Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

  Around Town

Thunderbird poster

A “Homegrown” poster for a local band appearing at the Thunderbird in 1970-73; flyer by Lenore Schwartz Goodell, 1971.

Placitas History Project: Catching up

—Bob Gajkowski

It’s time for an update on some of the investigations the Placitas History Project (PHP) has undertaken recently.

The Bells of Placitas

Recently, Bruce MacLauchlan and Bill Stevenson of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in the Village invited the history project to inspect the bell that hangs in the church’s bell tower. Both men have had a long-running fascination with their bell. They have traced its origins back to the C.S. Bell & Company, Hillsboro, Ohio in 1892. (This is the same foundry that created the original school bell now hanging at the Placitas Elementary School.) The 294-pound steel alloy gem is believed to have come to the church from the mission at San Felipe Pueblo. Bruce and Bill have removed the bell from the tower so new support beams can be installed. Most recently, it could be seen sitting on the parapet of the church, facing Paseo de San Antonio. The plan is to lower it to ground level, where the community can inspect it close up and perhaps even have an opportunity to ring it. Bruce plans to write a full history of the church bell.

The history project continues to investigate the bell at San Antonio Catholic Mission in the Village, which early photographs indicate is a type different than the Las Placitas bell. It is quite similar to the bells hanging at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Bernalillo. Further information will have to wait until we get the ladders out and climb the towers of both churches.

Medicine Ball Caravan

In his book We Have Come for Your Daughters: What Went Down on the Medicine Ball Caravan (Morrow, 1972), author John Grissim, Jr. includes a full chapter entitled “B.B. King in Placitas?” on our “little Woodstock.” He writes about the planning, the thundershowers and mud, the local musical group the Blessed Brotherhood and the West Coast group called the Rhinoceros, the helicopter, and, of course, B.B. King. In response to a recent Signpost article, several “Caravan” attendees have called to share their memories of that day in 1970. A special memory seems to be the “beautiful orange, luminescent sky.” This and other memories will be added to the history archives at the library.

The Thunderbird Saloon

The Thunderbird was prominently featured in the “Placitas in the ‘60s and ’70s” photo exhibit at the library. Additional photographs of the Thunderbird, as well as copies of playbills for such well-known entertainers of the day as Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker, Asleep at the Wheel, and many others, have surfaced. These will be part of a future library exhibition.

Many library patrons have asked if copies of the map to the locations of the Placitas communes might be available. Maps are now available at the library, and photos from the ‘60s and ‘70s exhibit will be displayed in the library on a rotating basis. Ask the volunteers at the circulation desk for the maps and to review exhibit photos.

What’s Coming Up… 

  • Work on the Historical Aerial Survey to identify and catalog significant sites in the greater Placitas area continues. If you are interested in working on this phase of the history project, please use the phone or Web site contacts below.
  • The history project is considering a program to record oral histories of Placitas residents to be included in the archives at the library.  
  • The history project continues its research into what drew/draws artists in all media to this community. Watch for articles in the Signpost  by Jon and Nancy Couch on the growth of the Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale.
  • Just last month, you probably noticed the movie trucks at the library and the Hacienda de Placitas. They were filming the cable TV show, Breaking Bad. Movies have long been filmed in Placitas. In 1978, Convoy with Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw spent some time filming under the direction of Sam Peckinpah. Many Placitans worked as extras in the film. The history project would like to identify more productions filmed in Placitas and perhaps have them available at the library. Contact the history project if you know of any movies set in Placitas.

Thanks to the Las Placitas Association for sponsoring geologist Dirk Van Hart’s “Sandia Mountains’ Broken Nose” lecture in April. Van Hart’s down-to-earth manner and slide presentation, along with his guided hike to actually experience our area’s geologic makeup was great! Hopefully, he will come back again for a refresher and to meet those who missed the April outing.

