Arvizu and Ayala Family

Victor and Delfina Arvizu, 1918
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.5

Victor and Delfina (Lopez) Arvizu came to Chandler from Nogales, Mexico. Looking for a better life, they settled at Andersen Ranch. Delfina worked for the Andersen family as a housekeeper. Victor worked in the cotton and alfalfa fields there. In 1919, Carmen (Arvizu) Ayala was born. She was raised on the ranch near Dobson and Price Roads with her five siblings.

The Arvizu family lived in poverty. Their house ahd no running water or electricity. A wood-burning stove was used for heat and cooking. During hot summer months, the family would take their bed mattresses outside to sleep in the cooler night air.

Carmen’s mother, Delfina, made cheese and butter from fresh cow’s milk and prepared meals from turkeys, chickens, and rabbits. The family never went without food. Carmen’s childhood experiences on the ranch taught her the daily necessity of managing livestock.

In the 1930s, the Arvizu children wore cotton cloth flour sacks that their mother fashioned into outfits. Carmen still recalls the name of the flour company emblazoned on the sacks. She said many Mexican children wore similar clothing at the time.

The Cleveland School for Spanish-speaking children was located in downtown Chandler. Carmen walked 10 miles a day round trip to get there. She left school after the fourth grade because it was too far a distance to walk. The only transportation they had back then was a horse driven wagon that her father would take to town. He drove the wagon to a designated lot at Arizona Avenue and Frye Road near Serrano’s Mexican Food Restaurant. The horses were given water while their owners traded and sold produce.

In the 1940s and 50s, Carmen enjoyed visiting the downtown park where City Hall and the Chandler Police Department exist today. Before the park was developed into commercial properties, the area was open with trees and grass. At that time, Arizona Avenue diverted traffic around the park. There was an ice cream parlor in the corner drugstore at Arizona and Boston Street. The original Post Office was near the park and Bashas' first grocery story once stood on Boston Street.

Carmen’s late husband worked 20 years as a truck driver for Bashas'. Carmen reminisces that she and her husband used to socialize in town at Club Norefica. The club was a place where Mexican adults congregated and shared similar life experiences. Carmen and her husband had five children. They all grew up in Chandler and almost all of them live here today. She is the grandmother of 12 children and great-grandmother of 23 children.

As an adult, Carmen attended St. Mary’s Church. The church continues to be the center of community for her and other Mexican-American families in Chandler today. Carmen is a devout Catholic and is known as the “candle lady” for St. Mary’s Church. Every morning at 4 a.m. she arrives to clean and prepare the candles for lighting.

Carmen recalls how years ago it was easy to have relationships with your neighbors. She said it is because Chandler was a smaller town with people who knew each other. Today Carmen recognizes Chandler has grown into a big city where it’s not as simple to get to know people as it once was.

Biography researched and authored by Mary Polanco-Gerlach and Diane Brown