Farewell Barbara Blackburn. Rest in Peace.

Barbara Blackburn was the reason Walt, Max and I moved to Jerome, Arizona. Greg Driver called today to say she had ‘passed.’

Barbara came to Jerome, AZ  when she left San Francisco in the arms of Dean, who was ‘throwing’ tires—vernacular for someone who repaired them. He was a handsome con man who convinced Barbara he was a talented photographer. She sold her home, bought a little travel trailer, some photo equipment for him, and off they went, landing in Sedona some months after, the money gone up their noses in a lot of cocaine.

A Sedona bartender told her she should look into Jerome. The first day in Jerome, Barbara put $15,000, the last of her money, into buying the Old Bakery and adjacent duplex, where she lived while she began to remodel the old Bakery building. It took her another six months or so to get rid of Dean.

Bakery ovens JeromeVarious_312

The old bakery ovens are still hanging around in the back yard of one of my friends. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

No Turkeys

We arrived in Jerome at 5 a.m. No cars on Main Street. No people. No sun. No nada. We’re dead-tired, think to catch a ‘motel’ in Clarkdale, which was a empty as Jerome. Turn around to explore Jerome’s ramshackle, twisty streets, for some sign of where Barbara might live. And after about ten minutes we notice a ‘NoTurkeys’ sign in a window.

Barbara greets us with a big smile and a joint. It’s nonstop party for the next three days with the hippies of Jerome. We were enchanted and totally exhausted by the time we left. Barbara invited us to stay with her when we moved.

A Magnanimous Dual Personality

Barbara was the only person I knew who had a dual  personality that she successfully kept together for years and years in San Francisco and Jerome: a banker/CEO/financial wizard by day and at night, a hippie that drank, smoke and dropped LSD, only to show up in straight work clothes the next day for whatever job she held. She was magnanimous, welcoming,  and inclusive to all she met, ready with a smile, cup of coffee, a joint, a meal.

She became CEO for John McNerney’s Jerome Instrument Corporation, and helped propel it into a four million dollar business.  Her special gift was knowing how to make a workplace easy for people to be in

JIC Circa 1980

Front step left: Nell Moffett Second Step: L-R: Paul Nonnast, Ester Burton, Darrell Fellers (Karen Fellers’ son) Third step: L-R: Iris McNerney, Kathy Davidson Fifth Step: L-R Ron Ballatore’s daughter Stephanie; Karen Gorman, Mary Nickerson, Susan Kinsella, Barbara Blackburn/ Sixth step: Lindsey Waddell (John Waddell’s son); Ed Dowling; Randy Murdock; Upper step: Sandra Strong, Carol Nesselrode, Pat Montreuil, Roger Davis Photo taken just after JIC moved from Earl Bell’s old lab near the Douglas Mansion in late 1980.

Barbara’s Acid Punch

She had a gift for making instant friends and weaving them into her life. She was a great hostess and her Bakery home became party central, for any occasion, for any friend that visited.

She was known for her acid (LSD) punch, a special for parties. Two very memorable ones were a JIC company party down at the river and a Valentines Party to commemorate a new office Barbara and I shared.

4 cans large Frozen Pink Lemonade

2 quarts gingerale

2 quarts club soda

2 bottles cheap champagne

1/2 gallon raspberry sherbert

100 hits of acid

The Great Outdoors

Many of our friends will tell you about rafting and backpacking with Barbara into many wildernesses. But our personal favorite was a ten-day backpack down Red Canyon in the Grand Canyon, with Walt and Greg Driver, to whom she was married for ten years. We hiked in the early morning hours; found a shaded cubbyholes to hide in during the heat of the day, played bridge, smoked joint after joint, and yes, dropped acid.

Would love if readers of this memorial would share favorite stories in the ‘comments’ section.

The Jerome Defense Fund

Barbara, Sue Kinsella and I formed “The Jerome Defense Fund” association and solicited donations for defendants of the Big Bust of 1985 to help them pay bail bond and legal fees. We held regular meetings, attended by many of those accused and their friends, and it became something between an information conduit and outlet for grief. We held a benefit dance, called Jail House Rock, with the help of 127 volunteers (twenty-seven of them musicians).

The Main Street stores, without exception, and many artists, made contributions for the large raffle that was held at the dance. We raised over $4,500 and split it among the defendants that needed money, including those who did not live in Jerome. Although it made a very small dent in what amounted to more than $75,000 in legal fees, the heart and solidarity behind it meant a great deal to the defendants.

