Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Monday, October 23, 2017
DouglasThere are many reminders of what a prosperous and modern town Douglas was nearly a century ago.
G Avenue was crowded with merchants, banks and the Grand Theater, acclaimed as the best in the West when it opened in 1919. The 1,600-seat Grand hosted musicals, movies and traveling shows with John Phillip Sousa and a young Ginger Rogers.
In 1913, El Paso & Southwestern Railroad built an impressive Beaux Arts-style depot in Douglas that was busy with passenger traffic heading in every direction. The railroad added the El Paso & Southwestern YMCA in 1905, a sprawling Mission Revival building, for its employees.
Douglas’ most prominent building is the five-story Gadsden Hotel with its elegant lobby of white Italian marble, a Tiffany stained glass skylight and gold ornamentation. The original 1907 hotel was destroyed in a 1929 fire but was replaced within the year by the current 150-room Gadsden, designed by Henry C. Trost, the Southwest’s most prominent architect of the early 20th century.
Mining executives, ranchers and politicians did their business at the Gadsden and its Saddle and Spur Tavern for six decades before the decline of Douglas’ smelters and mining industry. The historic hotel has the required ghost stories and a legend of Pancho Villa riding his horse in the lobby, chipping off a sliver of marble from the grand staircase.
John Huston filmed “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” with Paul Newman in the Gadsden in 1972.
Gadsden embodies town's golden age
Today, the Gadsden is a bellwether of Douglas. It’s magnificent lobby is a legacy of the town’s prosperity but it clearly needs an infusion of millions of dollars to upgrade its well-worn infrastructure. The aging hotel owner, who bought the property nearly 30 years ago for $1 million, sold it to a Douglas couple in December 2016 for an undisclosed price.
Meanwhile, tourism and the town’s economy have struggled since the last smelter shut down in 1987. A state prison and the Border Patrol provide hundreds of jobs but are not exactly an inviting presence for travelers. A Walmart and other commercial developments near the border have gutted commerce from once-thriving G Avenue.
Tourists don’t seem to make it past Bisbee, 30 miles away, and there is little to draw them to Douglas.
Growth and economic vitality has moved across the border to Agua Prieta. The Sonoran town with 80,000 residents is nearly five times larger than Douglas. Aqua Prieta’s maquiladoras, cross-border factories set up by American companies, provide thousands of low-wage jobs.
Unfortunately, there is little investment on the American side in major industries that could revive Douglas. The town has historic neighborhoods, hundreds of historic buildings and the infrastructure to thrive if some white knight tech company came calling.
Douglas also has a tolerable climate at an elevation of 4,000 feet with milder summer temperatures than much of the Arizona desert and a mild winter. In the first half of the 20th century, Douglas was a crossroads for tourists traveling by rail, air and later automobiles.
U.S. 80, a southern cross-country route, was touted as the Broadway of America for motorists. Douglas boosters noted it was the “all-year high-gear” highway without the steep grades and snow of Route 66.
That proximity to the border and the night life of Agua Prieta is in contrast to the town’s early ambition of being a wholesome, modern place, unlike rowdier Bisbee with its saloons and brothels.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thornton Wilder, who at age 65 discovered Douglas by chance in 1962, was known to close down the Gadsden bar with his drinking buddies and head for a nightcap in Agua Prieta. Wilder was looking for an escape and rejuvenation when his 1957 Thunderbird broke down on a cross-country trip outside of Douglas in late May of 1962.
'Our Town' author found refuge in Douglas
He checked into the Gadsden and stayed for two months before renting a three-room apartment, according to Tom Miller’s story in Smithsonian. Wilder wrote the beginning of his 1967 novel “The Eighth Day” in Douglas in between trips in southeastern Arizona and to the University of Arizona library in Tucson, 120 miles away.
“Doc” or “the Professor” as he was known, according to Miller, eventually grew weary of the small-minded slurs of some of Douglas’ townsfolk and moved away in late November of 1963, spending 18 months in the town. “The Eighth Day” won the National Book Award. Wilder, who died in 1975, never returned to Douglas, the place where his novel was hatched.
Wilder is a polar opposite of the hard-working miners who inhabited Douglas during its half-century of good fortune. Yet Douglas in the early 1900s seems to have its similarities to the Grover’s Corner of Wilder’s play “Our Town.”
Maybe nothing can save Douglas and the Gadsden Hotel from their decline, but it’s fun to imagine a renaissance of both. A thriving Douglas could restore its architectural heritage, including the Grand Theater and YMCA. The town could pay homage to its mining past.
And maybe it's farfetched but how about Thornton Wilder Days? Local and visiting scholars could pontificate at Cochise College on the brilliance of the literary lion, but the weekend event would have to include storytelling and drinking at the Saddle and Spur and a last call in Agua Prieta.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
(Last night after going through some boxes here at home, I found a letter from a student about this wonderful program. I knew I had written about it before and found this post from May, 2008. I am reposting and at the end is the letter from the student.)
