Allen Stamm's Swan Song
I spent a quiet Friday, February 7th this year. It was an anniversary falling on the same weekday of two memorials: my mother's and Allen Stamm's. I couldn't attend both for obvious reasons but I can certainly say that while family and friends gathered in celebratory and nostalgic fashion at Libby Hancock's house to remember Mom, my mind did wander now and then to Allen.
Every realtor in Santa Fe knows who Allen was; everyone who ever bought one of his homes in Casa Alegre, Casa Solana, on Salazar and Kathryn Streets - and many other streets - also nods to the builder, even if they do not remember his name. In the post-war era, Allen's houses set a standard for quality and affordability that I believe has never been matched. That in itself is a great story, but I will tell another.
Allen was a client of mine. More specifically, he was a client of my father's when, in 1955, my father established a water well drilling business in Santa Fe. In 1971, at Dad's request, I took over the drilling business and, naturally, the clients. Allen was one of the longest standing, my father having drilled a well for him in Sol y Lomas around 1957. During the 70s we maintained all of Allen's pumping systems and wells and drilled one or two more. In 1980 we sold the drilling business and I moved on to other things. I have to admit that for eight or nine years after that Allen never crossed my mind.
One of the pastimes that I moved on to was getting all my contractor licenses and joining the mid-eighties building boom. I built a few houses, pretty much hated every minute of it, never made much money, and finally decided to join the crowd and build a spec house. I had assets that I could borrow against went forth and found an easy banker and built a house on the theory that quality would sell. It might have, but I perfectly timed a market dive.
I struggled through debt service, changed realtors several times, lowered the price and stood at the edge of extinction. Then Allen called.
I have to this day no idea how he knew I was in trouble; he simply said that he knew I was having a few problems and would I be willing to meet with him at Eric Sommer's office in the next day or two.
I do not have to make a long story short here; the story is short. To my astonishment (and Eric's as well, I believe) Allen asked Eric to draft a short agreement by which he, Allen, would pay off the bank and give me a liberal amount of time to sell, in his terms, "the damned house". He said it with a smile having been in my shoes, as he recalled, a time or two.
Three months later the debt was paid. Allen had asked, appropriately, that I secure the note with another asset, which I was happy to do. It, remarkably, sold at a premium. Then? Well, Allen offered me a job overseeing a development off South Galisteo that he referred to as his Swan Song. The job gave me time to re-establish myself and move on.
That my Mother's and Allen's memorials conflicted disturbed me at the time. I even thought about running out of Libby's for a half hour just to put in an appearance. That was a nonsense thought that passed almost immediately. I know Allen would agree; I also know that his Swan Song was my resurrection.