Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

An imaginary journey to old-time Phoenix


If you've ever looked at old photos and wondered what it would be like to go there, you understand my obsession. I don't want to just look at old photos, I want to live them. I want to step into the photo, walk around, be there. This is an imaginary journey.

Now hold on here, I have no desire to go live in the past. In fact, as I write this, I'm very glad to have a 21st Century air conditioner keeping me comfortable, a powerful computer in front of me, the internet, etc. I'm not wishing that things would be "just the way they were", I know that things are better now in ways that we just take for granted, like the water I'm sipping now which I'm sure tastes better than the water that people took out of the canals, or wells in old-time Phoenix. Well, that's my best guess.

And I like to use the expression "my best guess" on certain things. I surround myself with experts who can give me very precise dates and locations, but as I do the time-traveling journeys, I really do have to make an educated guess. I'm not an expert on history, or Phoenix history, I'm just a fascinated observer. And as soon as I learn something I want to share it, not in a dry and dull way, but in the way that sparks my imagination. Come with me.

I have a folder on my computer called images_Phoenix and right now I'm just gonna spin my mouse and see what interesting comes up. It's alphabetical, so I try to skip down a bit. Here we go, the Japanese Flower Gardens in the 1950s.

We're looking south towards South Mountain at about Baseline and 40th Street. I can smell the flowers, can't you? I'm pretty sure the flowers at the top of this post are Stock, which smells wonderful. I've planted it here in my garden a few times. It's hard to imagine how wonderful it would be to be standing in a whole field of it, but I'm imagining it now. Can you smell it?

Let's keep walking, there's so much else to see! I'm through talking now, let's walk.






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How designing safer roads led to some very dangerous roads in Phoenix, Arizona


I love Phoenix, but you gotta admit that the roads are very often deadly. I haven't checked recently, but Phoenix had always lead the country in red-light running. And it's really true - I see cars whizz through red lights all of the time.

But it was definitely along the road (literally) to good intentions that all of this happened. Phoenix has some of the widest, most clearly-marked, most visible streets of any city. I've lived there long enough to know that they're well-kept up, and of course they're flat and mostly without any blind curves. The visibility is so good that you can easily see the traffic lights a mile ahead of you, if not farther (depending on how sharp your eyes are).

What all of this safe engineering had led to is some very high-speed travel. Although most of the main streets of Phoenix are nominally 40 miles per hour as the speed limit, they're mostly traveled well beyond that. In fact, if you go 40 miles per hour you'll probably annoy most people who want to pass! And those speeds are fine on highways, but in places where traffic stops and starts it's deadly.

I'm not blaming anyone here. I certainly don't blame someone who is driving a heavy vehicle that takes a long time to slow down. And Phoenix has always had a lot of big vehicles, and even more now. These vehicles were never meant to "stop on a dime", they simply can't. It just has to do with momentum. And most people were taught that when they saw a yellow light to "gun it", rather than slow down, which means that often vehicles are hitting intersections at very high speeds.

One solution that I see, sadly enough, is something called "traffic calming", which simply means putting obstacles in the way in an attempt to slow traffic. And while it seems like a good idea, it's like putting a roller skate on the stairs for people who are trying to travel quickly around Phoenix. It's an annoyance, and doesn't seem to be much more than that. After the traffic calming, most traffic speeds up even faster to make up for lost time.

If all of this hasn't convinced you to avoid the mean streets of Phoenix, let me tell you about "suicide lanes". Believe it or not, there are center lanes that allow traffic to travel in either direction. They were invented to allow cars to turn without backing up traffic, but they have earned their name by how they're used. On any given day you'll see people driving towards each other, usually looking back over their shoulder, trying to merge with the high speed traffic. Not easy to do!

Clear visibility, wide and well-kept up streets don't seem to be a recipe for disaster, but it's turned out that way.  Be careful out there!

Image at the top of this post: A traffic light in Phoenix, Arizona. When it turns green, don't be the first person to go.

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History adventuring posts are shared there daily. The basic tier is a dollar a month, and the PhD tier, which includes "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos, is five dollars a month, and is discounted for seniors, veterans, and students.