Remembering her father’s Model T and early days of Duran

“I was my daddy’s son because there were only girls before my little brother came,” says Virginia Mora as she smiles at the ancient photo she is holding. “Isidoro Saiz was a man who liked to laugh. He had me work on the ranch with him shearing sheep, castrating lambs, fixing fences and milking cows. Later, when my mother Louisita Saiz was sick, I went with her to catch the bus in Vaughn to go the hospital in Albuquerque. She died young–when she was 47.”

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Mora grew up in Duran, between Vaughn and Encino. In its heyday Duran boosted 300 residents although there are now only a few living there. But the town’s former residents will gather on June 25 to celebrate the 100 years of San Juan Bautista Church and Mora be there. At age 89, she is the oldest living member of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society that has served that church, with cooking and cleaning. Mora joined the Society in 1943.

Virginia Saiz and Dario Mora

Virginia Saiz and Dario Mora

The petite woman remembers riding in a horse drawn wagon to go from the Saiz ranch in Pinos Wells to the town of Duran. Then one day her father came home with a new form of transportation. He was excited to drive his Model T. The roads had just been covered with black top and he would drive in the middle of the street.

“These roads were made just for me,Isidoro Saiz would tell anyone who would listen.

Mora, who lives in Moriarty now, married Dario Mora in 1946, a year after he returned from World War II.

“He didn’t talk much about the war. But he was a sailor on the USS Block Island,” she remembers. They were torpedoed twice by the Germans. Dario blew the whistle to alert the sailors about the hits. He was one of the last to leave the ship and he drifted in the water for almost two days before he was rescued. Those that survived got to go home for a month. Then they were sent out again on a second Block Island ship. “That time they went to Japan and brought back the American POWs after the Japanese surrendered. I remember the pictures of those starving men.”

Dario worked for the railroad that had come through Duran. While he worked outside doing maintenance work, his wife gave birth to 11 children in less than 20 years. She also managed the kitchen for the school in Vaughn and did a lot of laundry.

“My mom and grandmother helped me give birth to the first four kids at home. Later there was a doctor in Encino. We washed all the diapers by hand and hung them up outside.”

After her husband died in 1974, and then the school in Encino closed, Mora followed two of her daughters who had taken teaching positions in Moriarty. Josephine (Mora) Mondragon and Marian Mora started teaching for the Moriarty-Edgewood School District in 1983. Their mom was hired as the manager of the kitchen at Edgewood Elementary. Both daughters taught for 30 years.

“All of my kids went on to get good jobs and raise families. I am blessed. And I have 83 direct descendants now.”

The town of Duran was built in 1902, named after two brothers who had dug wells that serviced the railroad with water. Later, lack of water and the declining use of the railroads would be the issues that forced people to leave.

“We had to haul water from Encino and it got too hard. That’s when Dario wanted to move. He said we should move to Albuquerque but I said, “I don’t drive so I can’t be running to find my children in that big town. No. We moved to Encino.”

The folks from Duran and Encino grew up feeling proud that “one of their own” was a governor of New Mexico. Richard C. Dillon was the eighth governor of the state from 1927 (when Mora was born) until 1931. He owned a mercantile in Encino and retired there when he left politics.

“I grew up Catholic and my parents were strong Catholics. I love my Church and I pray a lot for my family. So I tell anyone who visits me, ‘Vaya con Dios.’ Go with God. That is important.”