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

The natural beauty of Sunnyslope, Arizona


When I moved back to Phoenix, in 1989, I spent a lot of time driving around, just looking at stuff. I did find a job, and looking back it doesn't seem like it took that long, but at the time it seemed like all I was doing was waiting. So I noodled around town, looking at stuff, and was particularly fascinated by the Sunnyslope area. It had a natural beauty that made me think.

If you're familiar with Sunnyslope, if you've known it all of your life, you may be wondering if I'm kidding here about its natural beauty. But I had just moved from California, and I was seeing it through a Californian's eyes. I'll see if I can explain.

Natural beauty, whether it's a view of the ocean, or a mountain view, is at a premium where I lived in California. I remember looking at an apartment complex and the one (1) apartment in the complex that had even the tiniest view from the patio was rented at a premium. And you had to go out onto the patio and lean out, and look past other buildings. But sure enough, you could see the ocean from there. The same thing applied to being able to see mountains. Mostly in that crowded mass of buildings and freeways called Southern California, an average person like me would never be able to afford a "view". And I thought that was a shame, as there is so much potential for enjoying the natural beauty of that place.

So when I moved to Phoenix, I got an apartment with a view on a golf course. I was pretty much living for golf in those days, and I was just tickled. I couldn't afford that in Los Angeles! And as I noodled around town I was amazed at the mountain views. The nicest area that I saw was called Arcadia, with wonderful view views of the mountain, and the city. Being from Los Angeles, I knew that was where the rich people lived, up where they could look down on the city. The rich people lived on the slopes, and the poor people (like me) lived in the valleys.

But Sunnyslope surprised me. The rich people didn't live there, far from it. Those mountain views didn't bring up the property values, or increase the rent. Sunnyslope has brightened up a lot since I first drove around in it in 1989, but it's still not a place to brag about. When I first saw it, people were telling me not to stop at the Circle K.

Sunnyslope is on the southern edge of the western edge of the Phoenix Mountains, which begins just east of 19th Avenue and ends with Camelback Mountain to the east. It's all one continuous range, and if you have more energy that I do you can now hike just about all of the way from west to east. That is, from the Sunnyslope area to the Arcadia area.

Yes, in the meantime I've learned more about one sunny slope of the Phoenix Mountains became Sunnyslope, while the other became Arcadia, but in 1989 all I saw were mountain views. Look at the mountains when you drive around, and you can see them, too.

Image at the top of this post: Sunnyslope, Arizona in the 1960s. You're looking north towards the Phoenix Mountains on Central Avenue.

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The wonderful West of the Imagination


Since I'm interested in the True West, most people assume that I have no interest in the West of the Imagination. This is simply not true - I love them both. As I grew older and wiser I learned there was a difference, but both have a place for me in my heart and in my mind.

Like most people my age, I grew up with Sunday afternoon movies that featured John Wayne. I've since revisited some of those movies, now that I'm older and wiser, and while I know that Texas doesn't look like Monument Valley, I'm willing to let it go. And by the way, if you think all John Wayne movies are the same, I suggest that you look again. Yes, some are outrageous and goofy, but some really do help paint a picture of the real West, such as "The Searchers". This one is actually fairly painful.

For me though, the West of the Imagination hit its peak with "The Wild Wild West" which I watched as a kid. And even then I knew it was exaggerated, but I didn't care, and still don't. I moved onto Clint Eastwood's "Spaghetti Westerns" and even learned a bit about the real West, and how a territory becomes a state by watching "Hang 'em High". Yes, I know that these movies aren't meant to portray the real West like a documentary does, but there's a lot of good stuff there.

If you know how colorful the Victorian era was, you can appreciate the TV show "Bonanza". Yes, that show was meant to showcase the new technology of color TVs, but it's actually historically accurate. The Victorian era was an explosion of color, made possible by the industrial revolution, which made mass produced products, including dyes, affordable to ordinary people. And the Cartwrights would have had the money to buy some nice stuff!

So please don't walk up to me and tell me that all of my favorite Westerns aren't 100% historically accurate. I know that, and I don't care. I love the True West, and the West of the Imagination!

Let's head 'em off at the pass!

Image at the top of this post: John Wayne in the West of the Imagination in 1956 - The Searchers. https://www.amazon.com/Searchers-John-Wayne/dp/B001QJUX24

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