Leaving Jerome
Barbara left Jerome the way she came in to it, in the arms of a con man that she met in a bar in Baja California. He claimed he was wealthy and owned a helicopter company in Tahoe that removed old growth trees. He had a special gift for cutting her off from her friends. John McNerney commented that he didn’t know any wealthy guys who had bad teeth.What was amazing was that Barbara didn’t find out just how strange he was until two years later when she got a phone call from the cops in Colorado who had arrested him with a car stolen from a dealership in Cottonwood, which he presented to her as a gift.

Last Communication: June 2016

“I have changed my life recently – moved from the mountains of Colorado to a more hospitable climate and one I could afford to live in: Albuquerque.  The medical services and doctors I can get here are wonderful and I am so in need.

Have had 4 stents placed -2 in femoral arteries and 2 in main aorta but yet have I have pulmonary arterial disease and congestive heart failure- both of which will not be corrected –-  “too much damage not enough benefit “-   have bought a sweet little home here in the old residential section of Albuquerque – and no snow!  Am on oxygen 24/7 and will always be – just trying to get my self strong enough  to walk more than ¼ block… it is a different life for me – but as an 82 year old said to me recently “at my age you do one day at a time”  ……. damn smoking finally took its toll

It’s been nice remembering the good days in Jerome.  Greg Driver called a couple of days ago – just to say hello – that was sweet.

Think of you and Walter often – hope life is still good in Oregon….hugs and kisses to you both.”


Jerome AZ: Tales from the Seventies

Here are more tales from the seventies. They do not appear in my book Home Sweet Jerome, Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. Like the tales told in the book, these serve to illuminate the condition of the times and town in the seventies. The book is about how the town was rescued. (homesweetjerome.net)

Pat Jackson (early seventies) “When I moved in to the house in the Gulch, I found that the owners had let the chickens roost in there and that they also shucked all their corn for their tamales and left all the shuckings there. It didn’t have windows. In the little tiny kitchen, the sink board was rotted out. Maggots were in the sink board. Here it is, I’m eight months pregnant with Ian and all my friends in Jerome got together and helped me put together that house. Somebody brought a toilet. First they had to put in a new floor in the bathroom because if you sat on the old funky toilet, you’d fall through the floor. Then somebody brought me an old tin shower and installed it. Somebody else put a nice wood sink board in and a piece of nenolium—it was nenolium in those days—over it. And then somebody else found an old window and enclosed the window.“ Pat was the first licensed mid-wife  in the Verde Valley, a round woman with a kind face and a lot of energy. She has children by four husbands, and was a political organizer, mostly on behalf of women. She now lives in Alaska.

Charley Aughe Charley Aughe was a humble man who lived in the gulch sometime during the seventies with his wife Faye and was known as the “Curator of the Sedona Dump.” He was one of the lucky ones who had a county job. When people would leave stuff off, he’s pick out anything useful, and set up rows, like garden rows, and sell it for not much money.

Caroline Talbot Caroline Talbot was Kim’s second wife. When I interviewed her, she wanted to tell me about Kim who moved to the Gulch in 1967. His first wife was Gayle.

“In 1967, things were always getting ripped off from their house. Kim actually saw them take a coffee mug and a shirt and then chased them, but never caught up with them. They turned up a week later with a six-pack and an apology. Someone even tried to steal two gallons of anti-freeze when Kim was under one of the cars changing the oil. The cans had water in them. He moved away and toured Europe as a musician, lived in Phoenix, and then returned to Jerome in 1977. When Kim got here, rednecks ran the town. The hippies were starting to move in. They didn’t want anything to change. They tried to run the hippies out of town. I understood because I grew up in similar small towns in the Adirondacks, so it didn’t phase me. People get at each other’s throats and then later they’re best buddies again. They would fight over their different vision of how something was to go. Build something like this and not like that. It can be real comical.

