Family survives fire, dust bowl, depression

By Don McAlavy: Local columnist

The Miller family first consisted of Vernon and Elma (Forbes) Harrison; Vernon born in Kansas in 1891 and Elma was born in Tennessee in 1895. They were married in Clovis on June 29, 1916. They first lived in Albuquerque where Vernon was in the grocery business.

They moved back to Clovis and their first child was Doretha Ellen who was born in 1918. They soon moved to Kansas where first son Donald Myron was born in 1919. In 1920 they moved back to Curry County to the old Paul farm northwest of Texico, but later moved to the Graf place four miles east of Prince Street on East Seventh.

Two children were born in Texico, Verna Inez in 1921 and Roy Hubert in 1922. Roy died in 1922. In 1924 the family moved to California, stayed there a year and returned to the Graft farm. Kenneth Lowell was born in 1924 at Pomona, Calif.

Carl Eugene was born in 1929 and Glenice Evelyn in 1931, at the old farm.

Times were hard during the depression, no water in the house, they cooked on a kerosene stove and the kids studied by kerosene lamps. The home was heated by with wood and corn cobs. The terrible dust-bowl days made it necessary to hang wet sheets over the windows to be able to breathe properly. Then a hay stack caught on fire and if the family had not been home, the home would have burned also. They had to carry water from a distant stock tank to put out the fire.

Vernon Miller had a call to preach and helped organized the First Church of God in Clovis in 1943. He served many churches, dying on May 27, 1976. Elma died in 1979.

Kenneth Miller graduated Clovis High School in 1942 and had gone to work for the Santa Fe Railroad at age 17. In 1960 he was the last station agent at Yeso as the railroad closed its station. Yeso, he said, up to that time had a school, a store, and of course a post office. He retired in 1992 after 50 years of working for the Santa Fe Railroad.

I had only known a few of the Vernon Miller family, Doretha Harden and Kenneth and Kenneth’s son Gordon. Kenneth had married Mary Carolyn and they had four children, Carolyn, Ken, Carter and Gordon.

Doretha was always sending me a short letter to tell me about somebody she knew I had written up in one of my columns. She was a wonderful and dear lady.

While in Clovis this past month I got a chance to sit down and jaw some with Kenneth and Gordon. I always saw them out at the county fairgrounds and they would sit on the wooden benches on the porch at the Oldest House in Clovis and Gordon would tell me what he had seen. One time he ran up and told his dad he had seen the pigs and Don McAlavy. And Kenneth would suggest we get redwood decking for the old porch! Wish I was out at the fair this year. I miss my old friends.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: