Link to YouTube Link to Live Stream Link to Instagram Link to Pinterest Link to Twitter Link to Facebook


The War Years 1940 - 1950 - Part 1

The leading important change of the decade 1940-50 was the hiring of Robert D. Morrow on January 7, 1941, to serve as superintendent of Tucson School District 1 beginning July 1, 1941. This signaled the beginning of an era when the population explosion placed the greatest stresses on the school system and of an era in which the somewhat stagnant educational system of District 1 developed into one of the most progressive and advanced systems in the United States.

The School Board minutes of January 7, 1941, contain this report from Board President Fickett:

"The School Board, after several months of investigation and consideration of a great number of applicants for the position of Superintendent of Schools, District No. One, from which Mr. Rose is voluntarily retiring next July 1st, have unanimously agreed upon the election of Mr. Robert D. Morrow, who is at present Superintendent of the Arizona State School for Deaf and Blind, for a four-year term, and Mr. Morrow has agreed to accept the appointment."

Morrow was born in Pawnee City, Nebraska, June 14, 1903. He graduated from high school at Washington, Iowa, in 1921 and spent two and one-half years at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, which in 1957 conferred upon him his honorary Doctor’s Degree in Humanities. He received an A.B. degree from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and an M.A. degree from Gallaudet College, Washington, D.C. in 1927. He also was awarded an M.A. degree by the University of Arizona in 1942.

He was married to Elizabeth H. Sowell and had two children, one of them still living, Mrs. Jack Rowe of Tucson. The Morrows have three grandchildren.

After experience in teaching in schools for the deaf in Missouri and Iowa, Morrow became Superintendent of the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson in 1932 and served in that capacity until appointed Superintendent of Tucson School District 1.

Morrow, who is retiring at the end of the 1967-68 school year, has been active in the community in the Red Cross, YMCA, United Community Campaign, Boy Scouts, City-County Recreation Department, National Foundation for Asthmatic Children, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Arizona Children’s Colony, Tucson Child Guidance Clinic, Tucson Family Service Agency and Tucson Symphony Orchestra, serving on the Board of Directors and as chairman of many of these organizations. He is a former president and board member of the Tucson Rotary Club and serves as a member of several state and national education associations and school administrators’ organizations.

Honors have included state and local Council on Civic Unity, "Man of the Year" in 1954, the 1955 award for outstanding community service by the Brotherhood of Christians and Jews, and citations by Time Magazine and other national publications for spearheading desegregation in Tucson Schools.

He has frequently conducted workshops and has been a principal speaker on educational problems at national conferences and conventions.

Morrow’s immediate problem upon accepting the appointment as superintendent was the ever-increasing enrollment of the school system and providing more classrooms for the students. In this, he was hampered by building restrictions imposed as a result of World War II.

A year before Morrow took office, the Pasqua School for the Yaqui Indian children was unable to provide space for the students. The school, it will be remembered, was built by the Yaquis themselves and the Board seemed not inclined to enlarge it without continued Yaqui labor. On April 11, 1940, the Pasqua teacher, Dolores Wright, informed the Board that if the district would provide the lumber and hardware for an additional room, the Yaquis would furnish the adobes and labor. This, the Board agreed to do. That spring, plans were also drawn for additions to other schools, particularly Dunbar, Government Heights and El Rio (Manzo) .

On April 3, 1941, the retiring Superintendent Rose recommended to the Board the calling of a bond issue of $450,000 for this remodeling work and for the building of a new junior high school on the northeast of town (Catalina, now Doolen) and two new elementary schools (Blenman and Jefferson Park). He also asked for a new administration building, planning to take the growing administration staff from the apartment house west of Safford School and build on the present site of Education Center, 1010 E. 10th St. Some remodeling of the high school was also recommended.

The bonds were approved on May 21, 1941, with 688 "Yes" votes and 266 "No" votes. To assist with construction costs, the Board on August 16, 1941, applied to the Federal Works Agency, Defense Public Works Division, for a grant to finance new buildings and additions to buildings. This federal money was made available due to the increased school enrollment of children of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Ft. Huachuca personnel. Earlier that spring, the federal government had authorized certain payments in lieu of taxes for school operation because of the Federal Housing Project of 135 dwelling units in Tucson, occupied by persons engaged in National Defense activities.

The contract for the construction of Blenman School was awarded on September 29, 1941, to Jay J. Garfield for $64,530. Architect was H. O. Jaastad.

Blenman School was named for Judge Charles Blenman, an early settler and land developer in Tucson.

