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LEE BELL TAYLOR

LEE BELL WAS THE YOUNGEST LITTLE COWPUNCHER AT SOPORI SCHOOL IN 1941

Joan: Lee, where did you live as a young child?
Lee: Oh, I lived on - off of the Arivaca road, we were about four miles from Sopori school, and…
Joan: It was a ranch?
Lee: It was a small ranch, yes, and I lived with my brothers and my sister...half brothers and sister…

LEE'S HALF-BROTHERS AND SISTER ALSO ATTENDED SOPORI SCHOOL: ALICE WAS IN EIGHTH GRADE; JIMMY IN SIXTH; AND EDDIE IN THIRD.

…and my mom and dad. And my mom drove the school bus for the school starting, I think, that year or something. That's why I wanted to go to school, because she was driving the school bus…And they let me go.
Joan: And you were actually five years old, so you weren't ready for first grade.
Lee: No, probably not.
Joan: Do you remember liking it, or not liking it?
Lee: Oh, yeah. I loved it. And Mrs. Bourne used to give us money if we learned something, you know. I can remember something about the alphabet - you know, you could say it clear through and she'd give you a quarter, you know, and we used to - the kids used to - talk about that between us, you know.
Joan: Where did the money come from? Was it her own money?
Lee: Her own money, yeah. She was - she rewarded you for doing things, and that was her way of rewarding. Course money at that time was pretty important, because we - none of us were very -we weren't rich, by any means.
We didn't know we were poor.

RODEO AND WILD HORSES

Joan: And you had one story that you wrote, that you dictated to somebody, and you wrote about the rodeo…
Lee: Yes, well I've always liked rodeos. I mean, from then on I guess I did, and I used to try and go even when I was older, but, yes, I enjoyed them.
Joan: Did you ride yourself?
Lee: No, I was a little bit of afraid of horses. I only rode a little bit. I remember my brother had a horse that he called Joe Sopori - after the ranch - and he wasn't broke. He hadn't been broke yet, and I can remember my mother getting after him because he put me on the horse, and of course just lead it around, but…(laughs)
Joan: How old were you then?
Lee: Probably five or six, you know, not very old, but she got after him because, you know, putting me on an unbroke horse, I guess you could say.
Joan: There was a horse called "Old Plug", or maybe it wasn't called old plug…You called him "the old Plug"…
Lee: Well I don't remember that, but there probably was.
Joan: Because that was what your story was about, how you liked to ride the old Plug.
Lee: But this was a young horse, yeah, yeah. Jimmy always liked horses, you know. Alice was more the indoor type.
Joan: So, did Jimmy stay a rancher? Or?
Lee: Well, he worked on ranches, most of his life and drove cattle trucks, you know, hauling cattle all over. He liked working with cattle, and my uncles had been, you know, ranchers too. But they used to have rodeos at Kinsley's too, you know, with the roping and all of that.. so I've always - I used to be kind of like Sister Bourne I guess - I always, I've worn Levi's ever since I can remember, from, you know, very small, up until I was a teenager and older.

GAMES THEY PLAYED

Joan: What did the girls play for games?
Lee: Well, we all used to all play baseball. We would play it - continue it from one recess to after lunch and through the next recess, and there would be one person - this one girl that didn't like to play ball - she kept score for us. But we had mixed teams and we would play baseball, that was our main attraction, and then just other games that we could play outside. I can remember shooting marbles. I used to be pretty good at that. You know, w e'd dig the holes in the ground - it's an L-shape - and we'd shoot marbles you know, and try to - I don't remember the rules now but ...
Joan: If there were rules…
Lee: …we used to do that a lot. And tops. When tops came out, then we had tops because we had a big cement slab out in front of the school.
Joan: Was there a game with the tops? Or?
Lee: Well, we just - just spun them
Joan: Oh, tried to bang them into each other?
Lee: I suppose, yeah...(laughs)

