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

Understanding Indian Time, or Res Time


I went on a history adventure recently through the Gila River Indian Reservation, which is an area that very few Phoenicians go to, between the Estrella Mountains and South Mountain. My interest was to see the route of the last leg of the freeway loop.

But as I got past Laveen, and rode along Pecos Road, I was reminded of how difficult it is for me to understand the concept of what I have often heard called "Indian Time" or "Res Time" (res is short for reservation). No, I know that I will never really understand it, but that won't keep me from trying to. And I have seen glimpses of it. Walk with me.

I'm not being all mystical here. And this way of looking at time is cultural, not racial. It's not something that you can understand by reading about it on the internet, or in a book. It's a feeling that is passed down by the elders. And, no, I have no intention of trying to explain it here, but I will share with you what my journey has been, and will continue to be.

Go there. Stand and look at the Estrella Mountains. Turn off the engine of your car. Don't look at your watch. That piece of dirt that you're standing on is as sacred as you make it. Spend some time with some American Indian people. And shut up. Every moment doesn't have to be filled with chatter. In that silence the earth grows very large, and time fades away. When you return to your time-based world of appointments and errands, it will start to feel very silly, like claiming ownership of the land, the water, the air, and the sky.

My journey has begun. If you are familiar with the Pima symbol of the man in the maze, yours has, too. It's a journey of understanding, and although I can't see beyond the next turn, I want to go there.

Thank you for walking with me.

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Art Deco building in downtown Phoenix - the Professional Building


I visited the Professional Building today for the first time since 1994, and it looks great. If you're a fan of Art Deco, it's worth a look. It's on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Monroe, in Phoenix, Arizona. Its modern name is the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown.

Originally built in 1931 as a building for medical offices, and as the headquarters for Valley National Bank, this building has been sitting boarded up since the 1980s. There have been several attempts to restore it over the years, and all of them have failed to get this far. As of this writing, December 2015, the hotel is open, although they're still doing some finishing touches on it.

The exterior of the building is original, but the interior is mostly brand new. The reason for that is the the interior was completely gutted in 1994. And I mean there was just about nothing. I remember that the elevators were still there, but the interior was essentially blank. So the interior that you're seeing now is inspired by Art Deco Design, but it's not original.

There is an amazing feeling of time-traveling when you walk around in this building. Unlike a lot of old buildings that make you feel as if you were in a museum (and an old dusty one at that), this building looks like it was just built this year, and that this year is 1931.

I like what they did to my favorite building.




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The oldest pioneer cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona


The oldest pioneer cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona doesn't have an historical marker. There are no historic buildings next it, no groups who dress up and reenact "life back in the day". Even the headstones, like the one at the top of this post, are modern. It's no bigger than a tennis court and millions of cars go by all of the time.

To find this cemetery, you have to find the original Phoenix Settlement, also called, among other names, Mill City, Swilling's Mill, and Pumpkinville. It began in 1868 by a group of men led by Jack Swilling, who had gotten the idea of digging canals to grow crops in the desert. They got this idea, by the way, by seeing the remnants of gigantic canals that had been long abandoned. They had seen the canals built by the Hohokam people. If you want to see where it all started, begin at Pueblo Grande and then go downstream along the historic canal.

48th Street and Van Buren may seem like a strange place for the first cemetery in Phoenix to be, but that's where this cemetery was, and is. And the people who lived nearby, in the Phoenix Settlement, had very little. The only building materials that they had were mud and whatever stray pieces of wood they could find. Their buildings were made of adobe.

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If you can strip away, in your imagination, all of the buildings and roads just north of where Sky Harbor Airport is today, you would be standing in a huge empty valley that sloped slightly to the west. The pioneer canals ran parallel to the Hohokam canals and started at about the same place, where The Park of the Four Waters is today. To the east the land sloped up gently and then became what we call The Papago Mountains today.

It's hard to imagine today, but when people died, it was important to get them away from the living, buried safely away from predators, and high enough on a hill so that the body wouldn't float away during a rain storm. There was no wood for markers, certainly no way to make a modern headstone. And besides, there was no reason to advertise what you had buried. Life was hard, and it could end suddenly. Today this cemetery is called "The Crosscut" because of the canal that was built next to it in 1888. But when it began it was probably just called the cemetery. Not a place for markers or ritual, a place to say goodbye, and say a prayer.

Why there are plans to beautify the Los Angeles River


I've been reading about the recent plans to beautify the Los Angeles River. And since Los Angeles history fascinates me, I'm curious to see what they will do.

Of course, the most common thing I hear is "does Los Angeles have a river?" Most people are familiar with that big ugly concrete drain, but to call it a river just seems to make no sense. But it's a riparian river, like the kind we have in Phoenix, where I live now. And that means that it spends most of its time dry, or muddy, and then channels floodwater as necessary.

So, no, the Los Angeles River was never a gentle, flowing, idyllic stream. It was, like all rivers in the desert are, a temporary river. Really just a big wash. The city of Los Angeles was built next to it, because all cities need a source of water, but really you didn't want to be too close to it, as it flooded when there was heavy rain, and it was muddy and smelly most of the time. So the city of Los Angeles doesn't really plan to "restore" it, it's planning to beautify it. And like just about everything in Southern California, it will be an illusion.

Now waitaminute, I really do mean that as a good thing. If you know what Los Angeles looked like before it was artificially enhanced with palm trees, etc., you know that it was just a big smelly swamp. The ground was filthy with ugly black oozing tar, there were mosquito-infested lowlands. Yes, it was a long time ago, and through some amazing engineering and a huge amount of money, it has been transformed. Look up what the words "La Brea" and "La Cienega" mean, and you'll get an idea.

The situation in Los Angeles was so bad that it took a massive amount of engineering just to make it a place where people would even consider living. Swamps were drained off, storm drains were built. And the biggest danger to the area was the Los Angeles River, which flooded. And the solution there was concrete, lots of it. And it worked!

Of course, the miles of concrete worked, but they're ugly. And I mean really ugly. So much so that no one in their right mind goes anywhere near the LA River, even in areas nowadays which allow pedestrian access. It's filled with shopping carts and mud, it smells terrible. I know, I was one of those idiots who decided to take a little stroll along the river in Studio City a couple of years ago. I was there for about ten minutes, then I got out of there. Yuk!

