Home News Vision Spotlight: The 39th Annual Heritage Dinner

Spotlight: The 39th Annual Heritage Dinner

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Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives At this year's Heritage Dinner, sponsored by the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico, restaurants past and present will be honored. Pictured is the Chinese restaurant Chew Den, which was owned by the late Jack Chew — date unknown.

Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico to honor restaurants

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

This year’s 39th Annual Heritage Dinner, sponsored by the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico (HSSENM), will be adapted to the times and circumstances living in a pandemic.

On Sept. 1, those who have made reservations will pick up their ticket and a gift bag at HSSENM Museum, 200 N. Lea Ave., from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

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Next stop is Peppers Grill & Bar, 500 N. Main St., where ticket holders can pick up their dinner box or bundle. This event is a drive-through event only. There will be County Sheriff’s vehicles and personnel present on both locations to assure that all regulations are held and safety is guaranteed.

The idea for this year’s unique HSSENM Heritage Dinner is to bring the event home to share with families and close friends — social distancing, of course — and at the same time to honor local restaurants of past and present — many are struggling for survival during the pandemic.

There might be no industry in the U.S. and in Roswell hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as the restaurant industry. According to HSSENM Executive Director Amy McVay Tellez and HSSENM Board member Jane Anglin, when the pandemic shut down restaurants, businesses and museums, the board members started to brainstorm on what to do for the 39th Annual Heritage Dinner.

“We had talked about unique concepts,” McVay Tellez said. “It came about with me having a dream about a drive up event. I think we knew we wanted to do something; focus more on what we can do than what we can’t do. That was important from the beginning during all of our board meetings. The first meeting was with Adam (Adam Roe, one of the owners of Peppers Grill & Bar) and he said, ‘You’re crazy.’ That was in March.”

One large part of the event is putting together a booklet that will be part of the gift bag given to ticket holders. HSSENM’s deadline is Aug. 7 for restaurant owners to send in information about their restaurant, bakery or food truck — no matter if the place still exists, has been open for a day or has been shut down a long time ago.

During the interview with McVay Tellez and Anglin, the list of restaurants and eating establishments counted already more than 80. Anglin and three other board members have been calling the restaurants, in case they overlooked their information card in the mail. “They are so excited,” Anglin said. “Some of them even got teary-eyed. ‘You are recognizing our restaurants?’ It has been amazing. Making the contacts made all the difference. We want your history.”

It is difficult to reach some of the restaurants. “Some of them, like Laura’s Cafe, locked up. La Casita, locked up,” Anglin said.

According to McVay Tellez, the board had two plans ready: One as a drive up at the State Fairgrounds because they had been supportive of HSSENM, but recent developments when the governor declared that there would be no inside dining for restaurants, it made them choose plan b, as a drive-through dinner.

“I contacted the sheriff and we affirmed as of now, we didn’t want to wait until fall, we needed to do something now,” McVay Tellez said. She said that when the plans were announced on social media, some people were worried about the event being legal. “It is very important for me to clarify through talking to the sheriff that this is acceptable with the orders as it is now,” McVay Tellez said. “There is no intention of there being anybody, nor will it be accepted, for anybody being out of their vehicle.

“The only individuals that will be out of any vehicle will be the event holders, which is the Historical Society and some helpers, our volunteers. But we will be prominently marked, we will have neon shirts on identifying us. There is no exception for anybody getting out of their vehicle. That is important,” McVay Tellez said.

Asked the steps in participating, McVay Tellez said, “Step one: Going online to the webpage of HSSENM. Everything is to go over the website because of social distancing. People can’t just show up, everything (including ticket reservations) is going through the website at roswellnmhistory.org. We are aware, some people may not be able to afford to buy this meal and that’s what is linking to a pay it forward concept that I am really excited about.”

This pay it forward concept is for businesses and private people to purchase tickets to reward first responders, civic volunteers and/or their own employees as a thank you for helping them to survive these difficult times.

“Now we are on the day of the event, Sept. 1,” McVay Tellez said. “Adam thought that it was important that people remember what this is all about. That we are closed, that we are celebrating history. We will be set up, they will be getting an elegant little bag. Many people who go to the Heritage Dinner enjoy the beautiful decor and atmosphere. Well, we can’t do that this year, but they will get fun items on behalf of the Historic Society, along with tickets, the booklet and then at that point — after they obtained their tickets and that is not something that somebody can show up and say I want one. They can’t go to Peppers and say, oh, I want one. They have to come to the museum, no exception, and get their fun little bags, that’s another blessing from us, and then go pick up their food at Peppers or they can have it delivered.”

