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Esther Turner Cotton Reading Esther Cotton’s memoir has made me hungry for keeping my family’s story. My mother was one of six children. The last living, my Uncle Sam, recently lost his wife and has come to visit. Sam first came to Casa Grande to live with his father and sisters in 1942 at the age of 12. Today at 85, he has a hard time recognizing places where he grew up. This was his home until he was 24. He bagged groceries for George Y Wa, picked cotton, worked at a cotton gin, and worked for my father on our farm. So much of what Esther writes about is vividly etched in his memories of Casa Grande. My father’s only sister, Aunt Marguerite, has had a few health issues lately. She was only three or four years old when her parents moved here. When we visit her, my sister, cousins, and I find ourselves reminiscing about our childhood, stories of our parents, grandparents, and family. Several of the photos Esther and Nadine provided for this series are taken in front of an enormous Saguaro at the base of the Casa Grande Mountain. That Saguaro was just a few hundred feet west of my grandparents’ home on Peart Road. Anytime family or friends came for a visit, they were taken over to the cactus to have their photograph made. My parents’ farm was often visible in the background of those photos...but this is Esther’s story. Nadine Turner Hackler is my dearest friend – a woman of strength, character, and compassion, who has made a very real difference in my life. Born in Prescott, Arkansas, her family moved to Casa Grande in 1938. Each time I have wanted to confirm facts about Casa Grande’s history for articles I have written, Nadine, without fail, has been my source for details and information. Her memory is as sharp as her wit. Nadine’s parents, A.L. ‘Buck’ and Effie (Machen) Turner married in 1923 in Camden, Arkansas. Buck was a dirt farmer, logger, grave digger, cabinet maker and carpenter. They raised four children: J.T. (John Thomas, known to his friends as ‘Buck’), Nadine, Esther, and Opal Lavone (Bonni). Effie’s father was a Confederate in the Civil War. J.T. retired a Colonel in the U.S. Army, serving in WW II and the Korean Conflict. Esther became an LPN and X-ray technician and has lived in Bisbee since 1951. Bonni worked as the office nurse for Dr. J.B. Tucker for many years and lived in Casa Grande until 54


“God, what is poor?” by Esther Turner Cotton In fond remembrances of Mother and Daddy Dedicated to Nadine, my sister

Chapter 5


adine and J.T. attended Junior High - or South School - across the railroad tracks and south of town out on the ChuiChui Highway. Nadine was in sixth grade and J.T. was in seventh. Mother took us into town the first day to help us enroll in school. She gave Nadine and J.T. a nickel or dime for lunch and she bought a five cent package of chocolate cupcakes for Bonni and me. I was amazed at lunch time when we went to the basement cafeteria. The kids had sandwiches made with “light” bread, cookies, an apple, orange or banana and a thermos of milk. A lunch “pail” in Arkansas had contained a biscuit with butter and jelly or biscuits with a fried egg. When I first walked into the classroom I was so frightened I could hardly speak and when I saw the teacher was a man, I wanted to die. The small schools in Arkansas never, ever, had male teachers in the

lower grades. Men were mostly high school principals. I was so intimidated by him that I became physically ill and remained s o u nt i l s c h o ol was out in May. He talked so fast and loud and yelled at anyone who didn’t know an answer to any question he asked. All I remember from the entire three months of fifth grade was Cecil McCullar, the teacher, reading to us aloud one or two chapters of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” each morning before class started. Mercifully I passed on to sixth grade and South School but much to my chagrin, he was transferred to South School that year and was my math teacher in eighth grade. My fear of him was no less, however. Forty-one years later I sat across the table from him and his wife at a retirement

her death in 2000. Growing up, music was always part of their lives; Buck was “an old fashioned hoe-down type fiddler,” J.T. played the guitar and Nadine played the organ and piano by ear. To this day, they remain a close-knit family. In the early 1970’s, Nadine’s sister, Esther,

began writing for her children a memoir of her life in Arkansas and Arizona. In keeping with Nadine’s wish, Esther is sharing the following excerpt from that work. Preface by Georgia Schaeffer, Casa Grande native and Associate Broker at Coldwell Banker ROX Realty. THE EDUCATION EDITION

Profile for ROX Media Group

Golden Corridor Living Magazine  

Summer 2016 Vol II

Golden Corridor Living Magazine  

Summer 2016 Vol II