Verde Heritage: MEMORIES OF CLEMENCEAU DURING THE 1930's
"By Bessie Mae (Thompson) Barclay"
"There was a turn-style entrance to our town, or the cattle guard, and across the road was the" Clemenceau "School where my friends and I attended all nine grades. When, as an adult, I saw 'my' school again, the steps to the kindergarten were not as tall and steep as I had remembered them. But the large school building was still imposing and impressive."
"Inside the invisible walls of Clemenceau, named for a famous Frenchman," Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, who became a friend of James S. Douglas during World War I, "was a little village of great people, most of whom I knew. We lived in several different houses just down the way from the Post Office, and finally, and for the most years, we lived in the large house we called 'The Payne's House' after that family had moved to Washington state. How I loved that house with all the add-on rooms, and a big swing in the backyard. I could draw the floor plan today, if asked."
"Clemenceau was there in the 1930's with large homes for the mine bosses, and a large salt [sodium sulphate] storage building a short distance away. We --- Mother (Margaret Thompson) and I --- liked to visit people in the large brick homes, but I was to stay away from the structure with the salt. Of course, I didn't. It contained ramps for trucks to come and dump more salt, and it one fell into a salt bin, you probably would suffocate. Still, we enjoyed packing a snack and spending the day running up and down the ramps."
"There was another great place to play and skate. A very large slab of cement remained after a building had been torn down, and the cement was perfect for roller skating. Several of us would spend time skating round and round, and that was OK with our parents because the worst we could do was fall on the cement with our skates on, and knees recover quickly when you are young. But what the parents may not have known, the open basement and still standing floor-level vault was a challenge. From a rope we could swing back and forth over that open floor like Tarzan. And wearing skates did not make it any safer. Somehow, we all survived."
"Then there were the beautiful well-constructed tennis courts we enjoyed" on the west side of town. "They were built by" the United Verde Extension Mining Company (U.V.X.), "and once we owned a tennis racket and three tennis balls we were welcomed to play. There was no country club to join, and no membership passes to carry. And the nice park was there, too, across from the Post Office, and our home."
"Mother was the postmaster in Clemenceau" from July 1, 1939, until August 18, 1943, after the Post Office had moved into the old Bank of Clemenceau building, "so I was allowed to enter the sacred gates after school each day and show her my papers and tell her what I had learned. Behind the window where people ordered stamps and picked up mail was a wonderland of adventure. There were large gray sacks labeled with the names of small towns nearby, and I liked to watch Mother sort the mail, tossing letters here and there without even looking at the labels she had memorized."
"Sometimes there would be baby chicks peeping, still in their mailed crates on the floor. I was always excited when I heard them and could touch them with one finger to stroke their soft backs. And if it was necessary, Mother would deliver the chicks to the rancher who ordered them and I could ride along. Often we drove toward Cornville, or over the Red Rock Crossing where I had learned to swim."
"My first typing experience was on the old-fashioned typewriter in the Post Office. And as I typed I would hear Mother selling money orders or stamps, sometimes in Spanish, but usually in English. And from the Post Office she could watch me play in the park, or could hear me practicing the piano in our home across the road."
"My piano teacher lived right there, too, Mrs. Cora Dunsmore, and she was an excellent teacher, having learned piano from Nuns who taught her to play. She had six years of piano lessons, and she taught me well. We had many wonderful neighbors, but the Dunsmore family (Mary and Ted) were some of my favorites. Mrs. Dunsmore taught school, and she made wonderful angel food cakes. Mary taught Ted and me to play all kinds of games so that she would have someone to play with. Eventually, Mrs. Dunsmore left to teach school in Globe. Mary became a very good banker. Ted became the Superintendent of Schools in Sierra Vista."
