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The Personal Histories

of

Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride

 
 

(JOSEPHINE)  SCHOOL DAYS

 

When I started school, kindergarten for five-year-olds didn't exist. I began my first year at six in the first grade of the Thatcher Elementary School. My first teacher was Darvil's aunt, Bessie McBride, his father’s youngest sister. We all adored her, and I felt that she thought me to be extra special. As a young child though, I had the tendency to think that of nearly everyone. In retrospect as I matured in thinking I began to believe that people liked me less and less with each passing year. I presume that must be true, because I became smarter with age.

 

The red-brick elementary school is still in use. (Now it accommodates the middle school.) The first grade through the eighth were included as part of the elementary school when I began. As I entered the seventh grade, the new junior high for the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth grades had been completed immediately west of the former school. This left the elementary school with the first through the sixth grades. Later, the junior high building would also include the eleventh and twelfth grades of high school. Eventually our three children graduated from that same high school housed by the same building.

 

As a youngster in the first years of school, it seemed that the teachers always chose me for the lead roles in the skits, plays and operettas, and I enjoyed wearing the pretty costumes. Nevertheless, I recall one occasion when the measles made its rounds through the community, and I came down with them at the time the characters were being chosen for a play, and my best friend, Alberta Craig, got the main role that I imagined would otherwise have been mine. I loved singing parts, and when requiring fervent voice, even as a small child, one could depend on me to sing good and loud. 

 

Our extra special fourth grade teacher was married to the President of the Gila Academy. She and her husband lived in an apartment, especially prepared for them, that was part of my Grandma Nonnie and Grandpa Andrew Kimball's house. Mama and Dad loved Ruth Creer, a beautiful woman, and loved her husband too, Leland H.; so for me it came natural to love them also. However, she may not have been the person she should have been, because I remember when her husband had to be out of town on school business; she went to the dances without him and had a good time at it. Nevertheless, she was a special lady, and she was a great talent in music and liberally imparted it to us children.

 

Let me make mention that we lived in the day of school segregation. The Mexican and Black children attended their separate class for all ages of children, the first grade through the eighth grade, taught by their own teacher in a single large room.

 

Though each of the eight class in our school had its own teacher, the school employed an additional art teacher who divided her time among all the classes. This woman -- well, I won’t go into that. Fortunately, she liked me, but unfortunately she didn't like one of my cousins who was an exceptionally gifted artist. In spite of her niceness to me, her obnoxious treatment of my cousin tainted my feelings toward her. I found it difficult to like her.

 

In the fifth grade, Miss Thomas taught us. She's the one who explained to us that if our clothing ever caught fire, we should immediately lie down and roll over and over to extinguish the flames. Later, that instruction would be invaluable to me; for it save me from what could have caused horrible disfigurement or even loss of life.

 

In junior high, another exceptional teacher taught algebra and Spanish. His style of teaching made it fun for us to learn. His wife, whom he married later and brought to Thatcher was beautiful, but he was very homely; so ugly that he actually looked as if he were always at death's door, but he lived until 1993. However, his wife was an exceptional teacher too, and she and he both liked me, and would you believe it, they named their first daughter Josephine. I don't know if I had a role in that inspiration. Perhaps I did; I like to think so.

 

Both were caught up in one major fault: They demonstrated clear antagonism toward the L.D.S. Church and were quite venomous towards certain church members. They eventually left Thatcher, but later returned when the Junior College School Board hired him as its new President. He would be a primary factor in Darvil's decision against signing the contract with the college for a second year. Though Paul Guitteau and his wife, Elizabeth, were intelligent people, because of religious bigotry they would always be lacking in justice, equity and kindness in their dealings with many fine people, and in time he would bring additional anti-Mormon sentiments and elements into the community.

 

Surprisingly, one man, a member of the hiring board, was a prime instigator in hiring the new President, and though raised by wonderful religious parents, he seemed to pay little attention to quite a number of important principals of the Church. John Mickelson, the former Board member, and Darvil, later served for eight years together as State Senators, though seldom, if ever, cooperating in anything.

 

All of us in junior high school loved and appreciated one special teacher, Hyrum Mortensen. He later married one of the other teachers. Some of the girls older than I really had a case on him, when he was an older, single, handsome, young man. His brother, Martin Mortensen, served as the superintendent of the Thatcher Schools during my high school years. His wife, Berle Nagle, had been Eleanor's first grade teacher. Finer people than he and his wife never existed.

 

Another darling teacher, Winnie Haynie, had come from Douglas, Arizona to teach in our high school. I never considered myself one of her favorites, but she had had some training in ballet. She organized a ballet class for those who would afford the nominal fee. Still haunting my memory is the time we set the date to take our group’s photograph. One of my best friends, Alberta, had forgotten to bring her ballet shoes, and even though everyone else came prepared -- for Alberta's sake the teacher postponed the photography until the next day, and that was okay, except, the morrow came and can you believe it, I'd forgotten my shoes. But, no special concession for me; she didn’t suggest postponing it for my sake. So, I'm the only one in the whole row of girls in that cute photograph without ballet shoes -- though I had rather it be me than Alberta. That aggravated me then and it aggravates me now, The photo is included in this history.

 

I remember another wonderful teacher, Ella C. Hancock, a faithful member of the Church and a marvelous teacher, she lived alone with her three children for many years after she moved to our town. She taught us literature and helped us learn the technique of memorizing important facts. She cared about us in a personal way taking interest in each of our lives. For a while I had a beau that I thought I couldn't be without. She privately went to Mama and told her to not let me go with him, saying he wasn't the right boy for me. Of course I resented it, but in time I discovered she was right.

