Surprise phone call brings back memories

By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist

Last week, a call came to this corner from Kathleen McGrady of Kenai, Ak. She began asking questions a little too fast for this slow person, so I asked her to start over. She then asked if I had ever heard of Jess McGrady, and when I said I had known him, she really began to talk.

First, she told me more about myself than I even knew and said she had learned that information from the Internet. As usual, I commented about our lack of privacy but was not too insulted for a change because she had begun by mentioning an old friend who had lived at Ima in the early part of last century. I’m wondering if any of you remember hearing about Mr. McGrady or if you have any of the photographs for which he was so well known in our county. If you have any such information, please let me know as I am rather limited on what I know about him other than that he was living in Mountainaire when I interviewed him in the ’70s for a little history project I was working on at NMSU.

The woman who called explained that her husband is his grandson and that they had inherited several boxes of pictures taken by him.

Two she mentioned were taken in 1908 at lma. I had seen those pictures when I was a child and had heard most of the people identified by Grandmother and Dad. One of the pictures is of the original Moncus Bros.Store at lma–a wooden shack later replaced by the rock building, the foundation of which still marks the site of lma. The other picture shows approximately 75 people standing in front of the frame house that was the first permanent home of the J.W. Moncus family at lma. It was directly across the road from the store and remained the home of Uncle Burnace Moncus, J.W.’s brother, until he had to move to Tucumcari because of ill health.

As I recall from stories heard, that gathering was for a community picnic on a Sunday afternoon and was attended by most of the people from that community. I know I can identify Grandpa and think I can also identify Grandmother, Claude, Maude, lma, and Herman.

The other two children, Ray and May, were yet to be born. I can probably list a number of names of people attending but cannot identify them. Just to see those two pictures again after all these years is quite exciting for this woman from Ima.

To see so many friends and neighbors gathered in one place lets us know how thickly populated that area of the county was in the early days. Were we to get all the friends and neighbors from that area together today, we might not even have a dozen.

To see the women dressed in long dresses and wearing Victorian style hats certainly gives us a time line to check out. Many of the men were wearing suits, or white shirts and ties with their woolen dress pants. The little girls were all dressed in frills, ruffles, and bonnets of various types, and the boys were dressed much the same as were their fathers.

Although some people interested in history don’t like to see pictures unless all subjects can be identified, those of us who really want to look at our past like to see such gatherings as this in order to have an idea of how those pioneers entertained themselves, how they dressed, and how many there were in certain communities.

Just sitting on this corner today can provide much learning about our past if I will but answer the phone and then be willing to try to help a caller investigate a relative.

I could tell that caller that her husband’s grandfather also helped with all the bean harvests in the area because he had a sheller or huller attached to his wagon and would go from place to place to get the pintos ready for sacking.

Again, if you have further information, please feel free to add it so I can send it to a pioneer’s relatives.