Friday, May 02, 2014

The Long Life & Times of Roscoe Willson

May 2, 2014
   Went over to Janie's next door for lunch yesterday. Sat at the bar and looked out the open breezeway onto the saguaro studded hill behind us (True West World Headqaurters faces the same hill). Had a turkey sando, iced tea and worked on sketches. Beautiful day.

The view from the bar at Janie's

   Speaking of my home town, here's our hero Roscoe Willson when he was in Cave Creek:

Roscoe Willson in Cave Creek

   Roscoe is the guy who saved the postcard photo of the Quartzite Gunfight (it's in his massive archives down at the Polly Rosenbaum warehouse). Here is the online bio for the guy:

Roscoe G. Willson was born in Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota, the son of a country newspaper editor, on July 13, 1879. He finished high school at 16 and worked on his father’s newspaper, which he later published for a year.

After three years of wandering over Mexico, working on railroad construction and on coffee and rubber plantations, Willson came to Arizona in 1902 and worked at Crown King Mine in Crown King, Arizona. He did some prospecting before joining the newly organized U.S. Forest Service in 1905. During his tenure with the U.S. Forest Service in Southern Arizona, Roscoe met his wife, Maude, in 1907 and married her in January 1909. He put in 14 years with the forest service, resigning in 1919 to run sheep and work in oil fields.

In 1924, Willson and Maude opened the Arizona Specialty Company. He sold the business in 1945 to retire. He then began writing The Arizona Days and Ways column for the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic in 1947 and continued doing so until his death on August 25, 1976 at the age of 97.

   And here is Roscoe when he was a Forrest Service Supervisor:

Roscoe Willson, Nogales, 1907

   And here's Roscoe prospecting. . .

Roscoe as a prospector, somewhere in Arizona

   After a long, and varied career all over the West and in Mexico, Roscoe retired in 1945, then he approached The Arizona Republic about doing a column called "Arizona Days & Ways" which he published with tales of old Arizona, usually punctuated with first person accounts, like, "The next time I was in Bisbee, i ran into Burt Mossman, the head of the Arizona Rangers, and told him of the altercation. . ." Roscoe is the guy I grew up reading in the 1950s and 1960s, and he wrote these columns until he died in 1976 at age 97! Amazing.

"He was funny because he wasn't funny, but he was always trying to be funny, and that struck me as funny."
—Angie Dickinson on Jack Warner