Successfully taming the Los Angeles River was quite an engineering success. And like all successes of that type, the less people know about it, the better it works. It successfully allows a LOT of water to drain away safely to the ocean, and not flood the streets of Los Angeles. But the next step requires more than "form follows function". It will require art, and design. Luckily, there are a lot of talented and artistic people in Los Angeles. I look forward to seeing the magic.


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Why the railroad tracks switch from your left to your right going north on Grand Avenue


If you're a neighbor of mine, in the northwest valley, chances are that you have driven north on Grand Avenue and gone under something called the "Peoria Underpass". It's south of Olive, and it's where the railroad tracks cross over Grand Avenue. Or, if you prefer, it's where Grand Avenue passes under the railroad tracks.

If you never noticed it, that's not surprising. For me, the thing that I always noticed was that the railroad tracks switched from being on my left to being on my right as I went towards Sun City on Grand Avenue. And to understand why, you have to time-travel a bit. Come along with me.

Contrary to popular belief, Grand Avenue was built before the railroad tracks. Yes, that's unusual, as usually towns grow up along railroads. But Grand Avenue was different. It was privately funded by the men who built the Arizona Canal, in 1885, and it was the route from Phoenix to the new towns of Glendale (where I live), and Peoria. Take a look at a map, starting at the city limits of Phoenix in 1885, which was Van Buren and 7th Avenue, and draw a straight line to Glendale. That's Grand Avenue. If you keep going straight, you'll go through old town Peoria. If you keep going, of course, you'll cross New River and the Agua Fria River, going through Sun City and then all of the way to Wickenburg.

But the original Grand Avenue was only built to the town of Peoria. Of course, you could continue on to Wickenburg, on foot, on a horse, or on a wagon. And this is the part that you engineers will really like - that roads can cross rivers at a sharp angle, but railroads can't. So the original Grand Avenue crossed the rivers at too oblique of an angle for the railroad, which must be 90 degrees, and so when the railroad tracks were laid down, they didn't quite align with Grand Avenue, especially north of Glendale.

It was really just a small difference, but since the tracks needed to cross the rivers at that 90 degree angle, the tracks crossed over Grand and aligned just slightly west. That's why the railroad tracks don't go right through the middle of old town Peoria, they're over to the east.

Of course, Grand Avenue was realigned to go along the railroad tracks. And in order to keep traffic moving, the city of Peoria built an underpass at the crossing.


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The mill that Mill Avenue in Tempe is named after


When I went to ASU I couldn't have cared less about the story behind the names of the streets there. Over the years, however, as my life has gotten less hectic, I stop and think about it, and if you're wondering where the name “Mill Avenue” came from, yes, it was a flour mill.

It all started when people discovered that there was money to be made by growing wheat and selling it to the U.S. Military at Fort McDowell, which was several miles north of Tempe. This was back in the days right after the Civil War, 1867 or so, and the expense, and trouble, of bringing in food to the soldiers back then was considerable.

Luckily, all you had to do to grow wheat back then was to plant seeds in the Salt River and then harvest it. There was no need for canals, or anything like that. The river flooded, the water receded, seeds were planted, and with any luck a good crop would grow.

Yes, the wheat was grown on the river bottom. If you stand at the intersection of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway and look down, you will see where the wheat fields were. Of course now it's dammed up as a lake, but it wasn't back then. And no, contrary to popular belief, the Salt River wasn't a big, blue river that flowed continuously. It was a meandering riparian wash, with water flowing sometimes, mud most of the time, and then most of it drying up in the summer.

But growing and harvesting the wheat was only half of the job. The wheat had to be made into flour, and for that you need a flour mill, which is just a contraption that grinds up the wheat, you know, made out of grinding stones.

The mill in Tempe, by the way, was built by Charles Hayden. He also built “The Old House” (La Casa Vieja) across from the flour mill, which as of this writing, is still there, although the restaurant is now closed.

My research has shown that the wheat grown in the Salt River was pretty awful. The water was very saline (salty), which is where the river gets its name. Of course, after the dams were built, especially the Arizona Canal in 1885, there wasn't any reason to grow wheat in the river bed. But the location of the mill in Tempe was a good spot, so it remained there. It's still there, deemed historically significant by the City of Tempe.

Pictured at top: the Hayden Flour Mill in 1874, Tempe, Arizona. Behind it is Hayden Butte, but most people nowadays call it A Mountain. At least I do.

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Simpler times? Or, how to start a Model T


People often say that things were simpler "back in the day", but in many ways I disagree. Things like starting a car, for example, are much simpler now than they were. Here are the instructions for starting a Model T:

• Pull the choke adjacent to the right fender while engaging the crank lever under the radiator at the front of the car, slowly turning it a quarter-turn clockwise to prime the carburetor with fuel. Get into the car. Insert the ignition key, turning the setting to either magneto or battery.

• Adjust the timing stalk upward to retard the timing, move the throttle stalk downward slightly for an idle setting, and pull back on the hand brake, which also places the car in neutral. Return to the front of the car.

• Use your left hand to crank the lever (if the engine backfires and the lever swings counterclockwise, the left arm is less likely to be broken). Give it a vigorous half-crank, and the engine should start.

The car that I have now, which is nothing special, starts with the turn of a key. Then I put it in "drive" and go. Simple.

Photo at the top of this post: Mission Service Station in the 1920s, northeast corner of Mill and 8th Street (now University), Tempe, Arizona.


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How to page through the Phoenix newspaper from 1890 to 1920


One of the things that I really enjoy doing is browsing through the Phoenix newspaper, from 1890 to 1920. I enjoy Phoenix history, but I'm more interested in the ordinary day-to-day stuff. I really have no interest in "History Books". I want to know how people lived, what they did, what they ate, where they shopped, what was important to them. And just like today, it's trivia.

The internet has been a wonderful thing for people like me, who used to sit in libraries for hours, paging through old newspapers. I was never really looking for anything, I was just looking. Today I call it "time-traveling" - where I just try to immerse myself in a different time. So now I spend my spare minutes at the Library of Congress online.

Here's the link to the Phoenix newspaper http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/ which was called the Arizona Republican at the time. Nowadays it's called the Republic.

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Yes, you can search for stuff, and be all organized if you want to, but I like just thumbing through the pages. I'll read the articles, the ads, the funnies. When I see something I like, I do a screen capture, and save it on my computer as a jpeg.

There are a lot of original documents like this on the web. Many schools have scanned them in and you can read them in pdf format. If you like time-traveling, like I do, it's a lot of fun. But remember that it's all raw information - there's no editing, no condensing. There may be things that offend some people, so beware. It was a different time. And while I much prefer living in modern times, I've always enjoyed visited the old days.

Surviving Valley Fever, Phoenix, Arizona


If you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you've had Valley Fever. It comes from a fungus in the desert, and it can range from very mild symptoms to death. I survived it when I was 19, right after I moved to Phoenix from Minneapolis. No, I don't know anything else about Valley Fever, and I'm very squeamish, so if you want to learn more, you can Google it.

If you have no memory of Valley Fever, yours was mild, like a cold. Mine put me in the hospital with pneumonia. When I asked the nurse if people died from this, she said, "yes". I still remember that. I had no health insurance, and I was at the County Hospital.

Like I said, I survived. But every once in a while I think about it. I think about pioneers coming out to Phoenix and dying mysteriously. I think about people coming out to Phoenix for their health, catching Valley Fever, and dying.

What I do know is that you only catch it once. And if you live in Phoenix, you're a survivor.

How the New York Store became Korricks, Phoenix, Arizona


When Sam Korrick opened his store in Phoenix, in 1895, he called it "The New York Store". It seemed to be a trendy thing to do at the time, as there were other stores with similar names, most notably the Boston Store (Diamond's).

Over the years, the New York Store started adding the name Korrick's to it, until the words "New York Store" were dropped. In the 1970s, Korrick's was absorbed by the Broadway.

The New York Store in 1905, 3rd Street and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. This was their original location until the new building on 1st Street and Washington was built in 1914.

Korricks in 1915, 1st Street and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. Although the building has been enlarged and "re-skinned", it's still there.


Korricks in 1962, downtown (lower photo) and Chris-Town Mall. From Arizona Days and Ways.

Research from the Library of Congress


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How the Boston Store became Diamond's, Phoenix, Arizona


When the Diamond brothers started their store in Phoenix in 1897, they called it "The Boston Store". Other local stores, such as Goldwater's, choose to use the family name, but Nathan and Isaac decided against doing that, for fifty years.

In 1947, the Boston Store celebrated their fiftieth year in Phoenix by renaming their store to "Diamond's". It remained that way until it was sold to Dillards, in 1984.

1906 ad for the Boston Store, Nathan and Isaac Diamond.

Image at the top of this post: Diamond's ad from 1970, Phoenix, Arizona.

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The end of having to learn to drive a car


As someone who was born in the 20th Century, I learned to drive a car. Like most people that I know, I take great pride in my ability to operate this type of heavy machinery. Of course, it's really the only type of heavy machinery that most people learn to operate. I have used a lawn mower, but that's not really all that close. I have never driven a tractor, nor have I ever used a chain saw. Operating heavy machinery, you know, the kind that you shouldn't use if you're taking cold medication, was never was part of my life. And the future without the need for ordinary people to operate heavy machinery is finally on its way, with self-driving cars.

In case you never noticed it, ordinary people never got very good at operating heavy machinery. That is, cars. For the past 100 years, people have been killing each other with them. Yes, there are a handful of really good drivers, just like there are people who know how to use chain saws safely, but they're in the minority. Most people are just not that good at driving, even people who think that they are.

I will live to see the end of this strange requirement for ordinary people to handle heavy machinery. Getting a driver's license has been around for generations, so much so that most people never give it a second thought. It's as if when we turn 16, we are told that we have to operate a chain saw - except that it's a 2,000-pound one, and we have to memorize a complex array of rules and regulations, and take it out on the road with a bunch of other people who really don't know what to do, either.

Future generations will wonder what this nonsense was all about. Nowadays we take it for granted that everyone will have to learn to operate heavy machinery. Our lives seem to revolve around driving. Our identification is a driver's license. Everyone I know has been involved in some type of major collision with a car. Some people's lives have changed, some people have died. It's a cost that, in my lifetime, has always been accepted without thinking. But that is all about to change.

Ordinary people like me shouldn't be operating heavy machinery, even when we're not taking cold medication. And if the near future, it will just be another thing that people did in the past.

Why the intersection of Van Buren, 7th Avenue, and Grand is called Five Points


If you shopped at the many places that were on Van Buren and 7th Avenue in 1913, like the ones shown in the ad above, you probably called the area "Five Points". I've lived in Phoenix for several decades, and even though I worked downtown for a while, it wasn't until I started collecting old images of Phoenix that I learned about Five Points.

If you're wondering why the intersection of three streets would be called "Five Points", stand in the middle of the intersection of 7th Avenue and Van Buren. Well, in your imagination. This is where Grand Avenue begins, which runs at a 45-degree angle. Now count the different directions that you can walk. You can go 1) west on Van Buren 2) east on Van Buren, 3) north on 7th Avenue, 4) south on 7th Avenue, and 5) northwest on Grand.

If you're wondering why Grand Avenue doesn't go the other way, it's because it was built to go northwest to the brand new towns of Glendale and Peoria at the turn of the century. 7th Avenue and Van Buren was at the city limits in the 1800s, and so it was just the most direct route. Grand Avenue was privately funded by William Murphy and his company that built the Arizona Canal in 1885, by the way, and was there years before the railroad was built alongside of it.

So, if someone tells you that they'll meet you at Five Points, you know where, and you know why. Nowadays, of course, it looks just like any other busy intersection in Phoenix, but if you squint your eyes a bit, and you can time-travel!

Image above from the Library of Congress

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The value of money in the 1880s


I've always been fascinated with history. And one of the most interesting things to me is how the value of money has changed over the years. I post photos of old Phoenix on a Google+ page, and often I see comments about "how cheap things were back in the day" and that sort of thing. No, they weren't cheaper, money was just worth more. My favorite example is "shave and a haircut, two bits."

Two bits (25 cents) would get you a shave, and quite possibility a haircut and a bath, in the 1880s. Of course, prices varied depending on the location. In a place like Phoenix, where clean water, and especially hot water, was rare, the price was higher.

