The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


parking lot at the Rail Runner Station in Los Lunas

The parking lot at the Rail Runner Station in Los Lunas has been overflowing with cars in June as commuters clamor to get a seat on the train.

Swimming pool opens

The Bernalillo swimming pool is now open Tuesdays through Saturdays between 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Certified lifeguards are on staff. Admission is $1.00 (age 0-12), $1.50 (age 13-18), $2.00 (age 19-61, $1.50 (age 62+), and fifty cents for non-swim adults. For further information, contact Jason Soto at 238-0689.

County limits open burning

On June 8 the Sandoval County Commission passed an ordinance to limit open burning and fireworks in the unincorporated areas of Sandoval County. Due to the high fire hazards caused by dry conditions, the following types of open burning are prohibited without a permit: campfires, open fires more than three feet high and three feet wide, and open burning of vegetation or rubbish.

The ordinance bans the use of all fireworks within wildlands in its jurisdiction and limits the use of fireworks to areas that are paved or barren and have water readily accessible. Fireworks are defined as “any device intended to produce a visible or audible effect by combustion, deflagration, or detonation.”

Any violation of this ordinance is punishable by a fine of not more than $300 and/or up to ninety days in jail.

“Cops In The Park”

Bernalillo Recreation and Police Departments partner to organize another “Cops In The Park” event on July 27, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Law enforcement and emergency agencies from surrounding communities will be available to interact with our youth. These agencies collectively present a positive image and are definite role models for youth.

This free event is free for all Bernalillo youth and families and will be held at Rotary Park. Refreshments will be provided.

Employment opportunities

The Town of Bernalillo is accepting resumes and applications for the following positions: Executive Secretary-Housing, fire fighters, Grants Coordinator, IT Administrator, MVD Clerk (PT), Public Works Director, receptionist, and waste/water operators.

To apply or obtain more information on qualifications, contact Yolanda Mora, Director of Human Resources, at 771-7112.

Record-level passenger numbers force Rail Runner to add extra train cars

Rider numbers on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express jumped approximately twenty-three percent by mid-June, causing an extra train car to be added to several routes to accommodate the increased passenger load.

“We’re pretty sure that escalating gas prices are a big contributing factor,” says Lawrence Rael, Executive Director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “The other factor to consider is that it’s summertime and people are looking for ways to have fun, but keep costs down.”

A new summertime schedule went into effect over the Memorial Day weekend, which extends Rail Runner service on Fridays into the evening, and all day on Saturdays through Labor Day weekend.

“It’s great to see people embracing Rail Runner on weekends,” says New Mexico Department of Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught. “The Rail Runner takes the hassle out of getting around in the region and offers an affordable way to do it.”

The parking lot at the Rail Runner Station in Los Lunas has been overflowing with cars the past few days as commuters clamor to get a seat on the train.

“We just expanded the parking lot at this station, and already we need more spaces to accommodate all the rail commuters!” says Los Lunas Mayor Louis Huning. “The Rail Runner is proving to be a great way for people—especially young people—to travel safely throughout the region, not to mention inexpensively. We’re glad service has been extended to include Saturdays during summer.”

For more information on fares and the new summer schedule, visit

Town says ‘Keep downtown Bernalillo from becoming a new traffic corridor’


At an open house at Our Lady of Sorrows Church on June 20, representatives of the town of Bernalillo stated that they support the revamping of US 550 and oppose a south corridor through the town. The meeting allowed everyone who had missed the first open house to find out what’s going on and to make it clear that Bernalillo doesn’t want a south corridor of any kind.

“This study has started the conversation on the work on 550 and the intersections. That’s a start,” Bill Sapien said. There are basically five options to fix the traffic problems created by Albuquerque, the West Side, and Rio Rancho.

The first option would be a road through downtown Bernalillo somewhere between the existing exits. One man pointed out that if they paved the entire river, there would still be a traffic jam between Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Other people were more concerned for property, archeology, sacred ground, wildlife habitat, noise, and more. “The south corridor proposals would go right over my parents’ home. They live by the railroad tracks. It would be tragic for them to lose their home after all this time,” Arul Aragon said. His family is not the only one to be affected by a south corridor route.

