A big bomb

This holiday week seems a good time to remember one of the biggest BOOM! BOOM! boo-boos in our region’s history.

The U.S. Army accidentally bombed Boise City, Oklahoma, on July 5, 1943.

The Dalhart, Texas, Army Air Base, which was about 90 miles northeast of Tucumcari, was responsible for the oops.

It’s funny today because nobody got hurt. It was kinda funny then, except to those in the B-17 who missed their training target by about 20 miles.

They dropped six shells — each containing four pounds of explosives and 90 pounds of sand — on the town square near the Cimarron County Courthouse.

The courthouse was the only thing with lights on it in the area that night … except for the target on their bombing range near Beaver River on the Texas-Oklahoma line, of course.

The first bomb crashed through the roof of a garage near the Boise City Baptist Church; the next hit the church. The others landed on the sidewalks and streets around downtown. None hit the targeted courthouse.

Norma Gene Young told the best stories about the incident.

She was the 18-year-old daughter of the Boise City newspaper owner and lived a few blocks from downtown in 1943.

The garage, she said, was part of the church parsonage. The preacher’s son had stashed some girly magazines in there and they were discovered during the cleanup after the explosion.

Another of her favorite stories she shared with Rich Tosches of The Denver Post in 2007:

“There was an oil truck pulled off the road, and the driver was checking some mechanical problem,” she said.

“He heard the plane, and he looked up and a bomb fell way too close to him and his oil truck to be funny at all.

“He jumped into his truck and drove off and said to hell with whatever was wrong with that truck. They say he never came back through this way. That was the last of that fella.”

Young died at age 85 in 2010. Her stories remain alive and well and still told in the community that has since erected a memorial to the bomb site.

One more good story comes from the late Texas Panhandle newspaper columnist Dave McReynolds, who wrote about the Boise City bombing for the Amarillo Daily News in 2000.

A Boise City resident stationed at the Dalhart base told McReynolds, “for some time following the incident there was a notice on the base bulletin board which read: ‘Remember the Alamo, Remember Pearl Harbor and for God’s sake — Remember Boise City.’”

Dec. 1

On this date …

1976: Local law officers had made two major drug busts, confiscating more than 380 pounds of marijuana.

In Clovis, three men were arrested and narcotics agents found more than 278 pounds of marijuana at a motel on East Mabry Drive.

Officials also recovered an estimated $15,000 in cash and a pistol.

The Clovis News-Journal reported it was the largest pot bust in Curry County history.

In an apparently unrelated incident, a Portales man had been arrested on the highway near Elida with 107 pounds of marijuana.

1971: Tucumcari District Attorney Vic Breen was shot to death on his way to court.

The prosecutor’s killer was a recently released mental patient who was waiting outside Breen’s home with a high-powered rifle.

Jose Rosendo Garcia was returned to a state mental hospital after the shooting. A court declared him mentally incompetent to stand trial for the slaying.

Breen had been a prosecutor 20 years. He was 54.

Nov. 30

On this date …

1976: Curry County 4-H had presented more than 200 awards during its annual banquet.

New council officers included President Jay Lynn Blackburn and Vice President Perri Hathorn.

Pam Southard was the new secretary.

1971: A cold front had moved into eastern New Mexico, bringing snow flurries in addition to below-freezing temperatures.

“Most communities in the Eastern Plains were under a thick blanket of fog today following favorable sunny weather (the day before),” the Clovis News-Journal reported.

1966: Clovis pioneer Ernest Marsh had been named chairman of the board and chief executive of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Marsh had moved with his family to Clovis in 1908, when he was a boy.

He began working for the railroad in Clovis as a clerk in 1918, the Clovis News-Journal reported.

He worked in Clovis 14 years before accepting a railroad job in Amarillo. From there, he was promoted to a position in Topeka, Kansas, and then became the railroad’s president in Chicago before the promotion to chairman of the board.

Nov. 29

On this date …

1976: Temperatures were in the single digits across the region.

Hillcrest Park Lake in Clovis was frozen, though the Clovis News-Journal warned it wasn’t strong enough to support ice skaters.

“It is strong enough to keep the fowls out and their source of food in. Most of the birds simply pecked at the ice in bewilderment,” the newspaper reported.

1971: The Clovis High School band was selling fruitcake as a fundraiser.

Other paid advertisements:

• Orchid Figurette at 516 Mitchell St. in Clovis was celebrating its second anniversary with $10 wig discounts and free body wraps.

• Lucille’s in Clovis’ Hilltop Plaza said it could “solve your figure problems.”

1966: A pedestrian struck and killed by a car west of Cannon Air Force Base may have suffered a seizure before she died, an autopsy showed.

District Attorney Morris Stagner said the autopsy showed the Wyoming woman may have been unconscious when she was struck by the car, which was driven by a Santa Rosa man.

Nov. 27

On this date …

1966: More than 150 farmers had gathered around the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service Office in Portales, anticipating signup for a “crop-adjustment” program.

Portales police said they expected “little or no trouble,” but confirmed there had been a “slight flare-up” between those camped on the grounds and “late-comers” who said they had been unable to leave the work at their farms to participate in the signup.

The campers arrived amid rumors there would be more applications than funds available for the program.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Montoya told farmers that effort would be made to provide “more money” if qualified applications exceeded funds available.

About 300 farmers showed up to apply for the federal subsidy program the next day and no problems were reported.

