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The Personal Histories

of

Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride

 
 


 
(JOSEPHINE)  MY DAD—DAVID DEE
(DAVE) PHILLIPS


 HUSBAND, FATHER AND FRIEND

 

Born in Kaysville, Utah, January 5, 1881, Dad, always kind and understanding, was a wonderful father to his children. At times he probably used some mild physical punishments on his boys, but as has been mentioned he never punished his daughters in any way. Any punishment of his girls devolved solely to mother. He was a very handsome man: well-proportioned, trim of build (except for a moderately protruding stomach in later life), and always immaculately dressed. He stood about five-feet-ten inches in height. Dark complexioned with wavy black hair, many men envied his handsomeness and many young women had sought his company before he chose Mama. Exceptionally well spoken, he enjoyed a legion of friendships. He was respected as an intelligent and accomplished man in the areas of his expertise and interests -- which were many. The community held him in high esteem.

 

From Kaysville, Utah, my father’s parents with their children -- most of them boys, Dad the youngest -- drove their horse-drawn wagons to the Gila Valley soon after the colonizer, Christopher Layton, arrived. Dad’s mother, Selena, was Christopher's daughter, and in Utah she had served for years as her father’s scribe. Later, Christopher enticed the family to follow him and settle in Thatcher. Once in Thatcher, she continued as his scribe. (Refer to the section on Grandparents.)

 

Dad spent his boyhood in Thatcher. He graduated from its schools and after high school and two years attending the Salt Lake City Business College graduating in 1902 at age 21.

 

Mama and a dear friend, Jenny LeBaron Brooks, while attending the Academy in Thatcher, roomed together at the home of her future husband's parents. (My grandfather, Edward Charles Phillips and grandmother, Selina “Layton” Phillips.) The college, her home and his parent's home were all close together in Thatcher, a little more than a block from each other. I've always supposed Mama roomed there to be with Jenny and to enjoy a degree of independence from her mother. Maybe, her mother simply exercised gentle persuasion to help cut the apron strings.

 

When her husband-to-be (I wonder if it entered her mind then) was around, the two girls thought him an arrogant sort with airs of conceit and an attitude of “better-than-thou.” I know that once while he was annoying the girls as they washed dishes at the kitchen sink, Mama, to his surprise and disgust, (or maybe he liked it) brought him down a notch by swashing the soiled, soapy dishrag across his (as she imagined) self assuming face.

 

My parents were married in Mama’s mother and stepfather's home (Grandmother Nonnie and Grandpa Kimball) and a short time later were sealed for time and eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. After their marriage he worked for three different stores aputting to use his education in bookkeeping skills. He steadily increased his experience and knowledge, gaining substantial understanding in merchandising.

 

While working in one store, he answered the call of the Prophet of the Church to serve a mission in South Africa. Married at the time, they had two very young boys, the oldest one, four and the other, only two. (A third boy, Elmo, the second baby, had died after living only six weeks.) Mama, expecting her fourth child, bid Dad farewell April 5, 1909. Eleanor, two years and seven months older than I, arrived in November, five months after her father's departure.

 

Unlike the majority called during those earlier days, through wise planning and providence, Dad left sufficient funds for the support of his family. Though sufficient for the family to enjoy independence, it amounted to less than extensive. But Mama, through wise, frugal judgment survived unfettered by poverty's chains during his long absence. I have a few photographs of him as a missionary and a copy of his missionary journal. It's filled with interesting, exemplary and inspiring experiences. [See other sections of this history.]

 

In addition to proselyting, he served as mission secretary for many months under two different presidents: President Steed and President Hendrickson. Two years of college and his earlier experience in accounting, record keeping and business management, coupled with a keen mind and a gift for detail, no doubt qualified him for the important assignment of working closely with both presidents. After two years, he returned in May of 1911 from that far away land.

 

Dad was very sharing with the family telling us of the country of South Africa and his missionary experiences. Because of his close association with the two mission presidents, and because the mission included the entire country, he traveled often and extensively. If not on foot, the means of travel was stagecoach or bus. He often spoke of the abundance and beauty of gorgeous plants, flowers, trees and blossoms. I remember him recounting one occasion while traveling, of watching great flocks of flamingos that blanketed the overhead sky.  

 

After he returned, he resumed his work in the business of merchandising and in 1915, eventually built his own very successful general merchandise and grocery store in Thatcher. Known as “Phillips Mercantile,” it stood across the street from the “Big Six” -- his father was one of the 6 partners -- that established it in Thatcher many years before  -- and renowned in local history. 

