Fort Bayard had a darkroom,
and a man at the fort was self-taught in
photography developing processes. "He helped me set up a darkroom
in the basement for my Boy Scout merit badge," Jerry
said. "They were all contact prints."
Special services had golf clubs, cameras,
musical instruments, a recording studio,
as well as recordings, which he explained
were not tapes. Everything was available
for the residents, staff and their families
to check out and use.
"My friends and I formed a band," Jerry
said. "We were horrible."
"On the golf course, I used to caddy
for Billy Casper," Jerry said. "One
time I got to play with him in a tournament."
Jerry said the activities at the fort for
kids were "unbelievable."
Between the complex and the orchard was
an old coal storage bin into the hill, with
intricate rockwork. "They stopped using
it for coal and put up basketball hoops and
nets for tennis and badminton," Jerry
said. "The Sojourner's Club was by the
cemetery on a hill. It's a shame they tore
it down. It had small rooms for visitors
and had a small darkroom and a small stage."
Jerry rehabilitated the darkroom and made
some use of it. "The big darkroom that
my dad used, got enlargers that made prints," Jerry
said. "He would paint the black-and-whites."
The fort provided a lapidary shop with saws
and polishers for shining rocks and gems. "My
dad read something about faceting and used
synthetic rubies and diamonds to teach the
patients," Jerry said.
Other amenities at the fort were two shuffleboards.
Competitions were held. Just beyond the post
office in the hospital was a poolroom and
Fort Bayard hired people for the Minor League
Team, which played there. "We also had
a Pony League and Little League, both of
which I played in," Jerry said. "All
this kept us out of trouble, and the patients
enjoyed watching us."
The King and His Court softball team traveled,
with a pitcher, a catcher and two deep fielders
in the left field. One of the local softball
teams would make up the rest of the team. "The
pitcher was so good, he pitched from second
base," Jerry said. "He struck me
out blindfolded. Most of the time, he pitched
from the mound, and the catcher would talk
to him so he knew where to throw. He threw
When the team would travel, they clowned
around against local teams, and usually beat
the locals by one point. "I played softball
in the Army 10 or 12 years later," Jerry
said. "I played the King and His Court
team again. The pitcher struck me out again
from second base."
From the baseball park, the team would shoot
off fireworks. The kids knew the last one
had a parachute with a bag of candy, so they
watched the way the wind was blowing.
Fort Bayard had a Canteen, where, according
to Jerry, the "huge, delicious hamburgers
sold for 18 cents each." A root beer
went for 4 cents, as did a chocolate bar
with almonds. "I would spade a garden
for someone, get a quarter and run to the
Canteen," Jerry said. The jukebox at
the canteen stocked up on the top hit records
and pop tunes for the teens, who would spend
their time there until their curfew. There
was also a three-hole golf course behind
the round-shaped canteen.
"When I checked out a camera, I would
check out two rolls of film and reserve a
time for developing," Jerry said.
The school at the fort was for students
from first through eighth grades, but "by
the time I was in fourth grade, they bussed
us to Silver City. We had the same teacher,
Mrs. Koestenbader. Her husband was the principal."
He remembered when the German prisoners
of war were brought to Fort Bayard in 1942. "My
dad had made me a toy rifle," Jerry
said. "I pointed it at them once, and
they all jumped into the hole they were digging.
My dad scolded me, but they told him they
were just playing with me. "I saw one
POW kill a pigeon to feed to his stray cat," Jerry
He said the POWs were always polite and
would talk to him. Most of them were Germans,
with a few Italians. They had one person
supervising them, and sometimes no one was
supervising them. He said they had nice quarters.
"I found lots of Indian artifacts after
the POWs left, where they had planted apples,
pears and apricots in the orchard," Jerry
On the way down to the orchard was a steep
hill behind the motor transport along an
arroyo. The POWS built a huge retaining wall,
he said. The site always had big cottonwood
trees, and sometimes the carpenters would "slip
us some wood scraps. We built a real nice
treehouse. We found a baby sparrow hawk,
whose mama had been killed. We raised it.
It would ride around on my shoulder." When
it grew up, it flew away, "but about
a week later, it hit my shirt. It had egg
on its beak and birds were dive-bombing him.
He went home with me, and I made him a cage
for the night."
Jerry was delivering the El Paso Times to
the patients at the time. "The supervisor
called me in because of a complaint," Jerry
said. "About 100 of the patients would
no longer take the paper if I didn't bring
in the bird. Several of the patients had
been unresponsive, and the only thing that
piqued their interest was the bird. I still
had him when I went into the Army. Dad took
to him. "The first time I came home
on leave, the bird wasn't there," Jerry
said. "I asked Dad where he was. He
told me the wind was blowing hard, and the
bird was trying to come into the house, when
the screen door blew shut on him and killed
Jerry said the Parrish Bus Lines made trips
to Fort Bayard, and then it became the Greyhound
Bus, which went to the fort twice a day.
"We had numerous deer at the fort," Jerry
said. "One day a doe got run over by
a bus and left a small fawn. I bottle-fed
it. The yearling thought he was people and
would curl up on the couch. As he grew little
horns, he got to playing rough and butted
us hard. One day, my grandmother was in the
garden, and he butted her into the ground.
