Monthly Archives: January 2018

Historical Notes: Benson Grocery Stores

Because the exterior and interior appearance of Zearing’s Mercantile is of the early 20th Century many believe that it was an old family business passed down to Mr. Zearing.

Zearing’s in the 1980s

The reality of it is Mr Zearing opened his business in the 1970s. Prior to that the building that housed Zearing’s Mercantile served Benson for many years as first the K & H Grocery store and the J & M Grocery store.

K & H Grocery in the 1920s was the closest of the three
buildings shown above and later moved to center
building of the three buildings (the Zearing building)
after fire destroyed the first building

The K & H Grocery store was owned by George Kempf and Harold Holcomb and was in business in the 1920s through the middle 1950s. It was in competition with the Benson Food Center in the 1950s which eventually lead to the demise of the K & H due to the expansion of Benson Food Center and relocation to where the Saint Vincent De Paul outlet now resides.

Benson Food Center in the late 1950s

This relocation of the Benson Food Center is also responsible for the J & M Grocery relocating to the old location of the K & H Grocery.

When the Benson Food Center built their new facility on Patagonia Street, Mr. Axtell (Jay) refused to sell his store and property so the Benson Food Center was built around two sides of Jay’s store which was located on Patagonia Street. After a short struggle Jay moved his store to the location of the former K & H Grocery and it became the J & M Grocery. The Benson Food Center was eventually bought out and moved to a new location in the Ocotillo strip mall where Tractor Supply now resides with the new name of Gordon’s Market owned by Gordon Reay one of six stores in Arizona.


Gordon’s Market in the 1980s

The old Benson Food Center location became Archie’s Auto Parts and later Napa Auto Parts. The old Gordon’s Market became the R & R Pizza and current Tractor Supply.

Zearing’s remains closed following the death of Mr. Zearing and all the interior items have been auctioned off. The future is another empty building on 4th street.

Mr. Zearing in younger years


Interior of Zearing’s Mercantile –
The fellow above never moved in all these years

Memories of Benson: 4th of July Arrival

(Ed. note: I screwed up, this was supposed to be no. 1 not no. 4.)


(My Prologue to Personal Memories of Benson: the First in a Series… Hopefully!)
By Bill Guerra (

Anyone who’s witnessed Benson’s 4th of July celebration can readily attest to the foregone conclusion that it’s sure to be a blistering hot day! Parade spectators will invariably arm themselves with a cool one and search out a shady spot where they can track the slowly moving floats, various horse units, the Bobcat Alumni band, and, of course, the fez-hatted Shriners zig-zagging the parade route on their little go-carts.

During last year’s BUHS Centennial (1914-2014) Celebration, I was reminded by one of our old neighbors, Bea (Blakey) Hernandez, of one particularly memorable Fourth! The year was 1945. President Roosevelt had died a few months earlier at the beginning of his fourth term; the war in Europe was over; within a month and a half the atomic bomb would be twice employed on the Japanese mainland and the war in the Pacific would also come to a conclusion. Bea says she clearly remembers my mother’s sister Josephine Comaduran King (Aunt Jo to us nephews and nieces) emerge from our house and hold up one finger. A few minutes later, she re-emerged and held up a second finger – confirmation to Bea and other observant neighbors that twin boys – my brother Bob and I (!!) – had made our arrival into the world of Benson, Arizona.

My Benson ‘Credentials’

For the next 18 years, Bob and I – along with our five siblings (the youngest, Donnie would come along some 18 months later) – would progress through childhood and adolescence to young adulthood. The seven children of Susie and Manuel Guerra were born during a 17 year period ranging from 1929 to 1946. In addition, our mother, and her mother, were also native-born Bensonites. I mention this to emphasize a long term ‘connectedness’ to Benson that extends beyond my personal remembrances, but which, by family experience and storytelling, effectively lengthens the depth of our family’s roots – mine included. Even though I’ve not actually resided in Benson for more than half a century, I still happily try to make the journey home two or three times a year – at least, now that I am semi-retired. During my 27 year military career I sometimes went three or four years, while serving in overseas assignments, without visiting mi tierra!

