On our way home from Tucson yesterday, the afternoon lay ahead with no plans. I took the chance and drove through the towns of Eloy and Casa Grande on the way home to have a look around. Eloy is famous as a mecca for skydivers so we kept our eyes peeled for parachutes and were rewarded when we saw three wee chutes tick-tocking down from the blue sky. I relied on my GPS to point out a destination for me, spinning through the options presented in the “Historical Attractions” feature, landing on the Casa Grande Historical Society.
Downtown Casa Grande improved the outlook for the afternoon considerably. We parked at the Art Museum (closed that day) and enjoyed the beautiful bougainvillea that rioted along the wall. We walked across the street to the Casa Grande Historical Society and found it open and staffed with friendly faces.
The Casa Grande Historical society has rooms that display old fashioned kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, farm equipment and school rooms. It has ample signage and displays characterizing different aspects of the collection. It was a large, clean, well lit and attractively arranged museum. I was not surprised by the collection but I was impressed by the setting and the grounds–the fact that the museum is as lovely as it is speaks volumes about the regard Casa Grande has for it’s community, past and present. I encourage you to visit your own historical society so that your children can get a view into how technology and our way of living has altered as time goes by. Admission for the boys was free and my admission was $5.00. A docent toured with us inviting my boys to use a telegraph to transmit a Morse code and turned on the model train for my little one. The morse code was a big hit with both boys as it was attached to a speaker and had laminated examples of the code at the ready so they could tap out messages. We’ve used a telegraph at the Wells Fargo museum in downtown Phoenix, but this is the first time I’ve seen one attached to a speaker. Neat-o.
Outside we found the Rebecca Dallis schoolhouse open for touring. My boys sat in the desks and wrote on the chalkboard. We talked a bit about how this narrow room held all eight grades. When no high school was available, high school students took lessons on the porch (imagine the heat) from her husband.Later when the boys tackle Brown v. The Board of Education, I know right where I want to take the boys for a visit.
My favorite part of the museum was the farm implements–because that is where I made a wonderful discovery. This display was artfully arranged to elevate the confusing array of lethal looking instruments against a backdrop of photographs. It astonished me that iconic American photographer Dorothea Lange visited the Eloy/ Casa Grande in the 30’s as part of her work documenting the Dustbowl and the plight of migrant farmers. After my desolate drive through Eloy on the way to Casa Gradne, it was great to see it through her eyes. When I came home I pored over articles about the dustbowl and looked for more Dorothea Lange photos from Arizona. This student essay ties together the farm equipment I saw at the museum with reality of the dust bowl. If you admire Dorothea Lange and want to learn more about her work from her voice, this interview is invaluable.
I’ll close with a series of photos from Dorothea Lange, taken in the Casa Grande area. All captions are Dorothea Lange’s original remarks.
From inside a DeLorean,