Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Sun, Aug. 18

Golden Valley couple celebrates 70 years of married life

GOLDEN VALLEY ­ Helen and George Mitchell celebrated a milestone Tuesday that most people seldom live to see: their 70th wedding anniversary.

George, now 93, and Helen, 88, met while they were working at Zimmerman's, an upholstery factory in Philadelphia. They always liked each other and formed a fast friendship. At first they only saw each other occasionally at work. But slowly and eventually, they said, it was just natural to realize that they were meant for one another.

They first met through George's brother, who also worked at the factory. "When he introduced us, I liked [George] better. He was sweet and the nicest man I had met," Helen said.

They had a runaway wedding in August 1935. Helen's parents disapproved of the union. Her family had always been very strict and her father did not approve of her having boyfriends. But the young couple did not let that stand in the way.

They were married in the company of George's brother Harry and sister Evelyn and a friend named Tilly. They then honeymooned for a few days before returning as man and wife to Philadelphia.

Helen said that her mother came to terms with the marriage when her first granddaughter was born and was a friendly part of the family. Her father, however, never came to terms with his eldest girl being married.

George's parents, on the other hand, were wonderful, Helen said. She said that they treated her like their daughter and were always a great help.

The early years were hard ones for the Mitchells. When they got married, the United States was still in the midst of the Great Depression.

While they loved each other ardently, it was an awfully hard time for them, Helen said. Things were so difficult that George would walk along the railroad tracks where the trains had dumped the spent coal and bring it home in bags to heat their house.

They were still living on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Money was tight, leaving little to pay for food. They began to grow a garden with tomatoes and corn. To make matters worse, there was an influx of Japanese beetles that would eat the produce. But the Mitchells had an answer for that one as well.

"We had a rooster at that time named Whimpy," George said. "Whimpy would sit on my shoulder as we walked through the corn and would eat the beetles right off the stalk."

Helen had lost her job at the factory because she was pregnant. During the depression, it was still common practice to force a woman to stay at home while she was pregnant. After the birth of their first daughter, Helen found work at a factory making house slippers. She had to walk to and from work as they had no car and was paid $5 a week. She often took the trolley car and that took $3 of the $5.

George, meanwhile, was able to get a better job that paid $16 a week, which allowed them to move into a house in Penny Back Woods in Philadelphia.

While this was going on, Helen's younger sister and her husband were moving to San Diego to work in the airplane industry. The Mitchells decided to take a trip to visit them out in California and bought their first car, a Dodge, for $75.

At the time, Helen's mom and dad were also making the trip out to California.

After staying with their family for a short time, they got homesick and headed back to Philadelphia. When they got home, they had 20 cents in their pockets. They stayed home for a little while, quickly realizing that they liked California better. So they sold their house and loaded up the car with as much as it could carry.

The car did have air conditioning of a sort. A tank filled with water was hooked to a window and when the breeze went through the tank, it cooled the air.

When they reached Kingman a huge storm had just blown through the town. Boulders littered the streets. George had to move small boulders out of the street in order to be able to navigate the open pathways. They decided to stop for the night at Lake Mead since it was so close.

They set up camp, but at around 11 p.m., decided that the heat outside was too much to bear. They packed up and left along with another family. They reached San Diego by morning.

Helen's mom and dad had found a job running a mobile home park and had a trailer waiting for them when they got there. George got a job selling aircraft while Helen became a secretary. The job didn't last long as Helen became sick with a kidney infection. When she had to take a week off of work due to her illness, she was fired.

The Mitchells then moved to Receda where they were both able to find jobs working for a local supermarket. The supermarket was looking for out of state help due to the lack of steadiness in local employees.

The Mitchells also lived in Idaho and Wyoming, but moved to Arizona to escape the harsh, cold winters.

When they started coming to Arizona during the winter, there were no roads or electricity where their land was. They purchased a parcel of five acres and created a road by common use out to their parcel. They originally started to come down on the weekends and finally decided to build a house. With the help of a carpenter, they had somewhere to call home.

When it got too hot in the summer, they got a place up north to spend the summer months. The Mitchells first went up to Mt. Pilliar, Idaho, where they put up a mobile home. They stayed there during the summer and in Arizona during the winter. Once they got tired of that, the couple moved to Wyoming.

In Wyoming, Helen was ready to say this was their one and only home. However, shoveling the snow began to give George knee and leg problems. Finally, Helen gave in and they sold their Wyoming home.

They came back to Arizona and bought a mobile home in Golden Valley. After a while, they found another parcel of land to settle down on and now live in Golden Valley permanently.

They do have electricity (which they paid to put in there) but do not have water. They have an underground water tank that is refilled by a truck whenever they need more.

They also paid for a portion of their road to be paved.

When they first moved back to Arizona they were isolated ­ surrounded by nothing but desert. Gradually, people have moved in around them, but the Mitchells are still happy with their life.

After 70 years, the love still grows strong between the couple who finally call Arizona "home."

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