Richard Flagg, circa 1976 “One of my early dreams was to be a vagabond. I was living in Flagstaff and visited a natural food store there, which turned out to be owned by friends of mine living in Chino Valley (Kit and his wife) right next door to Molly and Gary Beverly (the Chino Valley potters then). I saw a sign: “House for sale in Jerome, $4500.” Holy smokes, I said to myself. I could swing that. I bought it and rented it out. Jeanne Moss lived up stairs; and John Binzley lived down. Jeanne used to shampoo and cut people’s hair from an upstairs porch and the water and hair came drifting down. Then I went vagabonding. River trips down the OMO with Sobel expeditions where I made the cover of the first issue of Outside running a rapid and being chased by hippo. Sailied out of Somalia, traveled in Afghanistan and India. When I came back to Jerome I started an expedition business of my own, called Sacred Monkey Expeditions. Paul Nonnast designed the logo.” Richard Flagg still lives in Jerome but he is still a vagabond, spending some 8 months a year traveling in Cambodia and other countries in Asia.

Jerome AZ: Tales from Arriving Hippies

“There were a lot of interviews and stories omitted from Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City, which are included in this blog and many of others on this site. www.homesweetjerome.net

Barbara  Henley: 1970

“For two summers, Guy [her husband way back then] and I camped out in Sycamore Canyon helping a friend dig out a gold mine that he had a claim on. We never did find gold, but we did have a lot of fun. We went back to California to retrieve a small inheritance of $1500 and decided to move to Mexico. We packed our stuff into a van and stopped in Jerome to see our friend Ed. He offered us three houses that he owned for $500 in Mexican town, just below the post office. We gave him the money, moved in, stuffed the holes in the walls with rags and used an oil drum to heat the house and cook on.”

Barbara lives in Jerome, with her new partner Rick in a home below the Hotel Jerome. 

Baehr: A Hippie Reincarnates Himself Twice

As you walk down Gulch Road, where citizens have now added speed bumps to slow cars and discourage traffic, you can still see a tiny  shack, bramble and weed laden with a sign over the door: ‘Baehr the Painter.’  I always wondered about it and now I do.

Baehr the Painter

The shack, rehabilitated from a wrecked garage, is now covered with vines. Photo by Bob Swanson (www.swansonimages.com) was taken circa 1985.

Quote is not attributed because I can’t remember who commented:  “Baehr was one of Jerome’s earliest hippies, long hair, denim dressed, came in to the Candy Kitchen for coffee barefoot and drank it as he squatted near the booths of the Candy Kitchen. He was one strange hippie in a town full of them. He disappeared from town in the sixties and a few years later I saw him at a wild New Year’s party. He walked in, hair cut short to half an inch and wearing a polyester suit. It was his new incarnation as a cop. He was hardly recognizable. Rumor now has it that he is a truck driver in Texas.”

It turns out this was a garage that was rehabilitated when Pat Jackson lived in the house above it and that the sign came from uptown. Here are the before and after photos.

Baehr the Painter

The ruin of the garage before it got rehabilitated. Photo collection of Richard Martin

Baehr the Painter

After garage was cleaned up.
Dan Ellis, Pat Jackson, Patty Westbrook, Leon Nelson finishing up cleaning of Gulch Rd Shed. Photo collection Richard Martin.

Jane Moore just commented on this new blog (see comments below) for further illumination. The comments on these blogs are often as good as the stories.

Mimi Currier, 1970

Jerome looked like Dogpatch. Hardly anything painted. Lots of sagging wood. Lots of boarded up windows and torn up roofs.

The day we moved into our house in the Gulch, it rained and rained. The only ones who stayed dry were the cats who stayed on the bottom floor under the bed. The support posts were eaten by termites and the whole house sat on its doorposts. Nothing was painted. $25 per month plus fixing. We put up a new roof. We jacked it up and put on support posts. We couldn’t hook up the water because we didn’t have a septic. We hauled water from Hilde’s [Rippel Barber] or the nearby stream. We got three ‘burros,’ from John Dempsey who wanted to get rid of and they always got the first drink. We carted up an old outhouse that still had WPA labels on in the back of our ‘57 blue Chevy Air Force pickup that still had AIR POLICE written on the sides and roof. Little truck. Big outhouse.

Mimi  lives in Jerome and is active on the Jerome Humane Society. Her husband Lew is serving on the Jerome Town Council

Scott Owens, Sculptor
I arrived in 1971 after graduating college with a degree in English. I thought I was on my way to get my master’s degree at a university in Oregon. On the way, I visited my friends Benny and Val and ended up living for a few months in a tiny garage in the Gulch. Jerome was a magical place and I couldn’t leave. A few months later I bought a house for $2000 and started carving pipes from pipestone.”

Scott is a fine arts sculptor, working primarily in marble in part of a warehouse he rents from Freeport McMoran.


