Ask Evaline: What do we know about Oracle in 1930 – 1950? Oracle at the end of the 40s: a story of a 7 year-old

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PhilHunt collection.drill rig at red hill or Tiger.tif

Drill Rig at Red Hill or Tiger. (From the Phil Hunt Collection)

By Evaline Auerbach

Special to the Crier

While most of the history of Oracle shared locally has recounted the early history from 1880 (or before) through the 1920’s, some people have asked “Don’t you have anything on the 30‘s and 40‘s?”

Now, because Phil Hunt, a resident of Derby, Kansas, has been in touch with the Oracle Historical Society and generously shared both the story of his time in Oracle and pictures taken by his parents, we can get a look at some of the area in 1946 and 47.

Phil’s father, in those years, was employed by Weneger Drilling, under contract to Anaconda Copper Company, to drill test holes for the mine at Red Hill. That mine, of course, became the San Manuel Mine and San Manuel, the town, was built from the ground up as a “company town” in the early to mid 1950’s.

But what was it like for 7 year old Phil Hunt to be in the Oracle area in the late 40s?

At the age of six, having just moved to the Oracle area, he started school, first grade, at Tiger, although his family did not, officially live in that town. The crew working on exploration for the San Manuel Mine lived at an encampment called “Red Hill” which had a store and other amenities for the benefit of those who lived near it.

His parents lived in their trailer, a bare-bones sort of trailer home from which they had to go to a separate building for showers. Their trailer and others provided the housing for the Inspiration crew while they drilled test holes to determine whether the proposed copper mine was a worthwhile venture (much as Oracle Ridge Mine was explored recently and Copper Creek is being explored.)

After the Hunts had been there for about a year, their trailer was moved to Oracle, to the grounds of the old Mt. View Hotel (now the Baptist Church). Mrs. Hunt did not drive and she wanted to live in town. One other trailer was parked on the grounds as well, but Phil does not know who owned that. When Phil came back in 1995 to look at the places where he had lived, played and attended school, he found that the tree which the Hunt trailer parked beneath had gone, but that shoots were again growing.

He recalled Annie Neal, since her husband’s death the sole owner of the place, lived in the building that had been the hotel, along with another lady. His parents took a picture of him in front of the hotel, so we now have a look at this Oracle landmark in a different decade that previously shown. Though the house across highway 77 (American Avenue) that had been the Neals’ home was standing, he says that the Diaz family lived there. He does not know whether it was still owned by Annie Neal.

Phil also recalls, through another picture, the Arizona Express that “Curly” Neal had most recently used to transport guests and others from Tucson to Oracle and Mammoth, and back again. In fact Mr. Neal’s death in 1926 had been caused by a freak accident where the car he was fixing fell on him— but probably not this car.

At the relatively new [Fall, 1938] Oracle school, a three-room adobe. [See sidebar] he attended a combined first and second grade class. He recalls at least three schoolmates from his second year in school, which was He had been in touch with one of those classmates, JoAnn Basteen (sp?), now Striplin, whose father, he recalled, was the postmaster at the post office – now Dr. Bunch’s office building.

Another classmate was Billy Lackner whose father owned the ranch that has since become the grounds for Biosphere 2. He confirms that Billy’s father was a dentist who went to Tucson frequently to practice his trade. The other schoolmate was Frankie Diaz whose family who lived in the former Neal Home. He remembers his teacher, Mrs. Mills, at the Oracle School.

So, what would Phil Hunt look at if he were to return to Oracle today. Among other things, he would like to see the condition of the Mt. View Hotel. He says that he was sad to note in his previous trip that the building behind the main one had been torn down and that the building left did not have its balconies any more. He would also try to locate the place where his family’s trailer was parked. At the school, he would look to see if the bell he remembers atop those adobe rooms was still there. He would also like to know if anyone remembers Mrs. Mills.

CORRECTION: The June article “Ask Evaline” contained a “name change” for the first Oracle Postmaster. Actually, he was James Branson, Postmaster without a dedicated post office from December 28, 1880 to April 24, 1883.

Evaline Jones Auerbach is a founding board member, twice President and Historic Member of the Oracle Historical Society. If you wish to contact her with questions or information for future articles, please email, call (520) 610-8742 or write 2045 W. Paseo Redondo, Oracle.