Born in Torquay, Devonshire, England, on December 18, 1859, Blenman took his law degree at Oxford after which he served his apprenticeship for five years in a law office--the custom in that era. He decided to try his fortunes in America and sailed on a windjammer from Southampton about 1887.

The trip was non-stop around Cape Horn and 145 days later, he arrived in San Francisco where he passed the state bar examination and subsequently took out citizenship papers. Blenman first visited Arizona shortly after the railroad was completed. He arrived in Tombstone in 1889 or 1890 to defend an accused man on trial for his life. Blenman’s "impassioned plea" resulted in life imprisonment which was unusual for those days.

Blenman liked Arizona and settled in Tucson in 1893 and set up a law practice. In 1897, he homesteaded a square mile of desert now bounded by Tucson Boulevard, Speedway, Country Club Road and Grant Road. The nearest building to the homestead at that time was Old Main at the University of Arizona. Blenman developed part of his property into what later became known as the Biltmore Addition and Blenman Addition. Blenman School now stands on part of the land.

Blenman was instrumental in establishing the San Xavier Indian Reservation, having made trips to Washington at his own expense during which he had appointments with the President and other high officials. He was also a Democratic national committeeman from Arizona.

Originally, Blenman Elementary School, at 1600 N. Country Club, was composed of six classrooms. In 1945, six rooms were added for the contract price of $41,418.45. Ten classrooms, an all-purpose room and kitchen, a work room, storage space and an expansion of toilet facilities were built in 1948-49 by Joynt Construction Co. at a construction cost of $212,487.

On October 7, 1941, M. M. Sundt Construction Co. entered a low bid of $43,273 for construction of the new Education Center. On the same date, the Garfield firm submitted a low bid of $145,457 for the 1 2-classroom Catalina (Doolen) Junior High School. Architect for Doolen was M. H. Starkweather.

The new administration building of 15 rooms was accepted by the Board on March 5, 942. Six rooms were added in 1948 by Craven-Hague Construction Co. for $16,890. Architect as Joseph T. Joesler.

The shops to the rear of the building were converted to offices in 1953.

In 1955, the Medical-Dental Building on lots to the east of Education Center was constructed by the W. F. Conelly Construction Co. for $95,219. It had 22 rooms. The building has been used by the Health Department for any years.

Another addition of 50 rooms to Education Center was constructed by Murray J. Shiff Construction Co. in 1956-57 on a low base bid of $497,703.

On December 20, 1966, the Ruck Construction Co. entered a low bid of $200,750 for a two-story addition to the rear of the Health Building. The Business Administration addition completed in 1967 houses the District’s Data Processing equipment and minor business offices.

In 1957, it was decided to name future high schools after the surrounding mountains and the name "Catalina" was given to the new high school at 3645 E. Pima St. The name of Catalina Junior High School was then changed to Doolen Junior High School.

Coach Bryan C. (Bud) Doolen, for whom the school was named, was born in Kinmundy, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois the days of Harold (Red) Grange and was a our-sport star at Illinois and Southern Illinois.

A successful coach in Illinois high schools, hecame to Miami, Arizona, in 1929 where his Bryan C. (Bud) Doolen teams achieved fame throughout the state. After his move to Tucson High School in 1935, he became well-known in basketball coaching circles and his "Badgers" were always good teams.

The Tucson High School basketball squads won state tournament championships in 1942, 1945, 1948 and 1949, securing a number of regular-season titles as well. At one time the Doolen-trained teams won 51 consecutive games.

Bud Doolen continued coaching at THS for 20 years. He died February 13, 1955, at the age of 57. His widow, Mrs. Berenice Doolen, was a teacher at Cragin Elementary School and retired in 1967.

Two barracks buildings were moved to the Doolen site in 1945 and 1947 and in 1952, a 14-room addition was completed by F. B. Pacheco Co. at a bid of $329,482.44. Four more rooms were built in 1956 by J. A. Binns on a bid of $91,775 and in 1960, 10 classrooms were added by Campbell-Polk Construction Co. on a bid of $248,600. A multi-purpose room costing $210,543 was added in 1962.

In the fall of 1941, plans were being drawn for Jefferson Park School after a small portion of Jefferson Park Addition was annexed to School District 1. On April 6, the contract for Jefferson Park School was awarded to Bailey & McCoy at $52,237, but 18 days later, the federal government ordered that the contract be cancelled due to shortage of materials.

