Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 3, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Chandler History Program


  • We’ll take a look at the City of Chandler’s History in Your Own Backyard Program that shares local history with permanent signage in city parks featuring stories and photographs of the people and places that once existed in the surrounding area. The program is a winner of an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.
Category: Education   |   Keywords: chandler history, chandler,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
This past weekend, the city of Chandler received an award for history in your own backyard. Let's see what the program is all about.

David Majure:
The Chandler, Arizona, we know today was shaped by its many yesterdays. By pioneer families who farmed this land and community leaders who formed this city. Their stories are enshrined on informational kiosks in city parks.

Boyd Dunn:
We take the history to the location where the history was made and this allows people to get an appreciation of what was here before their neighborhoods were here and brings the history to the forefront.

David Majure:
It's Chandler's history in your backyard program, a reminder of the past and the people who lived there.

Dorothy Ruoff:
And here's our park, right across the street.

David Majure:
People like Dorothy, who before marrying her husband, spent her life as Dorothy woods at what became known as the silk stocking neighborhood. It's located near downtown Chandler, where this little park was built.

Dorothy Ruoff:
If you come around on this side, you can see some of the houses that were here in the silk stocking neighborhood. This is my house. 245. My brother and sisters and I. I'm right here. My younger sister, my older sister and my brother.

David Majure:
Dorothy's house was built in 1921. Her parents owned it many years later.

Dorothy Ruoff:
They bought the house when I was three months old and moved in 1937. Dr. Chandler had in the original design of the city; he designated what it costs to build houses in certain areas. And if you built a house north of Cleveland Street, which is now Chandler Boulevard, if you built a house north of Cleveland Street, it had to cost $3,000, and the idea was if you could afford a $3,000 house, you could afford to buy your wife silk stockings. And so it became kind of, you know, jokingly called the silk stocking neighborhood. They bought this for $2,050. We have the bill of sale for the property. Whoever built it got a bargain.

David Majure:
Chandler's roots are in agriculture. It was a small urban island surrounded by miles of farms and fields.

Dorothy Ruoff:
To go to Phoenix was always an adventure because there were only a few paved roads.

David Majure:
It was an adventure some African American students experienced almost every day as they were bussed from Chandler to the all-black carver high school in downtown Phoenix. One of those students, Willie Arbuckle is pictured here at Arbuckle Park.

Willie Arbuckle:
That's me in my military uniform and I enjoyed playing soldier.

David Majure:
That ended in 1949 when schools were integrated and Willie sent to Chandler high.

Willie Arbuckle:
Four of us. We were the first to attend Chandler high school. 1951, Robert Turner and I were the first African Americans to graduate from Chandler high school.

David Majure:
That's his history, but the park is named for his mother, Emma Jean. They moved to Chandler to work the fields picking cotton. Her husband died when Willie was eight. And she cared for them and just about everyone else in the African American community.

Willie Arbuckle:
All during the '50s, she was just a force for good.

David Majure:
She became a community leader who will always be remembered as a peacekeeper.

Willie Arbuckle:
1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther king, a number of African American males wanted to go down through town breaking up stuff. She calmed them and talked them into a solidarity march.

David Majure:
In other parts of the city, more stories are told.

Man 1:
Always been proud to say that Chandler was my hometown. [Applause]

David Majure:
They're the stories of people who made this city what it is today. A city where learning about history is a walk in the park.

Ted Simons:
And here with more on the history in your own backyard program is Jean Reynolds. Thank you for being with us tonight.

Jean Reynolds:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
This is fascinating stuff. How did this program get started?

Jean Reynolds:
Back in 2004, and it was a program that was in the initial beginnings, the assistant services director, David, started the idea through our public history master plan that looked at bringing in historical signage as a way to bring history out into the community.

Ted Simons:
And kiosks, why was that chosen?

Jean Reynolds:
It was an interesting way to get the history out into the community where people are living and a permanent display.

Ted Simons:
How many of these are in Chandler right now?

Jean Reynolds:
Seven. They have one more being dedicated on September 26th.

