Glendale documents history through oral interviews online

 The Arizona Republic, Glendale Community section — September 2, 2010 
Hear Jack Hartley discuss the origins of Glendale Community College, which opened in 1965.

Hear son of Russian immigrants John [Lukian] Conovaloff recall the 1920 Cotton Crash that affected his family's Tolleson Glendale farm and sent many of the area's Russian families to California. John was born in San Francisco before his parents came to the northeast Tolleson area, now west Phoenix.

And hear Dale Huss' recollection of World War II pilot training at Luke Field, which later became Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

This collection of online oral histories give listeners a taste of what life was like in Glendale from the 1900s to the present.

"It's a wonderful thing," said Diane Nevill, Glendale library manager. "This could be used by students in school or people who are doing genealogy or history buffs. It's just a variety of oral histories there with a connection to Glendale."

The project called "Listening to Glendale's Past" is part of the statewide Arizona Memory Project, which lets the public access photographs, maps and government documents that chronicle Arizona's past and present.

Participants in the Glendale project include the city's public library, Glendale Community College, Glendale Arizona Historical Society, Luke AFB, Sahuaro Ranch Park Historic Area and Thunderbird School of Global Management.

So far, 29 oral histories with transcripts are posted and three more are ready to go.

"I am hoping the partners will continue to add more as time goes on," Nevill said.

The year before, the city illustrated its historical roots by posting old photographs on the website, Nevill said. The historical undertakings come as the Glendale celebrates its 100th anniversary as a city this year.

The online interviewees include the son of Glendale's first mayor, the wife of the last owner of Sahuaro Ranch and the current and former presidents of Thunderbird School of Global Management.

The interviews also showcase the city's melting-pot roots.

Arnold Ong talks about his family, which opened Gene's Market in Glendale in 1940. He recalls how the city changed and about the racial barrier that "kind of came down" in the city after World War II, enabling people to buy a home anyplace in town.

Helen Okabayashi recounts what life was like for a Japanese family in Glendale during WWII and Maria Socorro talks about growing up as a native of Glendale
Oral History Interview with John L. Conovaloff

Photo shows the Russian sectarian cemetery of Spiritual Christian Jumpers and descendants on
75th Avenue and Maryland Avenue, Glendale. John L and Hazel Conovaloff were buried in the Resthaven Park Cemetery, on Northern Avenue at 63rd Avenue, Glendale, about 3 miles southeast.

Son of Russian immigrants, John L. Conovaloff ("Little John")* was member of the Russian community which settled in 1 mile northeast of Tolleson and 5 miles southwest of Glendale, Arizona around 1915 1910. In the 1920s he watched as many members of the Russian colony moved to California, due to the Cotton Crash and because of the harsh weather that prevented profitable farms. His family and only a hand full of others stayed in 2 separate Russian sectarian congregations, each with their own prayer house and different demonination, sharing one cemetery. Admittedly keeping to themselves, they attended the Spiritual Christian Jumper prayer meetings Molokan Church and lived off their land, eating out of their garden and butchering their own meat. Despite this, he still made time for fun, fishing in the Salt River and attending the carnival and races at the Arizona State Fair Grounds. He attended Pendergast Elementary School and later Glendale Union High School. John remembers watching Glendale shift from a cotton farming community into a vegetable farming community going from literally “horse power” to gas power, as the farming industry became mechanized.

John was born November 12, 1908 [San Francisco CA] and passed away April 26, 1996. His wife Hazel was born January 25, 1915 and passed away June 22, 1996. After 1938 they abandoned the Spiritual Christian Jumper faith. They were not buried in the Russian sectarian cemetery on 75th Avenue and Maryland, in Glendale, but in the Resthaven Park Cemetery, on Northern Avenue at 63rd Avenue in Glendale.

* The 3 John Conovaloff's who owned adjacent land distinguised themselves with name variants: "John L" or "Little John", "J. John" or "Tall John", and "Johnny" nephew to John L. Johnny lived in Glendale attended Glendale schools. The other Conovaloffs all attended Tolleson High School.

Oral History Interview with John L. Conovaloff

John L. Conovaloff Oral History Interview, Part 1
John L Conovaloff Oral History Interview, Part 2
John L. Conovaloff Oral History Full Transcript
John L. Conovaloff Cover Sheet and Index


John was born in San Francisco, and was a little boy in 1920. He recalls the depression better.

His extended family farm was in the section between 83 and 91 Avenues, and McDowell and Thomas Roads, 5 miles southwest of Glendale, in the Tolleson and Pendergast school districts

In the interview online his ancestral religion is Spiritual Christian Jumper (not Molokan as stated), The congregation has a "prayer/meeting house" not a "church". He and his wife joined a pentecostal/protestant denomination after their first child died in 1938.

The link to "Listening to Glendale's Past" shows an image of the Russian sectarian cemetery on 75th Avenue and Maryland, in Glendale. John L and Hazel Conovaloff were buried in the Resthaven Park Cemetery, on Northern Avenue at 63rd Avenue in Glendale. Only their child who died in 1938 was buried on 75th Ave.

Reference to "Molokan Church" is misleading. The religion is "Spiritual Christian Jumper" — Russian sectarian, not Russian Orthodox. His ethnic group may be labeled "Molokan" but not the faith.

The Conovaloff's founded a Russian sectarian colony and prayer house about 1915 along 83rd Ave, between McDowell and Thomas Roads, separate from the earlier Russian colony and prayer house founded in 1911 on Griffith Ave, in Glendale. The 2 colonies were of different Russian sectarian denominations -- both not Orthodox.

In 2002 fraudulent and forged papers were filed with the State and the police lied to about the ownership of the property of the prayer house and cemetery. Investigations concerning felonies are ongoing.