Happy birthday, Mary Gurule!
Mary L. Gurule was born in an adobe house in the village of Placitas. Today, she lives in an adobe house across the street from where she was born. New Mexico had been a state for only six months when she was born on July 6, 1912. Her mother was in hard labor for four days before a doctor was called. Finally one came from Albuquerque to help her mother and Mary was finally born at 4:00 in the morning. This year she will celebrate her ninety-second birthday.
Mary’s parents were Nicolas Salazar and Eutimia Lucero Salazar. She had a sister, Theresa Salazar Candelaria, and a brother, Gaspar Salazar, both now deceased.
Mary was raised by her grandparents Theresa Salazar and Miguel Archibeque. She decided at a very young age that she wanted to live with her grandparents and her parents agreed that she could do so. Although they were very strict with her, she had a good life with them and lots of love. She considers herself very lucky to have been raised by them, and they were instrumental in helping her graduate from the eighth grade.
Mary met her husband at the age of nineteen. Martin Gurule lived in Placitas and they were married on March 4, 1931. They had a Catholic church wedding in Bernalillo, and upon their return to Placitas they were met by friends and family to congratulate them. That evening there was a big celebration with food, and a small band in the village played for their dance that night.
Martin had many different jobs over the course of their life together. He served in World War II, and times were very hard for Mary during those years. When he returned, he had many different jobs. He worked the Placitas postal mail route to Hagen, New Mexico, for a few years. He also worked at a gas station in Bernalillo. They tried living in Bernalillo for a few months, but city life was not for Mary, so she convinced her husband to move back to Placitas. They built their house in the village, where she raised her family and she still lives in today.
Mary and Martin had eight children, and she lost a set of twins soon after birth. She had three daughters, Angie, Sally, and Ruth, and three sons, Jerry, Martin II, and George. She lost George and Jerry to tragic accidents in their adult lives.
Mary worked for a time at the Placitas Post Office at the historic Muench House in the village. Todosio Chavez owned the house at that time.
In later years she raised one of her grandsons, Jimmy Morris. He lives next door to her and is very much a part of her life, tending to all her physical and emotional needs. Mary remarked that he has always been a special blessing in her life.
On June 26, 1995, Martin passed away after sixty-four years of marriage. These days you can find Mary occupying her days with cleaning her very tidy house, puttering outside cutting weeds, and keeping her yard nice. She does her own wash, still hangs out her clothes, and picks up a needle and mends them when she needs to.
Mary always greets you with a smile, and I’m sure if you stop by sometime, she would be only too glad to chat with you about her life today and how things used to be in Placitas.
Vivian DeLara, Mary Gurule’s cousin, lives in Placitas.
The restored Exchange Hotel in Bland Canyon, New Mexico
—the longtime home of Helen Blount
Helen Blount—the caretaker of Bland
July 30, 1923–May 8, 2004
This article was originally printed in El Cronicón (June 2004), the official publication of the Sandoval County Historical Society.
It’s hard to think of Bland without Helen. When she was eight years old she moved to Bland, as her father having been gassed in World War I was advised to move West for his health. He purchased the town and they lived up there self sufficiently with a cow, chickens, and a garden. At that time, there were a few others still up the road for company, but mainly Helen was self-educated and self-entertained.
She went to High School in Albuquerque, was married to a serviceman during WWII, and had three children: John, Kathy, and Alley. When she was divorced, she moved back to Albuquerque, working two jobs as a cab driver and in the shoe department at Sears.
Bland meanwhile had been purchased by a Mr. Jenks, who hoped to revive it as a gold mine again. He died soon after and his wife Effie (a former Harvey girl) stayed up there for the rest of her life and Helen would visit and finally stayed with her during her frail last years. Effie died in 1987 but had sold seven acres to Helen—which included the Exchange Hotel, the Doctor’s House, the Tavern, the Shadow House, and Kathy’s house.
I first met Helen in 1989 while she worked at Allsup’s in Cochiti Lake and learned of her home up in Bland, from which she commuted every day, winter and summer. My first trip up there was at Christmas. At that time Helen had Sarah, her horse, Cookie a stray part wolf, and offspring Chips, plus numerous cats. Helen took in strays—animals and humans, and treated nature as lovingly. As her close friend Sandy Kadisak says “Helen had a huge heart.”
Helen, a member of the Sandoval County Historical Society, was a gracious host to the Society’s field trips to Bland on several occasions.
All of us who knew her will mourn our loss. She was a frail looking but very tough lady, who could pack a gun on our hikes to scare any bears that might threaten her dogs—a unique human, whom we have been blessed to know. She leaves behind three children, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.