By Don McAlavy: CNJ Columnist
On Highway 54, between Logan and Nara Visa, was the small town of Obar. Now only a cemetery, Obar was the birth place of Frank G. Berlin, who became a millionaire and more.
Here is his story:
“In Obar, my father had a general merchandise store with everything from calico to coal, bought the homesteaders cream and acted as their banker. He was railroad agent and postmaster (post office was in the corner of the store). He was owner-publisher of the weekly newspaper (Obar Progress) after the death of the (previous) editor.
My mother was the U.S. land commissioner, handling all homesteaders ‘proving up’ in order for them to obtain a title, was a notary public, and of course, her office was also in the store. My parents moved from Obar to Logan about 1924. My father retired as railroad agent at Logan in 1936 and moved back north.”
Frank G. Berlin, their only son, erected the historical monument you might see on Highway 54, near the old Obar townsite, honoring those hardy pioneers at Obar.
Frank Berlin, at age 10, made his first “fortune” when he wore a pair of new cowboy boots to the fair in Tucumcari. All the shoeless boys clamored to see those boots. Frank would let each boy wear them if they paid him 25 cents for ten minutes of wear. He came home that day with a pocket full of change.
Frank made his fortune in California in the Beemak Plastics Co., but had other companies too, like his Executive Limousines of Florida, Inc.
I got to know Frank Berlin between 1985 and 87 when the New Mexico Outdoor Drama Association first started the Caprock Amphitheatre 10 miles south of San Jon. He made two donations worth $6,000.
The NMODA board and I exchanged letters and phone calls with Frank Berlin and he finally said, “Since I’m a boy from Obar and I know the Caprock area, I might fly out from Californina in a commercial plane and see what you folks are doing.”
Frank became sick and was taken to Sarasota, Fla., where he owned another home; the two 14-story buildings in downtown Sarasota where he and his wife had a pent-house.
Later, after he got better, he invited my wife and I to come see him. We flew down to Sarasota in 1987 at Christmas. He took us up to his swank private club, where we had a great meal and chocolate-pecan pie for dessert. I tried to talk him into again helping the amphitheatre project, but he said he had to decline, saying he has nearly donated all his wealth to charity. I was too late.
Kathy and I received a letter from him in 1994, the last time we heard from him. We moved to Florida in 2004. On June 11, 2008, in Sarasota I found that he had died in Sarasota July 16, 1997. He was a great man and did great things! I can now find his grave and thank him for what he tried to do for us.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: