Tuesday, June 9, 1998

Goodbye, Mr. Arizona

June 9, 1998 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

When I think of the Honorable Senator Barry M. Goldwater, I think of Arizona.

I grew up in Arizona with Barry Goldwater and I shared his love for this great state. His name was synonymous with the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly and the Salt River Valley. His vivid photographic images of Arizona and its people have always been a part of our lives. His zest of life was filled with adventures in Arizona so numerous I cannot list them; however, he still had time for the Superstition Mountains.

My father told me a story in 1949, about Barry Goldwater publishing a book for John T. Clymenson (pen name Barry Storm). The book was entitled “On the Trail of the Lost Dutchman.” Father had the book in his collection. He told how Clymenson showed his manuscript to Goldwater at his store in Phoenix and asked him to publish it. Goldwater looked the manuscript over and decided he would have it printed. He even joined Storm on a trip into the Superstition Mountains and took photographs for the book. According to Goldwater himself, he put up a few hundred dollars to publish the book and dedicated it to the Phoenix Don’s Club for the fine community service work they did.

Many years later, Barry Goldwater and I talked about the Lost Dutchman Mine and Superstition Mountain. He enjoyed talking about the mountains and the alleged gold mine. He told me about the time he went into the mountains with Barry Storm (John T. Clymenson) and took photographs. I was quite surprised he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about Barry Storm, the Superstition Mountains, and the Lost Dutchman Mine. Barry Goldwater loved Arizona history, even the legend and myth.

As George E. Johnston, President of the Superstition Mountain Museum, and I sat in Grady Gammage Auditorium attending Goldwater’s memorial service on Wednesday, June 3, 1998, I reflected on the few times during the past fifty-five years our trails had crossed. Actually, I spoke to the late senator only a couple times in all those years. The first time our trails crossed was at a parade down Central Avenue in Phoenix when he ran for the Senate, or had won his Senate seat, in 1952. I was a student at Phoenix Union High School. I remember some fellow students saying, “Barry from Goldwaters is running for, or was elected to, the Senate.”

I recall one time standing fifty or sixty feet from the late Senator at the rim of the Grand Canyon at Yavapai Point. I had several Boy Scouts with me that day. In less than ten minutes, they got a lesson on Arizona history they would never forget. 

The next time our trails crossed was in 1981. It was the year we asked Senator Goldwater if he would be willing to serve on the Honorary Board of Directors for the Superstition Mountain Historical Society. He promptly agreed to lend his name to the credibility of our organization.

I had the distinct honor of being involved with the Arizona Historical Foundation Lectures Series on Arizona at Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale one year. This was the same year Senator Goldwater was also a guest speaker. We visited about the Superstition Mountains and the many characters. We talked about Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin and his interest in the Lost Dutchman Mine. I could sense in his voice his envy and love for adventure. He told me how as a young man he roamed the Superstitions.

Another time I recall our trails crossing was around Memorial Day 1989. Each Memorial Day since the erection of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. a friend or two and I would carry the Stars and Stripes up to the top of Superstition Mountain to fly in honor of the Vietnam veterans and all American veterans. It was never an easy task to accomplish on horseback. It was certainly a challenge, but worthwhile.

That particular Memorial Day, Len Clements of Channel 10 filmed us, the horses and the flag flying high on top of Superstition Mountain. He announced this gathering on top of Superstition Mountain as a salute to war veterans of America on the evening news. A few days later I received a message from Barry Goldwater expressing his admiration for our accomplishment. I knew that was something he would have done after hearing his comments.

Goldwater was enormously popular with Arizonans, but always accessible. Even if you didn’t agree with his politics you had to respect him for his honesty, tenacity and integrity. He always said what he thought even if it hurt his cause.

At his eulogy I believe Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit said it best, “Americans will always remember two Arizonans, one was Geronimo and the other was Barry Goldwater. They both loved Arizona and were willing to fight for it.”

The greatest tribute to this distinguished Senator from Arizona is that he will always be remembered throughout America as “Mr. Arizona.”