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

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.


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Accidental erasing of the history of Indians in Arizona


Since I've begun my study of the history of Indians in Arizona, I've discovered an unintended result of the renaming of tribes, the accidental erasing of their history.

No, it's not a conspiracy, man. It's just that if you rename a tribe from Pima to Akimel O'odham, you will make it impossible for future researchers, if they don't know the original name, to find original history, in old books.

And that's why, although I'm embracing the new names of the tribes, and learning them, I am still making a note of the names that they were known by for hundreds of years. There's enough intentional erasing of history, and re-writing of history, going on nowadays, adding accidental erasing just makes it worse.

The Akimel O'odham, or the Pima people, have been a major force in the history of Arizona for hundreds of years. Walk into any library and you will find a lot of information on them, going back to the days of Father Kino. The Pimas are woven into the history of Phoenix so tightly that the city just wouldn't have been able to survive without them.

Now don't get me wrong. There are some really terrible things that have happened in the history of Arizona, especially with regards to Indian people. But I want to know the whole story, and I'm willing to take the time to do the research. And if that's you too, please walk with me. I'm a man in a maze, and I don't know where the next turn will take me, but I'm willing to make the journey.

Thank you for walking with me.

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The beauty of seeing Phoenix, Arizona IRL - In Real Life


When I first moved to Phoenix, Arizona from Minneapolis I was absolutely amazed. There were mountains, the gigantic desert, and sunsets. I mean, wow, sunsets. People joke about Arizona sunsets, but until you've seen one IRL - in real life, you would never know that no photo even comes close.

Like most people who live anywhere, after several years I stopped noticing. I spent my time looking at my computer, or looking at traffic lights. And at that point, I might as well be living anywhere. The beauty of Phoenix disappeared for me.

Then after a terrible accident (please don't ask, it was a long time ago, and I got better) I got to see it all again, with fresh eyes. At first I was delighted just to see a sunrise. Then it started to occur to me that I was in Phoenix, Arizona. And I wanted to see it, not just on my computer, and not just pictures of it, but in real life (IRL). I wanted people to take me somewhere, anywhere.

I want to try to tell you what I saw. Not only the beauty of the real world, but the amazing beauty of Arizona. I mean, really, people all over the world subscribe to Arizona Highways just to see what is right nearby me. Mountains, vistas, and did I mention the sunsets?

Nowadays I have a collection of friends who go "History Adventuring" with me. I don't drive on these adventures, I'm a better sight-seer than driver. I can see Camelback Mountain when it was just orange groves. I can see the Apaches hunting in the Papago Mountains. I can see the Hohokam people walking along the Salt River.

I collect photos of old Phoenix, and I post them on the web, but mostly what I want to see is Phoenix in real life - IRL. It's so beautiful, and so amazing, I just can't stop looking at it. Yeah, maybe you should drive.

Image at the top of this post: Camelback Mountain in 1956, Phoenix, Arizona.

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Understanding the names of Indian Tribes in Arizona


As I continue my journey of discovery of Indians in Arizona, I am finding out that the names are all pretty much the same - they are the people. “Us and them” pretty much describes the relationship between tribes, whether at peace, or at war. But that is not to say that the names of the tribes lack meaning, or are in any way trivial. Its just, well, that you really can't call every tribe “The People” anymore than you can call every city “The City”.

The names we know of tribes are given by outsiders. The name of my tribe (and I know it sounds like I am kidding here) was given to them by the Romans. They were the Britons. Yes, that's where the name of Britain comes from. I will never have any way of knowing what my tribe called itself, but it was most mostly probably the people. And the Romans were simply the enemy.

When you use the names of Indian Tribes in Arizona, or the names of any tribe in the world, you will probably be using the name that was given to them by an outsider, maybe a friend, maybe not. If you know your Arizona history, you know that from the 1500s to the 1800s a lot of Spanish was spoken. Yes, the area that now includes the State of Arizona was part of New Spain, and then New Mexico. And even nowadays a lot of Spanish is heard. So some the tribal names are misunderstood words that have been translated in Spanish.

In my lifetime I am seeing a breaking away of the names given to tribes by outsiders. The names are being replaced by the names that may seem like tongue-twisters, as they show respect for the language of the tribe. If you've not comfortable pronouncing them, it's not surprising. The sounds aren't English, or even Spanish. They are the sounds of the people.

