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

Using the concept of a McGuffin

If you're a movie fan, especially old Alfred Hitchcock movies, you know what a McGuffin is. You may or may not have heard of the term, but you know that it's something in a movie that gets all of the characters moving, and tends to be very unimportant in and of itself. And I have been using McGuffins in real life as long as I can remember.

My history adventuring has a lot of McGuffins. I may be looking for a particular building, or an historical site. And if I find it, great, I'll take a photo. If I don't, then I still get to adventure. I still get to see Arizona and California. I get to travel around, and eat Fritos. If I'm in Gila Bend, I get to have lunch at the Space Age Restaurant. So my McGuffin for going to Gila Bend was to get the coffee cup that you see there.

Most people won't admit to McGuffins. It really is kind'a silly, to have what you're doing come down to something like searching for gold in the Superstition Mountains. Over the years I've done a lot of searching for gold in the Superstition Mountains, although it's mostly just relaxing on the patio at a friend's house in Apache Junction. I haven't found any gold yet, but I have enjoyed the adventuring!

When I'm history adventuring, it's good for me to be with someone who is more responsible than me. Left to my own, I will just wander around, looking at stuff. Yes, I'm the guy who once drove from Los Angeles to Phoenix in four days. I was alone, and in no particular hurry, so I stopped in Palm Springs to ride up to the top of the San Jacinto Mountain (just to see it), and various other things that entertained me as I drove across the desert. To this day I always stop in El Centro, and climb on the train, and just, well, wander around. It's kind of a miracle that I actually am able to get anywhere.

I once drove a friend's truck up to Flagstaff for him while he drove his mobile home, which he parked there every summer. His ten-year-old son rode along with me, and I stopped at every single rest stop between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Every. Single. One. At first the kid thought it was amusing, but after a while even he was wondering *why?*

My question has always been the opposite. Why the hurry? Why is getting from point A to point B in the fastest possible time the most important thing to the vast majority of people? The McGuffins in our lives are, for the most part, pretty dull. We need to go somewhere, we need to go home. It's the adventure that's interesting. Still, I understand that I've always been weird, so when people ask me how long it takes for me to get from Los Angeles to Phoenix, I always say *six hours*. Once they get to know me, I will say four days.

The Gauntlet, Clint Eastwood in Phoenix, Arizona in 1977

If you're like me, you really enjoy movies that are shot in locations in cities that you know. Phoenix, Arizona is my favorite city, so a movie like "The Gauntlet", which is from 1977, really gets my attention.

When I first started seeing this movie, on TV, I would wait patiently through all of the story, acting, etc. to see the scenes that show downtown Phoenix. Of course, it's just a movie, but if you look carefully, past all of the shooting, etc., it can be a good view of what Phoenix looked like in the 1970s.

In the most important scene in the Gauntlet, Clint Eastwood's character is driving a bus to deliver Sondra Locke's character to the Phoenix police headquarters. Yeah, as often as I've seen that movie, I really have no idea what it's all about, sorry! And, as you can see from the movie poster above, the bus gets shot up with about a million bullets, and gives a good opportunity to see the buildings on Monroe in the 1970s.

Driving up the steps of the Civic Plaza in 1977, 2nd Street and Adams. St. Mary's Church is in the background.

In the movie, Phoenix Symphony Hall is used as the Phoenix police headquarters. Well, the exterior, anyway. So the bus travels east along Monroe and then ends up on the steps of the Civic Plaza, just north of Symphony Hall, on 2nd Street and Adams. Yeah, I know it's not quite right, but it's just a movie, and Monroe had tall buildings that the stunt men could stand on, and shoot from. At the time, Adams dead-ended at an open plaza with steps leading up to it.

By the way, you can see the difference that the new Civic Plaza was making to the look of downtown Phoenix in the 1970s. In the opening scene, the camera pans from what used to be right across the street, between 3rd and 5th Street on Washington, which was pretty awful, to the beautiful, new, shiny Civic Building just to the north. This movie shows the beginning of the renaissance of downtown Phoenix, which really started picking up momentum in the '80s and '90s and continues to this day. And it shows a whole lot of shooting at a bus, too!

Looking down at Monroe in the 1970s.

Patricia Castro, wife of Governor Raul Castro, with Clint and Sondra

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Joe's Cafe, Santa Barbara, California

If you're a Santa Barbara local, you have enjoyed an Omaha at Joe's Cafe. And even if you're just visiting, you should. I wish I was eating an Omaha right now, but I'm in Phoenix.

When I lived in Santa Barbara, back in the '80s, I went there often. And since Santa Barbara is a touristy kind of place, I made a point of asking the locals where to go to eat, and Joe's Cafe was at the top of the list.

