Oral History of Sylvia Golden Baldock
Interviewed by PollyAnna Crum Queen on February 23, 2008
Sylvia Golden (Farrell) Baldock, (called Golden) portrayed herself as strong, hard-working, and fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. She stressed the idea that there is a reason for everything and that the struggles women went through and still go through make them better individuals for whatever they choose to do or be. Her history is one of determination, hard-work, and the attitude "I can do it even if I have to learn how to do it."
Golden was born in Ennis, Texas on November 30,1920. She had two older brothers, James Porter Farrell and Edward Jefferson Farrell (both deceased) from her mother's first marriage. She had two younger sisters, Gertrude McBride (deceased), and Betty Jo (McBride) Stanford living in Oklahoma, from her mother's later marriage. Golden's father Jay Jefferson Farrell was from Arcadia, Louisiana and her mother Jimmie (Evans) Farrell was from Ennis, Texas. Ennis, Texas is where her parents met and married. Golden did not know her paternal grandparents, and she only knew her maternal grandmother, Sally Hodge. Her grandmother was a great influence on her and instilled the desire for her to receive as much education as she could, so she would not have to live on a farm all her life. She told Golden, "You can do anything you want to do." Her grandmother was a strong lady who expected her to do what she was supposed to do. She taught Golden the importance of wearing a bonnet when out in the sun, so her face was protected, and she never let her outside without her hair being brushed. She would say, "How you look, will affect how others perceive you, Golden." Golden learned to be tough-headed. When Golden was 2 years old, her parents divorced. She and her mother moved to Oklahoma; her father and brothers stayed in Texas, and she did not see her brothers again until she was grown.
When Golden was 4 years old, her mother married Mr. McBride, a local farmer. They had 2 girls. It was everyone's responsibility to get work done around the farm. There was no such thing as "man's" work, or "woman's" work; it was farm work, and they all did it. During harvest time the school was dismissed for 6 weeks. All of the children in the school served as the harvest crew. No one could afford outside labor. The girls chopped and picked cotton by hand, and lifted the heavy bags onto wagons, to be transported to the cotton gin. Golden remembers, "My childhood was that of hard work; you went to school when you could; the farm had to be taken care of, and there was no outside help." Her mother and Mr. McBride were strong individuals who worked hard; they had no tractor, the tools of the trade were the horse team and their bare hands. Her mother was an excellent cook; she said, "My mother could make that old cast iron, wood burning stove, pop out a beautiful, perfect and delicious cake, pie, or cobbler every time."
Growing up on a farm was tough, but rewarding; it taught discipline, respect for work, and an appreciation of the good things. Her childhood was not a childhood like kids have today, because they did not have the technology, toys or things children have now. She enjoyed nature, being outside, riding horses without a saddle, climbing trees, gathering the cows from the pasture, and watching the stars. Golden stressed how she wished the children of today knew more about how to create their own entertainment and enjoy being out in nature. She recalls the Great Depression as, "We did not know there was a depression; that was a way of life. Living on the farm, we had our own milk, butter, eggs, and grew our own food. We knew that we did not have money. The Depression was sad in that way, but good in that it taught you how to be self-reliant. Everyone was in the same situation."
Golden and her siblings woke before sunrise every morning to milk the cows and feed the animals before getting ready for school. There were no school buses; they walked to school, several miles away. School was a place they learned social skills as well as practical skills. One social activity was the Evening School Box Supper. The young girls would decorate boxes and put home cooked meals in them. Then they would take them to school, where the young boys would bid on the boxes. After purchasing the box the boy ate supper with the girl who created the box. Golden said, "All of us young girls looked forward to that evening." Unfortunately Golden did not have the opportunity to finish school, but she took what she learned and used it to improve her life.
On Easter Sunday, 1938, in Oklahoma, Golden met her husband, William Jennings Baldock (called Jay). He was a cook for Pullman's Café. Both had seen each other around town, but Jay never had the opportunity to ask her out on a date. She walked into the café and asked if someone would call a taxi for her. Jay was working behind the counter, and his boss requested that Jay make that call. While waiting for the taxi, Jay asked Golden out. She agreed and 6 weeks later on May 31,1938 they were married. She said, "I believe the good Lord intended for Jay and myself to meet that Easter Sunday; we loved each other, and felt we were meant to be together, and we both feel that way today."