And rather than relying on The Inflation Calculator, I personally prefer to compare what you could buy then, and compare it to what you can buy today. I got a simple haircut yesterday and it cost me twenty dollars, plus a two dollar tip. Presumably a tip was expected in the 1880s, and if the haircut was 25 cents, then the tip would have been a penny or two.

Of course, prices vary. But if you use 25 cents as a good reference point for buying a haircut, or a meal, in the 1880s, you get a better idea of the value of money.

I'm not very good at math (I was an art major) but I know that if this was 1885, and a quarter could buy me a haircut, or a good meal, I would keep an eye on it. Nowadays, if a quarter is lost in my couch, I won't bother to look for it.

The photo at the top of this post is of the Commercial Hotel (later renamed the Luhrs Hotel) in the 1880s, which was on the northeast corner of Central and Jefferson in Phoenix, Arizona.


How to walk with the Hohokam, Phoenix, Arizona


Hohokam is the name given to the people who were long gone from the Phoenix area when the pioneers arrived. It's not much of a name, it just means "those who are gone", and it's what the Pima people called them. But names don't matter. They were the people, just as the Pimas are the people. And if you want to walk with them, and live in the greater Phoenix area, it's easy, just step out of your door.

"The people who have gone" built gigantic canals, much larger than the modern ones you see now in Phoenix. They built large structures, mostly out of adobe, that have literally melted away with time. But they're all still there, under your feet, from Tempe to Peoria, and way beyond.

If you're wondering why the the ruins of this gigantic and spectacular civilization couldn't be preserved, look again. The modern city of Phoenix was literally built right on top of it. A tiny portion of it has been preserved at Pueblo Grande at 44th Street and Washington, but really, there isn't all that much to see. There are lumps, and holes, and melted adobe. But you can visit the world of the Hohokam anytime you want to, and you don't have to go into a museum, or read a brochure.

Step outside. If you're a neighbor of mine, look towards the White Tanks, and New River. If you're downtown, or by the airport, looks towards Tempe. If you're near Camelback Mountain, look south towards the Salt River. With each step you take, you are walking above the ruins of the Hohokam. Sit at your local Starbucks - the ancient canals are still there, under your feet. Push a shopping cart across the parking lot of your local Safeway, and walk with the Hohokam.

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Parson's Restaurant, Glendale, Arizona


I like Parson's Restaurant. It's the kind of little place that I've always looked for when I moved into a new neighborhood. It's the kind of place that tourists never even see, and even locals mostly drive past. No, it's not the fanciest food in the world, but it's sincere.

The restaurant has been there since the mid-sixties, and Alan Parsons took it over in 1986. I don't know why I get such a big kick out of seeing the person whose name is on the sign of a restaurant, but I do. I guess it's because I've been to so many places with names that mean nothing. So when I see Alan, I say hello.

Unfortunately, when I first started going to Parson's it was in the bad old days when smoking was still allowed in restaurants in Arizona. I had moved from California in 1989, and so I had never had to deal with it, but it tends to take a long time for Arizona to catch up with California on stuff like that. And once the smoking ban kicked in, then Parson's became a place that someone like me could really love.

If you plan on going to Parsons, here are some suggestions:

• Turn into the parking lot from the west. The major cross-streets are 59th Avenue and Northern, but if you try to turn in from that direction, you're gonna have a bad time. Most buildings in my suburban Glendale have "easy-in/easy-out", but Parson's isn't one of them. If you try to turn in there from the wrong way you'll be blocking traffic, or going the wrong way into a turn lane. Yeah, I know it's a hassle, but locals know how to do it. I knew a lot of places like this in California that required a bit of careful strategy to get it, and mostly they were worth it.

• Go in, smile at someone, and sit down. There's no grand foyer at Parson's, just a door that goes past the cashier and into the seating area. I've rarely seen it congested there, but it is a pinch-point, so, uh, keep moving. It's an old building, but that being said...

• Don't worry, yes, it's accessible. I've been there with some of my senior citizen friends, and while driving into it is tricky, walking into it is wonderful. I myself have a gimpy ankle, and so I appreciate the fact that there are no steps, no ramps, no nothing. You just walk right in. I like that. I like sitting by the big window, which I call my "ocean view", which looks out on the street. If you sit too close to the door, by the way, keep in mind that you're gonna be pretty close to mother nature, if you know what I mean.

I love living in a small town. This helped a nervous person like me be comfortable in places like Los Angeles. So, no, I'm not Hollywood, I'm small town. I don't expect the chef to come out and hug me, like they do at the Sushi Bars in Studio City, but I like to be surrounded by friendly faces. I like Parson's.

Back in the 1960s, when Parsons was Big Sam's Burgers.

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The destruction of farmland in the Phoenix, Arizona area


I live in Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) and have never really given much thought to farms. But research that I have done recently about the history of the Salt River Project is teaching me that it was originally all about farms, not suburbia.

If you live anywhere in the greater Phoenix area, you may be surprised to know that the ground that your house, the streets, the malls, and the parking lots are on is some of the most fertile soil in the world. And the Salt River Valley sits at the bottom of one of the largest natural watersheds on the planet. Like the Nile Valley in Egypt, this area has been flooded for thousands of years, bringing in not only water, but rich soil. And when the Federal program of land reclamation began, most notably with the Roosevelt Dam in 1911, it was all about taking advantage of that generous amount of water and fertile land to create farms.

People who lived in the valley, from the Hohokam to the Phoenix pioneers, knew that. And so the old-timers must have been saddened to see this precious farmland destroyed by being covered over with asphalt.

Yes, there are thousands of miles of desert land in Arizona that looks pretty much the same as the Salt River Valley. But it's only there that the combination of the incredibly fertile soil and steady water supply from the watershed northeast creates the potential for an oasis.


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Why St. Luke's Hospital sits at an angle, Villa Street, and La Ciudad


If you're a Phoenix time-traveler, like me, you notice some streets that aren't on the normal north-south axis. I call them "anomalies", and they usually indicate that the city was different back then. And while nowadays it's considered "trendy" to place buildings at an angle, when St. Luke's Hospital was built, its angle was along Villa Street. And Villa Street ran along the edge of the Salt River Valley Canal, the one that was built by Jack Swilling, and sometimes referred to as "the Town Ditch", or "Swilling's Ditch". And all of this was on top of La Ciudad, the prehistoric ruins of the Hohokam people.


