I. The Road to Phoenix
We left off on the road to Phoenix. Separated the first day from those traveling with Paul Knickelbein. You will have to tell your own story of that trip. Mother, I and some of you drove our own way. We spent a few hours in Liberal, Kansas I believe it was, on a Saturday night when our generator gave out. A kind mechanic worked past his closing time to help us on our way.
Through Kansas, a corner of Oklahoma, a bit of Texas into New Mexico. We stopped at Albuquerque to do some washing and to enjoy one of the biggest hamburgers we had ever seen. On to the Petrified Forest, down to Showlow, down the Salt River Canyon and up to Globe. Spent a few hours there remembering that my parents had once lived there for a time and that my oldest brother was born there. We have pictures of the kids riding on a bucking bronco, make believe that is. From Globe we headed down toward Phoenix. I remember that stretch of highway through the desert. I wondered, Where am I taking my family? Nothing but sagebrush and empty plains. Then suddenly green fields of cotton and alfalfa and a world of scenic beauty as we neared Phoenix. We came to the Salt River dry as a bone. On the bridge crossing that river was a sign that read, 'do not tie your boat to the bridge'. I thought it was a big joke for not a drop of water did we see. Some weeks later after a downpour I recalled that sign and realized it was good advice for the dry river bed could come very much alive.
Let me take you back a bit to the trip up from the bottom of the Salt River Canyon to Globe. That stretch of miles was being worked on by road crews and their machinery. It was quite an undertaking to stay on the road and miss the machinery. It was my first taste of mountain driving and I was on the edge of the car seat for many miles. Many a prayer was breathed for guidance and safety.
What a joy when we got to the Gerlachs and found the rest of our family waiting for us. What a welcome from the Gerlachs. They housed and fed us for some weeks until I had purchased a house on 57th and Highland in Maryvale, a suburb of Phoenix, and our furniture came and we settled under our own roof once again. I put down some $2000.00 on that home. Carried a second mortgage in addition to the original mortgage that I assumed. Most of you will remember that home. It had four bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, family room, and of course bathroom.
There was a fenced in back yard with fruit trees, orange, peach, apricot, and lemon as I recall. The patio was large and had a covered roof. The total cost of that home was something over $13000. We lived there from November of 1959 until end of May in 1962. I sold the house for about $140,000.
How to support the family? Mother was the first to get a job. She worked at Diamonds Department Store. This was something new for us. To have mother outside the home away from the children was not to my liking but you children needed to be fed and cared for so off she went.
I decided to do what many do when they come to Phoenix, that is sell real estate. Went to night school for a week to prepare myself for taking a state test to obtain license for doing just that. Had an excellent teacher who gave me all the answers I needed to pass that test. The test was given in Tucson.
The question was should I pay for a license in December or wait to the first of the year 1960. I bought it in December and one of the first Sundays I sat open houses I sold 2 homes which gave me a big dividend on buying the license in December. We needed that income for my checking account was down to about $3.00. We had cashed in an insurance policy that mother had taken out many years before we were married. It helped tide us over until I got my first good sized check for selling those two homes.
For a church family we joined in with the Gerlachs, Fremders, Halle, and a group of others who had left the Wisconsin Synod and the Missouri Synod some years before and had formed Holy Cross Lutheran Church. They worshipped in the piano and organ studios where Fremder was employed. Another pastor by the name of Wiedenmeyer had also left the Synod and with some followers came together with Gerlach and their members to form a new Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Of that congregation I was a founding member. It is still in existence to this day. Some of the pastors who have served it are Wiedenmeyer, who went back to the Wisconsin Synod after we left, Michael Sydow, Paul Fleischer, Norbert Reim, Mike Eichstaedt, and now Delwyn Mass.
That congregation established a Christian Day School in the fall of 1960. So you children had an opportunity to get a Christian education. The teacher was Dick Ohlmann. The Fremders housed and fed him since he worked for almost nothing. I recall some of you children asking for a
Christian School after you spent from December of 1959 to June of 1960 in public schools.
Mother continued to work at Diamonds. She went from part time to almost full time. I worked in a real estate office until the fall of 1960 on Indian School Road. Re-sales began falling off by that time. I answered an ad in the paper for a teacher to work in a family owned private school. I went to the owners of that school, called Tudor and Windsor Hall. I was told to start the next day. I taught fifth grade the first year and the second year taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grades in Spanish, Latin, and English. I also worked at Sears part time in the evenings and Saturdays.
Most of you will remember the first Christmas as far as presents go was quite meager. You will never know with what heavy hearts we saw that first Christmas in Phoenix go by. The essential message and gift of Christmas was still there in all of its joy and blessing but the wished for presents under the tree were not what we would liked to have seen.
