The Story of Lukeville


Article appears courtesy of

the Rocky Point Times.

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Earl MacPherson

Gringo Pass Gazette
January 1970


In 1924 the present patriarch of Lukeville, Mr. Syde Kalil brought his beautiful bride Josie here and opened the town’s first store and service station on the present site of the U.S. Customs. Of course that’s stretching the point at little since they were the town’s only inhabitants and, for awhile, Syde’s only customers. However, if you live in one of Arizona’s most beautiful spots and are surrounded with game, others will find you and soon a comfortable hunting lodge, sporting house and hotel was built just across the border. Tho’ the hotel is deserted now, in its heydey counts and dukes from Europe as well as well heeled Americans paid a hundred dollars a day just to stay there. Then Syde Kalil named the town “Kalilton”.

Kalilton did not survive due to the arrival of one Charlie Luke of the well known Arizona Luke family. Charlie promptly laid claim to the other side of the street and, with powerful political connections, had the town’s name changed to Lukeville, a name the local post office still bears.
About thirty years ago the U.S. government became aware that here near little old Lukeville was some of the world’s most beautiful desert and established the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This brought thousands of tourists who also discovered one of the West’s finest winter climates. These two assets brought me and I built a little studio hide-out under the biggest ironwood tree in Syde Kalil’s camp.

Now at dusk as I look into the fading embers of my mesquite campfire I see many things. To the West, a desert fox is silhouetted against a flaming sunset, and in the opposite direction, seven street lights of Al Gay’s huge yellow “Gringo Pass” sign. Overhead I hear the whir of a raven’s wings and across the border the buses from Baja to Mexico City. On my cheek I feel a soft desert wind laden with the fragrance of greasewood dampened by moisture from the Sea of Cortez. And I am grateful that this Gringo did not pass this particular bit of paradise.

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