Chandler History program

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A look at Chandler’s “history in your own backyard” program.

Ted Simons: Recently, the City of Chandler received an award from the American association of state and local history for its "history in your own backyard" program. Producer David Majure and photographer Scot Olson take us to Chandler to see what the program's all about.

David Majure: The Chandler, Arizona, we know today was shaped by its many yesterdays. By pioneer families who farmed this land and community leaders who formed this city. Their stories are enshrined on informational kiosks in city parks.

Man: We take the history to the location where the history was made and this allows people to really get an appreciation of what was here before their neighborhoods were here and brings the history to the forefront.

David Majure: It's Chandler's history in your backyard program.

Dorothy Ruoff: Here's our park. Right across the street.

David Majure: People like Dorothy, who before marrying her husband, spent her childhood as Dorothy Woods in the silk stocking neighborhood. It's located near the intersection of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard where it park was built.

Dorothy Ruoff: If you come around on this side, you can see the houses that were here in the silk stocking neighborhood. This is my house at 245, my brother and my sisters and I, I'm right here. My younger sister, my older sister and my brother.

David Majure: Dorothy's house was built in 1921, her parents owned it many years later.

Dorothy Ruoff: They bought the house when I was three months old and moved in 1937. Dr. Chandler had in the original design of this city, he designated what it cost to build houses in certain areas and if you built a house north of Cleveland street, which is now Chandler boulevard, if you built a house north of Cleveland street it had to cost $3,000. And the idea was if you could afford a $3,000 house, you could afford to buy your wife silk stockings. And so it became kind of -- you know, jokingly called the silk stocking neighborhood. They bought this for $2,050. We have the bill of sale for the property and whoever built it spent $3,000 on it and they got a bargain.

David Majure: Chandler's roots are in agriculture. It is a small urban island surrounded by miles of farms and fields.

Dorothy Ruoff: To go to Phoenix was always an adventure because there were only a few paved roads.

David Majure: It was an adventure that some African American students experienced every day as they were bussed from Chandler to carver high school in downtown Phoenix. One of them, Willie Arbuckle is pictured here.

Willie Arbuckle: That's me. That's me and our ROTC military uniform and I enjoyed playing soldier.

David Majure: That ended in 1949 when schools were integrated and Willie was sent to Chandler High.

Willie Arbuckle: Four of us. The first four African American students to attend Chandler. In 1951, Robert Turner and I were the first two African Americans to graduate from Chandler High School.

David Majure: That's his history. But Arbuckle Park is named for his mother. They moved to Chandler to work the fields picking cotton. Her husband died when Willie was eight. Leaving her to care for five kids on her own. She cared for them and just about everyone else in Chandler's African American community.

Willie Arbuckle: She was just a force for good.

David Majure: She became a community leader who will be remembered as a peacekeeper.

Willie Arbuckle: 1968, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. An African American male, down through town tearing up stuff. Which was a big mistake.

David Majure: She calmed their nerves and talked them into a solidarity march.

Willie Arbuckle: She was a stabilizing influence in our part of the city.

>> Always been proud to say that Chandler was my hometown. Thank you. [Applause]

David Majure: There are the stories of people who made the city what it is today. A city where learning about history is a walk in the park.

Ted Simons: Earlier this month on Veteran's Day, Chandler dedicated a World War II veterans' kiosk. It's the last of nine neighborhood history kiosks placed throughout the city.

Chandler History Program

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