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 Evalineja@gmail.com, 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:]
CHARMED LIFE IS RESIDENTS’ GIFT TO ORACLE
Benefactions of William Trowbridge
and Others Protect Village
COMMUNITY IS ALL
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  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.