This however, is just the beginning. The HSSENM is challenging Roswell to participate, even if they can’t afford the ticket, they can participate. Ticket holders are asked to dress up, prepare their dining room or patio with candles and silverware to bring the Heritage Dinner to their home and to share pictures of the event. Boxes include the dinner for one or two persons. The bundle includes decoration, sparkling cider with glasses and dinner for eight.

One dinner box includes garden salad for two, one beef entrée, 12oz ribeye steak, baby bakers, summer squash medley, rolls and butter; one chicken entrée — Chicken Oscar, topped with asparagus, crab and hollandaise sauce, rice pilaf, summer squash medley, rolls and butter; one appetizer for two — jumbo shrimp cocktail, served with cocktail sauce, marinated mozzarella antipasto skewers; one dessert for two — brown butter cake with fruit compote on the side.

“Be ready for our production at 8 p.m., courtesy of KSVP,” McVay Tellez said. “They were so supportive to take the Heritage Dinner to the homes of people. If somebody cannot afford the dinner, they can still watch the event and that’s a golden opportunity, the sunny side up. They may not be able to afford it, but they can still be a part of it. Everybody is part of the history of Roswell. It will be online, but it will also be recorded and archived for later. We will do that in advance. It will be through KVSP on their website. They have been so wonderful during this time to reserve that time.”

The production, at press time, is scheduled for 45 minutes, however, if HSSENM receives more contributions, it will be expanded. McVay Tellez said that if not more restaurants will respond, well-known locals will contribute with their memories of restaurants and events around them. “Somebody like Tim Jennings, he has those memories and hands down he is going to be part of the program. Last time he was here, we had a little contest who had the best green chile sauce. That’s fun,” she said.“I think we would be remiss.

If we wouldn’t say, we didn’t realize the impact food is having on people during these unique circumstances until the passing of Jack Chew, and how many people felt comfort. People finding comfort and cooking those recipes and showing them on Facebook and celebrating through cooking. It’s bigger than Jack Chew. It hit home with history,” McVay Tellez said.

“I don’t think his family will ever realize that impact. That, magnified by thousands of restaurants that Jane and I went back through our city directories, back to the 1900s,” McVay Tellez said.

Chew had donated all items of his store to HSSENM when he retired. During the silent auction, a minimum of 10 collections will be available, each having a different theme. One of them will have special items of Chew’s. “His cookbooks will be available in the collection. And some unique items that came originally from his store. We received a very generous donation from Jack Chew when he retired. That’s directly from his store. We’ll have a Bath & Body collection; a masculine collection. It has some golf affiliation, some outdoor items. We’ll have an art collection. We’ll have some Peter de la Fuente and other art items in that collection,” McVay Tellez said.

Anglin said that there will be a restaurant collection with gift cards. Any business that would like to contribute with a collection or donate should inform HSSENM by Aug. 7.

Asked about the restaurants of the past, McVay Tellez said, “It was interesting it (the city) listed some restaurants, but some only by name of the owners. We started in the 1900s and stopped in 2000. Again, there is just so much.”

One of the best sources for research are the Daily Record’s archives, many articles are found at HSSENM Archives building as clipping; the microfiche of the entire newspapers are property of the Daily Record, the archive includes other newspapers from the early 1900s that no longer exist. A search showed advertisements of the time that give a glimpse into the industry that shaped Roswell more than they might think. After all, most civic clubs and organizations would meet at restaurants; the restaurant owners were active in the town’s politics and contributed to the quality of life. Directors, business owners and politicians got their first jobs in these restaurants. Young folks at the time would go with their friends after school or work to a “soda fountain.” Then, there is the typical American tradition that you do not find anywhere else in the world: After Sunday church, families would go out for brunch or lunch to local restaurants. Young adults would end their “night on the town” with a visit at one of the chain restaurants that serve breakfast around the clock.

Then there were the established restaurants that would be passed down from one generation to the next; families would join in marriage and celebrate milestones in business and privately together.

Here are some samples of stories and advertisements of the past:

One of the earliest invitations to a restaurant was published on the front page of the Daily Record, Sept. 17, 1904.

