We headed out to Yuma Territorial Prison State Park today. super interesting and a definite must see for anyone travelling through here. There is a $6 each admission charge but we felt that, for what you saw and enjoyed, it was money well spent. It opened on July 1, 1876 and the first inmates were moved in. A total of 3,069 prisoners (29 women) lived here during the prison's 33 years of operation. We learned about the challenges of the times, controlling prisoners, the toughness of ALL involved, including the prisoners. It was, apparently a model for it's time and humanely administered.
The only punishments were the dark cells for inmates who broke prison regulations, and the ball and chain for those who tried to escape. During their free time, prisoners hand-crafted many items. Those items were sold at public bazaars held at the prison on Sundays after church services. Prisoners also had regular medical attention, and access to a good hospital.
Schooling was available for convicts, and many learned to read and write in prison. The prison housed one of the first "public" libraries in the territory, and the fee charged to visitors for a tour of the institution was used to purchase books. One of the early electrical generating plants in the West furnished power for lights and ran a ventilation system in the cellblock.
By 1907, the prison was severely overcrowded, and there was no room on Prison Hill for expansion. The convicts constructed a new facility in Florence, Arizona.
The last prisoner left Yuma on September 15, 1909.
The Yuma Union High School occupied the buildings from 1910 to 1914. Empty cells provided free lodging for hobos riding the freights in the 1920s, and sheltered many homeless families during the Depression. Townspeople considered the complex a source for free building materials. This, plus fires, weathering, and railroad construction, destroyed the prison walls and all buildings except the cells, main gate and guard tower. These provide a glimpse of convict life a century ago.
So interesting. But, to me, it was most interesting that the city of Yuma almost let this go to wrack and ruin. Those students that went to the high school proudly called themselves "Criminals or Crims". We talked to a lady in the gift shop today who was proud to be from a 3rd generation "Crim" family. Luckily the city started to preserve the prison it and this is the result. A bit of history that is very important to the area. Pretty cool.
Rebuilt guard tower on top of the water reserve...
View down into what is now parkland by the Colorado River
Original main gate (called Sally Port) going into the prison that now leads to the museum...
Nicely set up and they have a video giving more history that runs all the time...
Funny story about this "bookkeeper"
Some nasty people.....even women.
Outside, some of the original remaining prison cells. Apparently it was super cold
at night and up to 40 C (110 F) during the day. Lots of misery......
All original cell blocks.....
They slept 6 men to a cell, a bucket for a toilet and no mattresses. These
were removed after it was discovered that they had a serious bedbug problem....
I, for one, just cannot get over touching something this old, that other people so many
years ago touched. It seems weird that our lives now are so "normal"
Well, except for maybe this guy....
This Dark Cell was for solitary confinement. Sometimes they housed up to a dozen men.
There was no toilet, no blankets and only bread & water. They were chained down (by the foot I imagine) in the middle of the room to a grid (see below) and only had a small vent up top for light and air. Creepy to be in there....
These next 2 pictures only look light because I had the flash on.
You could not see anything in there otherwise....
The grid on the floor....Now, let's get OUT of here!!!
It has puzzled me as to how they "cleaned" it if there was no toileting ability??
Ah, two happy convicts....
Shorter people back then!!
Sorry can't remember why this part had "real" beds.
Might have been part of the hospital.
This is funny (not just because Doug is in it!!) but because this is the real mirror that they used to take a convicts picture. Notice the cut-out by his right shoulder. It gives the photographer a side view as well but they only had to do one photo. Apparently, that was his menacing face.
After that we went to the downtown historic district. They were having some kind of a fair this weekend although we were not clear what kind but it gave us opportunity to stroll around the original downtown core. Pretty interesting.
Boy, these old stores were sure swanky, with their names spelled out in tile. Love that!!
Too bad much of this downtown area is pretty vacant, except for this little festival.
We loved this old retro hotel, San Carlos. It was built in 1930.
It is used now for low-income housing
"Air cooled" not air conditioned as we know it today!!
Okay, I know you have all been waiting for it....foot shots!!
Wow, you just NEVER see these signs in Canada!!
...and this one is in the Post Office!!
(Does anyone tell this to the bad guys??)
So, for the first time in awhile (New Years Eve) we took ourselves out for a late lunch at a famous Yuma casino/bar called Lutes Casino. Pretty cool place, they have been there forever. there even used to be gambling in the basement, through a secret trap door. They would pay off the local authorities. We even got to meet Bob Lutes, he is probably 85 years young and still works there.....
Just one of those places you "have" to go into. Great burgers too!!
Someone told us that no matter how often you go in there, you still see things on
the wall you never noticed before....
Bob Lutes paid us a visit. He is quite a character!!
This gentleman on the left was sitting here when we first arrived today.
Here he still sits, hours later. Guess he wanted to get the best seat for the music.
Not sure if it's on today or tomorrow!!
Old post office, now a law office....
Bring back the people from the air-conditioned malls!!
This picture is for our sister-in-law Carmen, who is from Germany!!
Oh my, after this we went the Quartermasters Park. Which is essentially the area where all the stores were. The "Wal-Mart" of their era. They had an admission fee and we decided that we had done enough so we just took a few photos in the gift shop and went on our way. It is about 1/2 mile from the downtown area....
We headed back to the park but we had seen this sign for a peanut grower just down the road, but unfortunately we missed it. They were closed. But it did answer a questions as to what the low lying crops were in the area - peanuts!!!!
So, after that big lunch and a few glasses of wine back at Euri, we are ready for tea and a few dates from the date garden. Here is our "Tiny House", all decked out with party lights tonight!! It was a great day. We really enjoyed all that we saw, even if it only scratched the surface of Yuma. I think Yuma gets a bit of a bad rap. There are so many people here for the winter. the population of Yuma is somewhere around 60,000 + and in the winter, it increases to 180,000+. That is a lot of people!!
There are hundreds of RV parks in the Yuma area. When coming here, be careful which park you choose, maybe NOT the one we are in, Southern Mesa. It's not so good. The bathrooms are not the greatest. In fact, Doug is downright disgusted at the Men's washroom. We have learned that we will now go for a walk about and ask to see the facilities when we arrive somewhere and not just take it at first glance. Live and learn!! We thought it was weird because tonight, we were sitting in our spot and this little car comes roaring up, into our site, right beside the van and a man jumps out and goes walking through to the main building to get his laundry. What a strange thing. Good thing we weren't sitting there (or had gear out) for him to run over. I think this is what happens when you are the only new people at a park, the rest are "regulars"....
However, as far as Yuma is concerned, there really is lots to do here and not just shuffleboard and golf. Come and check it out.!!
Doug hard at work, doing....something!!
From us to you all - Happy Friday night!!
Wish you were here - well, maybe not all at once.
(Can someone bring Gus here...pleeaassee!!)
Tomorrow we head BACK to Oasis Palms RV Park to fetch our rug (thanks Anne for putting it aside for us!!) and do a bit of re-calculation. I think you will be surprised what we have up our sleeves!! Stay tuned!! I may even have to get another date shake!!
Thought for the Day: I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.