Time travel with me. Let's start in 1929 with Frank Midvale, who was the successor to Omar Turney. By that time, much of the ruins of the Hohokam village of "La Ciudad" (which is Spanish for "The City"), had already been covered over. When the 1917 map was created, much of the prehistoric remains could still be seen, including the gigantic empty canals. But now, in 1929, there's an auto court, and a tent city, and the St. Luke's Home Cottages were already on top of the ancient ruins. By the way, the Hohokam ruins were all over the valley - they couldn't all be preserved, they are literally underneath the entire city of Phoenix. You can go see what was preserved at the Pueblo Grande Museum, by the way, at 44th Street and Washington. But that's only the tiniest fraction of what covered the entire Salt River Valley, from Tempe to where I'm writing this now, near New River in the west valley, and beyond.

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As the city of Phoenix grew, old canals, like the old Salt River Valley Canal, were abandoned. Nowadays they have been covered up, and converted into storm drains, but they sat open and empty for many years. And while when fresh water flowed them as canals, they were a good thing to be close to, when they were abandoned, they became a stinky, muddy, mess that weren't exactly "prime real estate".

Nowadays hospitals are bright, shining places, that enhance the value of a community. But if you time-travel back to Phoenix prior to the 1960s, they were places that communities stayed away from. They had sick and dying people, contagion, that sort of thing. So St. Luke's was along Villa Road. And Villa Road had been built along the Salt River Valley Canal, which was on an angle, flowing towards downtown Phoenix. The road is still at at angle, and St. Luke's was built on that angle. The angles are still there, and the ancient ruins are still underneath.

Leave only footprints, take only photographs


If you're an explorer who understands the concept of "leave only footprints, take only photographs", you know that it means that you are there to observe, and to enjoy, not to change things, or destroy. It's a very subtle concept, and for people who don't understand, there are signs that say "no littering, etc.". And there are laws against destruction of public property.

I like walking, both physically and in my imagination. And I walk a lot around historic Phoenix. And it's wonderful for me, and it's puzzling for a lot of people. They ask me if I'm looking for something? Am I filling a room somewhere with a collection? Am I writing a book? And when I said "no, I'm just walking", I have a feeling that people think I'm kind'a crazy.

I have a digital collection of old photos of Phoenix. Yes, it's digital, and that means that I have thousands of images that don't take up any space except on my computer. I post them on a Google+ page, and sometimes I talk about them. But they're as incidental as taking a photo while you're out hiking. And sometimes it's the reverse - a photo will inspire me to walk somewhere that I had never even heard of before, like Melinda's Alley, which I visit often.

So, if someone asks me what my destination is, I will say "right back here". Because it's not about a destination, not about a goal. It's about walking.

Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: the Superstition Mountains, Apache, Junction, Arizona.

Progressing with Arizona


I started posting my collection of historical Phoenix images on Google+ a few years ago, and have learned an important lesson - most people who look at that page are not seeing what I am seeing. A few people do, and if one of them is you, well, you're kinda strange. And you're probably one of those people who helped build this city.

What I am seeing in these images is progress, and change. "Progressing with Arizona" was the slogan of Valley National Bank, who financed most of it for almost 100 years. To me, these images don't show "the good old days" - they show the advances that the city of Phoenix has made in a relatively short amount of time.

From raw desert to an oasis to a magnificent city, I see progress. I see the enormous task of digging canals, first with bare hands, then with shovels. From the Hohokam to The Salt River Project, people have been struggling here to build things. They have built canals, roads, buildings. And there have been setbacks, major ones, if you know the history. But ultimately it is a story of "unrealistic optimism".

Sure, go ahead and complain about not getting good cell phone coverage somewhere. There was a time when just getting fresh water seemed something like a miracle. Phoenix has made a lot of progress, and there's still a long way to go!




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The face of Montezuma on the Estrella Mountains


If you've been on the Gila River Indian Community, southwest of the Phoenix area, you have probably looked towards the Estrella Mountains looking for the face of Montezuma. And if you're like me, you've seen it many times. It's a profile of an ancient Indian god would would someday return and release the native people from the tyranny of the oppressors, going back to the time of Spanish rule.

No, I have no idea exactly where the face of Montezuma is supposed to be, except that it's along the edge of the Estrellas. And maybe there isn't just one place. Maybe looking for a place is as meaningless as the name.

If you're puzzled about all of this, even though you live in Phoenix, it's not surprising. Looking west along the Estrella Mountains isn't something most Phoenicians see. But if you're interested, just drive south on 51st Avenue. Keep going south, cross the Salt River, past Laveen, past Komatke, past south Mountain. When 51st Avenue becomes Beltline Road, you're in the right place.

Stop your car and look west. Those are the Estrella Mountains that most people in Phoenix don't even know exist. The range goes mostly north and south, so if you're a neighbor of mine, in the Glendale area, you are just seeing the northern edge.

Turn off the engine of your car. Stop talking. Put away your phone. Stand there and look up. Don't worry about GPS, or anything like that. When you are ready, you will see the face of Montezuma.

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How to enjoy Christmastime in Phoenix if your friends are back east


One of the great time-honored traditions of living in Phoenix is showing your friends back east how nice it is at Christmastime. Personally, I like to post photos on Facebook of flowers blooming in my backyard in December. And my friends back east say, "Thanks for rubbing it in!" as they slog through the snow and cold.

I collect old photos of Phoenix, and one of my favorites is this group of guys from 1893. This photo was obviously staged to do the most "rubbing in" possible. Although I can't read all of the sign, it clearly says "Merry Christmas", "93", and "Phoenix, Ariz". And aside from the smirky grins the guys have, you can see palm trees, agaves, and what looks like a long straw from some cooling drink. Not sure what's on the table, but Mr. Slick Hair is holding a fan.

Photography was becoming popular, and inexpensive in those days due to the new invention "the Kodak" camera. And so silliness like this started to become common, and has now become a tradition in Phoenix. So if you live in Phoenix, and have friends back east, it is your civic duty to shoot a photo showing how nice it is at Christmastime, and rub it in!

