Dad’s Remarriage and Divorce Bring Change

My Dad remarried for about two years when I was maybe 6-8 years old. It didn’t last. She had two children of her own and he had me. There were always arguments about the kids. When he married her we were living on Dry Lake Street in Dr. Reddin’s house. When she left she took everything including pictures of my mother, and others, which I never got back. In later years, my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side replaced some of those. My Dad’s and her wedding invitation and marriage picture, things like this.

After they separated, we moved into the San Carlos Hotel. My Dad and I lived in room number 4 for a year. We ate in restaurants most of the time I was growing up. Occasionally my Dad would cook, but generally I ate in restaurants all my life until I got married. (Laughter.) At college I ate in the cafeteria. In the Air Force I ate in the dining halls. It made me very spoiled. I like certain things and that’s what I eat. I’m not adventuresome. My wife tells me its boring to cook for me because I eat the same thing day after day.

So my Dad and I lived in the hotel. In those days, The Wonder Bar—which is still in existence—was not on Second Street where it is today. It was in the downstairs of The San Carlos Hotel on the south end. My Dad was a frequenter of The Wonder Bar. I’d come down and check on him or talk him into coming up to bed or pester him for money so I could go eat. I used to be down in The Wonder Bar a lot more often than I should have been even though I wasn’t drinking. (Laughter.)

At the San Carlos there was a small restaurant that later was a tap room. On the extreme north portion of the hotel was an Indian curio shop. Doc Herrin and his lady friend, Mrs. Lavers—I always thought they were man and wife and maybe they were but they had officially different names. In today’s world that isn’t uncommon but back then it was. They had a quite nice, large Indian curio store.

The Wonder Bar was a wild and wooly place. It wasn’t unusual for someone to come inside on a horse during the war years. The old Wonder Bar was owned by the McNatt’s, another old pioneer family. Carr McNatt owned the old bar. After his son Mickey came back from the service in the late ‘40’s he and his wife, Virginia, built the new Wonder Bar on Second Street. In the old days, people would wager bets at The Wonder Bar on who could outrun the horses that were ridden into the bar. Some of that wildness, I hear, has followed over to the new Wonder Bar. Mickey’s been gone for many years but his widow, Virginia, passed away recently.

Across the parking lot to the east of the San Carlos Hotel was another curio shop owned by a guy called Apache Jack who had been a barber here in Casa Grande. He and his wife, Beulah Williams, lived behind the shop. Mrs. Williams was a school teacher here for years. She was my 8th grade teacher. They were a nice couple who didn’t have any children. In later years, when he was semi-retired and out of the curio business, he went back to barbering. In those days I had hair and I went to Jack Williams. He used to tell me “You’re not going to be bald.” Well, my Dad was bald, my Dad’s three brothers were bald, my grandfather was bald, and my mother’s three or four brothers were bald and so was her dad. So I reconciled myself to being bald early on. (Laughter.) Williams used to be in with Roy Parks and, later, with Fred Reed, who both had the barbershop at different times next to--south of--The Paramount Theater.

The building that’s immediately to the west next to The Wonder Bar had a restaurant in it, maybe Charley’s Steakhouse. There was a side door to The Wonder Bar, through a passageway and you could walk into Charley’s Steakhouse. I used to eat there a lot. On the corner, again to the west, was a service station owned by the Thomas’s. Sutah Parker Thomas. She was married to Sonny Thomas whose dad owned that station. There was a garage back on the back end. That’s still there.

Later, all that was combined—the restaurant and they built a building where the service station was and the back garage. On the other corner was another service station where they built the Ford garage called Ritchie-Davis. Walter Davis later was the mayor of Casa Grande for several years and also was a City judge for a lot of years. They were tied together through marriage. Mrs. Ritchie just passed away this past year and has a daughter living here, Marlene, married to Ben McHaney. Later it was an Edsel agency.

Across the street, the Brooks—and later the Anderson brothers—had an auto agency over where the Boot Shop was. Further to the south, between the hotel and Second Street, there was a Shell service station. The building itself belonged to Jack Clemens who was W.P.’s son, the W.P. who had the bank. In those years, Jack didn’t run the station but he had the bulk plant down around the railroad where Casa Grande Avenue curves and Jimmie Kerr Boulevard picks up. That used to be where they stored gasoline and oil and different distributors would take jobbers like Shell, etc. The Ralph Dickies had that land. The canopy from that station sat there for a number of years. He had another son, Dudley who owned--and his heirs have--The Golden Eagle/Budweiser Distributing business.

Back there where Buie Plumbing is now there used to be Matt’s Drive-In. Inside they had stools and a lot of people drove through. There was a fellow who had a series of restaurants in different locations named Matt Crouse. He had two daughters—Pat, who was in my class, and a younger one named Sue.