The Personal Histories
Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride
After Jean married, this left Nettie, Jo's mother, alone in the red brick home in Thatcher. The home that at seventeen years of age, Jo had moved to, next door to our family. Nettie, always afraid of being alone in the house, welcomed our return to live with her during the year. My mother still lived next door. While living there, I taught the sixth grade in the Safford Elementary School during the school year of 1949\50.
That year, Mac started his freshman year in high school, Jon started the eighth grade, and Sally Jo started the seventh grade. They all attended school in the same building that Jo and I had attended at their ages. At the time, the seventh and eighth grades held their classes in the same building with the four high school grades. In all, 160 students attended the six grades in the school.
During the 1949/50 school year, Nettie felt it would be nice for her to have a cottage of her own, to afford more privacy and room for her and us. She and we agreed to build the cinder block cottage about 40 feet directly behind the house. She would provide the money if we would do the construction. Jon and Mac helped me after school and on Saturdays, when I could finagle their help, which often wasn't that easy.
I poured a concrete footing upon which I laid cinder blocks to a height of 18 inches. With great effort, we wheelbarrowed broken concrete, bricks, tile, rocks and the likes from a trash pile over behind Mother’s place. (The 1940 waste leftovers from the demolition of the old home in preparation to build her new, used brick home from the usable remains of the old one.) The waste filled the 18 inch high block enclosure to within four inches from the top which in turn was leveled with finer fill over which we poured the concrete floor slab. The additional elevation prevented interior flooding during times when Thatcher would be under water from flash flooding pouring out of the hilly slopes above it. All of the homes in town were built elevated for the perennial inevitable.
The small well-windowed cottage of simple interior design sported a shower-bathroom and a kitchen that was continuos with the dining, living room/bedroom area, all blending as one. Because of still needing close company, Nettie never did occupy it However, it never wanted for renters. The boys and I virtually built it in its entirety.
Prior to the next teaching year, the Safford School Board, out of touch with reality, ruled that all teachers employed in the Safford Schools must reside in the city. Compelled to move, we rented a house a block and a-half from the high school. All three schools, the elementary, the junior high and the high school were side by side along the same street.
Just great! Now, rather than commuting that grueling three miles, via a fast, rural highway, we could live right next door. The kids attended school for a year in Safford, while I again taught the sixth grade during the 1950\51 year.
The School Board, after a whole year, broadened their great enlightened minds. They made their dramatic about-face regarding the decree for teachers to live in Safford, and we returned to the red brick house in Thatcher with Nettie. The three children would finish their high school years there.
At the recommendation of President William (Bill) Harless, President of Eastern Arizona Junior College in Thatcher, the College School Board hired me. Hired several months before the commencement of the next school year as the Dean of Men and Student Counselor, I would also teach Freshman Orientation and Elementary Psychology.
Now, with real feelings of permanency we bought the home from Jo's mother: the red brick home on Main Street, where we had been living with her. My grandfather Sims had built this house next door to the McBride home. We three younger McBride kids thought we helped him build it. A good granddad, we did clean-up work he assigned us as we hung around the project. He rewarded us with token payments of candy bars or dimes, which we felt an ample compensation, for we'd have done it for nothing just for the privilege allowed us to stay in the middle of the show. But, during certain phases of construction requiring additional hands, Grandfather hired my two older brothers at fair wages.
Before the present school year finished, and the year of 1951/52 began, President Bill Harless gave notice to resign. He would move to El Camino, California to become the President of El Camino College. This turn of events caught me by surprise.
The School Board had hired Paul Guitteau as the new President. This man and his wife, both fair educators, had years before, taught at Thatcher High School. For the first time in the College's history, an L.D.S. School Board hired a non-Mormon president. Out of touch with reason, the Board, all members of the church, had hired a man well known as an anti-Mormon bigot. Basically they'd hired a man with a strong proclivity to oppose not just the Church and its doctrine, but, arbitrarily and subtly he and his wife persecuted certain members. He began his tenure in the 1951/52 year. He presided over a school with roots founded in Mormondom, composed historically of L.D.S. students, in a predominantly L.D.S. community.
I'd always enjoyed a decent relationship with Paul. But, his aggravation about me occupying a position he'd planned to fill with one of his old cronies -- before he discovered Harless had hired me to the vacant position -- soon became apparent. His obvious asinine demeanor toward me as the year progressed, created an impossible, intolerable situation to live with. There were too many other happy avenues for me to pursue. We had our discussions, and he knew well that I understood the roots of his antagonistic ploys. In the long run, his antics were not beneficial to his selfish interests; every teacher at the college knew the facts and reasons behind his treatment of me. Had I decided to make an issue of it, I believe the faculty, without exceptions, would have sided with me.