The Oracle School

From an article by Benice Crosulich, Arizona Daily Star Jan. 15, 1939:

[the following lines are the entire headline of that article:]


Benefactions of William Trowbridge

and Others Protect Village


A “Oneness” of purpose

Pervades Unique Settlement of 40 years

“The newest thing in Oracle is its community school; given it this fall by [William] Trowbridge. That gift was just in the nick of time, for the old building’s walls [Steward library; now apartments] were bulging, its foundations insecure and the growing number of students had spilled down the road into the old Masonic home [formerly the Steward House, now Grace Manor]. Today [1939] the 94 children go to classes in as modern a structure as could be built, but one which does not clash with the feeling of Oracle’s settled age. Its three rooms have modern lighting, heating, and open into a hall in such wise that the hall becomes a stage where community plays are given.

“No imported laborers worked on that school. It was a community business in which local, unemployed labor was given a chance to earn, but also to put its spirit into the project.”

This school was added onto over time and became known as the Oracle Ridge School. It is at the corner of Mt. Lemmon Rd. and Cody Loop north.

PhilHunt collection-Red Hill2.tif

Phil Hunt (small boy to the right) is pictured in front of the Red Hill Trailer Camp Store with his parents. (From the Phil Hunt Collection)


PhilHunt collection-Red Hill3.tif

Phil Hunt (small boy to the right) is pictured neat the water tank for the trailers on Red Hill. Hunt’s father is pictured in the center (man with his arms folded) The other man in the photo is unidentified. (From the Phil Hunt Collection)


PhilHunt collection-Red Hill1.tif

Hunt Home c. 1946 A nieghbor, seated, and Mrs. Hunt, Phil’s mother on the phone with her back turned are pictured. (From the Phil Hunt Collection)

Evaline Auerbach (16 Posts)

Born at the beginning of the just pre-baby-boom year of 1943, Evaline May Jones was a Kansan until she left, in1968, to teach at a community college campus in Centerville, IA. She grew up on a farm near Frankfort, finished a BA and MA in English education at Kansas State University and taught for a year at Washington, KS, High School and at Catholic high school in Manhattan, KS, the latter while finishing her MA. While in Iowa, she taught English and related courses (journalism, theater, photography). She also earned a Specialist degree in community college education at the University of Iowa (Iowa City) and had journalism courses at Iowa State (Ames). When arthritis in her spine became a real problem, she was advised to take a job in the Southwest, so when the first full-tiime English position at Aravaipa Campus, CAC, opened up, she applied. Although she had to convince them that she REALLY wanted to work at a campus literally on the edge of a wilderness area, she got the job. She began work at Aravaipa in the fall of 1975, moved from Kearney to Oracle in 1976 and has been in Oracle since. In Oracle, she began work with the Oracle Historical Society, was a founding member and President twice. Local history became her most-loved hobby, although she did not forget drama. She produced a play called Deadwood Dick, which became the first play for a theater troupe now known as SPATs: San Pedro Actors Troupe. It was a course taught under the auspices of CAC, but the group preferred to go ahead on their own - and are still going strong on their own. Meanwhile she married Abraham Auerbach in December 1980, in the historic Union Church, holding the reception in the Acadia Ranch Museum. She made sure they returned from their honeymoon in time to celebrate the centennial of the American Flag post office building and the installation of the history plaque (Dec. 28, 1980) They produced David in late 1982 and she took sabbatical to return to Iowa to complete a PhD (in instructional design) from May 1983 through summer of 1984. While back in Iowa City, with baby and husband in tow, she began to have more problems with the arthritis, Once back to Oracle, she was a little better, but eventually had three operations on the spine. She had to retire in 1995 on disability. Nevertheless, she continued to work at volunteer jobs: as a docent at Biosphere 2 (on her electric scooter), at the Oracle Library, at the Oracle Community Center, as a medicare counselor for the Pinal-Gila Council on Senior Citizens, and finally, back to the Oracle Historical Society. More recently she served at the Tri-Community Visitors’ Center and the Copper Corridor group, serving the Oracle through Superior area. Now, she is busy helping the Oracle Dark Skies Committee to nominate the Oracle State Park as a designated International Dark Skies Park. She has also taught some courses through CAC on local history, leading local and out-of-town people to see some of the historic places in and around Oracle. She started a small business selling books about local history which has expanded to be “Evaline’s Local Books, Oracle, etc.” Lately she has given talks on Oracle History and led groups on tours, such as a two-day tour for the Arizona Historical Society docents, coming up soon for the Arizona Historical Society Docent Council. She has written articles about history and done some reviews for local newspapers. David was off to China to work for a while and then to Boston, working in financial analysis at Boston Scientific. In March of 2011, Abe, whom she had been caring for at home for about four years as he became less able, had to enter a care home. In January of 2014, loyal and very supportive to the end - Abe passed away at Grace Manor in Oracle. Evaline plans to keep exploring history, Oracles and her own ancestry. She will continue to write and plans to travel as her own health improves.

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