Fremont Ellis. Father had hated commuting in and out of Chicago and both of my parents were glad to escape from the damp cold winters. Now he had only a three minute walk from his house to work.
The Martinez family lived above us in one of the adobe houses on Cerro Gordo Road; and we were fortunate to have young Andres Martinez come to work for us and take over some of the outdoor chores, which included caring for our growing animal population. It was not long before we had several horses, two sheep, a goat and a cow. Andres also cut the lawn and alfalfa and was an expert at making adobe bricks when the house and outbuildings needed repairs. He had several children all, who became our playmates, and their pretty, good-natured mother, Philomena, came regularly to help my mother in the house.
Soon after we moved into our house, our Hispanic neighbors helped to name the property "Los Vientos," which means "the winds" in Spanish - sort of a pun, but close enough to be a translation of "The Breeses." Coming upon a piece of our old stationery when cleaning out a desk with only Los Vientos, Santa Fe, New Mexico, for our address, I could not help but long for those simpler days when there was no need for a street name and number to receive mail - let alone a Zip Code!
The family yearned for a place to swim, and we soon busied ourselves fashioning a kind of grotto by piling rocks to dam up the Santa Fe River near some Cottonwoods where it flowed through the property. We would all troop down to splash around in the cool water particularly refreshing after a long ride under that fierce New Mexican sun. Among the most exciting outdoor pursuits connected with water were trips down the Rio Grande in our old canoe. Looking back, it astounds me that no safety precautions were taken, such as life jackets and helmets. We simply "put in" several miles south of Taos, where the river flows into the canyon, and paddled downstream, often encountering bad rapids which would sometimes upset the canoe. We would arrive, cold and shivering and soaking wet at Otowi Bridge, where mother would meet us.
The canoe trips became less frequent when the pool project began. My father gathered his children and their friends together on the promise of a swimming pool if we all helped. It was hard work under the hot sun, carrying those heavy rocks. I still have a photograph of Andres behind a team of horses hitched to a plow digging out and enlarging the existing duck pond on the terrace below the house. That first summer, the only pool that came to be was still used exclusively by geese and ducks. I especially remember the geese who weren't very friendly to little girls. Later, of course, a real swimming pool did materialize. A friend who was around in these days writes that Dad diverted the Santa Fe River through the pool and back into the river bed. In winter, the pool sometimes froze; and some of the older children went out curling with broomsticks and skates.
Artist Randall Davey, who lived and kept his studio about a mile up Canyon Road from us (now a notable Audubon museum property), often came to Los Vientos to swim. He and Dad thought it would be a "bully" idea to install two trapezes, one at either end of the oblong pool. Each trapeze was reached by a ladder, topped by a small platform. Once on the platform, the next step was to throw out a grappling hook and pull in the trapeze. Somebody on the opposite platform would hurl out his trapeze, while at the same time the person going over would time leaving his platform to swing out so there could be a midair transfer leap from one trapeze to the other above the pool. Davey loved to show his trapeze artistry by including a somersault before grasping the on-coming trapeze, while, of course, all onlookers clapped enthusiastically. There was always a beginner who confidently let go with both hands and, because of poor timing, missed the on-coming trapeze completely, plunging into the water amidst howls of laughter from the sidelines. We smaller children soon figured a sure-fire way to make it across, avoiding the disgrace of missing and falling in. The trick was to get hold of the on-coming trapeze with one hand before letting go of the other trapeze. This method was looked down upon, however, and dubbed "monkey style".
Speaking of monkeys, we acquired a real monkey quite soon after moving into Los Vientos. My parents were telling a house guest of a remarkable drugstore on the plaza run by Martin Gardesky. He had the reputation of getting anything a customer wanted, no matter how bizarre the order. Our friend made a bet with Dad that Mr. Gardesky couldn't get us a monkey. He lost the bet; and Chango, "monkey" in Spanish, joined the growing menagerie. He was the special pet of my sister NC, who would go everywhere with him riding on her shoulders, hanging on tenaciously to her long braids. Chango caused havoc around the house, and I can remember my mother in tears when a favorite pueblo pot was broken. On one occasion, we all got up from the dining room table to greet a guest at the front door and returned to the dining room to find Chango sitting smack in the middle of what had been a beautiful bowl of Pink Floating Island pudding. He was eating with much gusto, as he flung pieces of egg white around the table. One summer, Chango became apathetic, lost his appetite and got so weak that we children kept him in a little doll buggy. The vet could not determine the cause of his sickness, but when he finally died an autopsy revealed arsenic in his system. He had eaten apples from one of our trees, which had in those days been sprayed with arsenic.
