Arivaca in the 1930s, part 2 

by Mary Kasulaitis

August 2017

As the 1930s wore on, most people in Arivaca continued as before.  The federal government began establishing programs to put people back to work. One of those locally useful programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps, the idea being that infrastructure would be created or improved while providing assistance to young men who otherwise had no prospect of jobs. In this program, roads, water development, fire trails and recreation areas were built, all across the country, but mostly in the West in the National Forests.  A camp was started in 1935 at Peña Blanca, southeast of Arivaca.  Something like 150 young men at a time populated the camp. The first group was from Texas and Oklahoma.  Locals weren’t hired, except for a few specialized jobs such as bookkeeping and trainers, who were experienced men recruited from the local construction industries. The young men built the Nogales Ranger Station and made significant improvements to the Ruby Road over the mountain to Nogales. Specifically they created drainage ditches and culverts and shored up the edges, so that it was finally a relatively safe road. This was particularly important during the period that the Ruby Mine was active. At that time the Peña Blanca Lake did not exist. Groups came and went over the years until the camp closed in the early 40s. The WPA was another program that made infrastructure improvements, but in Tucson, not in the Arivaca area. 

Another program created by the federal government in 1936 was the Rural Electrification Administration, which brought power to the far reaches of the country through loans to cooperatives.  However, Arivaca did not receive this power until the mid-1950s when Trico Electric Cooperative started running lines into the area, but it has made all the difference in the world to life in Arivaca.  

When the Ruby Mine reopened in 1934, life changed for the better in Arivaca.  There were jobs to be had and the income was often spent at Caviglia’s Café and the Mercantile. Sadly, there was a constant stream of job seekers even after the mine had full employment and they had to be turned away. For those who were working, a family-style culture developed in Ruby that is remembered fondly to this day. Dr Woodard’s medical services extended to Arivaca.  A competition grew up between the softball teams of the two towns:  the Ruby Tigers and the Montana Miners, aka Ruby Miners, and the Arivaca Cowboys. They played teams from Nogales and Tucson. The girls too had teams:  the Arivaca Rancheritas played “the girls of Ruby,” since apparently the reporter didn’t know their team name. At Ruby they played on the tailings, but Fred Noon also constructed an extra field at Oro Blanco. Sometimes there are lots of games going on at once. Reporting on these and other events were students from Sopori School who belonged to the 4-H Club.  Thelma Kinsley, Erlinda Badilla, Norma Angulo, Antonia Encinas, Josephine Jackson and Felicidad Rodriguez were the reporters.  Many local events like rodeos, roundups and parties were part of the articles they published in the Arizona Daily Star in a column called “What people of neighboring communities are doing,” as often as twice a month. (Thelma is Danny Stewart’s mother) 

The community events promoted a spirit of good cheer.  A Cinco de Mayo fiesta was celebrated in 1935 in which a number of baseball games were played, as well as a horse race promoted by Angelo Caviglia.  Angelo’s horse won but in other competitions he was not as lucky.  The races were held at the Alamo Park field a mile east of Arivaca on Noon’s ranch. All these activities inspired the locals to request a Deputy Sheriff for when the festivities were over and no one had gone home yet.  Having a sheriff around sometimes got in the way of the fun, as when 12 slot machines were found in Continental and Arivaca and gathered up by Sheriff Ed Echols.  No arrests were made, as the officials were waiting for the owners to claim them. The 50th wedding anniversary the G.W. Barnes’ was celebrated with a grand march and an orchestra from Tucson at a dance in Arivaca, attended by 300 people. Reports in the Tucson newspaper from the “Bystanders Club” reveals some typical Arivaca activities,  such as  partying frequently thanks to Angelo and his bar. Who penned the reports is anonymous. 

Now that Prohibition was over, drinking too much was part of life in Arivaca and perhaps in the country as a whole.  Sometimes it got out of hand.  Clinton Northrup was reportedly found by a couple in Tucson lying on their couch in a state of dead drunk.  He thought he was still in Arivaca.  Apparently he had been looking for a friend and walked into the wrong house, where the front door was unlocked.  Many years later Clinton was not so lucky, because he died in fire in his house in Arivaca in the mid-1950s and is buried in Arivaca cemetery. It makes you wonder:  one Ross Cartier, a druggist from Washington state, was found in Arivaca after being mysteriously missing from Tacoma for 3 months. His absence was unexplained. Who knows? 

There were other mines working in the Oro Blanco and Arivaca Mining Districts.  In fact, the 100 biggest mine producers in Arizona in 1937 include Ajax, Las Guijas, Ruby Mine-Eagle Picher, and the Oro Blanco mines. (Arizona Republic, Nov 21, 1936.) At the Ajax in October 1936 a miner named Alberto Soto was killed in a cave-in when the ceiling dropped on him. Apparently the roof of the tunnel was not shored up sufficiently and it was later claimed that one timber could have saved him. He left a wife and three small children. Regulations to prevent this kind of accident were still in the future. 

The Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture was another government program that has had lasting impact on the topography of Arivaca cienaga. It was created in the wake of the Dust Bowl, when tons of topsoil was lifted by winds off the prairie of the Midwest, due to unwise farming practices combined with a drought and terrible dust storms.  There had been so much overproduction in the 1920s when the agricultural economy was down.  What could be done to prevent this in the future? First, government aid in the form of education, loans and grants to support better conservation practices was taken advantage of by local ranchers.  In the mid 30s, Charlie Boice built dikes across Arivaca Creek to hold back the water and direct it to the south side of the valley where he built a small pond.  Moving the Creek was not popular with the town residents who had used the waters for washing and drinking. Eventually that meant a well had to be provided (courtesy of Charlie Boice) and piping provided. Another rancher built a spreader dam across a large wash that feeds into the Creek to direct its flow.  Due to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, fencing was promoted in the interest of controlling grazing. Fencing pastures within a property allowed fields to be rested.  Active education programs informed farmers and ranchers about the choices they could make. Later renamed the Natural Resource Conservation Service, this agency is still in the business of assisting farmers and ranchers in conserving the land they own. 

Arivaca Ranch owner Charlie Boice got in the news in another way:  in 1935 he fenced off the Arivaca-Sasabe Road, making a detour necessary for Arivaca residents. You had to use a trail along the foothills.  Exactly why he did it is not known, but it had to do with the State land pasture that he leased for cattle in that area. Obviously, there was an outcry and officially protested and Pima County eventually made him take it down. In that same area,  he and Eva Wilbur Cruce continued their feud on the land and in the courts.  But she was not the only person in that family:  her uncle Charles Wilbur had been pressuring the County for years to make improvements in the road between Arivaca and Highway 286 in the Altar Valley, partly in the interest of mining activity and the needs of large trucks. The road had been officially dedicated in 1928 but it wasn’t in good shape and was often impassible in bad weather.  In 1937, after a petition signed by more than 100 local people, the County finally ordered the Engineer to do the road work as soon as possible and then maintain it afterwards.  It was not paved until the 1970s.

Continued next time. 


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