Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

The good and bad of moving from Los Angeles to Phoenix in 1989


Leaving Los Angeles, and coming back to Phoenix is one of the best decisions of my life. I grew up in Minneapolis, went to ASU, then moved to California, where I lived through most of the 1980s. I really hadn't planned to move back to Phoenix after my layoff in Los Angeles, I was just going to go see some old friends, good for the soul. So I visited Phoenix.

What I saw amazed me. The first thing that struck me was the lack of traffic, and the amount of easy parking. Even after all these years it still makes me happy. Yes, I know people in Phoenix who say that the traffic is awful, and parking is difficult, but all they're saying to me is that they've never seen how awful it can be. I used to always carry a book with me in my car when I got on the freeway in Los Angeles, and when traffic stopped, I would put the car in park and read for a while. Yes, in park. Not bumper-to-bumper inching along, but completely stopped, in park. You just waited for traffic to begin to move. I read a few books that way! So as you can imagine a big plus of moving back to Phoenix was to be able to not get constantly stuck in traffic jams, and know that I would always find a parking spot wherever I went. Yes, there were times in LA that I would go to the mall, drive around and around and around, and then simply go back home. No parking in the lots, on the street, at all.

The cost of living was so much lower than in California that it was as if they were giving stuff away. In an idle moment, I stopped at an apartment complex and inquired about the rent. My little California brain just about exploded! And then I heard the words "If you want to live on the golf course..." I could live on a golf course, in a beautiful apartment complex, for less than my horrible little hovel in California cost me! I signed a lease right then and there.

Of course, the thing that worried me in Phoenix is that there's not as much work there as in Los Angeles. I was looking for corporate work and I could just about count all of the tall buildings in Phoenix, whereas I could never count them in the greater Los Angeles area. Yeah, that worried me a lot, but I figured with the cost of living so low I could figure something out.

I did get a bit of culture shock moving to Phoenix. Now calm down here, I love Phoenix, but it felt, uh, kind of in the middle of nowhere. As if there should be tumbleweeds rolling down the street, and the sidewalks were rolled up at night. You gotta realize that LA was 24/7 commotion. I learned to slow down a bit myself and to this day I love the fact that in my neighborhood in Glendale the traffic lights on the half-mile streets switch over to blinking yellow in the wee hours. Not that I'm out much in the wee hours!

There were things that I took for granted in LA that most people in Phoenix hadn't even heard of in 1989, like being able to pay at the pump at a gas station. In LA, I was in and out like a pit stop. In Phoenix, someone had to walk out of the garage, take my credit card, talk about the weather, and so I learned to set aside a big chunk of time to buy gas, usually on the weekends. I'm a techno-nerd and I liked ATM machines, and stuff like that. I never went anywhere in Los Angeles where I had to stand in line if I didn't have to. Of course the lines were never all that long in Phoenix, but I had lost my taste for standing in line at all.

I was lucky, I did get a good job in Phoenix, at Valley Bank, right before they became Bank One. I worked in the tallest building in Phoenix, which was nice. And little by little the things that had made Los Angeles so attractive to me faded away. Of course I knew that there was no going back. A resume that says "Los Angeles" means a lot in Phoenix, but it doesn't work the other way around.

Like everything else, it's what you value. I valued someday being a homeowner (which I could never have done in California) and I really don't need to be close to the movie and TV studios. I could never get comfortable in Los Angeles, and Phoenix felt right to me, and it still does.

Image at the top of this post: At the Greens Apartments in 1990, right after I bought a nice new bicycle, for my commute to work. If you can stop looking at my short-shorts, you'll see the tee shirt said "California". I don't have that bike, those clothes, or that mustache anymore.

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Going to a movie in Phoenix, Arizona in 1918


It's 1918, we're in Phoenix, Arizona, and I feel like going to a motion picture. Come along with me!

Actually, I like to call them "movies", because the pictures move, which is fun to see, although it makes me a little seasick watching them flicker. Yes, I know that calling them "movies" is kind of silly, like cookies, or doggies, but maybe in the future people won't think the name is so funny.

I have a newspaper here, and it looks like "Daughter of Destiny" is showing at the Hip, which is just west of Central on Washington. Yes, that Madame Petrova is amazing. Stop blushing, we're adults. Film rating? Censorship? What do you think this is? There's no censorship of movies.

Let's see, this guy Art Rick says that he went to Los Angeles to preview the picture, and he seemed to like it. Well, he owns the theater, what do you expect?

Well, that was a big waste of time. No, I didn't like it. I could hardly read the title cards, and the person playing the piano must have been missing several fingers. And not only am I nauseous after watching it, I have a headache. Let's go for a swim in the canal!

Note: Movies were uncensored until the Hays Office was created in 1922, which was created to avoid government censorship, and created a moral code. The Hip Theater was at 43 W. Washington, and later became the Lion.