The second option would be making improvements to the existing road and increasing the capacity of the four intersections through the town. This would slow traffic during construction and all the traffic would still be concentrated on one route.

The third option would be a new south corridor through downtown Bernalillo for a bus, a train, or another high-capacity transit mode. This alternative would affect homes, the bosque, etc., because it is still a south corridor route.

The fourth option would be the construction of a US 550 high-capacity transit mode that would connect to the Rail Runner, a Park-and-Ride, and/or a bus stop on the other side of the river. Of all the options, this would actually keep traffic off the road without taking out homes, heritage, or bosque.

The final option would be to not build at this time. As it stands, traffic is congested through Bernalillo at rush hour; however, it probably will not fail in the next couple years.

Nothing has been decided and no money has been appropriated for the project. A resident of Bernalillo, Clara Satriana said, “I think the ideal solution that would make everyone happy is if the Sandia Pueblo would just give up some of its land and build a toll bridge… everyone would be happy, and it’s pretty direct. The south corridor would affect homes and fields and property. There are no right-of-ways across the river anywhere; getting across is always going to be problematic.”

Sandia Pueblo has already expressed that they don’t want a highway on their land: they have sacred land, bosque, wildlife habitat, and fields they would like to keep in the family like everyone else.

The people commuting are the people bothered the most by rush hour traffic. Locals say they just don’t drive at those times, yet commuters have not attended the meetings in any great numbers despite signs on the road. The people who live in south Bernalillo are worried the road will end up in their backyards and that is why community participation is so important. Without it, there is no hope for a beneficial resolution to the traffic problems.

Patricia A. Chávez, mayor of Bernalillo, on behalf of the town, thanked everyone who attended the open house. “Your views and concerns about the project are very important and much appreciated. Please provide any written comments to the Department of Transportation. Their staff will make every effort to keep you informed,” she said.

Visit for updates.

Fireworks to explode in Rio Rancho

The city of Rio Rancho will once again have the state’s biggest fireworks show on Independence Day, Wednesday, July 4.

Loma Colorado Park, located at 555 Loma Colorado Boulevard in Rio Rancho, will be the prime viewing location to watch this nationally-recognized display that will fill the city’s skyline. The park will open to the public at 4:00 p.m., with parking available at neighboring Rio Rancho High School and the Loma Colorado Main Library. The parking fee will be $5 per car or vanload, with proceeds benefitting the high school booster club, Rams, Inc.

Once at the park, visitors will find live musical entertainment, beginning with Groovement, on stage from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The Rio Rancho Symphonic Band will perform from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., and Tennessee Skinny will conclude the night’s entertainment when they perform from 8:00 to 9:15 p.m. The fireworks show will begin at approximately 9:15 p.m.

Visitors have live music to enjoy before the fireworks, and there will also be activities for children and food available for purchase. O’Hare’s Grill and Pub will have foot-long hot dogs, hamburgers, bratwurst, curly fries, cotton candy, popcorn, Pepsi products, and Hawaiian ice available.

This event is sponsored by the city’s Cultural Enrichment Department. The event is free to the public. The fireworks show and its start time are subject to weather. This is an alcohol-free event.

For more information, call (505) 891-5015 or visit

El Rinconcito español

• Cuando la fuerza manda, la ley calla.
When power commands, the law keeps silent.

• Cuando te sople bien el viento, aprovéchalo.
When a nice breeze is blowing, take advantage of it.

• El buen juez por su casa empieza.
The good judge begins in his own house.

Submitted by, Placitas—Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills.

San Felipe Farmers’ Market to open July 4, many traditional products

The San Felipe Farmers’ Market will kick off its season Wednesday, July 4, in the west parking lot of the San Felipe Casino Hollywood. The market will be open from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. every Wednesday, and will feature produce, fruits, and other products from the fields of local pueblos and farmers between San Felipe and Peña Blanca.

This largely Native American market is an offshoot of San Felipe Pueblo’s Farm Services Program, which is the facilitator of a renaissance of agriculture at San Felipe. Many of the products sold here are traditional, including dried white and blue corn, pintos, beans, salsas, and grains. At its peak, the market draws about twenty-two farmers, but in July, during the early season, there are fewer. Early produce includes peas, cherries, and mulberries, but later in the season, onions, garlic, a variety of fruits, tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers will fill the tables.

