Growing Up on Lizard Acres
The Del Webb Sun Cities Museum presents
“Growing Up on Lizard Acres”
as told by retired Judge John Gemmill
10 a.m. Monday, April 17 ~ R.H. Johnson Lecture Hall
Before there was a Sun City West, there was “Lizard Acres” – a large cattle-feeding operation that occupied the southern portion of today’s community. It got its name in the 1940s, when two ranchers who were looking for a location along the railroad visited the site bordered by today’s Bell Road and Grand Ave. Looking at the dry desert, one of their group exclaimed, “This land ain’t fit for raising anything but lizards.”
They purchased the land anyway, and soon the Circle One Livestock Company became one of the largest feedlots in the southwest, home to as many as 30,000 head of cattle. A lizard became its trademark on signs and the watertower.
Our speaker, John Gemmill, was born a year after his father joined the company in 1947 as one of the foreman of the feedlot and farm. At the time, they were far from schools, and the nearest stores were in Surprise, Peoria, and Glendale. Bell Road didn’t come through until the 1960s. It was a rural location but the two boys were not alone as several other families lived on the ranch.
John and his older brother, Mark, worked on the ranch as youth, as well as, through their university summers. John received an undergraduate degree in Agriculture from the University of Arizona and after active duty in the Naval Reserve, returned to law school. After 25 years of private practice, he became a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals and retired 15 years later on June 30, 2016.