Yuma Territorial Prison

We have finished up our work camping in Yuma, and have moved on to the Phoenix area for a week of relaxation.  I will do a final post on our work camping experience, but I wanted to finish up on our Yuma posts first.  We always enjoy visiting museums and historical sites, and spent a few hours with our friends Dave and Marilyn visiting the old prison in town.

On July 1, 1876, the Yuma Territorial Prison opened its gates for the first time to prisoners, and continued to accept prisoners, both male and female, until it closed in 1909.  The last prisoners were transferred to the new Arizona State Prison in Florence, Arizona.

The prison has an interesting history, and is worth visiting if you are in the Yuma area.  Many of the original cell blocks remain, but a lot of the buildings and exterior walls have been demolished to make room for the railroad, or were destroyed in a fire.  This is a photograph of the prison complex when it was in full operation.  At the time, the Colorado River came right up to the rocks.

dsc05649 (1)

The main guard tower was reconstructed on its original site.  The Sally Port remains intact, as well as the buildings behind it, which are not visible on this photo.

dsc05620 (1)

Main Guard Tower

The Sally Port is where the prisoners entered/exited the prison.  It was large enough to hold a covered wagon, with both doors locked, for unloading the prisoners.

dsc05625 (1)

Six prisoners were assigned to each cell, and in 1901, iron bunks were installed, since the wooden bunks became severely infested with bed bugs.

dsc05542 (1)

Marilyn, Dave and Dan

This is the exterior of the six-person cell blocks.   The cage on the left is part of the “incorrigible” ward that was built in 1904, and consisted of five steel cages.

dsc05571 (1)

dsc05586 (1)

When prisoners misbehaved, they were sent to the “dark cell,” where they endured 24 hours of darkness, along with snakes and bats.  As part of the guided tour, you go down the hallway into the dark cell, to experience what it was like.  As we discovered, the bats are still there…they didn’t like the flash photography (you can see a few in the photo on the right)

The Yuma prison was “co-ed”, and twenty-nine women spent time in prison (many for adultery).  They had a separate cell that was a bit “nicer.”

The prisoners, not surprisingly, hated the place, but the local community thought the prison was more like a country club.  The museum contains a lot of interesting information about the prisoners, life at the time, and a display of weapons.

dsc05606 (1)

The Yumans perspective:

dsc05608 (1)

The prisoners perspective:

dsc05609 (1)

In 1910, the Yuma high school burned down, and classes were held in the prison from 1910 – 1914 while a new school was being built.  When the Yuma high school football team upset a team from Phoenix, those fans complained it was ‘criminal’ and the school decided to adopt the nickname “Criminals.”   That name remains in place today, and their mascot is the face of a hardened criminal.  It’s the only school in the country where you can rightfully call the students criminals!

Quote for the day:  “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” – Victor Hugo

Military Testing: Yuma Proving Grounds

First off, a special thanks to blog readers Jim P. and Wayne W. who replied on my last blog that this building is a VOR Station, allowing aircraft to use their radio beams to navigate throughout the US.  Always good to learn something new every day!  dsc05652 (1)

About 30 miles northeast of Yuma is the United States Army Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG), which covers 1300 square miles of the Sonoran Desert.  General Motors also operates a test track on the grounds, and permits the Army to test their vehicles on the tracks that GM built, at no cost to the government.  You can visit parts of the YPG, but not the GM facility.  If you do go to YPG, you must have photo identification, proof of vehicle insurance, and current vehicle registration of the vehicle that you are driving, in order to get onto the grounds where the free Heritage Center museum is located.

There is a nice display of weapons that have been tested at YPG since WWII, outside of the facility.  Some have been put into military use, and others discarded as not acceptable.

The facility has a long history, going back to World War II, when the Army trained over one million men and women out in the desert to prepare for combat. General Patton was instrumental in getting this training facility started. He felt this would be an excellent area to prepare the troops for WWII.  The museum has an interesting movie about the WWII training experience, including many first-hand recollections from WWII veterans.

The grounds are still in use today for combat training.  When you drive around in the area, you can see small makeshift cities that our troops continue to train in, to simulate desert conditions in the Middle East.