No, they don't pay me to say this, and I don't care. I went back there a couple of years ago and it just made me so happy! Since I know that businesses can only thrive if people continue to go there, and I can't get back as often as I'd like, hopefully you will be able to. Here are a few suggestions:

• Park in a parking garage, or a lot. State Street, like all of Santa Barbara, is a beautiful place to walk. Joe's is on the southeast corner of State and Cota, and there is a lot of parking to the east and west of State Street. If it were me, I would park far enough away so that I could take a nice stroll on State Street, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

• Order an Omaha. Unless, of course, you're vegan. It's an open-faced sandwich with thick slices of prime rib. You eat it with a knife and fork. It's what local order. The last time I went there, the menu didn't give any description, just Omaha. Just say, *Omaha, medium* or well done, or rare, as you prefer. Yes, you can order anything you want, just don't tell me, it will break my heart!

• If you order a drink, only have one, and take your time. Unless the bartenders' wrists have gotten weak in recent years, Joe's drinks have always been way too strong. I suppose in the 1950s, it would have been funny to be "over served", but not now.

So, go get an Omaha! I'm jealous.

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Attending a Community College for life enrichment

For reasons that I still don't understand to this day, I was told not to use the term "life enrichment" when I first started teaching at GCC in 2001. But since I haven't taught there for years, and besides, this is my blog, I can say "life enrichment". Because I really do believe that you can pursue life enrichment at your local Community College.

Yeah, I know it sounds corny, but I really did see people change their lives by taking classes at GCC. And no, I'm not some career teacher who got into the business to change lives. I'm a Graphic Designer who just happened to know the software that everyone was trying to catch up to in the late 90s and early 2000s, Adobe, and that new invention, web design.

Although I don't teach anymore, I have been stumbling over to GCC for the past couple of years, using the Fitness Center, and if you think that schools like this are fading away because of online classes (of which GCC has a lot), go look for a parking space sometime. There are a LOT of cars there! By the way, here's a hint, use the north parking lot, most people don't even realize it's there!

There are a lot of people there on campus, of all ages. And the one thing they all have in common, whether they're working towards a degree or not, is life enrichment. And if you take this point of view, whether you are studying to become a doctor, or just want to learn how to use Photoshop, then the classes, and credits, will take care of themselves. Everything you do, and learn, enriches you. And ultimately you can put that knowledge to work, which will give you a better life, whether you want it to make money for you or not.

Here's what you do: Get in your car and look for the Visitor Parking at your local Community College. At GCC, it's just west of the Enrollment Center at Olive and 61st Avenue. Walk around campus. Grab a cup of coffee at the Student Union. Look at the faces of the people walking by. You will see life enrichment.

Image at the top of this post: Glendale Community College under construction in 1966, 59th Avenue and Olive, Glendale, Arizona.

Parsons Restaurant, small town America in Glendale, Arizona

People who know me know that I always enjoy a little history adventuring on the side when I go out to eat. And one of my favorite places here in Glendale is Parson's Restaurant, which is on Northern just west of 59th Avenue.

If you've never been there, seen it, or even heard of it, it's not surprising, even though it's been there since the 1960s. It's not a trendy place, and frankly, it's just kind of, well, ordinary-looking. I've been going there for twenty years, and the customers there always struck me as people who were on their way to milk the cows, or harvest some corn, or something. It's as if you were walking into a coffee shop in rural Wisconsin or something. Plaid shirts, John Deere hats, that sort of thing. Working class.

It's open from way before I'm ever up and around, until 2 pm, and it serves good, plain, solid, food. And the kind of non-trendy coffee I like. I'm a bacon-and-scrambled eggs kind'a guy, and I always order the home fries, which I call "lumpy potatoes"*. As my grandma always said, it's the kind of food that "sticks to your ribs".

No, they don't pay me to stay this stuff, and I don't care. I'm just glad that they're there. I suppose living in the Phoenix area makes you nervous that any day a building might disappear.

Flying over Glendale Community College in 1965

Parsons is owned by Alan Parsons, and has been since the 1980s. The restaurant was originally Big Sam's Burgers, and was presumably built to cater to the new college that was built in 1965, Glendale Community College, which is on 59th Avenue and Olive. From the photos I've found of the area in the 1960s, it looks like there weren't a lot of choices for shopping and dining right nearby, so it probably got a lot of student business. Of course, it didn't take long for the area much closer to the college to grow, and my best guess is as the burger business started to slow down, the restaurant changed over to serving just breakfast and lunch. So, if you're planning on going there nowadays, don't select your menu items based on the old ad there, which is from the late 1960s. Of course, you can get a decent cheeseburger there, but if you show up late on Saturday night, you'll have to wait until the next morning for it to open.