As riding became more and more a part of our lives, the big event of the summer was the Santa Fe Horse Show. This was started by a small group of people, mainly Eastern transplants headed by Martha and Amelia White, two sisters who had come to live in Santa Fe at the same time we did. They were excellent riders and interested in promoting English style riding, with flat rather than Western saddles. They were good organizers and talked my family into having the First Annual Santa Fe Horse Show on the field in front of our house Events were offered for both Western and Eastern riders. Friends of all ages would ride up Canyon Road during the early summer to join the Breese girls for daily practice. There was a ring, and jumps were set up. With my mother, father, two sisters and me all riding in these shows, the Breese family often managed to corner the market when the ribbons were handed out.
Preparations for the big day included much activity in the kitchen with the cooking of hams and roasts and pots of beans and building a temporary bar the full length of the portal. In those early years, everyone who rode in the show, as well as the audience, was invited for a buffet supper. My little brother and I were not allowed to stay up for all the festivities later in the evening, but we heard far into the night the guitar music, the singing and the clomp of boots of cowboys dancing the polka. Much later, when all the horses had been loaded onto their trailers, we heard the clink-clank of the cattle guard as the trucks headed home. Finally, it would be quiet at Los Vientos.
After a few years, the Santa Fe Horse Show had become so popular that it was impossible to handle all the entries, much less the wining and dining of everyone afterward, nor did we have room for the big crowds and the horse trailers, trucks, and cars. The event was moved and is still held at the county fair grounds, where, I understand, it attracts riders from all over the state. When the horse shows came to an end, the field was used for polo practice. Dad had been able to gather a few interested players, many of whom had schooled quarter horses or cow ponies into performing very well as polo ponies. There was actually a Santa Fe polo team that went as far north as Colorado Springs to play matches and often down to Southern New Mexico, where young artist Peter Hurd, an avid player, provided his ranch for the matches. Sometimes I would ride along on the truck hauling the ponies. It was my job to walk them between chukkers and, of course, be a one-child cheering section for the Santa Fe team.
The Santa Fe Fiesta was always the major event at the end of summer. As mentioned earlier it was the annual celebration staged to commemorate the Spanish reconquest of Santa Fe. In the thirties the festivities lasted a whole week; and people wore Indian or Spanish costumes all of that time. One of the most inventive and talented artists in Santa Fe in those days was Will Schuster. In 1926, he designed and built a huge, ugly, monster like figure called Zozobra or Old Man Gloom, an image of depression and darkness, embodying man's misfortunes. Zozobra was an awesome 60 feet or so in height, standing on a raised platform on a hill north of the Plaza; and all of Santa Fe came out to watch the ritual burning of this effigy. He let out shrieks and growls and roars that could be heard for miles around when, on the eve of Fiesta, he was to be burned to the ground, thus allowing the festivities to officially begin. Part of the ceremony leading up to his being set afire in those early days was to have a group of young girls costumed in white robes perform a kind of Martha Graham inspired dance around him, accompanied by Indian drum beats that steadily grew in intensity till one of the dancers (one year it was me!) was given a flaming torch to set fire to the monster, whose groans by now had become more deafening and were intermingled with the cheers and the honking of horns from the onlooking crowds. Old Man Gloom was dead; let the fun begin!
Another event that stands out clearly was the children's pet parade around the plaza. The Breese children, of course, always had a variety of animals to proudly show off, but what a noisy chaotic scene with all the barking dogs, frightened yowling cats, ponies out of control, and burros that would not budge. There were always runaway pets, sobbing children, and frantic parents. And everyone came in full Fiesta costume, including the animals! The Indians sitting along the portal of the Palace of the Governors looked on stoically, never changing expression, surely wondering what this craziness was all about.