LEE'S SPELLING BOOK

Joan: What did you like best about school? What were your favorite things?
Lee: Oh, I suppose… probably drawing, but I liked to learn to read.
Joan: You did a very nice drawing, right here. (shows drawing)
Lee: (laughs) It's hard to remember doing that, but I suppose I did, you know. And we, of course, we didn't learn things at home as much as they do now, you know. I mean we had - I had - an old school book of my mother's that she had in grade school, and I had written my name in it when I was quite young. So I suppose we used that at home. It was like a spelling - or a primer or something we used and…I still have it. But my mother used it in grade school, and then here I was using it at home anyway, you know, to learn…
Joan: Were there many books in the classroom at Sopori?
Lee: Oh, I think we had enough books. And the older girls would help us - the older children would help us, you know, the younger grades with their spelling and this sort of thing.

BILINGUALISM AT SOPORI

Joan: There were some kids from the Mexican-American families who didn't speak English when they came to school.
Lee: Right, there were some that didn't speak it very well at all, yeah, so they had to learn English. But Sister Bourne would get after us if we spoke Spanish on the play ground, you know, so we had to speak English. But we, of course, spoke Spanish when we could.
Joan: And some of the kids when they wrote in the Little Cowpuncher also used Spanish - either wrote all in Spanish if they weren't speaking English yet, or mixed the languages.
Lee: Right, yeah, 'cause I think some of them- probably their parents worked at the ranches and had come from Mexico or something, you know, to work.

LEE'S PARENTS DROVE THE SCHOOL BUS

Joan: Your parents drove the school bus…
Lee: Yeah, my mom drove the school bus, and my dad, I believe, drove it before my mother did, and before they were married too, I believe. But she drove it through the time I was, you know, in - through school, all eight years. And then
she drove it when I was in high school also, because we had to catch the bus - the Citizen bus, which was the public bus - to Nogales to go to high school.
Joan: How did you get to go to Sopori school when you lived on the Santa Cruz county line?
Lee: Well, just because it was - I would have had to probably go to Amado. It was - I don't know whether they gave us a special permission or what, you know , but we were able to go to Sopori School. Maybe at that time we went to the closest one or something. But I can remember my mother coming into the county court house here in Tucson to pick up her check, and that sort of thing…
Joan: For driving the bus?
Lee: You know, to get paid.

LEE WENT TO NOGALES HIGH SCHOOL WHEN SHE WAS 12 YEARS OLD

Lee: So, I chose to go to Nogales because it wasn't such a big school. Tucson High seemed like a really huge school to me.
Joan: How big a school was Nogales high school?
Lee: Well, when we -when I - graduated, there were 74 in the senior class.
Joan: And when you graduated from Sopori School?
Lee: Four. There were just four of us - four girls. (laughs)
Joan: Was that a big change, or a big adjustment, to make from Sopori to Nogales?
Lee: Yes, it was. Oh yeah, it was for me. And I think I was kind of shy, you know, about meeting people, and it was a big school to me. So, when I did get into high school, we had home room, and they asked if there was anyone under 13. Well, my birthday's the latter part of September, so of course I had to put my hand up, and that was embarrassing, you know, being in high school and just being twelve. (laughs)
Joan: But that means - that meant you must have graduated from high school when you were about 16...
Lee: I was, yes.
Joan: Did you go to college?
Lee: No, I didn't.
Joan: What did you do after high school?
Lee: Came to Tucson and went to work. And my first job was at the White House, downtown Tucson. I don't know if anyone remembers that store.
Joan: I remember it - Myerson's White House...
Lee: Right! And the lady I lived with here in town with was an old family friend, and she was the fitter in the dress department, so she helped me get the job, I'm sure. And my first job was selling lady's hats, which you know - here I was a kid from the country, and I didn't know anything about hats, (laughs) and women wore them at that time, you know - this was in 53 and women still wore hats. So, then I made it through that and then I worked at a dress shop out on East Speedway, which was LaVerne's Dressmaking, and they made squaw dresses, which were popular in the 50s. And that she gave me a job - I mean, she didn't know me from anything, and here I was just 17 years old, and I worked there until I got married, which was two - oh, a little over two years.

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