By the way, I don't have an exact address for this, but my best guess is that it was on Central north of Washington.


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The spirit of the old west today - Bluewater, New Mexico


If you’re wondering whatever happened to the old west towns that you see in western movies, don't worry, they're still around. You’re probably driving by them all the time on the freeway, no matter where you live in America. The one that I know of is Bluewater, New Mexico. Now, before you grab your camera and start thinking that you will see horses and wagons rolling down the street, please let me explain.

The western towns of the 1800s that you see in movies have many things in common with places like Bluewater, New Mexico today. First of all, they are far away from the big city. The old western towns were not "picturesque" - they were practical. Even though to our modern eyes, old western towns in the movies are scenic, in reality, they weren't. Don't get me wrong, they did look like that. But those dirt streets and wooden sidewalks were there just because it was practical.

The people in old western towns knew each other. They often had lots of relatives living nearby. Most problems they could resolve themselves, so they didn't have much use for "lawmen", whom they usually just saw as being just as bad as the bad guys. Without regular patrols of police, these places can be dangerous, and the people living there know how to defend themselves. The most common alarm system back in the old west was a dog, and still is today. Dogs know who should and who shouldn't be there, and they are on duty all of the time. And like the old west towns, the people of Bluewater are armed. Shotguns are the most common, but you will also find yourself up against any type of firearm if you decide to go where you shouldn't be. And in the old west, most of the men were veterans of the Civil War, even the old guys. Today they are probably Vietnam veterans. Don't mess with them.

In an old western town, people had to make do when things broke down. A piece of leather could hold together the boards on a buckboard wagon. Today, these types of repairs are ridiculed as "White Trash Repairs". People in the old west knew how to hunt, and to fish. And they knew how to prepare these animals for food. People in Bluewater, New Mexico can do this today, too.

The spirit of the old west lives on. You just have to know how to recognize it.

White Christmas, and the mention of Los Angeles


The song "White Christmas" is hugely popular. When it was recorded by Bing Crosby, it touched everyone who was away from home during the holidays, especially people in the armed services. It's still a wonderfully touching song for anyone who is wishing to be back home at Christmas. And for me, it hit me the hardest when I lived in Los Angeles. And I would wait to hear a recording with the original lyrics, which were:

The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway, there's never been such a day, in Beverly Hills, LA. But it's December the 24th, and I'm longing to be up north. I'm dreaming of a White Christmas...

Yep, those were the original lyrics. Go and Google them if you don't believe me, I'll wait. Kind'a silly, I'll admit. I mean, Beverly Hills, LA? It's probably just as well that most singers don't include that. It does seem hard to get all emotional for a songwriter who's in Beverly Hills during the winter. But Irving Berlin was homesick. And as nice as it was there in Los Angeles, he dreamed of a White Christmas.

Waving to the neighbors in Glendale, Arizona


I like living in Glendale, Arizona, but it's very different from the neighborhood where I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you've always lived in Phoenix, it may not seem all that strange, but back in Minneapolis we could see our neighbors.

I really like the privacy that six-foot block walls provide. I like the convenience of pushing a button in my car and driving into my garage, and never having to walk outside. But I do wave at my neighbors. And that's because all of this privacy can make people feel afraid.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't go out and accost my neighbors. I respect privacy, and I know that this type of neighborhood is designed to give people the right to that. But I know who my neighbors are, and hopefully they at least recognize me.

It wasn't until my friends from back east visited me that I saw anything strange about my ordinary little suburban house. But then I saw that it was like living in a cave (I like to think of it as the Bat Cave!), where the garage door opens, I glide in, and then sit in the backyard, surrounded by solid walls. Yes, you can see the tops of other houses, and hear the voices of people sometimes, and dogs barking, but you really are in a cave.

It wasn't until my forties that I came to realize that a lot of people live in a world of fear. And it starts when they're young, not understanding exactly what the law is regarding how they should park their car, and seems to get worse with age, as they read articles about something that happened to someone somewhere. And I know the feeling - as a young person I remember being horrified that maybe the Tempe police could impound my car if it had a broken taillight lens? And my fear inspired me to learn more. And I not only learned about traffic laws, I learned about Civic Laws.

My dad always said, "there's no fool like an old fool", and as I move into my old age, I try to keep that in mind. I don't want to be an old fool. I always pictured myself as becoming an "elder statesman" type person, someone that people could turn to if they had questions. I spent many years as a teacher, and it always seemed to disappoint some people if I said "I don't know that, I'll have to look it up", but hey, it's really foolish to imagine that anyone knows everything, even about their field of specialty, which for me was Computer Graphics.

Yes, it's a frightening world out there, even in a safe little suburban neighborhood. But this is my neighborhood. I made a point to know my District Councilperson, I'm on good terms with the Glendale Police. And I wave to my neighbors.

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From Valley National Bank to Bank One to Chase Bank


When I got the job, in 1990, as a young Graphic Designer at Valley National Bank, in the corporate offices in Phoenix, I was delighted. Unfortunately, it wasn't long until I learned that I was on a sinking ship.

Even though Valley National Bank was celebrating 90 years in Arizona in 1990, everybody I talked to told me that the Bank was in terrible condition financially. At the time that I started, Valley Bank had not paid dividends to its stockholders for years. They were “frozen”. And the more I learned about how much Valley Bank had invested in Arizona, the more I understood someone who said, “If Valley National Bank goes bankrupt, we all have to leave Arizona, and the last one turns out the light”.

But, in 1992 Valley National Bank was taken over by a very strong Bank that was headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, named Bank One. Bank One had been buying up banks all over the country, and then leaving them alone to run themselves. If you lived in the Valley at the time, you may remember that they made a point of keeping the same employees, right up to the spokesmen for the Valley Bank/Bank One TV commercials, Bill Frieder and Lute Olsen. And it did rescue Arizona, and, well, my career as a Graphic Designer. Bank One was great. They poured an enormous amount of money into the old Valley Bank, updated the systems, and brought everything up to modern times. They even put a logo on the Valley Center Building, the first one on it, ever, since it was built in 1973.

