Frank V. Ortiz Talks About His Life Up Until 1921

Based on a recorded interview by Michael Ortiz Hill

Transcribed by Paul M. Hill and Claire Ortiz Hill

Oh, I can remember a lot of things. See, I was born over there in Cerro Gordo mountain, in town. The part where we were, where we made our home is up above there, on the other side of the river. Gregorita lived up above, and there were the Rodriguez', and the lower ones were the Gonzales, and the Luceros. There were about four or five families there in that neighborhood there. The house is still there, and the room where I was born is still there. I was trying to get a hold of it, but it'd gone way up in price. In Acequia Madre, my mother had all that land. They had all that land.

My grandfather Alfonso had a mill under the river. The river is just a little ways from there. And he used to grind all the meal and stuff like that, the corn. He had about 20 acres there. We had an orchard. We had a few trees. We had apricots and we had peaches and we had some apples and we used to dehydrate them. We used them practically all winter. And of course we raised a lot of blue corn. We had atole practically every night. That was standard. I was supposed to cool it, you know. We had a big bowl there. We had a pitcher there and we cooled it off. And then, you know, we had some goats and we got the milk from the goats. My chores were to go out and get some wood from Cerro Gordo. I know that place backwards and forwards. There was a lot of dead wood all around there and I used to just drag it down to the house, gravity.

We had a very good neighborhood there because all the neighbors, you know, would cooperate. One neighbor raised a pig, or something like that, and then when he slaughtered the thing, everyone went in and everybody'd share. And the blue corn the same way. If you had blue corn, you exchanged it for something else. We didn't have any animals outside the chickens and things like that. The burros, you know, the neighbor had the burros, and we used to go ahead and borrow them any time we would need any heavy work, dragging things and stuff like that. They were very cooperative people. We didn't have any money at all. We didn't know what it was. They formed their own cooperative. They used to take care of any problem that came up. But it was survival more than anything else.

Of course, you know, every Sunday we walked all the way from up there, from Cerro Gordo, to the church. And that is one of the things, you know, that we did have. We had a lot of religion. So that was just about the size of the place there. It's still there. It's still there.

Now, for wash day we went right down to the river. We used to take the blankets and stuff like that. We used to take the amole plant for soap. We used to take the root of the amole. It was all dried up. We had a picnic, you know, going down to the river to wash the laundry, and that was it. It was fine. We had just about everything there that we wanted there to live very comfortably. We didn't have any cars, or anything.

In 1890, three brothers died in the smallpox epidemic, Pedrito, Luisito, and I don't remember the other one. They were buried over by the PR building over there. Mother used to bring them flowers. They died of that smallpox, the viruela. It was the oldest ones that died. A lot of them, you know, were marked for life. Some of the neighbors were marked. They're all gone now. That epidemic, you know, just cleared up the whole thing. My mother lost three of them right there. I don't know how Tonita and Sofio survived. It was the oldest ones that died. But that cleaned up the whole thing right there. That was before I was born. I was born in '97.

I was the youngest one. There were the three and then, of course, there were four of us, that's seven. That's as far as I can remember anyway. As I say, we used to go out on Memorial Day. We used to go out and take flowers to them. They had a very nice place there. But, the Brothers went ahead and appropriated that property, without paying anything at all, you know. They claimed that the church didn't have anything to do with it, especially not the cemetery. But the cemetery is permanent. There's no two ways about that. You can't transfer anything there. But the bishop and all those fellows went right ahead. Well, religion had a lot to do with it.

Religion had a lot to do with it. They had the schools over here. And of course, you know, most of the schools taught religion. I went to St. Michael's over here. They used to wake us up at five o'clock in the morning. The first thing, you know, we went and washed up and went right straight to church. Right after church, we went to breakfast. Just before anything ever happened, like for instance, preparing your studies for the day, we had the Bible and we had the catechism, and everything in a religious school like that. Of course, they were all preparing us to become monks. I had a hard time getting out of it. Maybe they would have made me one after all, but I didn't like the idea at all. All those fellows around there! You take anybody who takes religion too seriously, you know, you gotta be off. You gotta be off. There's no two ways about that.

They expelled me. We'll I'll tell you one thing, as a matter of fact, I used to prepare my homework and I used to sit with a partner there. And so, just before leaving, before dismissing the class, the Brother got up and said, "Well I'm going to pick up all the homework." And he started going around. Well this fellow didn't have his homework. And I was distracted and I didn't see anything at all. And when the Brother came there, the fellow pulled the papers over to his side, see. When the Brother came over to me, he said, "Where is you homework?", I said, "You got it." The Brother said, "Don't lie to me." I said, "I am not lying to you. You just picked it up here." So the brother made a big case out of it and he said "I'm going to take you to the supervisor." Well, I guess he wanted to get rid of me all right. So they took me over there to the supervisor. Well, the supervisor said, "Have you got anything to say?" I said, "Yes, my homework is there." Well, he said, "The Brother says that you didn't. Well, I said "Somebody is lying and I'm not the one". So they pinned that on me. I had accused the Brother of being a liar. So, "Well," he said, "we just can't have you around here." I said, "That's good enough for me."

