Since its "founding" in 1880, Oracle has grown in its own unique way. Sure, small subdivisions were built to accommodate miners flocking to jobs in the San Manuel mine in the mid 1950s, but no way does Oracle resemble a company town or a planned community. In fact, Otown contrasts sharply with the old corporate town model built by Magma Copper 10 miles east or the new corporate cookie-cutters of SaddleBrooke / SaddleBrooke Ranch 10 miles west. Touting the twin SaddleBrookes as the gold standard of planned development design, Robson Luxury Development moguls called Oracle a "hodgepodge". I think most of us who live here would take that as a compliment.
When Kaz and I bought our home in Oracle in 1979 there were no building codes, multiple unnamed streets, and bits and pieces of zoning with no overarching plan. County oversight was almost non-existent. Folks built however the spirit moved them. Much of Otown looked like what's pictured above - open and beautiful. To be sure the subdivisions - Oracle Village and Los Robles "Estates" and Mitman Addition - were planned and hooked into sewer, electric and water service on a modest scale (but without HOA governed restrictions and gated entries).
When it came to marketing, individual business enterprises took that on. Lamar Cotton for example, placed ads far and wide in newspapers advertising his subdivisions. Rancho Linda Vista (RLV) made a name for itself (and Oracle) by launching a "dude ranch" with a national following. Later, a chamber of commerce formed up - SMOR (San Manuel Oracle Region) - that never seemed to gain much traction or community support and ironically never approached the "marketing" impact of RLV which morphed into an arts and crafts mecca and set the stage for the Oracle of today.
In the 1980s, mega development schemes were proposed for Oracle by the likes of Cherokee Development that sought to ring the town with 25,000 homes. But that venture crashed and burned as local opposition and an economic down blip took their toll.
These days, Oracle still follows the individual business marketing model, with local ventures mostly doing their own thing. So you get the idea. While economic development used to be thought of primarily as bringing in large enterprises with lots of jobs (Magma Copper's mine, mill, railroad and smelter, for example), smaller scale options now seem to make more sense to us locals who value small town life and our special place in it.
The image above captures the work of a local collaboration between the Community Garden, Darrell Klesch's rockwork, Quentin Branch and Julie Szekely's rammed earth and Sharon Holnbach's gateway metal work. Masters all of their craft. It represents a "hodgepodge" of talents drawn together through a labor of love.
Maybe Steve Soriano, Ed Robson's tout, was on to something when he and his planning gurus described Oracle as hodgepodge. Lots of different kinds of people living in lots of different sorts of housing making livings lots of different ways. Maybe when it comes to quality of life, that beats the alternatives.
In Praise of Small Group Politics
We all know the drill. Big rallies with politicos fulminating about one thing or another, sometimes with prominent allies thrown in. Chants and cheers, paraparnalia and merchandise hawkers, attack lines and grandiose claims of a new day or catastrophic implosion. Energizing the base, demoralizing the opposition. And afterwards the media judgment - the numbers scorecard. Bigger or smaller than expected. More or less "energy" than anticipated. Bottom lines of evaluation.
Don't get me wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with big rallies. They serve a purpose and prove a point. We used to call them "actions" in my community organizing days like the one pictured above, with our turnout numbers frequently topping 2,000 in places like Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and even Yuma, Sedona and Henderson. They worked to help build powerful organizations, do public business and prove that a shitload of folks cared enough to show up in person. But they were the icing on the cake, ratification of work that had gone on for months, sometimes years. It's easy to forget in the glow of mega turnouts that the real action - where people actually changed, where perspectives were actually altered - happened in small groups; before, after and sometimes even during the big events (when time was blocked out for breakouts).
In Sometimes David Wins I narrate a few of those conversations, trying to make the point that in tandem with the big actions they were the drivers of change.
Recent events in Oracle jibe with something I discovered a long time ago. Some politicos (whether office holders or candidates) are less capable than others of engaging in the give and take of conversation, even when circumstances are optimal. Like some preachers, teachers and bureaucrats (not to mention residents), they're over scripted and under "relatable". And who can blame them? For politicos the stressors go up with the stakes and going off script is dangerous when everyone has a smart phone and maybe an axe to grind. The same could be said about preachers, teachers and rest.
One of my observations is that Oracle is a pretty safe space for conversations. But this may also true of neighborhoods, schools, religious congregations, and organizations of all sorts where the face-to-face craft of conversation is respected, encouraged, taught and learned; that is where conversation is practiced.
I don't know for sure how to answer the question. Oracle is small, politically close to 50-50. Obviously not home to a tranche of votes for any candidate or either party. Nor is it home to the rich and powerful. So what's the attraction?
Lauren Kuby, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, was the third major candidate to visit Oracle, The others were Kris Mayes and Katie Hobbes. All of the events were conversational which was the point of the invites. A small amount of money for each was raised but chicken feed in the larger scheme of things.
I went to all three and was impressed by the simplicity of the formats. Direct questions, direct answers. Absent was the bombast and catastrophe mongering that seems to characterize so much political discourse these days. I may have to eat my words down the road but so far Oracle has weathered the epidemic of what pundits/big media call "polarization" pretty well.
That's got me thinking about the "why". I'm trying to formulate an answer.
Covid In Our Rear View Mirror?
Our last visitors from distant places dropped anchor in Oracle in March of 2020. After that the covid plague killed appetites for travel and raised the risks of local hospitality. Plus covid deepsixed a lot of what we used to take for granted - community activities that visitors would enjoy along with us. Well, guess what, fingers crossed, those days seem to be in the past and a new day may have arrived.
The two adventurers pictured above, one of whom just happens to be my cousin, spent the weekend with us. They helped usher in this new era which may be dawning. We were uncertain what would appeal to them but figured Glow was a pretty good bet.
Glow as we know it is one of a kind - the creation of Triangle L impressario Sharon Holnback. Even for locals it just doesn't get old with all the fresh creatives pitching in.
And our visitors loved it.
Sun Life Shines Bright!
Kaz and I signed up for Covid vaccine # 5 at our local health clinic - Sun Life. When we showed up Friday the parking lot was nearly full.
Several friends were in the waiting room for the same reason we were. A neighborly welcome for sure including from the folks who work there.
That got me thinking about the importance of easy local access to health care. Would we have driven 30 minutes or more to Oro Valley/Tucson for the same purpose? Or, as in my case, likely put it off? What about routine blood tests? Another long drive? Maybe put it off til next month or longer?
At age 76 I've had plenty of blood draws and watched many more (of parents and in laws). One time I was jabbed three times by a sweating nurse who finally gave up and sent me up the street to a place with the ambiance of a methadone clinic. That was in Tucson. So I was a bit apprehensive about the jabbing and drawing my first time at Oracle Sun Life. Guess what? Easy in, easy out, vials filled, done. Next time - same drill. Same outcome. What's not to like about that?
Kaz and I moved to Oracle in 1979. The house we bought dated to the late 1940s. With little advance knowledge of the place, we set out to build a new life together, intending to settle in and raise a family.