 

After becoming his own boss, he instituted a special yearly tradition. As a kind man of conscience and deep feelings toward all, the unobtrusive ritual took place quietly, with street deserted at the store each Christmas morning. There he would meet his Mexican friends and less fortunate customers and their large families of small children and distribute candies and presents to them. 

 

One favorite pastime Dad enjoyed was befriending "drummers" (traveling salesmen that passed through visiting his store) with the purpose of gleaning information from them. He delved into the routine with intense interest. Time and again he would invite them to our home for refreshments, spending an evening visiting. To him, they were not only valuable sources of information but interesting men as well. Method in his madness, he plied them with questions for knowledge to better his own business. Most were from the West Coast, but some were from the great cities east of the Mississippi.

 

Dad detested washday and did not want Mama to be the washerwoman even though she loved it. I loved it too. I loved anything to do with playing in water. Moreover, Dad also appreciated the house kept and in order when he arrived home from work for relaxation -- for Mama and him. He hired women to relieve Mama of what he perceived to be too much of a burden for her. As a little girl I loved every one of those hired women because they treated me with such kindness and sweetness. Not just permitting, they even encouraged me to be there with them and play in the sudsy water. During the intense heat of the summer, Mama pinned my curls on top of my head to keep them from dangling in the water, and to keep me cool. There with those nice women I dabbled and splashed in the sudsy water to my hearts content.

 

In those days we used the old-fashioned scrub board to do washing. Dad or the boys, every week on washday, kindled a fire in the back yard over which a large, copper-bottomed, oval tub sat heating water. The women dipped from it to provide what they needed to keep the water in the other tubs warm enough. During hot weather, the washtub and the rinse tub sat on a table in the shade under a big tree in the back yard.

 

While I was still a teenager, Dad bought our first electric washing machine for Mama. He was most insistent to be the first to use it. And he -- not Mama -- did the first washing with it. Like all boys, little and big, he also loved new toys. At first, much to the frustration of the boys, he could also be somewhat on the stingy side with their toys.

 

When I was little, Dad required a late dinner because he locked up the store and didn’t get home till late. Mother had to prepare his meal, and she had little time at night to tell us stories or read to us, and though Dad didn’t read or tell us stories, he didn’t neglect us. We all looked forward to our share when he would come home late with a big steak purchased from Uncle Winnie’s butcher shop. We had a small wood-burning heater in the front room. Dad would open its door and lay the steak out over the coals. He was expert in that art of cooking; it always turned out delicious.

 

Once in a while we knew he attended the local horse racing competitions, which were great sport among the valleyites of Thatcher and neighboring towns, farms and ranches. It has been suggested that he might have placed a bet or two. If he did, knowing him, he would not come home with empty pockets, for he stayed well informed on who was who and which was which among competitors and horses. He had a real sixth sense about horseflesh. 


Hunting, a favorite relaxation from the store for him, gave him a source of good exercise. He especially would search out the coveys of quail, and bag the unlucky cottontail too. He used his pet 1894 Winchester pump-action, 12-gage shotgun. Later, Rodney, Darvil and then our two boys used it. I know they loved it and felt a partnership with the old shotgun and still lament its disappearance. It’s still around somewhere, and I wish it could be returned to my family if the present possessor reads this history. (It's recognizable by a slight bulge three or four inches from the muzzle’s end.) Every season found Dad with rifle in hand out in the local hills and mountains in pursuit of the wily whitetail deer and the bigger, more coveted, blacktail mule deer. The family, especially Mama, loved the taste of the wild game he brought in. It never lasted long in our family -- such delicious meals.

 

Mama and Dad were good friends with Jessie Birdno, Mama’s first half-cousin, a daughter of Aunt Ella Birdno. She married Frank Dowdle, a rancher in Klondike. At least once a year my parents would take Eleanor, Rodney and me with them for an overnight visit at their ranch. I remember of going at least four time. Out the back door of their ranch house, about 100 feet away, ran a small, clear, picturesque creek. Next to it grew a medium-size mesquite tree with branches shading it. Naturally, with my infatuation with water, I spent much time there by the tree wading and playing in the stream.  

