Inside the Capitol

Sunday, December 28, 2008

12-31 Childhood Memories

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – The end of the year is a time for reflection in our family. Recently the subject of favorite childhood memories arose and I realized how fortunate I was to have so many.
One of my earliest memories was of visiting my godparents, Dr. C. Banks Austin and his wife Helen, in Lordsburg. It was the nicest house I had ever seen, with white carpet in the living room and smoked glass on the walls and ceiling of the bathroom. He could even open the garage door by rolling down his window and sticking his key in a switch beside the driveway. I vowed I was going to have one of those when I grew up.
Then there was my grandparents' house at the corner of Melendres and Hadley in Las Cruces. It had a huge back yard with pecan and fruit trees and a chicken coop where we gathered eggs every day. My grandfather got to irrigate once a week with water from the Rio Grande. I loved the engineering that went into getting the water to the right places.
My grandfather Miller was a country doctor. But he really was a farmer at heart so he never minded driving out to a farm house to tend to a sore throat and he never objected to taking a chicken or whatever the family had to trade for his services. And he never objected to me tagging along.
The two steps leading up to their front door were a favorite place. My grandmother and I sat there one August afternoon in 1945 and listened to the sirens proclaiming the end of World War II. The next summer, we sat there watching the captured German V-2 rockets being tested beyond the Organ Mountains to the east. Then their trails would get crooked as they arced over and headed to a crash landing.
As my sister and I got older, our parents began taking us on their summer trips to education conferences. instead of leaving us with our grandparents. We visited all 48 states except the Dakotas. And whenever we hit a city with a major league baseball team, my father and I would see a game. I got to see just about all the old baseball parks.
We also got to the White House on one of those trips. Rep. Clinton Anderson gave us a tour and I got to play with President Roosevelt's dog Fala. A summer later, I discovered fireflies, on a warm night in Bloomington, Indiana. I had such fun catching them and putting them in a jar and doing all those things that little boys do.
Then there was our fourth-grade Sunday School class at the Methodist Church in Deming. We met in the boiler room, where Walter Donaldson told us stories of the Bataan Death March and the hell ships that took them to the horrible prison camps in Japan. I'm sure there was always a religious moral and that it did me some good, but what I remember were the gripping war stories.
In 1948 President Harry Truman came to Deming on his famed whistlestop campaign tour of the nation. As a Boy Scout, I got to stand close to the front holding a flag as Harry railed about the "do-nothing 80th Congress" and men yelled "Give 'em hell, Harry."
My father was an avid baseball fan. We used to sit by the radio and listen to major league games. And whenever he got the opportunity in a group of people, he would recite "Casey at the Bat." My son surprised me at my father's funeral a few years ago when he performed an excellent recreation of those recitations.
When I was in high school in Silver City, few of us had cars. So Herb Toy's father let us use his grocery delivery van. There were usually at least a half-dozen of us hanging out in the back as Herb cruised around town. It was quite a social gathering place. And we didn't get into too much mischief.
One of the great pleasures of this job is having an audience for such musings. Thanks for staying to the end.
WED, 12-31-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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