The Manhattan Project

Frances Quintana's Interview

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Frances Quintana Interview

Frances Quintana grew up in El Rancho, NM, and her family’s farm at Los Alamos was requisitioned when the Manhattan Project took over the site. Frances became one of the many Hispanos who were bused up to work at Los Alamos. Her first job was baby-sitting Julie Hawkins, the daughter of David and Frances Hawkins. She maintained a close relationship with the family, and with Julie through today. In this interview, Frances discusses her various jobs at Los Alamos, both during and after the war, such as baby-sitting for the Oppenheimers and McMillans, as well as being a confidential mail-sorter and administrative assistant to lawyers. She also discusses her relationship with famous figures at Los Alamos like Edith Warner and Dorothy McKibbin.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
February 4, 2017
Location of the Interview: 
Santa Fe
Transcript: 

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Saturday, February 4, 2017. We are in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and this is Frances Quintana. We are delighted to have her tell us her stories of life in the Manhattan Project. We want to start by asking her to say and then spell her name. Can you tell us your name and spell it?

Frances Quintana: Frances Gomez—I used to be Gomez then, so I use Gomez Quintana.

Kelly: Can you spell those names so we make sure that the record is correct?

Quintana: My first name, too? Frances, F-r-a-n-c-e-s. G-o-m-e-z, that’s my last name, Quintana, Q-u-i-n-t-a-n-a.

Kelly: Great. Thank you. All right. Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us where and when you were born?

Quintana: October 28, 1921 in El Rancho, New Mexico. Santa Fe County.

Kelly: Where is this community located? Where in New Mexico is your birthplace?

Quintana: It’s in Santa Fe County, and it’s called El Rancho. It used to be nothing but farms, but now it’s big.

Kelly: Did your family have a farm?

Quintana: Oh, yes, they had a big farm.

Kelly: What did you grow on your farm?

Quintana: All kinds of vegetable, everything, corn, and more. Alfalfa for the horses.

Kelly: Horses, too?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: Did you have brothers and sisters?

Quintana: Yes, I’m the oldest of seven. Two of my brothers died when they were infants, very small. Then comes Lydia, Viola, Pete, Pilar, and Gilbert, and Gustavo.

Kelly: Wonderful. Did you work on the ranch in the vegetable garden? Did you help your parents?

Quintana: Oh, yes, I did a lot of babysitting, and also in the farm. My grandfather used to own a big farming place in Los Alamos. It would be south of Los Alamos from there. Acres and acres and acres. My aunt and I used to do all the cooking for all those people.

Kelly: Wow. Was this a homesteading place? Is this something that he had acquired back in 1860s or ‘70s?

Quintana: Yeah, that’s when it was.

Kelly: Yeah. Was it a place that he had year-round?

Quintana: Just in the spring and summer, and in the wintertime, they had their cattle there, had a bunch of cattle. It was acres and acres and acres. You stand on one side and you couldn’t even see the other side.

Kelly: Oh, my. Did you have fun up there?

Quintana: Yes. We were cooks, my aunt and I did the cooking. We had a lot of Indian people from the pueblo San Ildefonso helping in the farm, plus my uncles and cousins.

Kelly: Oh, okay. I guess you lived very close to the San Ildefonso Pueblo?

Quintana: Yes, one mile. We used to walk to church every Sunday.

Kelly: Great. Where did you go to school?

Quintana: I went to school in the rural school in El Rancho, a small school.

Kelly: Was it mainly people from your community?

Quintana: Yeah.

Kelly: Through what grade did you go to school?

Quintana: Seventh. Then my mother took sick, she had a nervous breakdown. I had to quit the school and take care of my sisters and my brothers.

Kelly: So you were a very responsible young woman at the age of twelve or thirteen.

Quintana: Um-hmm. I was.

Kelly: That experience though, babysitting your sisters served you well.

Quintana: That’s why I took such good care of her [Julie Melton]. [Laughs]

Kelly: Right. Tell us what happened when the war came along. You must have been about twenty years old when the government took over Los Alamos. 

Quintana: Oh, we had to evacuate, because Los Alamos was taken over. We couldn’t get our belongings that we had there or anything. They didn’t let us. The wagons and buggies and everything that they had. Some of the tools, the machines, they couldn’t get out.

