by Mikey Marazza
Chuck and Alice Simpson have been coming to Christopher Creek since 1992. They have finally reached their dream to move here full time, as many would love to do.
In 1992, Chuck was working an arts and craft show in Show low. When the Simpsons were heading home to Phoenix, they decided to travel Highway 260. They stopped in Christopher Creek to have lunch, and this is where there dream begins.
While eating at the Landmark, they started to talk to Jimmie the bartender. Chuck was telling her that he had been traveling around Arizona and California and Nevada doing different shows.
Jimmie told them that they do shows every weekend at the restaurant, and introduced them to Ken Richardson, who was in charge of the craft shows at that time.
Ken told them that they could set up at any time they would like. Chuck and Alice went back to Phoenix and talked it over. They thought how beautiful Christopher Creek was and how he could set up his outdoor store, and it would give them an excuse to come up more often. You know -- combine work and pleasure! This would be an opportunity to set up one show for the rest of the season instead of moving from one to another.
Two weeks later, Chuck was up and setting up his outdoor store. He instantly knew he was in another world. The mountains were awesome, the trees looked and smelled so good! What a place to make and sell his work.
Since he had no place to live, Chuck parked his 4-by-8 foot trailer in the back of the Landmark. He built his shelving and his displays in front of the trailer and no one knew he was living there. With the help of his camping gear, the trailer became his living room, bedroom, dressing room, and almost every other room.
In the mornings and evenings, Chuck would set up his Coleman stove in the back and on the creek, and there was his kitchen.
It seemed that everything was looking good for his business and his so-called living conditions, except for one little consideration: Where was the shower?
Chuck looked at the creek and then he thought, "You don't bring a boy right up out of Phoenix and turn him into an instant mountain man. Or do you?" This would take some working on!
As the luck of the draw would have it, he met two of the crafters who had travel trailers parked here for the season. They were kind enough to let Chuck use their shower. He was able to stay till the end of October, and was the last one to leave.
Alice and Chuck and those crafters are still the best of friends today. Alice, who was still in the corporate world, to the tune of 26 years with the same company, would come up and stay on weekends with Chuck. Their kids would come up and camp out in several locations.
They got to know and love the people here and formulate plans for the future. They wanted to buy their last home and live out their years on this beautiful mountain. They knew Alice had several more years before this would be possible, but they kept up the faith.
In May 1993, Chuck returned and set up his outdoor store. Before everyone arrive he would park his VW bus on the creek bank. When everyone set up, you could see Chuck's bus behind the show. He would set up his canopy, patio chairs, and propane and Coleman stove. He was set for the season. His only mode of transportation was his Harley.
With permission from the owners of the Landmark -- Tony and Janie at that time -- Chuck just had to pay a minimum amount for the electricity he used. He forgot to mention that this year he had lights, a stereo and heat. He was moving on up.
His bus turned into a bedroom and he could sleep in it with his doors open most nights and lay and listen to the creek. It was like taking one big tranquilizer pill. He slept well!
His store was bigger and with friends Bud and Helaine, who made hand-painted pottery, they combined their stores into one. Chuck stayed until November and once again was the last one to leave.
Chuck and Alice were on a mission to move up here full-time and in May 1994 purchased a mobile home. It needed a lot of work and Alice informed Chuck she wasn't coming up till it was cleaned from top to bottom. He moved in two days later with his sleeping bag and slept on the couch the first two weeks, and chased out the snakes and spiders.
For the next year, Chuck opened a show every day up in Forest Lakes, but Alice and Chuck were more and more determined to do it all in Christopher Creek, And in April 1996 John and Olive of Creekside made that possible by renting out a building for Chuck to move into.
In 1997, Chuck took over the building himself and it became Christopher Creek Arts and Crafts Gallery. He talked his friend and neighbor, Breezin, who is an excellent artist of beautiful oil paintings, to join in.
Chuck also wanted someone who did southwestern jewelry, and along came Nancy's Crafts with its unique creations. They were starting to look like a real store.
You can now find there Bud and Helaine's hand painted pottery, Breezin's oil paintings and leather work, Chuck's homemade candles of all sizes, free-hand woodburning art work on locally cut alligator juniper, and all types of horseshoe creations -- anything from patio furniture to small wall hangers -- along with some other wonderful handcrafted gifts.
Alice was fortunate to take an early retirement, and she and Church were able to find a home on the creek they love.
Any way you look at it, Chuck and Alice have achieved their dream. They now live and work in Christopher Creek full time and are two of the happiest people you could meet.
As you come through Christopher Creek, be sure to stop in and say hello to Chuck, known to locals as Chuck the Candleman.
Bake, book sale
Don't forget the Firebelles bake and book sale and silent auction this Saturday at the fire hall.