Then in 1996, banking across state lines became legal for the very first time in the United States. In spite of names like “National”, there had never been a national bank. All banks were, by law, limited to the states that they were in. This was a way to insure that if one bank failed, it would only affect that particular state. And when this law changed, Bank One quickly divested itself of redundant departments all over the country, such as Marketing in Phoenix. And that was the end of my career as a Graphic Designer for Bank One. Sure, plenty of big-whigs were hired to go to Columbus, but I was too small. Besides, I had no intention of moving to Columbus. I like Phoenix!

So, in September of 1996, I changed careers, and started teaching Graphic Design. I really didn't pay much attention to Bank One, and hardly even noticed in 2004 when it was purchased by J.P Morgan Chase. I still bank there.



By the way, if you've ever wondered whatever happened to the fabulous art collection of Valley National Bank, it’s been preserved and is now in Manhattan, curated by J.P. Morgan Chase.

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Preserving the magical places of Phoenix


I have to admit to being a little torn about talking about the magical places that I go to in the Phoenix, Arizona area. On one hand, I don't want to encourage swarms of crowds (and the need for more parking lots), and on the other I realize that to preserve something, people have to know about it.

I know a lot of magical places in Phoenix, and in Los Angeles. These are the places where I've always gone to just get away from it all for a while. Sure, I've given excuses, such as an interest in history, or exercising. But, really, these are just places that are good for the soul. And to my surprise, and pleasure, I am finding out that I'm not the only one who needs these places.

The best example I can give is the Sahuaro Ranch, which is near where I live, in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix. Ever since I moved to Glendale, the ranch has been a magical place for me, just to stop and look at it. There were times in the ‘90s when I would drive straight to it after work, walking around in a shirt and tie. I don't think I went there like that in the summer, but I might have! It was good medicine for me, and it still is. Nothing seems all that bad when you see a peacock strolling by.

Some of the magical areas are simply open areas with weeds and dirt, like the Thunderbird Paseo Park. And I don't mean the areas with playgrounds, etc. I mean the areas that flow along like a river, where you can see the cars go by, but in the distance, on the bridges.

I could go on, and on, but I don't want to sound like I'm advertising these places, or asking for a donation for them. I guess I just wanted to share my feelings about these places, and how important they are to people like me. I realize that people need freeways, and Starbucks, and all of that. But I need a place to breathe. I guess you could call me selfish, but hopefully other people feel the same way, and need places like this, too.

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Why the intersection of Grand Avenue, 19th Avenue, and McDowell is called Six Points


Over by the State Fair Grounds in Phoenix is a place that is called Six Points. It's the intersection of Grand Avenue, 19th Avenue, and McDowell. I first heard about this when I started collecting old photos of Phoenix. And there's even a Six Points Hardware.

Of course, many times names don't really mean anything. Look at the names of many apartment complexes and shopping centers, which amuse me as I drive around Phoenix. Things just have to have a name I guess, even if they're pointless, or make no sense. But there is a reason for Six Points. And to see it, you have to either fly over it, or stand in the middle of the intersection. Let's fly over it and take a look.

OK, now let's imagine that we're standing in the middle of the intersection, and we're about to walk in any direction we want to. Count the different directions. There are six, and that's why people called it Six Points.

By the way, don't confuse it with Five Points, which is the intersection of Van Buren, 7th Avenue and Grand. There's only five because Grand Avenue stops (or begins) there.

Image at the top of this post: Flying over Six Points in 1973.

Ad for Six Points Hardware in the 1950s


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How to amaze people with Phoenix, and Los Angeles, history


Phoenix and Los Angeles are both very modern cities. And, in spite of arguments that I've heard from locals, most people who live there didn't grow up there. And even for people who did, chances are pretty slim that their parents, or grandparents, did. And this leads inevitably into the common misconception about my two favorite cities, which I call "Back in the day, when the mall was built". And since Phoenix predates Park Central Mall by nearly 100 years, and Los Angeles predates the Sherman Oaks gallery by even longer, it really doesn't take much to amaze many people about the history of these cities.

I have a particular fascination for Phoenix, and Los Angeles, history. For me, it just has always made me more comfortable in these adopted homes (I grew up in Minneapolis). I moved to Phoenix when I was 19, all alone, and it was a pretty scary place for a Midwestern boy on his own. And Los Angeles was even scarier to me! So I took ownership of these places by learning about them. I learned about Hollywoodland in Los Angeles, I learned about Jack Swilling in Phoenix.

Nowadays, I obsessively collect old photos and post them onto the web. I've been doing it for a very long time now, and there are still things that I'm uncovering, and still looking for. And every once in a while I see a nice color photo, like on a postcard, and I post it even if it's not too old or historically significant, to the amazement of many people who kind'a figured that the city that they lived in was only about as old as when the mall was built.

So, really, you don't need to go as far as mentioning that Los Angeles was once part of New Spain, or that Arizona was once a Confederate territory. Most people are amazed, and delighted, to find out what their city was like just a few generations ago.

For me, I'm always amazed, and overjoyed, to learn more about my favorite cities.

Image above: Eastlake Park in Phoenix, and Westlake Park in Los Angeles, at about the same time. The lake in Phoenix is gone, but the park is still there, and the park in Los Angeles is now called MacArthur Park, in the community of Westlake.

The connection between Sherman Oaks, California, and Phoenix, Arizona

Where the city of Tempe, Arizona got its name


I have a fascination with the names of things. Sometimes they don't mean anything at all, they just sound good, like the city that I live in, Glendale, Arizona. Some names are very cool, as they come from Greek Mythology, like the Phoenix Bird. And another name from Greek Mythology is where the name of Tempe, Arizona, comes from.

The Vale of Tempe, as shown in the picture above, was the valley next to Mt. Olympus, where the Greek gods lived. I lived in Tempe when I went to ASU, and doesn't sound like Greek to me, but it is. And the name, along with the name for Phoenix, Arizona, was given to it by an eccentric character in Arizona named Darell Duppa. I've read about him, and the more I learn, the less I know. But I know that he read the classics, and he knew about the Phoenix Bird, and the Vale of Tempe.

It all kind'a makes me wish that they had kept with this Greek Mythology theme - maybe I'd be living in Zeus, or something like that.


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The lost Phoenix of the 1960s


I've been posting a lot of images lately on the web of the 1960s in Phoenix, and I am coming to the conclusion that it is pretty much all gone. I started this project just with the idea in mind of finding a lot of cool old photos of Phoenix, but I am learning something that is making me sad - the lost childhood of many people who grew up in Phoenix.