"My best friend, since we were born one day apart --- she at home" on February 17, 1930, "and me in the Jerome hospital" on February 16, 1930, "(as was my mother) --- is" Margaret "Margie" Black (now, Mrs. Roper). "Her father, Bert Black" [Bert Leland Black, Jr., born April 29, 1902; died in Cottonwood June 11, 1969], "had a service station in Cottonwood and her mother, Lela" [Lela Edith (Moore) Black], "had a gift and penny-candy store in Cottonwood. Margie went to the University of Arizona and became a teacher. I went to" Arizona State College, which became "N.A.U. and became a teacher, also, although we made that decision separately. Thanks to the fine teachers we had at Clemenceau Public School, especially Mary Lou Thompson (no relation to me," later, Mrs. "Hemmler, we knew how to be good, caring teachers. I taught in Arizona for 23 years, and Margie for 30 years in California."
"My father, Don Thompson, managed Miller's Wholesale Grocers in Clarkdale for a time, and then managed the Progressive Market in Cottonwood. Before that, he and mother ran the service station and grocery store for Pendley's in Oak Creek at Slide Rock. He also built the two rock cabins still standing there, down from Pendley's big house above the creek, and he helped plant and care for the apple orchards (Jordans were his cousins.)" Don worked 15 years before retiring as a clerk-accountant for the Arizona Highway Department. "Both of my parents and all four grandparents are buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery. Frank (deputy sheriff) and Mary Andrews, and" Reanos "(rancher) and Sally Thompson."
"Clemenceau was the town in which I had a paper route, delivering 'The Los Angeles Times' Sunday paper, the 'Colliers' magazine, and did my first babysitting, etc. Sometimes the people did not pay me, but I still had to pay the publishers. The first baby-sitting for three hours --- seven children and dishes to do --- made me 5-cents richer. Five-cents went further in those days, but I should have charged 25-cents."
"Mostly, Clemenceau had something that is hard to put into words. There was a friendliness and interest in the welfare of others, a neighboring system of borrowing and lending, a tolerance for differences in culture and nationality, a use of backdoors and never locking them, a sharing of fun, and a sharing of sorrow, with adults taking responsibility for the children and children wanting to 'measure up' to the expectations. It was a fine place to be a child." The U.V.X. "did a good job building out little town."
"I had learned to walk at 8 months. When I was 2 years old, I would skim the backyard fence and slip off to the grocery and drug store run by Mr. and Mrs. John Garrett where they would reward me with ice cream cones, and put it on my bill. They were wonderful people, now gone from us. So, at 2 years of age I had my first charges and my love for good ice cream."
"Actually, I haven't changed all that much." "From a former Verde Valley resident who lives in Sun City."
(The Verde Independent; September 29, 2000.)
FATHER: Donovan "Don" Marion Thompson [b. Camp Verde on April 23, 1903; d. Phoenix on April 4, 1968]. He is the son of Reanos "Bud" Thompson [b. St. Clair Co., Mo., on November 10, 1853; d. Yavapai Co. on April 25, 1931, whose parents are Abraham and Martha Ellen (Fain) Thompson] and Sarah "Sallie" "Sally" Ellen (Smith) Thompson [b. Cedar Co., Mo., on October 1, 1870; d. Morenci on September 1, 1960. She is the daughter of Maurice Adkins Smith and Mary Jane (Bristow) Smith (who is a cousin of "Parson" Bristow, father of Annie (Bristow) Jordan)]. "Bud" and "Sallie" Thompson were married on November 3, 1889, and are buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery, plots B-450, B-451.
MOTHER: Orie Margaret (Andrews) Thompson [b. Jerome on August 31, 1908; d. Az. on June 21, 1996]. She is the daughter of Frank Moon Andrews [b. Virginia on January 22, 1880; d. November 27, 1965] and Mary Ellen (Scott) Andrews [b. Iowa about 1884; d. November 6, 1964]. Frank and Mary Andrews are buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery, plots C-010, C-011.
Donovan "Don" M. and Orie Margaret (Andrews) Thompson are the parents of Bessie Mae Thompson [b. February 16, 1930] and Donna Lee Thompson [b. November 25, 1931]. During 1968 their daughters were Mrs. Bessie Lipinski, of Glendale, and Mrs. Donna Turner, of Phoenix. Don and Orie Margaret (Andrews) Thompson are buried in the Cottonwood Cemetery next to his parents.
Visit and learn more about Clemenceau and the U.V.X. during the 3rd Annual Cottonwood Historic Home and Building Tour on Saturday, November 16, 2016.