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A story never really ends.
Writers just choose a starting and stopping point. The same holds true with history. No matter how much the collective writes about a certain topic, there are countless unrecorded details out there.
I started writing this column in October and found that one of my favorite things about it is all the different sources – newspaper articles, maps, books, biographies, photos, and official court and government documents – I can use to tell a story. But, my favorite, by far, are people’s memories and personal stories about the places and things I’m profiling. These intimate details add emotional layers official documents and maps can’t provide.
Every time I write a column, people contact me with great stories or information I wish I had been able to include.
Here’s a few:
Franz Huning built Huning Castle, a sprawling 14-room mansion in the early 1880s for himself and his wife, Ernestine. The home was built at 14th and Central, which was at the time the dividing line between Old Town and Downtown Albuquerque. The family eventually sold the property, and it functioned as Trudell’s Private School. It was sold again to a developer and fell victim to the wrecking ball in 1955.
Tom Wright attended Trudell’s during kindergarten and first grade in about 1950. He said it very much still looked like a home, complete with the gardens.
“It was a very old building, all wood,” he said. “It had wooden floors, and old-type school desks. It was funny, because the kids who were a lot older than I was, would go outside and pull off the grapevines and smoke them.”
Sony Maez had an aunt, ironically also named Ernestine, who was a baby sitter for the Huning family when they lived in their castle. He now drives a city bus, and his route along Central takes him past the spot where the house once stood.
“So when I pass by where the castle was, I think of her and to myself, those Hunings must be an affluent and prosperous family,” he said. “Not knowing the struggles they went through as well. Now I know.”
Changing street names
This column explored why some major roads in Albuquerque, such as Montgomery/Montaño, change names.
Retired veterinarian Richard Cortesi came to Albuquerque as an intern in 1963 when Albuquerque was spreading east. He decided to stay and open his own practice on Juan Tabo near Comanche in 1969. At that time, he said, the entire road was still zoned agricultural, so he had to request a zone change. His item was coincidentally on the same agenda on which officials were also discussing the naming of Montgomery and Montaño, which were at one time two, separate unconnected roads. He sheds light on the discussion that day.
“I remember a Mr. Montgomery stood up and said, ‘But my people came here a long time ago, and that street is named after them,’ ” Cortesi said, “Then a Montaño gentleman got up and said, ‘My people came in covered wagons, and the street is named after them, too.’ To be fair, they cut the street in half and left both names.”
The ghost town of Taiban is east of Fort Sumner, and it is most recognized these days for the old, white, now abandoned Presbyterian church. Several people wrote to tell me they had seen the church often while driving through. Some even finally decided to stop and take pictures, including professional photographer David Douglas (shutteringexperiences.com), who frequently traveled through Taiban on his way to Clovis from Albuquerque for business. The column mentioned that inspirational words now cover the inside walls of the church, among them the message “Take out of need, not out of greed.”
Douglas said there were once a case of water and some treats under the scrawling.
“I must have passed by just hours after the offering was left (5/8/2018),” he wrote. “There was no dust on the packages. … A few weeks later, the pop-ups were gone and most of the water. The remaining bottles of water were covered with dust.”
Estancia resident Betty Cabber remembers something about Taiban she couldn’t find anywhere else. Cabber and her husband traveled through Taiban many times on their way to visit grandchildren in Clovis.
“We would always stop there at Mac’s bar. … they made the best BBQ sauce in the world in the back room,” she said. “We always bought 3-6 bottles of it to bring home (and for gifts as well). He put the sauce in old liquor bottles. There were bay leaves in the sauce, and it did not have to be refrigerated once opened!”
Brandon Baker, who says he is the great-grandson of barbecue-sauce maker Chester “Mac” MacMillan, left a comment on an old photo of the Mac’s BBQ sauce sign that was shot and posted on Flickr by Robby Virus.
“We Manufactured the sauce until 2006 in Clovis, NM.” Baker said. “Mac was a local bar owner in Taiban until it was burnt to the ground while Mac was gone fishing.”
History is not just the retelling of events; it’s also the memories of those involved. Thanks for sharing your memories with me.
Curious about how a town, street or building got its name? Email staff writer Elaine Briseno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3965 as she continues the monthly journey in “What’s in a Name?”
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