In the fall families would go to Monte Vista or Center, Colorado to work in the potato
fields. They would stay from a month to six weeks. They would buy enough potatoes and flour for the whole winter. They would store the potatoes in a cellar and they would last. They bought clothes for the whole family at Alamosa.
There were no washing machines when I was growing up. People would go once a week to wash at the ditch. Two ladies would go—my Mom and tia Adonisa. They would go down the hill to where the “Wooden Nickel” now is. All the kids helped; some gathered wood, others water. They took lunch and we ate there. They would hang the clothes on the fences. We would stay all day. We would fold the clothes then go home to prepare supper. Hard work!
In 1921, Moly mine started, It didn’t have too many workers. Some moved from all over to have a good paying job. At first the ore was hauled with burros, then later with dump trucks. People from here moved up to the mining camp. It was a big community. They had rosaries, dances, and baseball games. The students attending school at the Moly Mine School would get a gift from the mine. Everyone wished they could attend the school at the mine. They would buy groceries and clothes from my dad’s and uncle’s store. Dad would go every pay day to collect. They bought everything on credit from pay day to pay day. Some would hide but they finally paid. They had a good school. It was a one-room school. They came to dances here. People lived real good, built homes, bought cars and trucks. Then came the open pit; a lot more people worked and people were prospering. The Moly Mine has been a big help for the Community. They helped with the first health center up the hill near the Senior Citizens Center. They helped with the present Health Center, our wells, water, and sewer.
I used to live close to where Ruth Gonzales lives. We had a big general store. It was a big building. Our five-room home, the store, post office and a feed store were there. There were nice hard wood floors and a ceiling that looked like tin. It was gray with a flower mold. Those buildings burned in December 1930. We were left with out anything. In 1932 we had a new home where First State Bank is now. It was nice. I enjoyed it there. Nobody had electricity but my dad bought a Delco plant so we had electricity. We would let the water from the ditch and Comadre Mela’s place go down to the river. It would freeze and we would go on our sleds all the way to the river. Nobody lived there then. We played with “Avco’s.” It was a piece of wood you would put a place for your foot in the middle of each one get on it and walk on them. Everybody rode horses; there weren’t any cars. There were buggies, not too many. My brothers and our cousins would take the cows to pasture by the river every day. They would stay there all day. They would take lunch and where there was corn they would get some and roast over a fire. No mat- ter whose corn it was they were welcome to it so they could eat. That went for all the village children. They would swim in a big water hole by the river. They would catch fish. By 4:30 pm Ofelia and I would have to go help Ben and my brother bring the cows home. During the winter, we would gather at one of the aunt’s home to work on differ- ent things. The children would help with wool to make into balls so they could weave blankets. Other times we would cut pumpkins for tocajos, peel apples to dry. We had a lot of fun. We would tell riddles or chistes. We would pray. When I was 9 or 10 if you would see someone that had pledged an Ave Maria, the first one would say Ave Maria, the other person had to pray an Ave Maria then say “ofrese,” then the other person would say “descansero las animas.” People prayed a lot. Nobody was bored in those days and we didn’t have TV or radio.
Our playground was the Catholic Church yard. We would gather there in the afternoon. We played Las Iglesias. We played kick the can, baseball, marbles, hide and seek, and tell stories. For kick the can, a coffee can was set in the middle of a ring; the players would make a big circle. One would kick the can, then the players would run to the bases. Each one would take a turn. Another game was el cabresto (like a whip)—the person on the end would have to hold tight, because everyone would run real fast. We also liked to play el canute, where we chased each other with canute (a weed) stalks.
In the winter, a big ladder was used as a sled on the hill by the Parish Center. The school children would use it during the day, and young couples would use it at night. We went down from where the Parish Center is now to where the road meets with Cabresto Road. We never had an accident. Robert Bryant went to Red River and got some ice skates for the village. The ladies extension club helped at the Eagle Rock Lake so the children from Questa could ice skate.
During the 1920s, usually during the winter months, we used to have debates at the school house. A topic—like pigs going into the gardens—would be chosen and sides for each side of the debate were also picked. This was entertainment in the winter and was the way local disputes were settled
The circus used to come to Questa around 1930. It was held by the Parish Center (the schoolhouse at that time). They had elephants, monkeys, lions, and a camel. We had a ferris wheel on the road going to Cabresto next to where Centinel Bank is now. A magic show from Mexico also came to Questa to entertain us.
