I've lived in some pretty ratty neighborhoods in my day, but few have been as ratty as Wildermuth Road in Tempe.
Now don't get me wrong, I was glad to be able to live there for cheap. I was a "starving student" at ASU, not one of those wealthy kids who were attending as if it were a resort vacation. I didn't live in a frat, or in a "party house", I lived in a little, tiny converted garage on the border of Tempe and Mesa, on Wildermuth Road, just south of Apache. The neighborhood is still there, just west of Price Road, if you want to see it, although I can't imagine why, it's still pretty awful. It looks at a light industrial area between it and the railroad tracks. They've covered up the open irrigation laterals, which used to stink so badly and were always filled with mud, garbage, and assorted dead animals, but that's about it.
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There was no swimming pool, or kegger parties there. It was a cheap place to live. It had air-conditioning, which was nice, but the refrigerator didn't work very good, and I lived on a lot of beans and rice. Sure, when I get together with old friends from ASU these days, I listen to them talk about the concerts they went to, the bars where they drank beer at, the restaurants. But I mostly entertained myself as cheaply as possible. Concerts were out of the question for me, and I really didn't drink much beer, although I would have some socially, if someone else was paying for it. I did go to Minder Binders a couple of times, and the Chuckbox often.
When I first started attending ASU, I was still living in Phoenix. It was a long commute, and there really was no reason, except that that was where my apartment was. One of my professors overhead me talking about it, and suggested that I rent one of his properties. Apparently he purchased land and properties for investment, and rented them out cheap. Sounded perfect for me, so I moved.
One of my neighbors was an elderly gentlemen who told me that the property had originally been a dairy. I even found some foundations from some old buildings nearby. I told you that I had to entertain myself cheaply. I did a lot of walking around with my neighbor's dogs.
The dairy was the V.L. Wildermuth Jersey Ranch, which had been there since the 1931. Some of the land was subdivided in 1946 to become the Buena Park plat, which was my neighborhood. Vernon L. Wildermuth raised cows and chickens, and I even found some old documents where he wrote about Alfalfa Hoppers (whatever they are?) in 1913. He and his wife Marguerite are buried in the Double Butte cemetery in Tempe. That's the one over by the Buttes Resort.
When I look at a neighborhood like Wildermuth I often wonder what it looked like long ago. Was it ever nice? It must have been. At least new.
|At my place on Wildermuth in 1982|
|1931 article by V.L. Wildermuth. I don't know if that's him in the photo, or the property, but I would like to think so.|
|Plat for the Buena Park subdivision in 1946|