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

Buying a house for its garage in Phoenix, Arizona


When I bought the house that I am in right now, in Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix), I was looking for a garage. That is, I wanted a safe place for my car. I'm sure that I had some thought that it would be nice if there would be a place for me to sleep, etc., but mostly it was the garage that I was interested in.

I found exactly what I was looking for, as the house I own appears from the front to be nothing but garage. The front door isn't really visible, there is no large expanse of lawn, no big picture window. Mostly garage. And, of course, it opens directly into the house. I step out of my car, and in a couple of steps I'm in my kitchen. And it's all for my cars.

I've owned some really nice cars. And in my younger days I just hated the thought of them having to sleep outside, maybe in a parking lot where they could get rained on, or having the heat of the sun fade the paint, or be vandalized, or stolen. Yeah, I worried a lot. The idea of a garage fascinated me. It meant a room where my car could sleep in safety and comfort. And I would sleep better, too! I would no sooner let my car stay outside all night as I would lock my dog outside all night, either. Just unthinkable.

And yet, to my amazement, many of my neighbors didn't park their cars in their garages. Instead, they filled their garages with old cardboard boxes full of stuff, and made their cars sleep outside, on the driveway. I remember a neighbor with a beautiful Lexus that sat in the driveway, in 110-degree heat, while cardboard boxes got the luxury of shade in his garage.


To me, seeing cars parked in front of their garages always reminds me of the old Snoopy cartoon where he's sleeping on top of his dog house, not inside of it. And while it looks strange to me, to most people it makes perfect sense.

Using seat belts in the 1970s


When I learned to drive, in the 1970s, seat belts in cars were still a fairly new idea. I was the young generation who had to take classes in order to get our license, as opposed to my parents' generation, who I guess just mostly kind'a got behind the wheel of a car and figured it out themselves. At least that's what I heard. I had driving simulation in school, and movies that showed what happened with crashes, that sort of thing. So I didn't need all that much convincing to use seat belts.

Many of my friends in Phoenix were involved with motorsports, and since I liked sports cars and though I never raced, I followed their lead. They wore seat belts. I learned all of the defensive driving techniques, downshifting to stay on the power curve, accelerating into a turn, that kind of thing. The first rule of racing, of course, is that you can't win if you don't finish, and that meant staying alive.

At age 19 someone on the road in Phoenix did something stupid, and afterwards I remember looking up to see that I was still strapped into my car, wearing the seatbelt, alive. By the way, a special thank you to the Phoenix Fire Department, who was there in five minutes!

Of course, most of the people I knew didn't wear seat belts until they became required by law. And sometimes I think about the old days, when people didn't wear seat belts, and that mindset. I have to admit to being pretty shocked the first time I saw my parents wearing seat belts in their car! Of course, it was the law, so that made it all right.

Nowadays nobody minds when I put on a seatbelt when I get in their car. But I remember a time when that was a terrible insult to some people - so I didn't ride with those people.


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The high cost of living in Phoenix, Arizona, and how it changed


When you think of places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you realize that the cost of living in Phoenix, Arizona is much less. But it wasn't always that way. 100 years ago Phoenix was a very expensive place to live. And that's because everything had to be brought in, on trains, from places like California.

In California, however, there were ports with a constant supply of everything people needed. And that made everything cheaper there, from building materials to food. Ships from all over the world unloaded their goods right there, and if you were living on the coast, you got the best price. If you were living further inland, such as in Phoenix, you paid a high premium. That's true of any isolated community, with a poor infrastructure, which Phoenix was until after World War II.

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Personally, when I moved back to Phoenix from Los Angeles in my 30s, after having been laid off from a great corporate job, I took a ten thousand dollar-a-year pay cut. But my standard of living immediately went up. That's because the infrastructure of Phoenix had been steadily improving since its territorial days, and so everything from houses to gasoline was cheaper than in California.

When my friends from California visit, they are absolutely amazed at how inexpensive the cost of living is in Phoenix. And in the long run it came down to climate. The weather is nicer in California, which brought a lot more people there in the past 100 years. Crowded conditions there drove prices sky-high. In Phoenix, while the growth has been great, it does not compare to the explosion of population in California, and the crowding, especially along the coast.


Image above: Looking north northwest at 1st Avenue and Washington in the 1890s, Phoenix, Arizona.

Why the Arizona Republic newspaper was originally called The Republican


If you live in Phoenix, you probably read the newspaper called The Arizona Republic. If you lived in Phoenix before the 1930s, it was called the Arizona Republican. If this puzzles you, it just has to do with the history of the Republican Party after the Civil War in the United States. As you can imagine, times have changed. Time-travel with me.

At the risk of over-simplification, the Democratic Party in the United States was established to protect States' rights, and the Republican Party was established to protect the power of the Federal Government. To throw it into stark historical relief, in the 1800s some states wanted to protect their right to have slavery, and the Federal Government disagreed. The party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republicans, were dedicated to preserving the Union of the United States, even if it took going to war against the Confederate states.

If you know your Arizona history, you know that the Territory of Arizona was Confederate during the Civil War. And there were a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which was the abandonment of the Federal troops from the territory when the Civil War began. Pioneers in Arizona had been left alone, with no military protection from hostile Indians. The Confederate Army stepped in to offer the protection that had been taken away at that time. So, as you can imagine, there were some hard feelings towards the Federal Government (the Republicans) for quite a while! However, the Federal Government had firmly re-established itself after the Civil War, and Arizona was anxious to rid itself of what had become the stigma of having been Confederate.

