I found some old typed up stories labeled, “Memoirs of J.V. Gallegos” in my mom’s file cabinet. Mom, who has early dementia, couldn’t tell me much about them, but I felt very lucky to have discovered these lost stories of my grandpa, Jake V. Gallegos. It brought back some great memories of how he loved to sit around the table at the ranch tell old stories. As I read them, I felt a little closer to him by learning more about his life than just what I remembered as kid. Grandpa died in 1992, but his stories live on.
— This story is about his first job out of college. He held a variety of jobs to earn money for law school. This job was located in a very rural ranching area in northern New Mexico. The time period was probably around 1926. —
I completed high school (see image: 1925 Jacob V. Gallegos, Normal University Year book photo) and attended Normal (now known as Highlands) University in Las Vegas, New Mexico. I obtained enough college credits to be issued a teaching certificate, which qualified me to teach school for two years.
A one room school house in Campana, New Mexico was my assignment. The room was large, airy and clean. I had 30 students and taught first grade through sixth grade. My salary was $80 a month.
With cold weather approaching, I placed a call to the superintendent of the Las Vegas schools informing her that we needed coal for heating. She told me to speak with the railroad workers who carried coal on the train that went by the school. I spoke with the engineer and he agreed to park a coal car right near the school for me to get the coal, sometime he even helped me shovel the coal.
Most of my students were children of section workers. These men kept the railroad tracks repaired. They would implant by hand the wooden ties under the tracks and drive spikes on the side of the ties so the ties would remain settled under the tracks.
In order to earn extra money, I taught English to eight of the section workers who wanted to improve their English. I charged them 40¢ a lesson or $2 a week. I was earning an extra $50 a month on the side tutoring.
Four months went by and I had not received any payment for my teaching.
In order to survive those four months, I did some trapping. I received permission from nearby Trigg Ranch and the Dick White Ranch to trap coyotes and foxes. I would skin them, dry the pelts and send them to a firm in Denver, Colorado that bought them. I made $6 to $14 a pelt. The texture of the hair, age of the animal and how the fur was preserved determined the value of the pelt.
Reading the Daily Optic, a newspaper I received through the mail from Las Vegas was the only way I knew about school holidays and vacations. On one of the school breaks, I made a trip to Las Vegas, N.M. to see the superintendent. I was paid for my four months of teaching, $320!
After the end of nine months of teaching, I left for the family ranch to help my brother Edmund and train horses.