Transcribed from a 1985 taped interview with:
My Dad was born and raised in Spain. He served in the Spanish Cavalry for, I don't know, two or three-years. And, while he was in the cavalry he sustained a hernia and he was given a medical discharge. He really was a wandering type, always wanting to see what the rest of the world was like. It was because of this that he boarded a ship out of Spain (I'm not sure out of which city) and arrived in Puerto Rico. He got a job there, for a short time (a year or two) as a stevadore.
He decided he wanted to see the United-States. He took a ship that landed him in New Orleans. He traveled west to California. He Spent time in California and Southern Arizona. He was in San Francisco shortly after the earthquake of 1905.
He traveled back to Arizona and got a job with Babbitt Brothers once again as a sheep herder. The summer range for the 'Brothers' was the White Mountains. Well, he worked as a sheep herder with them for approximately four or five years, until he saved enough money to go back to Spain. He married my mother, Eladia, when he returned to Spain. They moved back to the United States in 1914.
He went back to work in Flagstaff' for the Babbitt Brothers again as a sheep herder. They made him the boss (Chaparell) of a herd of sheep. He worked two or three years with them mostly in Flagstaff, and then moved to the Round Valley area.
In 1918, he bought a hotel building, which at that time was known as the Saffell Hotel Anex. It was located across the street from the old Saffell Hotel, in Springerville, Arizona. He operated the hotel along with a boarding house for two or three years. He wanted to buy his supplies for the boarding house at wholesale prices, but the wholesalers wouldn't sell to him because he wasn't a retailer. So, he boxed in a small part of the porch in front of the hotel, had a window installed, and above his window he put up a sign that read "Store.' No name, just "Store." This was a six by eight or eight by eight room. I don't think he had over fifty dollars worth or merchandise in it, but anyhow, some of the local- people started getting their groceries from him through the store. Well, the "store" business was proving to be better than the hotel business, so, in front of the hotel building, he build a twenty by twenty foot concrete building, and painted a sign over the door of it which read "Store." It had no name, but in time, because the hotel was named The White House Hotel the store became known as The White House Store.
He operated in that building until 1925 when he bought a lot from Mrs. Saffell on the main street that was fifty by one hundred feet. He built a frame building on that and sold mostly groceries but some general merchandise.
After three or four years automobiles started coming through Springerville so he installed gas pumps. He put the gas pumps in front of the store and put a canopy over it. It was Shell Products for several years but in 1930 we changed brands to Texaco because he had had a "falling out" with the Shell Company. He also built another little gas station next to the present one there. He installed a couple of pumps which were Conoco products. He built a little garage and a tire shop. The garage part of that building burned in 1933/1934.
It was also this time when he built a seven unit motel in back of the store. These motel units were about 12' by 18' and they had inside plumbing that even included a shower. It was quite a modern motel at that time. He had some signs painted and put along the highway that read "Coronado Motel, No Bugs." Those signs really drew quite a lot of comment.
In the meantime he continued expanding his merchandise in the store. He built a warehouse in the back so he could handle all kinds of building materials, plumbing materials, nails and roofing, along with some dry goods he had in the store (along with the groceries). It was truly a "general country store!"
He operated like that until I was honorable discharged from military service in 1945. It was the beginning of 1946 that I took the business over from him.
I was married in 1950 to Louella Schneller of Phoenix, Arizona. At the time of our marriage she was an avid bowler, being both the State's Single and Doubles Champion for the State of Arizona. She made several bowling tours around the country.
My mother passed away in 1945 and my Dad in 1955. It was in 1956 or 1957 when the Highway Department widened Main Street in Springerville, Arizona. When they widened the road they condemned the front part of the property which was where the gas pumps were located. We had to remove the canopy and the gas pumps and we had just the, old store with the false front on it. I operated it that way until about 1957 when we built the building next to the old store. That is the building in its present location and the area of the old store became a parking lot for the new store.
We built the building we're in now and leased out half of it to Clare Spillman, who ran a sporting goods store in there for three or four years. In the meantime Becker Mercantile burned. They had the only retail grocery outlet in Springerville. So, most of the local people had no place to buy groceries except the Modern Store in Eagar, Arizona, or they had to drive to the old McNary General Store in McNary, Arizona or to Show Low or St. Johns, Arizona.
We decided this would be the prime time to put in a full grocery store. We canceled our lease with Mr. Spillman and expanded into the entire building. We put in a complete line of produce, groceries, fresh meats, and household items. That's pretty much the way it was until it closed.