Kelly: Is that right? These were things you were using in your homestead?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: You had to leave the tools and the fencing?

Quintana: Dishes and everything. The food. They didn’t let us take anything, just our clothes.

Kelly: What did they do with the building, if you had a cabin or a house?

Quintana: I understand the building is still standing up. It was a log cabin, great big log cabin, and they had a dormitory to the south for the Indian people.

Kelly: Have you seen it? Has some of your family members seen the cabin lately?

Quintana: No one else. At first, we were very happy that that happened, because we had to work so hard on the farm. I know my father wasn’t, but we were.

Kelly: Tell us more about that.

Quintana: We used to plant a lot of peas and green beans. My mother used to can it, because there was no freezers at the time. She used to can a lot: apricots, pears, apples, all kinds of things.

Kelly: But that stopped, because you couldn’t harvest the orchards and the peas. That freed you up. That’s good news/bad news.

Do you remember the trucks? It must have been very dusty. Did they go through your town? The trucks and everything that must have been carrying the men?

Quintana: Where we live now? Where we lived in El Rancho?

Kelly: Um-hmm.

Quintana: Yeah, it was. First it was the 6x6’s and the buses, TA buses, military, and there was so much dust my mother had to keep the doors closed. Because we were kind of close to the road, the dust was always coming in. Finally, they got together, put a blacktop on it, and no more dust.

Kelly: Oh, they put the blacktop down. Stirring up that dust every day all day, it must have really been difficult to keep your cupboards clean. How did you happen to get a job on the Hill?

Quintana: We were familiar with Los Alamos already. We used to do our shopping on Saturday, and shop for clothes and all that. Then once in a great while, we would go to the lodge and eat for lunch.

Julie [Melton] was a lot of fun to take care of. She was the best little girl. I had a lot of brothers and sisters. She was an angel compared to them. They would fight and jump and play and everything. Too much noise. She and I used to hike all the time. We used to go to the central cafeteria. We used to go to the West Mesa and eat lunch or breakfast, and then the [Fuller] Lodge, we ate breakfast there a lot on Sundays.

Kelly: Were you babysitting seven days a week, every day?

Quintana: Yeah, and then I went to live with them.

Kelly: Oh, you went to live with them.

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: That made it much easier for you.

Quintana: Once in a while, she would get up and say, “Frances, I’m scared to sleep alone.” She would hop in the bed with me.

Kelly: That’s great. Do you remember how old Julie was when you were babysitting for her?

Quintana: Maybe five years old.

Julie Melton: At the end, yes, but at the beginning, I was much younger than that.

Kelly: Like three? Two?

Julie: I know I was under two when we got to Los Alamos. I was, I think, eighteen months.

Kelly: Wow. You took care of her from the time she was eighteen months old?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: She was just a little one.

Quintana: Well, I went to work at the nursery school first. Then some of the parents would take their kids sick and with colds and runny nose. Her mother decided that she would take Julie out of school and let me take care of her full-time. I said, “Fine.”

We used to have a lot of fun. We used to hike, we used to play. We had a lot of dishes and dolls in her room. Real pretty room.

Kelly: Sounded like it worked marvelously. You just became part of the family?

Quintana: Yes, I did. I would bring Julie with me to my house.

Kelly: That’s wonderful.

Quintana: The kids with play her. My brother still was—

Julie: Gustie, your youngest brother was about my age.

Quintana: I used to bring her to the house and she met him there, and she met all the family and brothers like little [inaudible], but I was the oldest. That’s how she met him. 

Kelly: Did they get along well?

Quintana: Yes, very well.

Kelly: Even though your younger siblings were noisier and more unruly.

Quintana: Yeah, they got along very well.

Kelly: Do you remember any moments that were either scary, or where you maybe had gotten—you say you took long hikes, did you have—?

Quintana: We always went to the sidewalk, and then we used to go to the [J. Robert] Oppenheimer’s right across in the Bathtub Row. They would play a little while, and then I’d bring her home.

Kelly: Did Julie play with Peter Oppenheimer?

