This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Alpha Williams, a little girl in old-time Phoenix - 1906

Let's time-travel back to Phoenix in 1906 and see it through the eyes of Alpha Williams, who was six at the time. That's her in the photo up there, sitting on her horse, Blackie.

Alpha Williams (on the right) on Blackie

Alpha wasn't rich or famous, and she's exactly the kind of person who interests me the most in Phoenix history. I myself am not rich or famous, I'm just an ordinary person living in Phoenix, so when I want to imagine what old-time Phoenix was like, I like to try to see things through other people's eyes. Let's do that, let's look at Phoenix through her eyes.

And let's start with her nose. Yes, let's start with what it smells like to her. She's next to the OK Livery Stable, so there were a LOT of horses. And that means the smell of, well, you know. As a modern person from the city, I would probably be horrified by the stench. She would say, "What smell?" Because like all people who live around something like that, you get used to it. If she time-traveled to my suburban neighborhood today she would probably be nauseated by the smell of burning gasoline, which is everywhere, and I don't notice.

John and Eulala Williams at the OK Livery in 1906

Let's take a closer look at her parents, John and Eula. John is wearing a vest, because that's how men carried stuff in their pockets in those days. He looks like he's holding up a horse whip in his right hand, which is something that we often forget about nowadays, and the reigns are in his left hand. My best guess is that he's wearing his fancy "go to meeting hat" for the photo. His wife is wearing a typical "Victorian" style dress, high collar, and with her hair pulled up. The Victorian era technically ended with the death of Queen Victoria, in 1901, but as an era it's usually considered up until World War I.

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Alpha Williams at Tempe Normal School (ASU) in 1921. She's towards the bottom of the article.

Alpha Williams graduated from the Tempe Normal School (which is now called ASU) in 1921. It was a teacher's college at the time, and she went on to become a teacher at Creighton School. She is listed as Alpha Rudd (Noel Rudd was her husband).

Alpha Rudd teaching 1st Grade at Creighton School 1926-27

Alpha Rudd died in 1987 and is buried at Resthaven Cemetery in Glendale, which is at 63rd Avenue and Northern, in Glendale, just south of where I'm writing this right now.

The frustration of renaming streets in the Phoenix, Arizona area

If you've lived in the Phoenix area for a few years, you've seen changes, lots of changes. New buildings appear, freeways, that sort of thing. And while it all takes some getting used to, there's nothing more frustrating that the renaming of streets.

Phoenix has been renaming its streets since it began, in 1870, and up to as recently as the 1960s, the cites around it have been renaming their streets to kinda match up. And sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't.

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Phoenix has always been a patchwork trying to weave itself together. From the time the first additions were added to Phoenix (we call them subdivisions now) there was confusion. The neighborhoods that were built miles away from Phoenix (some as far north as McDowell Road!) didn't pay much attention to making their street names match up with the street names many miles away. So as the city grew together, there had to be renaming. You can still see it to this day, by going to Avondale, where there is still a Central Avenue and Van Buren. I don't know about you, but I don't consider Avondale to be anything except more of the Phoenix metro area. If I plug in Central and Van Buren on my GPS, I still have to be careful to note if I'm going to Phoenix, or Avondale. Go take a look on Google maps if you don't believe me, I'll wait.

And that's the reason for most of the renaming, to get the valley to fit together, and to make it the wonderfully easy grid that it is now (yeah, I know with a few dumb exceptions!). But it was really bad for the nice people of Glendale, Arizona. They had to live through it twice.

In the 1920 article at the top of this post, Glendale is preparing for free mail delivery, something we take for granted now. And all they needed to do was to make it less confusing for the postal carriers, so they made their first effort to clean up the tangle that the naming of the streets had been before that. Personally, I'm OK with Washington being renamed to Glendale Avenue, and Meridian changing to Central. But A, B, C streets must have been something the old-timers protested, and tried not to use. Of course, most of the streets in Glendale changed to match up with Phoenix in the 1960s, which is why Central changed to 59th Avenue. Of course Glendale never did change Olive to Dunlap, which shows civic pride, but is very confusing for people who want to take the exact same exit on the I-17 as on the 101.

1957 map of Glendale, Arizona.

As someone who collects old photos, and maps, of the Phoenix area, I'm fascinated by the many changes of the street names. Mostly I can figure stuff out, but I'm still having difficulty with Scottsdale streets pre-1970s - I'm working on that!

So when I see an old photo and get an old address, I still usually have to do a lot of work to figure out where it was. The names have changed!