This series of pictures and the letter took place in 1932. At that time Highway 60 wasn't yet a designated route through Arizona. In Springerville, Mr. Gustav Becker, as well as his sons, Julius and Eddie, pretty much spearheaded getting that route through our town.
St. Johns also wanted it to go through their town. Their contention was, if built through Springerville the roads would be impossible to drive over during the winter months of heavy snow. And so, Ed Becker convinced some of the business men to take a day, a Sunday, and just go across the proposed route (as far as Vernon).
Several business men, accompanied by their families, decided to take Mr. Becker up on his idea. We left Springerville about eight o'clock in the morning and arrived on the Summit (which was then called Montoso Hill ) at noon. At the top we had a picnic lunch, took pictures, and started driving to the Riggs Ranch in Vernon. Arizona.
Unfortunately we ran into some difficulties after the picnic lunch. Two of the washes we had to cross were drifted full of snow and we had to shovel the snow out before we could cross. It was almost midnight when we got to the Riggs Ranch (which was only three or four miles from where we had our picnic lunch).
The Riggs were really great people. They took us all in and fed us the home-canned beef that Mrs. Riggs had made. I think that was the best meal I ever ate. And, after that we went on.
There was, at that time, a road that went from Vernon to Concho. It was just a dirt road, but it was a warm night, and we thought nothing about continuing. But that road was just bog hole after bog hole. Every car on the tour got stuck two or three times.
My Dad burned out a clutch on his car. We just doubled up in another car and went on. We arrived in Concho about daylight the next morning. From there the roads were maintained. They were only gravel roads, but well-maintained. We arrived back in Springerville before noon. But we did prove our point: that a car could go on that route even in the dead of winter. In time our letter helped to get Highway 60 routed through Springerville instead of St. Johns.
My Father was quite civic minded. He wanted to see the area grow. Of course, being in business, I can understand why. He took an active part in civic affairs. And, he was quite active in getting the first Springerville sewer system installed. It was installed by the W.P.A. during the depression. I think, at that time, it was about the only town in the country that had a sewer system before they had a water system. Everyone furnished their own water to flush the toilets. And a lot of that original system is still in existence.
My family consisted of two older sisters and three younger ones. In 1930 my oldest sister was attending school at the University of Arizona. The next sister graduated from high school and went into nurses' training at St. Joseph's Nursing School in Phoenix, Arizona. When I graduated high school in 1935 my folks had already spent all their money on the girls' education and they didn't have any left for me. So, I stayed in Springerville and didn't have the opportunity of college. I worked with my Dad in the store. That was my life, except for the four years I was in the service.
I was in the Army Engineers and served (out of forty-nine months) thirty-nine months overseas in the Pacific area. It took thirty-eight days travel to get there. We were going over there before the Philippines fell, but in route we received word that the Philippines had fallen and we were rerouted. We landed in Northern Australia and from there we worked our way back up through the northern tip of Australia and into New Guinea and several of the islands.
We mainly were there to build airstrips. My last hop with them was when everybody came to the Philippines on Lady Island on D-Day. That was quite an experience. I was only about a hundred yards from MacArthur as he made his now famous speech "I Have Returned." We were there to build more airstrips. Five months later I was discharged and returned to the United States.
Quite a number of men from Springerville served in World War II. I was discharged before the war with Japan was finished. I couldn't believe how many War Widows there were in the area. I was one of the first to get back home.
I ran into three or four men, from the area, when I was overseas. I had no idea where they were stationed and no idea I'd ever see them. We made a landing on a little island there called Caroline, with the purpose in mind of building another airstrip. We arrived in landing barges and after we got on the beach I was looking around and someone yelled, "Hey, Charlie." Well, no one was called by their first name (only their last name) so I didn't pay much attention. Then someone yelled again, "Hey, Charlie." I looked around and this guy was waving at me. I walked towards him and it was Merlyn Hall! We had quite a chat. And, Bob Whitmer from Nutrioso, Arizona. was there too. That was quite a reunion - ten thousand miles from home!
Louella and I were married in 1950 in Phoenix, Arizona. She was a big help in the store. She would pump gas or change oil and really enjoyed herself! After her stroke in 1972/1973 she pretty much dropped out of the business. She stayed at home and took care of the kids. That stroke paralyzed her right side - to where she couldn't write and her speech was slurred for a while. She really wanted to continue to be an active part of the business, but because of the stroke she just could not help.
When I was a child living here, I was around the Becker family a lot because Ernie and I were the same age and in school together. We were "pals" and because of that quite a bit of my time was spent at his folks' home, Ed and Ann Becker. I always thought a lot of Mr. and Mrs. Becker.
