Well I've been hearing lots of rumors and reports about a Reunion/Group Therapy session in the works for the survivors and families of those "Silver Bell Years." And yes. . .I am one. Is there compensation?
Seriously, my hat is off to David and all the others who have put this thing together. Very professional, but very personal -- and easy to navigate for us old-timers. I also want to say how much I have enjoyed reading all the comments and recollections of others. It was reading my brother Phil's post that prompted me to chime in, as I do remember elaborate carport settings, and hand-drawn tickets, for his latest circus or magic show! He was our own P.D. Barnum (that's Phillip Duane by the way).
Our family moved to Silver Bell in 1957 from Abilene, Texas. My dad started out as a house painter as that was his stock in trade; later he took some correspondence courses and became Silver Bell's resident TV repairman. He later bid into the electrical shop. His last years in Silver Bell were spent patrolling and maintaining the water lines and pumps from the Avra Valley wells. He was a good friend of Carl Elder's, and on at least one occasion he strapped on his six-shooter and went with Carl on some kind of a "situation call." I don't think either of them were given any bullets for the occasion, which probably ended with the volunteer fire department getting the kitten out of the eucalyptus tree!
My Mom (bless her heart!) took over as head cook at the mess-hall after most of us kids had graduated. She and her crew (Rosie Bourguet and ?) became legends, at least to the Bunk House Gang and visiting ASARCO brass who, it was said always insisted on coming on Thursdays (Mexican food day!) Our cooks took good care of the men, and Mom took the job very seriously, always negotiating for the best deals from Mr. Tom, who took over the Store after the Davidoffs moved away. But some secrets must be told: On my mom's first Thanksgiving Dinner at the mess hall, all the tables were dressed up with tablecloths and little Fall thingies and everyone in their place and ready for the feast -- when out of the oven comes Mr. Turkey, who promptly jumped out of the pan and landed flat on the floor. HORROR! What to DO? Well, she did just what she would have done at home -- scoop the bird quickly onto the platter -- quick inspection and dust him off, then into the dining room with smiles for all!
THERE! The tale has been told!
A little something about each of the kids:
My older brother Garry didn't have many vices, but fast cars and racing were two (or is that just one?).
Beginning with a '57 Ford convertible with the sweetest set of pipes, to a '61 Chevy Coup, '63 Chevy 409 (wicked!), '56 Chevy (my personal favorite), and finally his straight-from-the-factory 1969 Nova Super Sport (a Monster!) All beautiful and beefy -- but what set him apart from the crowd was that he was the only one I actually knew who was crazy or foolhardy enough to learn the Power-Shift. Just as the name implies, that's a shift through every gear under full power. Not clutch -- gas off. . .shift. . .clutch. . .gas on. Just BANG! And you're done! Full power! Not for the squeemish!
When Ken Ludeke was the lifeguard at Silver Bell, he had a black Chevelle SS with a 327 -- lightweight and crazy fast. Whenever he had a serious racing challenge, he always enlisted my brother to drive for him. They were unbeatable on the streets of Tucson, or on the Silver Bell quarter mile down past “the dip." (Of course no laws were broken or speed limits exceeded!)
Best Silver Bell memory of my older sister Judy was a visit home from L.A. one summer. It was probably July or August and we decided to take a drive in her Toyota Corolla out the county road past BS&K. So we took a quart jar of water and a couple of oranges and set off after breakfast. I was driving and as we got close to Old Sawtooth, I thought we would take a side road and get up closer, maybe even hike part way up. Well the side road was just a sand wash and I got seriously stuck --tried everything -- couldn't get out. Not much traffic out that way, so we started walking back home. We talked and walked, then walked and talked.
There was a ranch back along that road but no one was home. We replenished our quart water supply at the faucet, split an orange, and kept walking. I honestly don't know how we did it except for Divine Providence, but we walked most of the day, rationing the water and orange, till finally about 3:30 or 4 a pick-up truck came by and picked us up, gave us each a cold Pepsi that tasted like nectar from heaven, and carried us the last mile or so into town. Dad was just getting off work as we got home; he grabbed a chain and we all went back to get the Toyota. It was a day that bonded us forever -- it was our Flood of '42 -- it was our Battle at Toyota Creek!
(Worth noting: We were in the desert for over 5 hours that summer day; we never saw a single snake or scorpion, javelina or gila monster. Even the ranch house had no dogs out to chase us off.
However, when we went back with my dad to get the car, I counted not less than 11 big rattlers, as the shadows started falling across the dirt road. Big suckers! I have heard several others comment on the lack of “incidents” and animal encounters for all us crazy Silver Bell kids for whom the desert was our back yard -- and they are true! But let me assure you. . .they were there! Rattlers, scorpions, centipedes, javelinas, bobcats, mountain lions, and I guess deadly
coral snakes too. There's an old saying that God protects idiots and Americans, and I think He might have added a special category -- Those Silver Bell Kids!).
My sister Anita went to be with The Lord in November 2008; we lost Mom in July of that same year.
Anita was the middle of my three beautiful sisters -- the closest to me in age during those school years.
She was a pom-pom girl so we went together on the band bus to out of town games, state fairs, and the like. She was very particular about where she was headed in life, and not looking for a suitor of the Silver Bell variety.
On more than one occasion she was known to head out the back door as some young man she didn't want to see was knocking on the front door. “Tell him I'm not home!” she shouted on the way out, especially if her hair might be in curlers. As far as Silver Bell goes --she was always just passing through on her way to Paris, which she did visit numerous times, and claimed as her city. Rest in Peace, Sis. And Mom. And Dad (1999).
My younger brother Phil has his own recollections page on this website, so he can tell his own story. But one I will tell on him that he didn't tell on himself: Lying down on the outfield of the ball park with friends and shooting arrows into the air, hoping they would not come down and kill you. (Who says there was nothing fun to do before video games?)