Finally, the history project would like to mark the passing last month of Nick Baldonado, a good friend of the PHP. It was through Nick’s interest in a picture entitled “Winter-time in Placitas” that had been in his family for many years that the history project learned about artist Novella Harrison King, one of the many artists who have utilized our community as the subject of their work. Nick freely and generously gave of his time to explore the Village and recall his boyhood days there. His enthusiasm and good nature will be missed. 

The next meeting of the Placitas History Project will be on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the library’s Collin Room. Please contact the history project at (505) 771-0253 or if you have information on Placitas history or would like to be involved with the history project.

Old traditional revival

—Joan Fenicle

All across New Mexico, acequia parciantes and helpers are performing the annual cleaning, or sacando, of the acequias. Once the acequias are clear and running, it is time to bring in a higher authority to make things right in the world. This is done, usually in mid-May, by gathering and blessing the acequia and its waters.

Many of our traditions and celebrations have been abandoned in Placitas. The acequia parciantes have met and decided that the tradition of the blessing of the acequias and waters should be restored in order to help bring the community together to recognize that “El aqua es vida“ is an essential value among us.

Our three acequias are now recognized by Sandoval County as important community cultural resources that should be honored and preserved, through the recently adopted zoning ordinances for Placitas. But Sandoval County is not a high enough authority to really make things whole, which we must provide ourselves.

This year, the Blessings will be held on Saturday, May 14, at 1 p.m. at the Del Oso Reservoir of the Village acequias. This is located a bit up Camino del Oso, which is off Paseo de San Antonio. There will be Blessings (Catholic and Protestant), a mingling of the waters, music, and a dedication to the late mayordomo James Gonzalez. Then there will be a community potluck at the Catholic Social Center behind the San Antonio Catholic Mission following the ceremonies. Bring a lawn chair and dish to share. The social center will be open from 12:30 p.m., so you can drop your dish off beforehand.

Please join our community and us in bringing back this meaningful custom.

Las Placitas Association hosts community preparedness forum

—Las Placitas Association

Maybe you would like to know:

  • Whom do I call when natural gas suddenly stops coming to my heaters and stove on a bitter winter day?
  • Whom do I call when I see smoke billowing from my own or my neighbor’s house?
  • Which communication network will still work for me when the Internet and telephone are down?
  • Is there a designated shelter for me in case I must leave my home during a disaster?
  • How much food and water should I have on hand as a precaution in the event of a disaster of some kind?
  • Will a fire break on Sandia Mountain upslope of the Village stop the downward movement of a major forest fire?
  • Is NM 165 the only route available for getting into and out of Placitas?

These questions and more will be addressed at Las Placitas Association’s Placitas Community Preparedness Forum on Saturday, May 7, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the Placitas Community/Senior Center (41 Camino de Las Huertas). A $5 donation is suggested for attendees.

Invited presenters will include the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Forest Service—Sandia District, the Placitas Volunteer Fire Department, the Sandoval County Extension Service, Sandoval County Emergency Management Communications, the Sandoval County Fire Department, Sandia Vista Amateur Radio Club, and Sandoval County Amateur Radio Emergency Services.

Do you plan to attend on May 7? Please RSVP to Cosmos at (505) 217-9384 or

Las Placitas Association promotes educational activities to ensure that Placitas retains its quality of life. (This announcement is solely information and not an endorsement of a particular good or service.)

Placitas Flea Market begins May 14

After many years of managing the monthly Placitas Flea Market at the Merc, Placitas Elementary School has passed the torch to the Placitas Community Library. The library is delighted to have another venue to generate operating funds.

Bruce Price, Judy Labovitz, and Pat McCarty have taken on management of the new, twice monthly flea market with arts and crafts. Many vendors and shoppers have requested a more frequent schedule, so we are doubling the number of markets each season.

The market will be held on the second and fourth Saturdays (Sunday if it rains—we can only hope) of each month in the fields west of the Merc from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Markets will begin May 14 and run through October 22. Space fee is still $10, and we now offer optional tents and tables for an additional $10 each.

For more information, please call Liz at (505) 771-8375 or PJ at (505) 771-1143.

So, skip that yard sale, set up at the community flea market, and spend the day with your friends and neighbors.




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