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

Being young and afraid in old-time Phoenix


As someone who is drifting into his senior years now, I know that I'm finding it more and more difficult to understand why young people would be afraid of certain things. And I don't mean the kind of things that people, uh, "of age" are afraid of, like the cost of gas going up, or that situation overseas. What I remember from being young and afraid in Phoenix was the fear of looking like an idiot, with things I didn't know.

I'm sure that when I was 19, and brand-new to Phoenix, if someone had walked up to me I could have told them the names of all fifty states. In fact, I had a lot of that type of essentially useless information that I had learned up through high school. But other things worried me, because I really didn't have a clue, and I feared that the more experienced people would laugh at me. And they did!

So today I'd like to time-travel back to old-time Phoenix and worry about stuff that I don't know anything about. I'll be young and afraid.

It's 1887, I really haven't a clue on how to tie up a team. I've seen wagons go by, expertly handled, and I fear that someone would hand me the reins and ask me to help them. I'm afraid that I'd just stand there, looking stupid. I know one end of a horse from another, but not much more. I really don't even know which side of the street the team should be tied on. Is there some kind of rule?

And then there are these strange animals walking around Phoenix. Some of them are harmless, but I've been told to watch out for rattlers and Gila Monsters. I wonder what they look like? I would hate to see some kind of harmless animal and act startled. Especially in front of the old-timers, who would laugh at me.

Someone just handed me a dollar. I really have no idea what I can buy with it. Hmmm... I think that this is a Confederate dollar. I suppose I could go try to spend it at the store. I think you can get a lot of stuff with a dollar!

Well, they just laughed at me, said that it was worthless. Now I'm afraid to go back into that store. And whoops, I probably shouldn't be standing here, I almost just got run over by the streetcar! I have so much to learn!

Image at the top of this post: A Phoenix streetcar in 1887. I wonder where it went? What it costs? Everyone else seems to know!

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Honest, and dishonest, poverty in Phoenix and Los Angeles


In a longish life, I've met a lot of people who have been poor. Some of them, I can tell, have been genuinely poor, but most have been like the little rich girl in the story who is asked to describe a poor family: "The daddy was poor, the mommy was poor, the children were poor, the butler was poor, the chauffeur was poor..." And I understand. It's all a matter of point of view. And the most common thing I hear about people being poor is that they had honest poverty. They may been poor, but they didn't steal stuff. Of course, there's always that one uncle...

Honest poverty, and dishonest poverty, go hand-in-hand. If someone has plenty of money, they can afford to walk past a hundred dollar bill lying there on the sidewalk, but for people who really need to pay the rent, buy food, that sort of thing, something like that can seem like a blessing from heaven. Yes, it's stealing in a way, taking something that isn't yours, but it's hard to imagine someone passing that up who really needs it.

I've lived in poor neighborhoods in Phoenix, and in Los Angeles. Most of the people I know nowadays can't even imagine that sort of place. The crowding, the noise, yes even gunshots. And don't even think about leaving a bicycle outside, even with a strong lock - if it can't be stolen, the parts will be stripped by the time you get up in the morning.

I've been lucky. When I moved back to Phoenix, at 31, I got a good job at Valley Bank in the graphics department (yes, banks have corporate graphics departments!). I was able to move out to suburbia, which is where I still am. I still see honest, and dishonest, poverty in my neighborhood, but not as much as where I used to live.

Poverty sucks. And it can happen to anyone. What people do with it is the measure of their character. I've seen honest poverty, and dishonest poverty. And sometimes the most honest people are the ones with the least money.

Image at the top of this post: the 1891 flood in Phoenix, Arizona.

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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.