Monday’s for Me ~ Grandpa Smiths Excellent Adventure

Grandpa SMithIn 1962 my mothers’ dad came from Missouri to Tucson AZ for a 2-week visit. John Pleasant Smith was born in 1882 and he had never been to Arizona before so my parents planned a fun-filled vacation for him. I was 7 years old and I was so excited because I had never met my Grandpa. Well OK, I did but I was a baby and I didn’t remember it. Some of the planned activities were to take him for a cookout in the Saguaro National Forest, make a trip up to the top of the 9000 ft Mount Lemon, watch the gunfights at Old Tucson Studios, see the wildlife at the Sonoran Desert Museum, and last but not least an exciting day in Nogales, Mexico.

saguaro national park

The day finally came and I got to finally meet my Grandpa. He wasn’t as tall as my dad but he still looked like a giant to me. He had piercing blue eyes and a smile that made him look like he was up to something. He brought my sister and me each a doll and a bag full of “Missouri Candy”. I loved the way he talked. He had an accent that rivaled Hee Haw! (you can google it LOL). Over the next week, we had so much fun. Each night we hit the bed exhausted but so happy.

nogales mx postcardIt was finally time to make the trip to Mexico. I had been there a couple of times because my dad bought medicine for his stomach there. We would make a quick trip down and back with very little sightseeing. This time we took our time. It was an hour’s drive south from Tucson and Grandpa wanted to stop at all the Missions and other points of interest so it took us much longer. When we got to the border we parked on the US side and walked through the checkpoint into Mexico. My dad told my Grandpa to not, under any circumstance, take his wallet out of his pocket while we were on the street. He forgot about my Grandpas’ big heart! It wasn’t long before a couple of poorly dressed kids approached us asking fordad and grandpa change. My Grandpas heart broke and he took out his wallet and pulled out two dollar bills and gave each kid one. This was a lot of money in those days. Immediately we were surrounded by kids all wanting money. A shop keeper came out and tried to chase the kids away but there were too many so he grabbed my Grandpa and pushed him in his shop. We followed. The shop keeper lectured Grandpa about not doing this and after the kids left we finished our shopping. Dad and Grandpa picked up some souvenirs and we headed home.

In the 1960s, in order to cross the border in either direction, all you had to do was declare where you were born. Easy and efficient. My Grandpa went first, then me, my sister, and my dad, Then it was my mother’s turn. She decided to try to be funny and when asked where she was born she responded: “I wasn’t born I was made in Japan!”. We all laughed but the border agents did not. They refused to let her leave Mexico. They made her go sit in a room with a female agent. My dad talked to the men but they told us it would be at least 2 hours before they could verify that my mother was born in Missouri. We were all hungry so Grandpa suggested we go get something to eat. We went to our favorite restaurant, ate a leisurely lunch then headed back to the border. By the time we got there, they were ready to release my mother. I can’t express how upset and angry she was. She cussed and ranted non-stop for about the first 20 minutes we were on the road. All of a sudden my Grandpa burst out laughing. I got a little nervous because there was one thing I knew, you never laugh at my mother. He told her the look on her face when they wouldn’t let her through was priceless and he hoped she learned a lesson. It was all her fault for being a smart a** and she was setting a bad example for us. She didn’t say another word all the way home.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on 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.