I love places like Parsons. And that's because I love living in a small town. Even when I lived in Los Angeles, I went to places like this, and made L.A. a small town. Dang, now I'm getting hungry for those lumpy potatoes!

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Who the Arizona State Bulldogs were

If you went to an Arizona State game (now ASU) in the 20s, 30s, or 40s, you probably remember shouting, "Go Bulldogs!" You would, of course, have known about Pete the Bulldog. And you may have been a bit resentful when, in 1946, the school changed to the Sun Devils.

But memories are short. Very few people nowadays have ever heard of the Bulldogs, even people who bleed Maroon and Gold. But it really was a step in the right direction, and if you know the history of Arizona State University, you know why.

The original name of the school, which was founded in 1885, was the Tempe Normal School. A Normal School was the old-fashioned name for a teacher's college, that taught teaching "norms". So the teams were called the Normals, and sometimes the Teachers. And I suppose people shouted, "Go Normals!" or "Go Teachers!", but really, a team needs something with a little more spirit, wouldn't you say?

The Tempe Normal School started calling itself the Bulldogs in 1922, even though the name of the school didn't change until 1925. But they needed something, as the name of the school changed to the Arizona State Teacher's College. I guess they could have gone on calling themselves the Teachers, but, well, would you?

The name changed in 1946 to the Sun Devils, which was suggested by the Sun Angels, and was overwhelming approved by the student body. And as great as it must have been to shout, "Go Bulldogs!", personally I prefer, "Go Devils!" Sorry, Pete.

Pete the Bulldog on the campus of Arizona State College (now ASU)

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Steinegger's Lodge, 1889, Phoenix, Arizona

If you're a serious Phoenix history buff, you know that Steinegger's Lodge, at 27 E. Monroe, built in 1889, is one of the oldest buildings in Phoenix. And even if you work, or live, downtown, you may have gone past it many times and not noticed it. And if you noticed it, like I did when I worked downtown in the '90s, you may have tried not to.

I definitely have mixed feelings about this building. On the one hand, I would like to see Phoenix not tear down all of its old buildings - there really aren't that many left from the 1800s, but to me, I just remember seeing it in the late 20th Century, when it was a boarding house (to put it nicely) and a flophouse (to put it not so nicely).

I worked at Bank One Center (now Chase Tower), right across the street from it. From from there we could see people sleeping on the sidewalks and doing, uh, other things, that shouldn't have been done in public. I have a friend who delivered beer to Newman's back in the '80s and the description is not pleasant, to say the least.

It's located between the Professional Building, which is now undergoing restoration to become a Hilton Hotel, and the parking garage on the corner of Monroe and 1st Street. Yeah, it's tiny. And you would never suspect that the building was as old as it is, as from the front the old brick has been completely covered up, and has been for many decades. But come around to the back of the building with me, through the alley.

This was once known as Melinda's Alley, running east and west between Adams and Monroe. When Steinegger's Lodge was new, there were houses, and small businesses, along this alley.

As of this writing, the bricks that I leaned on today in the photo are 126 years old. And for a city that considers anything built before the 1960s to be historic, that's pretty old. Yes, the windows are boarded up and scrawled with graffiti, but they are still there. When Steinegger's Lodge was new, Theodore Roosevelt wasn't the president yet, Geronimo had only surrendered four years earlier, and air conditioning meant opening the window and hoping for a breeze.

Part of why I love living in Phoenix is that it so thoroughly modern. I like its progressive attitude. And if Steinegger's needs to go away, I'll understand. Most people will never miss it, nor will they ever know it had been there. But like so much of Phoenix history, just because people don't know about it, doesn't mean it wasn't there.

1912 ad for the St. Francis Apartments (Steineggers)

2015 view from Melinda's Alley, behind the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel (between Monroe and Adams and Central and 1st Street)

Ghost sign of the St. Francis Hotel & Apartments

As the Golden West in 1957

As the Golden West in the 1980s

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Just looking at stuff

It's Sunday morning, and I will be going history adventuring today. And if you're wondering why I'm doing this, it's because I just like looking at stuff, and I have since I was a kid.

Of course, just *looking at stuff* doesn't make much sense to most people. I'm an illustrator, and I've always loved to draw, but I won't be bringing a sketchbook along. I used to, but then I discovered that I was spending most of my time looking at stuff, and not drawing. And as much as I like drawing, refocusing on the sketch pad just took me away from looking at stuff.

I will bring along a camera, but mostly just to record the adventure. My co-adventurers always have something in mind to find, so I like to get a photo of me standing in front of whatever that is. It's human nature - you know, get a photo of me standing in front of, well, whatever. But it really has never mattered all that much to me.

