Kingmanites share memories of times past in a small town
I looked out my window trying to imagine what Kingman looked like in earlier times. We were getting ready to attend the first Kingman Unite reunion held last Saturday, and I was curious.
It was a friendly gathering with four or more generations of some of Kingman’s earliest residents shaking hands, exchanging smiles and hugging old friends.
We were greeted at the door of the old downtown Elks building by Scott Dunton, son of Kingman’s long term car dealer, real estate developer and Republican leader, Roy Dunton. The Dunton’s provided the building and meat.
The downtown Elks Lodge is one of several historical structures built of locally quarried “tofa” stone.
The courthouse and the Brunswick Hotel are built of the same stone.
Cindy and Scott Lander signed us in, and we filled out the name tags. Cindy is the daughter of Judge Frank X. Gordon, now retired from the Arizona Supreme Court. That is the first of many contacts I made with people and families that have lived the history of Kingman for nearly a century.
The oldest attendee and “Kingmanite of the Day” was Eva Torres Esquerra, born in Kingman when the local population was 50. She is a lady who has seen Kingman grow over the years. I won’t tell you how old the lady is, but she has recorded a lot of Kingman history, especially of St. Mary’s church and school. Her brother, Joe Torres, was mayor of the city after the 1952 incorporation.
All the attendees over 70 were asked to come forward for a picture, and they made a crowd at the front of the room.
Kingman was a small town when it became the Mohave County seat because the surrounding mining communities were all larger population centers of miners and businesses that served the mines and miners.
Helen Graves grew up in Oatman but moved to Kingman to attend school. Today, many people think Helen was moving to the “city.” Few realize that Oatman had 10,000 residents at that time. Even Hackberry and Chloride were larger than Kingman. Things changed when the mines closed down at the beginning of WW II.
Patillo, Rucker, Byram, Schritter, Dinwiddie and Waters were just a few of the other families in attendance.
I listened carefully to the “remember when” comments. Martha Rucker has been a resident since 1922 and remembers when Hilltop had just three streets. Someone else remembered when Hall Street was the way downtown.
Lyndal Byram said concerts and other community activities were held in the gym where the Boys and Girls Club now meets. I recalled all the static I got when I referred to that historical building as the “Old Girl’s Gym.” I was told that there are no “old girls” in Kingman. I was a new reporter for the Miner and learned from my mistake.
Mrs. Dick Waters remembers Kingman as a great place to raise children. Her husband edited the Miner for more than 20 years.
Others cited the big snow in 1947, milk delivered to the porch in glass bottles, Safeway located on Beale Street, lots for sale in Butler for $10 down and $10 per month, growing up with movie and television actor Andy Devine, the entire town in quarantine in 1938 during a scarlet fever epidemic, Hobbs Flying A Truck Stop on Route 66, the Dairy Queen on Route 66 and the drive-in theater.
I think the memories session ended about there to be sure no one had any drive-in theater tales to share. One lady said she was the town gossip and knew where all the skeletons are buried. That is all she would say.
Another early resident recalled the view out Stockton Hill Road was once only mountains and sky and including no houses in sight all the way to Bull Mountain.
The first Kingman Unite reunion was enjoyed by all in attendance. It helped me, a relative newcomer, to get a feel for the roots of this friendly town in the Arizona desert where climate is ideal and the quality of life has been nurtured over the years.
My job with the Daily Miner gave me a unique opportunity to get acquainted with Kingman and the people who live here.
I found a wonderful lady here to share my retirement years as my wife. I found more good stories than a writer can record in two lifetimes.
The Saturday reunion event was a great reminder of why so many of us cherish life here and fear massive growth that would destroy the small town lifestyle.
I beat the deadline to sign up for Medicare Part D by three days. I had to navigate the telephone maze first because I lost my Medicare card six years ago.
All that “Push button 1, 2 or 3” automatic telephone junk was confusing until I shut up and held the phone until a live person came on.
She was quite helpful and gave me the information I needed, including sending a new card. I found the new program options offered by free enterprise as part of the Part D program excellent.
A knowledgeable local financial/insurance consultant explained the options. An HMO gives me the needed prescription coverage plus better doctor and hospital plans than basic Medicare.
All that costs zero dollars instead of the regular Medicare Part D fee. What better option could I want?