Discover Clifton, Arizona, and meet sixteen intriguing people who live there with Backroad Planet and the Amazon Prime series TOWNS.
Backroad Planet has partnered with Chad Harris of Hotseat Media as the online presence for his brand new Amazon Prime series TOWNS. The series immerses viewers in the lives of real people, intriguing local characters from diverse backgrounds who are the lifeblood of small town America. In Episode 1, Chad travels to Clifton Arizona, a backroad town Howard traveled through last year on his Arizona Road Trip.
Tune in to Towns to discover “the biggest stories from the smallest places.”
Table of Contents
- 1 Clifton, Arizona
- 2 The Stars of Clifton
- 2.1 Ed the Barber and Felix the Mayor
- 2.2 Jeff the Renaissance Man
- 2.3 Don the Historian
- 2.4 Ray the Collector and Jeanette the Fashionista
- 2.5 Ian the Manager
- 2.6 Margo owner of Margo’s Kitchen
- 2.7 Jacque The Builder
- 2.8 Barbara the Artist
- 2.9 Pancho the Activist
- 2.10 Stephen the Gardener
- 2.11 Terry the Reptilist
- 2.12 Kenny the Miner
- 2.13 Kimmy Jo the Bohemian
- 2.14 Papa Gene the Musician
- 3 Map It!
- 4 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 5 Pin this Post!
- 6 Helpful Links
Guest Post by Chad Harris
One hundred years ago, Clifton, Arizona, had more people than Phoenix. The copper mine poured optimism down Chase Creek Street with its gambling halls, bordellos and hope. Today, Phoenix and its two million residents have no idea that Clifton and it’s 3,450 citizens even exist. It is a place forgotten by the media and travel brochures.
TOWNS is a video series on Amazon Prime about people. People who live in really small towns and make each town one of a kind. As one who loves backroad travel and discovery of small rare places, time is always my enemy, not my friend. Time will allow us to see the landmarks and stops, but the real treasure is the hidden layer, the people, and that takes more time.
The Stars of Clifton
In Episode 1, we traveled to Arizona, and met sixteen locals who call Clifton their home. They are the reason we fell in love with this town.
Discovering a travel website like Backroad Planet, that also has a fascination with intriguing characters in forgotten places, was a thrill for me, and I take comfort in knowing a tribe of like-minded nomads, otherwise lost to the world, can call this site home.
I hope you use this post as a Stars of Clifton road map, if your travels and time permit. These are the best human landmarks we could find.
Ed the Barber and Felix the Mayor
At the bottom of Chase Creek you will find Ed the Barber, who for the last 49 years has been giving haircuts as fast as he receives the latest gossip. On this day we hear Felix and Ed reminisce about being boys in a town that is no longer. The streets they walked in Old Morenci, three miles from the barber shop, are now a big hole in the ground.
Jeff the Renaissance Man
If you drive up Chase Creek Street from Nabor’s Barber Shop, you will most likely find Jeff sitting across the street from the Historic Union Hall. Jeff turned the building into an 8-room gallery and filled it with a collection of art from his life’s travels. A traveler, history major, art collector, and dentist, Jeff has filled cavities in Sri Lanka, the jungles of Central America, and even the prison where they filmed Orange is the New Black.
Don the Historian
Full of historical mining photos and memorabilia, this free museum houses the best find of all, Don. Don and his 3,000 square feet of stories is a great cost-effective way to learn how the town started from the very first shovel that began digging the mine.
Ray the Collector and Jeanette the Fashionista
Ray and Jeanette left San Francisco years ago to “retire” and start a B&B in Flagstaff. Wanderlust called again, and they sold that business ten years later, and found Clifton. Their current “re-re-tirement” is Vintage Clifton, a children’s store, and a restored art deco apartment all on Chase Creek Street.
Ian the Manager
Ian left Washington, DC, for a chance to be a big fish in a very small pond. Now he is living in a place where he can walk to work, rent is 50% off, and he can play bass in the only band that plays the last Friday of each month in the Bowling Alley. Stop by City Hall and meet Ian the Town Manager. I hear he is also a good cook.
Margo owner of Margo’s Kitchen
Margo slings jokes like she serves tacos, fast and spicy! Her laugh is as famous as her Mexican meatball soup. You can find her restaurant on the road to Morenci across the street from Ian’s office at City Hall.
Jacque The Builder
Jacque the Builder lives on a bluff overlooking the San Francisco River. He bought the lot, built his 300 square foot tiny house and lookout porch for five, all for $13,000. If you ever dream of living large on a small budget, talk to Jacque.
Barbara the Artist
For an independent woman who worked at the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Barbra the Artist must feel like the mayor of a nudist colony in Clifton. When you meet Barbra, you cannot imagine her working in a government office surrounded by one of the most conservative environments. Today Barbara paints, sculpts, and raises money for the community by working corporations for grants. The splash pad and soccer field are a result of her former bureaucratic patience at work. She does it all in an old stone garage she converted that once housed a model T Ford.
Pancho the Activist
Pancho worked for the mine when they did not allow Mexicans into upper management. As luck would have it, he was promoted to management one year before the 1982 Copper Strike. Imagine feeling stepped-over for years, and now having to step over his own family and friends on the other side of the picket line. Pancho helped relocate thousands of graves to a new cemetery when the mine decided copper was more valuable than coffins.
Stephen the Gardener
Stephen was a botanist from UC Davis, who found his own monopoly in Clifton. Just around the corner from Park Place and Boardwalk you will find his greenhouse and rental properties. Stephen looks at it this way, “The purple properties, they might be the low rent district, but it’s my monopoly.” Founding the farmers market and building community gardens, his dream is to establish the “Hanging Gardens of Clifton.”
Terry the Reptilist
A man that calls rattlesnakes, gila monsters, and coral snakes friends is the right guy to call when you have a snake problem. Terry has rescued more mammals from reptiles than anyone else in town.
Kenny the Miner
On most sunny days you will find Kenny hanging out with his friends on old Chase Creek Street, having a smoke, listening to music, swapping old mine stories. As Kenny puts it, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. The city is too hectic. At least here you know who will bite you and who won’t.”
Kimmy Jo the Bohemian
If you straight up want the best breakfast in town and conversation, go to the Blue Door Sanctuary, on the east side of the river. Kimmy Jo took an old Masonic Lodge and converted it into a B&B that is as cool and laid back as she is. When you ask her why she loves Clifton, she says, “My friends here are smart and fun and not full of that overzealous intellectualism, which is nice.”
Papa Gene the Musician
Outside the old 1912 apothecary shop you might find Papa Gene playing his Taylor guitar on the sidewalk. Ask him to play his “Miner Song” for you. He will stay and play as long as you care to listen.
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever visited a small town and met some intriguing people? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!