- Giorgio BelloliA Biographical Profile on Art and Bohemia at Fort Lowell Road, Tucson, Arizona*
I was only ten years old in 1950 when I first became aware of Giorgio (everyone always called him Giorgio; I didn't even learn his last name until later). He had moved into a large (cavernous to a ten-year-old) adobe building next door to my family's home and just behind the house where Gwyn and Juan Xavier lived. My understanding at the time was that Gwyn was a lady anthropologist and Juan was an associate of Ted DeGrazia and a tribal official with the Tohono O'odham Nation.
One of my neighborhood friends, Dickie, told me that he (Dickie) had been born in the building where Giorgio was living. For some reason I remember being greatly intrigued by the thought that Dickie, who was [End Page 937] my age, was born with no doctors present, in the same building that Giorgio was living in. Later, I learned that the building had been built by Dickie's father, Ricardo Ochoa, and that Gwyn and Juan's home was one of several built by Dickie's uncle, Isidro Ochoa, in the 1920s or 1930s. Both homes were part of an informal community founded around the turn of the 19th century by families from northern Mexico seeking work and land. After first living in the abandoned adobe buildings of Fort Lowell, the families began to build homes west of the fort. The spread-out community they formed eventually became known as El Fuerte, probably because of its proximity to the ruins of Fort Lowell.
I remember being further intrigued by all the hand-operated machinery and metal surrounding Giorgio's house. I don't remember having much interaction with Giorgio himself, just having a great curiosity about his cutting, bending, and drilling sheet metal and pipes, screwing and welding and otherwise fitting and attaching pieces of wood and metal to each other, all using interestingly shaped and constructed pieces of equipment that allowed him to do all his work by hand. I wasn't as interested in the various results of Giorgio's activities; however, other people in the neighborhood (as well as elsewhere in Tucson, I later learned) certainly were.
My sister, who currently lives in our original family home on Fort Lowell Road, still has a simple six-foot-tall, black pipe lampstand that Giorgio made for my family almost 70 years ago. It goes well with the adobe walls of the living room that my parents added to the original five-room Sonoran ranch-style building, with sleeping porch, that Ramon Diaz built some 80 or 90 years ago. Other furniture made in Giorgio's outdoor workshop such as tables and chairs went to other homes in the neighborhood, mostly along Fort Lowell Road. In addition to furniture, he also built Santa Fe–style corner fireplaces, and gave construction and design advice to do-it-yourself neighbors.
One of the people Giorgio built unique pieces of furniture for, and helped, included Veronica "Ve" Hughart, an architect and landscaper (who hired us neighborhood boys to help her place railroad ties, chop weeds, and plant shrubs among other landscaping activities). She lived in and remodeled a Sonoran ranch-style house set back from Fort Lowell Road and built by Felix Bennett, another Fuerteño. His son, Arnold, and I made miniature villages along the banks of a small adjacent wash, called variously Mesquite or La Tiendita Wash. One summer this wash flooded much higher than it had ever done before as a result of construction along Craycroft Road. I remember well joining with a dozen neighbors to sandbag the front doors and windows of her house to divert that flood. [End Page 938]
Giorgio also did some work for Marian Brooks, who bought and remodeled a house that had been another Sonoran ranch-style house originally built by the same Isidro Ochoa that built Gwyn and Juan's house. Ms. Brooks, as all of us neighborhood kids called her, also built the first swimming pool in the neighborhood...