Market Manager Felice Lucero says that vendors accept WIC coupons from young mothers, as well as special tribal vouchers from eligible seniors. The senior program is a result of a USDA pilot grant to the pueblo. It’s one of the finest things the USDA has done,” says Lucero. “About ninety-five percent of our elders have used the coupons since the market started.”

Produce sold at the market must be grown by the vendor, and vendors must be certified through the Farm Services Program. For more information on how to sell your product, call Felice Lucero at 771-9972.

Village of Placitas water wins taste test


Las Acequias de Placitas, the official name for the water system in the village of Placitas, is closely involved with New Mexico Rural Water (NMRW) Association. This year, water board members attended the NMRW annual conference and our drinking water was entered in the Annual Water Taste Test. Our water took the honors of the Best-Tasting Water in the State in 2003 and 2005. We are delighted to report that we won again in 2007. The water is judged on bouquet, taste, and clarity. This year’s judges were Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, Diane Anderson from Channel 13, and Ryan Gleason, State Director of Rural Development, USDA.

The prize for winning Best-Tasting Water in the State of New Mexico is $1500, to go towards attending the eighth Great American Water Taste Test on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The water board members could not get away and by a process of elimination, Dean DeLara (Water System Operator) and his father Charles DeLara were chosen to attend. The water was mailed ahead of time and was kept nice and cold for the contest.

The Acequias de Placitas representatives met with Senator Domenici, Congresswoman Heather Wilson, Congressman Steven Pearce, and Congressman Tom Udall in Washington. Issues of safe drinking water in smaller rural communities were one of the main topics. There was much discussion and many stories about the on-site technical assistance and training provided by NMRW.

Charles and Dean hope that Congress prioritizes funding for the small communities’ water problems. Funding from Congress allows the Rural Water network of nonprofit state rural water associations to better serve each state’s small and rural utilities, which are constantly being challenged by expanding regulations and everyday environmental conditions.

The Great American Water Taste Test was great fun and very exciting. The folks that run the contest, NMRW, and National Rural Water were very hospitable and made sure everyone had a good time. A terrific luncheon was served and was followed by the water contest, but alas, we did not place in the top four. The first place winner was the state of Massachusetts, a water system called Three Rivers Fire District. Maybe another time, New Mexico will take the honor.

Thanks to the New Mexico Rural Water Association and to Rob Richardson, President of Bohannan Huston, Inc. for funding the prize money for the trip.

Consumer Confidence Report

Every year, the New Mexico Environmental Department requires that Las Acequias de Placitas mail the Consumer Confidence Report to every household in the village of Placitas. If any paying or non-paying member in the village did not get a water report, please call 867-5536 and request that a report be mailed to you.

Elaine Slusher
Ann Rustebakke

Library history embodies volunteerism, community spirit


Placitas has a long and colorful history of strong community involvement and innovative responses to meet community needs. One old-time resident put it that, “In Placitas, they’ve always mouthed off.” At a volunteer event for the Placitas Library in December, Elaine Slusher told me she had been involved in the “first” Placitas library. Since no one seemed to know about this, we thought it would be interesting to find out more and try to capture the feel of Placitas and volunteerism in those earlier days.

I met with Elaine in March and she suggested I also talk with Ann Rustebakke, who was the chairperson of the library board when the early library closed. I met with both of them at their homes in the village.

The first library came about sometime in the mid-fifties and started with books obtained from the state library in Santa Fe for children in the village school. Then several volunteers, including Ann, Elaine, Bernice Umland, Adela Amador Wilson, and others over the years collected books to build a local collection. That first library was housed in the large hallway of the school, located in what is now the San Antonio Catholic mission community center. The building consisted of two rooms with bathrooms (including flush toilets) in back. It was a WPA project and very well built. Book shelves could be locked and then opened when the librarian was on duty. There was also a locked display case where residents could contribute interesting rocks and artifacts found around the village. At that time, there were two classrooms for first- to third-graders and fourth- to sixth-graders, taught by the brother-and-sister team Benito and Frances Baca. Elaine’s and Ann’s children all attended the school.

