By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
MELROSE — Main Street doesn’t bustle the way it once did, but a longtime resident of this farming and railroad community of 375 homes said it’s as intimate today as it’s been for probably the last century.
Mary Lois Bright, 76, has lived her whole life in Melrose, which is 30 miles west of Clovis. She’s married to a former mayor of the town, Grady Bright, who served in the 1970s.
Saturdays on Main Street were once lined with cars, she said. There used to be a movie theater and grocery stores — a convenience store is all that remains today, Bright said.
“When I was a teen we’d drive to Main Street on Saturday nights. There were so many cars parked on Main, we’d have to wait and wait. Now I never see that,” Bright said.
Originally named Brownhorn after two of the area’s first ranchers, the village was renamed Melrose in 1906 at the request of Santa Fe railway workers, according to the Curry County High Plains Historical Foundation.
One hundred years ago, the first post office and school were erected with the new name, along with the town’s first roundhouse, a building for repairing locomotives, according to the historical foundation.
Now with Cannon Air Force Base and the Melrose bombing range nearby, a new component of the local economy exists, aside from farming and ranching, said Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., at the annual Melrose Chamber of Commerce banquet Monday night.
“I’m committed to finding a mission for the base and the Melrose bombing range … Melrose and the bombing range will be part of the future,” Richardson said.
The Melrose chamber is composed of 38 business members (not all local) including restaurants, utility companies, automotive companies, supermarkets, accounting firms, banks and school bus companies, to name a few, according to a handout from the event.
For as long as Bright remembers, Melrose has been a tight community, where people know their neighbors and help each other through tough times.
Even Melrose’s most famous citizens didn’t leave home far behind.
Animator William Hanna of Hanna-Barbera productions was from Melrose, and visited before he died in 2001. “One year at Old Timer’s Day, he (Hanna) was here and he autographed something for my mom,” Bright said.
Richardson said he was impressed by the closeness of the community when he visited Melrose for an Old Timer’s Day celebration.
“It was the hottest day I’ve ever been in, anywhere … I had a big steak … Melrose is a warm community,” he said.
Though the Melrose school building changed as time passed, one teacher remained for almost 50 years.
Bright’s father was taught by the same Melrose teacher who taught her and her son, she said.
Once based in a Presbyterian church in 1906, today’s elementary, middle and high school building holds almost 260 Melrose students, according to www.city-data.com.
The Melrose Chamber of Commerce helped celebrate the community’s 100th birthday on Monday by granting awards to six Melrose citizens, public servants, committees and businesses. Here’s a listing of the awards handed out at Melrose school:
• Special recognition — Melrose Park Committee
• Outstanding business of the year — Melrose Fruit Market
• Rotary citizen of the year — Twyla Wade
• Chamber workhorse award — Twyla Wade
• Firefighter of the year — Jeremy Burnett
• EMT of the year — Randy Lesly