1961: Phillips House of Music at 219 Main in Clovis advertised Wurlitzer pianos, Hammond organs, band instruments and record players.

Promotions include no down payment and no payment due until February.

1956: The White House Christmas tree was scheduled to make a stop in Clovis prior to heading east, Santa Fe Railway officials said.

The 65-foot spruce cut in the Lincoln National Forest was slated to be shipped via two flat cars.

The tree would be on the cars “considerably west” of the passenger depot, officials said, before being loaded onto a different freight train sometime during the night.

Nov. 26

On this date …

1976: Community Christmas lights were turned on for the first time of the season in Clovis.

The lights, from Second to Seventh streets along Main Street, were paid for by private donations and individuals.

“As more money is raised, more decorations will be added,” the Clovis News-Journal reported.

1976: Funeral services were being planned for Clovis pioneer Emma Reed who had died at a local nursing home.

She was 102.

Reed, born in Illinois, came to Clovis in 1909.

She was a lifetime member of the Clovis Woman’s Club and the first superintendent of St. James Episcopal Church.

She is buried in Mission Garden of Memories.

1971: Authorities were searching for a daring hijacker who parachuted into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest with $200,000 in ransom money.

The unidentified man — who became known as D. B. Cooper, which was probably not his real name — hijacked a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 on a flight from Portland to Seattle.

After the plane landed in Seattle, Cooper received the ransom and four parachutes and allowed the plane’s 36 passengers to disembark. The plane then headed toward Reno, Nevada, but Cooper jumped out before it landed.

Neither the man nor the ransom money has been seen since.

Nov. 25

On this date …

1976: Deanna Williams, 5, whose grandfather lived on a farm west of Cannon Air Force Base, was featured with a pet turkey on the front page of the Clovis News-Journal.

The photo caption said Deanna and her siblings had named the turkey Tom and were adamant that Tom would not be featured at the family’s Thanksgiving meal.

1976: Herman Franks had been named manager of the Chicago Cubs.

Franks, 63, was the oldest manager in the Major Leagues.

He succeeded Jim Marshall, who was fired after a 75-87 season, finishing fourth in the National League East.

The Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908 and had not played in a World Series since 1945.

1966: The Worley Mills feed plant in Portales had sustained more than $200,000 in damages in a Thanksgiving Day fire.

Dick Worley said losses at the elevator included $100,000 worth of new equipment that had been installed just two months earlier.

Volunteer firefighters from Portales, Clovis and Dora “left their Thanksgiving dinners to battle the blaze, which at its height shot flames more than 200 feet into the air,” the Clovis News-Journal reported.

There were no injuries.

A week after the blaze, officials had still not determined its cause.

Nov. 24

On this date …

1976: Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Franklin were going to be without a kitchen for Thanksgiving.

A fire, likely caused by a malfunctioning water heater, resulted in about $8,000 worth of damage to their home east of Melrose.

No one was home when the fire began. Mrs. Franklin was returning home about 2 p.m., found the kitchen ablaze, and drove into Melrose to notify the fire department.

Seven volunteers battled the fire for about 90 minutes before it was contained.

Fire Chief Don Hightower said the entire house sustained smoke and water damage.

1971: Clovis’ Cameo Elementary School had been formally dedicated in a ceremony led by Superintendent Vernon Mills and school board President Billy N. Williams.

Sixth-grader Jennifer Evertsen received a symbolic key from teacher Danny Burnett.

Construction costs totaled $729,343 and the building would accommodate 500 students, the Clovis News-Journal reported.

1966: White’s was advertising children’s Christmas gifts at “money-saving prices.”

Suggestions included a 17-piece tea set for 66 cents, a 16-inch sidewalk bike for $29, a doll carriage for $2.33, a junior holster set for 73 cents and a Daisy air rifle for $4.44.

Nov. 23

On this date …

1976: Local law enforcement and the Distributive Education Department at Clovis High School hosted a seminar on ways to prevent shoplifting.

Prosecutor Albert Chavez, Juvenile Probation Officer Jim Osborne and Clovis Police Officer Joe Thomas fielded questions from business owners about laws and offered tips on ways to spot and detain a shoplifter.

1951: An oil well near the New Mexico state line, west of Bledsoe, Texas, was producing 18 barrels an hour, officials said.

Shell Oil company was drilling other wells in the vicinity, including at least one in Roosevelt County.

1941: Two Oklahoma men had been charged with stealing from Curry County farmers.

One farmer reported gas had been stolen, while a farmer near St. Vrain told authorities someone stole tires off of a combine.

Deputy Sheriff Val Baumgart said he used footprints and automobile tire tracks to identify the suspects.

Nov. 22

On this date …

1971: A 21-year-old man, in court to plead guilty to a burglary in Melrose, escaped from deputies and avoided capture for the next three hours.

Charles Malott was found hiding under a large wicker basket in a shed behind a home at 1012 Sheldon St. in Clovis.

The homeowner said she noticed something was not right when she saw the basket where her cat slept had been turned upside down.

1961: Bill Smith, the manager of Clovis’ Sears & Roebuck store, was scheduled to present a program at Melrose schools: “Dangers of Communism.”

The program was slated to include a film: “Communism on the Map.”

1961: Clovis’ Gold Lantern Lounge had announced plans to open at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Its Speck’s Package Store would be open all day for holiday customers’ convenience.