Last year, we celebrated our 50th anniversary with Friends of the Public Library Day at the Main Library and Special Collections, which was the Main Library from 1925 to 1975. Below is the schedule of events and information on the speakers—and singer—heard that day.
Talks on the architecture, history, the public and private supporters of the Albuquerque Public Library—and on the storied career of the journalist whose home became the Duke City’s first branch library.
Baldwin G. Burr
10:15-11:15 am, Auditorium, LL
Ernie Pyle was an American journalist known for his columns written as a roving correspondent both before and during World War II. He reported from Europe and the Pacific, and was killed in 1945 on the Japanese Island of Ie Shima. Ernie pioneered the “On the Road” style of narrative journalism, and journeyed around the world specializing in telling the stories of everyday folks. Ernie Pyle especially loved the southwestern United States, and lived briefly in Albuquerque, in the only house he and his wife Jerry ever owned. The house became the first branch of the Albuquerque Public Library. This presentation reviews Ernie’s career as a journalist and his role in informing those on the WWII home front about the life of the common soldier.
Baldwin Burr is the consulting historian at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts. Mr. Burr earned a B.A. degree in Art History at the University of New Mexico, and did graduate work in the History of Photography and Museum Practices at that same institution. He is the author of four books in the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing. His book, Images of America: Belen, won the 2014 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for History. His most recent book is Ernie Pyle: Tributes to America’s Best Loved Newspaper Columnist, edited with Dr. Richard Melzer.
The 50th anniversary of the Friends is a milestone in a long tradition of community support for Albuquerque’s libraries. Learn about how private citizens, philanthropic organizations and municipal officers collaborated over the years so that the Public Library always found itself Among Friends.
Eileen O’Connell is an Albuquerque native whose relationship with the Albuquerque Public Library began over 40 years ago when she attended Summer Reading programs at the San Pedro Library. She returned to the library as a staff member in 2004 after receiving her MLIS from Dominican University. She currently manages Materials Support Services but has also managed San Pedro and Special Collections libraries.
Edith Cherry, FAIA, ASLA
2:00-3:00 pm , Auditorium, LL
Albuquerque’s Special Collections and Main Libraries were built 50 years apart. How do they represent what was happening in Albuquerque in 1925 and 1975? Do they support the statement that, “Architecture is Always Social Evidence?”
Edie Cherry was educated at Rice University. After working with the Houston firm of Caudill Rowlett Scott (CRS) for seven years, she moved to Albuquerque to teach architecture at the University of New Mexico. In 1977, she and Jim See started the firm of Cherry/See Architects, now Cherry/See/Reames Architects, PC. Among many other projects, the firm was responsible for the renovation of the Main Library in 2010 and the café addition in 2016, as well as the renovation of Special Collections Library in 2012. Because of her exemplary teaching, Edie was made a Fellow of the AIA in 1994, one of fewer than 3% of AIA members so honored.
Original songs in folk, bluegrass and country blues style—songs with humor and sorrow and opinions about things.
Singer/Songwriter Jimmy Abraham
10:45 - 11:30 am
North side of Main Level, Main Library
Jimmy Abraham was born in Chicago, raised in Goodwell, in the heart of the Oklahoma Panhandle, in Austin, Texas, and in Albuquerque. Graduated from the University of New Mexico in English Lit. He and his wife, Allison, worked in the Peace Corps in Malagana de Bolivar, Colombia for two years. He went back to UNM years later for a Masters in Hispanic Literatures and taught Spanish for six years. He has had four New Song wins at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas and an honorable mention from the Woody Guthrie Festival. His songs have been covered by local bands and by those farther afield, from Seattle to Dallas.
Mrs. Frank (Marti) Riordan organized the Friends of the Public Library in 1968-69, but didn’t immediately become its president. Instead, she became program chair for the Friends’ ambitious effort to raise its profile in the community, paid for ads supporting bonds to build a new library, served a stint as president, went back on the Library Advisory Board for a second term,and managed the Friends Bookshop. She was often identified as the one to call when you needed more fliers for something or another. One of the worker bees, whose grainy black and white photo rarely made the local newspapers.
She loved books, art, music and interior design. She raised readers. One daughter became a page at the Ernie Pyle Library (and served refreshments when the new Main Library opened in 1975). Another daughter recently retired from the Health Sciences Library at the University of Arizona.
There are many volunteers who played an important role in the Friends but whose names and faces we don’t know. Marti was one volunteer—and represents a multitude.
This is the most-frequently reproduced of Ernie Pyle’s columns, which were carried in over 300 newspapers across the country. Arthur Godfrey read it aloud on his top-rated radio program and newspapers sold out the edition carrying it. When he was killed a little over a year later, President Truman and Generals Eisenhower, Marshall and Clark all praised Ernie Pyle’s wartime writing.
At the Front Lines in Italy, January 10th, 1944 . . .
In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.
Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.
“After my own father, he came next,” a sergeant told me.
“He always looked after us,” a soldier said. “He’d go to bat for us every time.”
“I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair,” another one said.
I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.
Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed to the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden packsaddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking awkwardly from the other side. bobbing up and down as the mule walked.
The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside the dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.
The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road.
I don’t know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don’t ask silly questions.
We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay in the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.
Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead men lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.
Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. “This one is Captain Waskow,” one of them said quietly.
Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don’t cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.
The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.
One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, “God damn it.” That’s all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, “God damn it to hell anyway.” He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.
Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain’s face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: “I sure am sorry, old man.”
Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said:
“I sure am sorry, sir.”
Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.
And finally he put the hand down, and then he reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.
After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.
Henry Thomas Waskow was the grandson of German immigrants who arrived in the United States soon after the Civil War and settled in Texas. One of eight children, Waskow was a voracious reader with a gift for mathematics. He earned his BA from Trinity College and planned to become a teacher. When Pyle’s columns were turned into a popular movie, “The Story of GI Joe,” the Army insisted that the character’s name be changed from Waskow to Walker.
In his last letter to his family, found on his body, he appeared to obliquely reference his grandparents’ emigration:
“Yes, I would have liked to have lived--to live and share the many blessings and good fortunes that my grandparents bestowed upon me—a fellow never had a better family than mine; but since God has willed otherwise, do not grieve too much dear ones, for life in the other world must be beautiful, and I have lived a life with that in mind all along.”
From the Scripps-Howard Foundation:
One of the Foundation’s objectives is to keep alive the legacy of Ernie Pyle and his writings. The Foundation is, in fact, the assignee of rights in various of Pyle’s columns. However, the copyright ownership of Pyle’s works is not always entirely clear (with rights in certain of Pyle’s writings held by the Foundation, by various publishers, and by various other parties). Accordingly, the Foundation hereby grants you the requested permission, but makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to its ownership of the Pyle materials in question or that it possesses the rights in the Pyle materials for which you have requested permission.
More of Ernie Pyle’s wartime columns are on a website at Indiana University, which he attended: https://sites.mediaschool.indiana.edu/erniepyle/wartime-columns/.