1960 at Age 43

Alton Scott Foster
autobiography
God Bless
America!

Introduction

My name is Alton S. Foster, and I was born in Clovis, New Mexico, Curry County. My birth date is 28 February 1917. My Father's name is Hugh Ernest Foster and my Mother's name is Mabel Mavis Elliott Foster. I have one older sister, named Ilene Foster Stofer and one younger sister, named Maxine Thompson Foster.

Early life history

My earliest remembrance of my life was when my parents lived on a dairy farm in Clovis, New Mexico. I remember, my older sister and I huddled on the porch and watching it hail and it seemed that the hailstones were as big as oranges. I also remember my Father taking feed to the cows and hailstones beating down on the cloth top of his four-door car, until we were forced to find shelter underneath the car. Also, I remember going after the cows and seeing tarantulas, which seemed as large as turtles.

Our farm house burned down and I remember my Mother awakening us kids and taking us out in the yard to see the balls of orange flame and black smoke coming from the burning house.

In the year 1921, my Mother and us kids moved to Globe, Arizona to live with my Mother's half sister, named Clara Miller.
I remember the train ride to Globe and sticking my head out of the window and getting a cinder in my eye.

(See additional stories on Arizona at the time our Foster's came to Arizona)

Also, I remember looking off a railroad bridge and seeing cattle below and they seemed as small as dogs. My Aunt Clara's husband's name is Willis Miller, however we called him Uncle Fat, because, of course, he was fat. He liked to eat and it showed. On Easter Sunday he would always eat twelve soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. Aunt Clara was a wonderful cook and she made the best peach cobbler with plenty of fresh cream from our own Jersey cow. Aunt Clara raised hogs for our own use as well as selling them to market. When it was time to butcher a hog, she would give me a butcher knife to slit the throat of the hog when she shot it with the 22 rifle. This was well and good, however when she shot a hog, then all the hogs started squealing and running around the pen and I could not tell which hog to attack, however that did not stop Aunt Clara from shouting, "Stick him Bucko, Stick him Bucko!"

I had lots of open country on the Miller Ranch to explore. One of my many trips I would take an Irish potato and go out on my own and build a fire and when it was almost out I would bury the potato in the coals and wait for it to bake and have a feast on my own cooking. On another one of these trips I, found a dead crow and I hung him on a fence and hit him with my fist and a watery substance came out of the crow and hit me in the face and I thought I was poisoned, because of the foul smell. Another time, I was playing quite a ways from home and it started to rain.  I heard a loud noise coming down the dry wash where I had been playing.  I scrambled up the bank just in time to see the muddy water, trees and trash coming down the wash where I had just been.  That was close.

Aunt Clara was about 14 years of age when she ran away from home and joined up with Sam Bass,   who had been a member of the Jesse James Gang. Aunt Clara was pregnant with her first child, later to be named Dick, and fully expected to ride with her boy friend on a raiding party, but Jesse James made her stay in camp alone. While they were away she gave birth all alone. I tell this, because she had a hard life and was as tough as nails.

Uncle Fat told me he knew to the exact day, month and year that he quit drinking. It was because Aunt Clara told him one time when he came home drunk, that if ever again he came home drunk that she would give him the licking of his life. He temporarily forgot this threat, because one night he came home after having been out with the boys and Aunt Clara met him at the door with a stick of firewood and carried out her threat. Aunt Clara was always good to me and I loved her.

On another occasion Aunt Clara made some homemade pies and set them out on the screen porch to cool. As I was walking down to the well to get a fresh pail of water, I could smell those pies even at great distance. It was at this time, that as I approached the well, I saw an Indian on the other side of the well and I screamed to high heaven and Aunt Clara came running with her shotgun and calling that Indian every thing but a Lamanite, and boy could she curse. She could have taught a mule skinner a few chosen words. She later said, be damned if she was going to bake pies for a savage Indian. However, if I had not gone to the well, he might have stolen the fresh baked pies.