Quintana: Um-hmm. I think of Peter all the time. He was such a nice little boy, and then he disappeared and he never came back. Do you ever hear from him?

Julie: No, but I understand he lives near Santa Fe.

Quintana: In Pecos, he lived in Pecos. I went to look for him one time, and I didn’t find him.

Kelly: So they were good pals, then?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: How about the baby, Toni? I guess she was too little.

Quintana: She was still little. I didn’t get to take care of her.

Kelly: Do you remember her being born? Do you remember the birth of the Oppenheimer’s little girl?

Quintana: Oh, yeah. They used to live in Bathtub Row.

Kelly: What was their house like?

Quintana: Real nice house. They had a wedding one time there for a nurse, and it was a beautiful wedding. I helped with the wedding.

Kelly: Is that right?

Quintana: They got places at the table, and forks and all that.

Kelly: Who was their babysitter? Do you remember their babysitter?

Quintana: Let’s see. She had an Indian lady from the San Ildefonso Pueblo, Isabel—

Julie: Atencio.

Quintana: Atencio.

Kelly: Was she about your age?

Quintana: Oh, no, she was older.

Quintana: Yeah, Isabel Atencio was niece to Maria [Montoya Martinez], the potter. Made beautiful black pottery.

Kelly: Did the Oppenheimers have any of Maria’s pottery?

Quintana: Yes, they did. Mrs. Hawkins, too.

Kelly: Can you describe the Oppenheimer’s house? Did they like collecting the pottery?

Quintana: Yes, they did. They had great big things from Taos.

Kelly: Do you remember Kitty Oppenheimer?

Quintana: Yes.

Kelly: Can you tell us about her?

Quintana: When I used to go babysit Peter, I was never allowed to see him. Well, nobody told me not to see him, but I couldn’t see him. But the mother was always in bed. She was always sick. That’s all I can say.

Kelly: Well, that’s too bad. But Peter seemed to be happy?

Quintana: He was happy. He was a good eater.

Kelly: A good eater, good.

Quintana: Sometimes, I would make breakfast for him and Julie at her house.

Kelly: Peter would come to Julie’s house?

Quintana: Um-hmm. They were just across. They lived in Bathtub Row.

Kelly: Julie lived in Bathtub or nearby?

Quintana: No, Peter.

Kelly: Yeah, right. That’s great. How big was the Hawkins’ house? How big was Julie’s house?

Quintana: Three-bedroom house.

Kelly: Three. There was a room for you.

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: And a room for Julie. Perfect. And a room for her parents.

Quintana: Just one time she got up one night, and she went to my bed and she said, “I’m scared, I’m scared of a ghost.”

I said, “Well, hop in with me in bed.” She did.

Kelly: Oh, that’s great.

Quintana: In the morning, her mother went to her room and she wasn’t there.

Julie: Oh, dear.

Quintana: She came in, “When did she come in?”

I told her, “Oh, it was midnight. She got scared. She was screaming.”

Kelly: That’s great. I wonder what it was. Was there a storm that night?

Quintana: I don’t remember. But it would snow a lot in the ‘40s.

Kelly: Talk about your relationship with Julie’s mom and dad? What was your relationship with her mother?

Quintana: It was very good. She was the nicest lady, and she taught me how to sew. We used to sew together so much.

Kelly: That’s wonderful.

Quintana: And then cooking. She would say, “You do the cooking. I want you to fix a Spanish dinner today.” So I would fix her dinner.  

Kelly: You fixed them dinner in the Spanish style?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: How did they like it?

Quintana: They liked it very much.

Kelly: That’s great.

Quintana: One time I invited them to my mother’s house and she had a big dinner, too.

Kelly: Great. What did Mrs. Hawkins do during the day?

Quintana: Well, she ran the nursery school. That right?

Julie: That’s right.

Quintana: She was the one that originated it, when they opened the nursery.

Kelly: How old were the children?

Quintana: Kindergarten.

Kelly: Kindergarten. Did she go to the nursery school every day to work? Did she work at the nursery school every day?

Quintana: Yes.

Kelly: So, it was just you and Julie at home?

Quintana: Yeah. Once in a while I would take her to play in the [inaudible]. We went out to lunch a lot, too, [laughs] in the cafeteria.