So I walked right out of there. And, my mother, you know, took me right back. And I told her, "Listen, I did my homework. It's in my own handwriting." I was being accused of falsely doing something that I had already done legitimately. And, of course, that fellow Padilla just clammed up and didn't say anything. And I kept on telling him "You bring that homework." Well, he said, "We can't dispute. The brother says you didn't. It's your word against his." My word wasn't worth a damn. So, Alcarita couldn't prevail upon him. I didn't want to take any responsibility at all.

Well, they said, "What are you going to do now?" It was just about the end of the term. So, I came over here to the high school. I think they put me in the eighth grade there. But, I was way back because I was behind in a lot of those things.

Then, just about that time, this was about 1913 or 1914, I had a friend and he said "Frank, well, everybody up in the Cerro Gordo became teachers and they give them $50 per month."

That was big money, in those days you know, and breaking away from the cooperative over there was even more. I was very independent.

So this fellow came in. I was just about fifteen or sixteen, somewhere's around in there. "You know," he said, "Frank, I taught school over there in Valencia County and it's a very good county. This county's here no good because they don't have any railroads here and they don't pay taxes. But, over there the railroad pays taxes and you get your salary every month. So," he said "there's a place up there and they call it Moquino."

You know that place there became the place for Anaconda, uranium, big sheets of all that stuff, limestone and stuff like that. And these people were sheepmen and cattlemen. That's how they managed the whole thing. And they had a place, you know, in Albuquerque. They'd come and sell their land and steers and all that. They were very substantial people. We had a lot of Navahos all around.

So, this fellow says, "Well, I'll tell you what. There's no sense for you to go to high school and things like that for three or four years more. Why don't you go into teaching? That's what I've done. You get the whole thing, but you don't get a diploma for it." I said, "I don't need one."

So I went to the Summer Institute. They used to train us all to be teachers. So they awarded me a certificate to teach around here in Santa Fe, but it was good statewide. And I went over to Moquino and, hell, I think I was about fifteen years old. I went there, you know, and all those fellows, you know, they treated me just fine. They had a lot of respect for teachers over there.

The post office was about a mile across the mountain. And there was a little lady over there. She came in late. They had the exposition in 1914. I don't remember what it was all about. But, every state, you know, contributed. I think they had it in San Diego or San Francisco. It was some kind of fair. I don't know what kind of fair it was. A lot of people went there. And this girl over here had a brewery out here by the railroad. And when she came back, you know, all these places were taken up. She went with me there over to Seboyeta. We sent over to Moquino. Well, we got along just fine. We used to go to the dances, you know. We used to go fifteen miles. We just to ride horseback to go dancing. Well, everything was just fine. The people were very nice.

I was about fifteen years old. It was in about 1913. So I must have been about 15, see. So, I taught school over there in Moquino. I got my check every month. There was no question about that. When I came back over here, I was a wealthy man.

But these people over here, especially my family, they didn't want me to go all the way up there. So, I didn't particularly care very much. I had some very good friends up there, mostly Arabs. Lebanese, you know. They had a store and had sheep and stuff like that, in Navajo country, in Valencia County. And this fellow, they all called themselves Elias, and names like that, had a big store there and he had sheep. Then the other Arab had a store and sheep too. I guess they made it with the store and sheep.

Well I'll tell you one thing, I was always very independent. I was close to my family alright, but not to that extent. I could break up with them at any time I wanted to, any time I felt like leaving. Those things never really affected me at all. Of course, they wanted to keep me here. I was the youngest of the males. The other ones were the females. So they wanted to keep me in the family as long as they could. So, I broke away from it.

And then, well, my career as a teacher, I started out, and then in 1915 or 1916, I came back to Santa Fe. Then this fellow from Rio en Medio came to Santa Fe. He was a member of the school board over here. And I told him that I had gone out there. "Oh, here," he said, "here you'll get your pay all right. We don't have any problems at all, see." So he told me I should stay over here. We went over to Rio en Medio. There were no roads then. You had to go over the mountains on horseback. I taught there in 1914 and 1915, I think.

Then from there, we used to go over to the mills over there in Nambé for grinding corn and stuff like that. There in Nambé, there was another member of the school board there and he liked me. So, he said "Come over here and we'll give you a job over here." By that time, I had graduated from another grade and was getting more. I was getting sixty or seventy dollars a month.

Then the next one, I attended a political meeting over there. I wasn't of voting age yet, but I attended a political meeting there. And this fellow was very much impressed with me. He said, "Why don't you come over here to Santa Cruz there." He said, "We have four teachers there. You would get more money." Well, I said "O. K." Santa Cruz is north of Española. It has a long history, according to these fellows over here. That church there has a longstanding history. It was one of the first ones. Anyway, that's the historical part of it.