The federal and state authorities were called,
but they couldn't catch him. I walked him
into a trailer, and they took him about three
miles north of the fort. He almost beat them
He reported that deer love graham crackers
better than anything. "I tried to rope
one, but couldn't catch her," Jerry
said. "So I put a noose under a trellis,
where I put apples and graham crackers. I
jerked the rope and caught her around the
middle. She pulled me through the trellis
and tore my pants. Then, I had to get the
rope off her, so she wouldn't get tangled
When too many skunks were at the fort, staff
tried to catch them, but they got trap-wise. "I
had a bow and practice arrows," Jerry
said. "I shot a skunk, and it ran into
the hospital. I ran home and hid the arrows. "The
guards were the police force, and the chief
guard came to talk to me and asked me about
the shooting," Jerry said. "I showed
him some other arrows, and he said: 'If you
find out who did it, please let me know.'
Of course, I had to clear it up. "We
would catch the baby skunks and one of the
nurses would de-scent them," Jerry continued. "We
had a lot of pets, but they got trapped over
the years and were taken off somewhere."
Guinea pigs were used for testing for tuberculosis.
They were kept in a little house where they
were raised. "One day, we came home
on the school bus, and men were chasing guinea
pigs. A guy had left the door open when he
was feeding them. The guinea pigs came running
us to us, and we got busted. We gathered
as many as we could. We had been feeding
He said several corrals and a barn held
more than 20 old McClellan cavalry saddles,
bridles and scabbards in a huge tack room. "There
was a big project going on at the hospital,
and they stored tar in the barn," Jerry
said. "One night about 3:00 a.m., I
saw a glow. We turned the water on it full
force, and the hose started throwing us around. "One
horse got singed, but all the horses got
out," he said, "but the barn went
up in flames with the McClellan saddles inside.
Men had tears in their eyes."
Jerry said his father went to school only
three years, and his first job was carrying
food trays up the stairs. He went on to
other jobs, including in the steam plant,
and then to special services. "His
boss was earning a doctorate in education," Jerry
said. "My dad would buy textbooks
of algebra and calculus, and the doctors
would tutor him. His boss asked to give
him an equivalency test, and my dad's learning
was equivalent to a junior in college.
"He has always been my hero - Ernest
H. McBride," Jerry said.
During Christmas week, Santa and his sleigh
pulled by real reindeer would always arrive
at Fort Bayard. The sleigh had wheels when
there was no snow. Kids would get rides around
the fort, and little kids would get gifts.
At the Sojourner's Club, supposedly Black
Jack Pershing had driven a gold stake. "We
kids spent lots of time looking for spikes," Jerry
said. "The club was used for weddings,
dances and parties. The adults had the big
room for dances, and there was another smaller
area for kids and teens.
"When I got out into the real world,
I found out that not everyone lived like
we did," Jerry said. "And I didn't
take advantage of all I did have there."
A friend of his, David Fried, who was three
years older than Jerry, lived next door to
Jerry's family. He was of German descent
and "a brain," according to Jerry. "He
made straight A's and played trumpet. We
decided we would build a rocket. We got pipe
and explosives, and it blew up." They
cut up copper tubing and soldered on copper
fins and lit it. "We ran behind our
barricade," Jerry said. "It melted
one of the fins and shot over our heads.
We found out that at Cape Canaveral, they
used solid propellant."
The rocket they built next was two-feet
long and a three-stage rocket. "David
figured out how to make solid propellant," Jerry
said. "We had to notify our folks, so
they could watch. My friend was amazing."
David then wanted to make a crossbow, so
he took the main leaf spring off an old Crosby
car, bolted it onto a 4-by-4 piece of wood,
used three piano strings from a wrecked piano
and put them on the bow.
"The arrows are called bolts," Jerry
said. "We didn't know that they weren't
really bolts, so we found some 16-inch, 5/8
inch in diameter bolts and ground the ends
sharp." The first time they shot it
over the cottonwood trees and couldn't find
the bolt. They took it to the orchard, and
shot a bolt three-quarters of the way into
a cottonwood tree.
David used to also make model planes out
of balsa wood and gas engines. He held cables
to control them, until he built a remote
control. The plane had a four-foot wingspan. "He
finally got it airborne," Jerry said. "It
was a little jerky, and then got out of range.
We couldn't see it until it crashed into
a mountain beyond the orchard."
One time, Jerry's cousin was visiting. A
rock wall behind the canteen was crumbling,
and a rabbit ran inside. "We wanted
to catch it and make it a pet, so we pulled
out about five feet of rock wall before the
supervisor caught us," Jerry said.
His paper delivery business grew from about
20 subscribers up to more than 100. "I
had to pick up the papers at H.L. Barnett's
in Central," Jerry said. "I was
driving at an early age, and could drive
down to the highway and walk into town to
get the papers. "I spun a Brody, hit
the gas and spun in a circle," Jerry
said. "I spun onto the lawn, and that
ended my use of the pickup. I had to ride
my bicycle to get the papers. On Thursdays
and Sundays, it took two trips."
At 2:00 a.m., he would go to pick up the
papers, sometimes after only a couple of
hours of sleep. "I was hard to wake
up, so mother would send our parakeet into
my room. It would bite me in the nose. I
tried to kill it, but never succeeded."
He remembered when they changed from crank
telephones to black phones.
Sometimes, he would check out a projector,
and the kids would look at movies. "We
saw everything from the Three Stooges to
Tarzan and every Joe Louis fight in the 1940s
and 50s," Jerry said.
"My friend Dean Matthews and I used
to play Taps for Memorial Day," Jerry
said. "I would play it, and he would
play the echo."
Dean and his brother Gene were twins. "My
dad used to call their younger brother Keith
Jerry's father retired from the federal
facility and was hired back by the state
to run the steam plant for another 10 years. "He
started when it was coal, and then it was
natural gas-powered," Jerry said.