Families enjoy museum, Mexican food, and music at chamber mixer

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Loretta Hawkins plays the historic “Kimball Piano” during the chamber mixer at the Eastern Arizona Museum on Thursday.

By Jon Johnson


PIMA – It was a trio of delights Thursday night at the Graham County Chamber of Commerce’s mixer at the Eastern Arizona Museum as those in attendance were treated to the amazing historical displays while indulging in delicious food as their ears were treated to the melodious sounds from a historical piano.

Museum curator Edres Barney said while she wished the turnout had been a little greater, she was happy to see families there, introducing the younger generations to the history of the Gila Valley. 

“I was really hoping for more people to expose them to the museum so they would bring their kids back,” Barney said.  

Upon entering the event, one could not help but be drawn to the room housing the Sylvia Louise Bentley Lucas Sessions piano, which is thought to be the first piano in the Gila Valley. The piano was purchased from a company in New York City and was shipped around Cape Horn and delivered to Sessions’ family in Los Angelas in 1877 prior to making its way to the Gila Valley. According to the piano’s fact sheet, Sessions gave piano lessons with the piano to the residents of Thatcher, including Spencer W. Kimball, who later went on to become the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, therefore after christening the musical instrument as the “Kimball Piano.” 

On Thursday, Loretta Hawkins, who grew up in nearby Eden, was tickling the ivories to the delight of those in attendance, dashing out a medley of songs at a time – all by heart without any musical arrangement in front of her. 

Rivaling the melodious music from Hawkins was the mouth-watering Mexican food catered by Casa Mañana. Attendees took multiple trips through the line to score seconds on the banquet-style offerings, that included a plethora of accompanying toppings that set one’s taste buds alive with pleasure. To wash down the chunky salsa-laden fare was either water or the sweetest juice concoction that set a smile to those who tried it. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Cheslee Crockett, 2, enjoys the food provided by Casa Mañana.

Throughout the evening, guests wandered through the museum, spying bits and pieces of history that brought forth deep emotions of all sorts. Attendees commented that every time they came back to the museum they saw something they hadn’t seen before.  

Pima Mayor C.B. Fletcher paused at a section dedicated to veterans and looked over pictures of those lost in wars along with donated uniforms and more. 

Over one section, the list was long and heavy with what seemed to be an entire generation lost in WWII. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima Mayor C.B. Fletcher reminisces while viewing some of the military exhibits at the museum.

“(There are) a lot of memories,” Fletcher said. “A lot of people who I knew – all good men. They were all older when I was in school here, but they were around and they were all good, honorable men. They loved Pima. They were full of life and we miss them. Pima is what we are because of these guys.”

The Eastern Arizona Museum will next have a promotion with Modern Woodman in October that will involve a $3 off per person coupon at Taylor Freeze and will host its Halloween haunted house. The Gila Herald will have more information on the haunted house in a future article.