Kelly: Yeah. You were out and about. How about Julie’s father? Was he a nice man, too?

Quintana: Oh, very nice. Very nice people, A-plus.

Kelly: Maybe you can talk about when Julie and her family left, what her dad did for you in terms of getting a job?

Quintana: Oh, I had jobs all over the place, people offering me jobs. But Mr. Hawkins got me—through him, I got this job at the Technical Area. After they left, I started working there. I worked there for thirty-five years.

Kelly: How many years?

Quintana: Thirty-five years.

Kelly: Thirty-five years, wow. You must have been a great employee.

Quintana: Until I retired.

Kelly: Oh, my goodness. That’s marvelous. Tell us about the kind of work you did. What were your jobs?

Quintana: Before I do that, I’m going to tell that I went to—Mrs. Hawkins used to suffer from her bad back, so she went to stay with her mother in California, in San Francisco. I went, because I had to take care of Julie. We went by train.

I hadn’t told my folks anything. I said yes to go on this train, so I told them. They said, “Oh, that’s fine. You be with them. They are nice people. You go with them.” 

Kelly: During that time, you lived in San Francisco together?

Quintana: No, I didn’t live. I just went to take her, and I came back on the train.

Kelly: Oh, I see.

Quintana: Mr. Pockman took me to the train, your grandpa.

Julie: But you stayed a few days, didn’t you?

Quintana: Yeah, oh, yeah. Coming back, I told Mr. Hawkins that, “This man was the best.” I said, “He wouldn’t leave me alone. He’d come and sit with me and ask me questions.” I knew better, because I had gone to lectures already that I wasn’t supposed to mention anything about Los Alamos.

Kelly: I see.

Quintana: But he kept pestering me all the way, asking me, wondering. Then when we got to Albuquerque, I got off there, and a WAC was waiting for me. No, in Lamy. I think it was Lamy. A WAC was waiting for me there, and he followed me there.

Then the next day, I was walking to work, I was walking with Mr. Hawkins, and I said, “Mr. Hawkins, that man followed me on the train all the way.”

“He did?” he said. “I think I know him.” He was one of those—

Julie: FBI?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Julie: He wanted to make sure you were behaving yourself.

Kelly: Oh, my goodness. They were tailing you.

Quintana: That’s what I thought of right along, that he was an FBI, because I was used to it. Because they used to come to El Rancho and clear people all the time.

Kelly: When you were on the train, did you have any idea that the man might be a spy? What were you thinking? What did you think?

Quintana: He was just watching me, I mean, taking care of me, I guess. Protecting me.

Kelly: When you were there, was there much talk about spies and the need for security? You said when you were on the train, you knew not to talk to strangers.

Quintana: No, we never talked.

Kelly: That was something that you learned from being on the Hill, that it was important to not talk about—

Quintana: Yeah, we had lectures all the time. We weren’t supposed to discuss work at all outside.

Kelly: Did that secrecy continue after the end of the war?

Quintana: I think it did. Uh-huh, it did. I used to work a lot with secrets when I got this job inside the fence. First they put me with unclassified material, and then little by little, confidential, secret, top secret. I worked with all those.

Kelly: So you had a security badge?

Quintana: Yes.

Kelly: Were there many other members of your family or friends who also started working after the war for the lab?

Quintana: Oh, yeah. I got my two sisters in at the lab, my brother. A few of them worked up there.

Kelly: Did they work, like you, for their entire career?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: When you think back on the experience of your family and yourself and your community, what do you think about the fact that the government chose Los Alamos to put its laboratory? Was that a good thing? Not so good?

Quintana: I think it was good, because people in our community got to get out of the house and work. Kids getting out of college, it was hard for them to get jobs before. They went to teaching. My brothers went to teaching. Then after they got a job at Los Alamos, everybody left the teaching fields.

Kelly: What about today? Is there still a lot of people who work at the laboratory from the valley?

Quintana: Yeah, there is. A lot of them. That’s all the kids do nowadays, the younger kids, they go apply at Los Alamos.

And they’re still working. They applied, and they’re still working. Some of them are starting retire now. Like my brothers, they’re two of them retired.

Kelly: How about their children or their children’s children, is there still a number of people—?

