Oral History of Yvonne Clonts Everett
Conducted by Kailea Brandt on April 3, 2008
When Yvonne Clonts Everett entered the room, she stole the spotlight. She was a striking women in her early 60's with a smile that could bring comfort and joy to anyone. She is a recognizable face around Gilbert because anyone who has attended Gilbert High knows she is Mr. Everett's wife. She attends all the school events and is loved by the students and staff there. Yvonne Clonts Everett is an amazing women from Gilbert, and this is her story.
Yvonne Clonts Everett's maternal grandparents were Nathaniel Hickman Walker born near EaglePass, Texas and Millie Susan Wood from Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Her mom's parents came to Arizona right after her mom was born. "My mother's mom got her mid wife degree by correspondence. Can you imagine, through the mail? I'd have hated to be her first experience!" She also ran a restaurant and later helped Yvonne's grandfather when he was the cattle inspector in Mesa.
Her paternal grandparents were Samuel Asberry Clonts from Douglasville, Georgia, and Alice Lou Campbell from Alabama. They came to Arizona around 1924 and they never left. Before Yvonne's mother's father, Nathaniel, moved here, he was a real cowboy. His family had a huge ranch on the Texas-Mexico border, and when Santa Ana came across, their entire ranch was destroyed and all of their livestock was taken, even their chickens. "I remember when I was in school seeing a check from the Mexican government, still trying to repay the family," Yvonne recalled. Nathaniel was one of the ones who went down and helped Pancho Villa, and he also was sheriff of Solomonville for a while.
Yvonne's parents were Durward Malcom Clonts from EI Dorado, Oklahoma and Drucilla Victoria Walker from Santa Ana, Texas. Her father was from a family of 14 and all but three of them relocated to Arizona. They moved to Arizona because two of the brothers had already come to Arizona to work and encouraged the family to move there as well. They settled in the Safford Valley and "Daddy used to tell about how they could walk as fast as the car would go," she explained.The Clonts' farm was always called the "Brown Ranch," and on the ranch they had a team of horses. Durward's job in the evenings was to go out and gather cow "pies" to build the fire. Yvonne's father later farmed the ranch for a few years, and it is still owned by a member of the Clonts family today. Yvonne's mother's family came to AZ soon after Yvonne's mom was born, and they ended up in the Safford Valley a couple of years before her father's family did. Her parents met as kids. Yvonne recalls her dad told her the story, "My dad tells the story of the first time he saw mom. It was when she had come to play with his sisters and he could see her blonde head bobbing up and down as she ran down a huge irrigation ditch behind his house." After they met, they fell in love and later married.
Durward Malcom Clonts and Drucilla Victoria Walker married on November 12, 1937 and just celebrated their 70th anniversary last November, in spite of the fact that Yvonne's grandma would not sign for their marriage. Yvonne's father is now going to be 91 in June and her mother is 88. They had two children Lamar Walker Clonts, who was born April 17, 1939 in Safford, Arizona, and sadly past away two years ago. The second child was Yvonne Clonts who was born July 15,1942 in Miami, Arizona. After Yvonne was born, the Clonts moved back to Safford.
Yvonne remembers that school was the thing that drew people together because most of the kids lived outside of the town limits. "We always had good participation at school events. Things like school plays, dances, and especially sports." Her schooling was mostly in Gila Valley, Safford & Solomon Ville, a little town on the outskirts of Safford. "I never lived in town so I never really had neighborhoods. I was raised almost entirely on farms in the Gila Valley. Most of the time there was no one within miles." However they did have all kinds of animals growing up. It was such a small town that Yvonne's mom even went to the same school as Yvonne (years earlier). Although Yvonne didn't start off well in school, she later found it was fun for her. In kindergarten, Yvonne was sent to the principal's office for talking in class but in 3rd grade she got picked to be in the senior play, "probably because of my blonde hair" she says. In 6th grade Yvonne had her first male teacher. She remembers, "He really encouraged me," but then in 7thgrade she moved to Gilbert and remembers it to be scary because she didn't know anyone. "That was my worst year in grade school."
Her family moved to Gilbert in the summer of 1954, where she began 7th grade. Her dad started Dude's Cattle Taxi on an acre on Baseline Road. When the Clonts moved to Gilbert, the town was about 5 blocks long and 4 blocks wide, and everything else was farming. She remembers, "There was a new subdivision going in just behind the school." According to Yvonne, Gilbert had 3 grocery stores, 3 bars, 2 barbershops, 1 doctor's office, a drugstore, and a variety store. There were two gas stations, and 2 garages,and the city hall that still stands there today. She recalls a hardware store where you could buy ice. Her future husband's family would buy block ice and crush it for making ice cream. She also recollects, "Of course we had the Good Eats Dairy Bar. Then it was just soft serve ice cream. Later it became known as Jake's Dairy Ba[r]." Her dad later bought it from Jake and then sold it to Jim Georgousis who ran it until it burned down. The city would not let him build the Dairy Bar back because of parking issues, so it became offices. While
pausing to think, she sadly said, "Another landmark gone, just like the old Baptist Church across the street and the old Mormon Church across from the school."