 

During those years, there was a great abundance of quail on the ranch. Each early morning they lined up en mass along the creek edge for their day’s first drink. Dad would arise early and leave with shot gun in hand. Back in the brush across the stream he flushed them from their hiding places bringing down sufficient to furnish all with plenty of birds, to more than satisfy us with a breakfast special. (Would that Darvil and I could have a few plump quail for breakfast now.) I remember that Jessie and Frank kept several gunny (burlap) sacks chockfull to the brim of venison jerky. Each visit they opened a sack and let us kids have as much of the yummy strips as we could eat. We kept pockets stuffed and pulled out a piece whenever we wanted, chewing away to our hearts content. Sometimes, Frank, Jessie or Mama pounded it with a hammer reducing it to a course powder. Aunt Jessie mixed it with flower and milk to make delicious gravy. With it we covered our bread or potatoes, but usually we had hot, baking powder biscuits to cover -- delicious stuff.

 

Dad loved to sing to the accompaniment of the piano. The men in our home: Dad, Dee -- and especially Virgil, who really used his voice -- and Rodney all had voices of quality. They sang at our piano frequently, often bringing in their friends to enjoy short, evening songfests. According to Mama, Virgil had inherited his grandfather Phillips’ exceptional voice and Virgil sang more than his brothers, more so during his high school and junior college days. We loved to hear him sing, especially his favorite, “On the Road to Mandalay.” When he grew older and became so ill, he lost the strength to sing. When first notified that he had passed away, after having suffered so long, immediately to my mind came the thought, “How nice. Now he can sing again, and, to Eleanor’s marvelous accompaniment.”

 

When I was 13 or 14 years of age, the Valley National Bank in Thatcher went broke. Dad brought the safety deposit box from the bank into the store and put it in his desk. In the box were the rubies that he had brought back for Nonnie from South Africa, at the same time he had brought the big ruby for Mama’s ring. Nonnie had her two rubies set in earrings. After Nonnie passed away, they were stored in the bank box with three other loose rubies. I just loved the earrings and often begged Mama to let me wear them. Of course, she told me a definite “no!,” but that when I got older and more responsible I could. Maybe within no more than a couple of months after my last request, the store was robbed of everything of value from the safety deposit box in Dad’s desk

 

Dad’s desk in the store was old but very beautiful roll top desk -- kind of special in his life. He had a sturdy chair by it where he could sit comfortably at every little opportunity -- a must with his ailing leg. We were envious and proud of that old desk -- an heirloom of sorts, Dad had bought it around 1919; I never knew from whom. When the store was closed some twenty years later, and Dad rented the building to a dry-cleaner. he also loaned the desk to him. Shortly after Dad died the cleaner moved to an out-of-town location, and without even a goodbye, the thief took the desk with him. Mama tried to have it brought back but was never able to determine where it was. She could have taken the sheriff along and legally claim it.

 

Regarding Dad’s ailing leg, I was still a very little girl when it got bad. Mama kept the seriousness of it from us kids, but dad had an attack of arthritis or sciatica that put him in bed for nearly a year; evidently he suffered pain beyond our understanding; I often heard him moaning with pain, even though a hall and a closed, bedroom door blocked sound. How my mother was able to survive that year I don’t know. I know her pain must have been as great as Dad’s, for I have seen her cry when even a family pet (a cat or a dog) had suffered less.

 

Dad’s bout with that terrible problem left him forever with a lame left leg. I was so young when it happened, that I don’t remember of Dad ever walking without a limp. At the time, he couldn’t work, so their income was meager. Mama told us how she patched everything, even using shirttail ends as patching material, and I don’t know what all else, but she said they just scrimped along and managed to live through it. Dad -- thank  heaven -- finally got much better, but that leg always bothered him and did handicap him. Darvil told me that he could always recognize Dad a long way off by the peculiar little swing he adopted to favor the leg.

 

Dad worked two blocks from home. From a very young age I knew the time he would come home for lunches, and early evenings at his day’s end. I would run down to the corner to meet him about a block from our home -- barefooted in the summertime, I would run from shady-spots to frog’s foot (a carpet-like green weed patch) to grassy-patches with feet scorching between those cool patches while frightened butterflies flitted all about. He would grab me up and carry me on home. Those little rendezvous turned out to be one of my more joyful daily experiences; I looked forward to them during my younger life. 

