Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden

Fern, daughter of Martha Pore and Henry H. Foltz, was born on August 14, 1908, in Phoenix at her parents' small farm at what today is the area of Camelback and 20th Street.

When Fern was eight years old, the family moved to a farm at 20th Street and Bethany Home Road. The land was very rocky, and their little house had no electricity or well, so water had to be carried to the house. Fern remembers she and her brothers played out in the desert but never saw any snakes.

A couple of years later, Henry bought a 40-acre ranch at Bethany Home Road and 10th Street. Fern attended Madison School #1 and graduated from Phoenix Union High School in 1927. Phoenix Union was the only high school in the city at that time. Fern rode the streetcar to get to school. She was an average student except in physical education classes that she loved and in which she excelled

After graduation, Fern attended Tempe State Teacherís College, where she was active in Delta Theta Sorority, the Y.M.C.A. and president of South Hall student dormitory. Agriculture was a mandatory class at the Teacherís College, and every student had a garden.

Upon receiving her two-year degree, Fern was hired to teach Spanish-speaking children in second grade at Madison School. She also became the first Physical Education teacher for girls at that school. In addition to being responsible for athletic games, Fern taught dancing, health and exercise classes and helped to establish the first tennis courts on the school grounds. Her beginning salary was a little over $1000 for her first year.

On June 27, 1931, Fern married Raymond Bliss Johnson, a dairy farmer in Phoenix. The couple had been going together since her senior year in high school. At that time, married women were not permitted to teach. If there was a man earning money in the family, the teaching jobs went to someone else who needed them.

The couple bought 40 acres of land at what is now 79th Avenue and Thunderbird Road. Fern became a farmerís wife and ďdid what the day broughtĒ on the coupleís farm in Peoria. Fern and Raymond had three children: R. Roy, born June 19, 1932; Kenneth P., born March 9, 1934; and Evelyn F. Riggs, born April 5, 1936.

When Evelyn was six years old, Fern resumed teaching as a substitute during WWII. Peoria Schools consisted of only one system: Primary, Grammar and High School. She taught everything from boys' shop and PE as well as kindergarten through high school classes.

Fern was also an active member of the Peoria Presbyterian Church and served as a Deacon, Sunday School Superintendent and teacher and for the Womenís Circle. She was also a strong supporter of many of the Native American Ministries, parishioners and students whom she met through her church. She often provided them food and clothing, a place to stay and jobs for some of the young ladies attending Southwest Indian School in Peoria.

Fern was interviewed by Pamela Hronek, and her oral history is included in the book DOING WHAT THE DAY BROUGHT. The title of the book came from Fernís answer to the question about what a pioneer woman did each day.

Fern died on January 26, 1999, after living all her 90 years in Arizona, and was buried at Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Glendale, Arizona.

DONOR: Evelyn F. Riggs
November 2001

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Additional documentation and photographs may be available in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library.

Additional documentation and photographs may be available in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library.