Quintana: Let’s see. My son worked for the lab and he retired, and he’s a teacher.

Kelly: It sounds like it had a positive effect for Northern New Mexico, for your community.

Quintana: It did, it did. People starting perking up, and they started fixing the roads and some people could go to work. But the first time they came to El Rancho, there were GI soldiers driving the trucks, 6x6’s, the tarps. That’s where they took us, to work. Then they got promoted, and they started using buses, so it was more pleasant then, the ride in. But before, the road was very bumpy.

Kelly: I heard stories about how scary a ride it was, going over the bumps and the windy roads up there.

Quintana: Yeah. The road used to go like this.

Kelly: How about the edge of the road? Was there a large shoulder, or did it drop off?

Quintana: Yeah, it dropped off. Got killed.

Kelly: People got killed? Dangerous.

Quintana: Several.

Kelly: Do you remember the buses? Did you ever ride the buses yourself?

Quintana: They didn’t allow the buses to come down at first, just the 6x6’s GI trucks. Then they started fixing the road a little bit, so that the buses could drive through. We had buses then.

Kelly: What color were the buses?

Quintana: Army color.

Kelly: Army color. All of them Army green?

Quintana: Um-hmm, trucks and everything.

Kelly: How many buses do you suppose came every day?

Quintana: Well, there was three [misspoke: four] communities: there was El Rancho, Pojoaque, and El Nambe, Cuyamungue, four buses.

Kelly: One for each community?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: Non-stop.

Quintana: Non-stop. Because, they were packed full, all of them.

Kelly: All full.

Quintana: Some were janitors, some were electricians, and all kinds of carpenters.

Kelly: Did some of the people get trained as electricians?

Quintana: No, they were already trained. They just left their jobs in Santa Fe, and came to Los Alamos.

Kelly: Great. How many people were babysitters? Were there many people who found jobs like you did with a family?

Quintana: Oh, yeah, lots. Lots of girls and Indian girls from the pueblo and from El Rancho, Pojoaque and Cuyamungue and Nambe, and then from Espanola, it was a whole bunch, and Santa Fe.

Kelly: Wow. There must have been learning both ways. It sounded like the people on the Hill learned about Indian pottery and learned about Spanish pottery and the exchange of cultures. Learned about Spanish cooking. It was a nice exchange?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: Did you teach Julie Spanish?

Quintana: Yes, I tried to. I think she knows a little bit.

Julie: It was all in there when I finally learned.

Kelly: That’s great. Wow. You had a remarkable career.

Quintana: Yes, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed taking care of her. I used to take her for walks, I used to take her to the movies. I used to take her to church. I asked Mrs. Hawkins, “Do you object if I take Julie to the Catholic church?”

She said, “No, why should I?” So I started taking her to church.

Quintana: First I was the babysitter, then I met others like Mrs. Oppenheimer. She was always in bed, so I used to work for her, cleaning house, and Mrs. [Mary] Dodson, and Mrs. [Elsie] McMillan. Your best friend?

Julie: Weisskopf?

Quintana: No, no, no.

Julie: Dows, yes.

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Julie: The Dows.

Quintana: And the Dows.

Julie: David Dow was the general counsel of Los Alamos during the war. But she had a lot of interesting experiences after the war, too, with her jobs.

Quintana: Then, I left—let’s see, that first job taking the houses. Where did I go from there? Oh, yeah, I went to the lab. That’s where I started going to school.

Yeah. It was the lab. First I went to work in the mailroom. They used to have a small, little post office. All the A’s went in one box, and B’s in another. Every time somebody came for mail, we’d take all the A’s and look for “Anderson,” and whatever, the B’s. That was my first job after I left babysitting. From there I worked for Mrs. McMillan, for Mrs. Oppenheimer, cleaning houses after this. That’s what I did.

Kelly: Do you remember Mrs. McMillan?

Quintana: Yes.

Kelly: What was she like?

Quintana: Very nice lady, very sweet. Did you know her?

Kelly: No, I want to know about her.

Quintana: Oh. Ed McMillan, that was her husband. Then I worked for Mrs. Dodson, doing the same thing. I went to this house and she said, “The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is iron for me. Do you know how to iron?”