 

Then one day he nearly broke my heart when he kindly said, “Jody, you’ve grown so big I just can’t carry you any more.” Grief-stricken, he saw I was almost in tears, he explained to me about his poor leg. When Mama was consoling me that evening, assuring me that Dad loved me just the same as always, I finally accepted it and could be happy. Through the rest of his life, his bad leg was something he had to put up with in many ways. It was hard for him to sit down and then get up. Our house was built of twelve-inch plastered adobe brick inside and red brick outside. This gave the window a wide ledge inside the kitchen. There at the high ledge he could stand half-sitting and eat breakfast in relative comfort.

 

Dad’s store was a wonderful business until the Great Depression surprised the year 1929 smothering the nation. With the onslaught of that nation-wide disaster, his business, as with untold numbers of others began to dwindle until in 1933 he simply walked away from it to exert energy in more profitable endeavors. His building continued to be a source of income. He partitioned it and rented one section to a Mr. Blan for a dry cleaning business, and the other he leased to the U.S. Postal Department for Thatcher’s post office. (Later, he became the postmaster.)

 

A talented man of many interests, he loved music and sang in a beautiful baritone voice in the privacy of our home, accompanied by Mama or one of his daughters, all of whom were exceptionally accomplished at the piano. He periodically agreed to sing solos and sing in small groups. We heard him sing often, he called it -- playing "at" the piano -- but it was done for our pleasure, in privacy at home.

 

Endowed with social graciousness from diplomatic, tactful parents, extensive business experience, and constant interaction with a broad cross-section of people, my father made others feel comfortable in his presence. Although at times Mama experienced difficulty enticing him out of the house to socialize; once out mingling with others, he enjoyed himself to no end and could be the life of the party.


My Brother-in-law, Bruce McBride, records the following memory of Dad which he titles Good Neighbor:  “An individual who showed great interest in my welfare, and whom I came to think a great deal of -- was Dave Phillips. I first remember Dave as the Superintendent of the Thatcher Ward Sunday School. Later, his son Rodney and I became close friends, and Dave usually asked me to come along with them on such occasions as the Father and Son’s Outings or fishing trips. He was one of the most generous and kindhearted men I have ever known -- a real friend to everyone in need. Dave and his wife, Nettie, were always good for a generous handout. No one in need was ever turned away from their door.”

 

Dad served as a member of the Presidency of the Thatcher Ward Young Mens Mutual Improvement Association, and later on the stake board. Also, he served as the Sunday School Superintendent of the ward for a year.

 

Always active in local and state politics, Dad also took interest in world affairs. He read extensively and discussed politics, which kept him well informed about all levels of candidates and issues of the time. He would have been very proud of my “state senator” husband.

 

The Thatcher townspeople elected him clerk. On March 5, 1906 they elected him a member of the city council. From 1904 to 1909 he served as school trustee of Thatcher’s school district. On November 8, 1911, he was elected Graham County Assessor and served for three years. About 1915 he became a board member of the county democratic party organization eventually serving as the chairman for years. 

 

After winning the election, he served four years as Thatcher’s Justice of the Peace. Later, appointed as the postmaster of the Thatcher office in 1939, with Mama employed as his assistant, he attended to that responsibility until a heart attack took his life on December 2, 1941, five days before the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack precipitated the United States into World War II. Mama said later that she was glad he had gone before it happened, because that prolonged, terrible, global conflict would have caused him grave worry. He died far too early in life at 61, a month and three days short of his 62nd birthday.

 

His funeral service, held in the Thatcher Ward building was attended by many friends. He was buried in his plot in the Thatcher cemetery just south of town. There, his earthly tabernacle rested next to his deceased, infant son, Elmo, who died in 1906, after two days less than a month of life. Mama was interred next to Dad 23 years, eight months later. At the burial site we arranged for the beautiful, black, granite tombstone displaying his and Mother’s names.
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I've found something new to me June, 2005. I have the document from the Graham County Sheriff's Office which was located in Solomonville, then the County seat. the sheriff indicates that "I hereby appoint D.D. Phillips as a Deputy Sheriff in and for said County and State. Done this third day of Feb 1913. Signed T. G. Alger, Sheriff of Graham County. (Territory is crossed out and State is inked in above it, for Arizona Territory had just become a state in 1912, and the old form had not been replaced yet.) Dad signed, "I, D.D. Phillips do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the State of Arizona, and that I will defend them against all enemies whatsoever, and that I will in true faith and allegiance bear to the same, and that I will discharge the duties of the office of Deputy Sheriff to the best of my ability. So help me God. (Notarized on the following 10th by William McRae) How long he served and what he was involved in, I don't know. He was 32 years old.

  
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