An equally spectacular event during Fiesta was the history parade celebrating the re-entrance of De Vargas, who as mentioned earlier returned to Santa Fe and successfully put down the Pueblo rebellion. Always a handsome young man, chosen from one of the old Spanish families and decked out in the costume of a conquistador, headed the parade on his prancing steed, followed by his soldiers in their plumed helmets and armored vests, followed by Hispanics, Indians and Anglos, all dressed to represent different periods of Santa Fe's history. Los Vientos was always full of guests at Fiesta time. Often relatives made the trip West just to participate. The best Marioche bands from Mexico would be playing all around town, and in the hotels, and there was dancing in the streets both day and into the night. It was the time for giving parties and going to parties. It was the time especially that Hispanics welcomed the Anglos into their homes "Mi casa es su casa." A friend recently commented that it is sad that the doors are not opening as much today, and that the Anglo parties now have only two or three token Hispanics.
On the last day of Fiesta, we kids would ask friends to come up for a swim and "trapezing", and in later years my family started the tradition of having a milk punch party. So there were all age groups attending, all still in costume. Daring trapeze leaps were attempted and of ten failed, and nothing was more bedraggled looking or got as many laughs as someone climbing out of the water with a dripping fiesta skirt made from yards and yards of cotton.
In the early thirties, my family met and became friends of Arthur Pack and his wife, Brownie. They had two girls, one of whom, Norrie, was just my age; and we soon became good friends. Packs had bought beautiful Ghost Ranch near Abiquie, New Mexico, and I was often invited to visit. Norrie and I loved to go off riding and at times would come upon Georgia O'Keefe painting beside her Model T. She lived, in those days, in a house on the ranch property, where Arthur Pack invited her to stay rent free. She was never overjoyed to see us come riding up but I was always so curious to see her painting. What with our silly questions and the dust raised by restless horses, O'Keefe quickly thought of the perfect bribe to get rid of us. She would offer us each a Hershey bar if we would go away. It worked like a charm. We would leave, but from then on our rides had a mission -- to find O'Keefe and the Hershey bars.
Then things suddenly changed at Ghost Ranch. Norrie's mother fell in love with the handsome young tutor from Princeton, Frank Hibben, and she left her family at the ranch to go away with him. At about the same time, my parents had separated. Norrie and I were lucky to have each other as friends during that difficult and sad period of our lives.
Anyone remembering the outstanding Santa Feans in those early years would have to include architect John Gaw Meem, who arrived in Santa Fe in 1920 for his health and soon was designing romantic pueblo-revival houses. Later, he also designed churches, as well as municipal and university buildings. He created what Chris Wilson, a cultural historian, calls "pueblo getaways from the modem world". Nancy Meem Wirth, John Meem's daughter, still lives in the pacesetting adobe house her father designed in 19.37. She says that her father believed the best clients were the ones who sat down with him, told him what they wanted, and then went to Europe for the year. Meem’s influence extends to more than his architecture. He was the major guide in developing Santa Fe's first master plan in 1947, which helped protect the character of the city's buildings around and near the plaza. His dedication to restoration and preservation extended to his personally restoring dozens of historic mission churches, including those at Acoma, Laguna and Zia pueblos. When Los Vientos needed additions and remodeling, Meem, an old friend of our family, was called in. He wanted to preserve the character of the original old adobe, which he would have done expertly, but my stepmother insisted on his making changes that included a second story, an attached greenhouse of glass brick, and an exterior of white stucco. The original charm of Los Vientos was lost forever.
There were several struggling private schools in Santa Fe in those years, most of them were short lived. None of them really became established till Miss Brown and Miss Moore moved their girls school from Arizona to what is now Bishops Lodge and opened Brown Moor School. It thrived for many years. My sisters were old enough to attend, but my brother and I went elsewhere. The school I remember best was one run by Charles Mintun, or Uncle Charlie as the kids called him. He and his assistant, Faith Weight, rented a large house on Palace Avenue with plenty of bedrooms for the boarders. It was the era of progressive education, when the emphasis was on learning by doing. I remember hours spent making, decorating and firing pottery; learning steps from Indian dances (my specialty was the Eagle dance); painting and drawing; and going on frequent visits to the nearby pueblos and Indian ruins. But I don't recall much time spent in classrooms or drilling on the 3 R's. Faith was an early health food enthusiast, and our meals were mainly fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, granola, and whatever else she considered wholesome. Desserts were for bidden. There seemed to be no schedule. When they were tired after supper, boarders were asked what room they felt like sleeping in that night. Boys sometimes shared quarters with girls, and no one seemed to think it odd.
