Through honoring Lorna Lee Orsburn, the Daughters of the Gila County Pioneers paid tribute to an intrepid lady of the past, Polly Brown. Brown was a rancher, a bar owner, a storekeeper and one of Payson's Rodeo Queens.
Orsburn was selected at the Daughters' Woman of the Year and celebrated at a luncheon last week.
"She is always full of energy and writes the neatest stories for the Daughters' books," said Jayne Peace Pyle when she introduced Orsburn.
Her oldest daughter, Jacque Lynne Medrano, chronicled Orsburn's history for the group.
Orsburn was born in Tempe, but after her parents divorced in 1932, she and her younger brother, Reed, were brought to the Rim Country by their mother, Laura May Brown. The three of them lived with Laura's parents, pioneers Harry and Polly Brown. They made their home at the foot of Ox Bow Hill, where they had a store and gas station.
Orsburn started school in Gisela, staying with the teacher during the week and going home on weekends.
As part of the afternoon's festivities, members of the Daughters shared stories and memories about Polly Brown with Orsburn's daughters and granddaughters to help them claim their Rim Country heritage.
"Polly made an impact on all of us," Pyle said.
Anna Mae Deming recalled that Polly attended every dance that was held. "She was a hard worker and always there when anyone needed her."
Sarah Luckie talked about Polly's reign as Rodeo Queen.
"It started out as a joke, but it turned out to be so neat. She represented the town so well," Luckie said.
Dixie Jones has a special place in her heart for Polly Brown. Jones and her husband, Lee, were married in Brown's bar in 1952.
"She kept pigs down there (at the bar)," Jones said. "And she fed them beer. And if you didn't guard your beer, it was tossed in the feed bucket before you were finished with it and you had to buy another one."
While Brown was in the business of selling beer and liquor, she didn't allow liquor in her dance hall.
"She would open it up and let us kids dance all day Saturday and Sunday," Valda Teague said.
Brown loved to dance. Just about everyone sharing memories of the tiny woman attested to that, and she would take her grandchildren to the dances with her when they came to visit.
"Mother didn't like us going to the dances," Orsburn said, so sometimes they'd go and let her know and then there were times they kept their dance trips just between them and "Grammie Polly Brown."
And while Laura May didn't want her children going to Rim Country dances, she did send them to dance classes in the Valley. Both Lorna Lee and her brother, Reed, took lessons at Paula Revere's School of The Dance. The two youngsters partnered one another and had routines they performed in reviews at the Orpheum and Fox Theatres and for various functions around the Valley. Lorna was petite and limber, so some of her routines incorporated acrobatics as well.
Lorna's career as a dancer continued through World War II, when she traveled with a group of entertainers selling war bonds.
Lorna graduated from North Phoenix High School in 1946 and enrolled at Arizona State College (now Arizona State University). Her first year in college she met and then married E.F. "Jack" Childers. For her wedding, she wore the wedding dress her grandmother Polly had made for her own wedding.
Lorna left school and went to work while her husband earned his degree in education.
When he finished college, the couple moved to Tucson where Childers was employed by the Amphitheater Elementary School. While living in Tucson, Lorna and Jack's daughter, Jacque Lynne, was born. They remained in Tucson until the Air Force called Jack back into service during the Korean Conflict and the family moved to Washington. Lorna's brother, Reed, was also serving in Korea with the Marine Corps and lost his life there.
After Childers' discharge, the family returned to Arizona and two more children joined their ranks, Nancy Sue and Reed Edwin. Lorna and Childers divorced in 1956.
Lorna worked at the Arizona State Legislature and at AiResearch Manufacturing Co. (which became AlliedSignal Aerospace and then Honeywell).
She also helped out at her Grammie Polly's business, the Elks Bar on Main Street in Payson, often with children in tow and staying at the Rim View Motel, which her grandmother also owned and operated.
At Honeywell, Lorna met and married Marvin Ray Orsburn and they had two children together, Marvin Ray Jr. and Polly Anne. The couple divorced in 1968.
Lorna retired in 1992.
She said the hardest thing about raising children was teaching them to drive and her greatest wish was to be as good a grandmother to their children as her "Grammie" was to her.
Lorna's daughters and daughter-in-law tearfully shared their appreciation for their mother as their friend and role model and all she has done for their children.
"It sounds like you got your wish," Pyle said, closing the program.