Moving to Maricopa sight unseen: the Chance family (1950s)

During an oral history interview with Eloise Chance, she reminisced about life with her farmer father and mother while growing up in Chandler and graduating from Chandler High School. 

She talked about the early years of coming to Maricopa (1950s) and the isolation and loneliness that followed. “He (her father) bought the farm in 1951….took possession in 1952. That was back when I was married and lived in Tucson with my husband. My father called us and wanted us to move to Maricopa. I had never been to Maricopa, but my husband had grown up on a farm in Texas, so he was very excited about being back on the farm. 

“So we moved to Maricopa sight unseen and it was a dismal-looking place….and I thought ….ooohhh, I can’t do this! But I did! I cried every day for probably the first six months we lived there. We had so many conveniences in Tucson, and we moved down there with no telephones available, no mail delivery, no paper delivery…isolation. I was pregnant with my first daughter…and scared… and the roads were terrible. They were just trails, and, after it rained, the roads were slick, and the car would slip and slide…and be on a canal bank.  I remember one night the electrical storm…the lightning struck our hay stack, and it burned.”

Eloise remembered an especially frightening experience in those early Maricopa days, “The scariest (incident) was one evening when the Maricopa deputies stopped at our house and warned me that someone had been murdered and they were looking for the killer who was in the area. ‘We want to warn you that a killer has escaped…and could be anywhere in the area…hiding in cotton fields or wherever….do you have a gun?’”

This young mother did not have a gun, but had a baby, and she was out there all alone with fields of cotton and a killer on the loose who could be hiding any place. When Charles came home, he loaded up mother and baby and took them to Chandler where they stayed with her parents until it was safe to return home.
 
Eloise talks about her years teaching young Native American children at Ak-Chin and her teaching years at Maricopa Elementary School. Ak-Chin offered her a job as the Director of Education on the reservation.

“We started out with just the preschoolers and then we added on three grades. It turned out to be a demonstration school.  We tried innovative procedures with them, and we brought in a lot of their culture. We taught the kids the old Indian dances. The older members of the community taught us. Then we taught pottery, basket making, and the elder community come in and told them stories. It was a great experience. Dr. Harry Summall from ASU was involved with our program and brought in visitors from ASU and all over the world. Eventually, a company out of Hollywood made a documentary of our program at Ak-Chin.”

The Ak-Chin Community hired her husband, Charles, as the Ak-Chin Justice of the Peace and Tribal Judge. According to Eloise, “He was the Maricopa Justice of the Peace for twelve years and worked for 27 years where his duties were as Superior Court Judge and the Juvenile Judge.” 

When asked if she could have had a different career, what would that be, she was quick to answer, “Well, I did have another career. My son (Rick Chance) had the Empire Glass Company, and he called me up one day and said…mom…I really need your help. We are really behind and I wish you would come up and help us. I said, ‘Rick, I absolutely know nothing about the glass company.’” 

He replied, “Mom, I can show you what you need to do. We just need help…just come up and work until we get caught up.” I went up and started working for him, and he was right …he was really behind…and so I stayed and eventually became General Manager of all of his different stores in Arizona, Colorado, Salt Lake and Oregon. It was quite an experience.”

To be continued… 

Maricopa Historical Society cordially invites all of Maricopa’s citizens to write their stories, impressions and memories of coming to Maricopa, whether it was 90 years ago or yesterday, for future generations. For more information email Patricia Brock at hpbrock@cox.net.

Editor’s note:  Maricopa factoids are a regular feature on InMaricopa.com. They are provided by the Maricopa Historical Society, a branch of the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library. Most information comes from “Reflections of a Desert Town” by author and historical society chairperson Patricia Brock. 

Gift Cards are available for Brock’s the new book: “Images of America: Maricopa” along with a short story of Maricopa. Contact Brock at 480-821-0604 or hpbrock@cox.net to purchase a gift card or to reserve a copy of the book. 

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