Jay was 21, and Golden was 18 when they married. Times were difficult; Jay worked at Pullman's Café 7 days a week, 12 hours a day to earn $15.00 a week. Golden worked at a help yourself laundry for $1.00 a day, 6 days a week. "We thought that's the way it's supposed to be; other young people our age did the same things." In 1943, Jay went to work for Lenard's Lumber Company, and due to his excellent customer service, and the knowledge of the lumber business, he was hired by Kemp Lumber Company in Roswell, New Mexico, to manage their main office. The Baldocks packed their belongings and moved. Golden went to work for Safeway Grocery Store stocking their shelves; after a few months she became a cashier and enjoyed working one-on-one with the customers. Her ability to allow the customers to feel welcomed, earned her a promotion. She was in charge of ordering houseware products for the store. She was thankful for her positions with Safeway and the education she gained from working there.
Golden's brother, Edward Farrell had a farm in Maricopa, Arizona, and he told them of a little grocery store that was for sale in Maricopa. He felt it would be
a great business venture for all of them. Jay and Golden, with her brother's help, bought that little grocery store and moved to Maricopa, Arizona in 1952. Upon arriving in the town, she exclaimed, "What have we done!" The town consisted of about 1000 people, farmers, small business owners, and the Ak-Chin Indian Reservation. With the knowledge both Jay and Golden brought with them from their previous occupations, that little grocery store grew into a successful business. It became the Maricopa Mercantile. The store was expanded 4 different times to meet the demands of a growing clientele. The Native Americans were some of their best customers and became close friends, even to this day. Their business motto was, "If we haven't got it, we will get it for you." This included clothing, furniture, appliances, and fine jewelry. Golden was responsible for developing a credit line that was used in their business, which allowed their customers to purchase food and items they desperately needed. She also saw the need for good health and helped bring about a well-baby clinic to the town of Maricopa. The Maricopa Mercantile was fortunate in having loyal patrons and employees. The store had as many as 17 employees, many who worked there until retirement.
Golden was also instrumental in bringing the Business Professional Women, (BPW) Organization Chapter to Maricopa. It took in business women from surrounding towns and cities. They consisted of Maricopa, Gila Bend, Globe, Florence, and Casa Grande. The women pulled together and dealt with the issues of their generation. Golden held the position of President from her Chapter, and held a district leadership position; she attended State and National Conventions. As an owner and a business woman, she sat on the Board of Directors for Associated Grocer's of Arizona, 1 of only 3 women. In 1973, she received the Grocer's Association of Arizona Food Industry Award in recognition of her contribution and devotion to the food industry of Arizona. She said, "Everything in my life has been a step up, instrumented by the great Creator." In 1982, Jay and Golden Baldock after a long and rewarding career with the Maricopa Mercantile sold the business to their daughter and son-in-law.
The Baldocks have 2 children: 1 boy, Bobby Ray Baldock, and 1 girl, Paula Jay (Baldock) Kellogg, along with 6 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren, and 3 great, great grandchildren. Their son was an excellent basketball player and received a basketball scholarship to the New Mexico Military Academy. After attending school in New Mexico, he attended and graduated from the University of Arizona's Law School. He practiced law successfully for 25 years, and in December of 1985, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to be the United States Circuit Court of Appeal's Judge for the Tenth Circuit, a title which he still holds. Their daughter was very active in school; she was a Future Farmer's of America (FFA) Chapter Sweetheart, and competed at a state level. She was Homecoming Queen of Maricopa High School, and Miss Rodeo Princess of Pinal County. Paula Kellogg went on to become a Postmaster for the United States Postal Service; she retired in 2006.
Golden Baldock feels that her generation had it rough, and for some they had to fight hard to be recognized for what they accomplished. Yet from an appreciation of hard work, rose up wise, determined, and self-made women. Golden has a passion for life. She has been and remains an inspiration to her family, friends, and community. The little farm girl, who did not turn her back on hard labor, who took those real life experiences, and used them to create her own success story, has become a self-made woman today.
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Photos courtesy of the family.