“YOU BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE!” — An Interview with Rose Marie Sandoval & Jacquie Cattaneo: Part 1 of 2
By Bob Rosebrough
Rose Marie “Shorty” Sandoval and Jacquie Cattaneo both come from families that go back to Gallup’s beginnings. Jacquie’s father, Jack Kammer, was a railroader and the son of a railroader. He came to Gallup in 1898 when he was two years old. Between her father and grandfather, “there was 105 years of service for the Santa Fe Railroad.” Shorty’s amazingly diverse family settled in a cluster of houses on top of a steep North Side hill on Pershing. Shorty and Jacquie sit down one early winter afternoon in the back room of Shorty’s home and, before they are done talking about their lives in Gallup, the sun has gone down in the west.
I was born in my house. Shorty’s dad, Louis Montoya, worked for the city off and on for many years. Shorty says, “Octavia Fellin believed he was the best looking man in town and he was. He was a man of honor with a sense of humor . . . that wasn’t always nice.
“He used to take my sister and I rabbit hunting and we would return to Auntie Helen’s house (which is now Shorty’s house) and she had a boiling pot of water waiting and then I remember tearing off the rabbit skin. It made a great meal. My mom and dad and my sister, Inie, and I lived right next door. My Nana Montoya lived next door and one more house down was my Uncle Tom’s house. My sister, Inez Giron, and I have many memories on this hill.
“We were a very, very close family. My great-grandpa Dan stayed in my grandmother’s house on this hill and we’ve been here forever and ever. I was born in my house.”
She’d give them oranges. “Way, way back I remember there were some stairs back here, at my Nana Montoya’s house. I would sit back there and the wagons would come, Navajos, Zunis, and they’d drive up in the back of my Nana’s house. She was fluent in English, Spanish, Navajo, and Zuni. She was raised in Zuni – her and her sister. And the Navajos and Zunis would come and she’d go out there and she’d give them oranges. She’d give them oranges and they’d laugh and they’d talk to each other. It was so amazing to me.”
My dad gave him his WWI uniform. Shorty’s story triggers Jacquie’s memory about her father. “Dad was a World War I veteran. He was in the infantry, with the Dough Boys and walked over the entire country of France. There would always be Indian people coming up to our back door at 102 West Hill wanting food. One night this elderly man came by and he was freezing. My dad couldn’t think of anything that would fit him because my father was six foot four and this Indian man was pretty small. Anyway, my dad ended up giving him his World War I uniform.”
“Oh no!” says Shorty in an animated tone.
“I have his helmet, but that’s all,” says Jacquie.
“Oh my God! How beautiful though!” says Shorty.
“And it was totally wool. So not too long after that, we saw this man walking around in my dad’s World War I uniform. (Jacquie and Shorty both laugh.) He walked with pride, as if he had fought in the War.”
“What a story! God bless him. What a kind man,” says Shorty.
“Well he was. He was very kind. He would not give them money. He would not give anyone money, but he would always give them something to eat or to wear. He was French and he taught me many phrases. He spoke the language, but his mother wouldn’t allow French to be spoken in the family home. She was incredibly proud of being an American and felt that if a person lived in the United States they should speak the language of the nation in which they lived. I’ve talked to a lot of older citizens and that seemed to be the general consensus from that era.”
I remember her in her starched white. Shorty’s mother, Mary Toki Montoya was one of Gallup’s Harvey girls. She says, “You know where the train station is?”
Jacquie says, “The Harvey House was the western part of that building.”
Shorty says, “It was huge. We had a little car and it had a rumble seat in the back. We’d go and pick up Mom. Her starched white uniform just stood out. Harvey girls were trained on how to give impeccable service. That building was two stories and it was so beautiful.”
“It was the prettiest one,” Jacquie agrees.
“As you walked into the lobby you could see the pretty stairs that are going up to the rooms upstairs and then the wide dining area. We’d have Christmas parties there. Oh my God!” says Shorty. “It was fancy!”
“Finger bowls,” Jacquie adds. “It had handmade furniture. A lot like Octavia had made for the library. It was a very elegant place. My grandmother was a Harvey House girl. My mother’s mother.”
“She saw Clark Gable.” Shorty says, “My mother took such pride in being a Harvey Girl. She talked to many troops coming through and movie stars. She saw Clark Gable; he was her favorite. My mom has had an amazing life and she is still with us – in her 98th year. The Harvey House was really something for a little town like Gallup.”
“Eisenhower was here,” says Jacquie. “He was on the campaign trail and was riding the train across the US. I remember going to the railroad station and hearing him make a speech out of the back of a passenger train. I was one of many Brownies and Girl Scouts that made up a welcoming party for Ike!”
Shorty continues, “There should be a place at the Cultural Center specifically honoring the Harvey Crew like other cities have done. They’re a big part of our history!”
COMING IN MAY:
THE HAZARDS OF A RAILROAD LIFE, A LION . . . WHERE?, OCTAVIA FELLIN: “SHE BROUGHT COUTH TO US”, AND JUDGING CEREMONIAL WITH ROBERT REDFORD