Though the Board, if placed under duress by Guitteau to dismiss me, which would have been contrary to their personal wishes, they might have considered asking me to resign. It's doubtful that they would ever have tried to compel me to do so. If I'd chosen to resist, a furor of monstrous proportions would have erupted within the community, as well as from the school faculty. Hardly bereft of other avenues, obvious to me at the time, I decided to bow out of the position for my own immediate, future success. Too, in the end, in the hands of Providence, disassociating myself from Guitteau proved to bring about superior benefits to me in the near and distant future.
Close to this time, my experience with the chicken ranching began. I’m quite sure that it was during the school year of 1951/52, though this may be in conflict with other enterprise. Regardless of any conflict, it happened.
The Chicken Ranch: Don’t have any idea where the notion came from, and certainly I had no particular love for our feathered domestics, but Orlando Merrill and I seemed to get the brain storm at the same time: the time was ripe to make a fortune in the egg business. We neophytes claimed no expertise about chickens except that most families in those days—and ours were no exception—kept a small flock of mostly Rhode Island reds running free around the barnyard or house-lawns that managed to keep themselves alive on table scraps and an occasional handful of barley. I remember mother jawing at us kids that if we’d take better care of the birds: feed, water and shelter, we’d get more eggs from the poor things.
I recall two things as primary factors that pushed Orlando and I into the egg project. I remembered my childhood when I would help grandfather McBride with his business down in Glenbar. He was very successful and sold cartoned eggs throughout the area from Clifton and Morenci, east to Globe and Miami. So surely I had inherited enough “chicken sense” from grandfather to assure me some success in the enterprise.
Now, these by-gone events in my life and that Orlando in his habit of nosing through magazines had run across a drawing of how to build individual chicken pens from ordinary hardware cloth, a new idea in the chicken-egg business. Each hen would have its own separate pen just large enough to move around in and squat when necessary. A constant supply of water and feed, always tempted them, for a food trough and water pipe (with bell-like ball-valves for each separate hen) ran the full length of each row. The incarcerated bird had to but lay its egg on a slanted floor, which immediately rolled out front to the edge of the cage passed the narrow trough out of reach of a bird that might accidentally, or on purpose, break and feed on it. The rows of pens ran the entire length of the building down each side and a back-to-back double row ran down the center. A door opened in the middle of one side, interrupting the continuity of the pens on that side and the center, double row. Here, the bags of feed were stored and access was given to the other side. Equipped with a 5 x 7 inch galvanized rectangular plaques, painted with blackboard paint, attached to the front of each cage, a mark recorded each egg laid by the hen, giving her credit, and providing information of which hens were earning their keep—and their life. For the slacker hens, soon dressed out for the roasting pan or stew pot, were sold to the local markets.
Relegating books, classes and kids to the back corners of our minds, we two old school buddies with visions of wealth and travel before our eyes, picked up our tools (mostly wire cutters) and began the project. Being the proverbial schoolteachers, as we were, we had money enough to launch the project, but just half enough to complete the dream. With a 300 dollar down payment, Roach Builders in Safford contracted with us to allow lumber and wire to build the 85-foot building to house the egg factories, and the rows of individual hen cages, and also a separate nursery that would accommodate 1,000 chicks at a time. We also built a partitioned cooling/storage room for product. We could then begin to reduce our debt with our first profits, which we managed to do after some six months.
Mac and Jon (about 17 and 16) wee fine help, especially with building the cages. Sturdy pairs of wire cutters and special clipping tools filled requirements for that job—the boys soon became experts. I was very pleased with the way Orlando and I got along on the job. He was a great worker, enthused about everything and more than cooperative. His wife, A school nurse, did all the vaccinating of the chicks, especially when chicken pox hit the layers; both were great workers.
We had drawn our own plans for the buildings, each aspect to meet its own purpose. The large building for the producers opened on the ends as well as along the sides, fitted with removable Plexiglas panes for the wintertime. On the slightly gabled roof we installed a spraying system for hot weather. To encourage the hens, we installed lights with automatic switching, so the plumed factories could eat until 10:00 p.m. . We believed what we had heard in the chicken circles—“stuff your hens. It will pay off in eggs.” Since we would be holding down teaching jobs we included every innovation possible to cut down the amount of obligatory labor, but even so, we soon discovered its demands for attention and care proved to be much more than anticipated.
