Complete Story is below as either a PDF or in-text.
The documentation of history is the paper trail to the past. While oral histories are an important key to revealing the insight of people from prior times, written documents provide tangible proof of an opinion or fact about history. It is important to write oral histories down so future generations know those stories. I wish to shed some light on my grandparents and attempt to tell their story because I feel that the lives of individuals add up to make an impact on a society.
Because I only had the privilege to be around my grandparents for a mere two decades, it would be difficult for me to attempt to summarize the life of my maternal grandparents. I enlisted the help of their three remaining children, Tony, Veronica, and Marty to tell my grandparent’s story. I will highlight my grandparents’ lives starting from their young adulthood to their deaths, to demonstrate the type of characters they were and what products came from their works. Alfred B. Black and Florence Black were known by most of their immediate family as Honey and Pomps. Honey was the nickname that their eldest grandson had given her when he was younger. He had overheard my grandpa calling my grandma, “Honey” and so the name stuck. As for the nickname Pomps, it came from the eldest granddaughter who just started calling him that one day when she was little (Black, Marty).
Alfred B. Black was born on August 4, 1935 in the little New Mexico town of Golden, which is also known as San Pedro. His mother, Trinidad Baca, was part of the Baca Land Grant and is the reason why he was born there. Unfortunately, he dropped out of high school at seventeen to help support his mom and dad. He took a job as a maintenance worker for the railroad in what is known as the “Roundhouse”, working on the brake systems for the trains. (It would be these brake systems, made of asbestos materials that would be the cause of his death in 2005.) During those early working years, he helped take care of everyone, his parents and siblings, especially his sisters at that point in time. My mom told me that when he would get back from work, as long as his younger sisters had his clothes cleaned and pressed, he would take them to the local dances.  This area of San Pedro was found to have a gold mine. A mining company initially bought the land, but the Baca family has been reacquiring the area to preserve the land that is part of their heritage (Black, Tony).
In 1958, he was enlisted into the U.S. Army; approximately five years after the Korean War had ended. He was assigned as a desk clerk at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. I remember how he used to tell me that he could type sixty words-per-minute on an old typewriter. After he got out of the service, he went back to work at the railroad full-time and then later began working for Yellow Freight part-time in the late 1960’s. Once he had enough years to retire from the railroad, he began working full time in the 1970’s at Yellow Freight, on the docks as a loader, with a forklift. He worked the graveyard shift, 12am to 8am, but his workday did not end there. When he and his dad had acquired farmland, he would head straight to Veguita, NM to work the alfalfa fields (bail, cut, load hay). After a long day of work, he would sleep after that for just a few hours. He worked like that once he got the land, and bought some of the land alongside his dad when he was around 30. When his dad died, he took a loan to pay everyone off the extra amount that he had not paid. According to my mom, sometimes he would roof houses with Honey’s brother, Eloy Chacon, when Uncle George’s roofing business needed extra men. Alfred was always working, especially the two jobs from 1965 to the 1980’s. Then after he finished working at Yellow Freight, he worked the apartments and the ranch until he died (Black-Stepp, Veronica).
He loved to play baseball, coached little league, and of course liked wrestling. In high school, he was a state-wrestling champion (Black, Marty). Two of his sons and many of his grandsons also wrestled. He also was a caddie at a local golf course while in high school and that is where he learned to play golf. When he worked for Yellow Freight, he was on a golf team there and made many friends through golfing. He also loved to smoke until he was put on oxygen in his sixties. He also liked to drink and he loved to gamble. But, Alfred was also very good at saving money. For instance, he would save all the coinage that he had in his pockets and would save almost ten percent of every paycheck. He also recorded his deposits as lower than they were and recorded checks as more than they were written for. This would make his checkbook show that he had less money than he actually had and so he would not spend as much money (Black-Stepp, Veronica).
Alfred had little patience for ignorance and expected people to make good choices when they knew what the right thing was. At the same time, if you screwed up he would tell you to get over it and move on because “That’s life”. He was an unconditional loving man and would not really feel sorry for people and would instead focus his energy on helping them. Pomps never asked for help and never liked to borrow things. He was close to his parents but not when he was growing up. By working together with his dad at the ranch, their relationship was strengthened (Black-Stepp, Veronica).
