Edward Childers, 72, has a family history going back to the early days of the Rim Country, but his personal pioneer experience was that of a Washington, D.C. insider.
Not many Payson natives can say they were part of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. Childers was employed by the Bureau of Land Management and was an assistant to Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall.
Before Udall was appointed Secretary of the Interior he represented Arizona Congressional District 2 — at that time AZD2 was just about all of Arizona except for Maricopa County, Childers said. Consequently, a lot of people from the area knew Udall and frequently contacted his cabinet office with problems just as they had when he was their congressman.
So, in addition to working on western land management issues for Udall, Childers, being a Rim Country native, did a lot of constituent service work as well.
When he left Washington, D.C., Childers returned to Arizona and went into real estate. For 27 years he also owned an outdoor catering business, and did most of the cooking.
The catering business was successful enough that it was called on to cook pizza for the military on a U.S. air base in Greenland.
Childers said he was born in Mesa, but spent the first night of his life in Payson. He and his parents lived in a house built by his grandfather on the west end of the property where the current post office stands. His parents were Howard and Rose Childers. His grandparents were Edward Childers and Mart and Beatrice McDonald.
His father was one of Payson’s deputy sheriffs, serving the area from 1952 to 1958 and again from 1963 to 1964, according to the book, “A Brief History of Payson, Arizona” by Ira Murphy.
Childers said his father, along with his siblings, traveled from Oklahoma to San Diego, Calif. by covered wagon and then after awhile, headed back east, landing in Arizona. They were going to Snowflake, but liked what they saw in Payson, so stayed here. They made their home on the east end of the property where Payson Regional Medical Center now stands.
The McDonald family came to the Rim Country in 1884, first to Pine and then to Payson, where they had a number of commercial interests.
Some of these, according to history columns that have appeared in the Roundup (and with which Childers has some disagreement) included owning the Doll Baby Ranch, a mercantile and a saloon.
While Childers has deep roots in the Rim Country, he is not one to look back.
“In my view, those were not the good old days. These are the good old days,” he said.
Elaborating, he pointed out that there were no medical facilities; roads and access was difficult, if not impossible; there was no local government, the closest thing was the county and it was a hard 90 or more miles away.
“My father was the only law north of Roosevelt Dam,” Childers said.
The school system was small because the student population was small.
It was so small when he first started, he was the only student in the first-grade for a time. Though that provided some benefit — as the only student in the first-grade, he received the undivided attention of his teacher, Julia Randall.
“The Rim Country has had no finer person than Julia Randall. She was a very compassionate, bright and fair lady. She was very concerned with each of her students. She was really hands-on.”
Childers said there were some rough and tumble times, and the rodeo was an especially wild time, but much of what has been written about the waywardness of the old days has been an exaggeration in his opinion.
“I am alarmed by the stories of the wild west nature of the community. The telling of history is important and the fabrication of history is completely worthless and has no place.”
He said the most visible disregard for the law was the fact that most of the saloons had slot machines, but the money made from the machines was used to support the rodeo.