Yvonne did almost everything with her family. She remembers her dad's family had reunions every year and a hundred family members came. They held it on Mt. Graham, and this tradition helped her to stay close to many of her cousins. Yvonne also recalls, "We used to have huge taco dinners; everyone loved my mom's cooking." Most of activities Yvonne recalls were activities on the farm and at the Protestant church. One memory in particular seemed to bring great joy to Yvonne. She remembers her dad bought her a new pair of Levis to go see "The Greatest Show on Earth."
When I asked Yvonne who influenced her most, she replied, "My parents of course. They still do. Always good examples never cussed, my dad seldom lost his temper and when things didn't work right, he would always say: 'Why you silly thing!' I think the worst my mother said was 'fiddle.'" Yvonne's father always worked as farmer until they came to Gilbert where he started a trucking company called Dude's Cattle Taxi. Her mother worked keeping books on the farm and also for her dad's trucking company. Later she and Yvonne bought the DB dress shop together and ran that for a while. Yvonne's parents could do anything; her mom could cook, sew, and garden, and Yvonne recalled that the last week of school her mom made her a new dress every day. Her dad could make anything he needed; if the truck wrecked, he could make a new fender. He even made Yvonne a trampoline when she was a kid. Everyone loved to go over to her house because there were lots of things to do and good food, compliments of her mom and dad. Church was another big influence on Yvonne and her parents would not let her miss a day. Yvonne's parents were strict, but she and her brother were spoiled rotten.
High school was great for Yvonne; she had so many memories. She was head cheerleader in high school when she met her high school sweetheart, Bob Everett, who was the star athlete. While Yvonne was in school she remembers "We had one stop sign on Elliott Road at Gilbert Road after I graduated, and then it became a stoplight, years later. It was the only light for a really long time." About one third of the girls in Yvonne's class went to college. She believes they all married before they finished college, and the rest of the girls who did not go to college got married and started a family. After high school, Yvonne graduated Bible school and went through a six-month cultural shock. Yvonne Clonts and Bob Everett then got married on January 27, 1962 and are still together 46 years later.
Their wedding photos were published in the local paper, and the newlyweds began their lives together. Yvonne started working, and Bob was in college so she took care of their daughters Robin, who is now 43 and Renae, who is now 40. She recalls "We were a two car family even then. We couldn't afford to buy a home so we bought a trailer and lived out behind my Mom's for a while. When they moved, we moved into their home. We lived on $50 a week and then what Bob made off his pay. Later she began night school, which she loved, and also worked full time in an office, while raising two children. Then in the early 70' s she started full time in school but she had her youngest daughter Raquel, who is now 33. Some how though she still took some night classes and got her real estate license in 1975. After her girls got through school, she thought about going into law but then got realistic: it was too many years, so she started thinking about a teaching degree. However she realized she had too much expertise in real estate by then to quit. She also went to MCC and took a few computer classes from Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Life for Yvonne and Bob was wonderful during those years but they had struggles like everyone else. The 60's were a very traumatic time for Yvonne's generation, Yvonne and Bob included. After graduating high school in 1960 and marrying in 1962, Kennedy was killed, and two years later Bob graduated college. Then the Vietnam War started and the draft was a very scary for Yvonne and Bob. On the first round, Bob was in school and the second time he was newly married. By third draft round, they had a baby and by 1968 they had two children so Bob was out of the question for the draft. The 70's were a blur for Yvonne: she had 3 children, 2 in school and one at babysitters while she was working and trying to go to school at night. She recalls "I couldn't be bothered about the 'burn your bra thing,' no way I would do that, they cost too much, but as for 'equal pay' I was all for that… you guys go ahead and get that for us... I'm too busy."
Things were a lot different for Yvonne's girls. They all went to college, and it was never a question. "That was just the next step after graduation." According to Yvonne the big question was whether to live at home or the dorm. They grew up having piano lessons, dance lessons, of course sports, 4H, and Brownies. They used to go to drive-in movies a lot and always took the kids with them. She remembers, "You didn't have to be afraid of them seeing things on the screen like now days, maybe something scary but not violent, bloody or sexual." By this time Bob was coaching three sports, so most of their time was spent at games, cheering him on. The three daughters loved sports but Yvonne had had enough. Bob quit coaching just a few years ago but now she enjoys going to her grandchildren's games and events.
Yvonne has worked her entire life; she was office manager for one company, a broker for
another, and then ended up at my own office in 1986 and still has it today. She worked up until two years ago when her mom developed cancer. Her parents have lived with her and Bob for the last 10 years, and they added on an apartment for them to try to keep them as independent as possible while still watching over them. "Well being a woman kind of dictates some of your experiences like running a household and having children," she explained. Yvonne says "I come from a line of some strong women, and I think for the women of my time, our era was a real transition period."
Photos courtesy of the family.
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