The streets of the Desert Palms Park subdivision on Tucson, Arizona, east side are named for people and places in Colombia, where the neighborhood’s developer spent much of his early career.

The area – bounded by North Camino Seco, East Wrightstown Road, North Harrison Road and East Speedway – was developed in the early 1960s by Otto and Margaret Small.

Otto Small, born Otto von Smolski, was 10 years old when he and his parents, Leo and Kasimira von Smolski, moved to the U.S. from Poland in 1920. The family moved to Hamtramck, Mich., then a Polish enclave near Detroit.

From 1936 to 1940, Otto owned and operated the Urano Gold Mining Co., near Pasto, Colombia. He didn’t find any gold and returned home broke.

Toward the beginning of World War II, he joined the Army Corps of Engineers and changed his last name to Small. He married Margaret Pollock, a native of Clinton, Mich., in 1942.

The Smalls lived in Puerto Rico during World War II and moved to Barranquilla, Colombia, after the war. Richard “Ricardo” Small was born there in 1946. The family also lived in Cartagena, Colombia, a port city on the Caribbean.

In 1959, the Small family moved to Tucson so Ricardo could attend an American high school. The same year, Otto bought the 70 acres that became Desert Palms Park.

In 1961, Otto named the streets after his son, family and things related to Colombia. Calle Bogota is named for the capital of Colombia; Calle Pasto for the city near the gold mine he ran in Colombia; Calle Playa for the beaches of Cartagena; Calle Bolivar after the famed South American independence leader; Calle Kuehn for Otto’s cousins, who moved to Tucson in the early 1960s from Michigan; and Avenida Ricardo Small for his son.

“When dad wrote my name on a proposed plat map’s main street, I begged him not to,” Ricardo Small said in an email. “My classmates at Palo Verde High School would tease me. We flipped a coin. Heads, the street would be named Avenida Otto Small. Tails, it would be Avenida Ricardo Small.

“I lost and often heard, ‘Hey, Avenida! How you doin’ today?’ ”

Otto was killed in an automobile accident in September 1964. Margaret died in 2009 after a career in teaching at Roskruge Elementary School, Carson Middle School and Pima Community College.

Ricardo Small graduated from the University of Arizona and spent 30 years in real estate. He now lives in Oregon.

From: Arizona Daily Star