So I went to teach there. The county school superintendent over here and I, we never got along at all. We never got along at all. She used to go up there. She used to criticized just about everything. She didn't liked me for political reasons. The whole thing was this county was controlled over by a political gang. And anybody who didn't belong to that gang was out. So, as I say, I became very independent and didn't get along at all. They treated me all right and everything else.

So I had gone to Albuquerque. There was a Business College there, Albuquerque Business College. And what I wanted to do was to get into the business end of it, rather than teaching school. So, I came over here. It was around Christmas time. It was vacation out there. And I went over with my warrant to have my check, to collect it. And, no money. "Well," I said "hell, if you can't pay me then there's no sense in my going back in there." "Oh, you have to go back", they said. I said, "No, I don't. I'm not going back there, and I want you to pay that thing". "Well", he said, "We don't have any money and you have to wait." I said, "No I'm not going to wait."

He said the taxes were coming in soon. But there were no taxes around here at all. So there was a man over there who used to buy those warrants, those checks at a discount. I think I had about eighty or ninety dollars there. So I went over there. He said "Well I'll take that check."

My brother-in-law, Callahan was over here in Santa Fe. He was a butcher. And he left and went to Albuquerque to work for a big company there. My sister Tonita was married to Juan Callahan and she was out there too.

So I asked her, I said, "Now listen. If I go there, can I have a room and a meal, just to get me off, and I'll pay you." He used to bring me meat and all that, hamburger and sausages and all stuff like that. We had plenty of meat there. And we lived right there on Third Street.

So I went there and took to it right off the bat, to that business, bookkeeping, you know, typing, and shorthand and all the commercial end of it. And in four months time, I finished all the bookkeeping, even banking. I have a picture of myself there.

So I went there and in no time flat, you know, I think in five months, I graduated. And people used to come in from different places in New Mexico and pick up the graduates. So, this fellow from Magdalena came in and they gave me a test there, and the fact, you know, that I had Spanish and English was a big asset then. He said, "Well, that's fine. Let's go." So, I went over to Magdalena as a bookkeeper. And then I came back to school there because I hadn't taken typing, I hadn't taken shorthand. So came in to take a crash course in shorthand and typing.

So while I was doing that, my other sister Lourdes married a Howland. And he was printer and they moved over to Albuquerque. So, I had two my brothers-in-law there. I was in clover then because I could shift from one to the other while I was doing that. Then my big break came in. One day a fellow came in and he wanted something typed, a big contract in the oil business there. They were no copying machines then. We had to do it all on the typewriter. So we stayed there and got out the copies for him.

Well, just about that time, the school there had a Spanish teacher there that didn't know any Spanish, but he left. He left for another job. So the principal came over and said, "Frank, can you take these classes in Spanish?" I said, "I don't know any Spanish." I hadn't taken any Spanish in school at all. "Well," he said, "but you can speak Spanish. So", he said, "why don't we try it." I said, "Fine". So that was a source of income. They had about twenty people, pupils in there that were already taking Spanish. So, I just went over and took over the classes. That was big money for me. I was living way up there.

So, this fellow Howland was a printer and he used to print all those flyers and stuff like that. So I went to teach Spanish there. I got right into it. I didn't even know the alphabet when I went in there. I learned all the things and it came very easy. This fellow Howland was very good, you know, at typing all those things in Spanish.

Well, before I knew it I went ahead and bought a Ford, a Model T. It was all stripped and we had a box in the back there. "Well," he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do." We'll print all these flyers and sales and stuff like that and we can go out and deliver it. We were delivering them in English. I told him, "Why don't we deliver them in Spanish?" I said, "Well, hell yes."

We started out delivering them in Spanish. That was big. I used to go up and down and delivered them in Spanish out to Central, Old Town, in Cerritos up here and all over. We got in my Ford, you know. It had tires with seventy pounds pressure and we had blow outs all over the place. But we could fix them right on the spot, get right down there.

Well, when I was in there, while I was doing that, I also took the commercial end of it. So I finally gave up the Spanish business. But, before I did that I went over there to see Dr. Ortega at the university and I went ahead and told him right off the bat, "I'm a schoolteacher over there, but I don't know any Spanish." He said, "Well, you speak Spanish. Well, that comes easy. Just read books." I used to consult him about things when the things became too complicated, but I had very little experience in that. But, he liked me. The fellow liked me very much.

So I went to Arizona to a lumber mill to do typing and stenographic work. As a matter of fact, over there in Holbrook, they had a courthouse. We tried case there, a murder case, very, very crude all the way through. But, I was put there taking it, taking the case. Well, I had it. I got it, the names and all that. I was a court reporter for one afternoon anyway. Well, I had a very good experience with that place over there.

And then they called me back from the school because we had a place over here in Española, Bond and Nolan, and they wanted a stenographer there. So they called me back. I came over here to Bond and Nolan and I was a bookkeeper and I used to translate all the letters for the old man because he had sheepherders and all that. I used to translate the letters into Spanish. He liked me very much, you know. Well, I worked there for about three or four months.