This is what I have so far:

Pima - Akimel O'odham. In their language, it means The River People. And the river, by the way, is the Gila.

Papago - Tohono O'odham. These are the Desert People.

Maricopa - Piipaash. The People.

For purposes of continuing my historical research, I will call these tribes by they names given to them by outsiders. I am an outsider myself. But I will know that they are the people.

Image above: 1889 photo of Maricopa and Pima Warriors, and a cowboy.


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Who the new automotive building at Glendale Community College is named after


The lettering just went up on the new Dr. Phillip D. Randolph Automotive Technology Building at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona. Since I go past that building, which is just east of the Matt O. Hanhila Stadium, on almost a daily basis, and have been watching it being built, I have been curious about it. So when the name went up, I had to find out who is was named after. If you like Phoenix, and Glendale, history, it’s pretty interesting.


Dr. Phillip D. Randolph was a former President of GCC, who retired in 2004. He was a teacher at Maryvale High School from 1968 to 1972. But here’s the part that’s interesting to me: His father, Martin L. Randolph, built the Randolph Ranch, which was on the southeast corner of Olive and 59th Avenue, in 1915. And if the name sounds familiar, and if you have driven past GCC in the past decade, it’s the name of the subdivision there.

So there’s 100 years of Glendale history there in that name. I like learning about connections like this.

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What the Salt River Project (SRP) in Arizona was, and is


Every month I give some money to the nice people at SRP. They are kind enough to supply me with electricity so that I can have air conditioning. Thank you, SRP! I'm looking at one of my bills now, and it just says SRP. But to me, it will always be the Salt River Project.

If you understand the Salt River Project, it answers many questions about why a city like Phoenix sits out in the middle of the desert, and has done so well. And to do that, you have to do a little traveling, and a little time-traveling.

If you live in the Phoenix area, and think that the Salt River is that big empty area that goes past the freeway, think again. Phoenix does live along the banks of a flowing river, it's just that its course has just been changed, and used for water and power.

Start with the Roosevelt Dam, which is northeast of Apache Junction. If you're really adventurous, drive there along the Apache Trail. If you do, it will really give you a clear picture of how absolutely ridiculous the idea of using the water from this river to irrigate the valley was. But in 1911, there were a lot of hair-brained schemes. This one worked!

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Personally, I like the humility of the people who called what they were doing a “project”. You know, something to work on for a while, to see if it worked. But the project goes way back before then. The course of the Salt River had been re-routed by people in the valley for thousands of years. If you visited Pueblo Grande in school and didn't pay much attention, go visit it again. And you should be asking, “what in the world were these people thinking?” I call this kind of stuff “unrealistic optimism".

In the 1860s, a group of ex-confederate soldiers, led by a guy named Jack Swilling, started digging the modern canals. And somehow, he was able to raise the money to get it done. Can you imagine? Stand out in the middle of the desert today, miles from anything, and ask yourself if you would have invested? Or started digging? Now that is one big project!

Phoenix was built along the Salt River, and you can still see it flowing, every day. It's in the canals. And if you look at the old SRP logo you can see how the Salt River not only provided water, it provided power, and it still does. Thank you, SRP!


Moving from Minneapolis to Phoenix


It's November, and even though it's been a long time since I moved away from Minneapolis, as a teenager, I still stop and marvel at how wonderful it is here at this time of year.

Now, don't get me wrong - Minneapolis is a wonderful place and I enjoyed growing up there. Well, most of the time. But not the winter. I hated the cold. I had thin blood I guess, and couldn't get warm from November until May. I had a lot of friends who enjoyed winter sports, who played hockey, skied, etc., but I didn't. So I started planning on moving to a sunny climate when I was in high school.

As I recall, I talked about going to Australia because I'd seen pictures of the desert there, which looked nice. But someone told me that you had to be a doctor, or something, to be allowed to move there, so I never looked into it. But it was all the same to me when I decided to move to Phoenix.