“Do it Tomorrow

“Don’t worry about cooking anything tomorrow. Bring yourself and family to the Alamo restaurant. Dinner from 11:30 to 2:30 o’clock. Dinner tomorrow: Chicken with noodles, fish and escalloped oysters. The best is none too good at the Alamo. Thirty-five cents.”

Notice, that there was no address necessary, nor a phone number.

Daily Record, April 26, 1906, page 4

“The Metropolitan Restaurant

“125 N. Main St., Roswell, “NM

“In the building recently vacated by the Roswell Produce & Seed Company in the Jaffa, Prager Block, a first-class restaurant has been established. It is under the management of Chinese who have a first-class restaurant in El Paso. It is the finest restaurant in the city and short orders will be served at all hours, all day and all night. Regular Dinner from 12 noon until 7 p.m., 25 cents. This new restaurant is for ladies, as well as for gentlemen. Your trade solicited and satisfaction guaranteed.”

Daily Record, Dec. 10, 1908, front page

“The Elk Restaurant

“Harry Wilson, An Old Time Sea Cook Opens Up Restaurant and Eating House Here

“Harry Wilson, a Sea and Gulf Cook who has been employed on ships in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, has opened a short order restaurant in the rear of the Elk Saloon owned by Jacoby & Keel.

“Mr. Wilson who has been here for about two years, abandoned his profession of cooking until a few days ago, when he opened the restaurant in the Elk saloon.

“In his new place he declares that the best will be none too good for his customers. From the rapid trade he is receiving it is shown that his efforts are highly appreciated.

“One point that is emphasized is the high class of merchandise that is bought by Mr. Wilson from the grocery department of the Joyce-Pruit Company, Watson-Finley Grocery Co., and Shepherd & Co. Nothing but the best goes with Mr. Wilson, and he says ‘buying high class food pays in the long run.’

“An excellent trade has been secured and Steve Karr, the first assistant cook has joined and started the first union of cooks in Roswell.

“Mr. Wilson intends to extend his restaurant and dining room to make it the largest and best short-order place in Roswell. Later he expects to add a dining hall for regular meals and will make it the most metropolitan eating house in Roswell.”

Fast forward into the 1950s.

In the Daily Record of Jan. 22, 1954, the front page covers one of the events where several eating establishments and bakeries join in for the good of the community.

“Coffee Day Is Set Up as Facet Here Of Dimes Campaign

“Coffee Day in Roswell for the March of Dimes has been set to run Monday, Jan. 25. On this day the following firms are cooperating by turning over the receipts for all coffee consumed at the named places, according to Bill Osborn, 1954 March of Dimes campaign chairman in Chaves County.

“Small’s Bakery, Village Cafe, Rockwell Truck Terminal, Platt Drug No. 1 and 2, American Cafe, Double Dip, Yucca Cafe, Palace Drug, S.H. Kress Co., F.W. Woolworth Co., Indian Grill, Chuck Wagon, El Rancho, La Cima, Helen’s Cafe, Mitchell Drug, Capitol Cafe, Pecos Valley Drug, Roswell Drug, Owl Drug, Katy’s Cafe, Johnson’s Cafe, City Drug, Valdez Cafe, Arias Cafe, New China Cafe, Roswell Inn, Atomic Drive Inn (which belonged to Jack Chew at one time), Apache Cafe, Starks Cafe, Sugar Bowl, Farmer’s Drug, La Hondo Cafe, Colonial Club …”

Roswell sure had a lot of cafes at the time.

In the Daily Record, July 1, 1973, the owner of the Valdez Cafe — mentioned in above’s Coffee Day article — shares with Roswell a special event.

“Pair to celebrate milestone

“Mr. and Mrs. Ramon Valdez of this city will be honored by relatives and friends with a reception on Thursday. Guests will be received beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Ave Maria Center, after the couple repeats their marriage vows.

“This event marks the golden wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Valdez. All friends and relatives are invited to attend the reception through this announcement, in lieu of formal invitations.

“Ramon Valdez and Caroline Romero were married on July 5, 1923 at St. John’s Church.

“Mr. and Mrs. Val(d)ez (typos did happen in the past as well) are the parents of 12 children, eight of whom survive and are residing in Roswell. They have 29 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

“Mr. and Mrs. Valdez have owned and operated Valdez Cafe, 300 S. Main St., for 33 years.

