High School and College
Camilla: So we’re in your high school years now?
Jimmie: Yes. I was elected and participated as a class officer every year. I was Student Body President my senior year. I went to Boys’ State. That’s kind of how I got started in politics. I was active, played in the band, and had a pep band called “Kerr Dog and His Five Hounds”. I tried to play a little sports earlier, but wasn’t very good. But beyond going to school, I worked. Mr. Loren Curtis, the Superintendent of the school, when I’d get rundown or tired would ask me, “Is there something we can do to help you?” Having the superintendent come over and talk to you makes you feel pretty good.
Remember the fish pond that used to be out in front of the high school? They filled it up during the [City Hall] remodeling, I think. As you graduated, the class tradition was to give something to the school. I think the Class of ‘34 gave the fish pond. Well, it was sort of traditional for freshmen to get chucked into the fish pond.
When I was a kid a lot of us swam in the ditch on Fourth Street where we lived. There were cottonwoods with a big rope. The Hoopers lived up there, too. It wasn’t lined with cement. We’d swim in it and it was great fun. We covered that ditch from City limit to City limit. I delivered papers to three people on Olive when I was a little kid. There was a house on the west side of Olive, the old A.M. Ward house, a white frame house with a circular driveway that goes all the way around the house. The people that that subdivision was named for lived in that house—the Wards. Then, as you come south on Olive, there’s a nice old house back in the trees where Mrs. [Blodie] Thode lived, the woman who pioneered and got Hoemako Hospital here. She was a registered nurse, a Canadian originally, who was married to a world’s champion cowboy named Earl Thode. They had pasture land out east toward where Picacho Street is now. I’d deliver her paper, then go down to Wards, then to the other side of the canal. For those three papers I had to pedal SO far. Later, in 1967 when I was first Mayor of Casa Grande, that was the northern boundary of the City limits.
I learned to swim at the high school where the City building department is now on the extreme west end of City Hall. It was an indoor swimming pool. Dave White, when I was Mayor, was the Parks & Recreation Director preceding Jerry Sullivan. He taught me to swim when I was in high school. After World War II, Dave was a lifeguard. Camilla: And you went straight on to ASU?
Jimmie: No. I laid out a year and worked in my Dad’s cleaners to get the money to go to college. Mr. Curtis and I were in Kiwanis together and he asked me to call him by his first name. I just couldn’t. He was always Mr. Curtis to me.
I don’t want to mislead you, I wasn’t anything but an average student—not National Honor Society or anything. I didn’t make bad grades but I wasn’t a brain. I graduated high school in 1953, worked in the cleaners, and then in the Fall of 1954 I started college in Marketing and Sales. The first semester I got a B and the second semester I got an A in college English. I really wasn’t that good but we had a professor who stressed certain things. I made sure I was up on those things. In those days they sent your transcript back to your high school. At the end of the first year I had all A’s and B’s. Mr. Curtis came to me that summer and said “Man, are we proud of you! It makes the school look good.” (Laughter.) I didn’t keep that up all four years, though.
I usually came home on Fridays, worked in the cleaners on Saturday, and my Dad would pay me $10—my spending money for the next week. I had a car. My Dad bought me a used car and I went back and forth. Each summer I worked at the cleaners to get the moey to go back to ASU in September.
Camilla: Were the roads paved by then?
Jimmie: Yes. The freeway wasn’t there but we’d go up Pinal Avenue and, just short of where you join the freeway now, you’d pick up the state highway and go west. For a good number of years you could still see the indentation. They later fenced it. That road is still out there but they’ve bulldozed it on the Gila River reservation. It runs parallel to the freeway. At State Route 587 we would curve out on the reservation and we’d go due north up through Chandler. Depending on where you wanted to go, you might go all the way up. Between Tempe and Chandler there were open fields and desert. You’d go over on Baseline or Guadalupe Road.