Gloria England returns to the 77th Florence Junior Parada Open Rodeo and Parade
Gloria England had the distinct honor of being the very first female parade marshal for the Florence AZ Junior Parada Rodeo back in 1955. Now, 54 years later, she is being honored as the Parade Marshal for the 77th Junior Parade once again.
Her fascinating life reads like a best selling novel. At age five she moved with her parents from Phoenix to Kearney. She fell in love with the ranching life on visits to a small ranch of her uncle, Ernest Bass. She attended ASU, married James Elkner, the father of her twin boys. He was killed on the island of Luzon during World War II. She became a fashion model in the 40’s in Los Angeles.
She came back to Arizona and met Cecil England at her uncle’s ranch. England at the time owned the A Diamond and the Battle Axe ranches east of Florence. After marrying Cecil in 1947 they farmed cotton near Coolidge and raised cattle. In 1958 England purchased the Rafter Six Ranch near Kearney and the F Mountain Ranch near Poston Butte in Florence.
The F Mountain Ranch location is a part of early Florence, Arizona and Pinal County history. It originally belonged to Aaron and Charles Mason. Charles Mason was one of the original founders and owners of the Silver King Mine that was discovered in 1875 and made Florence into a boom town. The Masons sold the ranch to James Treat who was known as the Land Merchant of Florence. He is the one who sold it to Cecil England. Gloria learned firsthand the work and joy of cattle ranching from some of the Florence cowboys like Eddie Vasquez and Leonard LeBaron. The Englands sold the F Mountain in 1976 and bought a track of land between Florence and Coolidge and called it Las Campanas. The property was basically just the land surrounded by perimeter fences and a few tanks.
Tragedy struck that same year when Cecil died. Gloria was left to build the property into a fully operational ranch with house, corrals, wells and cross fencing. An Arizona Republic article of 1983 by A.V. Gullette quotes Gloria “ I wasn’t ready to join the sewing circle yet” so she hitched up her Levi’s and went to work. By 1978 she was one of 467 women in Arizona who were sole or principal operators of ranches or farms.
Arizona Days and Ways did a feature article on her in 1962 titled ”The Cowboy is a Lady” The article described Gloria this way ”Her life is not all riding, branding and tending to calving cows and sick steers. She also does the things any wife and mother does. She cooks, keeps house and finds time to entertain friends. She paints, does mosaics, studies French and practices that fast-vanishing art of home canning. She apparently enjoys it all, whether it is canning or cutting cattle, although the latter might have a slight edge. Cattle, she said, is a personal thing with her. “
Over the years, Gloria was an active member of Arizona Cattlegrowers Association, AgriBusiness Women and secretary of the Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association.
Truly this woman was a real trailblazer and inspiration to generations of cowboys and cowgirls. The 77th Florence Junior Parada is honored to have Gloria England return as its parade marshal. The parade will be on Saturday Nov. 28th, 2009 down Main Street in historic Florence AZ and will begin at 10 a.m.