Uncle Fat made a homemade hot water system by connecting large iron pipes in a grid and placing them on supports near the ground level and the sun would heat them and the water inside, probably this was the first solar system in Globe, Arizona.

I, remember such cars as the Hupmobile, Star. Nash, Velie, Durant, and of course the Model T. I saw a Model T one time with red rubber tires and carbide lights.

Uncle Fat had a Model T Ford truck and he would go to Globe and pick up the <slop> from the restaurants and use this to feed the hogs that they raised. On one such trip, he took me with him and on the way home we stopped alongside the road and could hear someone moaning. The sound seemed to come from within a cave, and it was there that we found a woman, having been badly beaten and near death. Later we, found out that the victim was the wife of Francis Gilbert, who was the local band leader. The authorities apprehended a suspect by the name of Nigger Ward, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging at the State Prison at Florence, Ariz. Uncle Fat was asked to be a witness to this hanging and after he came back from seeing this hanging he said that this was one of the most horrible times of his life. The irony of this tragic event is that later on the authorities discovered that this woman had been a lover with Nigger Ward and that she had tried to brake off relations, to no avail.

I had a school girl friend, which lived at Wheatfield's, near Birch. Her name was Helen Parr, whose parents were friends of Aunt Clara. The Parr’s had a large garden and one evening we were pulling carrots and I proceeded to eat too many and boy did I ever get sick.

Aunt Clara drove a Model T Ford car and one morning she was taking me to school when a great big red bull  stood in the road and defied Aunt Clara to hit him. She stopped the car and blew the horn at him but he only pawed the ground and snorted. At this she uttered some muleskinner remarks and proceeded to run him off the road. All was well until he rammed his horns into the radiator. Enough is enough, Aunt Clara jumped from the car with crank in hand and beat that bull until he got his horns out of the radiator and she continued to beat him until he ran off the road. As we were walking for help with the car, I looked back at the Bull and he just stood there as if to say, "What the hell went wrong with that crazy woman?"

Uncle Fat worked for Miami Inspiration Copper Co; his job was to over see operations at their Water Plant at Birch, Ariz. I remember visiting him at work and seeing all the big frogs at the water plant.

Dick Miller's wife was named Minnie and I asked her, upon seeing that her stomach was unusually large, why she was so large and she responded that she had been eating too many potatoes. It was a long time before I got wiser to that excuse.

In those days there were lots of wild burros around our place and one could catch any one and claim it as your own. One afternoon, I captured one and rode it home and tied it up to a mesquite tree for the night. That night it rained all night and next morning I went out to ride the burro before I went to school and I barely got on it's back before it bucked me off and the fall broke my arm. I was afraid to tell my Mother exactly what had happened, because she had warned me not to ride those wild burros. So I told her that I had fallen off a fence.

Aunt Clara moved Grandpa and Grandma Elliott to Birch so they would be near her and my Mother in their old age. Grandpa liked his beer, so he proceeded to make some and after he had bottled it, he stored it in a little tin shed to age. One hot summer day, the beer started blowing up and he managed to save a few by drinking them to the point of getting too much and he became sick. He went to the outside privy to throw up and lost his teeth in the privy. When Aunt Clara found out about this she threatened to make him go head first into that privy and retrieve his false teeth.

While we lived with Aunt Clara in Birch my Mother worked in Globe for Globe Cleaners as a tailor. My mother was not the best of drivers; I remember she was driving a Model T Ford equipped with a Ruxel-Axle, which gave it more power. As she entered the gas station she hit one of the pumps and instead of stopping she pushed the gas pedal and engaged the power Ruxel-Axle and full steam ahead and mowed down the gas pump.

The few years that We spent at Birch with Aunt Clara was without doubt the best time of my youth in fact it was the only "home and family life that I knew".

