Monthly Archives: March 2018

Historical Notes — Saloons and Car Dealerships

The block between Huachuca St and San Pedro Street has changed considerably since the turn of the 19th century to the 20th century. Many of the original buildings burned during this period and those that remained supported various changing businesses.

One such building is the present-day Be-you-tiful Hair Salon. Before it burned in the 1990s this building was a two-story building that housed the Silver Spur Club. Originally the Silver Spur structure and the two buildings, one on either side was a Ford Dealership in the 1918 . In the early days of the Silver Spur Club the upper floor was a doctor’s office. In 1950 Everett Lewis purchased the Silver Spur and converted the upper floor into living quarters in the true spirit of a “mom and pop” business. Everett Lewis’ former occupation was that as a brick mason. In the 1970s, due to poor health Everett sold the Silver Spur Club to Eddie Strubie who ran the business until he sold it to two brothers. This spelled the demise of the business as well as the building when in the late 1970s the brothers committed arson and burned the building down to the walls.

The building was rebuilt but only as a present day one story structure. This was also the beginning of the end of most of the Saloons in Benson. I-10 took the El Rancho Bar which was out on highway 86 east of Benson. Page’s Palace opens on occasion but is closed most of the time. Since restaurants, Safeway, Walmart, and Circle Ks all sell liquor only the Arena Bar, VFW, Eagles and Riverside Inn exist now.

The Ford dealership which was replaced by the Silver Spur and the Studebaker dealership were the beginning of many new car dealerships in Benson of which none exist today.

Near the site of the Circle K on the corner of 4th and Huachuca street was the original Studebaker dealership until it sold to the Lewis Brothers and it became the Lewis Brothers Garage in the 1940s.

On the southeast corner of 4th and San Pedro was a Hudson dealership which in the 1950s became Benson Chevrolet dealership until the 1960s at which time the Chevrolet dealership was relocated to a new facility south of Benson on Highway 80. This was the dominate dealership in Benson until the middle 1950s when Dale Lopshire added onto the B. F. Goodrich store which was located next door to the Riverside Inn and established the second Ford dealership to serve Benson. The B.F Goodrich became the parts department for the new Ford dealership.

In 1956 a Plymouth dealership was established across the street from Lopshire’s Ford between the Dixie gas station and next to Bill’s Trading Post (later the 86 Café) but the competition drove it out of business after only one year. Lopshire’s Ford was sold by Dale and became Cholla Ford. Cholla Ford eventually sold out to Lawley which after a struggle eventually closed its doors.

As I said Benson Chevrolet dealership, last owned by Frank Bivens, moved to out on highway 80 south of Benson in the 1960s and it became Mundy Chevrolet which was eventually taken over by Dale Lopshire for a short time who then sold it to Fred Mundy. When sales dropped significantly Fred Mundy, who had added Chrysler and Jeep to the distributorship, sold out to Beaudry Motors of Tucson which eventually went bankrupt thus the end of new car dealerships in Benson. The competition of the large dealerships in both Tucson and Sierra Vista proved to be too strong which spelled the demise of new car dealerships in Benson. Now the only car dealership in Benson is Barney’s used car dealership.

Photos provided by Stan Benjamin Southern Arizona Historian


Silver Spur Club — formerly 1918 Ford Dealership
1918 Ford Dealership (Misenhimer painting by M. Jennings)
Present day building as it was rebuilt after the Silver Spur Club fire.

S. B. Moss Studebaker Dealership located on 4th Street in the 1920s

This is the B. F. Goodrich that was located next to the San Pedro Court Motel on the SE corner of Patagonia and 4th. It relocated to a larger building in East Benson which became the right half of the current Napa Auto which previously was Lopshire’s Ford then Cholla Ford and last Lawley Ford.

This is the right half of the current Napa Auto which was Lopshire’s Ford then Cholla Ford and last Lawley Ford.

Present day building that was originally Lopshire’s Ford and later both Cholla and Lawley Ford.

The right half of the building was a B.F. Goodrich store which Dick Lopshire had relocated from a smaller building on 4th and Patagonia. The left half was added as a showroom and maintenance vehicle service and maintenance area.

Present day Sarge’s Sidearms, formerly C&H Metal Works and Benson Auto.

Memories of Benson — 1962 and earlier

In the middle 50’s all grammar school students were required to line up by grade groups outside before the start of school to say the pledge of allegiance while the flag was being raised. A boy who played the trumpet played a patriotic tune while the flag was being raised. That old flag pole was the only element of the beautiful grammar school that remains today.

All girls wore dresses or skirts. No pants or casual wear was ever used or allowed at school.

On the last day of high school my senior year a couple of us boys wore Bermuda shorts to school. We were told we had to go home and change clothes to attend the last school day.

The senior class each year would take a senior trip to Disneyland, the beach, and other Los Angeles, CA attractions. We also went to the Coconut Grove in Hollywood which was a popular night club. Lawrence Welk was performing as I recall. Sharon Hesser was called upon to dance the polka with one of the musicians.

The seniors in the class of ’57 or ’58 went to Mexico for their senior trip. My cousins Connie Caballero and Amelia Romero were in that class. Do seniors still take senior trips??

The freshman classes were initiated each year at the beginning of the school year. The boys in 1958 (my first year in HS) had to wear girls slips, wear makeup, and do chores for the sophomores. Do they still have this initiation custom?

