Segregation in education
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 9, 2005
City's 1st school for Blacks remembered

Geri Koeppel
Ruth Franklin couldn't save the elementary school she attended, but she is preserving its story.

The last two of the four adobe buildings of the Goodyear School, Chandler's first segregated school for African-Americans, were torn down in May 2004. Franklin is leading an effort at the Chandler Museum to organize a permanent exhibit to open in November featuring oral histories, photographs and  mementos.

"It was such a significant part of history in Arizona as far as segregation  went and integration went," said Franklin, 77, of Chandler. "I wanted the  memory to be there for the children of those students who did attend."

The school was on Basha Road south of Ocotillo Road, across from where Bashas' corporate offices are now. The area and school were named after Goodyear Tire & Rubber, which started a community in the area.

White and Hispanic locals and migrant workers' children attended Goodyear from the 1920s until 1943, when it became an all-Black school. In 1945, the town name was changed to Ocotillo, so some refer to the school as Ocotillo School.

It closed in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered all schools be integrated.

The Chandler Historical Society has located about 20 former students and taken oral histories, but it has located only six photographs.

"In order to create an exhibit, we need more," said Jan Dell, Chandler Museum coordinator.

Many younger people today assume segregation affected only the South. Dell hopes the Goodyear exhibit will open a dialogue about how segregation affected Chandler.

Beatrice "Willy" McFadden, 67, and her sister, Ernestine Johnson, 70, both of Chandler, attended the school when it was open to African-Americans only. They recall getting a poor education and having few resources.

One teacher taught first through third grade in one building. Another taught fourth through eighth in a different building. They served about 25 or 30 students, Johnson said, but the number of classes taught together made it difficult for students to concentrate.

Before and after school, they had no supervision except for the custodian, who sometimes looked after them. The two teachers had a long drive from Phoenix down two-lane roads, so they arrived just in time to teach and left immediately when class was over.

And there was no playground equipment.

"We would draw on the ground and play hopscotch or play Ring Around the Rosy," Johnson said.

Though Franklin and Johnson said the teachers did the best they could, it was hard for students to catch up later.

"I struggled through high school and college because I didn't have the right foundation," McFadden said, "and afterward I determined my children wouldn't suffer."

She became a teacher and developed adult-motivation classes, and made sure her sons were educated, too. One became a doctor, the other a lawyer. Johnson also was a teacher until retiring and her brother, Coy Payne, who attended Goodyear, became mayor of Chandler.

McFadden and Johnson's experiences contrasted with that of Charles Nickell, 73, of Sun Lakes, who also became a teacher. He attended the Goodyear School from 1938 to 1943, just before it became a Black school.

"I think the quality of education was as good as any other school," he said.

When Nickell was there, the school housed first through fifth grade and there were three teachers for about 75 to 100 children. Books were current, he said, and they had a school nurse come in once or twice a week.

He said extracurricular activities were limited, but they did have a Christmas play each year, they had music class once a week and had playground equipment like swings, seesaws and soccer balls.

But after he left in spring 1943, all of that was gone when the Black students began school in the fall.

After 1954, the former Goodyear School sat vacant until sometime in the 1960s, when the buildings were converted to houses. People lived in them until at least 1993, Franklin remembers.

The first two buildings were torn down in January 2004, and the remaining two in May 2004.

Franklin had wanted to preserve the buildings, but moving companies couldn't guarantee the structures would survive a move. It also would have been dangerous.

"The whole thing could collapse on the road," Dell said. "It was too far gone by the time they wanted to do something with it."

Now, the land is vacant where the school used to sit and Bogle Farms Inc. owns it, according to Maricopa County Assessor's records. When the school was torn down, the Bogle family donated a block from the wall for the exhibit and some architectural elements.

The Chandler Museum is still looking for more artifacts, though.

"We're looking for former students, people who may have lived out there,  anyone associated with historic Goodyear," Dell said.