In the 1800s, the two newspapers in the Phoenix area that represented each side of the States' rights vs. the power of the Federal Government were the Gazette (Democratic - States' rights) and the Republican (Federal Power). By 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt stepped into the Presidency, the Republican Party was clearly what most Arizona wanted to align with. The Federal Government was pouring money into Land Reclamation. In 1911, the Roosevelt Dam (a Federal Project) was built on the Salt River, which continues to be the most important dam in Phoenix to this day.

The Democratic Party during the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt changed everything. From that time on, it became the advocate of strong Federal Government, including things like the WPA (Works Progress Administration - which created jobs for the unemployed during the Great Depression). And so, quietly the Arizona Republican newspaper became the Arizona Republic.

Image above: The first issue of the Arizona Republican, Monday Morning, May 19th, 1890.


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How Ventura, California got its name


Ventura, California got its name from the Mission that was built there, in 1872, by the Franciscans. The full name is Mission San Buenaventura, which is Spanish for Saint Bonadventure.

Saint Bonadventure was a 13th Century Franciscan, and Bonadventure means "Good Fortune" in Italian.

Like most of the cities in California, Ventura has been shorted in modern use. In fact, Los Angeles was, believe it or not, originally called "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles." Like Ventura, it was established when California was part of New Spain.

I've heard Ventura pronounced "Ven-Tura" and "Ven-CHura", and while both are OK, most locals seem to prefer the first one.

The Franciscans, by the way, built Missions all of the way from San Diego to San Francisco. San Francisco was named for Saint Francis of Assisi, who gave the name to the order.


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!

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Why the most expensive Real Estate in the Phoenix area is northeast


The two most common misconceptions about the Phoenix, Arizona area are 1) it never rains there (it's a desert, after all!), and 2) the valley is completely flat. But people who know Real Estate know that these things are not true, and it has driven the value of land in the Phoenix, Arizona area for over 100 years.

The Salt River valley tilts gently from northeast to southwest. If you just imagine it as a gigantic pool table, the water runs towards the Salt River (south) and towards Tres Rios (west). Yes, it's a very slight tilt, and it wouldn't matter much if the valley didn't get the type of torrential rains it gets every summer, and if the snow didn't melt in the area just northeast of it, which is one of the largest watersheds on planet earth. And that means that Phoenix has been struggling with severe flooding since it began, in 1870.

There has been an enormous amount of flood control engineered in the valley, including the gigantic dam on the Salt River, built in 1911, called Roosevelt Dam. And there are a lot more dams, but, if you've lived in a valley for a while, or have studied its history, you know that it never seems to be enough to hold back the flood waters.

Historically, the worst flooding in the Phoenix area has been near the Salt River, and on the west side. My neighborhood, in Glendale, has been protected for the past twenty years by the largest flood detention area in the Salt River Valley, which gathers up the water that flows from the north and diverts it to the Agua Fria River. If you're curious about it, go walk along the Arizona Canal. By the time you get just north of where I am, it's so gigantic that it doesn't even look like a diversion channel anymore, it just looks like Thunderbird Paseo Park.

Home construction in Phoenix began moving north by northeast beginning in the 1890s. Old ads advertised that these areas were "high and dry". Unless your house was built next to a wash, you were OK. But for people who were assured that it never rained in Phoenix, or that the washes didn't flood going downhill, they were in trouble.


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!

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Giving away historical information and photos


My interest in historical information is just a hobby of mine, it's not my living. So I give it away as soon as I find it. And I do that by posting stuff on the web. I get a big kick out of learning stuff, and consider it payment enough if people help me, which they do.

I started thinking like this when I started working on my family genealogy, twenty years ago. When the internet was invented, I noticed that it made things so much easier to communicate with people elsewhere on the planet, and compare notes. Understanding history is sometimes like doing detective work, you are always looking for that one clue that will lead to more understanding. And the currency of this exchange is just a please and a thank you. Many times someone can help you simply by telling you that a street name had changed. And most of the time the favor can't be directly repaid, so you go looking for someone else to help. I call this "linear kindness".

Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. In fact, a lot of people are unwilling to share their hard-earned information. After doing research, or finding an old photo, they write "copyright" all over everything, and defend their material against anyone else who might use it without their permission. I guess I can understand people being offended by seeing their stuff end up on a pay site somewhere, or in a book that is earning money.

But many people, like me, aren't doing it for the money. In fact, most people aren't. And I've been saying for a long time that my greatest wish is that the precious history that I have been fortunate to find continues to live, and be shared. And I don't care if someone prints it in a book, or puts on a website, or makes T-shirts with it. I only care that precious history doesn't get lost, thrown in the trash, or forgotten. I don't know why I care so much about this, but I do.

That being said, I'm a Graphic Designer and Illustrator, and I respect copyright. So if you have written "copyright, all rights reserved, this means you" on historical stuff that you have found, I will respect it. But I wish you wouldn't. Please take those words off, and share.

Photo above: Camelback Mountain in the 1930s. The image is public domain. That means that you don't need my permission, or anyone else's, to use it. Share it, repost it, put it on your website. Just don't lose it, please. Thank you.

