This brings us to the Tucson of 1924. In her later years, my mother would frequently say, "Oh, I liked Tucson so much better the way it was when Ivan and I first came here." C. L. Sonnichsen in his excellent book, Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City, titled the chapter about Tucson in the 1920s "The Goldplated Decade" and starts the chapter by writing, "The 1920s, from some points of view, were the best years Tucson had ever had--perhaps the best she would ever have ... if the decade was not pure gold, it was at least gold-plated, and the men and women who remember it think back on those days with smiling nostalgia."
I think now, looking back, my mother was right, and it was a good time to be living in Tucson.
In June 1924, my parents arrived to live in Tucson. In August 1926 they moved to 811 East First Street, apartment 2. My father wrote letters to his parents describing his work; the following paragraphs are from various letters written in February and March, 1927.
"Every morning about five minutes to eight I call at the Marshall's residence. Sometimes I have to go up there to see Mrs. Marshall, or to get the truck after Mr. Marshall has used all the ways he knows of in trying to get it started. As it is a Ford truck, I am very much at home with it. The self-starter is sure handy.
"Mrs. Marshall is a great businesswoman. She is not very well and spends much of the time on a cot or in fact in the place where she sleeps. These are people who do not care for luxury and live very simply. I suppose because she is not well she does not care to have fine things. They have no family. I had an idea you might be interested in what kind of people they were.
"Wilma and I are well and doing about the same each day. The weather is surely grand. During the day it gets up to the eighties.
"This is Tuesday evening. I have been on the go today so it was not possible to write you sooner. To tell where I have been and what I have been doing would take a long while. Fumigated an apartment, took some rugs up to Marshalls, helped in the ice cream plant a little, went with the plumber two places to repair plumbing, made a trip downtown with Mr. Marshall to get the mix and cream from Phoenix to make the ice cream. Then made another trip down to a bakery to get some baked goods, made several trips to the Marshall's residence. In to talk to Mrs. Marshall about renting of apartments, and many questions along the same line. Stopped in two places to see about repairs. Many other things came up in the meantime.
"Saturday evening we went to bed about nine thirty and about eleven I was wakened up by someone calling my name and asking if I was there. Well, I was there for I was so sound asleep I could scarcely get my wits together. The boy was about to take a bath and when turning on the water the force of the pressure caused one of the couplings to pull in two and the water came out all over the bathroom. I told him where to get the key we use to turn the water off at the meters and he followed my directions. By the time I got there in my bathrobe he had all shut off. It was a block east of here.
"Have had a variety of work this week as usual. Delivered some ice cream, then the next day gather up the tubs. When the packages are too much for me I have someone along.
"As they were without a baker for about two weeks, it was necessary to make purchase of pastries and bread, etc. from another bakery. I usually went down after it. Helped Mr. Ross install a range boiler in the sand above the baking oven of the bakery to heat water for the bakers use. This heats water without additional cost.
"Mr. Marshall is having the fronts taken out of the stores and installing large doors which will be raised up out of the way during the day. This gives much better chance for people to see the goods. This will take place for the grocery, meat market and bakery. When completed will add much to the ease of customers getting about.
"Mr. Marshall is connecting the bakery with the grocery store by cutting a large entrance through the wall so people can get a good view of things when entering the store. Wilma says she likes to look at things in the stores, for I have showed her about some.
"This week I have been helping some in the grocery store about four days. The head grocer has been on a drunk for a week now. He is sobering up on lemon essence so no doubt will be fit by the middle of the week. [You readers realize this is intended as a joke, because lemon essence and other flavorings are mostly alcohol.]
"This grocery is like all the rest in this part of the country, the kind you have to hunt up the things you want to purchase, although the clerks wait on customers when they can. Eggs are 35 cents a dozen, irish spuds five cents a pound, apples three pounds for twenty five cents, bananas two pounds for twenty five cents, oranges from five cents each to somewhat less. Hills coffee sixty cents. The bakery has many fancy cookies at forty and fifty cents a pound. I enjoyed the work very much and it helps to get a knowledge of that part of the work about here.
"The Fleishman Yeast Company have a representative in Tucson giving talks on many things of interest to one interested in sales. Mr. Marshall wanted me to attend so I did. It lasted four nights and was given upstairs in the Gas and Electric office building. Mr. Marshall attended every night as did some of the others. These talks were instructive as well as helpful. Wilma attended two nights. They did not try to sell yeast or hardly mentioned the fact. It was to stimulate an interest among the bakers to put out a more attractive product and suggest more in their salesmanship. This way they would eventually consume more yeast.
"A few evenings I have been painting on the fireplace in our apartment. Have painted it three coats then striped it black. The red and black striping look very well. There is not much red and white striping used here in the houses. We use the little metal stove all the time as the fireplace is not satisfactory. Wilma has the kitchenette well cleaned up so it looks very well. Some evening I am going to paint about the sink three coats of white then varnish it.
"It takes about all of Wilma's time in the evening washing up the dishes of the day, preparing my dinner (noon meal, my parents always had dinner at noon, supper in evening, never lunch) for the next day and doing washings, besides keeping the room in order. She leaves at 7:45 and does not get home much before six in the evening. (The washings were done in the wash house on the north end of the laundry building.)
"This is Sunday evening and time I should be writing. Today was a perfect day, being very warm in the sun. The Rodeo is on now and each night they are having Wolfville in the south part of the city. This is representing Arizona as it was in the early days.
"As we sit here in the room we can see Old Baldy forty miles south of here and out the east window we are able to see the Catalina Mountains. The birds are singing, the cottonwoods are very nearly out in leaf, the apricot trees are blooming, many nice flowers are blooming in yards. An areoplane is soaring about like some large bird, here taking passengers during the rodeo season."
Yours very truly,
NOTE The grocery store closed June 9, 1928, because of competition from Safeway (Pay'N Takit) at Speedway and Park and the Pigley Wigley in the Geronimo plaza at University and Euclid. For years my parents used cans of Monarch brand foods, left over from the grocery. I remember the day that we ran out of Monarch cocoa, another brand tasted quite differently.