As time went on, and the village and school populations grew, the library moved twice. The first move was to an old stone “woodshed” building with a door and one window, next to the Catholic church, in which volunteers laid a cement floor to make it usable. This building was condemned and is no longer there. At that time, an attorney drew up papers to establish the library as a separate entity from the school, which did not see a need for its own library.

The history of the early library is closely tied to the school, which itself has a dramatic history. In the fifties, some residents around the state brought a lawsuit to establish public schools, since the state was then only supporting parochial and private schools. When Bernalillo threatened to close the Placitas school in the seventies, parents and library volunteers managed to get a bond issue, the first ever in Bernalillo, to keep it open. The new school had four classrooms, with Mr. Baca staying on as head teacher. Ann remembers several exceptional teachers, all supportive of the library, including Mary Poorman, the Bacas from Placitas, and Genevieve Casaus from Bernalillo.

At the new school, the library was located in a temporary building, which had been condemned and brought from Santo Domingo to be placed near the new (current) elementary school. Ann remembers that they obtained a state library grant for this project and the Placitas Garden Club landscaped the area around the new site. Included in the landscaping was the original school bell found in the basement of the original building. The Youth Conservation Corps built a retaining wall with railroad ties to stabilize the site and keep the arroyo from washing away. A town-wide event was held there to celebrate the American bicentennial in 1976.

There was no library in Bernalillo in those early days. The Placitas library was organized informally by volunteers, with one person volunteering as librarian for a year at a time. The longest-serving librarians were Ellen and Robert Bennett, now both deceased. At first, the emphasis was on providing books for school children, and later some adult books were added. While there was no plan for permanency, they were able to purchase a few books through a grant from the county cigarette tax and collect many others through donations. A group of volunteers would meet to decide what to purchase with the limited funds available to them. The volunteer librarian catalogued books and opened the library for school children, and later for adults, twice a week. Many children had little other access to books, and responded enthusiastically to reading when books were made available to them.

The library also sponsored many family and community activities. Young people were taken on trips to Santa Fe to choose books they could bring back on loan for several months. While at the state library, they would also research Placitas history, which was often hard to find. Ann remembers one time looking for information about Placitas at the state library and coming up with nothing until Elmer DeLara, who was legally blind and listening to their research efforts, suggested they look under San Antonio de las Huertas. That’s where early Placitas history was found. In the summer, the library sponsored activities and art classes for children and hired members of the Youth Conservation Corps. They helped revive the Posadas tradition in the village, including the songs and Comanche dance. A bookmobile from Santa Fe brought adult books in the early eighties. Since the village was a tight-knit community, and everybody knew everybody else and almost all had children in school, word-of-mouth communication was easy and informal.

Placitas was an isolated place through the forties and fifties. Until the fifties, there was no freeway to make commuting attractive, and only Route 44 into Placitas was paved. When Elaine moved there in 1949, her oldest son was six months old, and there was only one house for rent in the village with indoor plumbing. She took it, later built her own house, and has lived in the village ever since, with a hiatus of moving back to New York City for a few years. In the early years, she estimates there were about five hundred people and one small store with a telephone for emergencies. Much community activity revolved around the acequia system. Getting electricity in the fifties involved a major community volunteer lobbying and organizing effort. Phones came with eight-party lines in the sixties. Only calls to Bernalillo were local and Albuquerque was an expensive long-distance call.

Placitas students consistently tested among the highest in New Mexico and many attributed some of that success to the library’s role in the community. There was also a fruitful interaction among children for learning English and Spanish, bringing exceptional intercultural benefits. There was no state requirement for kindergarten at the time, but a Baptist mission in Bernalillo ran a kindergarten for Spanish-speaking children to prepare them for class work in English. Families in the village maintained traditional Spanish customs, especially at Christmas and New Year’s, to which the few Anglo families and children were welcome and enjoyed. The population began to change as more Anglos moved in and people began to commute; the cultural mix continued for years to grow and change and to be hospitable to newcomers. Many of the newcomers got involved in the library along with the longtime volunteers. Altogether, Elaine estimates that this first volunteer library lasted twenty-five to thirty years, while Placitas grew to include Gringo Gulch, Ranchos, the Heights, and then “exploded.”

