My parents came here by train from Moberly, Mo., in 1919. A young couple full of hope, with their 12, 9 and 3-year-old children and all of their worldly goods, they got off the train in Peoria and were driven to their newly purchased, sight-unseen farm.
Almost immediately, my family started attending the small Church of Christ in Glendale and made friends with Arizona pioneers Elmer and Docia Cartwright. In 1920, my brother Harold was born. I was the surprise of 1928, and probably not a pleasant one since this was during the Great Depression. My dad farmed in Missouri but had never grown cotton or lettuce. Probably around their fifth year, the price of cotton took a plunge, and he couldn’t sell his crop. So we lost the farm and my dad became a tenant farmer. We lived in many different farm homes after that. I wasn’t until I entered high school that my dad was able to purchase his own farm again.
My parents never owned a credit card. They did, however, always charge groceries at the neighborhood market. One of my early memories is going with my dad when he paid the bill at Smithart’s grocery because Mr. Smithart always gave me a bag of hard candy from the big jar on the counter.
I vividly remember the day a refrigerator was delivered to our kitchen. My mother was so happy. No more melting ice dripping in a pan under the ice box. No more remembering to put out the “ice card” in the window when the iceman delivered.
The last house we lived in before moving to Glendale was at 7th Avenue and Northern. Every Sunday afternoon Earl Plyant would fly his plane over head. We would crane our necks trying to be the first to spot his plane. This was around 1933. Less than 10 years later, we moved west of Luke Field where planes were everywhere in the sky and no longer a novelty. But it was still a thrill to park the car at Phoenix Sky Harbor just to watch the planes take off and land.
I started first grade when we moved to Glendale and walked to school with the neighborhood kids. In the afternoon I walked home alone, my mother meeting me halfway. I can still recall how secure I felt seeing her waiting in the distance. I always knew she was going to be there for me.
Summers were special. The kids all went barefoot. There was always someone to play with on the block. On irrigation days we swam in the ditch. Everyone had roller skates, which came with big keys that we wore around our necks. There were big shady trees to climb. After lunch we had rest time, usually on the back porch. After naps, the women on the block would show up in Mrs. Dilly’s yard with some hand work to do while they visited. All of the mothers had an agreement that none of the children would play inside. Every house had a big swamp cooler in a living room window where the fan blasted cool air over the room. After supper we gathered in someone’s yard and played "Mother May I," "Kick the Can," or "Red Rover" until dark. We all slept out in the yard at night with citronella on the bed posts.
Of all the things I did during the summer, I enjoyed reading most. Once a week I would walk to the library and give Mrs. Teague a list of book requests from my mother. I would select four for me and then walk across the street to buy a triple scoop ice cream cone for ten cents. Other pluses of summer were the wonderful Japanese vegetable farms, where fresh melons and tomatoes were sold. We also went on picnics to South Mountain, Papago Park and Hole in the Rock on warm weather days.
I didn’t appreciate small town living then, but now I realize how blessed we were to grow up with caring parents and neighbors who were always there for us.
This article originally appeared in Roadrunner Extra!, the resident newsletter of Beatitudes Campus.