Immediately after getting the first set of ten cages hung from the ceiling joists of our new building we each brought the few laying hens we had at home running our grounds as a trial test for the new cages. The thousand chicks we had purchased several weeks ago were not quite big nor feathered enough to occupy them. At about this time we saw an interesting ad in the local paper. A man from Pima had twenty white leghorn hens for sale. We immediately bought them at a very good price which boon put us in business. Those leghorns seemed to know what was expected of them. Soon, we purchased a used candling and sizing machine, allowing us to sell our first legal eggs. Guess to whom? To our local Thatcher friends, the housewives! Because we sold the cracked eggs at half price these customers asked for them first. Until we got into full production we fell short of meeting the cracked egg demand. Fine with us! They soon had to buy the good eggs at normal price.
Happy to have our eggs, the valley stores caused us to wish we had a greater factory herd; never able to keep up with the increasing demand—which caused a few problems with store owners—they loved our eggs because of assured freshness. Never a single store returned a carton of bad eggs.
Our pullet eggs were smaller for about three weeks as the hens matured. We soon found we had no need to worry. Orville Allen saved the day. An old timer valley resident who had a small store in east Thatcher, catered to itinerant crop harvesters; mainly cotton pickers. For some reason, he wanted only the small eggs. We struck a deal to take them all to him whenever we had a few dozen. A good arrangement for both parties. Our double-yolk eggs stood in high demand too. We divided up the cracked ones and enjoyed them ourselves.
In such large numbers, the baby chicks—were almost a disastrous experience. All had recently been vaccinated when the unforeseen occurred. The watering hose left on, had burst under the pressure during the night, flooding the entire brood room, heated hovel included. By morning the three-week-olds wading in breast high water, were wet and shivering, and four had all ready died.
We knew what we must do. Promptly dry them and find them a new warm home. The home problem we easily solved: the new cooling/storage room, still unused stood ready and proved sufficient. But the drying! Every chick, soaked to the bone, we dried off with the many towels Phyllis scarred up. One-by-one we hand-dried those chirping, uncooperative babies. We kept busy drying while Phyllis ran dampened towels back and forth between her dryer and us. We lost no more than four more chicks by morning. The consolation of the fiasco—we had surely proved that our brood of more than a thousand—indeed, came from sturdy stock.
That sturdy stock soon put us in the egg business. We loved them—except they woke up too early; why, we never knew. At the first show of dawn, all without exception started cackling at once—and could they make a racket! There were few neighbors, but the closest did complain. Thank heaven our brood, not only noisy, was smart. To stop their cacophony of discordance, Orlando simply tossed a rock atop the tin roof. The noise would abruptly stop and the happy hens were satisfied to just reminisce softly about the rock’s bang and rattle the rest of the morning.
One big problem: The droppings from the well-fed birds piled up under each pen some three feet high. We’d anticipated the chore, building wide isles to accommodate a large wheelbarrow. Instead of breaking our own backs, we smartened up and advertised: “Free Fertilizer - Chicken Droppings - The Best.” With that trick, the farmers soon vied for its nutritive powers. Our lowly manure claimed demand equal to the eggs.
Business ran pretty smooth, for a couple of years, though we had yet to make money, for we still worked to pay off the debts. Orlando and I anxiously struggled to meet our obligations to those who had been so generous.
Without warning the bad news jumped us—the feed store announced a walloping price jump—eventually throwing Orlando and I out of the egg project. I sold out my equity in the business to Orlando, and after Orlando had run the business solo for a few years, he sold hens and movable equipment, to become a School principal in Northern Arizona.
We began and completed construction of a framework addition to our house during that school-year of 1951/52. On the east side of it, flush with the back, again with the help of the boys, I built the addition 17 feet wide by 21 feet long. The length extended eastward from the existing kitchen and dining room, over the drive way, blocking access to the old garage that would never be used for anything but storage anyway. Its foundation had to be elevated over two feet, making it level to the existing house. I installed air conditioning in it, which the rest of the house lacked. It became our family room and seconded as bedroom for Jo and I during the heat of the summer. It also contained a shower-bathroom five feet wide and a long closet of the same depth. The floor, laid with linoleum tile and endowed generously with windows, it was a light-filled, airy room.
During the summer of 1952, I worked as a contract plumber under the licensure of Clyde Sparks. With my two sons helping, I plumbed three new houses then under construction. This complete plumbing experience proved to be invaluable in the future, for I built other domiciles, and additions, remodeled, and made numerous repairs.
