- Ralph Haver
- Family Story
- Jimmie Nunn
- Civic Spaces
- James Salter
- Have a Haver?
A Modern Phoenix Family Chronicle
Written by Bucky Haver aka Ralph Haver, Jr. interviewed and edited by Alison King in 2004Ralph Haver went to elementary school in Pasadena, California. When he was in first grade his teacher asked all the kids to tell the class what they wanted to do when they were grownups. Ralph startled the teacher by declaring he wanted to be an architect. Grandma Haver always took great pride in that story. She had been a school teacher in Nebraska before marrying my grandpa Harry and moving to Pasadena. Alice was definitely the matriarch of the Haver family til her death at 93 years young in 1978. She always stressed education for the family.
Ralph's father, Harry Haver, had been working as a masonry contractor in Pasadena until the late 20's. At that time Del Webb was getting started at the air bases in Arizona and Grandpa Harry was recommended by the brick yard as the best mason to help build many projects around Arizona. Alice would not leave Pasadena until there was a comfortable environment to live (cooling) so the family was split up for a dozen years. Grandpa went home a few days a month. Harry did very well financially, and his son Ralph went to architectural school at USC.
After Ralph graduated he went into the army air corps as a 90-day wonder. He was transferred to several air bases toward the end of the war, and as the officer in charge he did the final close down of the bases. Ralph did not like the military, the mindset or the entire time and actually almost never spoke about it. It just was not important to him.
met Millie, his future wife, at a USO dance in Ohio. He fell for her
right away. Ralph told Millie the Army Engineering castles on his collar
were churches and he was a chaplain. Millie then asked if it was standard
procedure for the chaplain to rest his hand on a girl's thigh. Crafty
guy my dad. I only know they really fell for each other and got married
Ralph and Millie were heading across the country to settle in Phoenix. By the time they got to Oklahoma I decided to arrive in the scene (2 weeks early, and I have been early ever since) so they stopped at Tinker Air Force Base and on Nov. 18, 1944 Ralph Burgess Haver II was born. Being the modest fellow, my dad thought it would be better to name me "Tinker" rather than carry on his name. Obviously mom prevailed and I dodged a serious name problem. Three days later they arrived in Phoenix to stay with Alice and Harry for a short time. Dad had designed grandpa's house on West Oregon about 2nd Ave. Ralph got a job working for Ed Varney, AIA, and they became lifelong friends and mutual mentors. Ralph worked for Ed for about a year and then had enough projects lined up to start his own business. My dad's sister was married to Vern Spicer. He owned Spicer-Bennet furniture store at Monroe and Central Ave. We used to go there to watch the Rodeo parade. Ralph had his drawing board in the loft upstairs. I have to assume this furniture store exposure lead Ralph to become the foremost designer of furniture stores in the state; Lou Regester, Dorris Heyman, Mehagians, Copenhagen, and several others.
While ensconced in the business district Ralph and Millie decided it would be appropriate to build a home for the family. Ralph bought a lot way out in the county at 4630 N. 11th Place. It was at least 2 miles north of the city boundary. The home still stands and is pretty original. Millie's family knew nothing about construction or design. She was amazed at the relative comfort and luxury her new family enjoyed. After the floor slab was poured Ralph took Millie by the property to show her the progress. They were on the way to Mesa to spend the the Saturday with some friends. As soon as they left the site with me in tow at the age of 2 or so, Grandpa Haver and his entire commercial masonry crew showed up. In the 8 hours they were visiting friends, Grandpa's crew built the entire house. They raised all the masonry walls and set the steel windows. From the street it really looked like a complete house. Mom was flabbergasted. All of this was a little fun for Dad and Grandpa, and typical of the Haver family sense of humor. Mom laughed about that story for the next 30 years. The gas company had not installed lines to the area. We were the first house in the neighborhood. With no heat for hot water, Ralph did the only thing reasonable, he hand dug a shallow water line trench from Highland to our house, ran the water in to the house and used the non-functioning water heater to allow the solar heated water to cool off. The "cold" water was very hot from the 200 feet of pipe only inches under the alley. We used that system for 6 months or so til the gas company caught up with the first of the many growth cycles of Phoenix.
Our modest home on 11th place was built with colored concrete floors, exposed red brick and simple span roof, steel casement windows, and an evaporative cooler on the end of the house that blew air through the two bedrooms, one bath and total 800 square feet. After the birth of brother Steve in 1947 and Harry in 1950, dad decided to add a bedroom off the dining area of the 11th Place home. This became my bedroom til we moved in 1954. The doors to my bedroom were swinging "barroom" style doors, much like a saloon from the wild west. We had an incinerator and burned our trash. There was a detached service building for laundry and a workshop and storage. The street in front was gravel the entire 10 years we lived there.
Many great memories were from that era. Our family installed our own red brick patio. It took a couple of years. This was to become a Haver family tradition. All of us still use brick patios if at all possible. Ralph's architecture continued to flourish in the early 50's. He worked a lot, but I always remember him being there on weekends and we spent many enjoyable hours just doing things around the house.
