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S.C.V. History
April 2
1910 - Filming of D.W. Griffith's "Ramona" with Mary Pickford - first known movie shot in SCV - wraps after 2 days at Rancho Camulos [story]
Ramona Movie


Dear Newhall,

I thank you for your letter. Yes, we have real mail service down here in Southern Arizona. Haven’t had a problem sending or receiving mail since the last big snowstorm in January of 2019. Had around 5 inches of that infernal white stuff, and it was cold. There’s something strange about seeing a snow-covered agave plant.

I know it snows a little up your way like in 1962 when you had around 12 inches on your streets. I don’t get that much snow just about ever. I tend to blame it on our many far-northern visitors who come every winter. I can tell you they weren’t very happy in that last big storm of 2019. It may have been the one time our visitors from Canada didn’t actually say, “Thank you.”’

I sit about 1,675 feet higher in elevation than you, and if a body were to head exactly west from me, that would place the person a little south of Ensenada, Mexico, when they reach the Pacific Ocean.

Newhall, you and I do have some things in common, as you wrote in your letter. It seems you got all grown up while I have had a few problems growing at all. Why, at one time I had a population of only around 1,000 souls. I now hold around 1,400, and when the health crisis is over, folks will again come from all over to see me.

I want to thank you for having all those movies about me made where you are. The whole world knows about me, Tombstone, Arizona, but I had to ask someone where you are located. They kept telling me about a place called “Santa Clarita.” The maps I came across showed something with a similar name to be a river that runs to the sea. Come to find out it is a whole new city.

Should you ever come visit, I hope you can stay a few days. You see, there is just so much to do in Tombstone and the whole area around me. In fact, one pamphlet about me calls me, and I quote, “an Old West amusement park.” That is as good a description as any, I suppose.

I have a church that claims to be the oldest Protestant church in Arizona. Records show it began about 1885. Hear tell that you had a Presbyterian Church start up around 1891. So, we both appear to be mostly good, God-fearing towns. I hope you don’t hold it against me that Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church was built with the help of my local, shall I say, “soiled doves?” Yes, them ladies of the evening (and morning and afternoon) contributed nearly 50 percent of the money to put up the building that still sits on Third Street, just a block from all the action.

Tombstone Arizona

My streets are a bit bare right now, what with this sudden decline in tourism. But just you wait.

Action? I had plenty of that, what with the miners and gamblers and aforementioned ladies doing all manner of things, day and night. I’m still a little rowdy at times, but that is mostly for show. My fake gunfights and saloon girls are just for my visitors. Sort of like your yearly Cowboy Festival, ‘cept I do it every day of the year. I didn’t get the motto, “The Town Too Tough to Die” by singin’ in church and just diggin’ in the dirt for silver.

To tell the truth, after the Earps left town, things got real quiet. When the mines flooded and when they moved the Cochise County seat from me to that other mining town called Bisbee, I almost folded up and blew away. If it weren’t for that little 30-second-long gunfight at the OK Corral, I just might have become a ghost town like so many others. But along came the movies. Those silent films that showed just how the West was tamed.

A lot of those films back when – and even now – were filmed in or near you. Why, even today I can tip my hat to you, Newhall, for helping to save me, little ol’ Tombstone, Arizona. Don’t know how I can really thank you except for all y’all come to visit and see what your movies tried to show. You did well, very well.

After this virus passes and we both can return to normal, think about that visit, and I will do the same. As an amusement park, I lack roller coasters and such, but I do have a great stagecoach or two and some trolley cars to see the sights. Maybe all that isn’t as exciting as what you have, but I happen to think that a show at the old Wyatt Earp Oriental Saloon and a meal at Big Nose Kate’s place is a whole lot of fun.

You might see some of my folks dressed for the part as if the 1880s aren’t over. You’re welcome to join in on that. And should I come and visit next year when your Cowboy Festival returns, I’ll be wearing my Tombstone duds. It would only be right to share with my “Brother City” that way.

I hope this finds you well and prospering in these tough times. Please give all my best to you and yours,

Tombstone

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley for a spell. Darryl has traveled far and finally landed near the town “too tough to die,” Tombstone, Arizona, calling it home for the past two years with the exception of summers, camp-hosting at Refugio State Beach near Goleta. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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