In a last-minute move, the Thatcher School Board hired me as the Principal of the Thatcher Elementary School for the 1952/53 year. Jack Daley, the Superintendent of Schools, had petitioned them to seek me. They had hired a man for the position before knowing of my resignation from the College. Meantime, the man they'd hired found another position more to his liking prior to the school year commencement and backed out of his contract with Thatcher Schools. I started two weeks later, in September of 1952, as the new Principal. I opted to retain the position for five years.
Mean while, during the 1952/53 year, well before Christmas, I obtained a permit from the Forest Service to cut Christmas trees on the mountain. We cut and hauled about fifty trees, in two pickup loads, to our sale lot between Mother's place and ours. We cut and nailed stands to the bases and lined up, prettily, the five varieties. Within hours, the wind came up and blew them all over.) To keep a few standing all the time, I resorted to digging holes, planting a few solidly in the ground.
I promised the kids a commission on any sales they brought in, but Mac and Jon were short on cooperation. Nevertheless, Sally Jo got on the phone and brought in quite a few sales; she had urgent need of Christmas money and had seen the potential. We had a few trees left over to haul away, and the project was of a howling success. An interesting venture and good experience for the kids, we did break into the black.
After Christmas, again with the help of the boys, we set out to clear away all the obstacles in the vacant lot between the two homes all the way to the back border of the lot. After many years, we disappeared a couple of trash piles from the 1940 demolition of the old house. Also we removed the sandstone block footing of our old home, two stacks of unused adobes and the shed we'd used in the past to store the cow's hay. We dug trenches and a septic tank for waste water, measured off the spaces and laid concrete slabs, for a trailer park. We ran water, gas and electricity to each cite, planted trees and hauled gravel in for the center roadway which ran between the two rows of trailer spaces. This project considerably enhanced the value of the property that we would eventually sell. During the time we managed the trailer park, it added appreciated income.
After my first year as Principal, to generate an income during the wageless summer break, we leased the Turkey Flat Lodge from Babs Hamilton. The Lodge, at 7000-feet elevation on Graham Mountain consisted of a store and five rental cabins. The store served the residents of the summer homes in the cool, mountain community of Turkey Flat and other visitors driving into the mountain country. We sold grocery essentials, gasoline and served fast-foods. Jo and Sally Jo served evening steak and chicken dinners (by appointment). We had ping-pong, badminton and horse shoes available for the enjoyment of visitors and customers.
Mac, having just graduated from high school, slept in one of the cabins, or in the lodge, if all of them had been rented for the night. The Forest service had hired him as the, Fire Guard, at Turkey Flat. When not deep in the forest fighting a fire, he daily patrolled the road to spot early fires; fires usually started by a careless smoker tossing the smoldering butt from his car window. During the rest of the workday, he serviced the several camp grounds: picking up, cleaning, painting and repairing. Off and on, broken pipelines from springs needed repair too. To earn his keep, he helped us some with the lodge too. During every spare minute, he found much enjoyment hobnobbing with the occupants of two girl’s camps sponsored by two stakes of the church, which during the summer were continually filled with pretty young teenagers.
In May of 1954, after the second year as principal of the elementary school, Jo and I, still with a yen for some kind of adventure in our middle-age, rented an apartment at Torrey Pines Apartments on East Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. We both obtained work close by to enjoy a working, summer vacation. Mac's first year at Eastern Arizona Junior College finished three weeks later. He hitch-hiked to Long Beach, stayed with us and enjoyed a leisurely summer at the beach. Our second-floor, apartment window looked out over the boulevard to a beautiful view of the road-side park and down the cliff from it, the beach and the ocean.
During the 1955 summer, Jo and I returned to the Turkey Flat Lodge. Jon helped me with the outside work, and Sally Jo helped with the inside chores. During that stay, Jon and I cleared an area down from the lodge for a fishing pond. (Refer to the detailed section: "Summers at the Turkey Flat Lodge in the Graham Mountains")
We had driven to Pecos, Texas to deliver our only car to Mac so he could serve the last six months as a district president. We managed along with the old Ford pickup until he finished his two-and-a-half-year Church mission in, November of 1957.
May of 1957 concluded my tenure as principal of the elementary school. I'll share the peculiar circumstances leading to my escape from the position: For five years, the faculty and I received raises each year, albeit, never in keeping with the teachers in the rest of the state. When the School Board made known the raises for the next year, to my utter disbelief, no raise had been given to me. Of course, I made prompt contact to ask why.
