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home : baby boomers : baby boomers April 29, 2016

7/19/2011 1:07:00 PM
Baby Boomers
2011: Baby Boomers Made A Big Boom In Old Jerome
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Birthday party in 1962. Submitted by Steve Ayers of Camp Verde.
Richard Martin

Richard Martin, 2011

By the end of the 1960’s, Jerome, Arizona, the once proud copper mining capital of Arizona, was in ruins. The great mines and smelters were closed by 1953. Buildings were crumbling in the hot sun, roofs collapsing under the weight of winter snows. Second and third generation family homes were traded to settle unpaid grocery bills.

Jerome’s infrastructure was like a collapsing vortex, sucking up all the energy of the remaining few citizens. They were left eking out a few dollars from a tiny economy of tourism fed by a slim but steady flow of traffic on US 89A, just to be able to fill a glass with water and flush the toilet.

Simultaneously, all across America, the bulging generation known as the “baby boomers” was on the move. A wave of young people born in the aftermath of World War Two, reared by the heroes who came home from that war with pride, full of ideals and enthusiasm. Their children, the ubiquitous baby boomer kids, were born into troubled times - living through the Korean War, trained to duck under desks when Cold War sirens blew, terrorized by the Cuban Crises conjuring visions of nuclear destruction, the first hints of environmental degradation, and as they came of age, drafted into a incomprehensible war in a far away place called Viet Nam.

A generation on the move, looking for a respite from world seemingly mad, by ones and twos, the restless boomers slowly started filling in the empty spots on the Jerome map. Weeds were cut, broken windows repaired and workshops built. Fine handicrafts and arts that powered Jerome’s renaissance poured forth enabling a new kind of economy and giving rebirth to the town’s crumbling business district, lights came on and from afar Jerome once again began to twinkle in the Valley’s night sky.

Counter culture dreams were first turned into a handmade pottery shop, then an artisan clothing store. Sketches became murals; turquoise, silver, and pipestone were turned into gorgeous jewelry; musical instruments, wooden furniture and toys, and great restaurants followed. Families stocked with cute kids would eventually fill pickup trucks, beat clunkers and stuffed minivans heading off for a refreshing day at the Verde River.

Time out’s were brief as waves of young folks aged and turned their hands to the important tasks of rebuilding the towns water and sewer systems. The regular, yet random geysers of water bursting forth from the town’s stone and concrete streets faded into memory as mile after mile of new water pipes replaced the turn-of-the-century riveted and wrapped steel pipes corroding in the mineral heavy soils of Cleopatra Hill.

Ancient fire trucks, staffed by equally ancient old timers, were blended into a fire department composed of both boomer men and women, who successfully wielded updated equipment to spare the town they loved from the destruction of hungry flames.

The town’s legislative decisions were made by a consortium of over-weight old timers and the bearded, head banded immigrants who now called Jerome home. They also controlled the purse strings, meager as they were, that provided for police protection, trash removal, park beautification, sidewalk repair, sewer reconstruction, library relocation, a new town hall, zoning ordinances and an influx of thousands of curious tourists daily.

Those same boomers took on the honorable task of preserving the history and memories of the mountainside mining town, restoring business buildings, redeveloping lost living units, and refurbishing town meeting halls, which added to the now vibrant palette of colorful characters composing today’s Town of Jerome.

As the sun starts to set on the baby boom generation and the boomers slip into the shadows, it’s probably good to reflect for a moment on those crucial contributions made to the survival of this unique community – contributions that came from the very soul of the “peace and love” generation, leaving behind their legacy of dreams, a better community rebuilt with the same kind of sweat and determination that built the town established in the 1870’s.

In the end, “we” have become “them” and that is a good thing.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011
Article comment by: Mary Beth Fishpaw (Phelps)

What a great article, Richard! I came to Jerome a little later, 1979, and like Doyle, I will always consider it as my "hometown" also. I've seen Jerome go through many transformations through the years, to the thriving town it has become. I agree, the story must continue.

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011
Article comment by: susan dowling fox

It was a great time, a memory never to be forgotten. I can only hope our children find such a magical place to grow their families.

Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Article comment by: Doyle Vines

Thank you, Richard. Just as we must not forget our forefather's contributions, history should not forget ours. I know in my heart that Jerome would have fallen into uninhabitable decay, or worse, become blatently commercial and ugly, were it not for us. Many gave much with virtually no reward except the satisfaction of doing the right thing. Jerome will always be my 'hometown'. I hope Jerome will always appreciate the unselfish contribution of our generation. We must keep on telling the story.

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