CHILDREN OF THE NORMAL SCHOOL
60 Years in El Rito, New Mexico, 1906-1969
Before memory of the high school that was once at El Rito dims beyond recognition, I offer you in this very brief book with some recollection of the Spanish American Normal School. This is part memoir and, more often, oral history obtained from a few dozen people. I am not a historian, but I have great appreciation for the art of the historian, and I can tell you, first, that official records of the early days of the school are sparse, and information about the students who attended the school is almost nonexistent.
I was a student at the Normal School in the mid-1950s, and I am fortunate to have lived more than a dozen years on the campus at El Rito as president of one of its successor schools, Northern New Mexico Community College. As a result of my long association with the school, I have met many, many of its people: students, teachers, and staff. A consequence of having made dozens of acquaintances and friendships, in this instance, is that these very same people have availed me of the information that I needed to construct this narrative.
Now, the notes of explanation that I owe you the reader.
In the selection of the name for this book, Children of the Normal School, I am using the definition of a child that is used by the United Nations, which is, anyone under the age of eighteen. It happened also that many of the students who came to the Normal School, both day students who walked to the campus and those of us who boarded at the school, came as small boys and girls.
I say the Normal School over and over again, because it’s useful. The original campus at El Rito has been called by several names: Spanish American Normal School, until about 1948; Northern New Mexico Normal School for a brief period, until 1956; Northern New Mexico State School, on and off, until 1969; and Northern New Mexico College, for a brief period in the 1960s. After it ceased to be a high school, there came the New Mexico Technical Vocational School, to about 1977, then Northern New Mexico Community College. The campus is presently a part of Northern New Mexico College, once again. Well, you see the picture.
The use of scattered records that I collected merely provided me with names and dates, which any person examining them would not find very interesting. In an isolated case, one might see a recognizable name, and be done with that. This made it incumbent for me to seek out as many individuals, Children of the Normal School and a few others, who might be able to provide recollection that, in whole, described the flavor of the times of the Normal School.
There will be some former students who will wonder why I did not contact them in the way that I did other Children of the Normal School, for purposes of this book. In a word, I wish that I could have spoken with every living former student, but, of course, it is impractical to try. My fondest hope is that I was able to capture what readers would wish for me to then successfully convey about the old school.
With regard to style, in addition to the mix of memoir and story, with its proper references, what you will notice immediately is my use of diacritical marks where needed in Spanish words and names. I hope that readers with names that require an accent, Chávez, Fernández, Gómez, Gonzáles, López, Martínez, Sánchez, and so on, like seeing their names written this way. I hope that the Nuñezes and the Peñas do, too. The newly found ability is not mine, it’s technology’s. There may have been special editions of the old Underwood, Royal, and IBM Selectric typewriters that would provide accents and tildes when we were growing up in New Mexico, but the ordinary ones that I saw did not. Word processing is one of the blessings of modern times, as you have heard many times.
I would suggest that readers take at least a brief look at the Appendices. The lists, although not yet complete, are the largest grouping of names and dates of students who attended the Normal School of which I am aware.
I am indebted to those individuals who would interview with me as I prepared to write. Their names are listed also.
Special thanks are due individuals with Notre Dame University and Regis College, who are listed in the interviews section, also.
In the text, I listed a few references that were of use to me as I proceeded to construct the narrative for our book. A list of those references is provided at the conclusion of the book.