By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of four stories about Pioneer of the Year Nominees.
Ellen Marcus came to Portales in 1928 with her husband F.M. Marcus and the young couple went through the Great Depression as farmers and raised their children at a time when they faced many struggles.
However, despite all the hardships Ellen Marcus put the needs of others before her own needs.
The 95-year-old Marcus is one of the four finalists for the Pioneer of the Year Award, which will be given out at 5 p.m., today, during the Pioneer of the Year Award Reception. The reception will be in the Memorial Building and kicks off the 2005 Heritage Days festival. Marcus, Clytie Calton, Jim Williamson and Jane Elizabeth Mauk Hilliard are the award nominees.
Ellen Marcus said she got married when she was 14 years old to W.F. Marcus, then 18.
“We ran away,” Ellen Marcus said of the young couple’s move from Oklahoma to Portales. “The doctors told W.F. that if he (didn’t) leave Oklahoma, because of his bad lung, he may not make it very long.”
The Marcuses headed out to Portales for better weather and settled in Portales because they were able to find jobs picking sweet potatoes.
“We didn’t know anybody,” Ellen Marcus said. “We stopped here because we found work. There wasn’t very much to Portales at the time. There were not many buildings on the square.”
Over time, Ellen said she learned to loved Portales and had no interest in living anywhere else. Her daughter, Thelma Louise “Peggy” Downs, said she has tried to get her mom to move in with her to Denver, but that Marcus is happy in Portales.
“She’s had to do a lot for herself since my father passed away in 1977,” Downs said. “I think she was so pleased to hear she was nominated. She’s always put the needs of others before her needs. I can’t say enough good things about my mom.”
Downs can recall a time when her mother had just one nice dress for special occasions to wear to town, but she was willing to loan it out to a friend that didn’t have one.
There was a time, also, that Marcus recalls her and her husband helped out a family.
“We had only two rooms,” Marcus said. “We took in a family that was down and out. They slept in the kitchen.”
According to Marcus, there were many special memories she has about living in Floyd and Portales. She raised her children, Downs, Edgar Floyd “Pee Wee” Marcus and Barbara Faye “Polly” Evans to be Christians through a Nazareth church in Portales.
“One of the funnies moments I remember was when Eddy was three years old,” Marcus recalled. “He used to ride an old mare that was so gentle. Eddy Floyd would climb on the fence then climb on her back. We had some good times at the farm.”
Downs said her mother worked on the farm right alongside W.F. doing all of the hard labor. According to Downs, they used to have cotton, peanut and sweet potato fields and they used to have to clean the fields among other duties.
Downs also said her parents were strict, but Downs would not have wanted it any other way. The women in the family couldn’t wear pants, only the men could. Women couldn’t cut their hair because it was their “glory.” The women also weren’t allow to show skin and couldn’t wear sleeveless shirts.
“You had a life in which you obey your mother and father,” Downs said. “You didn’t talk back to your parents.”