Though my early schooling was sadly lacking in many areas, I don't think I would have had as much appreciation for pueblo cultures if there had not been that early exposure, thanks both to my family taking me regularly to dances and the follow up of my school's field trips. The Pueblo Indian people have performed their ritual dances since prehistoric times, usually to celebrate important points in the agricultural and seasonal cycles. Through each tribe's communal ceremonies, pueblo members seek to find harmony, fertility, renewal and the beauty in nature. The major dances include Deer, Rain, and Corn dances. Also, every pueblo celebrates twice a year in honor of the saint for which the pueblo has been named. All the dances are a fascinating integration of the native American religions and the Christian teachings brought by the Spanish missionaries. The eight northern Pueblos speak Tiwa language, while pueblos to the south of Santa Fe speak Keresan. Each pueblo is distinct. Some are steeped in tradition, but others support a more modem lifestyle, while still trying to revive their cultural heritage. All pueblos celebrate feast days in a unique way, with dances that always include even the youngest children dancing with the group as the way to learn the steps and chants from their elders. Now that pueblo families are scattered, with some members living outside their communities, it is wonderful to see the effort they make to return for the feast days. Some pueblo members will travel great distances from their jobs to join the dancers. At one period, we had two young pueblo Indian girls helping in our household. With no communication from their families by telephone or other messages, they would seem to know when there was an illness or death of a relative and would ask for permission to leave to go to their pueblo. And, of course, it was taken for granted they would disappear on their feast days. We were convinced they had the ability to communicate with their pueblo family through what we now call extra sensory perception.
We were fortunate to have at Los Vientos in the mid-thirties a fascinating young lady, Carmen Baca, who took over the care of my brother and me after my parents divorced. The Baca family lived directly across from us on Canyon Road. Margarita Baca, Carmen's mother, a widow, had been the New Mexico Secretary of State for years until her retirement - a tiny, vivacious woman who was half French, half Spanish. Her five children had been brought up on her husband's sheep ranch in Northern New Mexico and were schooled by a tutor brought from Spain. Their life on the ranch was well documented in a series of articles in the New Yorker, written by Oliver La Farge after he married Consuela, Carmen's sister. The Baca girls taught us many of the Spanish folk songs, as well as the popular cowboy songs of the day. From them, we learned to do the Mexican dances, La Varsoviana and La Raspa. We learned to speak and to read Spanish, and we even wrote and recited simple little poems in Spanish. We were lucky to have Connie during those times that our mother could not be with us.
Among the town eccentrics of which there were many living in Santa Fe then, everybody knew Brian Behru Dunne. B. B., as everyone called him, had deliberately turned himself into a town character, according to Pen La Farge. He had come to Santa Fe to cure himself of some disease and had done so. I remember him as a frail, bent over, stork like figure, always wearing a great big hat. When he saw you coming, he would come up, grasp your shoulder, look you in the eye, pause for effect, and then make a pronouncement that was absolutely incomprehensible in a way that indicated he had just given you the secret of life, and then he would walk slowly away having ruined your day. B. B. wrote a column for the Santa Fe New Mexican a sort of society column - who's in town,
who's not in town, what are they doing. Pen La Farge claims that the New Mexican never edited what B. B. wrote, they just ran it. Whenever anybody of any note came to town, they stayed at La Fonda, where B. B. lay in wait in the lobby. Like a bird of prey, he would pounce on the unsuspecting newcomer, push him into a corner, and interview him - usually incompetently, but he'd get another name to drop into his column.
Though we knew many of those early Santa Fe artists, I always felt it was a shame my family did not collect more of their work. Several of the paintings they did acquire were through the barter system -- a Breese Burner in exchange for a painting. One of our oldest friends was Gustave Baumann, who moved to Santa Fe with his wife Jane and daughter Ann a few years before we did. Ann and I attended the same schools and have remained good friends over the years. Her father, whose family had immigrated from Germany, had studied there and at the Chicago Art Institute; and he had made a name for himself as an outstanding woodcut artist before the First World War. His philosophy was practical. "Art is its own reward - when it ceases to be fun, it is a good idea to find something else that is." His interest in theatrical productions led him to create a marionette theater with his wife Jane, a trained singer and actress. Over the years, he carved a cast of 65 marionettes, and they jointly wrote the plays. Among my happiest memories were Ann's birthday parties. Her guests were entertained each year by an original, delightful and usually very funny marionette show presented by her parents, who were able to change their voices to fit the marionettes characters on stage. Two years ago, a collection of his work was assembled in a special Baumann exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.