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Why walking along the beach in California is perfectly legal


If you've ever thought that it would be nice to take a stroll on the beach and walk all of the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and were wondering if it was legal, don't worry, it's fine, and perfectly legal. Well, most of the way. You can walk in front of the most expensive beach houses in Malibu and you aren't trespassing. That's because private property lines only extend to the tide line. Yeah, that's pretty vague, but a private property owner, no matter how rich, can't own the Pacific Ocean.

A lot of people walk along the beaches of California. These people are correctly called "transients", which just means that they keep moving along. Yes, they can be homeless people, or hobos, or whatever you want to call them. If you've lived in beach towns, like Santa Barbara, you've seen a lot of them, especially if you're like me and like to go to the beach early in the morning.

If you're going to walk the beaches of California, you have to know where it's legal to walk inland. There are stretches of beach that go for miles with no legal ingress inland, so it's best to be tough. Something I could never do!

Luckily, there are a lot of public beaches in California. And those are the places where transient people enter. And, no, they aren't breaking any laws by walking along the beach and then going into the town. They may look very rough and dirty (wouldn't you?) but there's no law against looking rough and dirty. It's only if they start doing illegal stuff, like stealing or begging (called panhandling in Santa Barbara) that they will attract the attention of the local police. Otherwise, they are free to do what they please. America is a free country, and as long as they exit and enter on public beaches, and walk right along the edge of the ocean, they're doing nothing wrong. Of course, a lot of people don't know this, so there's always the risk of being shot at, or a dog being sic'ed on you.

I've seen transient people of all ages. Young people carrying backpacks, old people carrying what they could. For me, it's hard to imagine putting up with that much discomfort, but I've always been pretty soft. I have a lot of respect for people who can do this, but I really can't recommend it.

By the way, a pretty important exception to this is Port Hueneme, which is a Naval Base near Oxnard. You wanna stay away from there - aside from everything else, they shoot live shells into the ocean there!

Image above: Hendry's Beach, Santa Barbara.

Why I love Calabasas, and why I'll never live there


There are few places on planet earth that have made me feel more at home than Calabasas, California, even though I've never lived there, and never will.

I live in Arizona, so when I refer to Calabasas, I just say "Los Angeles". But it's my Los Angeles. And actually, it's not Los Angeles at all.

My Los Angeles is centered in Thousand Oaks, and goes from Santa Barbara to Woodland Hills. If you know your California geography, you will be saying "huh?", but when you're there, it all flows together. Other than seeing more surfers than usual along the Ventura county line, it's all the same.

The reason that I moved to Phoenix is that I wanted to buy a house, which I did. In California, in my late twenties, despite having a good-paying corporate job, I despaired of ever being a homeowner. A lot of people were buying houses up in the desert, in places like Palmdale, and commuting their lives away. And when people suggested that I look at buying a house there I thought, well, I might as well live in Phoenix. Spending over three hours a day commuting wasn't what I considered living!

So I moved back to Phoenix. I got a good corporate job, I bought a house in Glendale, which is a nice little suburb. And I promised myself that I would still visit California. But I never really did, until a little over ten years ago, and "the car guys".

One of my oldest and dearest friends, whose name I will not mention here, sells classic cars at the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale. He lives in LA. And for many years he has been visiting me here, camping out for a week or so, and bringing whoever he wants to, with my full permission. And that included a good friend of his from Calabasas, whose name I will also not mention here. I just call them all "the car guys".

All I asked in exchange for using my house was the opportunity to do the same in California. And I did visit a few times. And then I visited Calabasas.

Something clicked for me in Calabasas. It's as if my DNA just matched up with the place. I could breathe. I felt at home. It's so hard to describe, but it's an amazing feeling. From that point on, I was determined to go back, which I have done for many years, and will be doing again this year.

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Why Phoenix tore down so many of its buildings in the 1970s


If you're like me, and you like looking at old photos of Phoenix, Arizona, you may be puzzled as to why so many of the buildings, especially downtown, are gone. It seems like there was some kind of conspiracy that the city went on some great rampage and destroyed a vibrant downtown area. The truth, unfortunately, is much more grim, and much more complex.

I never saw a vibrant downtown Phoenix. The downtown Phoenix that I first saw looked kind'a like the photo above. And the city had already been working as fast as it could to clear out these areas, which had become some of the seediest, dirtiest, most crime-infested areas that you could imagine.

Whatever went wrong with downtown Phoenix began happening in the late 1960s. By the 1970s it was not only an embarrassment to the city, it was dangerous. Even up through the 1990s, when I worked downtown, there were still plenty of places where it was unwise to walk past. The flophouse across the street from where I worked (which is now Chase Tower) always had people sleeping on the sidewalks, and doing, uh, other things.

I can understand why nobody talks about this. It must have been heartbreaking for the people who remembered downtown Phoenix as a vibrant place to work, and live, to see it become filled with X-rated theaters, dive bars, and flop houses. And many of these old buildings weren't fit for animals to live in, let alone people.

7th Street and Jefferson in the 1960s, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking north.

Nowadays when I visit downtown Phoenix I am absolutely amazed at how successful it has become. I didn't see the worst of it, but I know about it, and that makes what I see today all that more beautiful.

Image above: looking east on Washington at 3rd Street in 1977, Phoenix, Arizona.