There was no building done by the District until 1945, when the government permitted the construction of Jefferson Park School. James Macmillan was the architect. This time the bid for the six-room school at 1701 E. Seneca St. was given to Jay J. Garfield, January 4, 1945, for $68,300. In addition to the six classrooms, the building was designed with a nurse’s office and an administrative office. In 1949, seven classrooms, a teachers’ lounge, a workroom and a community room were added at a cost of $197,123.

When construction resumed in 1945 in the district, additions were made to El Rio, Government Heights, Blenman, Mission View, Tucson High School, Wakefield, and one new elementary school, besides Jefferson Park, was constructed before 1950. The THS construction included various additions and the new Vocational High School Building.

These improvements--and others planned for the future--were financed by two successful bond issues, one in 1946 and the second in 1948.

The 1946 bond issue, approved by the voters on May 14, called for $1,250,000 for the High School District and $850,000 for the Elementary School District. The high school issue passed 867 to 108 and the elementary school issue was approved by a vote of 868 to 107. Interest was two per cent.

The 1948 bond issue, approved by the voters May 8, asked for $600,000 for the High School District and $2,676,000 for the Elementary School District. Both issues were approved 928 to 78. These bonds called for four per cent interest.

On February 11, 1948, the contract for the Clinton E. Rose School was awarded to M. M. Sundt Construction Co. at $261,493. The school had 15 classrooms, administrative offices and a nurse’s room. Architect was Arthur T. Brown.

The career of Rose has been reported earlier in this volume. He was made Superintendent Emeritus upon his retirement in 1941 and he died a short time later in June, 1942.

In 1954, seven classrooms were added to Rose at a cost of $81,104. The building was remodeled and new heating and cooling systems were installed in 1957 at a cost of $45,038.34.

M. B. Abplanalp won the low bid in 1960 to build five new classrooms and an all-purpose room at an actual cost of $224,108.38. A portable classroom was added in 1966. First principal was Rolen O. Edmonds, who retired at the end of the 1966-67 school year.

On April 29, 1948, the School District again inherited a school and along with it $14,457.88 in cash. A petition on that date was presented to the District 1 School Board signed by more than 50 per cent of the Ft. Lowell School District’s voters asking that the district be annexed. It was immediately accepted.

Some time later, the Ft. Lowell District’s School Board discovered that there would be a $14,457.88 cash balance in the school account on July 1. So on June 30, the Ft. Lowell Board asked District 1 to allow the Ft. Lowell people to spend the balance. According to the Board minutes. "Motion was made to file the letter and notify the Board that it was too late to do anything about spending the budget balance."

One school building was owned by the Ft. Lowell District.

The history of Ft. Ltowell School dates back to 1883, when Lt. William H. Carter, quarter master at Ft. Lowell, made a requisition for a separate building to house a chapel and school. No immediate action was taken but in 1886 a library and school were located in a building on the Ft. Lowell grounds at Swan Road and Craycroft.

The need for a new school became acute, so in 1908, a building was constructed off the military grounds on East Fort Lowell Road. It was located adjacent to the old Fort Lowell Union Church, which was located at 5515 E. Ft. Lowell before it was closed. A Mr. Jordan is recorded as furnishing the land for the school and J. Knox Corbett paid for the building, being repaid in following years by rent, paid by the school board. Mrs. Hazel Putney taught the first classes in the school in 1908. Later, increased enrollment made it necessary to use the little church nearby as an annex.

A movement was started in the district for the construction of a new building and a dispute arose over the location. Some residents of the district wanted the new school situated on a site farther to the east in the area of the Pantano Wash. Others wanted it located in the south side of the district. The latter group won the dispute in a hotly-contested vote and 10 acres of land were purchased from Albert Steinfeld at 5151 E. Pima Avenue, where the present building now stands. Construction was completed in 1929.

At the time the school was annexed, it consisted of seven rooms. In 1950-51, four classrooms, a community room, nurse’s room and administrative facilities were added at a cost of $115,245.58. Eight more rooms were built with federal funds in 1 954 at a cost of $ 116,708. An old section of the school was torn down in 1956 and six classrooms were added by the A. C. LaRue Construction Co. at a cost of $113,900.

Another construction during the 1940-50 decade was the rebuilding of Drachman School which was 80 percent destroyed by fire on October 25, 1948. A burglar, lighting his way with kitchen matches, was responsible for the blaze. In order to pay for reconstruction, the Board was forced to obtain permission from the Pima County Board of Supervisors to exceed the budget. On March 12, 1949, the M. M. Sundt Construction Co. submitted the low bid of $200,053. The reconstruction was finished in 1950.

