J. NORMAN MORRIS
July 19, 1915 - Jan. 31, 2013
Norman Morris passed away on Thursday, January 31, 2013 in the comfort of Vintage Village Assisted Living in El Centro where he had been staying since December 2012 due to health conditions. His regular residence for many years was Desert Trails RV Park & Golf Course, 225 Wake Avenue, El Centro, California 92243.
At one time or another, Norman worked for almost all the theaters in Imperial Valley and has been greeted by many acquaintances as "Mr. Projector Man". He was well known in United Artists Fox West Coast Theater management. When he retired in 1978 he ended a 30-year career in the theater business and was Business Representative for Local 656 of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Cananda. Norman is the son of Ira Lee and Amy Gertude (West) Morris. In October 1923, when he was 8 years old, he came to El Centro with his parents and three year old brother Neil from Rocky Ford, Colorado. Prior to living in Rocky Ford the family lived in Shiloh, Sebastian County, Arkansas, where Norman was born. The family traveled to California in a second hand Ford Model "T" touring car with side "Flaps" or curtains that could be "buttoned-down" or snapped in place as needed. The windshield was of glass, but there were no glass side or back windows. The highlight of the trip for then young Norman was traveling over the Yuma Sand Dunes between Yuma, Arizona and the California border on the old plank road. Also memorable for him was spending their first night in California at Gray's well, which had a corral of mules which were used to pull cars out of the sand or those stranded on the plank road. Norman grew up in El Centro and attended McKinley, Harding and Lincoln Grammar Schools, Wilson Jr. High School and El Centro Union High School where he was Freshman Class President and where he excelled in track and tennis, earning two Central Union High School letters. He had many fond memories of those early days. Among them were fishing in the 8th Street Date Canal that ran where 8th Street is now and where it crossed Main Street; Boy Scout outings such as riding his bicycle to Ocotillo in the hot desert sun and wind, sometimes utilizing the force of the wind by placing against his body a flattened cardboard box which worked as a sail; picnics and trips with high school classmates and friends; community gatherings in the City Park with its bandstand and the watermelons donated by local farmers. He often spoke with much pleasure of the Salton Sea as it once was; it's boiling mud pots, crystal salt formations here and there, the rusty old railroad tracks for trains once used in salt mining. He also spoke of fishing for mullet--the species is now long gone from the Sea--by snagging them with a homemade treble hook, with his father Ira, wife Maxine, brother Neil and his wife Mary. In his youth, he worked on many different jobs sometimes more than one at a time. He was willing to take on whatever/any work he could find because jobs and money were scarce for everyone during the Great Depression. He washed windows for Bank of America, which was on 4th Street and Main in those days and was known as the Bank of Italy. He delivered newspapers for Mr. Farrar; he worked for the Western Union Telegraph Co., on Main Street; he made potato salad, etc., for the owner/manager of a small sandwich shop on Main Street and he washed dishes. As an adult, he worked several years for Safeway Grocery in El Centro and for a while in Calipatria before beginning his 30 year career with United Artists Fox West Coast Theaters.
He was preceded in death on May 20, 1998 by his wife Maxine who--after 30 years of service--retired in 1979 from J.C. Penny Co., El Centro, California, as Office and Personnel Supervisor. He was also preceded in death by his brother A. Neil Morris in January 2007 and Neil's wife Mary in October 2011; they both died in Mesa, AZ.
Norman is survived by his sister, Neoma (Morris) Tingdahl and husband Marvin of Lancaster, California; nephew, Randall Morris and his wife Suzy of Higley, Arizona and three great-grand nephews and a great-grand niece.
Viewing will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at Hems Brothers Mortuary Chapel 1975 S. 4th St. in El Centro. Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 7, 2013 at The First Baptist Church, 724 Orange Ave in El Centro, with Pastor Richard Walker officiating. Burial will be in Evergreen Cemetery next to his wife, Maxine.