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Arizona Indian Tribes no longer enemies


If you've read your Arizona history, you know that long before the pioneers of Phoenix, like Jack Swilling, and John Y.T. Smith, arrived, Arizona had been a battlefield. It was a place of war between Indian tribes, and they were bitter enemies. And if you've never read about that, it's not surprising. It's horrible. And although it's part of Arizona history, it really doesn't do to dwell on it too much nowadays. The war ended a long time ago, and those who had been enemies became enemies no longer.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and post them on a Google+ page, and everything I see makes me want to learn more. Last year, with encouragement from my Indian friends, I started posting, and writing, about the Phoenix Indian School. Because, even though there are a lot of photos of it, and even though there is a major street in Phoenix by that name, no one seems to talk about it. And those who do tend to just display ignorance, which saddens me.

Take a look at the 1898 Phoenix Indian School report above. Take a real good look. Nothing surprising, right? Now travel back in time to when this was printed. The school had been established only seven years earlier for the Pimas. And now enrollment was expanding to include the Apaches.

The elders must have wished for a day when hatred and bloodshed would end, and enemies would be forgotten. That Pima and Apache children could play together, be brothers and sisters. It must have seemed like a wild dream at the time, but it came true, and is true today.

More about the Phoenix Indian School

http://www.historyadventuring.com/2015/05/memories-of-phoenix-indian-school.html

http://www.historyadventuring.com/2015/05/when-phoenix-indian-high-school-played.html


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! To support History Adventuring on Patreon, please go to patreon.com/PhoenixHistoryAdventuring. Thank you!

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

How the Spanish Inquisition affected the history of California


Everyone knows about the Spanish Inquisition. If you're like me, you've heard of Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor, who lived in the 1400s. You also may have visited some of the Missions that were built in the 1700s in California. And yes, there is a connection. And while there are many things that people don't talk about, I will. Time-travel with me to the Dark Ages.

Friar Tomás de Torquemada

The Dark Ages in Europe, also called the Medieval Era, can also be called The Age of Faith. No, I'm not defending the Spanish Inquisition, I'm looking at it from their point of view. And while ultimately the Age of Faith gave way to the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment, that doesn't help you to understand the history of California. For that, you will have to understand Faith, a Faith that was stronger than the fear of death.

When the United States of America was established, it embraced the ideals of the Enlightenment. That is, humanism, truths that were seen as self-evident. The new country rejected the idea of Kings, and that government needed to be based on divine power. This was a country by the people, and for the people. There was to be no official state religion. Authority to govern was the power of the people, not God.

California, created as New Spain, was not a product of this ideology. Spain was a Catholic country, and even though the extremist attitudes of people like Torquemada had diminished, the basic concept remained - the importance of spreading the word of the Gospel all over the world. And so, while we take the word "Mission" for granted, take another look it it. It was a project, a goal. A mission for God, that people were willing to die for. And many people did.


The Missions of California have become curiosities, tourist attractions. Most people just know that they were built "back in the day". That day was a dangerous time, and a time of Faith.


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!

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The worst-kept secret in Phoenix - how hot it gets


One of the things that the Chamber of Commerce doesn't like to dwell on is the heat in the summer in Phoenix, Arizona. And if you've ever lived through a Phoenix summer, you can understand. I've lived through a lot of them, and the blistering heat isn't something that I sit around with my out-of-town guests and talk about, when they visit, in January.

But the high temperatures of Phoenix in the summer are a reality. And while most of the historical documentation that I find about Phoenix doesn't really talk much about it (can you blame them?), let's face it, Phoenix gets unbearably hot in the summer.

The article above mentions the temperature getting up to 109 on June 13th, 1909. I've searched a lot in the archives of the Library of Congress for mentions of the weather in Phoenix, and haven't found much. And that's understandable - the newspaper wanted to promote Phoenix, not indicate that it unbearably hot, and besides, air conditioning wouldn't be invented for a long time!

As I write this, on June 23rd, 2015, it's already approaching 100 degrees in my backyard in Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix). Yes, in the shade. And summer has just begun! The temperatures won't start going down until September, so a lot of people will be going out of town, if they can afford it. This was also a very popular thing to do in old-time Phoenix, and as near as I can tell, only the desert rats (like me) who had to stay there did.

I enjoy history adventuring, and time traveling, and I like Phoenix. But I like being able to do it with the modern convenience of air conditioning, that's for sure!


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!

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2015 and the backlash to rebellion


In my lifetime I have seen rebellion as seen as very cool, and also seen as evil. And rebellion has always been a backlash to conformity. Let's time-travel back to the 1960s.

The 1960s were a time of rebellion in America. Led mostly by young people, the protests were against the status quo, which included the war in Vietnam. Comparing the rebellious 1960s to the much more stable and law-abiding 1950s gives a vivid view of the attitudes at the time. This was a time of protesting the oppression of big government, and big business. And it did change the world. America's involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975. New laws were passed to protect the rights of the individual.

The rebellious spirit was seen on TV and in movies. Popular heroes at the time were antagonist to the police, and car chases became almost a symbol of rebelling against the system. Take a look at "Smokey and the Bandit". The hero was the bandit, and Smokey (which was slang for a highway patrolman - who wore hats that looked like the one the cartoon character Smokey the Bear wore) were the bad guys.

The backlash started in the '90s. Cars running away from the police were no longer seen as rebellious, they were seen as dangerous, and they became the bad guys. The police became the good guys. In Mike Meyer's movie "Austin Powers", filmed in 1997, the theme is perfectly expressed: what was good back in the day had become evil.

