The Silver Bell Historical Society
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The McConnaugheys, by Lee McConnaughey (2018)

My husband, Conrad McConnaughey, began working in the truck shop in October of 1961, commuting from Tucson until we were able to get a two-bedroom house , #102, in February 1962.


Our neighbors to the north were Dale and Maxine Griffin and Gene and Marjorie Estes on the south. I was a stay-at-home mom at that time because Phyllis was not yet in school and Michael was in second grade. 


In 1968, I was hired by the Marana School District as a b us driver to drive the small bus from the B S & K mine to Silver Bell where the children caught the buses that traveled into Marana. 


I also substituted on those buses whose regular drivers at that time were Gertie Thomas, Racine Townley, Helen Doty, and Bethel Young. Those buses were loaded with Silver Bell youngsters as well as youngsters from the El Paso Gas Plant a few miles down the road. 


Silver Bell was the best place in the world to liveas we were all one big family. While we were still living in Tucson, we became friends with Paul and Fran Prater and their children who remain good friends still today, though Fran, Danny, and Jarrel are all gone . The rest of the Prater family and I still keep in touch. Fran and I and the kids spent lots of evenings together while the husbands were at work, ironing, cooking, visiting, etc. 


Oh yes, we used to roll up the rugs at Paul and Fran's home and get together and dance. Herb and Dorothy Cleaver were one of the couples that always came for dancing fun (with a little beer included).


I became a Cub Scout den mother in 1962and served in that capacity until Mike was old enough to go into Boy Scouts at which time I became involved with the Cadettes (the older Girl Scouts). Helen Doty was my helper.


In the summers Michael was involved in baseball and Phyllis spent most of the time at the swimming pool. By the time school started, her blond hair was usually green from the chlorinated water she had lived in all summer. 


There were always ball games going on at the park and we, as parents, could let our youngsters walk to the park and know they would be safe there. 


We have such wonderful memories of the Labor Day festivities the company (ASARCO) provided for the families. A delicious barbecue dinner and the youngsters involved in games all afternoon. Prizes for the winners was usually money, and we always teased the youngsters about winning enough for their lunch money. At that time, school did not begin until after Labor Day, so it was an on-going joke with the parents and their youngsters. 


The company always provided Santa Claus and treats at Christmas time and sponsored a New Year's Eve dance for the oldsters so no one was forgotten.


I remember (not the year) when two members of the Brunk family lost their lives in an automobile accident. How the town came together to provide food and bedding for visiting family, and took care "of our own." 


I also remember the outpouring of love and concern when Rodney Hime (who was 8 at the time) passed away from Reyes Syndrome. Everyone in town was stunned by the loss the Hime family suffered. 


There was another family who lost little girls in an accident whose name I cannot recall at this time. However, we all came together "as a family" however and whenever we could. When tragedy struck a Silver Bell family, it became everyone's tragedy.


When we first moved into Silver Bell, our mailing address was General Delivery and the Postmistress was Mrs. Boss, and she was sort of a grouch. One time she told me any mail that came in that she could not read the name she just gave it to us as everyone misspelled McConnaughey. 


Both Michael and Phyllis always called the Esteses, who lived next door to us in House 103, "Gene and Mrs. Estes." Many years later when I went to work at the school and Marjorie Estes was my boss, my children still called her Mrs. Estes even though she told them her name was Marjorie.


[Note: Marjorie Estes ran a private kindergarten in Silver Bell at a time when the Marana schools did not have a kindergarten. She later became principal of Marana Elementary School, and the school was later re-named Estes Elementary.]


Another couple who our family became good friends with (and still remain so) were Lee and Ann Tinsley. When they moved to Tulsa, it left a big hole in our lives as our youngsters were buddies and Ann and I spent a lot of time together. Ann and I were co-directors of the Vacation Bible School for two or three years. When Silver Bell friends moved away or something happened to them, everyone was impacted as it was like losing family.


I spent some time sewing for other folks in Silver Bell. I also used to cut hair and give perms to some ladies. Wanda Robinson and Carol Woods for two. I also did a lot of sewing for Sibyl Moser and some for Donna Jones.


When it was Trick-or-Treat time in October, our Silver Bell youngsters would come home with enough candy for 20 instead of two. The folks were very good to the Silver Bell youngsters. One year Birdie Kilburn and I decided we would dress up and go trick or treating to see how many adults would recognize us. Well, no one did and some of the older boys in town stole our candy. We knew who they were; however, I am going to be nice and not mention names. They did not realize we were adults -- they thought we were Silver Bell youngsters.


Betty Dahler was our town Avon lady and she was very faithful about her rounds of selling and delivering orders. 


We always had the opportunity to purchase Girl Scout cookies from our local girls. One year we ended up with 37 boxes (They were $1 a box then.) of Girl Scout cookies. When I asked my husband why he had purchased so many, his response was, "I couldn't tell those little girls no!"


We were fortunate to have a wonderful swimming pool that enabled both of my children to learn how to swim. Wednesdays were Ladies Day, which was very nice as no youngsters were allowed in the pool on Wednesday afternoon. Therefore, we ladies could enjoy an afternoon of swimming or just going to the pool and hanging out.


We were so fortunate in Silver Bell. We had our very own "golf course," and our very own dump. We had the Rec Hall for activities of every size and shape, our own grocery store where there were only a few things you couldn't purchase. We had a service station that was a blessing as Tucson was a long way if you were out of gas or needed a tire repaired.


I think it would be fair to say that living in Silver Bell from 1962until the housing was abolished was one of the best times of my family and my life.