I bought a car when I was eighteen, figured out how to read a map, and headed west. But really there was more to it than that. I had been working for a company that hired college kids at minimum wage to do physical inventory. It was called the Washington Inventory Service, and they had offices all over the country. And then one day in Minneapolis I asked my boss if he would transfer me. He asked to where, I said to Phoenix, he picked up the phone, and told me to go report in there.

I arrived in August, with a car that had no air conditioning. I had practically gotten heat stroke driving across the country. And when I got to Phoenix, I looked in the paper (that's what you did back then), found an apartment (the Saguaro Apartments, as pictured above), and reported in for work. I had the previous paycheck waiting for me there.

So if you see me in November, holding my face up to the sun here in Glendale, just remember that I'm thinking of Minnesota. And I'm glad I'm not there.

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Making Los Angeles into a small town


If you're new to Los Angeles, you may still be trying to take it all in. That's what Raymond Chandler called trying to "get your arms around Los Angeles". And no, it can't be done. It's just too big and there's too much going on. And in fact, if you're still trying, it marks you as a newcomer. You need to make it a small town, and this is how people in LA do it:

• Find a major boundary. Most people just use a freeway. I used to say that there was really nothing east of the 405 for me. I lived in the western part of the San Fernando Valley, and so that's really a pretty big area. But the next step is the most important:

• Find human scale. Find a coffee shop you like and call it "the coffee shop" as if were the only one in town. Without being creepy, learn the names of the people you see all of the time, at your local convenience store, at the grocery store. And give every place a name that's personal. Tell your friends that after you've gone to the coffee shop, you'll meet them at the Quicky Mart.

No, I'm not telling you to give up on understanding Los Angeles, nor am I recommending that you don't go to new places, and try new things. But if you're like me, and got the "LA Hee-Bee-Jee-Bees" from everything being so big, so crowded, so noisy, and so impersonal, slow down a bit, and make LA your town.

And by the way, calling it a "town" is where most people start. Welcome to my town!


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Phoenix, Arizona in the 1920s


One of the things that I find fascinating about my adopted home of Phoenix, Arizona, is that it's constantly changing. I've lived here since I was a teenager, and believe me, it's not the same. I've spoken to people older, and younger, than me, and they say the same. What happened to the buildings they remember?, that sort of thing.

As my studies of Phoenix history has slowly progressed, I have found myself lately exploring Phoenix in the 1920s. And if you really want to see changes in Phoenix, look at the difference that happened before and after World War I.

During World War I, from 1914 to 1918, the economy of Phoenix was booming because of the demand for long-staple cotton, also known as Pima Cotton and Egyptian Cotton. The demand was driven by the wartime need for tires, which relied on this very strong cotton at the time. Yes, tires. I'm not kidding, this cotton was used mainly for tires. Go Google it, I'll wait.

But after the war ended, the price of cotton plummeted. So by 1919, and the 1920s, the economy of Arizona, and Phoenix, was in big trouble. And the demand for oranges had gone down, too, because of competition by places like Florida, and Southern California. In fact, an entire county south of Los Angeles was dedicated to growing oranges, a lot of them. So two of the big Cs of the Arizona economy, cotton and citrus, were slipping badly.

Another important factor in Phoenix, and in the entire United States in the 1920s, was the Prohibition of Alcohol. And while it wouldn't have mattered before then, as Phoenix began to emphasis tourism, it did then. Like in the rest of the country, Prohibition encouraged bootlegging (the illegal selling of alcohol), and organized crime. So, while tourism brought a much-needed spur to the economy of Phoenix, it also brought crime with it.

And as in the rest of the country, the thought was to borrow money to stimulate the economy. So Phoenix grew, with many spectacular buildings, and neighborhoods, that exist to this day. The old-timers may have despaired at seeing their once-classic city suddenly turn into a series of neighborhoods of the (then ridiculed) Spanish Colonial style, or the showy tall buildings of downtown Phoenix.

History buffs know what happened in 1929, the worst economic crash in the history of the United States, leading to the Great Depression of the 1930s. And Phoenix "froze in time" during that era, and wouldn't recover until after World War II, in 1945. Then Phoenix woke up and reinvented itself all over again, and continues to do so.

Pictured above, the Roosevelt Hotel, actually named the Westward Ho when it was built. Built in the 1920s, and for many years afterward the tallest building in Phoenix, Central and Fillmore.