Equally interesting – to me, at least – is that after all these years four of my siblings live and reside in Benson, while a 5th , twin brother Bob, lives a short distance away in Tucson. This ‘homing phenomenon’ is by no means unusual. At school reunions I’m always amazed at the number of friends and classmates who spent many years away from Arizona and the Southwest but who ultimately decided to return – if not to Benson, at least to the Tucson or Phoenix areas!

Memories of Benson: Droopy

By Bill Guerra (

Among other things, growing up in a town like Benson meant acquiring and caring for various animal companions. For many this meant cats, of which there was an endless supply of semi-feral felines — all anxious to call your place home – if you would simply provide them one or two meals a day! There were also bird lovers who kept caged canaries, parakeets, or other species. I particularly recall one large green parrot who passed his day in a sizable cage outside his keeper’s door; this particular periquito (yes, I know, that’s a parakeet not a parrot!) would let out a loud, lascivious wolf whistle to any passing girl… or boy – he wasn’t gender particular with his flirtatious whistles!

At one time or another, we also kept rabbits, ducks, chickens and other critters. During periodic visits by traveling carnivals, and especially during Helldorado in Tombstone, some of the attractions included games of chance in which one tossed nickels or dimes onto strategically laid out plates, saucers and bowls to win a prize. To ‘win’, the player had to land his coin on a plate without it bouncing off onto the booth floor – an outcome destined for most of the tossed coins. My Dad, however, seemed to possess a special ‘skill’ at landing his tosses, consequently, we sometimes returned from our carny adventure with baby chicks or yellow down covered ducklings.

On one occasion, we came home from Tombstone with a baby duck that Bob and I immediately christened Helldorado – after his place of origin. We were probably seven or eight years old at the time, and our overriding curiosity regarding this new friend was whether or not he could actually swim! He’s a duck, you know, but absent his mother’s instruction did he really know how to swim – or was he in need of remedial instruction? To satisfy our curiosity Bob and I grabbed shovel and hoe and carved out a small backyard ‘pond’ which we then filled with the garden hose. Very gingerly – lest he demonstrate his ducky ineptness and sink to the bottom – we launched Helldorado into his new swimming hole. Of course we were thrilled to see that he could easily paddle about the deepest portions of our pond, which in true Arizona manner, was quickly being absorbed into our thirsty, bone dry earth and refashioned into a mud pit! Helldorado probably needed rubber galoshes more than webbed feet!

For most of us, however, the pet of choice was a dog. Up and down the barrio there was a never ending assortment of free-ranging mutts that belonged to one kid or another. Bobby Caballero’s dog was Red; Joey Cota’s was Sandy; and Conrad Caballero had Tiny – a very mean tempered little dog that would bite at the slightest provocation, causing his owners to keep him safely penned away! Our family also had a generational span of dogs: There were many that preceded us younger Guerra’s, but first in my memory was Freckles, a sweet little female that loved my Dad; she was succeeded by her offspring, a little male, also known as Freckles; and then by Prince. But my favorite, the one with most character, was Droopy. Yes, like the cartoon dog Droopy, although similarities ended at their shared name.

Droopy was left in a cardboard box on our doorstep one night and was discovered by Mama the following morning when she heard his very faint whimpering. Although Dad was not so inclined, we begged Mama to let us keep this tiny little puppy and she, of course, conceded thereby vetoing Dad’s objections! Our new creature was a 100%, ‘Heinz 57’ mutt; however, his brown markings on white coat did indeed give him a slight resemblance to the cartoon dog. We pampered our new friend and played with him as we watched him grow… and grow… and grow! When fully mature, he tipped the scales at about 100 pounds!

I personally loved Droopy for his unfailing good nature and his willingness to indulge his owners – even when they wanted to ‘ride’ him like a pony! But the thing I most liked about him was his unhesitant willingness to roust himself daily at 5:00 AM and accompany me on my newspaper route as I pedaled about town delivering the morning edition of the Arizona Republic! Not only was he a willing companion, he also was my protector from other dogs along my route who were not favorably disposed to the newspaper boy’s intrusion on their turf.