I said, “Oh, yeah, I iron.” Then she put me in this apparatus that I had never seen before, and I didn’t know how to operate it. It was a mangle, and I had never ironed with a mangle, just with an iron. That’s where she put me. She taught me how to do it, so I learned right away, and it was so easy to iron the men’s shirts with the sleeves. It was nice.

Kelly: What was their house like? What was the McMillan’s house like?

Quintana: The McMillan’s house is there, and I’d say it was a great big house. The first week that I went to work for her, she gave a reception for a nurse from the hospital in Los Alamos. She had the wedding there, and I helped her serve and everything. She made me dress real nice, and I helped serve in that wedding.

Kelly: Did she entertain inside the house, or on the lawn?

Quintana: Yes.

Kelly: Inside the house.

Quintana: Sit-down wedding, very nice. She had a great big living room.

Kelly: What was the kitchen like?

Quintana: The kitchen—let’s see if I remember the kitchen. Yeah, I remember the kitchen being long like this, and the house was pretty close to here.

Kelly: Was it near the Oppenheimer’s house?

Quintana: Yes, um-hmm.

Kelly: Right next door?

Quintana: Um-hmm. it was. Then R. C. Smith was further on down, and all the big wheels were close to us.  

Kelly: Did you know everyone who lived on Bathtub Row?

Quintana: I think so.

Kelly: Was it a nice community?

Quintana: Very nice, very nice. I stayed there and took care of Ann McMillan when they went to parties or dinner. I wasn’t scared, but I always locked my doors.

Kelly: Did you ever help out at some of the bigger parties?

Quintana: Yes, I sure did.

Kelly: What were they like? Tell us.

Quintana: Mr. Dodson and most of the men weren’t rowdy or anything. They were very nice, quiet parties, really.

Kelly: Did the men talk together and women talked together?

Quintana: Um-hmm.

Kelly: Do you remember what people ate or drank?

Quintana: I don’t know if they drank, but I know what they ate: a turkey dinner and the trimmings with it.

Kelly: Great. After the end of the war, Mr. Hawkins got you started at a job at the Tech Area, and you were talking about you were sorting mail. Then what other kinds of things did you do?

Quintana: First, they had mailboxes and all the A’s in one, all the B’s, so you had to take all the letters out and look. Sometimes, the GIs would come and even cry, because they didn’t get letters. I felt so sorry for them. They were so young.

Kelly: Did the mail come once a day?

Quintana: Once a day. They brought it from Santa Fe. There was no post office here.

Kelly: After the mailroom, what’s another job you had?

Quintana: From the mailroom, I went upstairs to the post office to sort the mail. It was mostly classified mail that I was sorting. I worked there for a long time.

Kelly: You read the classified mail?

Quintana: I never read it.

Kelly: You didn’t read it, no. You just sorted it?  

Quintana: Sorted, um-hmm. Like, “These letters go to Oppenheimer, these go to somebody else.”

Kelly: Was there a lot of mail? A lot of classified mail?

Quintana: Oh, a lot of it.

Kelly: Where did it come from?

Quintana: From Santa Fe.  

Kelly: From Santa Fe. But was this mail coming from Washington, D.C., or Chicago or could you tell where it was coming from?

Quintana: No. We didn’t have time for that.

Kelly: You didn’t have time.

Quintana: I was very fast. Even I have to say so, it was very fast to sort mail.

Kelly: A lot of mail?

Quintana: Um-hmm. Then later on, we could open the mail and staple it in the corner and route it to the different people. Mostly, it was the group leader. Pat McCanter was the group leader.

Kelly: Then after you’re working on that, what did you do?

Quintana: After that, let’s see. I think I was doing the classified thing. I didn’t get out from there very much. I had to be with my classified mail.

Kelly: Then, you had one job that took you all over New Mexico, what was that? You had to travel?

Quintana: To Albuquerque and to, let’s see, where else. Well, I used to go a lot to Santa Fe. Dorothy McKibbin was in charge of the 109 East Palace Avenue. That’s where I used to go all the time, once a day, to deliver some mail.

This man that your mother used to know very well—I can’t remember what his name was—but he was a postmaster, whatever he was. I used to go to Dorothy McKibbin’s office a lot and deliver mail.