Jerome AZ 1967-1979 NEWCOMERS

Thanks for reaing these blogs and, hopefully, my book Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. The blogs and the book are different.

List revised per comments February 15, 2015.

A new list of people that moved to Jerome AZ between 1954 and 1967 will be posted soon in my newest blog. The people that lived in Jerome in 1953, after the mines left Jerome to become a village, are posted in my book, Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. The list was amended slightly in the second printing the third printing will have only a few more corrections. Some continued to live in Jerome until they died. (A few examples would be Ruth Cantrell, Flossie McClellan, John McMillan, the Tamale ladies, Father John.)

Here is a corrected list of hippies/renegades/freethinkers/artists that moved to Jerome AZ between 1967 and 1979. These names were compiled by Diane Sward Rapaport, with thanks to  Mimi and Lew Currier, Susan Dowling (Fox), Diane Johnson, Jane Moore, and Henry Vincent. List later commented on and corrected by Mary Phelps Bachman, Irene Baxter, Pam Clark, Mark Galligan,  Hanna Flagg, Sage Harvey, Richard Hileman (formerly Bob Grand), Carmen (Cox) Kotting, Anita Latch, Steve Murdock, Richard Martin, and Kathleen Williamson and many others that have left comments about who to include.  Thank you all

The accuracy of this list is not vouched for. . .somewhat because there are people that are suggested that moved here in the late fifties and early sixties (like the Bells and the Harris’).  Some hippies that moved here in the seventies were here only a brief few months.  That said, it is interesting to see that the list is important, and will be more so as time goes on. The major question I have is how to get is more accurate?

This is a large list—no wonder the old timers thought of it as an ‘invasion.’  Big population shift.  I just counted 320 including kids (and it’s getting larger),  But it’s tricky.  There were people that were living in Jerome in the seventies but who moved there between 1954 and 1967.  Shorty Powell was one of them (there’s a great photo of him in  Ballad of Laughing Mountain, published in 1957. Or John Riordan who was born in Jerome. After the Vietnam War he returned to Jerome and was living with his grandmother Flossie McClellan. And there is some disagreement as to whether some of these names belong to a list of 1980 newcomers.

Lists like these are very important, particularly to family and friends, as I found when I compiled the list of people that lived in Jerome in 1953 for my book Home Sweet Jerome, Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City.  They are the ones that have helped correct that list (a few more corrections and additions will be made in the third printing.

When there is more or less a complete list here, I’ll turn it over to the Jerome Historical Society.

What is interesting about this list is how many are still living in Jerome (and many close by in the Verde Valley), creating, contributing, etc.

The next task is to try and figure out how many artists (artisans, musicians, writers, etc) this list contains. A lot I know. . but it would be good to break it out like that.

Question: I thought Darien Zalefsky, John Ziegler and Pat Conlin moved after 1979. Does anyone know for sure?  What about the Seavers? Rosemary Martin? Gufstason. I think these were all 1980’s but does anyone know?  Who was Wilma (with Esther Burton)

I loved some of the ‘addendums.’ E.G. from Jane Moore: ” Lee Louden’s first wife was Cindy (Cindy left with Dewey, who was with Priscilla, to catch a flying saucer ride in Oregon along with some other hippies!”  Kathleen Williamson picked up on it and added more. (See comments)

Need last names

Michael and Pat

Baehr the painter who became a cop


Janice (lived with Ferne and Gary Shapiro for awhile

Ernie (ran hippy health food store in the Flatiron)

Dewey who was with Priscilla-now have her last name (Priscilla Rose Lane)

Bongo Bill

Virgo Bill

Red haired Peggy

Sunaguachi (think she changed her name after i moved in 1980) but what was her real name)  came with Shawn/Vajra


Little John

Vajra was called Lavender Rose because she sold herbs

Who was Teddy Jepson???

