Jimmie Comes to Casa Grande in 1939
After she died, my Dad decided to come to a smaller community since he was going to be a single parent. I would guess Casa Grande was about 1,500 people at that time, 1939. Tucson was smaller than it is today, too, but it was a lot bigger community. My Dad rented Dr. Reddin’s house down on Dry Lake Street. The house is still there. When we first came here there were very few paved streets. The Main Street area was along the railroad tracks. There are still a number of buildings there. It was the Florence Boulevard of that time. It was paved and so were Florence Street and Sacaton Street as I remember. The business community sort of stopped at Second Street, although Florence Street had the Paramount Theater and where Carlton’s is was Martin’s Drug Store. There was also another drug store on the corner of Main and Florence Street. It was a two story. There were several two story buildings down there. Some people lived upstairs but there were also professional offices. When I was 5, the dentist was upstairs there. Downstairs Serrano’s had The Popular Store which was a full mercantile store. As you progressed westward there were Mexican and Chinese restaurants, several bars, a jewelry store—that building is still there—it was Briggs Jewelry Store. As you went down Florence Street toward the Paramount, going north, Mr. Thornton had a jewelry store at the corner of First and Florence Streets. There were flourishing businesses.
Camilla: Do you remember the Don Market?
Jimmie: I don’t remember the one that was downtown before they built the new one. I know they were down there but I don’t remember that. Across the street from Mr. Thornton there was a furniture store that Ed Goff, that’s Rod Goff’s Dad (Rod’s a retired person and still lives here), had. And upstairs there were apartments that you came into from First Street.
There were other businesses but I don’t remember what all along the west side of the road. I do remember there was a bank owned by W.P. Clemens, the only bank I recall in the early years, where the Pioneer Market was later on. I think Kirk McCarville’s got his real estate business there and owns that building now. Against Abuse is on the back side of that. Clemens was later bought out by Valley Bank. His grandson, Bobby (Robert) Clements, went through all twelve years of school here in Casa Grande. He lives in Arizona City now. He and I were friends all through elementary and high school and we roomed together for two years at ASU. We have a lifelong friendship. In the later years, F.T. Rainey had a real estate and insurance business in that area.
As I said, there weren’t too many paved streets. Growing up with it, you didn’t think a lot about it. You were used to it. But in the Spring and Summer we used to have real bad windstorms with heavy, heavy dust. It wasn’t unusual for it to blow some windows out. I don’t know why, but I thought it was probably because—even if the wind was more intense—there wasn’t the pavement you have today.
You were fortunate if you had a cooler. They were coming on at that time. But we used to sleep outside. A lot of people had screened-in porches but we didn’t. You’d sleep on a cot and you’d hose down the cot and the sheet and, as the water evaporated at night, that was your cooler. In today’s world, you’d probably be scared to be outside all night but in those days you didn’t lock your doors and, if you did, it was a skeleton key. (Laughter.) Everybody had the same key. The community was small and very friendly.
Central School was where the Arizona Bank Plaza is now. Mr. [Donovan] Kramer, [Sr.} owns that property behind The Dispatch where Congressman [Rick Renzi] has his office and where Southwest Gas is.