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.”

Advertisements

Leaverite Society of Jerome AZ

In 1982, I showed an interesting rock that I found near Jerome to the President of the Mingus Gem and Mineral Club. “Could you please tell me what kind of rock this is?”

“Young lady, what you have there is a genuine leaverite.”

“What is a leaverite?” I asked.

A smile curved into his lips: “One you leave right there.”

Leaverite bridge by Michael Grab

Oh, what Michael Grab does with leaverites. www.gravityglue.com

The Leaverite Society

In 1985, Dana Driver, Susan Dowling and myself formed the Leaverite Society of America to provide some humorous counter balances to Jerome’s contentious politics.

Before two months went by, The Leaverite Society had 75 paying members, most of them Jeromans. All had a major love affair with rocks. Rocks were fun. They weren’t jealous or possessive, weren’t political, and didn’t talk back! The ideal companion for us leaverite philanderers!

‘Leave No Stone Unturned,’ was the first motto of the Leaverite Society. “Hot Rocks or No Rocks at All” was the second. After the disastrous pot bust of 1985, which led to the arrest of sixteen Jeromans, including two members of the Jerome Town Council, a Leaverite Society member who wished to remain anonymous proposed a third motto: “Everybody Must Get Stoned.”

At our first official meeting, Georgia O’Keefe was given an honorary membership. Once a week she arranged her living room around a special rock.

The Leaverite Society made commemorative hats, held potlucks, complete with rock scavenger hunts, and published two newsletters. The second issue featured a love story by Tikky Trachyte (the inimitable Katie Lee), and an article by Ayers Rock (Joe van Leeuwen’s moniker) on the Cock-of-the-Rock, a bird that inhabits the rocky ledges and shallow caves of South and Central America.

Cock-of-the-rock

The cock-of-the-rock is the national bird of Peru. Jo van Leeuwen of Jerome, Arizona proposed that the bird be adopted as the mascot for the Leaverite Society of America in Jerome AZ. Image is in the public domain. See: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30221/30221-h/30221-h.htm. From a free e-book, Birds: illustrated by Color Photography first published in 1897 by the Nature Study Publishing Company, Chicago, IL.
Book is on-line and the photographs of birds and their descripts are beautiful.

It also included a fiendish British-type crossword puzzle by Whitecliff (Dana Driver’s Dad) called “100 Arabs-Egyptian Rock Group.” British crosswords are known for containing clues that are both straightforward and cryptic. I couldn’t even guess the straightforward answers to “Seek complaint in first-class rodent,” “Utah resident hunting antelope in Nepal,” or “He takes his half of the road out of the side.” I did not know one Leaverite Society member who solved the puzzle.

Geologists

Geologists you’d expect among the rock lovers of this fabled billion dollar copper camp. They’re serious leaverite hounds.

In the seventies and eighties, dozens of world-renowned geologists roamed the area around Jerome to figure out when and how the super rich massive sulfide ore bodies formed. They’re the ones that turned Jerome into a fabled and very wealthy copper mining city.

Jerome Arizona’s ore bodies are called massive sulfides not just because they are large (some geologists describe roughly shaped spheres that can extend a mile or more down into the earth), but because they are so dense with precious ores, like copper, zinc, gold and silver. The official definition massive sulfide ore bodies are those contain more than 50% minerals to a ton of rock.

The ‘when and how’ answers that geologists came up with are straightforward—the massive sulfide ore bodies are 1.738 years billion years old, and were formed in hot springs vents in deep undersea volcanoes virtually at the same time as the large undersea volcano that hosted them—the copper colored Cleopatra formation that dominates views when people look up at Jerome from the Verde Valley.

Jerome AZ illustration by Anne Bassett

The twin pyramid-shaped mountains that dominate Jerome are the Cleopatra formation. Illustration by Anne Bassett-www.jeromeartistannebasset.com

Incredibly more convoluted are answers to the questions about how the ore bodies remained intact over immense and varied cataclysms over such a long period of time and the dynamic processes that led to a tip of the United Verde ore body being exposed to the air, which enabled its discovery. The geology of the Jerome area is a giant, intricate puzzle with quite a few missing pieces.

According to Verde Valley geologist Paul Handverger, “The Jerome area is one of the most interesting geologic phenomenons of North America. Much more interesting than the big ditch,” (the Grand Canyon.)

One could earn a PhD in geology by studying just this small patch of real estate.

The Quest for Gold

During his quest for gold in Northern, Nevada, John McNerney found a new method for its discovery—and a new use for gold. He designed a mercury detector that used gold film sensors to analyze minute quantities of vapor rising above the soil deeply buried gold deposits. John founded Jerome Instrument Corporation in 1979 to manufacture these detectors.