1967-1979   updated 2/15/15
Benny and Val Aldrich

Linda Allen

Dick Armstead

Mary Marc Armstrong

Delores Ashkar

Charley and Faye Aughe

Craig Bacharach

Glenn Baisch

Natalie Barlow

Hilde (Rippel) and Jerry Barber and daughters Christina and Cynthia

Tom Barber (lived with Pat Montreuil in early days)

Don Bassett

Oscar Betz

Irene Baxter and son Russell)

Gayle Belotte (and daughter and son Rennie and Tricia)

Sunshine Bernheim and her children, Oaken, Onami, Cedar and Rainbow

John Binzley

Bill and Betty Bland and Abe

Joanie Brock (son Neeth)

Tom and Karen Brown (educators)

John and Linsey Brower

Esther Burton

Catherine Bailey Campbell and daughter Blair

Jeanne Campbell

Richard Campbell (later moved to Camp Verde) artist

Dan Carey

Earl & Milly Carpenter
Lee Christiansen (and first wife)

Slim Chance

Jeri Clark and daughter Sage and son Lucas Lyerla

Susan Cloud (and Michael Rodriguez)

Bart Coble/Pam Clark and son Troy

Leah Conroe-Luzius

Jill Cooley

Boyd Copper

Richard Cotroneo (‘Crazy Richard’)

Rosie Douville and Jade Colours

Ed Cooper

Mimi and Lew Currier and son Chris

Ramon and Pauline Dana

Ted Darling

Cathy Davidson

Roger Davis

Johm DeWar

Susan and Ed Dowling

Lee Downey

Nancy Driver (and later Dana and Greg)

Rocky and Cele Driver and daughter Kya

Mary Druen and husband??? Jerome Druen

Bob Dunn

Frank Ebert

Jim Faernstrom (came with Natalie Barlow)

Tony Fam

Gary Felix

Karen Fellers (and son Daryl)

Hanna and Richard Flagg (daughter Mica and son Cayum)

John Foster

Bob Frey

Mary Frey

Noel Fray

Jodelle (Jody) French

Diane Freer

Mark Galligan

Joe Garfunkel (‘Guacamole Joe’)

Diane Geoghegan

Ferne Goldman

Bob Grand (Went back to his old name Richard Hileman and now lives in Clarkdale))

Sonny and Wanda Gurley

Dave and Debbie Hall and Debbie’s sister Suzanne

Carole Hand

Sue Hand

Joe Haney (First wife was Jeanne Moss)

Guy and Barbara Henley (daughter Jasmina and son Elijah)

Vince Henry and Marci, and their children Dawn, Crescent, Carlos, Jason and Deborah.

Linda Heidenreich

Michael Higginson plus (wife ?and their kids, Aurora Wind and Sky)

Stuart and Jean Hood and daughter Carson

Gail Hull (lived with Mad Michael Smith for a few years)

Pat Jacobson

Les Johnson

Richard Johnson

Ed Johnson

Diane Johnson and daughter Cherry

Bart Koble/Pam Clark (were they here in seventies or did they move here in eighties?)

Bob and Dixie Koble (not hippies)

Carmen (Cox) Kotting

Mick King

James Kinsella (brother Jay arrived in eighties)

Priscilla Rose Lane (and Dewey, her boyfriend?)

Suzi Langton (was she here in the seventies)

Anita Latch (was with Bob Grand (now Hileman) for a time)

Annabel Lee

Katie Lee and Jo van Leeuwen

Ray Levy

Neil and Noel Logan

Paula and Pam Logan (the twins). . .see Bo Wilson

Nancy and Lee Louden (daughter Nina); Lee’s first wife was Cindy; and Nancy Louden was Nancy Dubin before she married Lee

Moses McCormick

Jim and Cheryl McCully and son Brad and daughter Molly

Kelly McKee

Joanne McKeever

Craig and Shirley McLain

John and Iris McNerney

Rosemary Martin

Pat and John Mathews (Did they come in the seventies or earlier)

Erin Madden

Moses Malone (and counterfitter??)

Erin Madden

Murat Maneth

Richard and Pat Jackson Martin. Shawn, Ian and Evan were Pat’s kids by another marriage; Adam was Richard and Pat’s son.

Rosemary Martin

Greg and Sue Martz

Willy and Kathy Matthews

Judith Menkelenin now Brown the Astrologer run out of Town for being a witch

Dan Meyers and sister Jane (who then became Jane Meyers Waddell)

Ed Milazzo

Jamie Moffett

Nell Moffett

Dick Moll

Terry Molloy (ad girlfriend Lorrie)

Pat Montreuil

Jeanne Moss (came with husband Joe Haney)

