1953

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Growing communities and the need to provide more classrooms for our children is nothing new. A solution for many school districts in the late 1940s and early 1950s was to acquire old barracks buildings through the War Assets Administration (WAA).

In a letter to the Queen Creek School District, dated July 23, 1947, the WAA wrote “…your application for buildings located at the Marana Army Air Field[1], Marana, Arizona, has been accepted. The total Fair-Value of these buildings is $630, which amount is subject to discount as a Public Benefit Allowance for educational purposes. The net amount due is $85.50.”

SchoolkidsIn September 1949, several more buildings were acquired from the Florence prisoner-of-war (POW) camp[2] for use as classrooms, offices, an auditorium and a cafeteria. Records show the purchase price for a single building was only $50.25. We can see one barrack in a photo of the old Rittenhouse School’s playground taken 50 years ago.

In 1953, a loaf of bread sold for 16 cents; a gallon of milk, 94 cents. The second season of The Honeymooners, with Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Joyce Randolph, could be enjoyed while eating one of Carl Swanson’s first TV dinners. A new car, which probably cost around $1,850, could be driven to Jerome, Arizona for 29 cents a gallon. Although, with the mines closing in Jerome, there were less than 50 people still residing in the community. On the other side of the world in Nepal, Sir Edmund Hillary was making the first recorded climb to the summit of Mt. Everest.

The barracks are gone, but the old merry-go-round and some of the other playground equipment from years-past are still available for viewing at Queen Creek’s old Rittenhouse Elementary School, home of the San Tan Historical Society Museum.

[1] The Marana Army Air Field opened in 1942 and was used as an air transport basic training school. In 1945, the base was deactivated. It is used today as a storage place for civilian planes.
[2] An internment camp for enemy soldiers captured during WWII - 13,000 Italian and German prisoners passed through from 1942-45.