Clovis native served as head of state historical society

By Don McAlavy: Columnist

Not too many people will remember Roland F. Dickey. He was famous to us historians. He was born in Clovis in 1914, grew up here, and moved away in 1934.

His father, Albert Lull Dickey, homesteaded in 1906, “two miles north of Clovis.” That’s right off Prince and East Manana now, where Office Max is located, across from the North Plains Mall.

Perhaps what Roland F. Dickey is noted for, among other things, is that he became president of the New Mexico Historical Society, retiring after several years.

In 1977 he was living at Socorro, but finally moved out to California. I once wrote him and he gave me a few “historical facts.”

Here’s what he said:

“I’m inclined to think that the most important ‘historical events’ are the things that happened every day. The most dramatic things I can recall are the first gigantic dust storms, and the big rattlesnakes in the pasture, and the sound of toads when it rained; and the dryland lakes would fill until they made a chain from one of my farmers’ farms to south of the railroad tracks.

“My grandfather,” said Dickey, “was William Francis Dodge, who worked for the Santa Fe (Railroad) from 1906 till his death in 1916. He lived near what was then Eugene Field school. He is reputed to have owned the first phonograph in Clovis and had a collection of 500 records. People used to come around for miles and sit in his yard and listen.

“My father and mother had, supposedly, the first ‘library,’ a collection of perhaps 1,000 books, which they loaned, and most of which went into the Clovis High School library in 1936.

“My father used to haul cedar posts from the caprock to build fences. He planted about 1,000 catalpa trees to obtain posts, but the experiment was only moderately successful. He also planted about 300 shade and fruit trees, and throughout my childhood we hauled barrels of water to them. There were many exotics: lindens, white-fruited mulberry, peach trees grated with pink and white blooming branches. One by one the trees died, and I recall taking out a grove of black locust, big trees, that had been struck by borers … dug them out with a bulldozer during the ‘dust bowl’ (of the) ’30s.”
Roland Dickey told the story of when he had just started to school in Clovis in 1920:

“First-grade teacher, Miss Delia Vawter, planted me in a seat near the window and left me to my fate. I was wide-eyed. A girl sharpened her pencil at the windowsill. I had never seen a pencil sharpener. We had ‘penny pencils,’ round cedar shafts with head at one end, eraser at the other, no metal in between. On the first morning I learned that a cedar pencil could be sharpened at both ends. Now, like many of my schoolmates, I was caught between two worlds: urban in Clovis and rural at home.”

Roland Dickey died in February of 2000 at 86, said Ron Dickey, son of Roland Dickey in an e-mail to Marty and E. C. Shaeffer of Clovis on Jan. 16, 2001.