Mack Rowe revisits Great Depression, WWII, Iron King Mine
Army veteran enjoys life at Pioneer Home
Mack Rowe has recently accomplished two milestones – his 95th birthday and participating in an Honor Flight visit to Washington, DC. They happened on the same day earlier this month as Rowe left Sky Harbor Airport with other veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Seeing the monuments is nothing new to this active resident of the Pioneer Home in Prescott; he last viewed them in 1943 while a member of the U.S. Army.
“Of course, there are a lot of new ones,” he said, adding that his favorite was the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial. “The raising of the flag was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.”
Rowe moved to Arizona at the age of nine from a family farm in Kansas. It was during the Great Depression, and he remembers the many dust storms that forced a brief relocation to a ranch near Castle Hot Springs.
“My dad couldn’t keep the stock farm going. He couldn’t grow anything to feed them,” he said. The two big draft horses that would grade the dirt off the highway were the last two pieces of property his father sold off.
Rowe tells of getting lost on horseback during a dust storm and seeing a light in the distance. He spent the night with a family who called the neighbors to notify his parents of his safety. “But first we put up the horse for the night. You always took care of your stock before yourself,” he said.
At age 10, Rowe, the youngest of four siblings aged 10 to 20 years older than he – “I was the ‘oops baby’” – moved to Prescott. The family lived on Brush Street which dead-ended at the old quarry. Rowe pointed out his window to the wall built from those rocks, as was the Post Office, he said.
It was in church that Rowe met his sweetheart, Lora. “I was eyeballing her, trying to get together,” he said. Lora was in the first graduating class of Prescott High School; Rowe had quit school to drive trucks in Bellemont near Flagstaff.
They got married in the little church on Marina Street and soon Rowe was hauling freight on Old Black Canyon Highway. Drafted into the Army, he continued driving trucks and working on vehicles. The Queen Mary transported him to England. Rowe can still pull off a pretty good British accent. “Those are the toughest people I’ve ever seen,” he said.
He had no problem with driving on the left side of the road, and also drove in convoys in Wales, Scotland, Belgian, Germany and France, including at Normandy.
The trip home after the war wasn’t as pleasant as the accommodations on the Queen Mary. He and his buddies spent Christmas on the Monticello, an Argentinian cattle boat. What with a train derailment near El Paso, a tornado, and a snowstorm in Miami, Arizona, they finally reached home; he was discharged Jan. 6, 1946.
Driving trucks on the freight line to Crown King didn’t pay as well as working in the Iron King Mine, so Rowe became a journeyman miner for 10 years, a timberman who set up the wood braces inside the tunnels. The deepest he worked was on the 17th level, he said.
“You get so you like it. What did I know? I was young and dumb. But my wife never liked it. In 1960, she said, ‘Mack, come here.’” He crooks his finger. “She said, ‘You gotta get out of the mine.’”
A former teacher set him up to manage the Mobile gas station at 649 Miller Creek Road, and he learned to keep the books. Later he worked for Lamb Chevrolet and two other car dealerships, then became a journeyman carpenter.
“Prescott was a rootin’ tootin’ town back then,” he said.
Rowe and his wife were avid square dancers and attended festivals all over the state. They also hunted for arrowheads. He still has three shadowboxes – out of 105 framed displays – hanging on his wall.
“What with square dancing, hunting artifacts, working day and night, we probably had more fun than anybody,” he said.
After his wife died, Rowe’s son-in law offered him a place to live in the Chino Valley home they built, but Rowe declined.
He expresses how much he enjoys living these past two years at the Pioneer Home where staff and residents know him as the Candy Man. He keeps his small refrigerator stocked with chocolate bars and sweets that he gives out on Thursdays.
He said, “I wake up every morning and say, ‘You old fart. How can you be so lucky?’”