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Years-long collaboration yields a comprehensive and compelling history of the East Mountains

Kristin Thacher, editor and a writer of “Timelines of the East Mountains”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Readers have many choices in approaching “Timelines of the East Mountains,” a book aimed at preserving culture.

Readers can, for example, flip to any page and browse, then change subjects by going forward or back.

Or they can open to a starting entry of any of the four parts the book is divided into – Places, Special Maps, People, and Tradition & Stories.

Together the sections add up to a weighty 700-plus page scrapbook containing a wealth of historical information.

In the Places section alone are more than 400 pages with as many place names of communities and sites extinct or still in existence. Each place name entry has about a page of text often with one or two accompanying archival photographs.

Timelines of the East Mountains

The first entry is A. Montoya and Roosevelt schools. A 1951 photo shows two kids, Romeo DiLallo Jr., and Sandra Lazar, at play in the A. Montoya school yard. Jump ahead and you can find a reference to DiLallo, who is mentioned in an entry in the same section about Molly’s Bar, a popular Tijeras watering hole. DiLallo’s mom opened the bar and the adult Romeo DiLallo ran it for many years. He died a few years ago.

In this book, stories beget interest in other stories, articles and maps. That interest is helped by cross-references at the bottom of most entries, said Kristin Thacher, the book’s editor and one of its writers.

Zuzax is the last entry in the Places section. The book says it’s the name merchant Herman Ardans gave his roadside curio store and trading post on Sedillo Hill on U.S. 66 in 1955. He figured the name would attract tourists. An Interstate 40 sign marks a Zuzax exit, but the store/trading post is long gone.

In three parts – Places, People and Traditions & Stories – are sprinkled excerpts from recorded oral history interviews. These oral history accounts make the history of the East Mountains come alive.

As Thacher’s introduction states, it is one thing to read about the 1930s Dust Bowl through a third person and another to read an eyewitness account. A young Charles Martin tells of Okies stopping at his family’s home west of Edgewood for a meal or to use the outhouse then continue west on Route 66 bound for California.

Overall, the book gives an overview of more than 400 years of culture, dating from prehistoric Pueblo villagers, to early Spanish land grant communities, to the arrival of immigrant settlers and through the mid-20th century.

The geographical area the book encompasses goes well beyond the Sandia and Manzano mountains. It takes in approximately 400 square miles, ranging north to Golden in the San Pedro Mountains, east to Moriarty, south to the Chilili Land Grant and west to Carnuel.

The book itself was originally envisioned as an addition to the stand-alone oral history project and the “Mapping Our Vanishing Past” map project, Thacher said. That six-foot-by-six-foot panel map shows historic communities in the East Mountains area; a smaller image of that map is on the book’s title-facing page.

Thacher said a key component of the East Mountains’ history is the diverse and rich traditions and stories. Traditions like the Matachines dancers at a fiesta in Escobosa. In all, there are 350 vintage photos, historic maps and documents, and more than 50 oral history vignettes.

“It turned out there were some interesting stories,” Thacher said.

A story about the Albuquerque Civic Symphony Orchestra playing May 19, 1940, inside the San Pedro gold mine. A story about an outlaw named Marino Leyba who terrorized the East Mountains in the 1880s, though a corrido was composed about his death. And a story about the New Mexico Central Railroad in the early 20th century that traveled from Willard to north of Moriarty and then to a station called Kennedy near Lamy.

Besides Thacher, the other members of the “Timelines” book committee are Rick Holben (also the photo editor), Dick Brown, Anabel Maldonado Sanchez, Joyce Mendel, Beverly Neville, Maria Herrera Dresser, Sandra Walton Lee, Constance Baca Busheme, Kathy Rich, Christine Koch, Susan Olsen, Louise Waldron and Denise Tessier.

“All of the book’s entries were thoroughly researched and verified by the volunteer members of the East Mountain Historical Society, a core group that’s been working on the book for more than three years,” Tessier wrote in an email.

The East Mountain Historical Society published the book. To obtain copies of “Timelines of the East Mountains” visit eastmountainhistory.org.

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