My high school art teacher once gave me some great advice about drawing - spend more time looking than drawing. When I started teaching, I would often see my students with their faces buried in their sketchbooks and wonder how could they draw what they couldn't see? Drawing happens in the mind, with your eyes, and getting it down on paper is just the physical part. In the last few years I may have gone a bit too far with this - just looking at stuff.

Luckily for me, human nature helps me out with history adventuring - or just looking at stuff. I can comfortably relegate the things that I have no interest in to my co-adventurer, such as driving the car (or flying the plane), going into the gift shop and looking at postcards, talking to people who want to tell stories, etc. I just wander off.

I live in Arizona, which is so beautiful and scenic, even right in the Phoenix area, that the mountains and clouds often look *Photoshopped*. So, just looking at it in cyberspace, which I do a lot of, and enjoy, isn't enough. I want to see it in real life. I want to see it in 3-D, in Vista-Vision, in Panorama.

It's the backgrounds that interest me, the foregrounds I leave for more responsible persons. Maybe you should drive.

Above: Looking north towards Squaw Peak (Piestewa Peak) at 24th Street and Thomas in the 1960s, Phoenix, Arizona.

Time traveling in Calabasas, California

If you've ever wondered what Southern California looked like before just about every square inch of it was covered with freeways and doughnut shops, all you have to do is to go to Calabasas. But there is a trick to it - if you wind up hanging out with the Kardashians, or going to the mall, I can understand. You may even need to go buy yourself a new Lamborghini. But once you're done doing that, please travel along with me to the end of Las Virgenes Canyon.

Las Virgenes Canyon, by the way, is Malibu Canyon south of the freeway. So, again, if you need to go to the beach, or to Pepperdine, I'll wait. Los Virgenes is the other way. It's a road less traveled, because, well, it goes nowhere.

Like so many places that I've visited over the years, doing what I call history adventuring, it puzzles a lot of people, because there's nothing there. There's no Starbucks, no gift shop. There is a hiking trail, but that's really not the point. And if you need to get in your cardio workout, I guess I'll understand. But I prefer to time travel.

Looking out at the Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, you can see what the Spanish explorers saw in the 16th Century. And you can hear the quiet. Don't bother with your cell phone, there's no reception.

It's an area of Live Oak trees and tall weeds (which is as much as I know about the native plants). There, on your left as you enter, is the tree that I call the Tree of Life. I will go there, and touch it. Sometimes I will just sit there, for a very long time. Yes, I know that there is nothing there, and that's the point.

What history adventuring is all about

I love history adventuring. Sometimes I call it time-traveling, and it just means doing the kind of things that allow me (within the limits of physics) to travel into the past and the future. And it's surprisingly easy, and surprising satisfying.

I started history adventuring when I moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s. While I was looking for a job, I stumbled into the public library in the Hollywood hills. If you've ever been there, you know that there are photos of Hollywoodland on the walls. Well, there was when I went there, hopefully they are still there! The photos are from the 1920s, when the subdivision of Hollywoodland was being built. And in that moment, when I was 25, something hit me. I had found the solution for the neurological strain of too much traffic, too much noise, too much stuff going on, and what I called the "L.A. Hee-Bee-Jee-Bees". I walked out of that library and looked at Beachwood Canyon differently. I could strip away all of the confusion, and see it as a simpler place. I was quickly addicted to this feeling.

I visited historic sites, such as Los Encinos. I have to admit that doing this as a young person caused a few strange looks from the people who worked at these places, who tended to be elderly. I would park my wicked-cool sports car, jump out and just look around. I had no interest in the gift shops, I didn't want a tour guide to talk to me. I tried to be polite to people who insisted on getting in my way, and trying to make me go into the gift shop and look at postcards, but I always slipped away. I still do.

When I walk around the Sahuaro Ranch (which is right nearby where I live), I can see it in the 1890s. Yeah, I've learned about it, and if anyone asks I can tell them who William Bartlett was, but that's not the point.

Nowadays I spend a lot of time in cyberspace, and I collect old photos of Phoenix, and give them away on a Google+ page. And every old image I find makes me wonder what it would have felt like to be there, at that place, at that time. So I history adventure. I'm not collecting anything physical, I'm not writing a book, I'm not selling anything. I tell people that I am doing this for fun, but it's a pretty mild way to describe something that has become so important to me that it just plain makes me feel better on planet earth. I recommend it.

The image above is of Sahuaro Ranch 100 years ago. This view is looking north from where Olive is now, just west of 59th Avenue. The historic palm trees are still there on the campus of Glendale Community College, and if you see someone walking around who appears to be fascinated by them, it's me.

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