Kelly: What was Dorothy like?

Quintana: Very nice lady. The nicest lady. Very, very nice.

Kelly: What did she do for people? What was her job?

Quintana: My job was just to go take classified mail. and this man used to drive me. I had a chauffeur. 

She started inviting me to her house, too.

Kelly: Really? She invited you, and what you do there? What was that like?

Quintana: She would cook dinner and she says, “Today, I’m going to cook, but tomorrow, you’re going to fix a Spanish dinner for me.” And she made me make tortillas and chili. She wanted the chili.

Kelly: Oh, that’s fun. Now, do you remember, was her son living with her?

Quintana: Um-hmm, Kevin McKibbin, yeah.

Kelly: Was he as good as Julie?

Quintana: He was very, very nice. 

Quintana: For Fiestas, Dorothy McKibbin used to ask me to come and help her. Let’s see, the first day she asked me to make her tortillas and [inaudible], because it was going to be Fiesta. We cooked beans, and we made chili. Tamales, she bought them herself, but it was for fiestas.

Kelly: What did you do on the fiestas?

Quintana: Oh, I didn’t go. I stayed with her in the house. She had a great big table.

Kelly: So Dorothy McKibbin would entertain a lot of people?

Quintana: Um-hmm, for fiestas.

Kelly: Who came to her fiestas? Were there many people from Los Alamos?

Quintana: I suppose so. I don’t know. I was too busy in the kitchen doing things.

Kelly: Good. Do you remember going to La Fonda?

Quintana: Yes, a lot, I really [inaudible] La Fonda. When it was fiestas, they would have a party there. They would come from Los Alamos, and they had a party at La Fonda, and I’d take care of Julie, the Dow kids, with Mr. Dow.

Kelly: So everybody came, children and adults. Sounds like fun. Let’s see, so more stories of work?

Kelly: At the end of your career, you were working for lawyers at the laboratory?

Quintana: Oh, yeah, we got to travel a lot. Yeah, the lawyers were working here at Los Alamos, and I was working with them. Then they decided to not come from Albuquerque, that I should go out there instead. I used to work with all the lawyers. Not doing any typing, I think, just sealing envelopes and taking them to different offices in that building. Yeah, I remember that now.

Kelly: This building was in Albuquerque?

Quintana: Um-hmm, it was a big post office, and in that was a great big office, and that’s where I used to work.

Kelly: You were responsible for helping them with some classified documents, is that right? You want to tell us about that?

Quintana: There was a lot of lawyers there, and they were from Arizona and from here, from New Mexico. Those lawyers, the ones I worked with, they would let me open their letters and staple them in the corner and take the letters to them. That’s what I did.

Kelly: Well, you must have been very good at what you did.

Quintana: I enjoyed my job.

Kelly: They must have trusted you.

Julie: Yeah, I was going to say highly trusted.

Kelly: Yes. You must have been very highly trusted.

Quintana: I guess I was. I had a high clearance.

Kelly: You’re not going to tell us any more now, right?

Quintana: I never read anything.

Alexandra Levy: When did you and your community find out that they were taking over Los Alamos? How did you find that out?

Quintana: I guess they sent them letters. I remember Father getting letters. He left all his tools, they didn’t let him take anything.

Kelly: How did you feel about that?

Quintana: Well, I felt good, because I didn’t have to come work over here.

Kelly: That’s good.

Quintana: It was fun, though, it was very clean air and real, real nice. But I felt very happy when they sold the farm, acres and acres and hundreds. Sometimes I tell my kids, you know, and they’re like, “How could you stand it?”

Kelly: But how did your parents feel, and your grandparents? Did they feel the same way?

Quintana: Well, in a way I think my father was—because it was my grandmother’s farm, my mother’s mother, it was her farm. After that, my uncle—that was the last time we planted before they took over.

Alexandra: Did you get any money when the government took over the farm?

Quintana: Yeah, the government didn’t pay very much for the land. That’s what I used to hear them talking.

Alexandra: I guess I just have one more question, which is, how long has your family been in New Mexico for?

Quintana: All their life, all their life.

