Monthly Archives: September 2017

Friends Who Have Passed

Alums that have passed recently

This summer 4 of our alumni have gone beyond.

Ernie Mesa passed away this summer.

Ernie Mesa (with Mr. Becchetti and Eddie Mesa).

Also passed:
Billy Barrios
Gary Satterlee
Patrice “Patty” Wilson, daughter of Gene Wilson, Barbara Barker, and Enedina Wilson

PLEASE send any that we have missed to: Janet Hearn, Or Kiki Blom, c.blom@sbcglobal so we can add them.

Two Friends Working Together

Two Friends working together

Marla Smith-Nilson, Class of 1987

Marla was an active member the years she attended Benson High School. Her parents Mary Jo and Ken Smith were both teachers for many years at BHS. Marla was the recipient of the Flinn Foundation scholarship which allowed her to travel to countries as far as Egypt. Marla graduated from the University of Arizona in civil engineering, which included building things like water systems. She received her masters in environmental engineering from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

She attended a UA summer science camp at age 12. That same summer she vacationed in rural Mexico. ” While on vacation, I saw a girl around my age fill a large container with water from a lake, put it on her back and walk off. It really made an impression on me,” recalled Marla.

Marla founded Water1st International ( and continues as Executive Director. The Seattle-based nonprofit has made safe water accessible to more than 165,000 people in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia and Honduras. They intentionally work in only four countries, so they can really get to know the communities and their partner agencies.

Marla is married and has two children. They live in Seattle, WA. Her Mother, Mary Jo lives in Seattle also.

by J. Hearn

Crissy Ahman Perham, Class of 1988

Crissy was also involved in activities while attending Benson High School. She played basketball. Her dad was the boy’s basketball coach. Crissy was the one-person swim team for BHS. She had to go to Tucson for practice and meets.

She was on the University of Arizona swim team from 1988-1992. She won the NCAA national championship in the 100-yard butterfly in 1991 and 1992. Crissy competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, where she three medals, two gold and one silver.

Several years later she returned to Tucson and was the Director of Community Relations at Tucson Padres AAA Baseball. Crissy is married and has two children who are also involved in athletics. She now lives in Texas. She joined Marla in Honduras for a Water First International to support this work.

by J. Hearn

BHS rated A+!

BHS gets A+!

Current A+ Schools

Schools that earn the A+ School of Excellence™ designation retain their status for a 3-1/2-year period after which time they must reapply for the award.
Benson High School, Benson (Benson Unified School District)
Benson Primary School, Benson (Benson Unified District)
Benson High School, Benson (Benson Unified School District)

See the whole list at

A True Story of the West

A True Story of the West

by Fred Becchetti

Poorly paid teachers have always had to find a job during their summer vacation to make it through the year financially..
One summer I took a job as night marshal of Benson. This required that I wear a western hat, a star on my chest, a holstered .44 caliber pistol on my hip and cowboy boots. I owned no boots, so with the approval of the Town Council I wore my Thom McAnn high-top shoes, .

My office was in the concrete jail behind the Horseshoe Cafe, and I had a patrol car with a siren and a blinking red-and-blue light. My duties included security checking of store doors, breaking up fights in the two bars, and enforcing the 25 mph speed limit and the 15 mph school zone on the town’s main street, which coincided with the highway to California.
One morning just before ending my night shift, I was standing on the curb at the school zone watching for motorists who might violate the 15 mph speed limit.
Drowsy from my night as town marshall, I was suddenly jolted awake by the squeak of brakes. A car with California plates had come to an abrupt stop in front of me.
A smartly dressed young woman leading a small girl by the hand got out of the car and approached me.
“Excuse me, sir,” the woman said.

I shook myself fully awake and summoned my best western drawl “Yes, ma’am. How can I be of assistance this beautiful morning?”
Almost apologetically, the woman said, “My daughter would like to have a picture of her with a western sheriff. Would you let me take your picture with her?”
I stood more erect, slanted my hat just so, moved my holster forward so that it would show, smiled and reached out for the little girl. In my best drawl, I said, “Why sure, ma’am. It would be my pleasure.” And to the little girl, “Come on, little darlin’. Let’s take a purty picture together for your mommy.”
We stood side by side in the morning sun, and the mother snapped a
picture. She said to her daughter, “Tell the sheriff thank you, honey.”
The little girl looked up at me, her eyes large, and said. “Thank you, Mister Sheriff.”
As they drove off, the daughter waved at me from the rear window. They left without knowing that the “sheriff” in real life was the law in only Benson High School’s English classroom, where his weapon was his red pencil and his only foes were incorrect spelling and faulty English grammar.

Historical Notes: the Horseshoe Cafe

Historical Notes: The Horseshoe Cafe

In 1935, the Horseshoe Café was a small diner located at the present location of today’s Horseshoe Café.

By 1939 the Horseshoe Café had changed very little with only changes to the front facade and a rounding of the upper parapet wall.

The Greyhound Bus Depot was located in a small building two doors down to the west located between the San Pedro Motel and the Texaco service station on the corner of 4th and Patagonia

Early in the 1940s, the Horseshoe Café diner was replaced with a single-story building which is the current lower floor of the Horseshoe Café. The single-story building consisted of a dining area, kitchen and patron rest rooms. The dining area was one big room with a horseshoe shaped counter that wrapped around the center support posts that were branded with local cattle ranch brands.