Sometime in the mid-eighties, access to state library resources was curtailed because Placitas was not part of any town government entity eligible for state funding. The Placitas school then started its own library. The library board sold the volunteers’ temporary building to Bernalillo Public Schools. Reference books were donated to Bernalillo and Cuba libraries. Equipment and many books were sold and the volunteers voted to donate some of the remaining funds to the new EMT program being established as part of the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade. Some funds have been maintained all these years in an account at Wells Fargo, which are now being passed on to the new, and expected to be permanent, Placitas Community Library.

Elaine noted that while the new library continues the Placitas tradition of community involvement, it is also different in some ways. It is more formally organized, with plans for permanency and has to respond to more state reporting requirements as a nonprofit organization. And rather than growing out of a tight-knit community where most people already know each other, it has become a place to get involved and meet new people. Still, it continues the Placitas tradition of community volunteers rising to meet new needs.


“One-holer, two-holer...”


Historians generally try to make sure that the younger generations have a proper appreciation of their heritage, what their elders had to overcome in order to deliver the world to them in a livable state, and how much things have changed in such a short time.

However, one area that tends to be neglected by historians is the delicate issue of bodily functions and hygiene. Most folks who grew up on New Mexico farms or ranches prior to World War II, and even some after, can identify with the subject of privies. Young folks may not have had the “pleasure” of visiting a privy, although a Port-a-Potty comes close. This may be a subject to which modern, urban youngsters can’t relate; and perhaps they can’t appreciate the “indoor plumbing” that they enjoy every day.

They called it an “outhouse” or simply a “toilet.” Whether a particular facility was a “one-holer” or a “two-holer” (or more) may have been an indication of the economic status of a family or the number of people the outhouse had to serve. Even schools and churches, in addition to homes, had privies in the “olden days.”

There is a story about a rural lady who wrote to Montgomery Ward to ask about the price of toilet tissue in their mail-order catalog. They wrote back that she could find it on page 238 of their spring catalog. She wrote again, “If I had 238 pages left in my catalog, I wouldn’t need to know the price of toilet paper!” Most country people received large catalogs twice a year from both Ward’s and Sears Roebuck. Besides providing reading matter for moments of contemplation in the outhouse, the torn-out pages also served a more utilitarian function.

It should be noted that there were some indoor fixtures. In their bedchambers, rich folks had beautifully decorated ceramic “chamber pots” under their beds. The maid (or somebody) had to empty them every morning. Those less affluent used a flared-top pot usually made of enameled metal and about the size of a two-gallon bucket, with a bail for carrying it. This version of a chamber pot was commonly called a “slop jar;”both types had covers or lids. Now, if one were really poor, a non-descript one-gallon can might have to suffice. (Is that where the expression “going to the can” came from?) Then there is the whole subject of bedpans and adult potty-chairs for the sick or elderly, which is beyond the scope of this article.

Annie Laurie Snorf was a colorful and bright personality who collected folklore, history, and poetry of New Mexico and was herself a widely published author of both prose and poetry. Snorf was a part of the Roswell social scene for over six decades, from 1906-1967. One of her poems waxes nostalgic about the privy of her childhood.

Annie Laurie Snorf

Speakin’ of Privies

—Annie Laurie Snorf

I bin thinkin’ of that privy

Which Chic Sale has writ a book,

And it made me sort o’ lonely,

For I took a backward look

To the privy of my childhood

Standin’ in the garden there

And the old, familiar odors

Floatin’ on the summer air.

Seemed once more to reach my nostrils.

Law! How plainly I could see

That old weather-beaten building

Standin’ by the apple tree.

By its side the lilac bushes

Lent an air of friendliness,

And the softly tappin’ branches

Seemed a sort of a caress.

Through the backyard, past the hopvine

Where the bed of pieplant grew,

Stood the friendly door wide open;

Sort o’ seemed invitin’ you.

O, what joy to set and lissen

To the big flies buzzin’ sound,

And to look at all the pictures

That our Ma had stuck around.

Dear old privy of my childhood

With a hole to fit each one,

Standin’ in the lilac shadder

Throwed there by the settin’ sun.

Folks, I love it, that old privy,

And I love to sings its praise

And to let my memories wander

Back to dear old privy days.

So, young folks, the next time you “go,”

just remember the contributions of

those who “went” before you!





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