May 9, 2021

Obligatory Clean-Up Days Heralded Tourist Season

“Prescott has a splendid record with respect to cleanliness of the city and its environs,” the Weekly Journal-Miner noted in 1922, “but in order to keep that reputation, clean-up will be observed to the letter. Those not complying with the orders of the city health officer, will of necessity report to the chief of police.”

Clean-up Day had its official annual start eight years earlier in 1914. It was the brainchild of the Monday Club, which had always been concerned about the cleanliness and sanitation of Prescott. (See related article below.) It was a “large and representative meeting,” and although Mayor Timmerhoff was unable to attend, he offered his full support. He “sent word that any proposals looking toward better sanitary conditions in Prescott, would have his undivided attention, and full cooperation,” the paper reported. Both the city government and the county supervisors were solicited “to contribute garbage receptacles at convenient points within the Plaza and on prominent corners in the mercantile sections of Prescott.”

Clean-up days were held in the spring before the first event of the summer. “The object of clean-up day is to rid the city of unsightly objects,” the paper explained, as well as “fly and germ-breeding refuse, which has accumulated perhaps during the winter months.” Also, there was the desire to have Prescott look her best before swarms of people came to the “cool pines” before air-conditioning was common.

“By observing clean-up day and destroying, either by burning or having carried away in the city teams, any material which is a natural breeder for flies, much can be done to prevent these insects from coming to life. Aside from the civic pride that every resident should have in living in a community that is kept clean and orderly, the factor of health also enters into the clean-up day program,” the paper intimated.

RELATED: The Women Who Civilized Prescott (Monday Club)

The early history of the Monday Club; the oldest women’s group in Arizona.

However, it might be that the first clean-up day had mixed results, because the following year clean-up became mandatory. “Prescottonians must clean their premises on or before Cleaning Day, April 10, or the task will be undertaken by the city and the bill attached to their property taxes,” the paper announced. “It was decided that if people will remove garbage and other refuse into the alley, in receptacles, the city [would] have it hauled away. Manure and trimmings from shrubbery will have to be carted at the expense of owners,” the paper related, “and in case of failure to comply, the violators will be dealt with under city ordinances.” After this incentive was added, compliance was extremely high.

A traveler in the distance might have wondered if Prescott was ablaze on clean-up day as scores of houses set their combustable trash alight during the daylight hours. The fire department and hose companies would be out, ready, and stationed at key points during this time.

In 1920, the Boy Scouts became involved. Their weekend camp was closed for the scouts to take responsibility in cleaning up all the vacant lots in town. Now every part of the city was given a spring cleaning, and it showed. “Just as a diversion, if for no other reason,” the paper wrote, “take tomorrow afternoon off and use your legs—also your eyes. See what clean-up day has achieved.”

RELATED: The Surprising Adventures of Arizona's First Boy Scouts

The story of the founding and the surprising early history of Arizona's first Boy Scouts in Prescott.

By 1921, the operation had become thoroughly organized. Two captains, one each for the east and west sides of town were responsible for appointing block managers who would inspect each house on their block “reporting those that [were] not in condition.” The following year, the two captains appointed street superintendents who in turn recruited the block managers.

Not only were the Boy Scouts involved, but the health officer requested “the cooperation of all of the school children in seeing that all yards in their respective neighborhoods [were] cleaned up,” the paper related.

Everyone who was able participated in clean-up day and for many years in the first half of the 20th century, Prescott would proudly hold the reputation of being the cleanest city in Arizona. 

ALSO ENJOY: 1921-23: Downtown Prescott Becomes Modernized

The story of how Prescott AZ’s dusty downtown was transformed into a modern city.



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Weekly Journel-Miner, 4/26/1922; Pg. 4, Col. 4.

Weekly Journel-Miner, 3/25/1914; Pg. 6, Col. 4.

Weekly Journel-Miner, 4/13/1921; Pg. 2, Cols. 4-5.

Weekly Journel-Miner, 4/13/1921; Pg. 3, Col. 4.

Weekly Journel-Miner, 4/7/1915; Pg. 1, Col. 3.

Weekly Journel-Miner, 5/5/1920; Pg. 2, Col. 2.

Weekly Journel-Miner, 4/28/1920; Pg. 4, Col. 2.


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