On one occasion I was speeding down Patagonia Street from my last delivery in Benson Heights – Vernon Arnold’s home right at the top of the very steep hill where Patagonia splits into three different roads. (I hated going up to Mr Arnold’s house, but loved it when I turned around and went down!) With a full head of steam I banked into a hard right turn on 8th Street, directly in front of the main entrance to the Benson Grammar School and right in front of Judge Harold Holcomb’s home. Suddenly, pedaling became very difficult and almost simultaneously Droopy let out a horrendous, unceasing howl. I came to a screeching halt, hopped off my bike and immediately discovered the source of my (our?) problem: Droopy’s tail was caught between the bike chain and the large sprocket of my bike’s gear mechanism! His tail was almost completely severed and bleeding profusely – and all the while poor Droopy was crying loud enough to be heard in St. David.

Naturally, I was totally flustered and had no idea what to do or how to release Droopy’s tail. Panicked, I set off at a dead run to our home about six blocks away, all the while praying my Dad had not yet left to catch the worker’s bus to Apache Powder. Thankfully, Dad was still home and I breathlessly tried to explain my disaster. We quickly jumped into Dad’s old Hudson Hornet and sped our way back to the scene of my crisis. When we arrived we found a shirtless, half shaven man next to my bike holding up the straight razor that he had been using for his morning shave, but which he had now repurposed to surgeon’s scalpel. “There was nothing but a sliver of skin holding him to the chain,” he explained, “so I just went ahead and finished the job!”

For his part, Droopy was obviously still in tremendous pain, but at least his incessant howl had now been replaced by a pathetic whimper. We carefully wrapped the bloody stump of what remained of his tail and cautiously transported him home. Droopy ultimately recovered from his trauma, but he would never again sit normally on his backside like most dogs. Apparently, the pain he endured during his recovery caused him to learn how to sit lopsided on either his right or left haunch, with the corresponding foot splayed out at an angle. The resultant length of his remaining tail was also somewhat of an oddity: It was obviously too short to be a normal tail, but it was too long to have been properly ‘docked’. As I saw it, the situation simply added to Droopy’s already unique character!

Gone and Missed

Alums that have passed recently

The Ultimate Bobcat, Chic Maldonado (1951-2017)

Chic was a Benson High School graduate from the Class of 1969. Recently Chic oversaw and helped coordinate the Benson High School 100 year Celebration in 2014. He was pivotal in organizing the Benson Bobcat Alumni Association (BBAA). This October, he helped coordinate the inaugural alumni association dinner and induction of four honorees at the BBAA dinner. Due to his illness, he could not attend. He was skyped in, however, for a special award presented to him as the “Ultimate Bobcat”.
Chic was BUSD board member for almost 30 years and was the current president. Chic worked continually for the young people of Benson. As his wife Betty Maldonado said, “He loved Benson…he always called it the center of the universe.” He will be missed, but remembered for his contributions to the community of Benson.


Also passed:
Betty Lou Durham Smith, Apr 8, 1939 – Sept 13, 2017
Steven Robert Rigney, Apr 26, 1972 – Jan 1, 2018
Frankie Ruiz
Phil Woodrow Beck (teacher), Jan 29, 1937 – Oct 1, 2017

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

Where Are They Now? Jim Teak

Jim Teak, Class of ‘61

Jim was active at BUHS. He served as class president for two years, played football and baseball for four years, was selected for Boy’s State and All-State Band, and was active in the National Honor Society, Drama Club, Lettermen’s Club, Jr. Red Cross, Band, Choir and Mixed Chorus.

He attended the University of Arizona, getting his degree in secondary education. He was fortunate to be advised by upperclassman Robert Berryhill (’59) to take the qualification exam and physical for the Air Force Pilot Training Program, was successful, served 22 years, retired as an O-5 (Lt Col), and flew operationally in nine different airplanes.