Now that it's 2015, it's interesting to me to see how the roles of rebellion seem to have reversed. Young people are taking a new stance, and standing up for things that would have seemed like conformity in the 1960s. Young people are speaking out against racism, they are speaking out against hate. And maybe that's the most rebellious attitude of all.

The connection between Goodyear tires, the Goodyear blimp, and cotton in Arizona


If you've lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area for a while you may have wondered if there is a connection between Goodyear tires, The Goodyear Blimp, cotton in Arizona, and the town of Goodyear. There is.

It all starts with the explosive demand for rubber tires during World War I. Back then cotton was used to reinforce rubber tires, and the best cotton for it was wildly expensive as it was only grown in the middle east. But the Goodyear company decided that it would try to grow that type of cotton in an area of the US that had a very similar climate to the middle east - Phoenix, Arizona.

1917 ad for the Cotton Department of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Phoenix, Arizona.

They were successful, to put it mildly. So much so that Cotton became one of the five "Cs" of the Arizona economy, along with Copper, Cattle, Citrus, and Climate. And as the demand for rubber tires with the new-fangled invention of the "automobile" grew, Goodyear, and Arizona cotton, thrived.

Of course, cotton hasn't been used to reinforce tires for a long time, so its importance to the Arizona economy has faded into history. But there is a very strong history there, and it continues to this day.

The Goodyear sign in the 1960s, Grand Avenue, Thomas Road, and the I-17 Freeway, Phoenix, Arizona. The sign doesn't say Goodyear anymore, but it's still the same shape.


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!

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Speaking Spanish in California


Nowadays, when I mention that I lived in parts of California where I spoke some Spanish, I usually see a typical reaction. People who know me as the corporate guy, living in suburbia, are sometimes shocked when they hear that I lived in some pretty rough neighborhoods in my youth, like Canoga Park, California. I wasn't there long, but it was long enough for me to get a taste of what the world looks like to people who speak a foreign language in America.

My apartment in Canoga Park, which was close to where I worked in a fashionable and expensive part of the San Fernando Valley called Woodland Hills, was relatively affordable. I was getting a decent salary from the place I worked, and my future looked bright for promotion. In the meantime, I lived in Canoga Park. And mostly it was just a place to hang my hat. I can't say that I spent all that much time there. I was either at work, at the gym, or at my girlfriend's. But sometimes I just had to be there, and boredom would overtake me.

The apartment complex in Canoga Park had no outside spaces - at all. No pool, nothing but the building and a parking lot. So people who actually wanted to be outside just stood around in the parking lot. Mostly they were tough-looking young men, mostly Chollos, and a real oddball, my next door neighbor, a big red-headed guy, who was usually pretty drunk. He would hang out with the Chollos, drinking beer, and shouting at people, mostly trying to get them from driving too fast through the parking lot, where there were a lot of people, including children.

When my big red-headed drunken friend introduced me to his Chollo friends, they were absolutely amazed that I could speak a little Spanish. My Spanish was pretty terrible, I know, but the guys didn't mind. And it was the first time I'd seen people who had been very uncomfortable speaking English, just relax and drop back into the language that they knew. And it felt good to me, too. I call this "Budweiser Spanish" - when you're with people who aren't being judgmental, probably because they're already have had a few!

Recently I decided to get back to practicing my Spanish, and a few days ago I started "Duolingo" on my iPhone. And of course, I want to practice. I have a good friend who sometimes takes me along when he goes to Dennys who speaks some Spanish, and he understands that I want to practice. He has also encouraged me, when appropriate, to say "quiero practicar mi Español" (I want to practice my Spanish) when we are out and about and hear someone speaking Spanish, like at a Mexican Food restaurant. By the way, you never, ever, just start talking a foreign language to someone based on their appearance, that is very rude! I've seen people do this, and it just about makes me ill.

I sometimes think about the Chollos of Canoga Park, and my big red-headed friend, and wonder how they're doing, or if the angels have taken them. I was glad to get out of Canoga Park, but I'm glad that I got to experience it.

Phoenix, Arizona and the luxury of space



One of things that I noticed when I moved back to Phoenix from Los Angeles was the luxury of space. Not only big skies, but wide streets, plenty of parking, plenty of room to move. Even the gas stations amazed me, with the generous amount of room around the pumps, and most often a huge expanse of land between it and the road, with nothing but landscaping.

For people who grew up in Phoenix, and have never lived anywhere else, this seems to be invisible to them. But I remember the narrow streets of Minneapolis, where I grew up, and the crowded spaces of Los Angeles. I have never lived in really crowded places, like Manhattan, or Tokyo, and that kind of stuff makes my mind boggle!

When I left Los Angeles, the city had just placed a maximum on the number of people who could legally live in a one-bedroom apartment: twelve. Twelve. And the apartment complex where I lived had one (1) parking space for me. If someone else parked in it, I had to drive around the neighborhood for quite a while, looking for street parking.

I also noticed the shoulders along the side of the freeway in Phoenix, where you could pull over in the case of an emergency. Most of the freeways in Los Angeles that I recall were solid lanes, with no room along the side. It's what I have come to appreciate as "margin for error", and "breathing room".

