Originally Published: March 5, 2010 8:20 a.m.
If intersections could talk - oh, the stories they would tell.
South Marina and East Carleton streets intersect near the south end of Prescott. In the 1890s, Robert E. Morrison built a beautiful Victorian mansion on a corner lot at the intersection.
In 1971, a Hollywood film crew closed the intersection and took over the Morrison house to film scenes for the now-legendary movie, Sam Peckinpah's 1972 film "Junior Bonner."
"Mrs. Fitzgerald lived there, and she was old, and came down the stairs in her nightgown to see what all the noise was when the crews started working on her kitchen," said Elisabeth Ruffner, longtime Prescott resident and historian. "They ended up paying to move her to a rest home while they used her house."
The intersection where the house stands is the location of Elvira Bonner's home. Elvira (played by Ida Lupino) is Junior's mother.
Ruffner and her husband, Budge, owned the Ruffner Funeral Home located behind the Morrison home. Peckinpah set up the movie company's commissary in the funeral home's parking lot.
"They had the best of all food, the best chefs," Ruffner said. "They kept that commissary open 24 hours a day when they were shooting."
Across the street from the Morrison house, at 118 E. Carleton St., stands Morgan Stanley investment offices. Another longtime Prescottonian, Carl Tenney, is a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley.
"They finally paved the roads and intersection about 40 years ago," Tenney said. "Just up the hill is what we used to call Cross Hill. Now it's called Palmer Hill. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan used to ride up the street and burn crosses on the hill.
"Later, there was a permanent cross built that we would put lights on at Christmas. The city finally put stop signs up in the mid-80s to slow people coming down the hill (Carleton)."
Cal Cordes, a well known Prescott High School teacher, coach and referee, drove through the intersection many times. He used the Carleton-to-Marina route to bus sports teams from the high school at the end of Carleton (now Mile High Middle School) to play games at City Park (now Ken Lindley Field).
"I'd turn the corner down Carleton in the bus and the kids would all yell, 'Let 'er rip coach,'" Cordes chuckles at the memory. "That was before the stop signs."
In spite of the hidden history and stories of the old intersection, the Morrison house is the most visible display of the intersection's claim to fame.
"Before they started filming, the house was white, and we spray painted it black to make it look old and rundown," said Bill Pierce, the Prescott community coordinator for the film. Pierce made his film debut in the movie playing the rodeo chairman.
"We had to remove the plate glass window in the front and put in candy glass for the fight scene. After we finished, we put the real window back and repainted the house."
"That was the scene where Junior (Steve McQueen) knocks his brother (Curly, played by Joe Don Baker) through the front window into the dining room," said Jeb Rosebrook, who wrote the movie script.
"My father ate lunch with the movie stars everyday for three months at the commissary," said Melissa Ruffner about her father. "He was very impressed."
"I didn't go down there and watch. I was too busy teaching and coaching," Cordes said. "They blocked off the intersection when they were filming and had movie trucks stacked all around."