In retrospect, I think dad enjoyed building things every bit as much as designing them. In fact in later years as I got to know the favorite contractors of my dad's designs (Mardian, Knockenour, Farmer, and Pete Homes) they were universal in praising his ability to communicate like someone that really knew how to build what he drew.
About this time Ralph decided to make a big step and build his own office building. This was at 207 East Camelback. At this time Uptown Plaza was a "truck farm" where the local farmers drove their trucks and sold their crops right off the dirt parking lot. Once again Ralph was ahead of the official growth cycle. I remember at he age of 5 or 6 helping dad install rolled 90# asphalt on the roof of the new office building. It was at this location that dad's business really took off.
He then brought in a partner, Jimmie Nunn. The front office dad leased to Pete Sankovich Insurance Agency. They officed together and Pete eventually bought the building. They too were lifelong friends. I always remember the bright and light design studio of the office. Dad developed a reputation as a real hands on designer that could complete a total sheet by hand in one day, a relative miracle in that era.
It was in this building that I started working for dad on weekends. I would use the mimeograph machine and print dad's specifications. Of course I never really understood the importance, but dad always was anxious to instill a work ethic and share his knowledge. The mimeograph equipment was to play a role a few years later when in the 8th grade at Madison Rose Lane (one of Ralph's many schools) I decided to run for student body president. I was probably the only kid at school that had his own printing press at his disposal. I won by a landslide. Of course having dad's humorous side designing my posters and flyers probably was more important than any platform. One of Ralph's posters was the classic "Plan Ahead: Vote for Bucky". He drew it up so the "Ahead" and "Bucky" just barely fit on the poster. Pretty funny at the time.
Ralph and Ed Varney became co-designers on several school projects and eventually Ralph designed dozens of elementary schools in Phoenix and Scottsdale. Many are still in use today and some have been rebuilt to the more modern standards. I remember well my first day in the second grade. I was to start school at Madison #2 on 20th street and Campbell. Dad drove me to school most days til the 4th grade when I started riding my bike. On the first day at Madison #2 I still remember dad pulling up to the campus and telling me a story about the challenge of getting the facility completed on time and within budget. This was Ralph's first use of his original idea of a "cafetorium". The school was new but very Spartan. Evaporative coolers, non refrigerated drinking fountains, concrete floors, the basics. But before I left the car to enter my first day of class, dad made sure I understood that the entire school had been built for under $10 per square foot. Wow, how many adults care to talk like that to kids? But it was effective. Dad always conversed with us on an adult level.
Millie was a homemaker. She took great pride in the care of her kids, cooking for the family and being a good wife. Mom did not drive in the early days on 11th Place. She actually arranged to have the Wade School of Auto Driving Instruction come get her with us 3 kids in the back seat she took driving lessons to surprise dad. Boy was he surprised and proud. His mom had always driven so he thought that was the norm. Millie was the first female in her family to learn to drive. Now she could go to the market and doctor's office on her own, and free dad up to do his work. Ralph actually flew to Detroit in 1953 and bought a Plymouth sedan for mom. I think by driving the car home he saved $100. It was a different time in America.
When I was in the 4th grade we built a new and relatively huge home on north 20th street. It is still there in great condition at 6142 N. 20th Street. The neighborhood was nearly all builders and engineers. Across the street was Ed Varney, next door was Joe Ashton (president of Del Webb) and also in the neighborhood was the engineer Chuck Magadini, home builder Del Trailor and several other prominent folks.
The second family home was about 2000 sf and seemed huge. We all shared in the construction. The jobsite was where we spent our weekends for 6-8 months. The neighborhood was new and a paved private street was in front of us. The area had been citrus orchards for many years. The area is called "Tonka Vista" and it is now an exclusive limited access area due to the Piestewa freeway.
In regards to the freeway, when we first went to the 20th street lot, dad drove us around the area. When we got over on 18th street dad explained that soon this would be a major highway (we didn't think in terms of freeways here then). This was about 1954. Dad was right, but about 25 years premature. If only the city fathers had had his foresight and intuitiveness.
The 20th street house was built on 1 acre. Like so many of Ralph's designs it had a carport, not a garage. The entire interior was redwood, very contemporary, with clerestory glass. The roof ceiling was identical to the original Lou Regester (now Copenhagen) on Camelback Road at 18th Street. It was a distressed exposed wood on edge, very dramatic. The house had a copper fascia, unpainted masonry and a gravel drive. Still a viable look. Obviously with a low pitched roof there were expansive covered patios. Once again it was built of brick, but this time a yellow clay. The patios were so big it again turned into a 2 year project. I recall dad paying 2 cents a brick as an incentive to get us to work on the patios after school. We all did our part, but that was a lot of bricks.
The house was unique in several ways. It had partitions at the bedroom that did not go to the ceiling. Very stylish in design, but eventually dad had to install glass at the partition for mom. She always like to sleep later, and 3 boys could be pretty noisy. When we were young and feisty we all had our scraps. It was considered normal that if I was chasing Steve to his room and he locked the door, I would just climb over the wall. I drove mom crazy, but 3 boys were just being boys.
~ Bucky Haver aka Ralph Haver, Jr. on October 3, 2004