No, I have no desire to go live out in the middle of nowhere. I like the balance of life, and room, in the Phoenix, Arizona area. And every once in a while, when I am riding along with someone who grew up in Phoenix, they will mention how terrible the traffic is, or how crowded somewhere is, or how long they have to wait in line, or the lack of parking, or something like that. And I just smile and look at the luxury of space.

I like Phoenix.

Image above: the Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, Arizona.


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In defense of the stucco houses of Phoenix


Most houses built in the Phoenix area after the 1970s have stucco. This type of construction is referred to as a "balloon frame", which is made of wood, covered with mesh, and then covered over with a fine plaster called stucco.

I'm interested in old photos of Phoenix, and architecture from all eras. And, maybe because of that, people assume that I dislike modern architecture, and stucco. I don't dislike modern architecture, and I don't dislike stucco. I do dislike seeing the integrity of design being damaged by well-meaning people who, for whatever reason, have taken a dislike to it.

I'm not a historian, I'm a time-traveler. And that means that when I look at a neighborhood from another era, I want to feel as if I were actually there when the houses were new. When I go to a car show, I want to see the cars as if they were in the dealer's new car showroom.

If I've learned anything from my time-traveling, it's that people tend to get tired of what they have seen too much of. I call it the "garage sale syndrome". It's that feeling that you get from seeing the same old stuff you've seen over and over again. And, unfortunately, it makes people want to throw things away, or destroy things.

Sometimes when I time-travel to the future I wonder how people 50 years from now will feel about the stucco houses of Phoenix. I hope that they appreciate their design integrity, and don't feel any need to "modernize" them.


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How the streets and freeways work in Phoenix, Arizona


Phoenix, Arizona utilizes freeways and several types of surface streets for its traffic. A reluctance to build freeways in the 1970s and 80s was overcome in the 1990s and is the reason why Phoenix has some of the widest, best-designed, and safest freeways in the country.

In addition to these modern, well-designed freeways, the valley boasts very wide main streets. All of these streets have at least two lanes in each direction, and a dedicated turning lane in the center. This allows these streets to be used as "mini-freeways". No parking is allowed along these main roads, and most have long "exit ramps" for smooth turning into shopping centers, etc. Although it can seem confusing at first, if they are treated with the same respect given to freeways, they are fast and safe. The far left lane is the fast lane, and slower traffic should stay to the right. The speed limit is posted at 40 miles per hour, but, like on the freeways, five to ten miles per hour above that is still considered safe. While there is no minimum speed on these main roads, if for some reason you need to keep your vehicle below 40 miles per hour, it is best to stay off of them. Luckily, there is a place for slower traffic, which bisects the main streets, which are one mile apart, at half-mile increments.

The half-mile streets are also extremely wide, and usually have a dedicated left-turn lane. These streets do allow street parking, and many include a lane for bicycling. The speed limit for the half-mile streets is 30 miles per hour, and that speed limit is usually held. While passing schools, the speed limit is reduced. Drivers in Phoenix respect the speed limits on these streets.

The neighborhood streets, which are still very wide, have a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, and usually have traffic calming devices, such as speed bumps. The wideness of the streets and the excellent visibility tempts drivers to go too fast, but these are streets with children, bicycles, vehicles backing out of driveways, etc. so these routes are best used only when entering and exiting neighborhoods.

Although Phoenix has a reputation as a tourist community, the vast majority of the people using Phoenix streets and freeways are the regular commuters. If you are a winter visitor, it's courteous to avoid the Phoenix freeways and streets during rush hour. Also, the width of the streets and the number of lanes can often make turning left onto them difficult, and potentially dangerous. Treat these wide streets like mini-freeways and you will be safer. And just like freeways, the main streets of Phoenix are no place for bicycles and pedestrians. It's not illegal to ride a bicycle on a main street in Phoenix, as it is on the freeway, but the narrowness of the lanes and the speed makes it difficult for drivers to accommodate you. Again, if you are using a slow-moving vehicle, stay on the half-mile streets.

If you come from somewhere that has congested traffic, you may be surprised at how fast the traffic moves in Phoenix. It all comes from outstanding engineering, and utilizing the wide open spaces of Arizona.


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Why Glendale Avenue becomes Lincoln Drive in Phoenix, Arizona


If you drive around much in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you become aware of the "becomes". For example, Dunlap becomes Olive here in Glendale. But my favorite "become" is when Glendale Avenue becomes Lincoln Drive. To understand this, you have to know about a man named John C. Lincoln, the Camelback Inn, and a temperance colony from 1892 named Glendale.

Looking north up 58th Drive (1st Avenue then) from Grand Avenue at Glendale, Arizona

A temperance colony is a group of people who have decided to live where intoxicating beverages are not sold. And while the idea of a temperance colony didn't last, the community of Glendale did. And as it thrived and grew, the road to it, from Central Avenue, was named Glendale Avenue.

Camelback Inn in the 1930s. The road to it, which was from Scottsdale Road, was named after John C. Lincoln.

In the 1930s, way on the east side of the valley, a wealthy entrepreneur named John C. Lincoln (yep, the same guy who built the hospital in Sunnyslope) built a resort called the Camelback Inn. The road to it was from Scottsdale Road, and since he paid for it, he named the road after himself. Actually, it was kind of just a long driveway. A very long driveway.

John C. Lincoln

No one really thought that these two roads would ever connect. After all, they ended in a "dead end" at the Phoenix Mountains. But in the 1960s, they did.