 

Our music teacher, Joe Smith, a member of the Church had come from Utah with his wife. He taught us well as our band director. I played the drums for one year, and also the clarinet and flute—didn't like the flute. Not really adept in any one instrument -- though I loved the clarinet and wish I'd continued with it -- those enjoyable times still entertain fond memories.

 

The sister of the music teacher's wife and her husband moved to Thatcher later on.  Mr. Reed taught at the College. She was gifted in teaching kindergarten-age children, and she taught me many key techniques while I served under her as her assistant in her church calling of Stake Advisor to the teachers of the younger children. 

 

Through high school and junior college, my name always appeared on the school ballots for something. But the involvements I loved most included operettas, dances, and plays.  A word more about the delightful operettas: I still managed to come up with the lead role in most of those, and that kept me very happy. I remember we visited the schools in Pima, Eden, Duncan and others, where we performed also. Our parents cooperated in providing the transportation, and the spirit of it all, with gorgeous costumes, and just being a part of the group was so fun for me.

 

Since farming was the real economic base of the area, many transients came and went according to the harvest seasons. Among them, many boys had never learned to dance. I enjoyed being friendly to those boys and often coaxed them out onto the dance floor to help them get started dancing and socializing.

 

Graduation exercises were held after completion of tenth grade, and after that summer vacation we attended school at Gila Junior College. At the time, the eleventh and twelfth grades of high school were accommodated in the same building as the college. What fun! Principally, LDS youth from the other Mormon enclaves came from many parts of Arizona, New Mexico, the El Paso, Texas area and even from the Mormon Colonies of Mexico. An exciting time in our lives: I say "our lives," because about then, Darvil became a part of my thoughts and activities, for we'd moved next door to his family. I was 17 years old.

 

Four miles west of Pima, to the south of the highway about one-half mile, a beautiful formation of clay cliffs rises from the desert floor. Because of their striking orange color in contrast to the drab, gray, flatland around them, they were called “Red Knolls Cliffs." Over 200 feet high, they were riddled with caves, crevices and tunnels. On its rather flat top were dozens of deep, dark, seemingly bottomless pits. No one that I knew had ever explored them.

 

Giving face to the north, up the gentle slope of a clay alluvial fan, opened a natural amphitheater carved by the wind and water back into the cliff. This amphitheater had little coves and recesses on either side and to the back:, natural places for the changing of costumes and for waiting performers.

 

Dances, plays, operettas and operas were all interesting pastimes in a young woman's life. However, we considered the preparation for and presentation of the "Red Knolls Pageant" the most exciting cultural event of the year. For those of us with interests in music and theatrics, we invariably looked forward to it with high expectations. I always took part in it as a member of the orchestra or the choral group, but occasionally I'd end up with a small speaking part. Selected for major rolls, Darvil acted in three yearly pageants in a row. Annually for many years, pageants were presented to large gatherings there in the open air of the desert.

 

"The Las Amigas Club,” the college girls organization, elected me president during my last year in junior college. With a lot of talented help, we orchestrated the decorating of the gymnasium for the Girls Dance that year. We chose "Fairy Land” as the theme of the event. I remember Carl Green’s younger sister, a talented and artistic person, worked arduously planning and arranging the delightful decor. We even had a tree of golden apples. 

 

That same year, the members of the Boys Club were responsible for the decorations of the Spring Formal Prom. It consisted primarily of desert flora: Every imaginable type, kind, and variety of age, size and color of desert plant and cactus accented by a diverse spectrum of subdued, colored lights transformed the drab gymnasium to ethereal beauty. It turned out that -- many expressed it -- to be as beautifully decorated as any prom in the history of the school. (During that period of time, nothing was endangered, and there were no laws prohibiting the gathering of plant life, and few people borrowed plant life from our vast desert surroundings.)

 

Growing up in the arid desert country, I took for granted the desert's unexcelled beauty. I believe for the first time in my life, during the preparation for that prom, that I first caught a glimpse of the real magnificence of the great, dry, desert with its myriad of strange and beautiful plants. Our valley had so little rainfall that the farmers and the business people dependent on crop success constantly petitioned God for moisture -- in public, church, and private prayers.

 

We had lots of different fun things to do for dates. We went to special lecturers, musical and drama presentations by talented musicians invited to the college. We often made ice cream at someone's home and sat visiting and laughing -- sometimes the boys would spend hours cracking black walnuts for the ice cream. The thick hard-shelled nuts from the wild trees were bears to extract the meat from -- or we would take the ice cream out into the desert hills in the early evening. After a bonfire and wiener roast or hamburger fry, or just a marshmallow roast, we’d slurp down the ice cream to top off the main course. In general, we grouped together with Darvil’s friends and their girl friends. Gordon Stowell and Bernice Phillips (my first cousin), Fenton Taylor and a girl friend, and others.

 

After graduation from Gila Junior College, Darvil left me and the valley for summer school in Flagstaff. That didn't slow me down or hamper me in having a great summer. I played tennis, went to Hot Springs to swim and on dates to the many events sponsored by the church and community. I did have a special beau then too, and we kept company on many nice occasions.  Morris Felshaw was a very nice person -- I suspect he thought I might marry him. I dated my long-time friend, Reid Morris, also. He's the one I so love to dance with -- and I never attended a dance at which we didn't dance together.

 

After Darvil returned from summer school that year, we were married August 18, 1933.

 

 
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