By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
A century of history and memories came to life in Elida as residents gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the community’s founding over the weekend.
On Saturday, Elida School graduates, along with family and community members gathered in the high school gym to share memories, rekindle friendships and reminisce of times past.
With the exception of two years in the Navy, Elida resident Joe Smith has lived in the area for 83 years. As a youngster growing up, Smith and his family only visited Elida once a month for supplies due to the distance they lived out of town. Smith remembers that a well was located at the northeast corner of the square that had an overhead (tank) and a water tub for horses, he said.
“I’ve seen it where you couldn’t find a parking place on the square,” Smith said of earlier days in Elida.
Many of the residents interviewed for the story shared the same sentiment about the town at one time bustling with activity.
Maxine Smith, Joe’s wife also remembers Saturdays being a time for families to come to town and spend the day.
“You went to town to visit,” Maxine Smith said.
She credits the decline of Elida and other places of similar populations to the downsizing of families. In her childhood, families had several children, while nowadays that number has decreased, she said.
“It’s like everyplace, it’s changed,” she said.
Though he hasn’t resided in Elida since 1950, Darwin Easter still has family in the area and returned to visit during the celebration. At one time his family owned a garage and gas station where the Allsup’s store now sits, he said.
“It’s changed so much, growing up, it was wonderful,” Easter said.
Easter shared that during the time he lived in Elida, that he would travel with friends to Red Lake, which is located east of Elida, and swim in the area when it rained. He also learned to drive a tractor around the age of 6 or 7. He also remembers the drought of 1947 having a big impact on the area, he said.
“That’s when a lot of people moved out of here. 1947 and 1948 were tough,” Easter said.
“Saturday was the big day,” Tressie Armitage Outland said of earlier days in Elida.
Outland remembers that when her family would visit town, her mother would buy $5 worth of groceries for the week and that she and each of her siblings were given a nickel each to spend, she said.
Elida native Evelyn McCabe Cater told of the theater that used to be in Elida and of the dances that used to be held every Saturday night at the town square.
“It was someplace for us to go and we had a big time,” she said.
Her friend and fellow class of 1940 graduate Geraldine Lauderback Offutt remembered the community baseball games that would take place on Sunday afternoons. Though she now lives in Clovis, Offutt still owns property in the area, she said.
“It’s still on the map. There’s still lot’s of good people here. They’ve kept the community going,” Offutt said of what Elida is today.
Offutt’s younger brother Armon Lauderback also remembered the dances that were held on the square, adding that it was an opportunity for the teenagers to have something to participate in and do on Saturday nights., he said.
“Everybody pretty well knew everybody so you had to stay out of trouble. You’re parents would know it before you got home,” Lauderback said.
Iola Richardson has lived her entire life in Roosevelt County and was raised on a farm and ranch. During her school years, Richardson rode the bus to school 25 miles each way. Two days after she graduated from high school, she was married, she said.
“It was a good community then and still is,” Richardson said.
Sharing the same bus with Richardson is Elida native Roy Moore. Though he now lives in Las Cruces, Moore is impressed by the wind generators that are now on the west mesa and the fact that much of the farmland has been returned to land for grazing, he said.
“Even though there is fewer people here, there is a lot more prosperity than when I was growing up,” Moore said.
“There’s lots of good people in this community. This community is great people, old country people,” Joe Smith said.