And just about that time, right after the war, about 1919 or 1920, somewhere around there, the United States wanted to get into the mercantile business, into commerce with South America. And, so they came over and they went to the university to get students who knew Spanish and English, you know, for foreign service. So at that time, I was over in Española and we had a one party line all the way through. And Dr. Ortega had got my phone number. So he called me. And by chance I hadn't been able to balance the damn books there. And I stayed over during the noon hour to get a balance and the phone rang. So, you couldn't hear anything at all. I just knew that it was Dr. Ortega from the university. He said, "Well, be here by Wednesday." And it was Monday then. And then another thing too, you know, the river there, the Rio Grande, had wiped out the bridge and there was no transportation. And you had to go clear up to Chamita in order to get around.

That was during the bootlegging days. I talked to the partner that I had there in the store and I said "Could you take me to Santa Fe tonight." He said "No, I can't". "Now, listen", I said, "I know a good bootlegger over there in Santa Fe, and if you take me over there, I'll buy you a gallon of White Mule." That was hard liquor, malt whiskey. They used to distill out there in the mountains. "Sure," he said, "that's fine".

So, I came. We started out about six o'clock over there, and we got here at about ten o'clock because we had to go all around, but we made it. And I took him over there and gave him a gallon of whiskey.

I stayed over with the family. I told them what the thing was. And of course, they all objected to it because they didn't want me to go.

But, I went over there to the representatives. They were the representatives of the Ingersoll Watch Company. They were trying to sell those dollar watches. So, this fellow interviewed me and said, "Well you're fine, we'll take you. We have to. In a day or two, we'll be all fixed up. Why don't you go back home and straighten out everything that you want and be here at a certain date, and we'll go." I said, "All right."

So I came back to the opposition over there at the house. They said just forget it. I went back over there to Bond and I told him, "Well, I have an opportunity to go to South America and I'm going to go. I'm quitting." "Well" he said, "We can't stop you. So, just go ahead and do it."

So I had to do the same thing to get around that thing over there because the train couldn't cross. The railroad was stuck, you know, and they had to back it up and it only worked in the daytime. After working hours there was no train at all.

Over at the house they just went ahead and locked up all my clothes and stuff like that so I couldn't go. So I just started running down Alameda St., you know, and I caught the fellow that was running a stagecoach from here to Albuquerque. I didn't have any money. I didn't have anything, but I came to over him, and I said, "Could you trust me for three dollars until we get to Albuquerque. I'll go to my brother-in-law there and I'll get the three dollars from him". And he said, "All right." So I went out to Albuquerque without any clothes. All's I had was my cap.

When I got there, to the Alvarado Hotel, I went in and reported to them. And he said, "Well, be here at six o'clock tonight. We have your fare. We have everything. So just be here at that time." I went over and saw my brother-in-law and told him what all the conditions were. He said, "That's fine. You just go ahead."

So, I got in on the train. They used to call it California Ltd or something like that. It was a luxurious train. They served meals on it. Well, they gave me a berth in there. About seven or eight o'clock, you know, they started bringing out the supper, see. Well, I didn't have any money or anything like that. I had fifty cents. I got the fifty cents from some place. I don't know where. But, anyway, I came over to the train. I had eaten a good supper before getting in the train. So I wasn't hungry then. They rang the bell and everything else, but I didn't go down.

So they gave me a berth there. And the porter came in there, you know, and took my shoes and shined them all up. I said, "You've taken on a big job here because I don't have any money at all." So the next day, we were already up there in Kansas. We traveled all night. So the fellow with me, the journeyman in the berth there, when the porter came in, he just went ahead and tipped him. I saw my shoes there shined and everything else with my name on it. So I took my fifty cents and tipped him. That was the last money I had.

So they rang the bell for breakfast and I just sat there. So this fellow who interviewed me came over and he said "Are you sick?" "No", I said, "I'm not sick." "Well, aren't you going to have breakfast? You didn't have supper last night." So I said, "Well, I tell you, I want to be frank with you, see. I'm going to have to ask you for a loan." "A loan? Oh, hell," he said. "Listen, we gave all these boys money over there. Listen, I'm to give you some money. For crying out loud throw that cap away, get some clothes when we get out at Chicago. Don't go like that because they'll turn you down."

When we got to Chicago, we went to Fields, I think, the big store there. I went there and you know I bought a hat and clothes and everything else and shoes. I was a different man all the way through. I had money then.

So, when we got into New York the next morning, you know, it was fine. They went ahead and put us up, you in the Lexington Hotel. And then, of course, then they came in and told us about the watch people and all that stuff. And they said, "We want to send you to Waterbury, Connecticut. So you can go to the factory there. You can see how the watches are made. So you can talk about all the things there." I said, "That's fine."

Well, my Spanish by that time was in pretty good shape, because I had practice reading it, talking, and all of that. I was pretty good at that. So I went over and I came back. "Well," they said, "we want you to give us a demonstration." They had a fellow there from Cuba. He said, "This man is a merchant, and we want you to sell him the watches." I said, "That's fine with me."

