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TGS grandparent Mrs. Anita Lumpkin, front left, shared her memories of growing up at the Federal Honor Camp on Mt. Lemmon with our Eighth Grade students.

Grandmother shares Mt. Lemmon memories with Eighth Grade

After reading They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, a memoir of his family’s experiences in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, 8th grade students visited The Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site and trailhead on Catalina Highway, which was a prison camp for conscientious objectors during World War II. Prisoners at the camp helped to build the Catalina Highway that extends from Tucson to the top of Mt. Lemmon.

At the site, students were joined by Anita Lumpkin, grandmother to Simon '27 and Margo '22 Altar. Mrs. Lumpkin lived at the Federal Honor Camp as a child during the war years until the early 1950's. Her father was employed by the federal prison system. Her home, which is pictured on the information kiosk currently at the recreation area, was a stone structure with a garden in front that her mother planted.

Mrs. Lumpkin shared many of her childhood memories with the students, including how the children of the camp occasionally rode the paddy wagon down the hill to school at the old Fort Lowell Elementary on Pima Road. She also recalls hearing mountain lions scream in the hills, watching movies projected on a white sheet under the trees, playing in the creek, and scrambling over rocks on unfinished sections of the highway with the weekly groceries when the cars were unable to pass.

After Anita's father left his employment at the prison, the site was converted into a youth camp.  All the structures of the former prison camp were removed in the 1970's, but the foundations remain.  The 8th grade students spent time exploring the area, using Forest Service maps of the site and were able to identify many of the remaining walls, structures and artifacts. Mrs. Lumpkin's memories are a true treasure of early Tucson history.