If you want to learn about the colorful past of Yuma Arizona, you need go no further than the Coronado Motor Hotel and Yuma Landing where you’ll meet John and Yvonne Peach. John was born and raised in Yuma, while Yvonne hails from St. Louis. She came to Yuma to work for John and wound up marrying him. The Peach family history in Yuma dates back to somewhere between 1914 and 1916 when John’s father emigrated from Czechoslovakia. His dad worked for six months and earned enough money to bring his fiancée out. She arrived in Chicago and there they married. At the time he was an apprentice tailor in Chicago.
John’s parents made the move west after his dad’s sister told him he could make good money as a tailor. His wife became a buttonhole maker. Soon after he opened a dry cleaning business and ran the Hotel Vendome on Main Street in exchange for room and board. They bought or leased (details are sketchy) the Virginia Hotel in 1920 and then purchased the S & P Hotel, tore it down and used the lumber to build Peach Auto Court with a gas station in the front. In 1938 they built the Coronado which John and Yvonne run to this day.
John’s dad made wine during prohibition and buried the bottles in the backyard. Years later, he went to dig them up and couldn’t find them. He eventually dug up the whole backyard and was convinced somebody stole the bottles. Fast forward to 1996 when the county began excavating some land. John had just returned from San Diego and came home and told Yvonne “Come with me! You’ve got to see this!” Following a heavy rainstorm the work crew found dozens of wine bottles sticking out of the side of a hill. Yvonne pulled each one out. Every bottle was different; white green, red. She collected two five gallon buckets full of bottles. Of course she kept them all.
Adjacent to the Coronado Motor Hotel is Yuma Landing, the site of Arizona’s first airplane landing. The Peaches opened the restaurant in 1990 after they couldn’t find anyone to lease it. John thought it was a stupid idea; they had never run a restaurant. After having 32 names rejected, John came up with Yuma Landing, and they displayed a paddleboat on the first sign. The paddleboat gave way to a pilot, Robert Fowler, about 20 years ago. Amelia Earhart landed in Yuma twice. Fowler’s statue stands at ease in the parking lot.
Yvonne is a collector. If you’re looking for Yuma memorabilia, she’s your go-to woman. When Yuma celebrated its centennial a few years back, Yvonne contributed 240 photos for the exhibit at the museum. She would have provided more, she said, but she’d just broken her leg and she was on crutches. She and John have recently started a non-profit, The Yuma Historical Society Museum of Aviation and Tourism. On the Coronado property is the Casa de Coronado Museum, every nook and cranny crammed with colorful items from Yuma’s past. Yvonne can cite book and chapter each item on display. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see the love John and Yvonne have for each other and the pride she feels for the town she has adopted for her own.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701! Ask about special discounts.