Of course, I didn't know all the components of a watch in Spanish. I knew the English part of it, the balance wheel and all that stuff. So, I gave him a talk on it. I said, "One of things you have to bear in mind is that this watch is almost indestructible. You can pound it in here, I said, and the watch'll keep on running."

He was very much impressed with that. He said "Well, you know, we never did ever think about those things. That is one thing that is very, very important because that was one thing, the quality of the watch." It was a cheap watch, you know, because it had a big balance. It wasn't running on jewels. He said I had a very important point there.

So they put me at the head of the list and, well, they said they would send me to Puerto Rico. I still have a picture of Puerto Rico. I had never been on a boat before.

But, by that time my folks over here, had sent in some of my money and they released all of my clothes. They sent the clothes to New York. And of course, all that stuff, you know, heck, I had to throw it away most of it. But I kept the trunk.

New York wasn't very much of a surprise for me. I got along very well. We went over to the other side of New Jersey and all those places, you know. I didn't have any trouble at all, with the taxis or anything like that. The Lexington was right next to Madison Square Gardens, and then the park down there below there.

So, I ordered a taxi to come and pick me up because the boat was leaving at seven o'clock in the morning. And I had that big trunk, you know. I hadn't taken it out there and I didn't know what to do with it. So, when the taxi driver came in, I said "Can you take this trunk?" "Oh sure", he said, "I'll pick it up." He picked it up and me as a passenger and we took that all out to Brooklyn. We went over the Brooklyn Bridge. Finally, we got to the boat there. I didn't have any problem there.

By that time, I had met the boys that were going with me. They were mostly University boys. They were from Princeton, and the other one was from up there some place in New Hampshire, or some place up there, all those universities. They were Anglos. And they had all been taught Spanish and they had been graded, you know, and had been way up in the thing there, but they couldn't converse very well, very loosely. And they were always thinking about the English part of it. So, on we went, and when we got to San Juan there, well, I didn't have any problem at all. I got along very easily with the waiters and the help there, with my Spanish you know. These other fellows had to think a lot before expressing themselves. But with me, I just rattled it right off. So, I was very popular, especially around dinner time. They used to pay for my dinners, so that they could order what they wanted. See, because when they went to order, they couldn't think fast enough for the waiter to get it. With me, I could rattle it off. So I was very popular with them.

Then, they gave us an assignment. The sugar was selling very high and they were buying those watches by the cartons. They used to have a game, you know. You know what a teja is? Well, it is a smooth rock and they play it like horseshoes. They have a hole there and they throw it and see how close they can come to it. And if you make it into the hole, you know, they count you so many points. They used to gamble among themselves for small stakes. They used the watches, you know, to throw in the hole and they didn't break. So they thought it was a wonderful thing. So we sold a lot of watches there in Puerto Rico.

So, they told there was an island, Vieques, just about 25-30 miles to the east of Puerto Rico. And, they told me to go there and see about the business, and I did. And well, there were hardly any stores around there or stuff like that, but there was a fellow that had a big sugar mill there.

So, it was around Christmas time. And of course, they don't celebrate Christmas the way we do. But they gave me the whole thing. So, I went over and talked to him. And I said, "What are you doing with the people over here? Don't you give Christmas or something like that?" He said, "No, we don't." Well, I said, "You're running a mill. Surely, the price of sugar is way up and you ought to be able to compensate these people to keep their goodwill and things like that." He said, "You know, I never thought about that. What are you selling?" I said to the fellow, "I'm selling watches." I went ahead and showed him. "These fellows don't even know how to tell time", he said. "Well," I said "but they can play with them and throw them. They don't break." So I gave him a demonstration.

He said fine. Well, he said, "I'll tell you one thing, I have this mill over here and I have another one down below there. So I think I have about 500 or 600 employees," and he said "if you can sell me 600 watches, why it would be all right." So, I said "I'll take your order." I went ahead.

So there was the agent in Puerto Rico and San Juan. When he saw that he said "My God, hey, why don't you stay around and sell the rest to these mills around here? The price of sugar is way up there and this is a good point." So I went there and sold I don't know how many watches. They would play with them instead of telling time.

Well, you know the company was very much impressed with it. So they told me to go to Panama, to go out there, and look it over, and see what they can do there. Then they said, "After that, we're going to send you to Spain." I said, "O. K." So I went over to Panama. Well, there were only two cities. They have Colon and Panama City. Well, they were all saturated, you know, with watches and stuff like that. Well, he said, "There's a place out there, David. It's a little town and it's very prosperous. And we want you to go up there and make a survey and see what you can work out." Well, I said, "O.K."

So I went over there. They had a big office up there, a Panamanian company. They had a big name on it, anyway. I thought it was going to be a big liner, you know. So, when I got up there, it was just a one horse outfit, a very small boat, there. They had some passengers in there going up to David. So I got the passage. So we started out at night, along the west coast and then into that river for David.

Of course, along the way, you know, they used to take in trade. They used to take in just about everything tradable. We came to one place there, Santiago, and they started to load cattle in a very crude way. They used to put a chain around the horns and then a wench and they'd bring them. And that's the way they unloaded them too.