Tuesday we held our Fifth and Sixth Grades Awards Assembly. This is always a wonderful assembly to end our school year. We give out many special awards in honor of former students and teachers. They are awards for most outstanding sixth grade student, most improved sixth grade student, sportsmanship awards named after a former student, a student who has displayed courage named after another former student, and a fifth grade boy and girl chosen for their kindness to others. This award is in honor of my dear friend, Ellen Widmer, who died almost five years ago. Ellen taught at Gilbert Elementary for many years. I remember when we told her that this award was going to be named after her. It was in May before she died the following October. She was so touched by this. Nancy Proffitt, one of our dear friends who taught with Ellen, along with a former student of Ellen's, presented the Ellen Widmer Kindness Award.
My mother worked for Phelps Dodge Corporation for many years. When she retired, she was the manager of the Hardware Jobbing Division of Phelps Dodge. She had always been involved in politics serving as a precinct committeewoman and working on different campaigns. She always stressed the importance of community service. Shortly after she retired, she ran for the Douglas City Council and beat an incumbent by a wide margin of votes. She served for 12 years up until she was almost 80. During that time, she was the vice mayor. When she died in 2002, she was still a member of the Cochise County Fair Board of Directors.
Last year's recipient is a wonderful young man, Ryan McCord. As a sixth grader, he was our student council president and showed great leadership and citizenship skills. I was proud for him to be the first winner of this award. This year, Ryan was the Hatch Award winner for the most outstanding sixth grader. I know that he will continue to be a great leader in the future. We don't have to worry about our future with children like Ryan McCord!!
Last year, Kerri came to the assembly and presented the award in her grandmother's name. Since she is teaching now, I asked my Aunt Teresa to please help me give the award. She was leaving for California on Tuesday, but made sure it wasn't until after the Awards Assembly. I know she would have helped me give this out, but this year had special significance for our family. The young lady who won the award is the great granddaughter of my Aunt Teresa's best friend, Dorothy Huber. Teresa was the Maid of Honor at Dorothy's and Paul's wedding. They had been friends since they were about six years old! The young lady's father was there for the assembly and Teresa was so proud to be giving this award. My mom would have been proud, too. She would have loved having an award for both citizenship and leadership named after her.
"Those we love are never really gone, as long as their stories are told." This is from my favorite children's book, The Last Dance. My mom's and Ellen's stories will live on with these awards!.
The end of the school year is always a time for tears. Relationships between teachers and families are built over the course of a school year. I believe these relationships are so important in the educational world. I believe that children learn best in an accepting and warm environment. I value the many relationships that I have built over the years, both as a teacher and as a principal. I was reminded of a quote that I really like. I concluded our staff
luncheon today with it. "Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened." I am smiling now. I hope you are, too!
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Friday, October 20, 2017
I will never forget getting to school that morning and hearing this terrible news. His classmates were so upset as were all of the teachers. It is almost incomprehensible to try to explain this to young children.
I will also never forget his funeral services. Several of his little friends sang a song and it is something I will never forget. If he had lived, he would have probably already graduated from college because I know of several of the children in his class have graduated.
I lost touch with his mom through the years but thought about her often. I knew she still lived close to Gilbert El. Then one day I found out she had remarried and was pregnant with triplets. She had three boys. A child can NEVER be replaced, but I was so thrilled for Donita to have three boys.
My last year as principal at Gilbert El the boys were in preschool. They were so cute!
When I came back and decided to run for the board, Donita and her family were some of my biggest supporters. The boys were still at Gilbert El and probably in about fourth grade. They took signs and helped put up the big ones for me. They posted pictures of the boys with my signs. It was amazing.
Tyler was a wonderful little boy who touched the hearts of a lot of people. He will always hold a special place in my heart as does his mom and her family. I was devastated when this happened and don't believe that I did anything more than anyone should do in a time like this. However, to have his mom do so much to help me get elected meant more than words can ever explain.
Unfortunately, this happened more than one time during my years as an educator. As a principal, we lost children to accidents and to cancer. We also lost several staff members. It was always a very difficult time. I remember thinking one time that the true definition of being a leader is to be the one who doesn't fall apart when everyone else is. I always had to remain calm and help all of my staff, kiddos, and families get through these horrible times when my heart was breaking, too.
Posted by Cheela at 7:55 AM
Thursday, October 19, 2017
By Linda Schwartz
Gilbert-There is no way Wendy Aaby could have felt alone.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
This song speaks volumes to what Alzheimer's is all about. It brings tears to my eyes when I listen to it. The last two years with Teresa was so difficult. I love the message.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Monday, October 16, 2017
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Posted by Cheela at 9:35 AM
Friday, October 13, 2017
We had a very nice visit and I think the world of him. After dinner, we went up to the second floor outdoor patio. I could not believe what the hew owners of the Gadsden have done to this area. During my tenure as superintendent, I often sat up there to judge the "D" Day parade. It was not very well kept up. The new owners have made it into a beautiful area. There was a DJ and music and the weather was perfect.
Posted by Cheela at 9:05 AM
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Posted by Cheela at 1:00 AM
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Friday, Sept. 3, 1971
Miss Shannon was born and raised in Douglas, where her mother, Margaret Shannon, resides.
She was active during high school in National Honor Society, Y-Teens, and Student Council.