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Living in Santa Barbara, California in the 1980s


After I got my degree from ASU in 1982, I moved to Los Angeles. And after a couple of months of fruitless job-searching, a friend of mine in Phoenix recommend that I talk to a friend of his in Santa Barbara, which is about an hour north of Los Angeles. So I drove up there, was offered the job and accepted it, and went back to LA to make preparations to move.

And then I discovered how wildly expensive rentals were in Santa Barbara, even compared to Los Angeles, which were much higher than my experience in Phoenix. But I had accepted the job, and there was never any question of my commuting from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. So I found a hotel that rented rooms by the week. It pretty much used up all of the money that the job payed, so I needed to find something cheaper.

The owner of the Hotel also had rental property. And so I moved into a tiny apartment that had been carved out of a house over in the Milpas area. And by tiny, I mean insanely tiny. It was only about twelve feet square, but it had its own bathroom, and a tiny refrigerator/oven combination. I was young, so I really didn't mind. My goal was to work hard, try to save some money, and eventually work my way back to "the big city" - Los Angeles, which I did.

Nowadays when I tell people that I lived in Santa Barbara, I know that they are seeing a different place than what I saw. Sure, the beach hasn't changed, and the weather is still the nicest on planet earth, but my Santa Barbara was a sad place, filled with people working all of the time just to pay the rent so they could work all of the time, just to pay the rent, etc. I called it living in a "world of total work". I knew a lot of people like that, who had multiple jobs, and never even got to the beach. They really could have been living anywhere, as all they saw was the inside of buildings and the inside of their car. When I saw my 30th year "staring me in the face", I knew that it was time for me to plan my escape.

At age 28 I got out of Santa Barbara. I gave notice to the company that I worked for (two months notice - they didn't want me to leave!) and I just got on the freeway and followed the sign that said "To Los Angeles". I got a crummy little apartment in the San Fernando Valley and started looking for work, which I found. In a few months I was working for the corporate headquarters for Blue Cross of California, and I've been a corporate guy ever since. And I have been back to Santa Barbara, to visit, and it is beautiful. But it's a place that I needed to escape, and I'm glad I did.

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The embarrassment of Confederacy in Arizona, and the rise of Republicanism


Arizona has had its share of political embarrassments. If you've lived in Arizona for a long time, you know that. I moved to Phoenix when I was a teenager and then lived for a few years in Los Angeles, where you can get a good perspective of the embarrassment of Arizona politics.

But nothing seems to have embarrassed Arizona, and Phoenix in particular, as much as the fact that during the Civil War, Arizona was a Confederate territory. That is, pro-slavery. And after the end of the Civil War, and the restoration of the Union, Phoenix was anxious to show that it looked to the future, and that embraced the Union. And that meant being Republican.

To understand this better, you have to realize that during the Civil War, it was the party of Abraham Lincoln that sought to keep the Republic united, the Republicans. To the states that disagreed, and preferred a more Democratic government, that is, states rights, this meant war. When the Civil War ended the Republic was united again, and the states that had fought against it had lost.


The two competing newspapers when Phoenix was young were the Arizona Republican (yes, there was an “n” then) and the Phoenix Gazette (which was Democratic). And over the next 100+ years, the Republicans won in Arizona. So much so that Arizona's history as Confederate, and Democratic, has been virtually erased. When Barry Goldwater ran for President in 1964, it was as an Arizona Republican. He was in favor of strong central government, which had badly soured in the minds of many Americans, especially because of the War in Vietnam, the Cold War, and the atomic bomb.

Image at the top of this post: The Confederate Memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza, 16th Avenue and Washington. A Nation That Forgets Its Past Has No Future.

Why the history that is taught in school is different from the complete history


I like learning about history. And I like sharing what what I'm learning. And the most common thing that I hear from people after I share stuff is, “Hey, they didn't teach me that in school!” No, they probably didn't. But it's not a conspiracy, man. Nor are the schools trying to withhold information. It's all about priorities, and teaching students the best way that it can be done.

It was only when I started my teaching career (no, not history, Graphic Design), that I started to understand the limitations of what can be taught. And as much as I'd have liked to have gone into a lot more detail, there were always time constraints. And someone has to decide what to cover during a given semester, and what not to.

