Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Exodus from the mining camp

Although the Company probably wouldn’t have put us out of the house, a mining camp didn’t seem a good place for a widow to raise a family of soon to be five once again. Grandpa convinced Mother to relocate to Tucson, 110 miles south where she could start over with the support of her family. After I was born, incidentally, the last to be born in the Miami-Inspiration company hospital prior to its and the mine’s shut down, we stayed on in the company house until June, when she moved the family to Tucson. She, my sister Alice and I moved in with Grandma and Grandpa on Campbell Avenue while a house hunt ensued. The boys were sent to Colorado to spend the summer at our Uncle John’s ranch but by October, we had moved into our new home at 245 E. 4th Street at the corner of 5th Ave.

Grandpa was a professor at the University of Arizona, lecturing in mining administration. It was a kind of retirement job, one to keep his mind occupied and the routine expenses at bay. The University was very lucky to have someone of his professional stature on the faculty. It was while he worked for the Anaconda Copper Co. as general manager of their Butte, Montana reduction works that Mother and Daddy met. Later he moved to Staten Island, N.Y. and had a consulting office on Broadway in New York City for several years. He had closed his consulting office after business began to taper off. Upon returning from a trip to Japan where he was hired to consult on metallurgical methods, he decided that the university had something to offer and moved to Tucson. They had a comfortable home a few blocks east of the U. and within walking distance of the Mines and Engineering building. Grandpa never was much of a driver and I don’t think he even had a car at that time, but he was convinced that Mother needed a better car to get around, since her new home was about as far west of the campus as his home was east and he didn’t want to miss seeing his new grandson. Grandpa bought us a new 1934 Chevrolet- spoke wheels and nice front fenders you could slide down.

Our 1934 Chevy outside Grandpa and Grandma's house at Campbell Ave. and Helen St. taken about 1938

It was about the first clear memory I have-not when we got it, but when the man came to the door to take it away. Mom had decided a few years later that we really didn’t have that much use for the car as the boys did quite well on their bikes and the expense of operating it exceeded its value to her. (Nobody asked me!)

During my young age, that is, prior to entering school, Mother was attending classes at the University, preparing to become a teacher of crippled children. The boys and Alice were in high school and Mother was at the University leaving me in the care of Grandma and Grandpa and I came to think of 1203 Campbell Ave. home away from home. A boy a few months older than I, Arthur Brinkmeyer, lived next door. We became fast friends up until we reached school age.

That's Arthur on the right. The alley was one of our main routes to adventure.

Arthur’s mom was a teacher and his father was bedridden with tuberculosis as I recall. I didn’t go into their house across the alley very often because his father wanted the peace and quiet. They had an air conditioner, which at that time was quite rare. It sat on a pad in the back of the house. One thing that I remember about Arthur was envy. I envied the fact that his parents gave him neater toys than anybody gave me. His electric train had to be a Lionel while mine was a Marx. Jeez! Come to think of it, that was about all. We roamed the neighborhood, sneaking into the University’s polo practice pen, where we would climb up on the wooden horse in the middle and play cowboys. There was a little store down the street with candy in big glass jars that led us into temptation. Free candy! Just don’t let them see you!

Arthur won Mom’s undying gratitude when he gave me a pair of white rats when we were around 10. I thought a couple of white rats were a pretty neat deal until one of them started popping out funny little skinless pods with feet and tails inside. Before I knew it I was the proud though uncertain owner of eleven white rats. The cage that came with the adults was not really big enough for the entire family and Mom was pretty sure there was going to be a demonstration of the Malthusian theory in our house if something wasn’t done quickly. Jack happened to be down for a visit that weekend and knew how to contain the population explosion with the use of our toilet. Even though I thought the little ones were cute, the older ones were becoming a little unpredictable and one nipped me in the ear. Blood running down my neck, I told Jack it was all right with me if he rid me of the whole batch. Jack obliged.

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