Aztec's Founders Day activities focus on 1950s

Noel Lyn Smith

AZTEC — Farmington resident Kaye Rassam and her daughter, Sharon Howlee, attended Founders Day at the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village today to take a step back in time.

Sylvia Paul, right, greets Abe Chavez, center, and Patsy Chavez, her cousin, during Founders Day on Saturday at the Aztec Museum & Pioneer Village. The Chavezes were named Pioneers of the Year at the event.

The event marked its 34th year by celebrating the 1950s, which is the decade Rassam when graduated from Santa Fe High School.

"I wanted to come here because I'm a '53 graduate, and I figured there would be stuff to see, and she's a child of the 1950s," Rassam said.

Howlee, who kept teasing her mom about searching for a poodle skirt, said she enjoyed looking at the museum's collection of optometry items.

"It brings you back, about how far we've come medically. …We saw a pair of glasses, the receipt (showed) three dollars," Howlee said.

Cindy McMinn traveled from Grants to watch her grandson’s soccer game then decided to attend the event with her family.

Leonard Trujillo talks with a friend during Founders Day on Saturday at the Aztec Museum & Pioneer Village.

As she examined objects such as a pressure cooker and teletype machine, she shared her memories with her daughter.

"I love all this kind of stuff. It reminds me of being little and my grandparents," McMinn said after looking at one of the display cases.

Founders Day activities included honoring individuals for their contributions to the community.

Abe and Patsy Chavez were named Pioneers of the Year for operating their business — Abe's Motel & Fly Shop — in Navajo Dam since 1958.

"It was one of the greatest honors given to us. When we started that little business, we didn’t dream it would last 58 years. We kept adding and growing and meeting such wonderful people,” Patsy said.

"I think it's very nice," Abe said about the award during a break from receiving messages of congratulations from friends and family.

Members of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 325 and Cub Scouts Pack 325 were serving lemonade and Fritos chili pie during Founders Day on Saturday at the Aztec Museum & Pioneer Village. From left are Colby Smith, 9; Barrett Smith, 12; Jacob Costen, 9; and Zachary Shaw, 9.

The honor included the couple leading a parade on Main Street while riding in a 1950 Studebaker Champion.

The Chavezes are now retired but continue to help the business, which is managed by one of their sons, Tim Chavez, and his wife, Andrea, as well as grandchildren, Sarah Chavez and Timmy Maes.

"We still advise and help. You never get done with it," Patsy said.

During the award presentation, Tim Chavez shared some information about his parents.

He said his father was 23 years old and his mother was 20 years old when they started the business after moving from Farmington to Navajo Dam with two children, no money and no business experience.

"Only the willingness to work hard and try to achieve the American dream," Tim said.

Curtis and Sybil Brown brought their 1957 Hudson Hornet to show on Founders Day on Saturday at the Aztec Museum & Pioneer Village.

The museum also honored Larry Holland as Volunteer of the Year.

Jimmy Miller, president of the Aztec Museum Association, said Holland is dedicated to his work and always has a smile.

Holland, an Aztec resident who started volunteering in March, helps with grounds maintenance for up to three hours each Tuesday and Friday.

"I'm honored by this (award). I saw the opportunity for some community activity … Museums are cool," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.