Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Melting Pot--Or Not?

Western mining towns were very diverse and those of us who grew up in them during the first half of the twentieth century had a lot of opportunities to learn about other cultures and ethnic groups. I will not say there was no prejudice or discrimination but for the most part we did learn a lot of tolerance and acceptance of people who might speak a different language, observe different customs or follow a different religion. Here is a glimpse into my memory of this augmented by that of my husband, who lived in Bisbee from his adoption as an infant in 1930 until he moved away to join the military and follow his career and education although he did return many times

Melting Pot—Or Not?

I came to awareness of an outside world between ages three and four, in the latter part of 1946. At that time my small family, which was my parents and myself, lived in Jerome, Arizona. Jerome was a mining town, a company town of Phelps Dodge, then king of copper in the still-young state of Arizona
We lived in a region called Sunshine Hill, which sat to the north and east of the main town of Jerome, that perched on the side of a red mountain called Cleopatra Hill. Between that area and our home on a prominent ridge, a large area of overburden, oreless stone removed to reach the mineral deposits, had created a wide terrace where some of the shops for the small open pit mine and a baseball field stood. The road to our area wound along just safely in from the outer edge.
Sunshine Hill held a bunch of identical little cottages owned by the company along with a few individually built houses sitting on leased land. I called them ‘the private houses’ as opposed to the company houses such as the one my parents rented. By then the mines were starting to slow down from the wartime rush and miners were leaving for other “PD” mines or even other firms so non-employees could rent and live there. It was an ethnically mixed neighborhood with people from a number of European countries in residence, reflecting of the diversity of the miners. However as far as I know there was not one African American family in town and the Hispanic/Latino/Mexican people mainly lived in the hollow below the main part of town and our home. That region was called “Mexican Town.” Remember, this was the 1940s and political correctness had not yet even been dreamed of. Probably not too many used the “N” word but other terms now called slurs were common.
Many of the miners came from southern Europe, formerly small nations that had been overrun by the Nazis and then smashed together haphazardly by the treaties ending the war. There were folks from Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Herzegovina etc. but they were generally lumped into the category of “Bohunks” (probably from Bohemian) in the vernacular of the time. These people were hard workers, good citizens and very determined to incorporate into their new homeland. To me, their differences only meant a few odd accents and some wonderful foods from each of their areas.
 I spent the first twenty some years of my life in Jerome and later Clarkdale, the ‘other’ Phelps Dodge (PD) town at the foot of the hills. I knew Mexican and Indian children in school and we didn’t think anything of that at all. My brother and I both had friends among them and in Clarkdale, neighbors of Mexican ancestry as well. Until probably about the mid 1950s, few to no Mexicans worked underground but that changed quickly. It was hard, dangerous work and the flow of miners from Europe had fallen off greatly after the war as well as those from the Wales and Cornwall areas of Great Britain which also had many mines.  That soon had Mexicans welcomed to work in all capacities in the hard rock mining industry.
I do not think I ever actually knew an African American person until I was in late middle school or high school. At that time a single mother and her son came to Clarkdale. Oddly, her surname was the same as ours, Morgan, and her son was between me and my brother in age. As far as I know she was accepted and more was made of the fact she was single than her race. She had a responsible job and was clearly educated but people in conservative small towns still tended to look askance on divorced women to say nothing of one who might have had a child out of wedlock!
My parents were not prejudiced for their time but if I had ever brought home a boyfriend of another race I would have probably gotten chewed out. They did not hold with mistreating anyone for their differences but felt everyone should stick to their own kind. From their point of view and the fact they both had Southern upbringing I expect that was understandable.
At any rate, after the Iron Curtain went down and many of the small ethnic groups in southern Europe began to squabble and want to set up their own countries, those of us who had grown up in western mining camps knew and understood their need and desire to be independent and not to have an ethnic group divided by an arbitrary border that some kings and politicians had created when they were “dividing the spoils” after the war. We might have called them all “Bohunks” and meant no disrespect or disparagement with the term but we were aware that they spoke different though often related languages, might have different religious beliefs and definitely differed in national dishes, costumes and traditions.
 So, in a way, my home region was a melting pot—in mining towns like Jerome, Bisbee and Ajo, where kids all went to school together, it was not long before a girl of Croation ancestry began to date a Czech boy and the parents had to accept it since the fathers might be partners in the mine. Then pretty soon there was dating between ‘gringo’ and Mexican teens or white and Native Americans and as African Americans began to join the populations, they were accepted and assimilated too.
 It often takes a few generations for this to work out but usually if there are no KKK fanatics or rabble rousing outside members of a minority group to “stir the pot” it does mix and melt very nicely out here in the rural and  small town west. Here people were much more often judged for their work ethic, honesty and similar real values than the color of their skin or what church—or none—that they attended. Underground, all men were equal and out in the cowboy camps, and similar dangerous environments the same held true. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to grow up in and witness true diversity and the American Way in action.  


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