I was about 8 years of age when we moved into Globe, Arizona where my mother worked. I missed the ranch at Birch And Aunt Clara and her ability to keep things exciting. I suppose that the most thing that I missed was Aunt Clara's cooking. I remember the homemade sausage, fresh milk and cream, peaches, cobblers, pork chops, fresh bread pastries (English meat pies). Aunt Clara always drank tea, which I also liked, but at night she served me Ovaltine to keep me from wetting the bed, however this was not always the case. My sister Ilene had TB and was confined in bed for a long time and soon recovered. I remember hearing about many people dying of TB in those days.

One day my mother told me that I should go get a job in order to support her with her expenses. So I found a job working one hour before school and after school at the Pay-N-Take-It grocery store. I sacked potatoes in 10-pound bags, swept floors stocked shelves, etc. Finally I worked in the meat market at the same store for a man by the name of Harry Bigby. It was here that I was working when they were building Coolidge Dam. I remember one of the cooks for the workers at the dam asked me for 5 pounds of pig liver and what a time I had trying to keep all that slippery liver on the scales. One of the part time butchers working for Harry Bigby said to him that he had heard that if a butcher accidentally cut off a finger, that he would get compensation for it, and Harry confirmed this to be true. This man was in need of money, so I saw him take the meat cleaver and cut off his own finger.

Also, I remember an elderly lady coming into the store and telling about having come from the bank where she had attempted to withdraw her life's savings. She said they closed the window in front of her as this was during the depression. This lady said this was $ 110 dollars, and was all of her life savings. This does not sound like a lot considering money standards of today. I was making 25 cents an hour at this time. Next door to the store building where I worked was a vacant building. The Government used this building to give out Salt Pork to those that needed it. I remember one man standing in line and making the statement that all he wanted was a chance to work and provide for his family.

When President Calvin Coolidge came through Globe on the train on his way to dedicate Coolidge Dam, my schoolteacher took us down to the train depot to see him. This was about 1930.  I was 13 years old.

My Mother was dating a man who managed the Upton Ice Cream Store and this may be where I accumulated the taste for ice cream. My sister Ilene went to live with my Father, who was a barber in Bisbee, Arizona. I never remember seeing my Father and Mother together as man and wife.

My sister Maxine and I were alone at home most of the time and made our own meals, such as a can of pork and beans, boloney sandwich or cold biscuit and peanut butter. On the weekends my Mother usually cooked us a hot meal, however it was never like Aunt Clara’s.

One Christmas, my Father sent me a new bicycle for Christmas; it was a Raleigh   made in Raleigh North, Carolina. Boy, what a fun time I had with this. It was equipped with a battery powered light and I remember riding home at night after scout meeting and what a thrill. I would take apart every part and reassemble it, oiling and greasing to be sure that it was in good working order.

My mother was the only wage earner in the family and things were rough in those days. I, remember saving the cardboard dividers from the shredded wheat cereal boxes, in order to put them in my shoes to cover the holes in the soles of my shoes. This minor repair would usually last until after recess at school.

This reminds me that one time while we were living at Birch, with Aunt Clara, I had gotten my shoes wet while playing in the rain. In order to dry them out before my mother came home that evening, I put them in the oven of the wood burning stove and started a fire. Not knowing how long to leave them in the oven, I waited too long and they were curled up like little elves shoes. I would have been better off to have left them wet and suffered the consequences.

In about 1927, my mother married Frank Pascoe, who seemed like my real father. This relationship was the nearest family association that I had ever experienced. Frank paid my way to Scout Camp one year, and this was one of the great experiences of my younger years. The name of the Scout Camp was Camp Ruggles, now named Camp Geronimo. We traveled to Camp on a Pickwick Bus,  equipped with front mounted shock absorbers. 

At Camp, one morning, I wondered off by myself to find a good piece of bark in order to make a bolo for my neckerchief. All of a sudden I found out that I was lost, and after searching for several hours, I located Camp, and to my surprise, no one had missed me.

