One of my favorite memories of our time in Tucson was on a crisp clear Saturday morning in January. We often took drives out to the desert for picnics or to just hike around. I was about 10 years old and I loved walking in the desert!
On this particular day, we headed west out of town. Nothing but desert and a few houses in that direction, so I was excited believing we were going to be hiking. When we got to Kinney Rd my dad turned right and immediately pulled off the road. There on the side was a very old man dressed like a miner from the 1880s. He had an old buggy with a canopy top and a mule, and he had an enormous long-horned bull tied to a hitching post. My mother was so upset. She couldn’t understand why my dad would drag us all the way out here to look at these nasty animals. My dad had learned to ignore her “rants” and he asked if we wanted to get out and take a picture with one of the animals. I yelled “Yes” and jumped out of the car. My mother said “No, we need to leave” but my dad acted like he didn’t hear her. So, I got my picture taken on both of them. I couldn’t believe my dad let me even though my mother said no.
When we got back in the car, he said that’s the first surprise. Now let’s get on to the next. We rode in silence until we pulled into the parking lot of Old Tucson Studios! I let out a scream and jumped out of the car and my mother and sister absolutely refused to get out. My dad just said, “We will be back” and he took my hand and lead me to the box office. My dad was greeted by the ticket holder who called him by name and let us go on through. Once inside we rode the rides, watched the live gunfights, looked through the gift shops and got ice cream. Down at the end of the dirt road, there were red cones blocking the way. Do not enter signs were posted everywhere. I got a little nervous when he started walking in that direction. I was gripping is hand tight! We just walked on past the signs and cones and when we got to the other side of the tall wooden fence, I could see it was a movie studio lot.
My Dad worked construction the entire 11 years that we lived in Tucson. He worked for MM Sundt Construction and this company had the contract to help expand “Old Tucson”. It had become a famous Movie Studio and with more and more westerns being filmed there was a need for more buildings. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were at his workplace. He proudly showed me around the sets, and he introduced me to a lot of people. I got to see “behind the scenes”. It was great.
When we got back to the car, my mother and sister never said one word to us. As a matter of fact, my mother had moved to the back seat, so I quickly jumped in the front. All the way home he told me stories about the filming of some of the movies and TV shows. He had met John Wayne several times when he was there filming Rio Bravo and he had met most of the cast of Rawhide, Wagon Train and The High Chaparral.
It was one of the best days I could remember!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.