A huge bonfire was built on the baseball field at night during the first week of school prior to the first football game. The coaches and team captains spoke. Afterward, a long line of students held hands and ran through the center of town. The long line was called a whip and it was difficult to stay in contact with the person in front it went so fast and zig-zagged down the streets.

Sierra Vista didn’t become a town until the 50’s.  The first time we played football at Sierra Vista (a class A school, we were class B) we had to play in the afternoon on a dirt field. Sierra Vista was a brand new school and still had not planted grass nor installed lights.

The public swimming pool was located about a mile outside of town. It was run by the City. The girls on the pom-pom squad took turns there working during the summer selling candy and soft drinks and charging the 25 cent entry fee. Fernando Mendival (class of ’57 or so?) was the head life guard and a small group of us soon-to-be seniors helped as assistant life guards. We “worked” for 50 cents an hour. We were Dewitt Casner, Bobby Caballero, George Potter, and Steve Woods. Each day the cash register started out with $20 in it. At the end of the summer the City let us life guards have the final $20 to go to Tombstone  for a pizza dinner. That was the first time many of us had ever tasted a pizza pie. It was delicious. Benson did not have a restaurant that sold pizza. I don’t remember any girl wearing a bikini or even a two piece bathing suit. They all wore the old fashioned one-piece style bathing suits.

And of course the public swimming pool was not the only swimming resource.  I wonder if  today’s kids ever swim in stock tanks?  It was probably pretty unsanitary, but fun.

Mr. Becchetti’s Acceptance Speech

This is the text of the speech given by Mr. Becchetti on the occasion of accepting his Honorary Alumnus status at the First Annual BBAA Dinner.

It’s good to be back in Benson with friends and former students who are enjoying their Golden Years in this beautiful land.

Oh! How I’ve missed this wonderful corner of Arizona!

While I was here those eleven years, I drank in its beauty. I thrilled to the fiery skies of sunset in the west and learned to love the quiet of twilight as it settles over the Whetstone mountains.

I remember standing on the banks of the San Pedro river after a cloudburst in the mountains and marveling at the power of its muddy waters.

I listened to the words around me and perhaps took on some of the slow and gentle way of saying things that I heard, so that I might be mistaken as being from the San Pedro Valley from my birth.

I heard of the Apaches high in the Dragoons and of their noble chief Cochise; and on the streets of Benson, specially at rodeo time, I saw honest-to-goodness real cowboys and watched them on parade, their horses prancing proudly, with silver trappings shining in the sun.

I even got a glimpse of the best cowboy of them all, Benson’s own Del Haverty, the All Round World Champion Cowboy of 1951, and heard the story of how he used to sit at his school desk and practice his calf-tying with a rope that he always carried.

Along with everybody else, I learned and sang the first few words of all the cowboy songs we heard on the radio, and I actually heard coyotes howling at night.

Once, I picked up a horned toad, flipped him over on his back and hypnotized him by tickling his belly.

And then there was cactus. I remember the beautiful snow white cholla that lay in wait for you and jumped on your legs and wouldn’t let go. I even sneaked up on a prickly pear cactus one time and picked one of its red fruits to eat.

And the kids living down by Lourdes Church told me how their grandma — their abuelita – kept them from wandering off at night by telling them of La Llorona, the weeping woman who roamed the streets in search of her lost children, and of how she might take you with her, never to be seen again.

All these things I remember about the San Pedro Valley, and I will never forget them.

So I am thrilled beyond all measure to be back and to join my distinguished companions Mark Battaglia, Linda Lou Lamb and Gilberto Zamudio as Honorary Alumni of Benson High. I thank the Benson Bobcat Alumni Association for this honor, and I am especially appreciative of the courtesy that the president of the Association, Chic Maldonado, has shown me on my trip.

Thanks to this title of Honorary Alumnus, I now have the same “Alma Mater” as the five hundred students that I taught for eleven years from 1950-1961.

In addition, I have now become a “blood brother” to the thousands of men and women of the San Pedro Valley who have graduated from Benson’s schools since they hired their first teacher 142 years ago.

In the fall of 1875, while Apaches still launched their attacks from the Dragoon Mountains, the settlers in the Valley hired Mary Belle Bernard Aguirre as their first teacher. Mrs. Aguirre established her first school in the settlement of Tres Alamos, on the east bank of the San Pedro river, about seven miles upriver from Benson. She taught 23 students of all ages in a one-room adobe house with a dirt floor. She and her students walked a mile each day to the school.

Unfortunately, the school had to be closed the following spring because of Indian attacks, so Mrs. Aguirre and her son returned to their home in Tucson, but the determined settlers re-opened the school the next year with a teacher from San Francisco.

Tonight’s dinner celebrates all those graduates of the past 142 years. We also honor all the teachers who have taken the children of the Valley and molded them into cultured men and women who have made significant contributions to American society.

Above all, we do honor to the citizens of the San Pedro Valley and to the School Board for their constant dedication to the education of their children.

The attractive campus in Benson and its exciting activities give testimony to the concern that the good people of the Valley have always had for the future of their children. All the teachers in Benson can give testimony to the support that they have received from the citizens of the Valley.

After seeing the quality of the educational facilities in Benson, we alumni are certain that future graduates will bring credit to their parents and to all the residents of the San Pedro Valley.

I join with my fellow Honorary Alumni in congratulating all the graduates, the members of the School Board, all the teachers and all the Valley citizens for their contributions to the good education of our young people.