In school, the teacher who stands out most in my mind was Ida Rudd. She taught me in the first or second grade. We had a four room school house with two classes per room. Mrs. Virginia Williams was also one of my teachers.
When I was growing up the town was pretty much operated by the Becker family. The Becker Mercantile and the Apache Tavern (which was part of the Apache Chief Hotel) were owned by the Beckers. The corner of the building of the Apache Chief Hotel housed the Round Valley Bank, which was operated by the Becker family. Paul Becker was the bank's manager. Becker Mercantile was operated by the older Gustav Becker and then later by Julius Becker. Still later, Bob and Dick Becker, operated the mercantile.
I can remember a meat market, across the street from Becker Mercantile, operated by Dave Rudd and his nephew, Bill Williams. Bill later bought the meat market, and he and his wife, Sara K. operated it. In 1942 or 1943 they sold out.
We also had Feaster's Market. It was located about a block or so from the Becker Mercantile. It was owned by Herman and Effie Feaster. Across the street from Feaster's Market (in the building that is today the Round Valley Furniture store run by Elva Bowls) was Gude's Help Yourself Store. That was the first "self-service" store in Springerville. In time Gude's Help Yourself Store had a branch in Eagar, but they moved out of the country and left the building vacant. Half of the building was Gude's Help Yourself Store and the other half of the building was occupied by the first drug store in town. It was operated by Maude and Ellis Chitwood. The drug store moved to where the bank was located so the building was vacant for quite a long time.
Then there was Becker Motor Company which was the first Ford Garage in the State of Arizona.
The Beckers owned some twenty units of cabins for travelers to rent. The town also had a couple of pool halls (I know because I spent quite a little time in them).
Now the El Rio Theatre didn't come into existence until the late 1930's - probably 1936 or 1937. There was a pool hall on either side of what would become the theatre. It was run by Samuel Madariaga, the father of Sam, Buster, and George.
There was a bar and restaurant just across the street from the Springerville Elementary School on Main St. It was operated by Harry and Sara Howe and was a real nice place.
Oh, yes, there was another garage in town and it was located where the Chamber of Commerce Building is now. It was operated by Melvin Brown.
The post office, in those days, was located in the Becker Mercantile. Our first post office was built in 1932 or 1933. It was really a nice building for any town, but especially Springerville.
Entertainment consisted of getting into mischief. We used to have bonfires in an intersection of town--not any one specific intersection any of them would do. We'd have a bonfire and then have weenie roasts or marshmallow roasts (that sort of thing), and play different games.
Of course, during high school days there were some activities, but not too many. But, then you must remember that when I was in high school we were in the Depression and so not even an Annual Book was published. We did have a football team that played on a dirt field with gravel over it - kind of rough. And, we had a basketball team. There weren't too many teams for us to play because of the distances involved - transportation and expense were just too great. But there were always games between St. Johns - and they were about the only ones that were of any importance to Round Valley.
And, I can remember Becker's Lake as a pretty good little fishing lake. It was rough fish and no trout in it. It was stocked with perch and bream. Ten or twenty of us kids built a raft and set it out about fifty or sixty feet from shore. We put a diving board on it. Then we could go out there during the sunny months and swim. During the winter months it was not uncommon to have ten inches of ice on Becker Lake. That made for ice skating and just playing on the ice.
There was an old home by the lake, the Homrighausen home, and an apple orchard. The Homrighausen were relatives of the Becker family. It was quite a home. As I can remember it was of adobe construction. It deteriorated so much that it had to be torn down. I think one of those old trees are still there although probably not producing any apples. The family that owned the house, when I remember, was Lowe Reilly. He had two or three sons, Pat, Sylvester, and Bill. Bill is the only one still around.
There were eighteen or twenty of us and on the spur of the moment we'd have a steak fry somewhere--up Water Canyon or at Green's Peak. We brought whatever we wanted to fix, chicken or steaks. We always found something to keep us entertained.
Later on there was a dance hall in Show Low that we would go over to on Saturday night. It was the Blue Moon. We'd have a caravan of ten cars and it was the "high-light" of the week. It wasn't every week, but if one of us went there would usually be a group. There was no television and no hot-rodding around town.
The first radio I remember was around 1927 and it was installed at the Becker Motor Company. It was most amazing! You could hear people and sounds coming out of this box, which was a table like thing with a big speaker on top of it. We were amazed that sound could come out from "clear across the country."