Family of twins Opha and Okey, who once corraled their horses downtown, is the namesake for southwest-side streets

2014-01-14T00:00:00Z 2014-01-14T12:42:05Z Family of twins Opha and Okey, who once corraled their horses downtown, is the namesake for southwest-side streetsBy David Leighton For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

On the southwest corner of South Mission Road and West Ajo Way are streets named in honor of an early family that once owned the land.

Opha and twin brother Okey Probasco were born in 1919 to Roy and Allie Probasco, in Washington County, Colo. Roy was born on a farm in Iowa in 1888, and wound up in northeastern Colorado. One night, while playing his fiddle at a dance in the small town of Fleming, Colo., he met Allie Mollohan, who was originally from West Virginia. They married in 1912 and had five children: Macel, Wyvonna, Opha and Okey, and finally Bonnie in 1921. Roy contracted tuberculosis and was told by his doctor that he had only a couple of months to live and that he should try Tucson’s dry climate.

The family arrived in the Old Pueblo in November 1925. The following year, Roy bought 80 acres of land on the southwest corner of South Mission Road and West Ajo Way (then called Indian School Road) at $12 an acre. “He tried to buy the corner just to the north of his, but the government wouldn’t sell it because it had to be left open for the Indians on the Sells Reservation to drive their cattle to market,” Opha wrote in his self-published memoir.

In 1927, two of Roy’s brothers came to Tucson and assisted in the construction of what would be known as the Ajo Junction Tourist Court or Ajo Junction Auto Camp. It included several cabins, a store, bathrooms and a laundry room. They then built the family’s two-story home, and from it the Probascos ran the tourist court for several years.

For entertainment, Opha and Okey rode horses up and down Congress Street, deciding which theater — the Fox, Lyric, Rialto or Plaza — to attend. When they went into town, they corralled their horses at Jackson and Meyer streets for a nickel apiece. They also spent a lot of time at the Mission Swimming Pool, on the southeast corner of South Mission Road and West Ajo Way. Opha was a lifeguard there for a period of time.

After their 1938 graduation from Tucson High School, the twins worked for the “A” Mountain Dairy, the Southern Pacific Railroad, Consolidated Freightways trucking and lastly Arizona Auctioneers.

In 1933, the streets of the Probasco Addition were recorded with Pima County. The listed owners were Roy Probasco (Probasco Drive), Ward Mollohan, who was Allie’s brother (Mollohan Drive), Frank L. Brown (Brown Drive) and Jack Ormstead (Cook street might have been named by him). Opha Road, a tiny extension of La Cholla Boulevard, came later.

Sources:

Special thanks to Alan Kruse of Kruse Arizona tours.

William Ascarza, “Tucson Mountains,” Arcadia Publishing, 2010

Opha Probasco, “Keeping Our History Alive: The Old and the New of Tucson and Arizona,” Probasco Press, 2005

Bonnie Henry, “Opha was an original, and that’s no tall tale,” Arizona Daily Star, Feb. 5, 2012

Probasco Family Biographical File (Arizona Historical Society)

Pima County Plat Map MP06042

1961 Tucson Street Directory

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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