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Palabras Pintorescas: Celebrating the Centennial and mom’s birthday

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By Editha Bartley

It is time to celebrate and in a big way. Our beloved New Mexico is 100 years old toady. There will be many celebrations, all over the state, for the entire year. 2012 is a very big year in our history.

I was always aware of the state’s birthday, for some perhaps very different reasons. My mother’s birthday was Jan. 7, 1900. Although she didn’t talk much about the events in her early life, she did note, tell us she and the state did have big birthday parties. I have some hand-written in pencil recipes, pages stuffed into very old cookbooks, for birthday cakes. I suspect the cakes were made for her (and for New Mexico as well) by the cooks in our big Valmora Sanatorium Kitchen. That in itself becomes an “aside story” because the stove that baked the cakes was almost one of a kind. It was almost 6 feet long, had double ovens, a total, huge cooktop, and was fueled by coal. The fire had to be lit very early in the morning, just to get the stove hot enough to cook the oatmeal, bacon and eggs, plus so much mor featured on those early menus. The cooks knew how to control the oven temperature so a birthday cake never burned, that I know of. And the cakes I got to enjoy backed in those huge ovens were always three layer cakes. I don’t think they ever made just flat sheet cakes so long ago.

My doctor grandfather and my grandmother moved to Valmora from Ripon, Wisc. in 1904. Mother was born in Ripon, but she never considered herself anything but New Mexican. There were very few relatives that I knew of there, and to my knowledge she never returned to Ripon or even talked about the family connection there.

My grandfather loved any kind of celebration or parade of the combination of both, so I am confident he made sure the staff and the patients of Valmora celebrated in a very big way. I don’t know whether he knew our first governor, William McDonald, but I’ll bet he did. He was friend with many people in high places, and would take our governors to Chicago with him for the Valmora celebrations we hosted every year until his death in 1936.

That January 2012 issue of New Mexico Magazine is certainly a keeper for those of us who enjoy reading about our state. Our famed author, Hampton Sides paints a vivid picture in words about this incredible state. The title of his essay is “Living in a State of Enchantment” and we really do, in so many ways. I hope every New Mexico school library will feature and promote reading this issue of the magazine to every student.

One of my favorite books about New Mexico is by Richard Mahler, titled “New Mexico’s Best.” The “Best way to see the ‘real’ New Mexico” part of the “Best of the Best” chapter in this book is now deceased author, Jim Sagel. In his very moving word picture of his beloved state he covers every corner of this incredible land. Sagel called his writing ‘unpublished road poems’ and to my knowledge they are still unpublished. New Mexico’s Best was published in 1996.

We have much to look forward to in New Mexico this year. There are big statehood celebration events planned for every month of the year, and in towns, villages and small hamlets from one corner of the state to the other. Oh, yes, this year there will be something to do almost every day. Who can be bored with that!

Editha Bartley  lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.