Celebration of a town that began in the year of NM statehood
Contributed by Linda Popelish
Big Gala Event: June 30, 11am -5pm
Join us June 30 for the McGaffey Centennial Event at McGaffey Lake. Drive up and share the long history and wonderful family memories of this special place. Plateau Sciences Society is sponsoring the 100th anniversary celebration at the building at the north end of the lake, thanks to the generosity of the McKinley County Wildlife Federation.
It’s appropriate that we remember the town of McGaffey on a date close to the Fourth of July because the old-timers say that Independence Day was a big holiday at the town. They celebrated for a week – wood-chopping contests, horse races, a rodeo, dancing under a big tent, and drinking whiskey and beer that was brought to McGaffey in wooden kegs.
On June 30, we’ll be enjoying traditional music and dancing, an exhibit of more than 50 vintage photographs, a portrayal of a McGaffey lady, a BBQ lunch, and a walking tour of the town and sawmill. Come share your stories and dance to some old-time music at the original McGaffey schoolhouse! Let’s bring this early 20th century railroad logging and sawmill town to life once again!
To get you in the mood for the Centennial, here is a preview of two of the historic pictures that will be on display, and two excerpts from the oral history book, Memories of McGaffey, available at the Octavia Fellin Public Library.
Lucy Hoisington was interviewed in the 1990s. She lived at McGaffey two times – before she was married in 1925 and then after she was married in 1927-30. Her husband was a ratchet setter at the mill. Lucy describes the job this way:
They put the logs on this carriage . . . He had to roll the log, put it where they take the bark off . . . He was real good in arithmetic, math, my husband, because he learned it there . . . The sawyer would tell him with his hands, you know, what size the next board was going to be . . . And he had to turn the log a certain way and set it how thick it was going to be . . .they couldn’t hear so they used their hands . . . It was so noisy . . . the saws, you know.
She says that he got paid in company money (“seco” or “scrip”), $2.25 for a 10-hour day. The seco money could be used at the company store with the bill deducted from your next paycheck. Historic documents tell us the 1924 pay rates for some other logging jobs at the McGaffey Company: a teamster running a horse-drawn big wheel used to skid logs made $3.50 per day and an engineer or blacksmith made $5.00 a day. A woods foreman was nearer the high end with a daily pay of $8. The normal workweek was six long days.
Rudy Rider taught at the McGaffey School in 1947. Here is some of her story:
I taught in Oklahoma one year in a small rural community and I had six grades, first through sixth. Then my husband’s health was not good and the doctor told him maybe a change of climate would be good for him, so we just sort of picked out New Mexico and we came to Gallup and visited with the superintendent who at that time was Aileen Roat . . . I signed a contract to go to McGaffey to teach that one year. I was hoping it would be longer than that. When I first drove up and saw the surroundings, it was breath-taking. We had to stop the car several times. We had to let the deer cross and that was just really fascinating to me. I came from a small town where the only deer we saw was in the zoo. So we found the log cabin we were to live in. It was four rooms and indoor water but outdoor bath. And that was a new experience for both Bob and me.
And on Friday afternoons, the children and I would go for a hike and sketch. In winter, the first thing that would come to my mind was here I am way out here. I sure hope the superintendent doesn’t call this afternoon because I have the children all out of school. And here we were on this hike. So finally I told her what we did and she thought it was a terrific idea . . . I do remember taking my old Victrola. I had one that was very old and they loved to march, the children loved to march. So, I had all of John Philip Sousa’s records and on cold days when we couldn’t get out, I let them march.
The curriculum? Well, the first and second graders were the most difficult, because I had to spend a little more time with them because they couldn’t read and they couldn’t write. But then I felt they were at an advantage because they could listen to what was going on with the other grades. And I read to them daily. I read Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Little Lame Prince, and the little ones weren’t too carried away with Silas Marner, but the fifth and sixth graders, as I remember, couldn’t wait to get the next chapter. They loved it and it was a wonderful journey. I cried when I left . . .
McGaffey Centennial June 30
Schedule of events:
• Exhibit of vintage photographs, 11-5
• BBQ beef lunch (catered by El Rancho), 12-4
• Welcome and honoring of long-time area residents, 11:15-12:00
• Live Music by ‘Pat Neff and Friends,’ 12-1, 1:30-2:30
• Living history – Portrayal of a McGaffey Lady, 3-4
• Walking tour of the town site, 4-5
Call 505-979-1138 or 905-5966 for more information.
McGaffey Art Contest Results
Thanks to all who entered art work or voted for their favorite during the May 12th Arts Crawl. Harold Brenier’s intricate ink drawing of a locomotive and horse and rider tied with Bill Siebersma’s dramatic photo of Shuster Valley for most popular. Each will receive a cash prize of $30 from Plateau Sciences Society.