Juanita Davis Putnam
In the late 1930s, some Roosevelt County women stayed home cooking, sewing and canning. But Juanita Putnam didn’t, as she was fast becoming a career woman who in her prime worked for various government agencies.
“My Aunt Juanita was ahead of her time,” Putnam’s niece, Sandi Bergman, said. “She was a career woman when most women believed they should be at home. She is my mentor and an inspiration to our entire family.”
Putnam, 85, moved to Portales in December 1931 with her parents, S.J. and Clara Davis, when she was 13 years old. She graduated from Portales High School in 1935 and was among the first classes to wind the traditional PHS Maypole.
After graduation, she married John Putnam, a local farmer. When World War II began, she went to work for the government in a sewing room.
When a U.S. Defense Department office was set up in Portales, she went to work as a secretary.
“I was the only one who knew shorthand and could type,” she said. “My boss, Floyd Kennedy (former Portales mayor and state representative), paid me $15 a week,” she laughed. “I thought that was big money.”
Putnam’s father opened Davis Pump Company in 1935, and he eventually talked her into coming to work for him. When farmers came to the Pump Company, Putnam said they were skeptical as to whether a women could figure the cost of drilling a water well, let alone figure the size of the pump or casing needed to pump a specified amount of water.
Bergman said her aunt enjoyed neighborhood children who came to buy soda pop and candy, and the dozens of people who bought gasoline and oil everyday.
“She often baby sat my brother and me,” Bergman said.
At 47 and still working, Putnam enrolled at Eastern New Mexico University, eventually earning a degree business and accounting.
Her husband died in 1965, and with the death of her father in 1969, her mother closed the Pump Company.
She was hired as an accountant in the business office at ENMU and worked there for roughly six years before going to work at Allen Machinery. She retired at the age of 67.
“Juanita is a strong Christian who well exemplifies true pioneer spirit,” Bergman said. “She could well be described as an icon. Her life has been filled with great challenges and hardships, but with joy and a rare enthusiasm for life.
“She loves her family. She’s a bit old-fashioned, and she always wants to feed (the people who visit her). She’s a wonderful storyteller with an amazing memory of early Roosevelt County,” Bergman concluded.
Asked why she loved Roosevelt County so much, Putnam quickly answered: “It doesn’t matter where I go, I am always so glad to get back. The people are so nice. We have good people here.”