The Hood Family

My Silver Bell Memories -- By Phil Hood


The Hoods moved to SilverBell in late fall of 1956. We lived for a few months in a trailer down by the oil change pit while waiting on an apartment. This had our parents and six kids in a 30' trailer. 

My mom would wake us up and kick us out the door while she made breakfast and got the older ones off to school. Weren't there showers and a bathroom down there? I can't remember. I do remember walking up to the store with my brothers and sisters and having to stay clear of a particular white brahma bull. Very scary. 

We then got to move into an apartment until a house was ready. We lived right next to a marvelous family whose mom, Julia (Figeroa?) made tamales for sale. I loved Julia. I would go next door and bask in the smells of her cooking and be tempted by her sons to chomp down on a chili for snacks. It only took once for this five-year-old to find out about chiles.

We finally got into house 136 in the "new houses." Three girls to a bedroom and three boys the same. I think that's why Silver Bellians were all so close.

I have such vivid memories of that time, almost all of them good. I remember lying awake at night waiting to fall asleep and hearing those huge trucks starting their engines. Sounded like dinosaurs. In fact, I used to have a recurring dream of a Tyrannosaurus Rex roaming the streets trying to get in our house. I'm sure that's where that dream came from. I was always making up stories or fantasizing about something.

My best friend became David Thoma, three houses down. Once the trees became tall enough to climb, we practically lived in them. We built a shabby tree house, swung on Tarzan ropes, and built small cities of dirt and sticks in the tree-well. In fact, it was David who tried out our rope one time and fell and broke his arm. We probably did the paper, rock, scissors to determine who would be the guinea pig. 

What was really cool was when the monsoons came and flooded the arroyos for a couple of hours during the summer. We had rivers! We would try to dam up the smaller ones to make a swimming pool. We all thought big then.

When I was older, nine or ten, R.J. Bourguet and his brother Alfred formed an army. We had ranks and everything. Their dad even built a small red house out behind their house. I'm wondering if anyone else remembers a strange rivalry that took place for a few summers out there in the desert where the kids ruled. 

Ours was for some reason against the boys in the top half of the new houses. That would be the Suttons, the Sanders, the Hunter boys, and maybe others. We would actually have rules of engagement, enemy exchange, and command posts. Yep, you figured it alright, we threw rocks at each other! I mean big rocks! We were stupid; we didn't even know why we were fighting. At least I didn't. I'm amazed more kids weren't hurt or killed up there.

Speaking of rocks, David Cleaver lived a few houses down and across the street from us. His sister Diane loved to come over and play with Sheri, my younger sister. For some reason, I didn't want David to come over, I think he was a few years younger than me. Anyway, he started toward my house one morning, and I picked up a rock and wildly threw it in the air, high and long. Well, it came down directly on his head. He ran screaming back to his house and I ran crying to mine. I thought I'd killed him, and I would be next! So sorry David, I was a stinker! Hope I didn't leave a scar, I know I have plenty.

Another aspect of my imagination was plays I used to put on in my carport or back yard. T.V. Was the thing then, and I loved Bewitched, Combat, Tarzan, Disney, all those shows. I would enlist Sheri as my leading lady, Diane and probably David when I wasn't hurling rocks at him. We staged a plane wreck; a rocket blast off when someone got a new refrigerator and donated the box; a shootout with real firecrackers going off, and one I remember was my favorite, an episode of Bewitched. Sheri could twitch her nose so she got the part. I was up on the shop storage roof inside the carport, doing magic with strings attached to cups and pencils. The audience loved it! 

Yes, I had fliers put out and candy for snacks. I remember going to the store will maybe 50 cents and buying snacks to sell for a penny. You could buy a lot of candy back then for a dollar or less! I think I even charged admission for that production.

As the song goes, “They Paved Paradise, And Put Up A Parking Lot... and you don't know what

you've got 'till it's gone." That's how I feel about the wonderful experience of Silver Bell. It was a paradise, and although it was not paved over, it did go back to the desert from whence it came. And I think the overall thought is we didn't know just how special it was until we didn't have it anymore.

There are so many other stories I remember, hiking, climbing Witch Mt., hanging out at the corrals, the Labor Day festivities, swimming, little league, Halloween with the big grocery sacks half full.

There were tragedies also. Deaths occurred. The Dominguezes lived directly across from us when Billy was killed on the road to Tucson. Dicky Calderone came back from Vietnam with PTSD and ended his life. Bobby Young didn't come back. But this was life, and we lived it to the fullest. It was a great place to grow up. Please excuse my spelling of some of the names.

My memories are so vivid and multiple of that time, I can even remember the smells and sounds of the desert. How loud the cicadas could be during the summer. The smell of Creosote after a rain. Watching the monsoons roll in from across the valley. We had some pretty scary lightning storms in the early '60's and the Whites lived across from us. Don was an electrician who would be called out when the storms damaged the power. 

His wife Helen feared the storms and we would watch her little dog Kiki fly across the street to our house, with Helen carrying her babies with her. She stayed until Don came home.

Of course, there are many more memories. I was sure Santa flew in especially for us in his sleigh, parked it up at the mine and got on the old firetruck to ride down to the Rec Hall to distribute those red stockings full of nuts, oranges and candy. 

Do you remember making tumble weed snowmen? We would spray them with 'snow' along with our windows. 

I loved to climb onto the clothes line and hop onto the roof at night with my older brothers and listen to them explain the stars and the universe while laying on the roof. Did you ever walk the desert barefoot? We did it all the time. We just knew where to step...usually. Well, enough for now. Love to all the Silver Bellians out there.