Ted Simons:
Pretty much citywide or -- kind of concentrated in the downtown area? That's where the action was, wasn't it?

Jean Reynolds:
It's kind of scattered right now. We tried to reach out and go to different regions so we can hit different populations.

Ted Simons:
How are the locations chosen and how were the people chosen that you wanted to show? I mean, it must be fantastic to walk in a park and say that's my old house.

Jean Reynolds:
Yeah, we generally look at the whole area of Chandler and try to get them evenly dispersed throughout the city. And basically had to do research on the area. Like a square mile that's around the park and research who was in the area and generally who farmed in the area and that kind of thing and then go out and look for people who have those photographs and memories they want to share.

Ted Simons:
Do families lobby the city -- we should have our own kiosk?

Jean Reynolds:
That's happened in the past.

Ted Simons:
And you've got to work through the system, correct?

Jean Reynolds:
Work through the system.

Ted Simons:
The cost of the kiosk?

Jean Reynolds:
Anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 and then there's my time associated with that. If we do any kind of internal graphic design then there's that cost as well. But that's taken in through our budget.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of budgets, everybody has tough times going on right now. How about the city of Chandler and this program? The downturn affecting this program?

Jean Reynolds:
It is to some extent. The funding's been cut through our ongoing budget and we're seeking to continue the program but looking for outside funding through sponsors or other partnerships with other departments within the city.

Ted Simons:
Are you getting sponsorship interest in something like this?

Jean Reynolds:
I'm working right now on a couple of partnerships with our environmental education center, which is in our recreational division and public works to do historical signage along the canals.

Ted Simons:
You have to be careful with sponsorship. I want my family to have a kiosk and you've got to pay for it. You've got to walk that line.

Jean Reynolds:
Exactly.

Ted Simons:
How is it affecting museums and historical entities in general?

Jean Reynolds:
I think a lot of historical societies and archives that are struggling right now, whether it's the state archive or any smaller museums out there, everybody is impacted right now. And I think one of the things that relates back to the history kiosk program, you have to find ways to be innovative and make people understand that history and your culture is relevant to you and people will support you even if there's not a federal or local government supporting it.

Ted Simons:
What are the best ways to do that? To remind folks that history is important and it takes money to fund these things.

Jean Reynolds:
I think it's getting the story out to the community and also being an educational resource for the community. Because people understand that's important for them.

Ted Simons:
As far as the future for the kiosk program, I'm assuming it's still up and operational, correct?

Jean Reynolds:
Mm-hmm.

Ted Simons:
What is the future?

Jean Reynolds:
I think the future is to go out and continue to seek funding and get more kiosks out in different parks and look for other ways to share the history with the community in other places. Potentially, in other city facilities, having some signage. We've got a new city hall building coming out where we can do historical information there and, of course, we've got a new museum in 2012.

Ted Simons:
Talk about the award the city won and you won. What is this all about?

Jean Reynolds:
This was through the American association of state and local history and they choose historical entities of different kinds to give them an award of merit, they call it. And it's for sort of the best in creative programming or exhibits or that kind of thing that's going on in the country at that time. And I think there were about 49 organizations throughout the country that got the award this year.

Ted Simons:
And did you learn some things from the award -- get ideas from other communities and municipalities?

Jean Reynolds:
I did learn quite a bit. There were interesting -- other programs out there.

Ted Simons:
What were the most interesting other programs that you saw?

Jean Reynolds:
There was a little place in Illinois, and they were doing an exhibit about the knitting industry, and they came up with a program called sock monkey madness where they actually connected that piece of our popular culture to the knitting industry and did creative things that involved families and kids and stuff.

Ted Simons:
So sock puppets all over the landscape in Illinois?

Jean Reynolds:
Sock monkeys.

Ted Simons:
Congratulations on the award and it must be a lot of fun for folks to walk around in their neighborhoods and parks and look up and say this is a part of what has been and part of us.

Jean Reynolds:
Definitely.

Ted Simons:
Great.

Jean Reynolds:
And I think it's great that the city is really, you know, caring about its history and providing that information to the community.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jean Reynolds:
Thank you.

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