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Frank Barrios, World War II

Residential downtown Phoenix, circa 1945

Residential downtown Phoenix, circa 1945

This photo shows a residential part of downtown Phoenix as it was in 1945, when even very fine homes had chickens in the back yard.

Frank Barrios is three years old and looks as though he’s been caught feeding the birds Maxwell House coffee.

Frank still resides in Phoenix.  The bushy branches behind him are some kind of fruit tree, perhaps a peach or apricot.  The camera is aimed at the back of the house, which stood at 809 N. Seventh Street.

That location is now a vacant lot between McKinley and Garfield.  But in 1945, it was a two-story, 15-room mansion – California brick with a Spanish tile roof – and housed the three daughters of Phoenix pioneer Martin Gold.

Gold, who began with nothing, became first an agricultural businessman, then a major landowner, and finally a contractor.

In 1929, Gold built the mansion for $100,000, at a time when workers made ten cents an hour.  He intended to retire there, but died in 1931 before he could move in.

Everything went to his three daughters, Rose, Helen and Dolores, who shared the house in common.  Helen Killeen had three sons before her husband died.  Dolores married Alphonso Barrios, and they had Frank.

All lived together – until Pearl Harbor.

Frank’s memories of the photo are a little fuzzy, except for two things.  That was chickenfeed in the can, not coffee, and there were no men around the house.  All three of Helen’s sons entered the service, as did Alphonso.

During WWII, the United States put some 17 million men (plus a million women) in uniform, out of a total population of less than 160 million.  By 1945, the war had killed some 300,000 Americans and wounded a million.

Two of Helen’s sons had already been wounded – Armand Killeen in Italy and Louis Killeen in a plane crash stateside.

The backyard scene seems very serene, but emotions were strained to the breaking point.  No one knew when bad news might come from the front.  Though America was clearly winning the war, the families at home lived in dread of learning that their loved ones had died with victory in sight.

Japan had announced its intention to defend its homeland to the last ditch, and underlined that threat by the use of kamikaze pilots – men trained to fly suicide missions against American ships.

Authorities estimated that the conquest of Japan’s tenaciously defended home islands might cost America another million casualties.

That was the context in which President Harry S. Truman made his decision to use the atomic bomb.  A-bombs take time to produce, and America had stockpiled only three, the first of which was detonated in a test at Los Alamos, N.M.

Truman ordered the second dropped on Hiroshima.  Japan didn’t surrender at once, partly because her warlords were in power, partly because the disaster was so enormous that Japan’s government couldn’t understand what had happened.

Truman wanted a speedy capitulation to prevent further casualties, and so had to give the impression that America’s supply of bombs was endless.

Just three days after Hiroshima, he ordered the last bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  Despite a few diehards who wanted to commit national suicide, Japan surrendered.

After the war, Alphonso and Armand returned to Phoenix and lived in the house until 1952, when Rose died.

Then the surviving sisters sold the house, and the Gold and Killeen families bought several homes on Osborn Road between 12th and 13th streets.  Osborn was the edge of town, and all the houses were ranches.

Frank became a permanent Phoenician.  He graduated from St. Mary’s elementary school in 1956, and Brophy Prep in 1960.  He attended Phoenix College, then graduated form ASU in 1966 with a degree in civil engineering.

He applied himself to Arizona’s water problems.  For ten years, he worked on the Central Arizona Project as an engineer and hydrologist for the Bureau of Reclamation.  After transferring to state government in 1975, he worked for the Arizona Water Commission, which became the Department of Water Resources, until retiring in 1995.

— Gary Weiand.  Photo courtesy Frank Barrios.

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