Column No. 31

There was no shortage of favorite hangouts in Ruby

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

The Ruby mining camp was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. In the 1930s, the nearest real towns were Tucson, 70 miles to the northeast and Nogales, 35 miles over a difficult mountain road to the southeast. But, after Eagle-Picher reopened the Montana mine in 1934, there was no shortage of favorite hangouts for Ruby residents.

Charlie Case, justice of the peace in Ruby, opened two business establishments that became very popular, a Confectionary called Case’s Place, and the Ruby Pool and Lunch Hall.

Case’s Place was at the center of the mining camp. Case’s sold sandwiches, soft drinks, ice cream, cakes and pies, and candies. Besides all that attractive food, they also had newspapers, magazines and a free circulating library for Ruby residents.

Mineworker’s daughter Angela Coronado De Nault remembered that her sister Trini was one of two girls who worked at Case’s:

“And they ran. I mean they were the ones that made the root beer floats and the ice cream shakes and they weighed the candy and the candy bars and the bubble gum. Everything went on at Cases. They had little tables … where you would go and sit and have an ice cream cone or a root beer float. … And everybody congregated at Case’s or right outside.

“They had little cards that you used to punch out and win a prize and then you had to pay the amount that was behind that little tab, like a quarter or a nickel or nineteen cents or whatever but you got a prize with every nickel that you spent. The cards might have been for $5, $10 at the most, but you got toys, you got candy, you got jewelry. The girls used to get the whole thing sometimes from their boyfriends.”

Columnist Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon also remembered Case’s place:

“Patrons were welcomed inside not only by the operators of the enterprise, Forrest ‘Ma’ Case and her husband, Charlie, but also by the warm atmosphere of the room, with its curtained windows and round wooden tables supported by looped metal tubular legs.

“Mrs. Case, a jovial woman about five feet two inches tall, had dark, wavy hair and wore glasses. Her favorite expression was, ‘Well, I’ll swan.’ The Cases lived in an attached apartment, just behind their business. As with all other Ruby buildings, this structure was owned by Eagle-Picher.”

Besides the wonderful food items already mentioned, Cahoon, remembered that:

“Coffee, tea and Delaware punch, a grape-flavored, lightly carbonated drink, were also available. Ice cream cones could be purchased for a nickel!”

Ruby’s Pool and Lunch Hall, known as the “Country Club,” was on a knoll on the northwest edge of the camp. According to youngster-at-the-time Joe Ortiz, the “Pool Hall was outside the company fence because [they] sold liquor.” (There was a Company rule that liquor could not be sold on Company property.)

Besides serving as a pool hall, the building was large enough to use as a recreation hall for the entire camp. The “hall” hosted weekly movies and acted as a dancehall twice a month for as many as 300 people. The regular menu included beer, wine, and mixed drinks from the bar and such food items as sandwiches and hot dogs.

Ann Worth, wife of diesel equipment mechanic “Red” Worth, remembered the Saturday dances:

“Dances were special events. … We’d make a special trip to Tucson to buy a dress. The women actually dressed formal for those. … Sometimes a good band from Tucson would come out to play.

“Married couples would give the single boys a dance every six months and six months later they’d plan a dance for us. The cowboys from nearby ranches would bring in big roasts when it was their turn and the party and dance would begin about six in the evening and go strong into the morning hours.”

Joe Ortiz recalled the movies at the Pool Hall:

“The movie guy came from Tucson in a truck with all the equipment, every Friday night … 35 cents for adults and 10 cents for children for a movie. My first movie was King Kong. … There was a stage; the truck man brought the screen and projector. Had cartoons. Movies ran about four hours.”

Angela Coronado De Nault provided her perspective on the movies:

“We used to walk! All of us, a lot of friends and family used to walk together down the road to the hall. And I remember distinctly watching Hop-a-long Cassidy, Gene Autry, The Prince and the Pauper … Zorro and Fred McMurray … just a lot of good movies back then.

“They didn’t have anything to eat there at the movie house. If you had anything, you brought it yourself like fruit, candy, or whatever. And if you wanted popcorn, you had to make it yourself to bring it”

Commenting on how the seats were arranged, De Nault went on:

“They were just regular folding chairs one row after another ... It was all even. If you sat in the front, you saw everything good. If you sat in the back, you might have missed something.”

The Country Club was a favored place for dating in the mining camp. De Nault remembered how her family handled things:

“Dating was very much regulated. OK? Most of the time one of the sisters or brothers had to go with them. … They were allowed to go the movies by themselves because all of us went but we didn’t sit with them. But there were restrictions as to what time they were to come home.”

(Sources: Interviews with Angela Coronado De Nault and Joe Ortiz; Dan B. McCarthy, “The Return to Ruby,” Phoenix Republic, October 1, 1972)

Cases Place

Ruby residents gather around Mrs. Case in front of Case’s Confectionary. The sign over the door advertises: Lunches, Cold Drinks, Tobaccoes, Candies, and Elite Ice Cream. (Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon private collection, 1936)

Pool and Lunch Hall

Besides games of pool, Ruby’s Country Club hosted dances and movies. (Courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society/Tucson, Photo 76261, circa mid 1930s)

Next time: Recreation and Social Life in Ruby

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