I didn't get to see the Phoenix of the 1960s. By the time I got to Phoenix, it was all being torn down and made into parking lots. But the images that I am finding are haunting. Many of them show a place full of vitality and people, with homes, business, and activity, that have now been bulldozed and are just dirt.

Take a look at this image of Grand Avenue and 20th Avenue in the 1960s and then go compare it to the Google satellite view. It's now nothing but dirt. In this photo there is a flurry of activity. I imagine a grouchy old guy sitting behind the desk at the repair shop, maybe smoking a cigar. The "exit only" sign is ignored as the cars pile up out front. There's a ratty old white picket fence in front of the house on the right.

Sure, it wasn't pretty. But it was the Phoenix of many people's childhood, and it's gone now. I will keep looking for more images to share. At least those are still around, and hopefully always will be.

Image at the top of this post: Grand Avenue and 20th Avenue in the 1960s.

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How Jomax Road got its name, Phoenix, Arizona


Jomax Road, which is a mile north of Happy Valley Road, in Phoenix, Arizona was named after two women, Josephine and Maxine. And it was the road to a little 9-hole golf course.


The golf course was owned by Maxine and S. Fitzgerald "Fitz" Durham, and it was called Ironwood. Way back in the 1950s, this area was "way out in the country", way beyond the city limits of Phoenix, and other than a little place that sold trinkets, called Curry's Corner, there really wasn't anything out there except desert and cactus. And the Ironwood Golf Course.

Nowadays, Jomax is a major road in the Phoenix grid system, but back then it was just the road to a little tiny golf course, where you could iron out your irons.

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Why the world didn't look the way you see it in museums


I hated museums when I was a kid. Everything was old, and cracked, and rusty, and well, disgusting. If I had given it any thought as a kid, I would have wondered why people back then used such horrible-looking stuff. Even their photos were all dull and dingy and cracked.

It wasn't until I grew up that I realized that it had to do with conservation. When your great-great-great-grandmother wore her wedding dress, it wasn't all horrible, aged, and old. It was brand new. And the photos that your uncle took on his vacation with a Polaroid weren't all faded, with the "Instagram Filter" color. Everything was new. The colors were vibrant.

I like to imagine the when everything was brand new. I like to imagine Phoenix when the Professional Building was brand new in 1931, when Valley Center (now Chase Tower) first opened in 1973. And since I'm an amateur collector, and I don't work at a museum, I can do something that they can't, and shouldn't, do. I can restore.

I'm not a historian, I'm a time-traveler. I have a digital collection of old photos. I do digital restoration, with respect. I don't "antique" old photos, nor do I try to make them look as if they were taken in the 21st Century. I've done a lot of research on photography, and what photographs looked like when they were new in the 20th, and 19th Century. I'm old enough to know what photos looked like when they were brand new in the 1970s, and for photography before my personal experience, there's a lot of documentation, going back to daguerreotypes and tintypes.

I'm a Photoshop guy, and I do gentle digital restoration. And because I'm an amateur historian, I allow myself to. Real conservation people wouldn't touch them. They wouldn't change the colors, they wouldn't do any corrections, anymore than they would fix the crack in the Liberty Bell, or straighten out the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And that's what they're supposed to do, make no mistake about that.

For me, as a time traveler, I became fascinated with Digital Restoration when I first started seeing Digitally Restored movies. I had gotten so used to seeing old, gritty, and scratched movies that the first time I ever saw Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" Digitally Restored, I was blown away. I just kept thinking that this is how Hitch saw it, and how his audience saw it, when it was brand new. And I want to see things the same way.

Image above: The Professional Building when it was brand new in the 1930s, southeast corner of Central Avenue and Monroe. Digitally-restored image.

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Phoenix history locked up in boxes, stored away, and forgotten


If you've ever seen the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, you know that the hero, Indiana Jones, is a believer that certain things belong in museums. And by that he meant on display, with access for everyone, not locked up in a box, stored away, and forgotten.

In the last few years of working on my digital collection of images of Phoenix, I have come to realize that a lot of precious history is being lost, possibility forever, by people who don't quite know what to do with it. And it comes in many forms - there are people who are afraid to share photos they have for fear of copyright violation, there are people who are storing things away in garages, etc., and whose heirs will only see “ebay value”. There are museums which, for lack of funds, are unable to display things and have them locked away in boxes, in storage.

Since I'm a Photoshop person and a web designer, I am comfortable with scanning, optimizing, and uploading images. I have thousands that I have posted over the years. Because to me, the web is a museum, open to everyone.


Image above: Loring's Bazar (yes, that's how he spelled it), in 1880, corner of Cactus Alley on Washington (between Central and 1st Street nowadays, south side of Washington).

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The oldest sporting rivalry in Arizona, the Territorial Cup


If you're an Arizona State University Sun Devil or a University of Arizona Wildcat, you know about the Territorial Cup, the oldest sporting rivalry in Arizona and arguably the most important game of the year.

Football, or Foot Ball, has deep roots in Arizona. And the rivalry between Phoenix and Tucson goes even deeper. It has been at times terribly acrimonious, and has even led to some regrettable incidents. And I'm not just talking about overly-enthusiastic sports fans, I'm talking about politics here.

The first year of the Territorial Cup was 1899, and it was played between the University of Arizona and the Tempe Normal School (which is now ASU). That's the Normal football team up there in the photo, with the Territorial Cup for that year. The owl was stuffed, by the way. And yes, the team was called the Normals, and no, it was never called the Owls. Those are the steps of Old Main, which wasn't really all that old back then. If you know ASU, you know that building, it's on University just east of College, just down from the Chuckbox.

I'm interested in Arizona history, and especially history isn't just "back in the day", but continues up to modern times, and the Territorial Cup is a great representation of that. Yes, I'm a Sun Devil, but to me, it really doesn't even matter who wins the game. What matters is the tradition that has continued for over 100 years, and hopefully always will.

Go Devils! Go Wildcats! I love living in Arizona.

The Territorial Cup, 1899.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/PhoenixHistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

What Patreon is http://bradhallart.blogspot.com/2016/03/supporting-creators-on-web-with-patreon.html