The other is he was crazy about Civil War history even then. He had a Rebel hat from Disneyland, but no coat. So he got the bright idea to take one of my mom's coats, gray and kind of a military cut and with brass buttons. Well it didn't exactly fit him, so he decided to just take it and partially bury it under a palo verde tree out in the ravine behind our house. Then he “discovered” it a few months later --one of the only known relics of the Nearly Forgotten Battle of Silver Bell; believed (by him at least) to have belonged to the famous Confederate General John Bell Hood. I don't think Mom was impressed! Come to think of it she probably never knew.
He and my youngest sister Sherry inherited the blessing/curse of Last-Kid Leftovers -- meaning they got left behind when all the older kids had moved on. They inherited bicycles, musical instruments, school teachers, clothing, and chores.
But one thing that Sherry did NOT inherit was her older siblings fear and trembling of The Old Man. That girl could get away with c##p the rest of us would still be paying for! Probably because she felt “out of the loop” growing up as the baby of the family, she developed a keen ear for the latest juicy tidbit. Growing up on soap operas, movie magazines, and Hollywood gossip, she developed her own flair for the dramatic. She could have started her own local daily newspaper. . .Silver Bell Secrets. . .and probably retired early. But brother Phil had other plans for her, featuring (or humiliating) her in his latest carport extravaganza or “cut the lady in half” magic show. It's a wonder she survived to tell the tale, as Phil was rather adventurous and bold in his visions.
As for myself, I was the middle son, between Judy and Anita. I was the near perfect child -- all that any parent could ask for. No! Wait! That was somebody else! The real me had the privilege of being attacked and beaten on my first weekend in Silver Bell, after the movie at the rec hall. It was over before I was aware it had started, but I guess I passed my initiation without any permanent scars, and never missed a movie night after that. My all time favorite was one shown inside -- a western (were there any other kinds of movies back then?). It featured lots of fighting and falling in a really rocky area like Texas Canyon. The funny thing was that there were trampolines or big rubber balls behind all the rocks so when anyone got knocked off of one rock, he just came bouncing back up and kept right on fighting. It was a real circus show -- not meant to be funny. -- but everyone was laughing out loud and having a great old time. Does anyone remember that movie?
A few other random memories are:
Finding two good wheels off a broken wagon, then spending the rest of the day trying to find two more to make the latest downhill racer. Then forgetting to make a brake!
Winning the three-legged race with my friend Brian Jones at my first Labor Day Picnic.
Playing British Bulldog in our front yard with all the neighborhood kids, only throwing tires instead of just tackling each other.
Making a giant slip and slide off our front porch using three appliance boxes laid out on top of some wood ramps (Ouch!).
Riding bareback on our neighbor's (Figueroa's?) horse when we first moved into the apartments. Their mom (Julia) teaching my mom how to make Mexican food. . .Yea-a-a-a-a!
Trying to get four or five of us off to school and Dad off to work with only one bathroom. I solved this for myself by waiting till everyone was done and out the door before getting up and doing my thing -- then flying out the door and catching the bus at the bottom of the “new houses."
Cook-outs in the desert and actually having Easter Egg hunts in the desert.
Learning to drive in Don White's vintage Army Jeep out on the old abandoned landing strip, and graduating to the gas line road and then to the pavement back to town. This was not the little narrow landing strip just west of the apartments, but a large grown -- over airfield east and north of the golf course -- and didn't some industrious Boy Scout group pile up a bunch of rocks on one of those little peaks just down past “the dip," and we had our own “S Mountain” for awhile?
That day -- call it the end of childhood -- when Garry and I torched our entire model plane and boat collection in the back yard. We found that if you tied a fairly strong string to the end of one of the wings, you could actually make those suckers FLY! Then if you smeared a little of that clear flammable
glue on the wings and tail and set them on fire, they really put on quite a show! Especially with the USS Missouri burning in a tub of water below (also on fire!). Brother Phil, observing from a distance and taking notes, later tried some pyrotechnics of his own and nearly set the shop and carport on fire.
Going off to the U of A but coming home on Sundays to have Mom do my laundry, including starch in my ROTC uniform; then going back to town with clean laundry and a “CARE package."
Working at the mine and living at home in the summers during college years -- working graveyard shift at the assay lab and having lots of time to sit out back and watch the summer storms roll across Avra Valley. Also getting caught sleeping like a log in that same chair near the end of my shift one morning. That was a pretty good deal they cut us college students in the summers as long as we went back to school in the fall.
I could go on and on but I want to get this posted soon. I'm looking forward to seeing you old geezers and geezettes. I hope they have name tags so we can recognize each other. I will have a few copies of my book “The Fish That Caught Men," a children's book illustrated by my brother Garry.
Also with me will be my son Kenyon who has been working on a book called “Oscar in Uniform," about a kid who grew up in -- of all places -- Silver Bell, Arizona, and ends up in a world of hurt in Vietnam. It is a fictional work not meant to depict any actual person, but is set in and around Tucson.
I have another son Cameron who is a singer/songwriter in a group called Ryanhood -- some of you may have met them on Facebook or Youtube, or seen them at the Rialto or Fox Theater in Tucson. They also played the Australian International Folk Festival last summer, but unfortunately will be out of town the weekend of the Reunion.
I have two other older children married and living out of the home, three children still living at home, and one that just moved into her own place. She (Sarah) and I put out an album (CD) of faith songs a couple of years back. It's called “Hold My Heart” and you can listen or buy it on Bandcamp. I'm proud of all my children, and can only wish for them that they had had the opportunity for growing up in such a cool and unique place as we all did.
See you all at the Rec Hall!