One irony: although some geologists bought a few mercury analyzers as a prospecting tool, the major market turned out to be the United States Navy. Its submarines needed to instantly know when mercury based instrumentation broke and fouled the air. Mercury is toxic to the nervous system and can turn people into mad hatters.

As an aside, John’s wife Iris was convinced all Jeromans were wacky because of the mercury that exists in the soils underneath Jerome’s feet.

The second irony is that John is now avidly against the opening of new gold mines because of their environmental destructiveness. He helped lead a major movement in Todos Santos, Mexico against a mine that would have likely fouled an area aquifer. ‘Aqua vale mas que oro’ was their rallying cry. (Water is worth more than gold).

Jewelers

While geologists were combing the hills, perhaps many as forty people in Jerome were jewelers, carvers and sculptors. Dana Driver and Susan Dowling, two founders of the Leaverite Society were jewelers. I just liked leaverites. (My husband liked to build retaining walls on our property.)

Flamingo pendant by Dana Driver

Jeweler Dana Driver’s beautiful pendant beach stone and silver pendent. See others at: http://www.danarocks.com

For a few years, Dana Driver, president of the Leaverite Society, became fascinated with beach stone. She polished them, incised them with gold and silver, made them into pendants, flowers and insects. www.Danarocks.com. Dana is among artists that continuously reinvent themselves and stretch artistic boundaries. A few years after her fascination with beach stone, she got into making fine jewelry from bottle caps, tin cans and bits of rusty metal.

Susan Dowling collected malachite and azurite from Jerome’s mines and made rings and pendants.www.foxazhandmade.com

Malachite ring by Jeweler Susan Dowlng

Malachite ring by Jeweler Susan Dowling.

As a child, Jesse Dowling, Susan’s entrepreneurial son, sold leaverites to tourists for extra candy money. (Today, Jesse serves on the Cottonwood City Council.)

I’ve always marveled that Bob Hall, who makes some of the most delicate hand-faceted bead necklaces, has also built some of Jerome’s largest hand-stacked retaining walls, including the wall behind the Jerome fire station and the wall flanking the basketball court, adjacent to the sliding jail. Retaining walls are Jerome AZ’s most overlooked architectural treasure, even though hundreds are in view every day.

Gold Mining in Jerome AZ 1980’s

Outfitted with overlarge Wellington boots, a hard hat with a flashlight and a self-rescue device, which would give us breathable air in case of a fire, Walter and I are ready to descend 1100 feet down the hoist located at the Audrey Shaft in Jerome, adjacent to the Douglas State Park.

Audrey Headframe, Jerome, AZ.

Audrey Headframe, Jerome, AZ.

In 1984, Budge Mining Ltd. leased mineral rights from Phelps Dodge and United Verde Exploration and sunk quite a few bucks into fixing up the Audrey Shaft and elevator of the old Little Daisy Mine and fixing some of the tunnels. Mining, albeit on a small scale, threatens to come back to Jerome.

The new mine is after red- and black-banded jasper and other types of quartz chert and intend to haul the ore to New Mexico. There it will be crushed and used as a flux to process copper. The flux is heated and the gold will float up as a byproduct.

The gold is electron gold, microscopic and invisible. The only way geologists know it is there is to assay the rock. Paul Handverger, who was managing Verde Ex’s properties, was excited because he discovered the new prospect.

I’m there as part of a newly formed organization called the Jerome Protection Foundation, which is objecting to the proposed mining. Too noisy, especially at nights with dumping and sounds of trucks backing up, too disruptive to tourism that comes to the State Park, too much wear and tear on our already damaged roads, and so on. The road from Highway 89a to the State Park (Mine Road) is narrow and twisty. We’ve seen drivers who can’t always see around the curves drive much too fast and not quite on their side of the road.

The mine personnel are trying to appease us and have invited me to go into the mine. I’m all smiles and charm. I’ve always wanted to see the inside of a mine.

Pete Flores, mine foreman, reassures me that it’s perfectly safe. “You’ve been seeing too many movies. It’s not too bad at all down there. I even took my wife.”’

“How much gold is in the ore?” I ask. “Oh about .2 percent to a ton of rock,” says Flores. “I’ve been mining gold for 4-5 years and the only gold I’ve ever seen was in my teeth.

Down in the big tunnel, Flores shows us the safety rules, the emergency 
stretcher, the stepladder that would allow us to climb out if the elevators have a problem, the pneumatic tube that flows and circulates air. “I never had an accident and none of my men have either,” Flores says.