Jim spent the next 20 years working as a contractor for both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD). For DOE, he worked the high-level nuclear waste project (Yucca Mountain) in Las Vegas, NV, and the low-level waste isolation program (WIPP) in Carlsbad, NM. For DOD, he worked the development of a military spaceplane, which is currently in orbit on its fourth classified mission, and the development of distributed computer wargames including players from various weapon systems from all branches of the US service and those of several of our allies

Jim lives in Albuquerque, NM, with his wife Judy of 42 years. They have one son, Ryan, who is a Major in the AF flying B-1s. His son from a previous marriage, Ken Koch, is married and is the Chief of the University of Colorado Police Department. Jim and Judy are planning a final move to southern AZ in the summer to better enjoy their golden years.

BBAA Annual Dinner

BBAA Annual Dinner

Thursday Oct 26

The inaugural Benson Bobcat Alumni Association Dinner Thursday featured induction of four Honorary BBAA members.

A social hour in the auditorium served as the precursor to the dinner in the old gymnasium prepared and served by students in Benson High School’s Culinary Arts program under the direction of Amanda Goss. In addition to hors d’oeuvres, attendees enjoyed Italian fare consisting of meat lasagna and chicken Alfredo dinner entree complete with dessert and drinks.  The first-graders led the pledge of allegiance and singing of the national anthem under direction of Principal Jomel Jansson. The middle school band, under direction of Ron Rivera, brought the house down with a rousing rendition of the Benson Bobcat Fight Song.

Inductees included Mark Battaglia, Linda Lou Lamb, former teacher Fred Becchetti and Gilberto Zamudio, Benson High School Ag teacher and FFA Advisor who retired at the end of the last school year. Zamudio however was away with students at the FFA’s 90th National Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. His daughter Amanda Zamudio accepted his award and Zamudio himself took part via Skype. Battaglia, longtime resident and attorney, Lamb, in her 33rd year with the school district, and Becchetti, the beloved instructor who taught from 1950-61, were recognized for their contributions to Benson education.

Fred Beccetti, Linda Lou Lamb, and Mark Battaglia

Mr. Becchetti traveled from the east coast for this event. Mr. Becchetti is now 92 years old. His motel room charge was split among 3 classes, 1960, 1961, & 1962, who were thrilled to do something for Mr. Becchetti.

The event was wonderful and many said it was so thrilling to have Fred Becchetti here in Benson with us. He came in on Wednesday night, attended the Meet & Greet event, and then on to the Alumni Dinner at the old Benson Bobcat Gym. The same gym that we all knew for sporting events, P.E., proms, etc., from our youthful “growing up” years.

The next day (Friday) Mr. Becchetti was escorted around the school by our Benson School District Superintendant, Micah Mortensen, and even attended a Spanish Class at the school. Mr. Mortensen took Mr. Becchetti, and his daughter Carol, to G & F Pizza for dinner,(G & F Pizza is the favorite “hangout” for Benson’s local students). Mr. Mortensen then took him to the Friday night Benson vs Wilcox Football Game, where Mr. Becchetti was again honored by presenting the “game ball” during the pre-game events. By the way, Benson beat Willcox in an exciting game, in which the halftime score was Benson 14 & Wilcox 14.

The next day the BUHS Class of 1961 had a reunion get together at Lion’s Park where Mr. Becchetti was able to talk to and share time with many of his beloved 1961 Class members before he left for home.

A number of people contacted Lorene Whaley for tickets to the Alumni Dinner, simply because Mr. Becchetti was going to be in attendance. We cannot express enough how honored we were to have Fred Becchetti return to Benson for this event and have the pleasure of meeting his daughter Carol who came with him. His grandson Paul also came from California. God Bless you Fred Becchetti, and know that you deeply touched so many of us and created wonderful memories for the students who were fortunate enough to know you in your years in Benson, Arizona.

Fred Becchetti, former Benson High School English & Spanish teacher (1950-1961) was named an Honorary Benson High School Alumnus by the BBAA.    Click this link to read Mr. Becchetti’s acceptance speech

Mr Becchetti also did a report with photos of his probably-final trip out to Benson, that will be reported in the next issue because this one is getting kinda big.  😀