The museum has displays of what the base was like in the 1940s and 50s.  At the time, these were state of the art technology.  Looking at this telephone, we all started going “one ringy dingy, two ringy dingy” at the same time! (you need to be over 45 to get that)

dsc05717 (1)

XY Dial Central Office Equipment

When testing equipment, it’s is crucial to document and record the test, which is where this Film Processing Machine came into use.

dsc05714 (1)

This camera has been in use since 1944 to record rocket testing.

dsc05739 (1)

RC-2 (Bowen) Ribbon-Frame Camera

YPG is testing items for the modern-day soldier, including this cooling vest that serves as a base layer, and the night vision goggles.

A lot of ammunition gets tested out in the desert, and we could hear a lot of “booms” going off as we walked around on the premises.

dsc05721 (1)

The YPG is also a major testing/training area for parachuting, including high-altitude jumps.  They had one very famous visitor to the area, when former President George H.W. Bush decided to jump out of an airplane at the young age of 72.   The museum has framed a copy of the autographed newspaper on the wall.

dsc05738 (1)

Quote for the day:  “Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” – Douglas MacArthur

 

 

 

 

 

USS Razorback (SS-394)

About 1/4 mile from the Downtown Riverside RV Park in Little Rock, Arkansas where we were statying, is the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, which has a submarine, USS Razorback, and a WWII Tugboat, USS Hoga, on display.  The USS Hoga is not open for tours at this time, as they are trying to eliminate/contain the asbestos that is present on the boat.

DSC04992 (2)

 

The USS Razorback was commissioned on April 3, 1944 and served in World War II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.  She received five battle stars from WWII and four from Vietnam. On November 11, 1970, the US Navy decommissioned the sub, and sold her to the Turkish Navy.  In 1971, the Turkish Navy commissioned her as TCG Muratreis, and she remained in service for the Turkish Navy until August 8, 2001.  The submarine became the longest-serving submarine in the world.    In 2002 a group of submarine veterans and the City of Little Rock began the process of acquiring the sub to bring it back to the United States and open up a museum.  Here is a view of the USS Razorback from a nearby pedestrian bridge.

DSC05089 (2)

Guided tours are available, and you learn a lot about life on a submarine, both from the guide, and a small museum on the premises.  Ten officers, and 70 enlisted men served on this 311 foot long submarine.  Entry to the submarine remains the same way since 1944, right down the hatch.  And if you don’t like tight spaces, you should probably skip the tour.

DSC05005

The front and back of the sub contain the torpedo areas.

DSC05049

The enlisted men’s quarters.

DSC05021

Shower facilities. Yes, it’s a closet without a door.  And from what our guide told us, showers were limited to one per month!

DSC05046To save space, the dining room tables had built-in board games for their entertainment.
DSC05024And the deluxe, gourmet kitchen for the cook!

DSC05025

The center of the sub contained the operations area.

DSC05033
DSC05030
The museum has a display of patches from other WWII submarines.

DSC04996 (2)

The grounds of the museum contain a memorial to the fifty-two submarines that were lost during World War II, and to the men that made the ultimate sacrifice to our country.

DSC05080 (2)

DSC05085 (2)

Quote for the day:  “When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars.  That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship.” – Dick Gregory

The Little Rock Nine

Prior to our arrival in Little Rock, Arkansas, I had made a reservation with the National Park Service to visit Little Rock Central High School, which is both a historical landmark and an operating high school.  During the school year, tours are only offered twice a day, and only while the school is in session.  Reservations are required.  Across the street from the school, the Park Service has a visitor center with exhibits, and many audio recordings to listen to from the students, teachers, and residents of Little Rock that give first hand stories about the events that happened in 1957.  For us, this was one of the most impressive and informative National Park Service tours we have ever attended.