So, when we got to David, it was a beautiful city. When we got there, why I asked one of the fellows, "Where's the hotel here?" They didn't have a hotel around there. So I went over to the park and I sat there. And there were no stores. There was no nothing around there. I didn't know what the hell I was going to do.

These fellows were unloading the cattle and that chain, or whatever it was, broke. And that cow just went right through the hull and made a big hole in the hull there and the boat sank.

Now, we were dead, without communication, you know. There was no way of communicating at all. They didn't have any Western Union. They didn't have any phone. They didn't have anything at all, you know. Sometimes, you know, boats ran up the river there, mostly Navy boats from the United States, but of course they wouldn't take any passengers.

So I went there. This fellow named Chase came up and said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "Well, I am supposed to be a salesman. And he said "Well, there's no hotels around here." "I don't know", I said, "I could sleep here in the park." He said "Oh no, that's all right. You can come with me. I have a place, here."

He had a saloon and he had a store. He was a patriarch there, you know. Everybody liked him around there. And one of the reasons for it was that he had quinine and he had cognac. And with those two things, you know, with the yellow fever, that's it. Anytime you get the symptoms, you take a bottle of cognac and drink.You sweat it all out and it's all gone. I went through the process two or three times.

He was a very accommodating fellow, you know. He married a Costa Rican girl and they had children. We used to have meals there.

And we used to go fishing there. And fishing was very, very simple. You don't fish with a hook, or anything like that. You fish with dynamite. You threw the dynamite in there and blow'em up, you know. Then the bellies are up there. We just went in and picked them up and threw them out. We had all the fish we wanted.

And then the iguanas. You know we could have all the iguanas there and birds and stuff like that. We used to eat the iguanas. We didn't eat any monkeys, but we ate the iguanas. Of course, with all the fish they had there, we didn't have to worry about anything at all.

And then, you know, Mr. Chase had some cattle. I had a horse and if I'd go out there into the field say "Who does that cow belong to?" They said, "Mr. Chase, that's Mr. Chase's." That Mr. Chase had everything there. So I stayed there for about three weeks. I spent Christmas there in 1920.

I was kind of worried about getting back, you know. And my company was awful worried because they did not know what the hell had been going on. I lost communications with them all the way through.

And so Mr. Chase came in. "Well," Frank," he said, "here's the thing, I'm running low on cognac. "We can't go into Panama City, but we can go to Bocas de Toro." That's the upper part of the isthmus. He said, "I'm going over there. We'll just go. Over there in Bocas de Toro you pick a boat and go on."

So we went, we went over to Bocas de Toro and took the United Fruit boat that came in. I had a letter of credit and I booked a passage to Colon. When I got to Colon, they called me from Panama City. So I road the railroad to Panama City. There, the agent told me "You're being transferred. He said, "You have to go to Spain." I said, "That's fine."

Well, he said "Before that, we want you to make a report on your trip over there". I said, "Forget it, there's no report to be made. I didn't do any business with them." I said, "Everybody's for himself there, except Mr. Chase and he's got it all locked up in cognac. So I don't think you're going to be doing anything there at all." So, I wrote a report anyway. "Well," he said, "they want you to go to Spain." "Well," I said, "That's fine".

We got on the boat there in Calamares. It was a United Fruit boat. And we went to Cuba. When we got to Cuba, why Miami was just about starting at that time, and you could see all the traffic there going on in Miami.

One of the boys that was with me said "Listen Frank, why don't you stay with me. We can get a company organized." And he said, "Look, there's Miami. That place is developing very fast. We can get in here and we'll be all right." Well, I looked over the thing. I said, "Now, wait a minute I am committed to go to Spain."

He said, "Well, I don't think the company's going to last that long." I said, "Well, I don't know, at least I'm getting a check from them. As long as I'm getting a check from them I think it's alright." "Well," he said, "do whatever you want." Well, he went ahead with a company. And he wanted me to go in. I didn't go in because I didn't know what would happen.

But, while we were in Havana, they changed the program. We stayed there about three weeks. And all these people from the United States were going down there. Babe Ruth was going right there and he had just knocked I just don't know how many home runs. Jack Dempsy had knocked out somebody out there. They were a big attraction there. And they were at the hotel there. I think they called it the Inglatierra or something like that. Anyway, it was one of the biggest hotels. It was thirty five dollars a night. Those boys were having a wonderful time.

So they told us to stay around there. They hadn't made up their minds to go to Spain or where. So they told us to stay around Havana there.

Well, we stayed around there. One afternoon, you know, Rancho Park was the one that had the horse races. And well, the boys got together and said, "Why don't we go to the races?" We said "Fine."

So we went out to the races. We sat there and looked at the horses. So one of the fellows said, "Well, there is no point in just watching the horses. Why don't we make a bet? I didn't know anything. You come from the west. You know about horses. So why don't you get a pot there with twenty dollars and you go out there make a bet so we can have some excitement." So, each one put five dollars. He said, "All right now go ahead and put your bet on it."

