STREET SMARTS

Street Smarts: Developer's days in Colombia inspired subdivision's names

2013-02-05T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:35:41Z Street Smarts: Developer's days in Colombia inspired subdivision's namesDavid Leighton For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The streets of the Desert Palms Park subdivision on Tucson's east side are named for people and places in Colombia, where the neighborhood's developer spent much of his early career.

The area - bounded by North Camino Seco, East Wrightstown Road, North Harrison Road and East Speedway - was developed in the early 1960s by Otto and Margaret Small.

Otto Small, born Otto von Smolski, was 10 years old when he and his parents, Leo and Kasimira von Smolski, moved to the U.S. from Poland in 1920. The family moved to Hamtramck, Mich., then a Polish enclave near Detroit.

From 1936 to 1940, Otto owned and operated the Urano Gold Mining Co., near Pasto, Colombia. He didn't find any gold and returned home broke.

Toward the beginning of World War II, he joined the Army Corps of Engineers and changed his last name to Small. He married Margaret Pollock, a native of Clinton, Mich., in 1942.

The Smalls lived in Puerto Rico during World War II and moved to Barranquilla, Colombia, after the war. Richard "Ricardo" Small was born there in 1946. The family also lived in Cartagena, Colombia, a port city on the Caribbean.

In 1959, the Small family moved to Tucson so Ricardo could attend an American high school. The same year, Otto bought the 70 acres that became Desert Palms Park.

In 1961, Otto named the streets after his son, family and things related to Colombia. Calle Bogota is named for the capital of Colombia; Calle Pasto for the city near the gold mine he ran in Colombia; Calle Playa for the beaches of Cartagena; Calle Bolivar after the famed South American independence leader; Calle Kuehn for Otto's cousins, who moved to Tucson in the early 1960s from Michigan; and Avenida Ricardo Small for his son.

"When dad wrote my name on a proposed plat map's main street, I begged him not to," Ricardo Small said in an email. "My classmates at Palo Verde High School would tease me. We flipped a coin. Heads, the street would be named Avenida Otto Small. Tails, it would be Avenida Ricardo Small.

"I lost and often heard, 'Hey, Avenida! How you doin' today?' "

Otto was killed in an automobile accident in September 1964. Margaret died in 2009 after a career in teaching at Roskruge Elementary School, Carson Middle School and Pima Community College.

Ricardo Small graduated from the University of Arizona and spent 30 years in real estate. He now lives in Oregon.

Editor's note

Each week the Star tells the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at streetsmarts@azstarnet.com

Sources: - Special thanks to Leilana Naterra of Catalina Title Agency. - Emails from Ricardo Small. - Otto Small résumé (1959). - Margaret Small's obituary: http://web2.tucson.com/classified/obits.php?action=view_obit&ticket_id=0006720305-01805 - Ricardo Small website: http://ricardosmall.smugmug.com/ - Pima County plat map MP 15044 - City of Hamtramck website: http://www.hamtramck.us/about/history.php

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

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