I grew up in Minnesota, and if you know your American history, it's where the largest mass execution in United States history took place. No, they didn't teach me that in school. I learned about the Dakota Indian Wars after I became an adult, and I am still learning. It is a shameful part of history, and really, I can't blame schools for not wanting to dwell on this kind of stuff. It's wildly complicated, and something that requires maturity to even begin to understand. The execution order was signed by Abraham Lincoln, but it's not really what most children need to learn about this president. Besides, if you know the rest of the story, you know that he stayed the execution of over 90% of the men who had been condemned to die.

Nowadays I collect old images of Phoenix, Arizona, where I now live. And I have the time, and the maturity, to thoroughly explore. There is no need for me to accept easy answers, sound bites, and “Cliff Notes”. I want to know the whole story, and I'm willing to take the time to try to understand. I know that I never will completely understand, but this is a journey, not a destination.

I plan on living a very long life, and enriching that life with as much knowledge as I can find. There was a time when simplified history was enough for me, but that was when I was a child. As an adult, I want more.

Photo above: Maricopa and Pima Indians with a cowboy in 1889, Phoenix, Arizona. This is part of a very complex story, and the more I learn about it, the more fascinating it is to me.

Understanding the alliance of the Pima, Maricopa, and Papago Indians with the Phoenix pioneers

Understanding the Phoenix Indian School

The rivers, washes, and creeks of the Phoenix area


I moved to Phoenix when I was a teenager, and like most people who live there, the only river I knew about was the Salt River. It was while tubing there in my early twenties that I learned the importance of using sun block! Nowadays, with my fascination for old photos of Phoenix, I have been trying to figure out the rivers, washes, and creeks.

I found this map in an old book about the Gila River, and it really caught my eye. Note that there are no roads indicated. No, that doesn't mean that there were no roads when this map was drawn, in the 1960s, it's just that this map focused on the history of the Gila River. This part of the map shows the area that I'm most interested in, the Salt River Valley and the areas to the north and south.

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OK, let's take a look. Start with downtown Phoenix, that's the area underneath the word Phoenix and between Salt and R. Just to the west of it is where the Agua Fria, the Salt, and the Gila Rivers combine. Tres Rios. Note that the tributaries flow from the north and also from the south. Waterman Wash flows north towards through the Rainbow Valley. If you've never heard of Waterman Wash, or Rainbow Valley, it's not surprising, it's still mostly empty, with a few dirt roads. That is, what most of the Phoenix area looked a few generations ago.

If you've been to Wickenburg, you're familiar with the Hassayampa River, but many people don't stop to think that it flows south, and empties in the Gila River. The Hassaympa Valley, which is west of the White Tank Mountains, is where the Sun Valley Parkway is, and has been since the 1980s, one of my favorite “roads to nowhere”.

I live in Glendale, near where the Agua Fria River combines with New River. A few miles east is Cave Creek, which flows through my favorite golf course, which is between Greenway and Thunderbird Road west of 19th Avenue. So if you ever wondered why it's called Cave Creek Golf Course, that's why. By the way, if your ball goes into the wash (which is dry), you can still do a drop as if it were a water hazard. Most of the rivers, washes, and creeks in the Phoenix area don't have any water, except during flooding. And they've been that way since the Sonoran Desert began, about 10,000 years ago.

On modern maps, most of these rivers, washes, and creeks don't even show up. I'm looking at a Google map right now and even something as big as the Gila River going through the Gila River Indian Community doesn't even show up until you click to get closer. And no, I'm not blaming map makers, we really don't need to know about all of these, we just need to know where the roads are. The roads have bridged these waterways for so long that they really don't matter anymore. But they are still there, and if you see someone standing by the side of a road looking at dirt and cactus, it's just me, trying to figure it all out.

The Agua Fria River (behind me) at Lower Buckeye Road

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Driving from Phoenix to Los Angeles - via Wickenburg?


I've driven back and forth between Phoenix and Los Angeles more times than I can count. So each time I would watch the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Psycho” I would scoff at what I considered the obviously very poorly-shot scenes of Janet Leigh's character driving out of Phoenix in 1960. If you look carefully, you will see what looks like Grand Avenue. Which it is, and which was actually the route to Los Angeles at the time. Really.