“Children sharing this event will be Ramon Valdez Jr., Aurelia Gonzales, Robert Valdez, Mary Tellez, Fran Nunez, Jim Valdez, George Valdez and Flo Valdez.”

The Daily Record of Oct. 03, 1971 had a surprise for Roswell.

“Airport restaurant opens

“Moller Continental Restaurant opened recently in the Air Terminal building at Roswell Industrial Air Center.

“The restaurant, which is owned by Viggo and Dorothy Moller, features gourmet cooking with wines and a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

“The restaurant also has a room for private parties and the Moller’s will cater parties.

“Moller was formerly manager of the NCO Club and Officer’s Club at Walker Air Force Base. He also managed the Roswell Country Club before opening his delicatessen at 103 W. Reed on Dec. 18, 1970.

“The new restaurant employs 10 people. Tillie Brito of Roswell is head waitress. The restaurant is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Sunday.

“Both Moller and Mrs. Moller received their citizenship in Roswell in 1966. He originally came from Varde, Denmark and Mrs. Moller is from London.

“The Moller’s have four children, Karl, 13, Rochelle, 9, Denise, 56 and Ingelise, 4.”

The Daily Record, Nov. 16, 1980, features specials for the football season and Thanksgiving:

Restaurants mentioned are “Benny’s Plaza Cafe, across from Sack & Save on West Second;” “Costestoga Restaurant Hiway House, 2803 W. Second, with baked turkey and dressing for only $2.35 and most expensive was its Seafood Plate with shrimp, trout and oysters at $3.45. The Club House, 9 mi. W. of Roswell at Buena Vida, advertises as “Home of Canadian Baby Back Ribs.” It must have been the place to be. Their Surf & Turf special is $10.95.

Then there is “Wolfgang’s” at the Sally Port INN, 2000 N. Main St. Despite that Wolfgang sounds Austrian or German, his menu offers a Chinese buffet, prime rib buffet and Mexican food. The biggest advertisement is for the Ronald McDonald Show, “Starring Ronald McDonald in Person!” They were located 8th & “McMain.” Tastee-freez, on that same page, advertises dinners-to-go including fish, chicken and steakfingers. Tastee-freez had three locations in town: 1313 N. Main St., 1701 W. Second St. and 1211 E. Second St. The smallest advertisement is for the Belmont Restaurant, 2110 W. Second St.

Another example of the contribution of the restaurant families to Roswell is featured in the Daily Record, April 23, 1986. Ralph Arias Tellez announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Magistrate Judge Division I in the June 3 primary election, facing Democrat Fred E. Tucker of Roswell for his party’s nod to face either Joseph Posz or Osborne J. Correia, both Republicans in November. Tellez was a Roswell resident for 58 years, the article says. He retired in 1985 with 23 years of law enforcement experience with the New Mexico Alcohol Beverage Control Department. He was a certified police sharp shooter through the National rifle Association of America. Tellez attended Roswell High School. He was the owner and operator of Mrs. Arias Cafe since 1971. The business was established in 1928 by his grandmother, Carmen Arias, it says.

This article shows that families, even though they were from different restaurants, would join often, sometimes in marriage. Tellez had married Mary Valdez of the Valdez Cafe family. Together, it says, they had six sons, Ralph Jr., a Roswell Assurance Home counselor: Frank, a restaurant manager in Albuquerque; Patrick a restaurant manager in Phoenix, Arizona; Mike a restaurant owner in Ruidoso; Donald, manager of Mrs. Arias Cafe; and Joseph, an employee of Mrs. Arias Cafe.”

Jack F. Chew is featured in the Daily Record, June 28, 1981. He was announced as Downtown Lions president. It says that “some 60 persons attended the installation…,” which took place at his Chew Den Restaurant. It reads, “The new Downtown president, who served as first vice president of the Lions Club for 1980-81, is also a member of the Eagles, Elks Club, Masonic Lodge and Shriners…”

This is just a glimpse into the rich past of restaurants in Roswell. More details will be in the HSSENM booklet and during the presentation.

Deadlines for restaurant submissions by the owners and the tickets to the Heritage Dinner has been extended by HSSENM to Aug. 7 for the readers of the Daily Record.

For more information, visit roswellnmhistory.org, email historydirector@outlook.com or call 575-622-8333.