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Being a wiener dog in Phoenix in 1953


As someone who has lived with a dachshund (or wiener dog, which is the term that I prefer to use) in Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix) for over twelve years, I'm confident that she just loves it there. She's never seen snow, and never will, and I often see her out in the backyard, sunbathing when the temperatures are well over 100. So of course it's got me wondering what life would have been like being a wiener dog in old-time Phoenix. This is just a guess, but I like to consider it an educated guess!

It's 1953, I'm a wiener dog, and I'm helping my family with the slab for their shed next to their house. It's just a concrete slab, and I had to stay off of it when it was wet, but now I can stand on it. Just think how cute my little paw-prints would have been on it! Oh well.

It's a warm day, which I like, and my humans are inspecting the concrete slab. I, of course, am keeping an eye out, which I'm sure that my humans appreciate. Wait - I think I smell something!

Not that it really matters to me, but this neighborhood sure has been growing! There are houses everywhere. If I understood any of this I'd know that the housing boom started after World War II, and that there was a terrible shortage for a long time, but now that it's the fifties, houses are being built with amazing speed.

Seems to me I remember chasing after jackrabbits not too long ago. Or were they chasing me? I guess a little bit of both. You know, if Phoenix keeps growing like this... waitaminute, was that a lizard? Hang on - here I go!

Image at the top of this post: 1330 E. Sheridan in 1953, Phoenix, Arizona. And a wiener dog.

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Getting a tow in 1950s Glendale, Arizona


Now this is embarrassing. Looks like the old jalopy broke down again, and here we are, miles from anywhere, somewhere near 1950s Glendale, Arizona. I don't see any signs, so we might be half-way to Peoria by now. I'll take a look under the hood.

Just what I suspected, it's broke. No, I'm not blaming you, but you worked on it the last time, right? And no, I don't want to leave it out here in the middle of nowhere, let's see if we can get a tow truck out here.

There's a farmhouse, let's go see if they have a telephone. Yikes! Those dogs look vicious - let's go to the next house, we can do with a nice walk. Hopefully the dogs there will be friendlier.

Well, here we are, but they don't have a telephone. I'm going to borrow a bicycle. No, you can't stay here, go back and sit with the car, I don't want anyone stealing my hubcaps! Very funny - I don't suppose jackrabbits steal hubcaps!

Sorry it took so long. I rode back into town and found the Gasoline Alley Service Station, but no one was there. I had to go look around, and found someone who knew how to drive the tow truck. Yeah, this gonna cost me some money - well, it'll cost my dad some money, I don't have any money. When it's running, it's my car, when it needs expensive repairs, it's my dad's car.

Here we are at the station, on D Street and 2nd. That's what I like about Glendale, everything is so easy to find there. I guess I'll leave the car here, they'll take care of it. Let's walk over to Main and 1st, see if we can find a place to buy a soda-pop!

1957 map of Glendale, Arizona.


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Remembering the Mecham Pontiac Macho T/A


I try not to rely too much on my memory, which grows more treacherous every year, but I remember the Macho T/A from Mecham Pontiac in Glendale, Arizona. It's was a Trans Am, and more.

I'm not much into muscle cars, but the Trans Am went beyond just having a lot of horsepower. In the 1970s it was popularized by Bert Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit" and it just kinda represented everything about having a free spirit, and lots of horsepower to go with it. It was based on a Pontiac Firebird, but no one ever called them that, a Trans Am was a Trans Am. And they were ridiculously powerful, and flashy cars. And to take it a level higher, there was a local Phoenix area upgraded version which was called the Macho T/A. Even then I thought that the term "macho" was over the top, but it was really supposed to be, and it was.

Machos T/As in 1978 at Mecham Pontiac, Glendale, Arizona

I moved to California in 1982, and didn't return to Phoenix until 1989. Every once in a while in Los Angeles I'd see a Macho T/A, which you could recognize by the MP on the back, which stood for Mecham Pontiac, and of course the graphics on the side. I liked living in California just fine, but seeing the Macho T/As always made me a little homesick for Phoenix.

1979 article about the Macho T/A.

When I got back to Phoenix, and settled in, in the '90s, no one that I talked to had any idea of what I was talking about. Mecham had become a name that people knew as a Governor, who made a real mess of things. You can Google about that if you want to, it really doesn't interest me all that much. The Pontiac dealership, and the Macho T/A, had faded away, so I learned not to talk about it, or people would launch into a political rant, which just gives me a headache.

I like cars. I like looking at cars, and I like talking about cars. If you remember the Macho T/As I'll be happy to listen to you. If you start talking about politics, my eyes will glaze over and I'll probably just watch the cars going by, looking for a Macho T/A.

1979 Macho T/A, Mecham Pontiac, Glendale, Arizona.


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