Little Rock Central High School was built-in 1928 at a cost of $1.2 million (yes, that’s million…in 1928!)  It is the most impressive high school we have ever seen.  At the time our of tour, there was a group of students from Chicago on a field trip, and they were amazed at the school.  Since it is an operating school, the tour is very limited to the main entrance, the auditorium and the cafeteria.  We would have loved to roam the halls of the building.  You could just feel the history.  Other than security cameras and elevators, it seems to have been left in its original state.  The staircases had wooden banisters, and the auditorium still had the original wooden seats.  It has a current enrollment of 2422 students for grades 9 – 12.  The school continues to thrive today, and is considered one of the 16 best schools to prepare students for college with over 177 different courses offered, 30 advanced placement classes, and five foreign languages taught.

The school is so big, I had to do a panoramic shot to get the entire front of the building in the photo.  There are over 100 classrooms in the building.  There were about 60 people in our tour group, and I think all of us said “wow” when we first saw the school, except for the one student from Chicago who remarked ‘our school is trash compared to this!’

DSC05130 (2)

Here is a close-up of the middle section of the school, where the main entrance is.

DSC05131

So why is this the only high school in America designated as a National Park?  Time for a brief history lesson.

“We the people” are the first three words of the Constitution as it was written in 1787.  But who does “we” represent?   White male landowners.  Over time, through amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,  the definition of “we” has expanded.   Some of these rights came as a result of protest, and the visitors center has details about how the rights of people have expanded as a result of individuals protesting.   Through protest, comes change.

DSC05110 (2)

DSC05111 (2)

In 1954, the US Supreme Court outlawed segregation in elementary and secondary schools in the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case.  The schools in the Southern states were slow to begin the process of integrating schools, which would allow students to go to the school in their own neighborhood, instead of getting bused across town.

The Little Rock school board quietly discussed how to integrate students at the high school level, and announced it would accept African-American students at Central High School.  But they only wanted a limited number of students, and would only accept those who had straight A’s and perfect attendance.  Over 200 students applied, and the school board realized that was too many.  So they continued to raise the bar on the standards.  No African American student would be allowed to participate in any athletic or club event.  No after school activities.  The students were only allowed to attend school, and must leave immediately at the end of the school day.  Eventually only 10 students were left.

This integration did not sit well with Arkansas Governor Faubus, and he ordered the National Guard to bar the African-American students from school.  On September 3, 1957, a mob gathered outside the school, along with the National Guard.  One of the parents of the 10 students, after seeing the angry mob, decided against sending their daughter to that school.  Nine students were left, but they did not attend the first day of school.

On the second day of school, the Arkansas National Guard barred the students from entering the school.  These 9 students were harassed, spit upon, and shoved around as they walked towards school.  Not by fellow students, but by the parents and community members that gathered daily around the school.  By September 20, a Federal judge rules against the use of the National Guard, and the Little Rock Police were responsible for the students safety.   On September 23, the Little Rock Nine (Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Jefferson  Thomas, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray and Melba Pattillo) finally entered the high school.  But the local police were overwhelmed by the angry mob and a riot broke out.  The police removed the students from the school.

By this time, media from around the country were broadcasting multiple times a day from the school.  A local gas station, which had a pay telephone, was set up for the reporters.  That gas station, across from the school, has been preserved as part of the history. (gas was 22 cents a gallon, by the way!)

DSC05135

People around the country were both horrified and supportive of what they were seeing coming out of Little Rock.  But President Eisenhower had seen enough, and federalized the Arkansas National Guard.  In addition, he sent in 1200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and protect the students.  The soldiers escorted students into the school, and remained inside the hallways of the school to protect the nine students.  The soldiers were not allowed inside the classrooms or bathrooms of the school.  As a result, the nine students were physically and verbally abused in the classrooms and bathrooms by fellow students.

In 1957, there were around 2000 students attending the high school.  About 200 of the students were constantly harassing the nine students.  In listening to the audio recordings of the Little Rock Nine detailing their experiences, it wasn’t the action of the 200 students that bothered them, as much as the inaction of the 1800 students that just stood by and did nothing.  They called them the silent majority.

One of the nine students was expelled, after she was physically assaulted by a group of female students.  She did not physically retaliate, but called them “white trash.”  After her expulsion, students passed out cards stating ‘one down, eight to go.’  By November, the Airborne Division leaves, and the nine students continue to endure verbal and physical assaults for the remainder of the school year.