Still in the early 1940s it was anticipated that Arizona was going to adopt open gambling throughout the state and so a second story was added to allow gambling when the state law allowing gambling was passed. Statewide gambling never came to fruition and the upper floor became the owner’s residence.

Soon afterward the Horseshoe Café got the contract from Greyhound and became the bus stop lasting through the 1970s. The Greyhound busses would park in the back of the Horseshoe Café and travelers would enter the café through the rear of the café to use the restroom facilities and dine in the dining room.

Next door to the west was the San Pedro Motel for those travelers that wished to spend time in Benson or transfer to later busses on another route.

After the second story was added the Horseshoe Café looked much as it does today with only minor changes to the dining area with walls that added a small bar and small separate dining area.

Begining with the bypass of Benson by interstate I-10 came the demise of most of the tourist facilities including many of the 18 motels that lined 4th street including the latest victim, the Benson Motel (formerly Camp Benson) in April 2017. Now only the historic Arnold Hotel building circa 1907 which hasn’t been in operation for at least three quarters of a century, a couple of the motels in east Benson, formerly the Monterey and El Cochise motels, the Mountain Air motel and Quarter Horse motel and the Oasis motel in west Benson. The Sahara Motel was built in the 1960s in south Benson, and is still in operation. All the Benson and small town motels were victims of the building of I-10 or the evolution of the modern-day RV traveler.

The Greyhound Bus no longer has a depot, only a shaded lean-to on the corner of 4th and San Pedro St next to the caboose. The Amtrak train no longer has a depot, only a shaded lean-to next to the tracks near Patagonia St. The new face of 4th Street is a series of empty lots occupied by the ghosts of motels or gas stations of the past. Many empty store fronts line the south side of 4th Street where thriving mom and pop businesses use to provide the town of Benson with its livelihood.

Memories of Benson: What Do You Mean, Isolated?

What Do You Mean, Isolated?

Second of Four
By Bill Guerra (

The author is a Benson native and was a member of BUHS class of ’63. He resides in suburban Atlanta.

By the 1940’s and 50’s, we were no longer one of the many small towns that dotted the West during the last years of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century; we were not a “community island” – bounded by land, not by sea – that made us a world unto ourselves. Thanks in large part to New Deal programs like the REA, RFD, and the WPA, Benson was the beneficiary affordable electricity, regular mail delivery, even to semi-remote areas, and worker programs that sustained us through hard times and helped open our eyes to the world.

In the 1950’s, when crooners like Pat Boone and Elvis Presley (actually, Carl Perkins) made white bucks and blue suede shoes popular, young boys in Benson were quick to adopt and acquire the fashion fad of the day! This included – at one time or another – skinny belts, skinny ties, pink pants, madras shirts, white Levis, etc. For the girls, the same could be said for Mary Jane shoes with white socks, poodle skirts, short shorts – and even that most horrible of girls dress outerwear, the Sack! (As the lyrics to a popular song of the day went: “No chemise, please! You can take back the sack, leave it hanging on the rack, and bring the sweater back!”) Of course, our school dress code imposed limits on what was or wasn’t acceptable, a concept that seems nearly improbable in today’s (almost) ‘anything goes’ world! Oddly enough, at least for a boy, was the tolerance, even acceptability, of our ‘traditional uniform’: blue jeans (Levis, of course) and a white, T-style undershirt!

Actually, we were very tuned in – and susceptible – to fads like the hula hoop, Davey Crockett coonskin hats, and Marlon Brando inspired black motorcycle jackets. We drank cherry cokes in conical paper cups at Hamilton’s Drug store or at Joe’s Confectionary and we danced in the auditorium (the school’s basketball court for an older generation) at post-game record hops to the music of Patti Page, Fats Domino, Patsy Cline, The Platters, Bill Haley, Richie Valens, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Chubby Checker, and The Lettermen. We were also entertained by catchy (but not necessarily dance music) recordings like the Purple People Eater, Witch Doctor, Running Bear, and Wolverton Mountain, to name a few. We boogied away to the jitterbug, cha-cha-cha, the swing, the twist, the stroll, the jerk and, of course, slow dancing! In short, we felt we were ‘in tune’ with mainstream America.

Memories of Benson: Center of the Universe

Center of the Universe!

First of Four
By Bill Guerra (

The author is a Benson native and was a member of BUHS class of ’63. He resides in suburban Atlanta.

During visits home, I’m always amused and inevitably let out a chuckle when I hear my niece Suzy playfully refer to our hometown as ‘Benson, Center of the Universe’! Her description contains a bit of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, but for those of us brought up in an earlier time that phrase may have an eerie resonance because, for us, Benson was the center our youthful universe.

An outsider might easily scoff ‘Why, of course! You were so remote and insular that all worldly matters were contained within the City Limit signs at the East and West ends of town!’ But this is really an overly simplistic conclusion and, in fact, I would argue the opposite. Benson WAS our universe, but it wasn’t because of our isolation or ignorance (not as in stupidity, but as in unknowing) but, rather, because we like any number of communities in Small Town, America, were reliant on our own resources for entertainment, information, and social/civic cooperation.