Celebrating our Local Women's History
Stories from Women Living in the Southeast Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Gilbert Historical Museum
Oral History of Margaret Waters Frazier
 

Oral History of Margaret Waters Frazier

Margaret Waters Frazier Interviewed by Felicia Gibson on March 8, 2008

Biography Written by Jon Lutz

Margaret Frazier was born on November, 18 1929 in Kentucky. Her mom's side of the family moved from Ireland. They landed on the east cost and migrated west by way of rivers and horseback. That was the only way of transportation at the time. They came to America to help build the railroads from Louisville to Nashville. They settled around the rock quarries where they worked. Margaret is not sure where her dad's side of the family came from; she knew they were French Irish, but due to the capital burning in Kentucky during the First World War, the records were destroyed. Both families settled in the Ohio Farming Valley. Her parents met in Kentucky because both attended the same one-room school and grew up together; the rest is history.

Margaret was one of seven children: five girls and two boys. They were raised on the farm and all of them had daily chores to keep the farm going. Margaret called it "typical farm work." She also said, "Everyone looked out for everyone; it was a close-knit family. It's nice to have a big family--the only problem is that everyone gets old and lost." She misses the security you get from having a large family.

Margaret also remembers that the community was also close-knit. Whenever she was in need of help or aid, her African- American neighbors would be the first to come to her side. They befriended her, and she will always remember that. They would tell her who to look out for and who to be nice to. There was much more segregation during those times. Now that everybody is integrated, Margaret says "Everything works out fine."

Margaret met her husband in an ironic situation when she was young. She stated that, "I was going out with a neighbor boy, and we had gotten in a little spat. So the neighbor boy sent his friend (now her husband) over to see if I was still mad. Instead he asked me out." She replied "No, I won't go with you this time, but next week I will." She had known of him and thought he was an okay lad because his family had bought her grandfather's farm.

During the school year Margaret worked on the farm; in the summer, she and her siblings would work for her aunt at the Laundry and Dry Cleaning Company. She would spend her time folding hankies for her Aunt Margaret. Her sisters thought this was great because they would get a little bit of spending money for the summer.

After graduating high school, Margaret worked in a little sandwich place selling soda. After that she went to work for a big laundry cleaning company as a personal assistant. After her children were born she didn't work outside the home, but nonetheless, she worked keeping the family together.

Margaret and her husband Barnett, moved in 1960 to Arizona due to the health of their children, Annette and B.B. the Third. They were advised by their doctor to move to a drier climate. The family had become especially worried when their daughter didn't grow in height or weight from September to May; she was just hanging on to life the doctor said. They also had friends who had to move to Arizona for the same reasons. So Margaret and her husband decided to drive down to Arizona to take a little vacation and see if they could handle the heat. They didn't mind the heat and knew they needed to change climates for their children, so they headed back to Kentucky, sold out, and headed right back to sunny Arizona. They were warned by their doctor to be very carefully in the late afternoon when it got chilly and to make sure they got their kids indoors. After following this regime for a year, their daughter and son pulled through, and both are now healthy as can be.

The family did have an interesting trip driving to Gilbert. When they came down the Salt River Canyon, it was raining very badly but they decided to keep going, thinking it was okay for travel. When they came around a corner, they were awe-struck by the sight of a mountain lion eating road kill. They didn't dare wake up their kids for the simple reason that they didn't want to scare them. That was the one and only mountain lion they ever saw in Arizona. They then went to a little motel to stay the night and wash up. They saw a car that was all smashed up and broken in the parking lot. They saw the owner standing next to his car and asked what happened? He said, "Whatever you do don't drive through the Salt River Canyon when it's raining." He had hit a boulder in the road that had fallen off a cliff. Margaret and Barnett just laughed because they had come down that way just last night--the same time as the other driver did. Obviously luck was on their side. It was a very memorable introduction to Arizona.

When Margaret and her family moved to Arizona, her husband became very ill with cancer. She had to go work at a modest restaurant in Mesa, and then she went to the Gilbert Schools to work in the cafeteria. Shortly after that she found her self working at Motorola as wire bonder, and she worked in the crystal room as a LPO (Lead Production Operator).

She was pregnant with her new baby at the time and had to quit working to care for her. Her second daughter was born on March of 1967, and she lost her husband shortly after, in October of 1967. Before her husband had passed away, he worked as a heavy equipment operator in Kentucky for GE. They thought he could transfer to the GE (General Electric Company) in Arizona. What they didn't know was that the company he had worked for became unionized, and the GE Company didn't want any union workers at the plant in Arizona. So he had to change jobs to Millwright. At first, Margaret stayed home and figured out her finances and the social security situation. It wasn't enough money to get by on, so she had to go back to Motorola.  After his death Margaret never remarried; she said "I had three kids to raise. I didn't need any problems." This just shows how much she cared about her children. She put them first.

Raising children in Gilbert was often challenging. Margaret remembers it being so hot that if you had to go anywhere that day, you better leave early or very late; "you don't want to get caught out in the heat," she said. Also, everyday at about 5:30 P.M. during the summertime a big dust storm would roll through like clock work, leaving everything covered in dust.


The most surprising thing to her looking back now was how women were treated back in the 60's. She remembers going to get her car worked on and the garage she took it to would charge her for work they didn't do. She knew this because the little neighbor boy came over and said, "My daddy told me to tell you that they are not changing your oil and charging you for it." One time they saw her and asked, "Why aren't you taking your car here." She said, "Because you're not changing my oil and charging me for it." Not surprisingly, she never took her car there again.

Margaret still lives in Arizona and enjoys it very much. She has seen Gilbert grow from a small farm town community to large city. Both have its up and downs she says. When asked if she would change anything in her past, she replied cheerfully, "Not unless the good Lord gave me a better mind to do so." That comment just strengthens how down-to-earth she is. She won't blame people for mistakes nor does she blame herself. She treats people like she wants them to treat her. It would be a better place to live if everybody lived life like Margaret Waters Frazier.


Photos courtesy of the family.

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