On May 25, 1958, Ernest Green became the first African-American student to graduate from Central High School.  In attendance at his graduation, was a man who wanted to watch this historical event, Dr. Martin Luther King.

But that’s not the end of this fight for integration.  Governor Faubus shut down all the schools in Little Rock for the 1958-59 school year, in order to block the integration of the school district.  A Federal Court ruled the closing of the schools was unconstitutional, and the schools reopened in August 1959.

All of the Little Rock Nine not only graduated from high school (not all from Central), but went on to college and had very successful careers.  Jefferson Thomas passed away in 2010 from cancer, but the other eight are still alive.

If you are ever in the Little Rock, Arkansas area, please try to do this tour.  Even if you only have time to look at the exhibits in the visitors center, it is worth the time.  What these students had to endure was truly heartbreaking, but their will to persevere is inspirational.

 

Quote for the day:  “Any time it takes 11,500 soldiers to assure nine Negro children their constitutional rights in a democratic society, I can’t be happy.”  – Daisy L. Gatson Bates

 

 

 

The Clinton Presidential Center

After our visit to Oklahoma City, we headed a short distance east to Little Rock, Arkansas.  We decided to stay right downtown, at the Downtown Riverside RV Park.  It is right on the river, and within walking distance to many attractions.  Here is a view from the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the river.  Yes, it is more of a “parking lot,” but the fact that we could walk to almost everything we wanted to see was a big plus.

DSC04843Just on the other side of the river is the Clinton Presidential Center and Park.  This was our third President library to visit, after Abraham Lincoln and George W Bush.

DSC04851

The museum contains three floors of exhibits, along with a special traveling exhibit.  The first floor has the presidential limousine, gift shop and conference center.

DSC04858

The second floor has a time line of the presidency, with a  year by year display of events, bills passed, and other historical information on the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III).

DSC04921

The second floor also has alcove exhibits on various policy accomplishments during his 8 years in office.  And yes, there is one exhibit on the four-year special investigation that was started in 1994 to investigate the Clinton’s Whitewater real estate purchase.

Technology changed quite a bit during the 1990’s, and a push was made to expand the internet into schools.

DSC04918

The Brady Bill and a 10 year ban on assault weapons was passed.  Only 19 guns were banned, and by 2000, crimes committed with guns dropped 46 percent.

DSC04925

A replica of the oval office as well as the cabinet meeting room is on display.

DSC04913 (2)

DSC04931

The third floor contains the gifts that were received, along with photographs and displays from state dinners.

DSC04871

There is a formal setting from one of the state dinners.

DSC04869

Socks, the cat, also received gifts, including this patriotic cat basket.

DSC04892

 

The Easter Eggs, from the annual White House Easter Party.

DSC04881

Dale Chihuly created two identical glass sculptures, entitled Crystal Tree of Light,  for the White House Millennium Celebration on New Years Eve, 1999.   This one was donated to the museum. It’s about 6 feet tall.

DSC04884In this overview from the third floor, you will see a lot of blue boxes.  There are 4,536 boxes in the museum, all containing letters written to the President and First Lady.

DSC04865

The current traveling exhibit is ‘Louder than Words – Rock, Power, and Politics’ was very interesting.  Many of the items were on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.  It covered the period of Eisenhower through Trump, their campaign songs (Trump was the only president without one), and covers the scandal in the music industry.  Alan Freed, a DJ who is credited with the phrase “rock and roll” was one of the many DJ’s who accepted money to play certain music on the radio.  At the time, it was legal to do so, but in 1959 Congress held a number of hearings on the “payola” scandal, and made it illegal to record companies to pay radio stations to play their music.

DSC04938

Songs were written based upon current events and for some of us listening back on them can bring us back to a different place and time.

DSC04899

DSC04902

How we listen to music over the years has changed as well, from 45’s to 8-tracks to the Ipod.

DSC04943

We had an enjoyable time visiting the Clinton Museum, and plan on continuing our quest to visit more presidential museums.  No matter your politics, it is a fun look back in time.

Quote for the Day:  “When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web…Now even my cat has its own page.” – William J Clinton