It’s All About the Name…

Another year has passed. And here we are, back in Arizona for 2 glorious,
warm, sunny weeks. Les and Mary Jane (obviously both gluttons for punishment) issued another invite to us this winter. As an added bonus, John’s oldest brother Jim (and Dee) are spending a couple months here too. Can’t pass up an opportunity like that. None of us are getting any younger and all of our extended warranties are getting closer to their expiration date. Yikes. Gotta bond (which basically means an afternoon margarita or glass of wine, talking and eating, not always in that order) while there’s still time.

Hey Yuma, get that strange little white cloud out of my perfect forecast…

I touched on this story last year after I visited Yuma’s famous, ancient, antiquated Territorial Prison. You all certainly remember my vivid interpretation of that great story, right? Hmm, just as I thought, you missed my cleverly named, 3:10 to Yuma in February, 2017. Let me refresh. The Prison was built (by its own prisoners) in 1876 and used over 30 years. It was a horrible, hot, dangerous hellhole, but at the time, it was the best there was, (the prison boasted electric fans and a couple of showers-almost unheard of back then) considering Arizona was not yet a state. Fast forward to the early 1900’s and there’s an announcement that a new prison is being built in Florence, so Yuma’s Territorial Prison was closing.

Yuma’s Territorial Prison, housing 6 in this small cubicle…

Yuma, (population now about 85,000 without the Snowbirds which double the size for a few months every winter) was still a small town. In dire need of educating their youth. So they opened a high school downtown (3 rooms and 4 teachers) which would celebrate a dozen graduating seniors that first year. All good, except for the raging fire which took out the new school after 1 year. What to do, what to do?

Yeah, I’ll meet you in Algebra…

Yuma decided to use the old, closed down Territorial Prison to hold classes while they discussed financing and location to build another school. High school classes were held in the cell blocks and assemblies held in the prison hospital. I. Kid. You. Not. Gospel. Truth.

Ha-ha, this just tickles me…

Thus, for a few years Yuma’s Territorial Prison was actually Yuma Union High School. Guess what? The city then informed the high school they needed the Territorial Prison back. To use for a jail. Poor high school kids were getting the boot from the old Prison. Low. Seriously low. Not to worry. A new school was already in the works, and is still in the same location where it was built about 100 years ago.

The Welcome Mat…

A couple years later, the Yuma High School football team is playing for the state championship. The game is against their nemesis, the Phoenix Union High Coyotes. When Yuma’s team surges ahead, the Coyote fans/student section start howling, “Criminals, Criminals!” Well heck, them’s fightin words. Or not. Maybe at first Yuma was insulted, but not for long. Instead, soon the little Yuma High School embraced the brash nickname. And it stuck. The Criminals name was officially adopted by the school board in 1917 (same year my Dad was born). Most often affectionately shortened to just the “Crims.”

This is indeed, the longest yard…

Hubs and I drove to Yuma High School this week. I had become so infatuated with the story behind the Criminals, I decided some ‘Crims wear’ was needed before we head back to Snowsville. We found a parking spot by the front door with a huge lit sign sporting Yuma High School—Proud Home of the Criminals. Wandered around, finding nothing close to an office or administration. Just classrooms filled with students-er-Criminals. As far as we could tell there was a severe lack of security-had we been up to no good.

The championship that introduced a new mascot…

Out one building, into another, still no one checking on us. Then again, 2 old folks slowly wandering around, carrying nothing but a good looking Michael Kors bag hardly look very sinister. And we are in the midst of 1,200 hardened Criminals. Finally an adult spots us. I explain we are here to visit ‘The Cell Block.’ He hesitates, then says, “I don’t think the store is open right now, but I can show you where the office is located. Maybe they can help.” He points to the administration door and gives us a wave.

Middle of the basketball court…

After waiting for a couple students to get tardy passes, it’s our turn. The attendance gal hems & haws at our request, then sends us along to the main receptionist at the front desk named Gabby. (Only fitting as she answered numerous phone calls while dealing with this-strange-old-out-of-state-and-touch-couple). Gabby wore a slight frown as she listened to my sad lament, “Um, we just wanna buy a couple T-shirts for our grandkids.” “Well,” she began, “The Cell Block is only open during lunch, on Fridays, 11-12:30.” One of the office girls within hearing distance said, “but not this Friday, Gabby, there’s a conflict, remember?” The frown deepened on Gabby’s pretty face. “Oh that’s right, I forgot. I’m sorry,” she stated weakly. “I guess I could call our athletic director and see if she’s willing to open the store for a few minutes. Would that be ok?” “That would be just great,” I squealed, snapping pictures furiously, afraid we’d be ushered right out the front door.

The back of John’s t-shirt…

Not 2 minutes later we’re accompanied through the now unlocked ‘Cell Block’ door by a gal in khakis and a Crims navy shirt. Didn’t get her name, dang it. She was upbeat, polite, informative and ready to help us with our purchase. With stipulations. She had no way of making change, they didn’t accept credit cards, but would happily take my cash or a check. I nabbed (maybe not the best word choice) shirts for Peyton, Landon, Graham, Hubs and me. Plus a keychain. She went through an entire box of ‘Criminal’ onesies, looking for a size 24 months for Jovi, but 18 mo. was the largest size they carried in pink. Asked if we had looked for clothes at Walmart? Duh, our first stop, but I didn’t see one item with anything associated with the Crims. “Well, that’s actually good news for us. The Yuma High School ‘Criminals’ is the only high school in America whose mascot is copyrighted,” she continued, swelling with pride. “When Walmart sells “Criminal” gear, the high school doesn’t get one penny. It’s just not right,” she complained.

The high school & faculty at Yuma’s Territorial Prison, 1913…

Since 1917 the Criminals from Yuma High have had to defend their unusual nickname numerous times. Townsfolk, parents, political correctness, newcomers who think the name-Criminals and their tough-guy mascot face is totally inappropriate. But the school’s faculty, board and especially the students hold a tremendous amount of pride stemming from their quirky name and history. Never cave, never give in. Defending it above all to parents, and fans. The high school carries enormous pride in their heritage and background.

What an endearing little face…

Part of the football field’s entrance contain bars from the original Territorial Prison. Yuma’s oldest high school is not about to change their name or lamely try to re-write history. That certainly is not who they are. They are proud and bear their name, The Criminals with more pride than I’ve seen in a lot of schools. So now you know the rest of the story. Go Crims…

The place to buy the coolest clothes…

3 thoughts on “It’s All About the Name…

  1. Hi Paul, thought I’d lost you for awhile. Thanks for hanging around. I just don’t kno about this blog thing. For a few posts, I couldn’t add any pictures or captions. That’s tough because the pictures often make the story. I guess it just healed itself because I’ve had no problems the last few weeks. Let me know how you’re doing. Don’t know why a few of the posts will not let you comment. That too is above my pay grade…

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  2. You certainly haven't lost me. I'm up to 2017 on past commenting project, plus, of course, trying to comment on the latest ones but unable to which you've alluded above. Try reading some of my past comments – don't bother to comment back – it'll be faster that way. BTW: you say you don't travel much and here you are in AZ again – just jealous.

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