One of the joys that were ours in Phoenix was the Sunday after service picnics on South Mountain Park sometimes with the Laubes and most often by ourselves. You older children roamed the park looking for rattlesnakes and thankfully never found one. It was a time that spent with your mother and your children in a way that was not there while I was in the ministry.
Some of you were confirmed at Holy Cross. I would guess it was Lois Jean, Paul, and John. You also began your high school years there. I remember Lois Jean going to school very early in the morning and being finished by noon. Cannot remember Paul and John in that same time zone for school but it may well have been. I do recall Lois Jean having a history teacher who had communistic leanings. She was very impressed with his teaching ability. I do recall also her first date where the boy's mother drove with her son to that important event in a young daughter's life. Perhaps I should not be telling stories out of school.
A bit more on life in Phoenix in another installment.
II. Phoenix Memories
The neighbor lady who tried her best to keep you in line.
Dad trying to get Rollie to sit through the church services on a Sunday. The place of worship was a rather dark place and maybe a bit scary for a little tyke.
Rollie was well on the way to becoming a cookie monster. His crib was in our bedroom and at all hours of the night he would stand up and call for a cookie. By the way this craving carried over to Cheyenne where he bothered the neighbor widows for cookies. Where is Rollie? Look down the block he is calling for cookies.
The children on the way to the village swimming pool. The boys barefoot trying to talk their sisters out of sandals because the blacktop was too hot for bare feet.
A trip to Phoenix park up in the mountains. Narrow roads, the odor of pines as we reached the top. Abandoned tent due to a thunderstorm. Not ours we did not have one.
A trip to a lake up near Flagstaff. Home of skunks, rocky roads that tore the bottom off the oil pan. Got it fixed and went back and did the same thing again. Went to view the Grand Canyon, a majestic sight.
A trip started to California and having made some miles thought better of it and came back. Why fight California traffic and Death Valley.
Grandmother Bauer coming to Phoenix and working for the Ruskins up on Mummy Mountain. You children getting to swim in their private pool when the Ruskins were gone. Grandma learning to drive a car at the age of 60. Her good friend Hattie who also worked for the Ruskins.
The building of a big new Sears Store. Got to work there for a few months before we moved on to Cheyenne.
You children squeezing out orange juice for me from oranges that grew on the school yard. Getting culls from grapefruit packers and growers.
Boys going to the Sun Devil football games. The first time getting separated from their father and Mr. Gerlack.
Paul and John playing on baseball teams. Paul on one that traveled a good deal so we did not get to watch too many of his games. John playing at a field within walking distance of our home. John having the highest batting average in the little league one year. Chosen to the all star team but sitting on the bench until the game was lost and then being put in to pinch hit and hitting a home run. That ball followed him until Eau Claire days. Boys playing catch with dad in the back yard on hot summer days.
How many of you remember the Japanese flower gardens below South Mountain Park? I think they were Japanese but they might have been Chinese.
Recall the trips to your school across highways, busy streets, and railroad tracks.
Many memories and I am certain each of you can add many more. We are getting to those years when your individualities looked at life in your own way. I know each of you could write many paragraphs on life in the Valley of the Sun.
In my book one of the pluses was not to fight snow and ice. I had plenty of that in Belle Plaine days. Winter without slipping and sliding on the highways and streets.
All in all Phoenix was a lull in the storm of life greatly appreciated it was and still is. I know that I must have shown my love for those days when teaching at Eau Claire for the students let me know that they realized how much Phoenix meant to me.
All good things come to an end and I was ready for a return to that for which I had prepared myself, namely the ministry. When the call came to serve Redeemer congregation at Cheyenne there was no hesitation. We packed up, hired an Atlas Van Line, and headed north.
See you there in another day or so.
III. More Phoenix Memories
Just a few more memories before we leave Phoenix country for the north. You may well remember visiting Montezuma Castle as well as Sedona, the Red Rock country. On the way to Sedona we stopped to see what a car ahead of us was looking at. On the road was a large tarantula. You may also recall going up to the church outside of Sedona and looking over the valley and hills of the Red Rocks. An area where many western movies were made in past years. Just outside of Sedona was Oak Creek Canyon and river. You kids went sliding down that creek one Sunday with the Gerlack children. The road to Flagstaff goes up that canyon. Paul and John may remember a trip we took one Sunday to Douglas and Bisby on the border with Mexico. I went there to preach for Joel Gerlack. At that time he too had left the Wisconsin Synod. Later he went back.