So I went over, you know, and all those names were strange to me, you know, South American names of horses. I didn't know anything at all. In the principal race, there was one over here they had a horse there by the name of Big Pino and he was supposed to be the winner. At the bottom of the whole thing, there was a horse by the name of Ata Boy.

I knew Ata Boy alright, but I didn't know how to pronounce the name. Of course, I had twenty dollars and I had to bet. So, I went in there and told them Ata Boy. So, he went ahead and gave me the tickets and I went up to the stands.

Well, you know, at the starting gate, this Pino was a very spirited horse. The first thing he did, he knocked off the jockey. Well, that disqualified him there. He started running without the jockey. He came in first alright, but he was disqualified. But this little horse Ata Boy, I have a picture of him. He just took an inside track and he just plugged along, and ran along, we took a picture of him, and he made it. Well, you know I think it was fifty to one.

Well, here's the thing about it, when I went there to collect, you know, I went there to the window. And this fellow started crying out. I looked at him. He had a thousand dollars there and he pushed them out.

I looked around. I thought it was for someone else because I expected twenty dollars. You know, I put twenty dollars and I was expecting another twenty. He was a very temperamental Cuban. He said, "There," he said. "Take it! Take it! Get out! Get out!"

I looked back and didn't know what to do. So I very sheepily got my hands around it. I had it stuffed it all over my pockets and down my shirt and I started walking out and looked back and I said I hope that policeman's not after me. And I saw the guard there. Oh, I thought, for crying out loud, this is going to be it.

So when I got up there where the boys were, they said, "What took you so long?" I said, "Listen, fellows", he said, "I'm in bad shape." They said, "What's the matter?" I said, "I'll you one thing, I went ahead in there and bet twenty dollars and this fellow gave me a thousand!" "Well," they said, "Why not keep it. Then I said "Well, we'll have to get out of here, that's for sure." So we all got into the jeep, the taxi and went back to the hotel. The first thing we did was go up to the room to divide it, you know.

I said, "I don't know whether we should divide this thing or not." Well, they said, "The money is here. Nobody's arrested us. We can go ahead and have a good time." But, nobody ever ventured to go out of the room, until about ten o'clock.

And at ten o'clock, I went down. You know, bartenders, they're the information. You can go to a bartender or a barber and you can get all the information you want. And, so I went over to the bartender there and ordered a drink. And I talked to him.

I said, "What about the races? Do you go to the races? He said, "Yes, you know," he said, "I wish I'd been there today because this little horse Ata Boy paid 50 to 1". I said "50 to 1. How do you do that? "Well," he said, "Do you know paramutual?" I said, "No, I don't know him at all." He said, "It's a new form of betting. He said for every dollar that you put up there you get fifty dollars. So, I said "Supposing if you put up twenty?" He said, "You'd get a thousand." I said, "Hell, we've got it here. It's legitimate all the way through."

So, they said, "Why don't we go back to the horses tomorrow?" So we went everyday, but we never hit it again. That was really something.

Well, they got the orders and instead of going to Spain, that we'd go to Mexico. And Mexico had just finished a revolution there and elected a president and they were about getting ready to recognize him, Obregón. So, well all these people from here, from New Mexico went up there to the inauguration. Governor Larrazolo went out there. But, prior to that, you know, my folks over here --we had a monk, and he had taught school over in Vegas and some of his people, you know, were Larrazolo's boys and they thought very highly of him.

When I came over here, you know, my mother insisted that I stay over here and get a job at the capitol. So, I went over to the capitol there and interviewed Larrozolo about a job and he just kicked me out of the office completely. "Hey, but this thing now," he said, "I don't want any part of it. You go ahead and leave."

Well, he lost the election here and was going out to Mexico. He was originally from Mexico and Arizona see. Well, we'd struck it pretty good there. We slept in the best hotels all the way through and we had a lot of clothes and stuff like that, you know. Nothing very cheap about it. I mean, outside the clock, the watch we were selling. Outside of that, they gave us the best of everything. Well, I was stopping at the St. Francis Hotel in Mexico City and this group went up there.

I started going up the steps there. We were on the first floor, and Larrazolo was there. And he kind of recognized me. He said, "Wait a minute, aren't you from New Mexico?" "Yes," I said, "Yes, don't you remember I went to your office three months ago to get a job and you waved me off." "Oh sure," he said, "Yea, I know all about that. "Well," he said, "I lost the election." Well, I said, "We're in the same boat then."

Well, anyway he was very glad to see me. The others didn't want to associate with him at all. He was a dead duck and that was it. So well, he said "If there's anything I can do for you, I'll be very happy. "Well," I said, "I don't know of anything."

The thing about it was that they had a customs fee there, that the weight of the custom would be the weight of the watch. And ours was a big one. It was almost prohibitive. We couldn't afford to pay the duty on it. So, that was one of the points there. And the company over there in New York had discovered oil in Tampico. They had a big thing there. They thought that they could do all right there. And Mexico was pretty good then at that time too. There had just been several revolutions up there and they were trying to get back to normal.

