Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Town That Lives in Memory for Sale ; Good Morning

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Town That Lives in Memory for Sale ; Good Morning

Article excerpt

If I had a million dollars, or if I knew where I could borrow that amount at a relaxed rate of interest, I believe I would go out to New Mexico and buy myself a town - a very special kind of town where Christmas, once upon a time, was a most sacred time indeed, and endlessly impressive. The town is Madrid - pronounced MAD-rid, unlike its ancient ancestor in Spain - and it is for sale at the stated price, complete with an art gallery and an old Model T truck rusting in the mountain air.

In its heyday - in the era of the coal burners of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and the early days of Los Alamos in its mountain aerie - Madrid was a bustling, prosperous coal town, and 10 million tons of the black diamonds were mined from the Yortaz range.

But the railroad went to diesels, and Los Alamos began using natural gas; the very reason for Madrid's existence vanished, and it became a ghost town, only the restless winds roaming the streets where once miners had roistered by the thousands, blandly confident of a million paydays to come.

It became a lonely derelict caught on the slopes of the mountains, abandoned by all save a few old-timers for whom living there had become a habit they did not choose to break.

Now it is for sale, and the buyer takes all - church, schools, restaurant, boardinghouse, 240 bungalows wrapped in dinginess and two coal burning locomotives, long silenced and still.

The memories, however, are not negotiable, and sadness must be heavy in many hearts, for the lights of Christmastime that once outlined the mountains have dimmed and gone out, possibly forever.

For it was not on coal that Madrid's fame rested, you see; it was on Christmas. They figure that 100,000 visitors came there each December, in years gone by, to see the beauty of the season.

Altogether, up and down those blurred slopes at nighttime, 40,000 colored bulbs spotlighted Mary and Joseph leaving Nazareth, shepherds tending their flocks, the birth of the Child and other traditional yuletide scenes. …

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