Florence Chacon Black was born on October 5, 1935 in San Jose, NM, which today is a region of Albuquerque but back then it was not yet part of the city. During her life, she was a mom, a seamstress, a great cook, and a tireless worker. She inherited the Rainbow Apartments in 1984, which is located on Central and 46th street, and was a happening place in the 1950’s since it was located along Route 66. She later started her catering business in 1986 called “Tia Florencia’s” or Auntie Florence’s. Her aim was to make larger portioned meals that you could take home to eat with your family. (Black, Marty). She also would make food for the workers at Yellow Freight and also catered for the annual dog show held every year at the State Fairgrounds. She later worked at the State Fair in the Hispanic Arts Center, starting in the 1990’s, as well as for the Bureau of elections during that same point in time. But mostly, Honey was about family. To illustrate, my dad explained that she always went to family gatherings regardless of the circumstance. He remembers that she always made it to every funeral of any family member, of which she was the youngest of twelve children. She was always there for all extended members too and made sure to be apart of their lives as well (Fraley).
She loved her Hispanic heritage and being a member of the Catholic church. In high school, she attended the Catholic church located on Broadway. She also loved to dance and always went to the church and local dances in her teenage years. Honey always went to church. My mom recalls that when she was in high school she would have to go to church with Honey everyday, usually in the morning before school. I also had the privilege of taking Honey to church a few times in the last few years of her life, and she always had a story to tell about her and Pomps. During their life together, my grandparents would go on tours with the church program to Mexico to visit the different missions there. Later in 2008, Honey went with her girlfriends on a Mediterranean cruise and was able to visit Rome and the historical churches there as well. I recall how excited she was before and after the trip, she had the time of her life.
Florence had a very stern personality and she was not afraid to give her opinion. Honey told me that her friends had nicknamed her “cobra” because she had a vicious tongue and would strike when you least expected it. But she always had a story to tell and was very supportive. Everyone would say, even she would brag that she would beat you with one hand, and hug (love) you with the other. She also would proudly state that she was a spanking grandma. As much as she threatened you though, she only wanted to stop the thing she felt you were messing up and help you become a better person. A story that somewhat exemplifies her firm communication was told to me by my dad, Larry Joe Fraley. My dad worked with a man that dated Florence when she was in high school. According to the man, he had gotten into a dispute with a group of guys and they were about to hurt him, possibly very severely. Florence got in between the guys and scolded them and resolved the matter, simply because everyone else knew not to mess with her. If anyone could say anything about Honey, it would be that she always put family first and she believed in doing what was right.
Alfred and Florence met while in high school at Albuquerque High. They eventually married in 1957 in Albuquerque. When he went into the service, they had to move to El Paso at Fort Bliss and once he was released they moved to Topeka, Kansas with the Railroad around 1961-2. After the short stay in Topeka they moved to Clovis, NM in 1962 and then to Pueblo, Colorado in 1963. They were moved back to Albuquerque in 1964. For the most part, they made decisions together, even though my Honey was really independent. She was a stay-at-home mom and Pomps supported her. Their four children were Tony, Veronica, Vince, and Marty. When the four kids were old enough to go to school, she worked but didn’t have to. The money she earned was used for whatever she wanted and it was always that way because Pomps worked so hard (Black-Stepp, Veronica).
The last ten years or so of their life together, during Christmas, they would find and adopt a less fortunate family and buy them all presents. They were always giving money to help people. As devote churchgoers and patrons, they donated greatly to the church. In fact, probably the charity they donated the most to was the Catholic church, through the various parishes throughout Albuquerque and New Mexico. They considered the Holy Family parish on Atrisco and the Our Lady of Sorrow parish in Veguita as their home (Black-Stepp). They were very family oriented and were at every game for their kids and grandkids, took their family places and on various trips (Disneyland and cruises, etc). Not only did they take their immediate family but they invited extended family, neighbors, and friends on their trips and over for family activities (Black, Marty). They always took a video camera everywhere (since the 1970’s they had a video recorder). Pomps loved to tape everything (Black-Stepp, Veronica).