And when the two roads connected up, neither side wanted to take the name of the other side. So that's why it "becomes".

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The man who bought Phoenix, Arizona - John Alsap


In order for the new townsite of Phoenix, Arizona to be divided and sold into lots, it needed to be purchased from the Federal Government. Probate Judge John T. Alsap did that in 1867.

Just as today, bureaucratic red tape held everything up for a very long time, and it wasn't until December of 1870 that lots began to be offered for sale. And they sold well! Luckily for John Alsap, who had signed for $400 (a considerable amount in that day). So for three years, he owned all of Phoenix, at least on paper.

Alsap was quite influential in the founding of Phoenix. He was the first Territorial Treasurer of Arizona, the first Probate Judge of Maricopa County, the first mayor of the city of Phoenix, and four times member of the Arizona Legislature, twice from Yavapai County, and twice from Maricopa County, being President of the Council in the 5th, and Speaker of the House in the 18th Legislative Sessions.



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The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office case of mistaken identity - John Alsap



Since I'm a collector of old photos of Phoenix, and am interested in history, I see a lot of mistakes. I see mistakes in books, on the web, just about everywhere. It's usually some garbled information that got passed down with the "copy and paste syndrome" - where people fail to go back and check facts against original documents. I understand it's human nature to be trusting of information and just copy it and post it, or publish it.

My first reaction when someone gives me some historical information is to double-check the documentation. I know that mistakes happen, and I try not to add to their continuation. So I pride myself on the precision of what I post, especially about Phoenix. And usually when someone questions me about something I've posted, claiming that it's wrong, I answer politely that I thank them, but really, I usually can tell that they're doing the "I read on the internet somewhere..." or "I always heard that..." And no matter how nice I am about it, I'm pretty sure that people are insulted that I just don't accept what they say, without any documentation.

So when I got an email a few of years ago that told me that I was in error of a name of the person above, I wasn't surprised. Like I say, I get that stuff all of the time. And besides, I had found the photo on the website for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. And it had been on the wall in their Hall of Sheriffs for over sixty years. It seemed like a source that I could trust. But they were wrong.

And it all started with an article in the local Phoenix newspaper. They had done the same thing that I had done - they had taken their information from the Maricopa County Sheriff''s Office. And the person who had sent me the email was following up on that, and was convinced that the newspaper was wrong, the Sheriff's Office was wrong, and I was wrong.


And then I got the documentation. And over the years I've found a lot of photos of John Alsap, the first mayor of Phoenix, and who deserved more than to be misidentified as a former Sheriff (he never was). It started with a Who's Who (which is a book that used to be written that did short biographies of prominent people in the community), and suddenly I was finding a lot of information on John Alsap, who was quite an important historical figure.

So, the Sheriff's Office changed the website, and took down the misidentified photo, after 65 years. Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself got involved, and a retraction was printed in the newspaper.

By the way, I'm not going to post the erroneous photo here. The wrong name was actually written right on the photo, and the scan has it. So it will probably reappear all over again, because that's what happens.

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Walking from San Diego to San Francisco in 1776


When I think of 1776, I think of the Declaration of Independence, the 4th of July, George Washington, that kind of stuff. I really never thought about California, but I am now.

Walk with me. It's 1776 and we are going to walk from the oldest Mission in California, which is in San Diego, to the newest one, which has just been completed in San Francisco. It's a dangerous road, but we are holy men, with faith. We are Franciscan Friars.

There is a place to stop about every thirty miles, which is what is considered a good day's ride on a horse. We do have horses, but we are walking alongside of them, as they are carrying enough. The road that we are walking on will come to be known as the King's Highway, El Camino Real. We are in New Spain.

Along the way, we meet the natives, which is what we call the Indians we meet. If they have been introduced to Christianity, we call them neophytes. Mostly we are speaking in Spanish, but of course, we read Latin, and are learning a bit of the native languages.

It may take us several months to walk to San Francisco, and along the way we will find our strength in God, and pray. We imagine that someday great cities will be built along this road, but for now we rely on the kindness of strangers, and our faith.

Image above: Mission Dolores in San Francisco, California. Misión de San Francisco de Asís

More about the Mission in San Diego here

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Why the city of Phoenix keeps changing


If you're an old-timer living in the Phoenix, Arizona area, that is, for more than a couple of years, you probably have noticed the constant change. It seems like "every ten minutes" there is a new building. There is always road construction.

Like Los Angeles, Phoenix began as a sleepy little town. And like LA, it has grown. But unlike LA, it still has room to grow. Los Angeles reached its limit long ago, hemmed in by mountains on one side, and by the ocean on the other. It is not a lack of the progressive spirit that limits LA, it has just run out of room to grow.

The history of Phoenix is all about people who believed in progress. These people were "unrealistically optimistic" that a great city would someday grow in the desert. You can point to Darrell Duppa, who named the city after the mythical Phoenix bird that grew out of the ashes. You can look at Dwight Heard, real estate wizard from the turn of the century through the 1920s. And then came Walter Bimson, who even put the word "progress" on the logo of his bank. And although it said "Progressing with Arizona", it really applied mostly to Phoenix.

Change, and progress, has been synonymous with the city of Phoenix since it began. And it looks like that progress will continue. Phoenix will be forever young!