Seeing so much of his work, all together after so many years, I was struck by the fact that his contribution to the field of woodblock printing came not only from his refined and sophisticated technique but also from his adventurous use of color and strong design. I feel fortunate to own several Baumann prints.
I have commented on but a few of some of those many fascinating Santa Feans we knew in those early days. When my sister and I were recalling some of the Santa Fe characters we knew during our early years at Los Vientos, the name of Howard Caluzzi came up as someone left had left a lasting impression on us both. Fortunately, she had written a short piece about him, which I recorded on tape and will read you as a fitting post script to these memories:
“Caluzzi smelled. He really did smell. It must have been the original lingering odor that I remember when we first met this unfamiliar and fascinating man, when I was about eleven. I can see him still, with the passage of some sixty years. We were a new family in the canyon - bought the old Thomas place east of Los Cerros. There is no way of knowing how Caluzzi caught on to the genial idea of Sunday supper at Los Vientos, and he seldom failed to arrive, just in time for the meal. His appetite was insatiable, and just watching him consume food was an extraordinary experience. Our regular guest seemed to be fond of children and animals which was a lucky arrangement. There were four Breese children and a young girl making her home with us for health reasons. Friendly beasts were the usual dogs and cats but white rats, a bat and a monkey were added to our scene.
"No one was designated as a lookout on Sunday evening, but I remember the fiendish delight in the cry of the sharp-eyed one when Caluzzi was spotted. A determined outdoors male stride brought him up the long driveway from Canyon Road. "Caluzzi's coming!"
"After consuming several pots of Boston baked beans, the best part of a ham, bowls-of salad, and mountains of bread, the show began. My father saw to it that our guest had to watch a reasonable amount of home movies that would, of course, include some footage of the transatlantic flight of the NC4. Caluzzi would clap his hands in glee, no matter how many times he had watched as a captive audience.
"The fun began for us when the bright rectangle on the screen was empty and became Caluzzi's shadow theater. He called for scissors and paper. In seconds, monstrous prehistoric creations seemed to be alive right there before our eyes, all linked together in an endless chain. He could also simply hold up his hands in clever ways and wonderful shapes appeared.
"When he was in a mask mood, he would become many different characters by placing his papier mache creations over his heavily breathing face, and we were witnesses to great Greek episodes. The panting sounds through his wild mustache, the baggy pants over heavy boots and the ancient lumber jacket matted into impenetrable filth disappeared as he became a glorious young Greek hero. Of course, we wanted to try on the wonderful scary masks but the stench of Caluzzi and papier mache caused a short performance on our parts.
"His vast enthusiasm was an exciting thing, and as I remember, he talked with an Italian-Brooklyn accent, though he could quite readily switch to Greek or any other language. When the evening appeared to be over, and no more food was coming his way, Caluzzi thanked my family, patted the little ones on the head and went on. There was talk some years later that he was living in a cave. We heard that he died of an infected cat scratch. Howard Caluzzi."
In closing, it is important to remember that Santa Fe has been invaded many times over the centuries, and with each influx of new and different people, it will continue to change. But underneath the newly applied glitz and ballyhoo of the l990's, the land and sky will remain the same; and I will be drawn back again and again. I am grateful that my father was intrigued by this place and moved his family there. Those early years at Los Vientos will always be among my best memories.
Eldredge, Charles C., Julie Schimmel, and William Truettner, Art in New Mexico, 1.900-1945. Paths to Taos and Santa Fe. New York: Abbeville Press, 1986.
Horgan, Paul, Centuries of Santa Fe. Santa Fe, New Mexico: William Gannon, 1976.
Jenkins, Mary Ellen, and Albert Schroeder, A Brief History of New Mexico.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974.
H. M. Wormington, Prehistoric Indians of the Southwest. Denver, Colorado: Denver Museum of Natural History, 1970. First Edition, 1947.
Catalogs and Periodicals:
New York Times, January 9, 1992. Arts and Leisure: John Gaw Meem article. Rocky Mountain News, February 4, 1990. "Beyond Summer in Santa Fe."
Palacio. Magazine of the Museum of New Mexico, Winter 1991-1992. Vol. 97, No. 1.
Southwest Artist, August 1992.
Denver Art Museum Catalog: Gaustave Baumann. Woodblock Prints from Holme, Roberts, and Owen Collection, 1992.
Interviews and Letters:
Frances Breese Forbes
NC Breese Jay
Betty Wiley Samuels