One night after Scout meeting, I returned home to find myself alone, so I went to bed and was soon awakened and saw a man looking through my dresser drawers. When he saw that I had seen him, he hollered to me to keep quite. and he would not harm me. Well, he did not have a worry, because I was speechless. Frank and my mother came home about this time and the robber fled down a ravine below our house. Frank grabbed his shotgun and fired at him through the kitchen window. Frank searched after him for sometime, to no avail.

Our home still stands to this day atop the hill on the west side of the town of Globe, Arizona. Just below the top of the hill where our house is, stands the letter G, which faces Globe downtown. Frank furnished the water to mix the concrete for this letter G.

I enjoyed school, however because I worked before and after school, I missed a lot of school activity. At noon time, we played hockey we used a tin can for the puck and for the stick, we took the oak wooden frames from Model T Ford soft tops, which we got from the junk yards. We had a school principal by the name of Stevenson, at Hill Street School. He was a strict disciplinarian and his means of dealing with the unruly boys, was to take them to the gym and put on the boxing gloves with them. Of course, he always won. Years later, while on his deathbed at Gila County Hospital, it was reported that he was visited by all those roughnecks that still lived in Globe, Ariz.

When we lived at Birch with Aunt Clara, she assigned me to gather the eggs on a daily basis. Normally, I would take care of this chore before sundown, however, when Aunt Clara found out that I had failed to gather the eggs one day, she made me go down to the chicken pen after dark and armed with a flashlight. As I reached into the nest to get the eggs, I was greeted by a skunk with his rear-end pointed my way and with full pressure he found his target. I ran pell-mell to the house screaming bloody murder. Aunt Clara must have smelled me coming, because she would not let me in the house. She made me strip off all of my clothes and she then gathered some ashes and made me rub this all over my smelly little body. She then made me dig a hole away from the house and bury my clothes. From then on I knew which end of a skunk was loaded.

Incidentally, the ashes came from under a big pot that she used to make homemade soap. The ingredients for the soap was the lard from the hogs she raised and lye, which she boiled until it was firm enough to mold into big bars of soap.

There are a lot of hills in Globe, Arizona and us kids liked to ride down these hills in wagons or carts, whichever we could make. The best of these were the ones that we made using the iron wheels from old wheelbarrows that were discarded from the mines. The seats were narrow and close to the iron wheels and when cornering coming down a hill, it was imperative that one stayed on that narrow seat or else the flesh would fly. We guided these with our feet resting on the front axle, which was usually a wooden two by four.

Roy Van Leer was the manager of the store where I worked in Globe, Ariz. One time he had bought a new Chevrolet and he took me for a ride to Coolidge dam. Boy, what a ride, he started down a long hill and shut off the motor and let the car coast and before long we were going so fast that I thought we would never stop. Finally he managed to get the car slowed down and he said to me that he made a mistake and I sure agreed with him.

One night after Scout meeting, I was on my way home on my bicycle and I did one of the most stupid things that any kid could do. I had made a toy gun out of a close pin that would shoot matches. So as I was riding along I would shoot matches at the cars as they passed me. Evidently, the last car that I shot at had gas leaking from the gas filler outlet and of course my match hit this and ignited the gas. Well, enough said, I sped home and hoped that the car did not burn up. My stepfather was Frank Pascoe and he was a Policeman in the Globe Police Dept. Thank heaven I never heard any more about this.

My mother worked for a man by the name of Partridge at the Globe Cleaners and occasionally he would take us to Phoenix, Arizona with him. Along the way he would tell me that my job was to watch the monometer on the radiator and tell him when the mercury would rise to the top, which meant that the water in the radiator was boiling. Then we would have to stop the car and wait for it to cool down. I remember as we approached Superior there would be Indians sitting atop some rocks and staring at us, and I hoped that we would not have to stop the car in those areas. In those days the Indians were not completely friendly to us. In those days it was too much of a trip to go from Globe to Phoenix and return in one day, so we would stay over night in Phoenix.

I remember strolling along main street in Globe and finding a $20 dollar gold coin, and what a find, because that was a lot of money in those days.

Moving from Globe to Phoenix in 1932

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