James D. (Jim) McCarty came to the White Mountains in 1952 with Isbell Construction to build Show Low Lake Dam. He was twenty-one years old. As happens to many people who visit the White Mountains of Arizona, Jim fell in love with the area (and a local resident, Doris Kay) and was determined to make it his home. In 1954, after a one-year absence, he returned and purchased his first piece of property at 3801 S. White Mountain Road, Show Low (now Tractor Supply Company). Thus began his entrepreneurial journey.
On June 1, 1954, Jim began the first garbage collection service in the White Mountains. He continued to cultivate the garbage business, all the while searching for additional prospects. During the development of White Mountain Summer Homes he saw an opportunity and started making and manually installing concrete septic tanks, later adding pumping the tanks to his list of adventures. His company, Navajo Sanitation, was headquartered where Nu-Look Auto Body now operates.
Self-employed souls know that it’s not always a bed of roses to work for a taskmaster and such was the case in the early years for Jim. More often than not, he survived on two hours of sleep as it took some real ingenuity to pay the bills. More than one winter was spent cutting Christmas trees and selling them in Phoenix. He always said you have to genuinely want to live in the White Mountains because it is extremely difficult to earn a living. However, he wanted to raise his three daughters where he believed the quality of life was better.
When his daughters were growing up, each spare moment was spent with his family. Weekends provided opportunities to see Arizona’s natural wonders, after which quizzes about the latest exploration were commonplace. Camping, boating and picnicking became the norm for the McCarty Clan.
Jim was a member of the Lions Club from the late 1950’s through the early 1960’s. At that time the Club met in the basement of the old Valley National Bank building (now Desert Title). Among their projects was the building of Camp Tatiyee, where Jim and his family spent many weekends cleaning the area of brush and raking pine needles. The Lions Club also built a lake on some donated land behind La Casita restaurant where they held fishing derbies every year to raise money to help build the Josephine Goldwater Hospital, currently the White Mountain Campus of Northland Pioneer College. Moreover during the years Jim belonged to the Lions Club, not all streets in Show Low had names. Therefore, another of their projects was to name all of the Show Low streets.
In addition to his other activities, Jim was the president of a group known as the Game Protective Association. They were responsible for building Little Mormon Lake, stocking it with bass and catfish. Families would use the facility for fishing and boating. He was also a precinct committeeman for the Democratic Party and has always been a generous supporter of the scouting program, little league and countless other deserving projects.
Jim’s business ventures continued to grow and he started a concrete company around 1960. He went from septic tanks to full-blown sewer and water systems. His keen sense of humor showed on his daughters’ college entrance applications, which stated “Cesspool Executive” under Father’s Occupation. Although his work took him all over the state, he chose to continue to reside in Show Low.
By the mid-1960’s Jim had a thriving construction company and was now operating under the name Navajo Construction. He began building homes in Park View Subdivision sparking an interest in developing subdivisions and selling the lots. Having always been an advocate of the pine trees, the restrictions in his developments address the issue of unnecessary removal of trees, thus making him ahead of his time as an environmentally-conscious developer.
Among some of his developments are Summer Haven, Rainbow Lake Pines, Holiday Forest, and Navajo Pines in Pinetop-Lakeside; Park Valley, Fool’s Hollow Lake Resort, Aztec Estates and Pine Oaks in Show Low; and Moon Meadows Mobile Home Park in St. Johns. Park Valley and Fool’s Hollow Water Companies were acquired by the City of Show Low in 2012. He was the owner of the Park Pineway Shopping Center until 1997 when he sold it and purchased the Silver Creek Inn in Taylor, and the Best Western Paint Pony Lodge and Sleep Inn in Show Low. In 1994 Jim began work on his long-time dream, White Mountain Vacation Village, a planned recreational development located at 4101 S. White Mountain Road.
Since 1989 Jim’s enterprises have been headquartered in one of the most photographed buildings in the state – the Victorian Building located at 1500 W. Deuce of Clubs Avenue in Show Low, at the intersections of Highways 60 and 260. Until recently, Thanksgiving Day was an event at the Victorian as it was the day the Christmas lights came on for the festive season. After more than 300 hours of laboring to decorate the Victorian and its grounds, the corner welcomed residents and visitors from Thanksgiving through the first week of January.
The lights and displays were a tradition that began at the McCarty home in 1963. When the Victorian was completed in 1989, the decorations were moved there. Over time, more displays were added, but some of the original decorations from more than forty years ago were still being used. In keeping with the spirit of the season, on the second Thursday each December Santa Claus visited the Victorian for three hours in the evening. All of the area children were invited to sit on Santa’s lap and share their Christmas wish list. Barbershop quartets and others provided entertainment. The guests were kept warm with gas and wood burning heaters, hot chocolate, and cookies and each child left with a special gift from Santa.
Over the years, Jim has been involved in some pioneering projects. One such project, Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, opened on June 14, 1994, as a result of an innovative partnership between Arizona State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish, the City of Show Low, and corporate sponsors Arizona Public Service and McCarty Construction Company. This was the first partnership of its kind in the U.S. and has brought first-class educational and recreational opportunities to the area.
For years Jim had a vision to do something to bring people to the White Mountains to vacation. He felt that this would benefit the economy without destroying the allure that brought him here. In the 1970’s he acquired a large parcel of land south of Show Low. His concept was to develop it as a family vacation destination.
After years of study and planning, White Mountain Vacation Village became a reality. He began construction of the project in 1995. Unit One consists of an amphitheater, festival area, rodeo arena, and fishing ponds. The additional units consist of recreational vehicle lots with a clubhouse. His stated goal was to bring visitors to the White Mountains and to entertain them in such a manner that they will want to invest in the community or come back to visit. He always said he wanted to restrict the development to families with at least one child under the age of 15.
Jim loved to boat and spent as much time as possible on the water. In 1997 he purchased his first ocean going vessel, one of his lifelong dreams. He spent a great deal of time on the Sea of Cortez, a just reward for the long years of hard work and dedication to the community.
Jim also enjoyed cooking and had some spectacular BBQ’s at his home in Show Low. Friends, family, and associates were always eager to attend, for an invitation to a party where he was cooking was a real treat and never dull.
Jim’s tireless efforts through various enterprises, partnerships, and alliances have gone a long way toward making the White Mountains a wonderful place to live, work, and play. He brought untold jobs and economic development to the community he loved and lived in for a half century. Jim was born on February 16, 1931 and died on May 9, 2006.