Oh, those revolutions didn't amount to anything at all. They shouted at each other, you know, up there in the mountains and all that. And they blew up the trains, blew out the bridges. But things were just as normal as you could expect it. As a matter of fact, you didn't even know up there they were having a revolution. The whole thing was that whoever the United States favored, that was the side that won, see, and of course they made them pay for it in one way or another.

Well, this thing, you know, came up, and the company sent two lawyers over there to Mexico to try to get that thing adjusted because they couldn't afford to pay that kind of duty on it. You know, the big heavy watch against the little watch from Switzerland, there's no comparison at all. But, you know, to get those points across it was very, very difficult. So, well, we sat there with the lawyers they sent up there.

Well, so, Larrazolo came over and he said, "You know," he said, "I'm going back to New Mexico." "Well," I said, "I may be going back with you too." "What's the matter," he said. "Well," I said, "I'll tell you one thing. You know, this duty over here. We are selling these watches for Ingersoll and they weigh five or six times more than one of those other watches there and we have to pay by weight and it's very unfair. This watch, of course, poor people can buy it, and the other watch they can't buy it at all."

He said, "Well, that's fine." He said he had an appointment with de la Huerta and de la Huerta was the Secretary of Commerce and was under their control. So, he said, "Why don't you go with me?" I said, "Fine". So I just went with him. See, he was still governor of New Mexico and his term was about to expire because of the year. But at that time he was still the governor and you know they treated you very nicely.

And, so he went in there and said, "Well, my friend over here is from New Mexico too." And he said, "You just go ahead and tell him." I told him the whole thing. "We have about four or five people who are representatives and we'd like to get a break on this thing over here."

And so he phoned the fellow there and he said "You go ahead and listen," he went ahead and told him. Well, he got that thing, you know, all the way through. And he said well, we'll just go ahead and cut that thing darn thing down. And so he did. And he said, "Well, does that satisfy you?" I said, "Sure." So I went back to the hotel, you know, and I'd said, "Is this an order or something like that?" He said "Yes. So you just come back tomorrow and this fellow'll prepare the order." So I went over and told the fellows there and the agent. I said, "You know I went over to see the department of commerce over here. I didn't go over especially for this purpose over here, but..... The tape trails off here.

 

Obituary from The New Mexican of December 4, 1992. "Local Political Leader Frank Ortiz Dies. Politically prominent Santa Fe resident Frank V. Ortiz died Tuesday of pneumonia at St. Vincent Hospital. He was 95."  

Ortiz was taken to the hospital Tuesday morning because he had been feeling ill for several days, his son, Frank Ortiz, said Thursday.

"His health was fairly good until recently", the younger Ortiz said.

His friends remember the elder Ortiz as a mentor for young Santa Feans seeking public office and a charming Nuevo Mexicano, whose pride in his home town and Spanish roots was matched by his devotion to public service and community affairs.

"He was, we would say in Spanish, a true caballero," said state Superintendent of Insurance Fabian Chavez, a former state legislator. "He was, in English, not only a gentleman, but a gentle person."

In the 1930s, Ortiz became a leader in state Democratic politics, eventually rising to the position of chairman of the state Democratic Party. He attended Democratic Party meeting until about a decade ago, when he retired and began spending much of his time at his ranch (Rancho Pancho) on the Rio en Medio north of Santa Fe.

Ortiz was elected Santa Fe County clerk and state tax commissioner under President Franklin Roosevelt.

Ortiz was a close adviser to several New Mexico governors --Clyde Tingley, John Miles, John Dempsey, Thomas Mabry and John Simms --between 1935 and 1956.

Younger, rising star politicians of the next generation, such as Chavez, looked to Ortiz for guidance. Ortiz' son, Frank, went on to become a career foreign service officer and a U. S. Ambassador.

"He would stress honesty, advising us that although we were elected Democrats, we served everybody. In that way we would be a credit to ourselves and our party."

Ortiz began his career as a teacher in Santa Cruz, and later taught in Pojoaque, Chupadero and Rio en Medio.

In the 1920s, he jumped at the chance to take a job with an international firm from the East Coast. Only his mother stood in the way.

She was deeply Catholic and conservative "and didn't want him to be with all those Protestants and strange people," his son said.

"So she hid all his clothes and shoes the night before he was to catch the train East," Frank Ortiz said. "When he got up, he couldn't find any shoes. So he got some very old ones and left. That's how he started out.

Ortiz went to work in Central America and the Caribbean for American companies in the 1920s.

He married Santa Fean Margaret Delgado Garcia in 1925.

In 1927, the unstable political conditions in Mexico forced Ortiz and his family to return to his beloved Santa Fe.

"He had a total love of Santa Fe, in particular, and New Mexico as a whole," Chavez said. "He would say we can be proud of our Spanish heritage and still be very proud of being American."

Some of the family's dearest memories of Ortiz were made at his ranch (Rancho Pancho) and orchards.

"He loved that ranch," his son said."

Frank V. Ortiz and granddaughter Claire at Rancho Pancho in October 1980