Also started in 1949, was the building of Peter E. Howell School, at 417 N. Irving. It was completed in 1950 by the H. L. McCoy Construction Co. on a bid submitted April 4, 1949, at $317,720. Achitect was Emerson C. Scholer.

Originally, Howell School was built with 22 classrooms, a community room, administrative offices and a nurse’s room. It was the first air conditioned (evaporative coolers) school to be built in School District 1. One portable classroom was placed at the school in 1963.

During the first semester of its existence, Howell School was called "Longfellow" after Longfellow Avenue in the area. On September 20, 1950, it was renamed and rededicated as the Peter Howell School in honor of Peter E Howell, School Board member for 14 years and pioneer Tucsonian.

Howell was born in Ontario, Canada, April 24, 1874. He came to Tucson in 1900 and his first business venture was the operation of the "Modern Barber Shop," which became a local landmark and gathering spot for Tucson personages of the period.

He served as Pima County Recorder under the Territorial government and was the first County Recorder after Arizona became a state. He was married and had two children, a son and daughter.

Howell took a leading part in numerous activities to help Tucson youth, such as the "Big Brother" programs and the sponsoring of scholarships through such organizations as the Masons and Elks. He died January 17, 1952. Principal at Howell is Leslie H. McQuary.

Another building which came into the possession of School District 1 during the 1940-50 decade deserves mentioning.

This was a house willed to the School District by a Mrs. Cunningham. It was located at 76 S. Main Avenue and was used by the District for some years as a dental clinic and a central kitchen. It was sold in 1963.

The School District during the 1940-50 decade attempted to provide all children with an education including those who were unable to attend the public schools. Included in this effort was the assignment of teachers to Comstock Children's Hospital, Tucson Medical Center and the Pima County Preventorium.

The Preventorium was operated by the Pima County Health and Welfare Department for underprivileged children with tubercular contacts. Children from three to 18 years of age were in residence attendance.

The Preventorium occupied two camps. The summer camp was maintained in Oracle because of the milder climate. The winter camp was located in an abandoned CCC Camp 15 miles from Tucson in the Tucson Mountains, where the present Pima County Palo Verde Camping and Picnic Grounds are located.

On June 2, 1941, Tucson School District 1 Board passed a resolution "to notify the county superintendent that this district is willing to take in the Preventorium." The District furnished eight teachers for the school, including Miss May N. Don, now principal of Gump School and first Chinese teacher employed by I the District. Another employee, the head resident, was Robert Morton who is now head printer in the printing shop at Education Center.

Added duties as principal of the Preventorium were given Jonathan Booth, Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Because of the difficulties of running the camp during the war, it was closed permanently in 1944.

The war years of World War II produced a number of problems for School District 1.

The first official mention of the war by the School Board was on April 11, 1940--before the United States became involved. At that time the Board resolved to ask the State Board of Education "Not to make any changes in their the histories or the geographies used in the school as long as the present unsettled condions continue in Europe and other parts of the world." In June of that year, teachers who were Reserve Officers and any other teacher called into the service were given leaves of absence and their positions were held for them upon their return. Re-employment was not guaranteed, however, to teachers who left the district to accept employment in war industries. New teachers were placed on probationary status so that they could be released if the number of returning teachers required their release.

The war came up again on October 9, 1940, when the Board decided to charge $65 per year tuition to any English refugee children who might be taken in by Tucson families and who would attend District schools.

On March 10, 1941, the Board decided to teach National Defense Education classes in machinists' welding and sheet metal airplane construction.

War hysteria was avoided as much as possible by the School Board. After Pearl Harbor, the fear spread that the Western States would be bombed by Japanese aircraft operating in the Pacific and suggestions were made as to the safety of Tucson school children to the Board. The School Board minutes of March 17, 1942, indicate a note of calm:

"The matter brought up for attention was the need for identification tags for school children in case of air raids. As the need for action in this matter seems more or less remote, the recommendation of the committee in charge of Air Raid Defense was tabled for future action."

At a later meeting that year, the "matter of war insurance" on the buildings was discussed but the Board decided not to take any action.

War pressure on the teaching faculty continued to increase. On September 1, 1942, Supt. Morrow reported to the Board that the District was receiving four to seven resignations a week from both men and women teachers entering the services.

First Hundred Years, By James F. Cooper, Edited by John H. Fahr, Tucson, Arizona, 1967