Native Writes: Elusive history


Digging through history is a complicated process, especially when the subject is one kept hidden for more than 100 years.

I admit I have lived in Alamosa most of my nearly 75 years and have a good memory, but many details are hidden, perhaps deliberately or by failure to create records by persons who knew, but figured they were unimportant.

When someone says anything one wants to know is available online, he or she must have unlimited time and a great deal of spendable income.

I can recall buildings and their uses, but finding exact history is complicated.

Not to spill the beans, but I am working on a story that will probably put Alamosa on the map – again.

I have had to debate the fate of Snippy the horse, the address of Alamosa’s first hospital and the names of its historic newspapers. These items are readily available and not what one might think.

There are also persons who will angrily debate even those “facts.”

That’s why I love old photos. They provide solid information about what was where. Sort of.

Historic buildings have disappeared or changed so much they can’t be recognized.

For example, we were sitting in St. Ives sipping drinks and talking about the building itself.

My friend declared that he was born there, while I was lucky to have been born in the “new hospital,” which stood where San Luis Valley Health now grows and thrives.

I don’t remember my birth, but I know which wing of the hospital is part of the original.

The hospital where my friend was born was just one of several and the older ones are known to history wonks like myself.

I bought him a beer and said I had to agree. The old hospital also was home to The Courier and then a stream of other businesses including the venerable “Nine Eye,” a 3.2 beer place where one could party at age 18.

St. Ives follows a long line of businesses catering to Alamosa’s need for recreation.

Those histories are easily accessed and photos are available, but the history of a building I want to research isn’t. I know where Willis School was and I know Isaac Ortega operated a recreation center there for youth in south Alamosa, but not even a foundation remains.

I don’t have a specific address, but I know it was near the old Spanish Presbyterian Church. That edifice eventually became the home of Head Start and all three of my sons went there. My friend went to the recreation center.

Like so many other persons, I would prefer to do the research in the comfort of my home or at the newspaper office, but I will spend some time in the genealogy room at the city library and the archives at Adams State University.

One photo in the history photo book produced by The Valley Courier may be of Willis School, but it was taken a decade or so after 1914 and shows just a door and about 50 students.

Just when the building disappeared or changed drastically is shrouded in mystery. I will find some names associated with it but have been asked to include my card number and personal information to access Ancestry.com’s “free trial.”

I want to see contents of some Alamosa city directories from the days when the town was still part of Conejos County.

I think there are some in the city library, but how far back do they go?

Anyway, as a history nut, I am having fun looking, but want to get the story done.

Patience is one of my virtues, but time has worn it thin.

I once told my oldest granddaughter that patience is a virtue and she wanted to know what a virtue was.

I told her it was a spiritual attribute that was needed to get into Heaven.

“I don’t need it, then,” she mused. “I’m not planning to die very soon.”

She hasn’t been digging into history, then.

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