Oral History of Marjorie Perguson Scotten
Interviewed by Micah Timbrook March 6, 2008
Marji Scotten is one of the most vibrant, upbeat women I have ever met. She sparkled in Gilbert's past and has come to represent the face of Gilbert's history. Born and raised in Arizona, she is a Gilbert native and has many fascinating stories about her life growing up on one of the biggest farms in the community. Her history in Gilbert tells a story of tremendous detail and the foundation of what the city was like before became the big metropolis area it is now. As in Marji's words, "There are no dirt roads anymore; we used to walk two miles to get to town."
Mrs.Scotten was born on August 29, 1939. Her maternal grandparents were from Texas. Her maternal grandmother unfortunately died before she was born, and her maternal grandfather (born in Tennessee) would eventually come to live and stay with her family. Her paternal grandparents were from Oklahoma. Marji's father, Clarence Perguson, was a very quiet man. He was born in a small town in Oklahoma most people have never even heard of or knew it existed.
Her mother, Easter Humphrey, was born on Easter Sunday in Texas. She was Marji's mentor and hero. Unfortunately Marji lost her mom about a year ago. Easter lived to be 100 years old. Marji remembers her mom being the best baker. She would bake bread, pies, and pretty much anything. She was also a very good sewer. Easter had sewn all of Marji's and her sibling's outfits. She made all of Marji's dresses and skirts--girls back then weren't allowed to wear anything but dresses and skirts. The only time they could wear shorts or pants was at the annual track and field day at school when the children would race with the entire school. She also remembers her mother never being idle and never having a dull moment in her life. Marji claims, "She was always doing something, even when she was resting she would pick up the needle and start sewing, or helping someone." Her mother's side of the family eventually moved to Florence, Arizona due to her suffering from tuberculosis in 1936. There Easter's younger brother introduced her to her soon-to-be husband, Clarence.
Clarence and Easter had a rocky start in marriage, not that because they didn't get a long but because at first they couldn't make up their minds. They decided to get married in December of 1938 and took a day drive from Florence to Phoenix. When they arrived to the courthouse, Easter got scared and backed out; they decided to wait and do it another time. Well on the drive home, she decided that she was ready and just had jitters. But when they arrived back to Florence and made it to the second courthouse, Marji's dad, Clarence got scared and backed out. Three months later they both finally agreed to get married and officially tied the knot! Marji and her family moved to Gilbert, Arizona February 1951, where they would eventually live their lives. Marji's dad was a farmer, and he decided that he would move to wherever he could find good land to raise crops and build his own farm. Because of the water shortage, he chose Gilbert, Arizona. Marji talks about what it was like to live on a farm as a child. Farming was very hard, especially for a young girl. They raised cows, chickens, pretty much every farm animal as well as a variety of crops. Her family would pick, plow, and chop from sunrise to sundown. Marji would come back to the house from the fields to make lunch for her family. She says, "When we made lunch, they just weren't sandwiches; they were full meals." The women and girls weren't just finished for the day either; they had the housework to do as well.
Marji's childhood was very vivid, and lively; it seems like only yesterday that Marji was playing hopscotch, one of her favorite games as a girl. Marji remembers going down to the irrigation ditch and playing with her girlfriend, which seems quite dangerous in retrospect, and the thought of doing it scares her now. Her whole family loved going to the drive-ins. They would go once a week, either Fridays or Saturdays, and it was a treat. They would back her dad's pickup truck to face the screen and put chairs up in the back and sit and watch the film on those hot sticky summer days. They enjoyed going to the drive-ins until they got a television set, and then they gradually stopped going to the movies.
Gilbert was a very small town at that time, and her farmhouse was about 2 miles from town. Marji said Gilbert was the type of town where everyone knew everyone. When she was about 12, she and her mom experienced a scary accident. They were working on the farm one day and witnessed a crop duster plane crash into the nearby field. Her mom told her to run as fast as she could to the neighbor's house to use the phone because they didn't have one. When she got a hold of the police to tell them that she lived in Gilbert where the plane crashed, the police actually didn't know where Gilbert was! It eventually took them about 1 to 2 hours to even get there. The pilot died on impact. <>Marji graduated in 1957, with a class of 32 students. It wasn't popular for many women to go to college then, but if they did, the girls usually went to school for nursing or teaching. Marji would've liked to go to college for nursing but instead she took a trip right after graduation to see her older brother who was in the military. He suggested that she get a job at the base. She worked the summer for the Civil Service on the marine base. She got married at the Williams Air Force Base, where her husband Don worked for the Administrations.
Two years after they married, her husband was stationed in Liberia, Africa. That was a major change to what she was used to. It's across the world! They lived in a converted barn house made for the soldiers. She remembers no one spoke English, and Africa was very
dirty and dusty. It definitely was not her favorite place in the world to be. There was no fresh meat or vegetables, no dryer or washer, so it made it difficult for Marji to do the laundry. She remembers what it was like to hand wash the dirty laundry, "I had to hang my clothes on top of the building to be dried." They lived in Africa for about a year, and moved back to the United States.
Marji Scotten didn't remember much about the women's movement of the 1960s. However she does remember a time when she and her husband would compete in drag races. She could race the car only through time trials because women weren't allowed to race in the actual event. Although she swears she could beat her husband, women just weren't allowed to race at those times; but I bet she could in fact beat him and everyone else as well!
Marji has 3 wonderful children. Her son Donald who lives in Arizona works for the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant. She also has 2 beautiful daughters Shelly Beson and Cynthia George; one daughter also lives in Arizona and works for the post office and designs her own jewelry, and her other daughter lives in Colorado with her family. Marji is the proud grandmother of 8 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren!
To this day Marji works at the Gilbert Museum where her mother also volunteered to work and even started the Gilbert Museum Quilting Bee. Marji and her family are very strong and hardworking individuals who love each other and their history of Gilbert very much. They have a very close family bond. Her contributions to the city of Gilbert along with her father's farm, and even the Gilbert Museum will always be remembered!
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Photos courtesy of the family.