The strange answer lay in the fact that the superintendent of the Thatcher Schools, Jack Daley, a wealthy man in his own right, had not been taking raises. He frankly loved the job but had little interest in the money. He merely pocket it, it seemed, as if it were change. So, if the Board had given me the appropriate raise, my salary would have eclipsed the superintendent's salary. Through his disinterest in salary increases, the Board had been trapped in a dilemma. Unable to resolve it fairly, they chose to stick their head in the sand.
I visited with each Board Member to point out the obvious injustice of their reasoning, though completely unnecessary, for they already were squirming. I suggested they at least raise my salary to just under that of the superintendent. Their tail-between-hind-legs answer to the suggestion was, "well, you can't be earning almost as much as the Superintendent." Disgusted with their yellow-belliedness, I put my grievances and suggestions in writing. But, before an answer returned, I had already come to a decision. Taking the initiative, I threw my resignation, so to speak, in their faces. There were always too many other trails I could take to comfortable security, I left them to wallow in the stench of their own idiocy, under the eyes of their peers and the community. The probability is that my suggestions would have been acceptable.With Providence still on my side, many new and wonderful advantages constantly continued to loom on the horizon.
Beginning the summer of 1957, I went to work in Safford for La Faun Mortensen, to sell and provide his services to the farmers in the insecticide, defoliant and fertilizer division of his business. During this time we were searching about for a business of our own. We wanted to invest the lump-sum of State Teachers Retirement compensation I received, after resigning as principal. We bought a small grocery store (Rex's) in Thatcher from Rex and Erdine Layton and renamed it “Mac's Market Spot.” While Jo became the main-stay at the grocery store, though I helped her right along, I continued working for Mortensen for a year and a-half. When I'd started, he felt discouraged about that part of his business; he had thought to sell, if he could, or just discontinue it.
The results of the first season with La Faun, gratified him. Though only a novice at the time, I dedicated myself to learning the business. The results of the second season astonished him, for I'd developed an expertise in identifying early-stage, insect infestations of the valley’s crops, and, a gift to explain the blights as well as sell the curative service. Moreover, I already had the administrative expertise to put the books in order, work with the help and generally oversee business.
LaFaun knew we'd bought our own business, and in December of 1958, I told him of my decision to leave his employ. To my surprise, he said: "Darvil, why don't you just take this business off my hands. I'd rather not be bothered with it. You've done such wonders with it, you should take it and keep on running it along with your grocery store."
It had been a busy time for Jo and I. Not only had we made the transition from teaching to self employment, I had greatly expanded another man's business, and in May of 1958 I'd begun to campaign for a seat in the State Senate. (Though I lost the election, it was short-lived, for the months flew by, and the time to try again quickly drew near.)
Having separated from Mortensen with the new business I’d nurtured, I soon built a cinder-block addition to the back of the market for storage of the insecticide, defoliant and fertilizer sacks and containers. With plenty of room in the agriculturally expanding valley, the new business developed and prospered. It fit in well with our grocery store routine.
In 1958, I had campaigned for a seat in The Arizona State Senate for the 1959/60 term loosing by a 16-vote margin. In 1960, I campaigned again for the 1961/62 term; successful in the bid, my first term began January 1, 1961. I would successfully campaign and win the next three elections and serve the voters of Graham County for eight years until 1968.
Mac and his wife, Linda Ann, and family, had been living in Pasadena California. After completing the prerequisites, he applied to The University of Southern California Dental School. He gained acceptance, and as he attended his first year, he started a business of manufacturing fireplace gas logs. Two years before his 1966 graduation, the business had expanded with such success, that he called on me to rescue him. For the next two years, between the Senate and the grocery/insecticide/defoliant/fertilizer business, I made frequent trips to Pasadena to help him in his burgeoning business.
I had completed my last term in
the Senate and sold my business in Thatcher in 1968. When Mac
graduated, Jo and I again moved to California, where I took over the
business until I sold it to Mac's eldest boy, Da'l. After operating it
for nearly 18 years, looking back, reflecting upon my past history of
work, I find it quite remarkable to have hung on to the same work for
In 1986, after selling the log
business, we moved to Newport Beach to a private, permanent-mobile-home
community. We retired there, next to the bay, looking out over the
water. With our retirement investments, we've been exceptionally
fortunate. I stayed busy, during those years with multiple, very
successful investment ventures. However, eventually, we would pull up
stakes again and move back to Arizona.