Kelly: How about generations? Can you say when the first of your family came here?

Quintana: I don’t know, but it was my mother’s mother’s ranch. My father used to take care of it. I didn’t know her grandparents, my mother’s grandparents.

Julie: Frances, one time you told my mother that your family had been there since the Spanish came originally in—

Kelly: Did your family come with the Spanish people from Spain?

Quintana: The Gomez people did. I don’t know if the Montoya side, but that’s my mother, I don’t know about her.

Glenda: Well, I was just wondering if you wanted to share with them that they, our family, the Gomez’s still have the document that President Lincoln signed about the property that you have.

Quintana: Oh, yes, yes, yes. The Gomez have a letter, who has it now? Maybe Bill?

Glenda: Somebody in our family.

Quintana: A document. All the El Rancho was documented under the Gomez family at one time, and then as they got married and all that, they forgot, I guess.

Quintana: Oh, yeah. A lot of people from here, the Hawkins and the McMillans, Dodsons and the Weisskopfs, every Friday evening, they would go eat supper at Mrs. [Edith] Warner’s. I used to know Mrs. Warner already, because she lived just across the bridge in Otowi. She had her house to the left side. It still stands there.

Kelly: Every Friday evening, these families would—?

Quintana: Yeah. Every Friday evening, she would fix this dinner and all the people from Los Alamos—not all, but her friends—would come and eat dinner. She would ask me to come and help her, so I would come and help her set the table and the food and help everything. Then she moved across the river that way to the south, and she also used to ask me to come and help her bake cakes.

Kelly: What kind of cakes?

Quintana: Chocolate cake was her favorite.

Kelly: Was it good?

Quintana: You know what, I used to hate cakes.

Kelly: Oh, dear.

Julie: Unlike her sister.

Kelly: Oh, my goodness.

Quintana: Yeah, because I’m allergic to eggs, and they give me a reaction. I would taste them, yes, and they were good.

Kelly: How about the company? Did they like the chocolate cake?

Quintana: Oh, yeah, um-hmm. That was a favorite.

Kelly: Do you remember Tilano?

Quintana: Oh, yes, very well.

Kelly: Can you me about him?

Quintana: He never did talk, though. He just sat there and listened. He used to take care of wood for the stoves that she had to fire, and all the chores that a man does, that’s what he used to do. He was from the tribe of San Ildefonso.

Kelly: Where was Edith Warner buried?

Quintana: On the back of her house.

Levy: What was Edith Warner like?

Quintana: Oh, she was a real nice lady. She wore a lot of bracelets and big concho belts, a lot of red.

Kelly: And she basically lived by herself?

Quintana: Yeah.

Kelly: Tilano was her helpmate. But she clearly liked to entertain.

Quintana: She really did. All the people from Los Alamos did go there. She was always booked.

Kelly: Did she sit down with the guests?

Quintana: No. She was always on the go.

Kelly: Right.

Quintana: Going around the table, seeing what they needed.

Kelly: That’s a great memory.

Quintana: She had a lot of jewelry. Oooh, gosh, a big box like this. Like conchos and the bracelets and rings.

Kelly: Did she grow her own vegetables?

Quintana: Yes, she grew everything.

Kelly: And had chickens for the eggs?

Quintana: Yeah, she had chickens.

Kelly: Wow. Farm-to-table, as they say. Yeah, very fresh food. That’s great.

Glenda: Do you want to mention those ladies’ names that went with you to Los Alamos?

Quintana: Oh, oh, Okay. My name is here, Frances Gomez, okay, then Pat Martinez, Angelita Martinez, Angelita Atencio, Esther Valencia, Teresa Valencia, Betty Baros, Lupe Baros, Trini Roybal, Fulgencia Roybal, Ursulita Gallegos, Fabiola Gomez, Veronica Roybal, Isabel Atencio, Virginia Gonzalez and Annie Serna. Those were the ones that used to come on the bus with me to Los Alamos. They were all placed in different houses to work, clean houses.

Kelly: All of these women were friends of yours?

Quintana: Yeah, we went to school together. All of them went to school there, except the Baros girls, they went to the San Ildefonso Pueblo. And Angelita Atencio and Pat Martinez, they were Indian girls.