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Why the houses all look the same in Phoenix


If you live in suburban Phoenix, like I do, and have ever driven past the house you were looking for, even if it's your own, you know that Phoenix is a sea of same-looking houses. But it's not a civic regulation that all of the houses have to match each other exactly in a community, and in all communities, it comes down to not wanting to be the "oddball house" that won't sell.

Yes, Phoenix is driven by the real-estate market. And if your house is strange, even its location won't save it from being passed over by potential buyers. And it isn't just the real estate people who are dictating this. Get involved with any discussion about the look of a house in Phoenix and you will find that "everyone" insists on beige stucco.



Ad for townhouses at 77 E. Missouri in 1976. Some of these units have been kept in their original condition, out of respect for the time period.

A stylish Phoenix home interior from 1973

The larger effect of this way of thinking, in addition to creating a city that looks incredibly bland, is the destruction of anything that "offends the eye". Fifty years ago, the ugly old Victorian houses were torn down as fast as possible, to the cheers of "people of good taste". Today, many people look at homes and interiors of the 1970s and have the same reaction. Destroy it! Modernize it! Tear it down!

Speaking for myself, I have respect for all types of design, from all eras, even the 1970s. Someday it will all seem so beautiful, and so original. And to me, it already is.

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Melinda's Alley, Wall Street, and Cactus Way in Phoenix, Arizona


Although you won't find these street names on maps, Melinda's Alley, Wall Street, and Cactus Way were recognizable addresses during the early years of Phoenix. And yes, there were houses and businesses on them.

The reason for this is the gigantic scale of the layout of the blocks of Phoenix going back to 1870. While this huge scale works fine for the skyscrapers of today, when Phoenix was young, these spaces were divided up for a more "human scale".

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As you can see on the map, Wall Street and Cactus Way were the in-between streets between 1st Avenue and 1st Street. If you're old enough to remember when the Greyhound Bus Terminal was on Jefferson, you could have walked the alley (Cactus Way) north to Washington. Traces of Melinda's Alley are still visible, running east and west through Heritage Square and even as far west as the northern edge of the Adams Hotel (the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel) and north of the Heard Building. Of course now it's just an alley, but for a long time it was just like any other street.

The gigantic scale of the streets and avenues of Phoenix still create a problem right up to modern times. That's why there are Drives, Places, and Lanes.

Donofrio's Cactus Candy on Washington between Central and 1st Street.  Look closely and you can see the "Way" of Cactus Way in the photo. You're looking west on Washington.

Donofrio's, Cactus Candy, and the Ellingson Building in Phoenix, Arizona

If you were a kid in 1916, you have fond memories of Donfrio's Cactus Candy at Washington and Cactus Way (just east of Central on the south side of Washington). The building itself, called the Ellingson building, which was from territorial times, survived until it was torn down in the 1970s. At the time the building was taken down, brick by brick, and put in storage, because of its historic significance, to be rebuilt elsewhere later. This never happened. Parts of this building are still in private collections to this day.

The Ellingson Building in 1899 (the beige building at left). You're looking west on Washington from 1st Street.

The Ellingson Building in 1916

The Ellingson Building in the 1950s

The Ellingson Building in the 1960s


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Arizona State University - from Normals to Bulldogs to Sun Devils


A few years ago, about the time I started posting old photos of Phoenix on a Google+ page, a new logo was designed for my school, Arizona State University, which is a pitchfork, and is a simplification of the Sun Devil "Sparky" mascot that was adopted in 1948, and which had been created by former Disney animator Berk Anthony. So all of this got me wondering how old-timers reacted to the changes in their school over the years. And since I'm not really interested in history, but I am interested in time-traveling, I'm trying to go back and see it from the point of view of the people who were there at the time. And believe me, it gets really weird, starting with the original name of the school, the Tempe Normal School.


A Normal School is what a school that taught teachers was called, that is, a teaching school (which taught teaching "norms"). And since that was the original name of ASU, the teams, naturally enough, were called the Normals. Whether they had a mascot or not seems to be open to debate, but that's an owl there on the steps next to the football players posing with the Territorial Cup in the photo above from 1899. So, if you're wondering why the football team there on the steps of Old Main has Ns on their jerseys, it's because they were the Normals.

1911 ad for the Tempe Normal School


The Tempe Normal School Baseball team in 1907

Bob Smith in 1929

When the name of the school changed to the Tempe Teacher's College, a new name for the team was needed. And really, this was the first time that the mascot and the team names were the same - Bulldogs. So, if you're an alumnus from 1922 to 1946, you are a Bulldog. Of course, if you went to the school between 1885 and 1922, since you were a Normal, you were probably pretty outraged at the change. See what I mean?

Animator Berk Antony and Sparky the Sun Devil

I'm still doing more research on whatever possessed a successful school to start using a devil as a mascot. It's been around so long now that most people never give it a second thought, but when it was a new idea I can't help but think that there were a few people who questioned the wisdom of using an image of Satan for a school? Of course, the cheerful cartoon of "Sparky" helped people get used to the idea, I'm sure.

My feeling about all of this is that people are always proud of their school, and supporters of tradition. I don't know anyone personally who is old enough to have been a Bulldog, or a Normal, but they're as much of a part of the history of ASU as Sun Devils (and that's me). From my point of view, it's all Arizona State University, and Sun Devils, but that's only because I'm too young to know it before that.

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