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Interview With OwenChildress

Interview With OwenChildress

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C251- Owen Childress. Managed the Sales and Administrative Departments for the Del Webb Corporation. Helped home buyers with financing and mortgaging their Sun City home purchases.

C251- Owen Childress. Managed the Sales and Administrative Departments for the Del Webb Corporation. Helped home buyers with financing and mortgaging their Sun City home purchases.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Del Webb Sun Cities Museum on Nov 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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INTERVIEW WITH OWEN CHILDRESS – Wednesday, April 13, 2006
In charge of the overall financing for the community – the individual mortgages for the homebuyers and also the development loans. And I was in charge of the Sales people and also theAdministration. Started with 1951 as a mail clerk – worked out of the warehouse and picked themail up and handled all the packaging and stationery that we would send out to all the jobs andmy first desk was sawhorses and piece of plywood in the warehouse – that’s where I started.He could see immediately when I was the stationery clerk I was destined to go up (chuckles).And if you believe that I’ll sell you a bridge over Salt River. He was really neat – he gave youevery opportunity to advance. I didn’t finish college. I went to night school – and took financing and accounting, etc. He was great. He was a super guy.The kind of guy Webb was: My dad developed cancer and was terminal and we get a call fromWebb one Sunday. I’m out cleaning my pool and Marie says, “Mr. Webb’s on the phone.” Isaid, “Oh, sure, Mr. Webb’s on the phone – it’s got to be one of the guys at the office, kiddingme.” And it was Mr. Webb. He said, “I understand your dad’s got cancer.” And I said, “Yes.”And he said, “Well, Dr. Horton is at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and we’ll make the companyplane available and we’ll fly your dad back there and have him examined.” And I said, “Well, itwas too late at that time.” But I thanked him and appreciated it very much. That’s the kind of guy he was.Jim Boswell was a great partner. He put the land up and we did the development and we got51% of the profits and he got 49%. He was great. He’d come to board meetings and we’d saywe want to do this, this and this, and he’s say, “Go get ‘em.”This was all cotton ranch. What we had to do was give him 90 days to 6 months notice when wewanted to take down some land. They would go in and cut all the cotton down and then give usthe land and we’d go ahead and develop it.Ed: We want to show you your sales building – we have it appended to our house. And thereare a couple other things that have been done to this building since you originally planned. Itstarted as 860 square feet, and the first owner added to it. So let’s walk back to your sales office.Owen: “My plush Sales office?”Ed explained the changes to the patio by the MacDonalds.Owen: This was a one bedroom or a two bedroom? One bath?Ed: Yes.Ed: This is your sales building (laughs). You can see it. It’s a little different floor, so you haveto come uphill here. And we call this our Marinette Room, because we have here a map of Marinette and the pictures from Marinette. Here’s you. Now, this building was the Sales.
Owen: To start with.Ed: And where was it located?Owen: It was just down the street, just on the other side of the model, next to where therecreation center was. On the west side of the recreation center.Ed: So you came down to this and then you came down to the models?Owen: Yes.Ed: This building had some other lives, right? Halfway House.Owen: I don’t remember that.Ed: So you were here for how long through the development of Sun City?Owen: From the beginning. 1959, when we first got the land deal worked with Boswell. I washere in 1959.Ed: How long did your career go on?Owen: I was in Sun City until 1974 and then they wanted me to go downtown to our mail office,and they were training me become Treasurer. A gentlemen by the name of Jim Miller whooriginally hired me, was our Treasurer. So I would go down there one day a week and work withhim. Then it got to two days, and then three days. Then I kinda just pulled out and thenunfortunately he had a heart attach and he passed away. So they said you’re coming down fulltime, so get out of Sun City and come on down here. That’s how I got downtown.Ed: Then you remember the building? It was a large Sales headquarters.Owen: Well, we had no idea how this was going to go. We thought it was going to be a success,but we just really know. And so we started kinda small and just got bigger and bigger andbigger.Ed: From what I’ve read of the history, it seems that much of the work leading up to Sun Citywas done by Mr. Jacobsen, that Webb gave him freedom to explore, investigate adultcommunities?Owen: Well, where we got the idea – there was a program called Omnibus with Allistair Cooke.It was on Sundays, and he went all over the country and the world and looked at different things,etc. One Sunday he had a program on Youngtown – a new idea, a retirement community for 50years and older. One of our executives, Joe Ashton, and Tom Breen saw the program and said,“Hey, that’s not a bad idea. We oughta take a look at it.” Then we sent a fellow down to Floridato investigate retirement communities to see which was the best way to start one. He went downthere and was there for 3-6 months (whatever), and he came back and said, “One of the problems
that I saw, or found, was that everybody was disappointed in what they were promised. Theywere told they were going to get a shopping center. They either didn’t get it, or it was muchsmall scale that they thought. They were promised a recreation center and a golf course; and therecreation center either didn’t materialize or was smaller. And the golf course wasn’t as big asthey thought, etc. So he came back and told us that. So we said, “What we’ll do is before wesell a house, we’ll build a golf course, we’ll build a recreation center, and we’ll build a shoppingcenter.” So when the people came out, we didn’t have to promise them anything, we just said,“Go look at our golf course, go look at our recreation center.” Jim Boswell was on the board of Safeway, and he got them to come out here and open a store, so when we opened for sale, wehad Safeway out here, and we were all set for service.Ed: And Webb was completely supportive?Owen: Oh, yes. Yes. He was behind us all the way.Ed: From what I’ve read, he used to kid (I think it was) Breen about his old folks home.Owen: He might have. I don’t remember him doing that. I know he loved to come out herebecause the people believed that he actually built their house. And you’d see him when he cameout to make a speech; people would come up and just want to touch his arm so see that he wasreal. And he loved it. We had a couple of annual meetings out here. And he really enjoyed it.Ed: From what we hear, there were people who felt that if something went wrong, they couldcount on Webb to make it right.Owen: Yes, correct. And we had a lot of people – even in our own organization – saying thatSun City will never go. They’re going to die off, and then what are you going to be left with.You’re going to be left with empty, nobody there, and so forth and so on. But what they didn’trealize was that the houses would then continue to sell. The market kept getting bigger andbigger with people retiring, so it proved out to be just what we thought.Ed: We had a visitor the other day, (we can look at the guest book for the name). A man camein who now lives here who looked at this picture we have here to Opening Day, and he said,“You know, I was just a young man then. I came out on Monday and talked to the SalesManager about a job. But he wouldn’t hire me – he said I was too young.”Owen: I don’t believe that, but whatever. We thought we wanted some elderly sales people, butwe also wanted some young people because a young person to an old person would remind themof their son or nephew or whatever, and they could relate to somebody like that. So we did not just try to go with older people.Ed: He did go on to work for John Long in Maryvale. That’s where he spent his career, workingdown there. But I just thought that was kinda funny. You probably wouldn’t remember him,since he came and went so quickly.Owen: Back in those days, I forget who my Sales Manager was.

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