Column No. 36

Leaving Ruby
It was indeed a sad day when we left our Ruby home

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

By 1938, the Montana mine’s lead and zinc ore began to give out and Eagle-Picher didn’t need as many people. Ruby residents reluctantly began to leave Ruby to look for work.

Also by 1938, mining engineer Walter Pfrimmer’s heart condition required specialized treatment outside Ruby. So the Pfrimmer family left Ruby with two objectives: long term work and to find a place where Walter Pfrimmer’s heart condition could be treated.

Columnist Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon remembered that day well:

“It was indeed a sad day in our life’s journey in 1938 when we left our Ruby home and Dad drove us past the store, past the school on the road leading out of Ruby over the cattle guard. Dad was driving our 1937 green Packard. The automobile remains in the family today. I remember the Ruby years as such a peaceful time.”

The Pfrimmers’ home for the next year was Linden, California, some 15 miles east of Stockton. Walter Pfrimmer accepted a position with a placer-dredging company.

Pfrimmer suffered a stroke in Linden, but after receiving medical care, he showed substantial improvement. The Pfrimmers returned to Tucson in November 1939. By then the Montana mine was nearing complete closure. Walter Pfrimmer was unable to work, except for a relatively short time in the fall of 1940, when he was asked by Eagle-Picher to do some consulting work on extracting minerals from the tailings in Ruby. Pfrimmer did go to Ruby, stayed at the guest house, took his meals at the boarding house still operated by the Parrishes, and enjoyed being back in the area of southern Arizona that he loved. The family enjoyed visits to Ruby on weekends.

Ruby’s altitude, however, proved to be too high for Walter Pfrimmer to tolerate, so he soon returned to Tucson. He deteriorated rapidly, having difficulty breathing, and passed away on September 3, 1941. He was only 51 years old.

Mill worker Charles “Charlie” Foltz also left Ruby in 1938. Foltz grew up in and around Ruby. He was the son of C. O. Foltz who operated the general store in the village of Oro Blanco between 1907 and 1915, when he went bankrupt. (Bankruptcy wasn’t the first of life’s tough blows to strike C. O. Foltz. His first wife and two of his three daughters were trampled to death in the 1903 Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago.)

After the store failure in Oro Blanco, C. O. Foltz opened a store in Ruby in 1917, competing with Phil Clarke’s store. Unfortunately Foltz’ Ruby store burned to the ground within a month. So C. O. Foltz gave up in Ruby, and in 1918, moved east across the Santa Cruz River to Patagonia, Arizona to run a candy and ice cream parlor. This venture also failed.

C. O. Foltz remarried in 1913; “Charlie” Foltz was born in 1915 in Nogales, Arizona. After the Patagonia store failure, “Charlie’s” father, now divorced, moved back to the Oro Blanco area and got into the mining business, with a copper mine on Cobre Ridge. “Charlie” and his dad lived in a house built into the entrance of the mine tunnel.

In his travels around the nearby mining camps, “Charlie” met Ines Fraser (see earlier columns) who befriended the youngster, taught him to be a gentleman, and perhaps exposed “Charlie” to the beauty of poetry. The school in Ruby was the source of the rest of “Charlie’s” early education. In 1927, at age 12, Charlie left Ruby for the second time to spend a few years with his mother and sisters in San Diego.

In 1934, “Charlie” was back with his dad in Ruby, where “Charlie” remembered that he and his dad “had the only two-room frame house in Hollywood.” “Charlie” worked in the Montana mine’s mill until 1938, when he left Ruby for the last time (except for a reunion of former residents in 1993).

“Charlie” joined the Marines and fought in WWII. After the war, “Charlie” stayed in San Diego, became a sheet metal contractor, and also an accomplished poet. He was a member of the International Society of Poets and mailed his poems regularly to be published in Arivaca’s The Connection.

“Charlie” Foltz died in San Diego in 2000 at age 84.

After the Pfrimmers and “Charlie” Foltz left Ruby in 1938, production at the Montana mine slowly decreased. Eagle-Picher closed the mine in May 1940.

“Charlie” Foltz described the condition in which Eagle-Picher left the mine:

“I met an old friend who was hoist operator for the last thing the Company did and that was to lower and bring back the crew who set charges against the remaining support columns. As soon as the last man was out, the charges began going off and columns fell, one a minute for approximately three hours. The ground shook and there was a cloud of dust.”

Woodcutter’s son Joe Ortiz, stayed on in Ruby until 1948, helping his dad tear down some of the old buildings. Ortiz described some of the mining aftermath:

“We started taking down tents, then some houses, but there were still enough people in the area to keep school open … I graduated in 1947 from the Ruby school, not quite enough students to keep school open so it closed after I graduated.”

Former residents remember their days in Ruby with great warmth and fondness.

As Carol Clarke Meyer (daughter-in-law of Phil Clarke, who built and formerly operated the Ruby mercantile) put it:

“Those who lived in Ruby during those secure years remember it as a place where life was wonderful – a community where doors were never locked.”

Ann Worth, wife of diesel equipment mechanic “Red” Worth, expressed the general feeling of former residents:

“If I had to live my life over, I’d like that part … in Ruby. They were the happiest days. You were away from the rat race. The climate was wonderful. We were outdoors a lot. It was like a big, happy family … You couldn’t even imagine the happiness in this little town.”

(Sources: Interviews with Charles Foltz and Joe Ortiz; Dan B. McCarthy, “The Return to Ruby,” Phoenix Republic, October 1, 1972; Mary Noon Kasulaitis, “C. O. Foltz & Son,” The Connection, May 1998; Carol Clarke Meyer, “The Rise and Fall of Ruby,” The Journal of Arizona History, 1974)

This poem by Charlie Foltz shows how critically important the Montana mine was to the people of the Ruby mining camp. The poem captures the spirit of very difficult times during the Great Depression.

Next time: Hugo Miller Buys the Montana Mine and Ruby

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