Old-Timer Days draws young, old alike

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson John Gorley of Melrose tosses candy from his tractor seat during the Melrose Old Timers Day parade Saturday morning.

Kevin Wilson

The Melrose Old-Timer Days mean the same thing for most participants, whether they left the eastern New Mexico village, stayed there or figured out something in between.

The event, held this weekend for the 60th time in some fashion, joined the young and the old to reminisce about their childhood (and for some, current) hometown.

“It’s the highlight of the year,” said Delores Blackburn, who was named grand marshal of the parade with Eldon, her husband of 67 years. “I’ve been to this event ever since it started.”

Saturday’s festivities started with the parade, taking the traditional route of a slow trek up, and back down, Main Street.

The floats ranged from the heavily decorated truck trailers to classic cars, and from first responders to simply people who chose to ride their motorcycles, bicycles and all-terrain vehicles so they could throw candy to the kids — many of whom held a bucket full of mixed candy by the time the parade’s second pass finished.

Also making appearances were various Melrose High graduating classes ending in “1,” with classes that listed their graduates only by first name — because that’s how all of the residents know each other.

From Main Street, the celebration continued a short walk away at the city park, where citizens could take in a car show, live music, turtle races and other activities for children.

The event, residents recall, dates back as far as 1952, when Melrose residents decided a summer potluck would be a good idea. The event was absorbed by the Melrose Lions Club, and later the Melrose Chamber of Commerce.

But the premise remained the same, as older residents spoke of their long histories and younger ones reminisced about the six-man football days from which they weren’t so far removed.

“It’s good to see people you don’t see normally,” said Eldon Blackburn, a House native who met his wife, a Melrose High and Texas Tech graduate, while she was helping fill a teaching void at House Schools created by World War II.

“I have lived my entire life within 125 miles of Melrose,” Delores Blackburn said in prepared remarks for the emcees, “and thank God for the community and friends we have known for years.”

Samantha Odom, formerly Dodd, made the trip from High Rolls — a small community that refers to nearby Cloudcroft as “the city” in the same way that Melrose residents sometimes refer to Clovis. Her Friday included performances during a music fest, and her Saturday included a ride on the Class of 2001 float.

Odom doesn’t think of Saturday as just an old-timer day — partially because she doesn’t think the description fits her at 28, but primarily because it’s a gathering for anybody who calls or called Melrose home.

“You get to come back and see all the people you grew up with and that helped raise you,” Odom said. “It was also my 10-year reunion, so I had to come back.”