Grand Avenue looking northwest in 1960. That's the hood of Janet Leigh's car in the movie "Psycho". This is north of Olive, where the railroad tracks switch from the left side of Grand over to the right. At the time, this was the route to Los Angeles.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and old maps and, yep, that's how people drove back and forth between Phoenix and Los Angeles, through Wickenburg. I've been to Wickenburg a couple of times, but I never considered it as a logical route to Los Angeles!

Take a look at a map and go northwest up Grand Avenue. I live in Glendale, so I'll start there. Now stop at Wickenburg, and then go west. The route will take you, along Arizona 60, through Aguila and Salome to where you will exit on I-10 and go into California crossing the Colorado River at Blythe (that part I know).


If you're wondering why people went to Wickenburg, take a look at the empty stretch of desert there between the Phoenix metropolitan area and the next major town due west, which really was Blythe, California. Nowadays we don't give a second thought to heading out into the empty desert for long distances in our modern, reliable cars. But it wasn't always that way!

Old automobile routes, like stage routes, and wagon routes, went from town to town. It was more important to find reliable food, water, and supplies than being concerned about going in a perfectly straight line.

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Phoenix, Arizona, a welcoming place for strangers


“Howdy, stranger” has been the culture of Phoenix, and of Arizona, for over 100 years. If you're new to Phoenix, and are already getting a welcoming feeling, it's not surprising. Phoenix is not a place “for locals only”.

I lived in Southern California for several years, and remember it as not being a welcoming place for strangers. It was a place for locals, who resented the newcomers. The bumper stickers that I remember said, “Save California, when you leave, take someone with you”.

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Historically, Arizona has been different. In Arizona, it has always been bad manners to ask a man his name. If he wants to tell you, fine, but his background, and what he may, or may not, have done, was his own business. Arizona was a place for people to start again. Yeah, you know what I mean here, criminals, outlaws, that sort of thing. It was a place to build a better life, and it still is.

I moved to Phoenix when I was a teenager, and have always gotten the feel of the Old West here. No, I don't mean people wearing cowboy hats, I mean the way people treat each other. Good fences make good neighbors. Don't ask a man where he comes from, or about his family. No places are “for locals only”. All are welcome here.



By the way, if you're a bad guy, and intend to commit crimes in Phoenix, keep in mind that there has always been a very tough Sheriff there, like Enrique "Henry" Garfias. That's him at left in the photo. He was good with a gun, and not afraid to use it! So, let's all get along.

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The meaning behind the name of the White Tank Mountains near Phoenix


The White Tank Mountains are at the western edge of the Salt River Valley. They run north and south, and if you live in Glendale, like I do, they are very prominent. And if you're like me, you may have wondered what the name “White Tanks” means.

A white tank is an old-fashioned term for a place with clean water that is accessible in a canyon. Nowadays, we still use the term for a water tank, although of course it would be made of metal. A water tank in a mountain is the same thing, except that it's made out of, well, part of the mountain.

If you're wondering why a mountain range would be described based on the fact that you could find water there, you need to time-travel back to the days before Phoenix even existed. The White Tanks were a place where travelers could get water on the long stretch between the Gila River and Wickenburg, where the Vulture Mine was. And if you look at a map and realize that the travelers are going out of their way, as they were traveling up from Maricopa Wells, which was just north of where Maricopa is nowadays, you have to consider that they were mostly interested in a guaranteed water supply, which the White Tank Mountains had.

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Of course, if you were traveling there, you risked upsetting the people who guarded that area, the Apaches. But the Vulture Mine was producing so much gold that people risked it. And not just the miners, there was regular traffic there, coming all the way from California, supplying the things that the town needed, like food.

So, the next time you visit the White Tank Mountains, squint your eyes and make all of the buildings vanish in your imagination. Picture the area with nothing around but miles and miles of desert, no water except at the white tanks, no food except what you were carrying, and the danger of being caught trespassing by the Apaches. And then ask yourself “what are you doing there?” The answer was gold.


Image above: The White Tank Mountains in the 1930s.

Talking about Mexicans, and Indians, in Phoenix, Arizona


Maybe it's my age, but I tend to lower my voice out in public when I use the words “Mexican” or “Indian”. And I've been giving a lot of thought to that these days, as I research the importance of these people to the history of Phoenix.