Jane and Dave Moore

Randy and Crystal Murdock

Tom and Truly Murphy

Leon Nelson

Scott and Carol Nesselrode

Mike Neuman

Mary Nickerson

Paul Nonnast

Nancy Norman

Marybeth Phelps (Bachman) and daughter Rayna

Linda Quaid and daughter Rebecka

Billy and Laura (or Laurie?) Platt

Rick Oberlin

Gary and Shirley Olson

Scott and Ruth Owens and their daughter Anne

Bob Palm and Ted Darling

Linda Perry

Hilde Rippel and Jerry Barber

Marcella Robinson

Michael Rodriguez

Ed Roland (‘Black Ed’)

James Rome and Marilyn

Gary Romig and Pam Fullerton Romig
 and son Lars

Dave Rentz

Charles Runyon (Chuck/s dad) and Ruth, and sons Matt and Mark

Chuck and Karen Runyon

Dick Ryan and sister Laurie (house burned down in the Gulch)

John Sajner

Gabe Sajner

Pat Scanlan

Michael Schuh

Paul Scott

Alethea Selaya

Gary Shapir

DeDe Shamel

David Skimmins

Michael Smith (‘Mad Michael’)

Nancy Smith (dauhters Crystal and Sarah)

Richard Spudich

Ivy and Gig Stearman

Beth Steele

Nancy Stewart (and son Abe)

Harry Stewart

Glen Stockton

Will Stone

Kim and Caroline Talbott (caroline was second wife; Gayle Belotte was his first wife and daughter Trish, and Rennie (son)

Paula Taylor and Michael Kamrar

Liz Terrell

Michael Thompson

Phil and Peggy Tovrea

John Tudan

Jerome Tweedy

Doyle Vines

David Vogel

Lindsey and Jane Waddell

Dan Waddell

Tracey Weisel

Jeanne Welch

Tom Welch (bought Villa Zero from Esther Burton (who named it that)

David White

Kathleen Williamson

Bo Wilson (was with Paula—twins with Pam—need last names)

Carol Wittner

Grey Wolf

John Yates

Jim and Karen Youell andchildren Ty and Phaedra

Charlene Zack

Darien Zalefsky


Art: The Soul of Jerome, Arizona

The major reason Jerome is an unusual art mecca is because its resident artists are deeply entwined in the collective identity of the town. Artists are the heart of the town’s quirky, and sometimes contentious, soulfulness.

Since 1970, the annual ratio of artists to residents has averaged 25%—at least 100 out of 400 or so of its permanent residents. Few other art towns/cities can claim that high a percentage. Artists nourish and encourage each other, giving rise to a feedback loop that challenges them to improve and flourish.

Artists in Jerome Arizona are Business People

Many artists own successful shops and galleries. They help disprove clichés that artists should starve for the sake of their art and aren’t cut out to be business people. The oldest of the uptown galleries is Made in Jerome, co-founded in 1972 by potter David Hall and two students from Prescott College who were eventually bought out by Hall. Others artist-owned galleries and shops in the main part of town include Nellie Bly II (painter Diane Geoghegan) www.dianegeoghegan.com, Aurum Jewelry (co-owner artist Sharon Watson) www.aurumjewelry.com, Raku Gallery (glass blower and potter Tracy Weisel www.Rakugallery.com, Designs on You (owned by Leigh Hay Martin, a gifted quilter) www.designsonyoujeromeaz.com, and Caduceus Cellars (owned by noted vintner and rock star Maynard Keenan) www.caduceus.org. Artists own and operate all the studio businesses in the high school complex.

Made i Jerome Pottery, Jerome, AZ

Jane Moore’s paintings on pottery, available at Made in Jerome, are famous and very lovely. (www.madeinjerome.com)

Jerome Arizona Artists Participate in Politics

Even more unusual is that many Jerome artists participate in politics. In a town that has at least 110 volunteer positions, artists quickly learned that if they wanted a say in the safety, restoration and future of the town, they needed to actively involve themselves. Artists helped draft Jerome’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning and Design Review ordinances. Artist have been elected to the Jerome Town Council and appointed to serve on Planning and Zoning and Design Review; voted by members of the Jerome Historical Society to serve as board members; and served on the Jerome Fire Department and fire auxiliary. Their contributions help counter the oft-spoken opinions that the hippies that moved to Jerome were spaced out, stoned-out good for nothings and that artists shouldn’t meddle in politics.

Painter Anne Bassett who has served multiple time  on the Jerome Town Council said, “People who don’t protect their liberty, lose it. I’ve tried to protect against the developers and further the respect for Jerome’s historic elements. From the beginning of when hippies moved in and became the majority, we have been working against the mainstream. Our high appreciation for diversity is a unifying strength. I’m still a hippie and proud of it.”