We would have some people from Walsenburg, Colorado, come and give us movies at Jose Albinas Rael’s dance hall. We would have the series “The Last of the Mohicans” once a week. We paid 50 cents to see the movie. Mr Rael, the owner of the hall, sold refreshments. Also in the summer we had “Maromeros.” We also used to have 5-cent slot machines in the stores and the gas stations
The gypsies came every summer. We called them “las turcas.” Where they came from I don’t know. They would camp at the Red River where the bridge goes to Taos. There was no road then. When the gypsies came everybody knew (and there were no telephones then). We had to be careful with our chickens, lambs, and pigs and even the clothes on the line because they would disappear. They would stay for one or two weeks and then they would leave. They stopped coming to Questa around 1945.
Basketball games have been very popular in Questa. The first State Championship was won at Santa Fe in 1938 or 1939, and the last one was won at Albuquerque in 1994. The high school basketball team has won two state championships.
Mariachi Questa was a recent addition to Questa. Their first album “Par Primera Vez.” was directed by Angela Duran and the second album was directed by Norberto Martinez—“No Me se Rogar.” The community has been very proud of their mariachis.
In the 1930s, when I was 8 or 10, if a boy was at a dance for the first time they would lift him up in the air and hold him there and people would clap and cheer. That meant that he had to make a dance for the people. His parents and he would find a band and the fol- lowing week there was a dance. They called it “Lo Piendiaron.” They would do that with all the young boys that danced for the first time.
In the olden days, there was a man appointed as “Vastonero” or dance leader; he would name the people who could dance. Poor guys, the ones he didn’t like; they never got to dance. When I was young if there was going to be a dance, the musicos would get in a truck or open car and go all over town playing and people would know there was a dance
going on that night. They would even go up to Cerro. The young men would pay a nickel for one dance or a quarter for five dances.
One popular song sung at dances was the “Baile Chiquiado,” or “coaxing waltz.” One person would sit in a chair and the other person would try to coax him or her to dance. Sometimes the verses were made up as they were sung. Here is an example:
Baile Chiquiado Versos Chiquiados
1. (a una joven en el baile)
Me gusta la leche, Me gusta el café, Pero más me gusta, Bailar con usted.
Me gusta la flor roja
Me gusta la flor amarilla, Anda, baila solo,
Patas de horquilla.
2. (a una enamorada)
Ya viene saliendo la luna, Vestida de seda negra, Anda, dile a tu madre,
Que si quiere ser mi suegra.
Me gusta lo dulce, Y no se me escapa.
Pero a ti no te quiero, Con tu cara de papa.
3. (a una novia)
Qué bonita vas creciendo, Como una espiga de trigo. Ya me estoy apreviniendo, Para casarme contigo.
Qué bonito vas creciendo, Como una flor de mostaza Ya me estoy apreviniendo Para darte calabaza!
4. (a una que resiste)
Ya viene saliendo la luna, Vestida de azul celeste.
Me he de quedar en tus brazos, Aunque la vida me cueste.
Véote a los lejos, Me hueles a poleo. Véote cada rato,
Me hueles a chivato.
5. (a un novio)
El que sale a bailar, Peirde el lugar,
Y él que no tiene vergüenza, Lo viene a agarrar.
Salí a bailar,
La pieza pasada,
Pero fue con tu novia, Quien estaba aplastada.
6. (a une vieja)
Las solteras son de oro, Las casadas son de plata, Las viudas son de acero, Y las viejas de hojalata.
Los muchachos son listos, Los casados son planchados, Los viudos arriesgados,
Y los viejos arrugados.
7. (a una viuda) Chiquita, enlutadita, Díme, quién se te murió? Si se murió tu amante,
No llores, que aquí estoy yo.
Chiquito, enamoradito, Te veo de arriba a abajo, Si soy mujer de honor, Véte mucho pa’l carajo.
1. I like milk I like coffee
But even better
I like dancing with you.
1. I like red flowers I like yellow too Go, dance alone Pitchfork legs.
2. The moon is rising Dressed in black silk Go, tell your mother
If she would be my mother-in-law.
2. I like sweet things And they don’t escape me
But you I don’t like to dance with you With your potato face.
3. How lovely you are growing Like a plant of wheat
I’m already preparing To marry you.
1. How lovely you are growing
Like a mustard flower I’m already planning To refuse you.
2. The moon is gleaming Dressed in heavenly blue I should stay in your arms
Even at the cost of my life.
4. I see you from afar You smell of peppermint I see you every while You smell like a goat.
5. He who gets up to dance Loses his spot
And the selfish one will get it.
5. I got up to dance The last dance.
But it was with your girlfriend Who was bored with you.
6. Single women are of gold Married women are of silver Widows are of steel
And old women are of tin.
6. Boys are smooth Married men are deceived Widowers are brave
And the old men are wrinkled.
7. Little one in mourning Tell me “who died?”
If it was your love Don’t cry, for I’m here.
7. Little one in love,
I see you from top to bottom If I am a lady of honor
Go to hell.