Benson in the 1950s
by Jim Jans
The peak of entertainment for Benson kids was in the 1950s. Television was in its infancy, no color, only Black and White and reception was poor. The local Tucson stations were moving their transmitters to Mt. Bigalow. Finally the reception in Benson was going to be great. Of course there were only four channels then and most were limited in hours from about 4pm to 10pm daily.
On the local scene in Benson, Garnet Barker had just built a roller skating rink at the east end of town and Carl Behrendt built an eight lane bowing alley on the west end of town. There was a rifle range on the west end of town and Cal Vance started a junior NRA rifle club.
In the center of town was a Pool Hall that had moved from next to the Silver Spur Bar to two doors east of the indoor Movie Theatre. A new Drive-in Movie theatre was built out on highway 80 south of town.
Benson also had its first fast-food restaurant — the A&W Root Beer Stand on the west end of town, complete with car hops.
The High School went from 6 man football to 11 man football and the school chorus went from an all girl chorus to a mixed chorus. All but eight high school kids were in the chorus!
Of course every Labor Day there was a parade. In the 1950s the parade was routed down 4th street and that was when there was no I-10 and 4th street was the main highway from east to west through Benson.
For the smaller children there was more entertainment. The Carnation Milk Company would pull what was called a Dairy-Go-Round up in front of Wilson’s Cash Market (located where Car Quest is currently located.) It would provide rides inside the vehicle for small kids. Also Shamrock Dairy had the Shamrock Dairy Stage Line that would give kids rides.
The law was changed to obtain a restricted drivers license at 15 for kids that had motor scooters and several young men had one.
Benson even had a small lake in east Benson where you could fish, called Arnold Lake after Vern Arnold who built it. It was located below the hill between the hill and County Road. It later became a development for manufactured homes after the lake was drained.
None of the above entertainment exists in Benson today. What do today’s kids do for entertainment?
Jimmy will be writing a regular historical column for the Alumni Association newsletter.