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

By Kevin Wilson

Museum under discussion


Last updated 4/27/2021 at 5:29pm

Kevin Wilson

Assistant City Clerk Vicki Reyes, left, and Parks, Recreation and Beautification Committee member Jamaal Williams look at the pioneer house at the Pappy Thornton Museum following the committee's Monday meeting at the site.

CLOVIS - When the city's Parks, Recreation and Beautification committee met Monday at the Pappy Thornton Museum, it looked exactly like it did last time the committee met there two Novembers ago.

The last few decades are the same story, and that's the problem the committee discussed trying to fix as it took its monthly meeting on site to the little-known trove of farm equipment outside and home devices of yesteryear inside.

The building's primary usage is storage and office space for the maintenance crews at Ned Houk Park, annexed as city property decades ago in an unsuccessful attempt to build a premier golf course.

The museum is named for Ardale Thornton, who worked part time at the city while running the Wagon Wheel Trading Post. After a health scare in 1983, the city commission named the museum after him so he could receive the honor while he was alive. Thornton survived the scare, and died in 1998.

Years of inactivity at the museum are evident, from the phone number for tours that hasn't worked in more than a quarter-century to the two-story pioneer house that looks like it would collapse on anybody who dared walk inside.

The museum has been mistakenly dubbed the "Pappy Happy Museum" in more than one city commission meeting, and multiple commissioners who grew up in Clovis have admitted they'd never even heard of the museum until they joined the commission.

Nobody argues the museum's pieces aren't of some value, and Joyce Gates joined the committee specifically to ensure its renovation and continued survival. But city officials can be forgiven if they see some avenues would be akin to throwing money down a hole.

"Even if we were to create a museum," City Manager Justin Howalt said, "this is not the location."

Howalt said the city is waiting to hear back from the Farm and Ranch Museum in Las Cruces to determine potential Pappy Thornton directions, but warned the committee the state has a lengthy backlog on museum issues and it would be a while before Pappy Thornton would come up in the queue.

Options discussed included moving some of the items from the park to the Curry County Fairgrounds.

Patsy Delk of the High Plains Historical Society said on one hand, "It won't do much justice (to move equipment) because it would be the same problem there as it is here."

City Commissioner Megan Palla countered, "There's still thousands of people that will see it (during fairs), as opposed to it just sitting out here."

Neither Delk nor Palla disputed the other's perspective.

Lisa Pellegrino-Spear, executive director for Clovis MainStreet, said there are possibilities to move individual pieces to locations throughout the city.

"We have places that are public property and private property where we could put those things," said Pellegrino-Spear, who has also discussed the matter with local scouts looking to help with the museum as an Eagle Scout project.

Some of the items date back just a few decades, like rotary phones and manual typewriters, while some of the farm equipment dates back more than a century.

Some is not worth salvaging, and other items could be vastly improved with a wash and a paint job.

"Maintenance is the issue," said Gates, who used the museum as a field trip during her elementary teaching days. "The problem here is nothing's been maintained."

Committee member Jamaal Williams suggested simply building a facsimile of the pioneer house, because the current structure is likely beyond repair and a new build would still provide a visualization of how prior generations lived.

In other matters discussed during the Monday meeting:

• Parks and Recreation Director Russell Hooper updated members on bids for playground equipment at Dennis Chavez Park.

The city has $75,000 in capital outlay, and a pair of bids were received for $50,000 and $70,000. Hooper said there would be additional installation expenses, and that there was a clear difference in the quality of the bids. He said if the city was planning to spend the $70,000 anyway, he might go back to the lower bidder and see what else they would want to offer with the extra $20,000.

Hooper said some of the current equipment at the park is in great shape, and would be used to replace or upgrade infrastructure at other parks.

• A pair of bids came in for lighting upgrades at Beachum Field, Hooper said, and both were more than twice the $100,000 the city has in capital outlay. Howalt said the city anticipated that expense and planned to make up the difference.

• The city, Howalt and Hooper said, plans to kick in a small amount of additional dollars along with $215,000 in state capital outlay money for the AYSO soccer field parking lot. For about $240,000, the city can renovate the parking lots for the AYSO fields, Guy Leeder Softball Complex, Jim Hill Field (youth football) and Dickenson Field (Little League baseball).

The work would only take a day or two for each section, and Howalt said the city would find the best timing to minimize inconvenience for the spring softball leagues.

• The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 17, and the committee may possibly convert to a third Monday schedule to avoid conflicts with the city library board.


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