My big surprise is how roomy, high and long the tunnels are. My two-story house would hardly touch the ceiling. The ceiling of the tunnel is netted with wire mesh and embedded with bolts that go five feet into the rock. Flores also showed me some soft spots that could possible lead to cave-ins, which he likens to rotten apples.

We’re slowly walking in muck towards the high school. The muck is from water that needs to be used in diamond drilling through the hard rock jasper. We’re also shown two types of ores that hold massive amounts of copper—one a black schist that looks like coal and is very dense. I’m told it assays out at 30% copper to the ton. In the other or type, you can see copper seams—Jerome’s Apache gold— that assay out as 50-70% ore to the ton. They’re part of the extremely high concentrations of copper that are common to Jerome’s massive sulfide deposits.

I ask Flores what he likes about mining.

“The temperature,” he says. “My first job out of school was doing surveys in Grants New Mexico. It was windy, cold and miserable. Then I got a job mining. Down there the weather’s always perfect, an even 70 degrees all year round.”

While walking around, Flores told us about old mining superstitions.

“The miners of Arizona’s copper districts belong to many different nationalities. If they worked as miners in the Old Country, they bought their superstition with them. Many nationalities believe that mines are inhabited by impish “little people” called kobolds by the Germans, duendes by the Mexicans and tommyknockers by Cornish miners. They like to play pranks, like carrying carry off small tools. In the old country, miners kept them appeased with food offerings. The superstition that lingers on is that a woman will invariably bring bad luck into any mine. So whether true or not, it is very difficult for women to go down into the mines.

Tommyknockers, in mining folklore, are the spirits that knock on walls just before cave-ins.

Tommyknockers, in mining folklore, are the spirits that knock on walls just before cave-ins.

Anti-Mining Activism: The Jerome Protection Foundation

Barbara Blackburn, who had a level head and was a great organizer, started the Jerome Protection Foundation in the late 80’s. I was secretary. We were the black hippie crows creating as much an uproar as we knew how. Joining us was Mayor Francesca Segretti, who became livid when she had to drive to work at a crawl behind eleven ore trucks. Our members called and wrote a barrage of letters to officials at ADOT, the State Preservation offices, Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C., UVX; Phelps Dodge, Budge Mining. We flew off press releases, held meetings, got residents of Jerome engaged in doing something with their anger besides spouting off.

John McNerney, founder of JErome Instrument Corporation, which manufactured mercury detectors, used a noise detector to take formal measurements. “You need a baseline, something to compare potential noise levels to,” John said.  Joey van Leeuwen made a list of trees along Mine road that might be cut down if the road was widened. The strategy was to create a big bother along many fronts.

In one rancorous town council meeting, one mining geologist shook his fist and said, “You’ll see big mining return here in the next century. The biggest zinc deposit in North America is right underneath Jerome.”

There is a lot of zinc up there near the open pit and underneath the Company Hill houses, but it’s low grade and so far there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in mining it.

Fortunately, although four different mining companies professed interest as buyers of the chert, contracts for the ore were not forthcoming. Then there was an accident down in the mine, which nobody could get any details about. A big hush-up. A first for Flores. The mine shut down for repairs and never reopened. Today, the Historical Society constructed The Audrey Headframe park.

Would our protests of the Jerome Protection Foundation have amounted to anything? Maybe a few small concessions by the mine. At best. we probably did little more than spook them. Mining is a big Goliath. We were saved by either fate or serendipity.

It did not give us much hope against successfully protesting against an even bigger mining Goliath that may loom from discoveries of new massive sulfide deposits.  (See a previous post: “The Future of Mining in Jerome.”)

The Audrey Headframe  Park

In 2010, volunteers led by Allen Muma, President of the Jerome Historical Society, and Mayor Jim Kinsella, constructed the Audrey Headframe Park. The big draw is not just the restored headframe, but a glass platform where visitors can walk and peer down into the shaft—the same one that held the old elevator that took us down into the mine. Special zenon lighting and mirrors heighten the effect of looking down into the tunnels. The shaft is surrounded by old mining artifacts, such as ore cars, drills, water cannons, and an old mining cage. http://www.jeromehistoricalsociety.com/projects.html

Looking down the old Audrey shaft. In the 1980's, I was taken down by elevator to  tour a proposed new gold mine.

Looking down the old Audrey shaft. In the 1980’s, I was taken down by elevator to tour a proposed new gold mine.

The mirror walk was built by the same company that built the spectacular glass skywalk on the portion of the Grand Canyon owned by the Hualapai nation.

http://www.grandcanyonskywalk.com/