I have been around examples of Robert E. McKee construction since I was a child in New Mexico. He built the original structures at Fort Bayard when it was a veterans hospital where my father and neighbors worked. One family member worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and another can see the Air Force Academy Chapel in the distance from her home. As I flew into Los Angeles last year, I recalled that McKee had built that airport. And these are all places outside of El Paso.
I discovered the Grand Canyon at 14, and it has become one of my spiritual centers. The buildings in the park are much more appealing than the city of modern hotels and fast food joints that has grown up outside the grounds. Research revealed that McKee built most of the original structures.
Coming to the Sun City long after his death, I often heard McKee’s name. When Borderlands began highlighting prominent El Pasoans, I hoped to include him. It’s taken several years, but finally I received the well-researched papers necessary for an article ‒ this year’s center spread.
Not only did his company literally “lay the foundations” for much of El Paso and other areas, he and his wife established the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation to support much of the social and educational structure in Texas and New Mexico. The McKee family still administers the foundation today.
It has likewise taken years to produce articles on Kate Moore and the McGinty Club and more modern figures such as Cleofas Calleros, adamant about recording local history, and David Carrasco, the latter two of whom were recognized nationally and abroad. Students discovered that Moore was responsible for many “firsts” in El Paso and Texas, and the McGinty Club provided both mirth and music for the city in the 1890s.
When students in English 1302 begin researching their topics, many are amazed that such people lived right here in their hometown. El Paso is so good at self-deprecation that our children sometimes think that any place is better and more important than their own city.
Hearing students discussing what they have discovered at a library or through field research always excites me. That’s when I know they are going to be successful college students: a subject has become challenging and has engaged them. These students realize that all research cannot be done on the Internet. Our type of research forces them to leave their neighborhoods and discover for themselves what is in their community.
I spent a recent hot Sunday with student editor Kim Wilson, exploring downtown and photographing sites mentioned in our articles. We walked through San Jacinto Plaza, and I told her the story of the original alligators, which I remember seeing as a child, and showed her the wonderful sculpture by Luís Jimenez celebrating “los lagartos.” I pointed out the Kress building and other McKee landmarks, and we found the street named for Calleros in the Chihuahuita neighborhood. It was fun and brought me back to the heart of the city.
Kim Wilson really showed her stuff in producing this issue. She willingly picked up the responsibilities of her coeditor when she could not continue work, as well as going to summer school and taking care of her family. Thanks for a great job, Kim!
Take time to enjoy this issue, readers, and don’t forget to look at page 16 which features the last 20 years of covers that I have had the honor to direct. See staff editor's column, table of contents and credits.
Image caption: Ruth Vise, Faculty Advisor & Editor
The past paves the way for the future. This is the basis for the theme of this year’s issue of Borderlands, “Laying the Foundations.” We are featuring a diverse group of people who have laid the foundation of El Paso and the surrounding area. We feature Jenna Welch, who instilled a love of education and reading in a future First Lady. Woodrow Bean laid the groundwork for our unique Sun Bowl Stadium and the majestic views of Transmountain Road. David Carrasco paved the road of opportunity for his students to achieve the education and skills needed to improve their lives. Cleofas Calleros put in place the foundation to preserve Southwest and Hispanic history.
Robert E. McKee literally built the foundations of El Paso and many of the cities in the nation and beyond. Kate Moore Brown started music education in public schools. The McGinty Club Band helped establish a love of music in El Paso and several members played in concerts by what would become the El Paso Symphony Orchestra.
Borderlands is a collaborative effort on the part of many supportive people. A special thank you goes to Ms. Vise for her valuable guidance and friendship. A big thanks goes to EPCC students for the hard work put into their research papers and all the librarians who assisted them.
I thank my family, Pat, Daniel and Katelyn, for their patience and support of this endeavor.
Special appreciation goes to Laura Hollingsed at UTEP Special Collections for her assistance, along with the librarians at the Border Heritage Center at the El Paso Public Library, Pat Worthington at the El Paso County Historical Society and the librarians and staff of the Northwest Library.
I personally thank Louis McKee for sharing your time, knowledge and the McKee Archives with me. It was an honor meeting you. Thanks also to Susan Cooper at the David L. Carrasco Job Corps Center for your help with photos.
It is with a little sadness that I pass the torch to the next editor. The bar is a high one, but I know that you can reach and surpass it. I have enjoyed my time at EPCC and am always learning new things about our community. I look forward to reading future issues to discover more about the place I now call home.
We hope that you will enjoy the stories of those who have given so much to build the community in which we live. Enjoy!
Kim Wilson, Student Editor
Special Thanks to:
Dr. William Serrata, President, El Paso Community College
Steven E. Smith, Interm Vice President of Instruction
Dr. Lydia Tena, Campus Dean & Dean of Instructional Programs, Northwest Campus
Monica Wong, Head Librarian, Northwest Campus
The Borderlands staff would like to thank Dr. Ernst E. Roberts, Interim President of El Paso Community College, and Dr. Dennis E. Brown, former Vice President of Instruction, for their support.
Thanks to: Joe Old, English, Mass Communication & History Disciplines, Valle Verde Campus
Helen Bell and Christian Waldmannstetter, Northwest Library
Lourdes Garcia and Library Staff, Northwest Library
Jesse Ramirez, Estela Padilla, Cristina Lopez and Rosa Rodriguez, Northwest Campus ACS
Laura Gaither, Nancy Coe, Marye Booth and Emma Uresti, ISC, Northwest Campus
Pat Worthington, Curator, El Paso County Historical Society
Marta Estrada and Danny Gonzalez, Border Heritage Center, El Paso Public Library Downtown
Claudia Rivers and staff, Special Collections, UTEP Library
Louis B. McKee, President, Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation
Susan Cooper and Lorenza Jurado Franco, El Paso Job Corps Center
Margaret and George Lang, Debbie Luna, Kasztelia Holguin Vasquez, Conchita Álvarez, Kimberly McBroom and Lorraine Alvarez Portilla
Cover photos: Top, Transmountain Road; lower left Blue Flame Building and lower center Kress Building by Kim Wilson; center, U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel and right, Los Angeles Union Station courtesy of the Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Foundation Archives.
Borderlands is published annually by El Paso Community College, P.O. Box 20500, El Paso, TX 79998. It is written by students and staff of the college. All rights reserved. Printing is by PDX Printing, 100 Porfirio Diaz, El Paso, TX 79902, a private fi rm in no way connected with the El Paso Community College. Funds for the publication of this supplement are provided by El Paso Community College District; however, the views and opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily refl ect those of the El Paso Community College staff, faculty, administration and board. Submissions become property of El Paso Community College. Furthermore, El Paso Community College does not accept responsibility for possible errors in the accuracy of student research that is represented in these articles, although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy.