The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Memories of a clown, and $17 hospital rooms


Last updated 2/11/2020 at 2:32pm

I collect historical tidbits that interest me from area newspapers. Here are a few from Februarys past:

n Feb. 5, 1929: Ridge Whiteman, 19, of Portales wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institute reporting he’d found an arrow point with elephant bones at the site now known as Blackwater Draw.

Anthropologists and archaeologists soon realized the discovery was proof that man was living in North America 13,000 years ago.

n Feb. 7, 1968: The Board of Trustees for Clovis’ Memorial Hospital voted to increase patient room rates to help offset expenses after the national minimum wage was raised to $1.60 an hour.

New rates at Memorial, set to go into effect in March, were raised $2 per day.

With the rates, the cheapest semi-private room went from $17 to $19 a day, and the most expensive private room went from $25 to $27 per day.

Hospital administrator Monroe Owens said that even with the rate increases, Memorial Hospital was still “25 to 40 percent cheaper than any other hospital in the state.”

n Feb. 20, 1983: By day, Lt. Lee Wheeler was a medic at Cannon Air Force Base. But in his spare time, he transformed into “Wheelie the Clown,” a local performer who also headed up a class for kids from ages 9-17 who were interested in clowning around for a purpose.

Wheeler and his students made regular appearances at area events like Texico/Farwell’s Border Town Days, Melrose Old Timers’ Day, and the Curry County Fair.

n Feb. 20, 1978: Flags were flying at half-staff across New Mexico in honor of the death of the Rev. John Carnine, a long-time resident of the Retirement Ranch in Clovis and, at the time, the oldest living United States veteran.

Carnine died Feb. 3 at the Retirement Ranch, only 19 days ahead of his 104th birthday. He had served as a private in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War, before going on to a life in the ministry.

Clovis and Cannon Air Force Base’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3280 was named for him when it was started in October of 1978. Later, the name of one of the original members of the post was added, so today it is known as John Carnine-James Wiseman VFW Post 3280.

Carnine and Wiseman are both buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

n Feb. 25, 1941: After 31 years in the same location — 112 W. Grand Ave. — Steed Mortuary moved into a new home, at 1500 Pile St.

A name change was also made; it became Steed’s Funeral Home.

Charles V. Steed Funeral Service Parlors was established with the founding of Clovis in 1907.

Steed died in 1938, leaving operations to his wife, Una Steed.

Today Steed-Todd Funeral Home is located at Prince and Manana streets. It moved there from the Pile Street location in 1968.

David Stevens writes about regional history for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]

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