Four events in three days!
The Reunion was brought to you by the Silver Bell Historical Society.
In the summer of 2018, a group of Silver Bell "kids," now looking ahead to retirement in the coming years, got together with a rather ambitious idea: "Let's have a reunion for the folks of Silver Bell." An online survey was released on Facebook to determine the interest level -- which was quite high. About a dozen people indicated they would like to help make it happen.
As the "committee" met often during that summer, the non-profit organization -- Silver Bell Historical Society -- was born. A reunion weekend date was set: March 8 - 10, 2019. The reunion took on a life of its own, and over several months, the board of directors, with the help of their significant others, organized the most awesome weekend in the history of Silver Bell, with perhaps the 1965 First-Day-of-Issue Christmas Stamp surpassing its importance.
The cost of the entire reunion approached $20,000! Funds were raised through sales of reproduced Silver Bell cookbooks, reunion t-shirts, charter memberships in the Society, silver bell necklaces, and contributions by local businesses. ASARCO played a huge part in the construction of the beautiful monument and tours of the town site and mine.
People came from several states to attend the reunion: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and North Carolina, Larry Varnell came from Costa Rica to attend. People from towns all over Arizona came as well. Yes, the Grand Silver Bell Reunion was that important.
On Friday evening, March 8, 2019, about 150 folks gathered at Hope City Church in Tucson for a Dessert Social. Silver Bell brought desserts to share and donations of food for the Tucson Neighborhood Food Pantry. We even had an old-fashioned Silver Bell Cake Walk! We remembered our dearly departed loved ones and veterans. We shared stories about life in Silver Bell, and ended the evening gathered in a circle, hand-in-hand, united once again as a community that will never die!
Then, on Saturday morning, March 9, 350 people made their way to Silver Bell. Some joined a caravan from Lil Abners on Silverbell Road that made its way triumphantly to our old home town. Others drove up separately.
At 9:15 a.m., as we gathered in front of the veiled monument, the old familiar siren sounded, welcoming us all home. After a rousing, beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, we watched with baited breath as the beautiful monument to Silver Bell was unfurled. Our pioneers, not many are still living, passed the ceremonial bottle of champagne, one to another, and finally to Cecil Eckrote, a Society director, who christened the monument. Speeches were made, of course, and then the party began!
Tents had been set up on the very street where many of us grew up. Wonderful food was served as folks mingled, took pictures, and waited for the tour buses to take us through every street in our beloved Silver Bell and then on into the mine. How thrilling it was when the bus pulled to a stop on the mountain above the old mill and crusher so we could get out and look out over our old stomping grounds.
That night, about 300 of us enjoyed dinner at Lil Abners, that steak house which delighted us when we were kids and is still operating today. The weather was perfect for dining outside on the patio. We enjoyed slide shows put together by Grace Burleigh. One slide show held over 700 pictures provided by Silver Bell folks. The other slide show honored all of our Silver Bell veterans of the armed forces.
The final event of the reunion was the picnic at Columbus Park on Silverbell Road. We grilled burgers and hot dogs and enjoyed side dishes and homemade ice cream as we talked, we laughed, and we remembered.
The Grand Silver Bell Reunion was the culmination of tireless work of these members of the Society:
Grace Burleigh and her boyfriend Jim, who produced the hour-long slide show of Silver Bell history and a special slide show honoring veterans. Grace is the secretary of the Silver Bell Historical Society.
Larry Young, who not only encouraged the committee, but encouraged the folks of Silver Bell to jump aboard the reunion band wagon. Larry made several mesquite bowls which were given away as door prizes.
Cecil Eckrote, who found the wonderful silver bell necklaces -- so appropriate for our big weekend. Cecil was our unanimous choice to christen the monument.
Karen Holton, who made so many trips to Tucson and Silver Bell, all the way from her home in Sierra Vista. She ordered the tour buses, the tents, tables, chairs, and even the port-o-potties for the big day at Silver Bell. Karen made the charter member certificates and sent them out. Karen is the Society's Vice-President.
Carol Hunter didn't grow up in Silver Bell, but she dated and married Bobby, and had spent a lot of time in Silver Bell. It was her original idea for a reunion. Carol worked on many projects behind the scenes and talked to the local news media. Our story was told in the Marana newspaper because of Carol's reaching out.
Kerry Eckrote, who worked with the company who made our t-shirts. She was able to negotiate a very nice deal for the shirts, which sold fast and furiously. Everyone is so proud of their "Where the Hell is Silver Bell" shirts. The answer of course is "Forever in Hearts."
Bob Hunter, who worked with the Utah company that made the bronze plaque for the monument. Bob was knowledgeable about Silver Bell's history and made sure the plaque tells the important story about our home, which actually dates back to the 1880s.
Belinda Castro, who spent hours and hours with help from her granddaughter reproducing the cook books created by the ladies of Silver Bell in the 1960s. Belinda's compassion for people added a special touch to our planning.
Jim Hunter, who seems to know anyone and everyone who is important in Tucson! He is our Treasurer and managed our finances. Jim was able to get needed revenue through sponsors who contributed quite a bit of money to our cause. Jim worked with the engineers at ASARCO in designing and building our monument. Jim's wife, Janette, donated one of the three tour buses through her business.
David Cleaver, who was elected as President of the Society. David developed this website, processed orders through the online store, and communicated with folks through email and the Silver Bell Facebook groups. David's wife, Suzette, attended many meetings and helped with many of the events.
The Grand Reunion was a major event, but the Society does not stop here. The directors intend to begin using the Society to research the history of the Silver Bell district. The towns of Sasco and "Old" Silverbell are important to our history. The Society intends to promote the legacy of our community through college scholarships for our children and grandchildren. It is our commitment to never let Silver Bell die.
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