I've lived in Phoenix for a long time, and somewhere along the line I must have been taught that these were bad words. As if someone saying “Italian” loudly in a restaurant would cause offense (I'm mostly Italian, by the way).

I've lived all of my adult life in Phoenix, and Los Angeles, and believe me, I know the importance of people with Mexican, and Indian, heritage. To me, these are not bad words. But I realize that a lot of people feel differently. I'm sorry they feel that way, and I wish they didn't.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and post them on the internet, and I just cringe when I think of someone making a nasty comment just because they see the word “Mexican” or “Indian”. But people from Mexico, and Native Americans, have been, and continue to be an important part of the history, and success, of Phoenix, Arizona. So I will post about Mexicans, and Indians. And if people don't understand, well, it's time that they learned.

Pictured above: Gold Alley in 1915, Phoenix, Arizona. From the book Mexicans in Phoenix, by Frank Barrios.

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How low-income people afford the expensive rents of Los Angeles, California


When Neil Diamond wrote that "palm trees grow and rents are low" he was talking about Los Angeles, California in the 1960s. Of course, he was from New York, so maybe it was just by comparison, I don't know. But by the time I moved to Los Angeles, in the 1980s, rents were not low, even in "less fashionable" neighborhoods, such as Canoga Park.

What I learned about how low-income people manage to survive in places where the rents are high has stayed with me, and haunted me a bit. They crowd together. Please let me explain.

When I moved into my little tiny studio apartment in Canoga Park in 1987, I had found the cheapest place that I could find that would give me access to finding work in Warner Center, which I did. While I looked for work I lived there, and I stayed there even after I got the job, because I was trying to figure out where to move to. Then the job ended, and I moved back to Phoenix.

In Phoenix I tried to describe it to my friends and it just seemed to make no sense. Because here in Phoenix, where rents actually are low, you really don't see that type of crowding. Sure, you'll see people sharing an apartment, but they're usually families in a one-bedroom, or two-bedroom. Nothing like I saw in Los Angeles.

My apartment complex in Canoga Park (Los Angeles), was nothing but studio apartments, about five hundred square feet. And in the whole time I lived there, I never even heard of anyone else living alone in one. In fact, the city of Los Angeles passed a law while I was living there limiting the number of people who could legally occupy a one-bedroom apartment. 12. Twelve. That was the maximum by law. Twelve or more people in an apartment isn't a cheerful full house, it's a group of people scrapping by and doing the best they can to cover the rent. I saw people living like that, and I will always remember.

When I moved out, in 1989, my neighbors across the way helped me load my van. They were a group of young men, about my age, who slept on the floor, in shifts. They all had jobs, and they all chipped in for the rent the best that they could. And they weren't unusual there. I was the weird one, living in a studio apartment all to myself. I was wealthy.

The connection with Harman's and Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken - KFC


If you live in the Phoenix area, you've seen fast-food restaurants called KFC, which stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. And the old guy that you see in the logo was a real person, and he really started the company, His name was Harland Sanders. It's quite a success story - he did look like that, and he dressed like an old Southern Colonel. And in the beginning he went to restaurants and sold them the rights to use his recipe, which had "eleven secret herbs and spices". Actually, what he sold was a license, as he kept the copyright for himself.

Harland Sanders in 1968, at age 77.

Harman's in the 1960s, Tempe, Arizona.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and noticed that there was a connection between Harman's Restaurant and Kentucky Fried Chicken. And it had to do with how Harland Sanders got his chicken recipe started, by selling the rights to it to restaurants.

Harman's Ranch Restaurant menu in 1962, including Kentucky Fried Chicken

In this ad from 1962, you can see that it all started with a menu item, which was the "famous Kentucky Fried Chicken". Of course, it was just one menu item, as you could get breakfast, lunch and dinner at Harman's. The "secret recipe" caught on well enough to allow Harland Sanders to start his own restaurants, which he called Kentucky Fried Chicken. A few years ago, when fried food wasn't considered anything to brag about, the name was changed to KFC. Dang, this post is making me hungry!


Image at the top of this post: Harman's in Tempe in the 1960s.

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