DeCamp House

The DeCamp house on Company Hill in Jerome AZ. It sits on the edge of Paradise Lane. Illustration by Anne Bassett (www.jeromeartistannebassett.com/

 Jerome Arizona Artists Donate Generously to Benefits

Musicians and artists have raised tens of thousands of dollars in the last few decades by donating services and art for benefiting Jeromans who are sick and needy or to organizations like the library, humane society and fire department. They also donate generously to the Children’s Christmas party every year to ensure there are gifts for every child in Jerome. Thank you artists!

Organization of the Community of Jerome Artists

Just after big mining abandoned Jerome in 1953, the first artists that moved in organized to support each other and draw attention to Jerome art. Roger Holt who had exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and Carnegie Institute moved to Jerome in 1954 and lived there until the mid-1960s. Shan Holt, his wife, started a group called The Verde Valley Artists. Shan found a patron and friend in portrait artist, Lilli Brant, who became president of the group. As the town struggled to survive, Lilli’s husband, the renowned geophysicist Arthur Brant, predicted that someday Jerome would become an art destination.

In 1975, The Verde Valley Artist group morphed into a formal nonprofit called the Verde Valley Artists Association (VVAA), which started featuring non-Jerome artists for major Jerome exhibitions. One featured Paolo Soleri, the Italian architect who built the futuristic desert city Arcosanti, which was based on the fusion of architecture and ecology, which Soleri termed arcology. Another show featured Lew Davis, dean of Arizona artists, who grew up in Jerome during its mining days.

"Morning at the Little Daisy" by Lew Davis

“Morning at the Little Daisy,” by Lew Davis, owned by the Phoenix Art Museum. Davis grew up in Jerome, not wanting to admit to wanting to be an artist in a community of miners. After he moved out of Jerome, Davis painted a series of paintings depicting life in Jerome.

The VVAA began a student art show that toured the state and sponsored studio tours. Many artists reported they sold their first pieces of art to people attending those tours.

These activities garnered support from many Verde Valley businesses, which had been standoffish and suspicious of Jerome’s hippies and helped place Jerome on the map as an art destination.

Support of Arts by the Jerome Community

From 1953 forward, the community of Jerome has actively supported the artists. The Jerome Historical Society donated the space to the Verde Valley Artists and rented space to other artists at very low costs; and voted some of their income to buy art, as did the town of Jerome. Both the society and the town have extensive and valuable art collections, as do many of its residents and businesses.

Paul Handverger, a board member of Verde Exploration Ltd. (Verde Ex), helped persuade them to purchase Mingus Union High School in 1972 for $25,000 and target artists as renters. The first renter was fine arts painter Jim Rome, who had a gallery uptown and a large following. Clothing designer Ava Guitterez was second and she eventually opened a shop on Main Street. Artists Margo Mandette and Robin Anderson turned one of the buildings into a showpiece gallery and studio. Don Bassett, an artist who made humorous assemblages from iron scrap and bedsprings, was given a small apartment and free rent in exchange for being caretaker.

Art studios abound in the old Mingus Union High School

What used to be a high school is now an art focal point in Jerome AZ. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

Last but not least, the town’s aesthetics draw artists to it like bees to honey, just as they were drawn to other towns with exceptional aesthetics, such as Sedona, Taos, New Mexico and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Few other art towns, however, command the spectacular 180-mile panorama view that Jerome has from its steep mountain perch.

Note: My book, Home Sweet Jerome, is about how artists and hippies transformed the town from being an economically depressed ghost town into the art mecca that it is.  This blog is just a summary of some of the highlight themes. The book is availabe from Amazon at an incredible discount right now (https://www.amazon.com/Home-Sweet-Jerome-Rebirth-Arizonas/dp/1555664547/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469982014&sr=8-1&keywords=home+Sweet+jerome

Late afternoon in Jerome AZ

Views from Jerome, AZ are often subjects of photographers and painters, only one of the reasons it is the most photographed and painted town in America. Photo by Ron Chilston (www.ron-chilstonartistwebsites.com)


Full Moon Skateboard Ride for Jerome AZ Daredevils 1991

The first time I even heard about them was a comment from Aaron on the story of the drag race between the Jerome chief of police and Zack (“Jerome’s Secret Indy 500”).

