Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Bill Aragon

Bill Aragon


Honored October, 1986

Bill Aragon

Bill Aragon graduated from high school in the mining town of Silverton, Colorado in 1925. There were five girls and two boys in his graduating class. Unbeknownst to the two boys, the district named them as rival candidates for West Point. When Bill found out, he took himself out of the running.

"It would take an extra bunch of money I didn't have," he recalled. And his big family, with two ailing sisters, needed him. With typical good will, he raised money to send his classmate to the Academy.

Solidarity or simply friendship, he'd call it, has always been his guiding principle, a beacon to his neighbors on Santa Fe's west side. He came through town for the first time in 1931, after several years in the Colorado mines. He was on his way to Arizona, when he ran into the foreman of the Terrero mine (above Pecos) in a Santa Fe restaurant and was offered a job. "Great news! We'd made Santa Fe," was his reaction.

In Terrero, "we were a bunch of friends working together." When the United Mine Workers organized in Madrid and Terrero, Bill was for the union. He served on the grievance committee, and when the strike began in 1936, he walked the picket line,"rough nights out in that cold." His first child was born that year, in a one room shack on company land. American Metals hired a union buster. When the union triumphed at the end of a long strike, they shut down the mine. By then Bill, "who knew how to carpenter a bit moved to Santa Fe to help a cousin build his house. A furniture company hired him as a door to door salesman. "My shoes are still all right; they'll last," he assured his employer. Later he worked, for better pay, with Charles Ilfeld's wholesale grocery.

The Depression lingered. "Rents were going up and wages weren't too good," so Bill set out to find a place of his won. With a loan of $300 from a local bank -- his honesty the only collateral -- he bought a "two room adobe shack," and "that's where I am right now. This is where I made my home sweet home. My neighborhood on the sunny side of Santa Fe."