I have been busy lately working on a novel with Jane Yolen, taking care of my mother whose medical issues have taken another troubling turn (requiring endless appointments), and finishing the task of sorting through the 600 images and articles sent to me by Pinky Werner, granddaughter of Oscar Huber, owner and superintendent of the Madrid Coal Mine in Madrid, New Mexico. Throughout the 1920s, 30s and up to 1941, Madrid was famous for its spectacular Christmas Light Show, created by a collaboration of the miners and their families, artists (including my grandfather, Pierre Ménager), and Oscar Huber who paid for a good deal of it. During the height of its popularity 15,000 people a day visited the life sized (and some very out-sized!) diorama, the reproduced landscapes of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the Sphinx and Pyramids, Nativity Scenes, all brilliantly lit up with thousands of lights. And yes! I have a few hundred pictures of the many displays...but you will have to wait until the fall for those, as it doesn't seem right to post them out of season.
But after looking at the other three hundred photos, I've come to learn that Madrid was quite an amazing little town, even beyond its Christmas spectacular. Yes, it was a company town, almost everything in the town was operated and built by Oscar Huber. But Huber seems to have been the kind of entrepreneur who understood and appreciated the value of his workers and their families, and the town -- even through the worst of the depression -- had much to recommend it. There was electricity in every home, a school up to grade 8 that every miner's child attended (and in the 30s the WPA built the high school), free dances on Saturday night in the summer on main street (and in the Amusement Hall during the winter months), a hotel, a library, and a movie theatre.
And there was baseball! There was a huge baseball field (attending the games was free) and it was the first field in New Mexico to have electric lights for night games. The team, the Madrid Miners, boasted of semi-pro and pro-players. And so I thought, in this era of expensive and overpriced sport centers, overpriced tickets, over-priced comestibles, and overly-doped up players -- it might be worth it to remember (and to see) how the game was really played in a small, tight community from 1927 to 1936. You can check out all the photos on the right hand column. (And click on these photos to see slightly larger versions of the photos.)
And I have had some emails from folks whose relatives lived, worked, and played on Madrid's baseball team at this time. Wherever possible, I will try to include the names of the players that appear on some of the photos (just give me a little time to fill them in). Hopefully, some of you will find a familiar face here.
And to support the team, there were shows and benefits performed by the students of Madrid (though some of these names could also be of the parents). Here's a program that lists the offerings from Patsy Quinn's "Juvenile Follies" of August, 1936.
Also, please bear with me as I go through the photos once again and provide captions and dates...might take a day or two...