From what I witnessed and my family members attest to, Honey and Pomps used the apartments to help people instead of for personal financial gain. Though they would say that the apartments were a little gold mine, they used it to help others, by letting people stay there when they were down on their luck, or used the money from the apartments to help others. They would house church people visiting town. They would talk about things that needed to be taken care of, but Pomps would do whatever he needed to please Honey so she wouldn’t bicker at him. But whenever Pomps needed to leave or avoid arguing, the ranch at Veguita was his refuge from fighting (Black-Stepp, Veronica).
Alfred and Florence would always be known for their inclusiveness of everyone (Black, Marty). Family tradition was engrained into them and they tried everything within their power to keep everyone together. That is evident by the big family gatherings that we always had, and it gave Honey a chance to show off her cooking skills. All the grandkids loved Honey’s tortillas and Pomps wouldn’t even think of eating store bought tortillas. Food was a way to come to the table and gather to eat and be with each other. Being at the table gave us all time to talk and nourish our bodies and our souls. They also refused for family to be mad at each other and they emphasized resolving issues. They didn’t expect everyone to agree but to find resolution and stay together as a family. They would always say, “Never go to bed mad” and “Goodnight, God Bless You” because they felt that regardless of feelings from the day, everyone should end the day positively (Black, Tony).
Alfred Black passed away on October 30, 2005 from emphysema. Sadly, according to what I heard from the doctors and the reports they had written, it was the asbestos from the brakes on the railroad trains that ruined his lungs. Honey was a breast cancer survivor but after nearly ten years, she began her fight again. For nearly three years she battled the horrendous treatments and fought tremendously against the cancer that eventually would spread into her brain. She lived up to her reputation as a tough ol’ granny and passed away surrounded by family and friends on June 9, 2009. They are both buried at the San Juan Cemetery in Veguita, NM.
What did Honey and Pomps mean to me? Well they were the only grandparents I really knew. To me, they were teachers. Their tough love approach created a fear within me that would motivate me not to let them down in any aspect of life. By knowing that if I made irresponsible mistakes or failed to live up to expectation based on how I was raised, they would let me know it and would be visibly disappointed in me. Just like many of the people around Honey, I learned some valuable lessons of life. Honey always used to remind me of the time when I was a young boy and I had refused to finish cleaning after a long day after catering a dog show. So she made me go inside and refused to pay me for the day. Naturally, I was irate but later that evening she explained that we all have to work together to accomplish the task, and even though I was tired so was everyone else. That incident taught me that you must finish what you start until all the work is done and always be willing to lend a helping hand. In case you’re wondering, she did in fact pay me for the hours I worked.
As hard working as Honey and Pomps were during their lifetime, they always encouraged me to go back to school (college). They wanted me to use my brain to make a living, instead of breaking my back through hard labor. Before Pomps died, I remember the occasion when he gave me very personal and direct advice. He told me that as long as I find something that I loved to do, I would never have to work. Age-old advice, sure, but it meant so much more coming from the hardest-working man I have ever known. He may have worked an incredible amount of time during his life, but to him it was just doing what he loved, especially working at the ranch.
The insight to the lives of Honey and Pomps may not seem like much compared to the more significant figures in New Mexico history. But their story is important in that they were the “little people” within their society who tried to make a difference in every way they could. They were family oriented and their purpose in life revolved around helping others, no matter the cost. They believed in working by the sweat of the brow, at the same time, money was something to be saved and only used for a good reason. They not only respected hard work, but the importance of working the land. Alfred and Florence were a communal society based people and firmly believed in good morals and values that they had developed from their membership in the Catholic church. Their actions enabled them to grow but also set an example for others (Marty). The title of this paper is “En el Nombre de Dios,” which means “In the name of the Lord”. It is what my grandparents would say to show their gratitude for God’s hand in their daily lives. I am ever so grateful to my grandparents, for the lives that they led, and for the example that they set.
Black, Marty. Telephone Interview. 18 July 2009.
Black, Tony. Telephone Interview. 25 July 2009
Black-Stepp, Veronica. Personal Interview. 10 July 2009.
Fraley, Larry Joe. Personal Interview. 17 July 2009.