I asked Max, as he was holding his 3-month old baby Mykos is his lap, “Did this really happen?”  “Oh, yeah,” said Max. “We’d park one car in Clarkdale and hiked up road from Jerome with our skateboards. When I got scared, I’d sit on the skateboard and use the soles of my sneakers to slow down. That’s how come I went through so many sneakers.”

I thought it was because he was hiking so much. Among some, my nickname in Jerome was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, always so optimistic and cheery, and never suspecting the oh-so-innocent looking Max of his daredevil ways, that are only now coming to light. “Well, how did you get across the cattle guard after you pass Jerome, the one that got Fern on her bike?”

“I used to stop and walk across.  The others jumped it.”

It was a lot of except for this one night. Just as I was cruising into Clarkdale on my skateboard, I saw Aaron and Zach bobbing crazily up and down, like jumping beans, and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I couldn’t stop and then found myself in the middle of a tarantula migration. Hundreds of them trying to cross the road. They were as scare as we were and were jumping on our shirts and jeans tearing at us with their pincers. They weren’t biting, just tearing at us.  We kept brushing them off and kept right on going. There wasn’t anything else to do.  as we were.”


The next day in biology class I asked my teacher about tarantula migrations and told him what we’ve seen.  I just didn’t tell give him too many details. He scoffed —‘oh you boys up there in Jerome most have been on something. There’s no such thing as a tarantula migration.

So I looked it up.  Apparently, durin Fall, male tarantulas go on a march looking for females. http://www.desertusa.com/dusablog/tarantulas-on-the-march



Honoring the Women in Jerome AZ: International Women’s Day

Anyone who has lived in Jerome for any period of time knows this to be true:  the women are strong, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, accomplished at what they set out to do and passionately engaged. Many are artists that have served the town politically and are business people. A triple header combo that is hard to beat. And they’re smart. Very very smart.

Here’s an honor role of a dozen, in alphabetical order, who live or have lived in Jerome and some of their contributions.  Most moved to Jerome in the seventies and early eighties and many were, and still are, irreverent hippies!

Anne Bassett, for documenting the town through her intricately detailed illustrations and her service on the Jerome Town Council.  http://jeromeartists-bassett.blogspot.com/ 

Patty Bell, for singing Joni Mitchell’s song, “Pave paradise, put up a parking lot,’ in a particularly rancorous Jerome Town Council meeting

Barbara Blackburn, the wild woman who became CEO of Jerome Instrument Corporation and served on many of the town boards. She helped put together the Jerome Defense Fund to help members of our community that were arrested in 1985.

Mimi Currier, for running for US Senate in the eighties as a liberal Democrat with special interests in the arts, for her long-time service on many boards in Jerome, and for her incredible Netsuke carvings.

Nancy Driver, a wonderful fiber and leather artist, who served on many boards, and helped start the first artists’ cooperative store in Jerome.

Katie Lee, who wears her advocacy for freeing the Colorado River on her license plate (Dam Dam), and speaks eloquently and emotionally about them in her books and in her music. And for bringing a smile to everyone’s face when she streaked Jerome on her bike when she was in her eighties. www.katydoodit.com

ML Lincoln, photographer and producer of the film, Wrenched, honoring the legacy of Edward Abbey and the decades of wilderness activists he helped inspire. www.wrenched-themovie.com/‎

Jane Moore, for her long-time service on the town council (12 years, not all consecutively) and on many boards, with special advocacy for water rights, and her incredibly lovely ceramics and paintings. www.madeinjerome.com

My cousin Deni Rapp, the woodworker, for her lovely cribbage boards and wooden furniture, her courage in dealing with many physical ailments so graciously and positively, and for her service on many boards.

Ivy Stearman, one of the first women midwives in the Verde Valley (against the ire of many doctors) and founder of Nurses Network. nursesnetwork.net/

Sue Tillman for having the gut to start the first AIDs organization in the Verde Valley at a time when even the funeral homes wouldn’t dress someone who died of AIDS.

Sharon Watson, cofounder of Aurum Jewelry, a wonderful designer and jeweler, and long time member of the Fireman’s Auxiliary and board member of the Jerome Historical Society. www.aurumjewelry.com

Kathleen Williamson  for her lifetime advocacy of human rights, including LGBT people, her astute legal head and her musicianship. www.kathleenwilliamson.com

Okay, there are a lot more women, who have started their own business and shops, but I have to go teach tai chi right now. Post your favorites.  Make a list for your hometown. Today’s the day.