This was originally posted Aug 4th, 2016. This year she turns 106 and her celebration at the Train Depot with family, friends and community had to be postponed due to covid-19 concerns. So we are re-posting this feature on her! Please leave your comments and well wishes below!
I decide not to ask Carmen Slough about what it’s like to be 102 years old. I get the feeling her age is something she gets asked about a lot and it is, after all, just one of the innumerable things she has accomplished in her life. She’s more than a number, but if we’re talking numbers, 102 certainly deserves more than a little reverence.
Slough (her maiden name is Blanco) was born in Douglas, Arizona, to parents who both immigrated from Spain, but didn’t meet until they were in the U.S. In her early years, her father worked at the mine in Douglas, hopping around to other mines in the area to follow work. “Finally, my mother said, ‘We’re not moving anymore, we’re staying in Globe,’” remembers Slough. Slough thinks her family must have been settled in Globe by about 1918. “We could almost say we’re natives here,” she says. After nearly 100 years in the area, I imagine she’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue with that assessment.
Slough grew up on Banker avenue in Globe, behind what is now Mary’s Tap Room, on what she playfully calls, “the other side of the tracks.” Slough was the first of her nine siblings to graduate high school. She started at Central School, up on the hill near where the bus barn is now. “The school districts were sort of divided by the tracks,” Slough explains. “If you lived on that side of the tracks, you went to Central School, especially if you were Spanish or Italian because it was people of mixed nationalities that lived on that side of the tracks. […] We had a mixture there of Italians, Slavs, Spaniards, and Mexicans.”
The picture that Slough paints of that corner of town at the time is idyllic. Behind the house she grew up in, “The Italian people had a big area up toward the hills and they had fruit trees galore there—figs, pears, apricots, plums, and they willing to share with the neighborhood—what we didn’t steal from them.” Where Dream Pole construction is now, Slough remembers Bankers Garden, a popular bar improbably located under the railroad tracks. “It had beautiful trees […] They had bocce courts where the men would play bocce, but it was just so pretty there. There was so little traffic on Ash, that she and her the other neighborhood kids played ball in the street.
There’s a sort of defiant beauty to the way Slough describes Globe in her early years—a lush oasis by the overpass, gymnastics in the creek bed, and melodic funeral parades that went right down Broad street. “Way back, way back, the funerals always went down through town.” says Slough. “They would have a marching band and we had—he was a violin teacher what the heck was his name—Mr. Blackstone. He would lead all of the parades. He was a tall English man.” According to Slough, no matter who was having a funeral, folks processed down Broad street and over to the cemetery just the same.
Slough remembers Mrs. Murray, the strict, but likable principal of Central School. “I had a little brother that was like two years old and of course he would follow us to school,” says Slough. “We’d go to school and before we knew it he’d show up there and maybe he’d still be in diapers. And Mrs. Murray was so kind. She’d call one of us out of school and say ‘Hey, go take your little brother back.’ He wound up as principal of that school.” Slough is an exception in a family of educators.
“You should have seen our bloomers!” says Slough about what girls had to wear to her favorite class: gym. “We had these black bloomers. Mothers made them. They had elastic legs and elastic top. You had white midis that you had to wear with them. […] Your bloomers came down below your knees and you always had stockings and socks. Everything was covered and you didn’t reveal any skin whatsoever.”
In 1934, after she graduated high school, Carmen married Alfred Slough and they had a son, Robert, a year later. They had a shop, Slough’s Market, another fixture of the neighborhood, located where Mary’s Tap Room is now. “It started out as an open air market with produce,” says Carmen. “They would drive all the way to the Imperial Valley in California and bring fresh produce into town. Because prior to that all the produce—everything—came railroad. And that’s when people began trucking.”
Juxtaposed with the devastating poverty that Slough saw during the Great Depression, she also remembers abundant trust.
“I met all the okies and the arkies when we had the grocery store because they had to eat,” says Slough. “They had to eat. And the first thing they wanted to know was ‘Well, we got a little job, will you trust us? When we get paid, we’ll pay you.’ And of course, you did. You got their name and wrote out a ticket and when they got paid, they’d come in and pay their bills.”
When her husband passed away in 1948, Slough’s brother had just returned from the service, and like a lot of other veterans in Globe at the time, got a job at the post office. However, “He always wanted a clothing store—a men’s clothing store,” says Slough. They decided to go into business together and Carm-Ed’s was born. The pair started out in what is now the Bank of the West building in 1952, but spent the bulk of their years on Broad Street in the Michaelson building. They retired in 1991.
“It took off right away. We got a lot of the young people coming in there,” says Slough. “I enjoyed it because I enjoyed visiting with people. You know, you make friends. I could look at a man and tell you what size he wore. I knew whether he had to have low-rise or regular rise. I did pick out a lot of clothes for men that were not married—single—and they didn’t know what went with what” The fact that Slough spoke Spanish helped Carm-Ed’s attract customers. Although the store was predominantly menswear, Slough says, “We would sell as many Levi’s to the women as we did with the men.” Levi’s transcended gender and social groups. “The jocks and cowboys both wore Levis,” Slough also remembers.
One of the things Slough misses most about spending her days in Carm-Ed’s is not feeling as connected to the community—not knowing when people are having anniversaries and birthdays, when someone has a kid or gets married.
“They all become friends. It was the same way at the grocery store. People would come there, and at that time, everybody had charge accounts. That’s gone now. Nobody trusts anybody […] So you knew their family life. You just knew more or less what they were going to buy and sometimes they needed help with the kids and you’d help out. We helped one another, one way or another.”
Carm-Ed’s didn’t endure any significant damage from the flood of ‘54, but many folks did. Some businesses experienced such devastation that, in spite of help from the community, they were forced to close. “There was houses, little shacks, everything was coming down that creek. Cars […] it picked the cars up and put one on top of the other. It was unbelievable,” remembers Slough. That afternoon, after a phone call from her sister in law, Slough stepped out her front door and, “Standing out there on High street, I could look down and see that wall of water.”
Just before the flood, Slough had been eyeing a green settee at Pete Oddonetto’s furniture shop. She remembers him questioning whether she really wanted the settee because she had green carpet at the time and it would be too much green. She told him she wouldn’t buy it that day, but was going to think about it. “First thing I see is […] that green settee that he had out there floating down the creek,” she says with a laugh. In spite of that little bit of comic relief, it’s clear that memories of that night still weigh heavily on her.
“I had never belonged to anything in my life, all I did was work,” says Slough, but in the mid-fifties she became a charter member of the Globe-Miami Emblem club. She was elected president in 1954, has traveled to Emblem conferences from coast to coast, and is still involved today. Slough was also a charter member of the Gila General Auxiliary and was involved until it closed, working to raise money for the Gila General Hospital. She volunteers at the Globe Senior Center four days a week “to help the old people,” in her words.
Slough has been in her house in downtown Globe for 80 years. She’s adamant that she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s the best area in the world to live in. For health reasons, for safety, I don’t think there’s a better place to live,” she argues.
Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Edible Baja Arizona, Modern Farmer, Punch, Serious Eats, and elsewhere. Her first book, Beyond Canning was published in February 2016.