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

How people transformed the Salt River Valley from a desert to an oasis


I've lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area for a long time now. And days like today, with the temperatures getting over 110 degrees, is a reminder that we are in the desert. This is the Sonoran Desert, the Salt River Valley. And if you're wondering why it's so hot, and if it's because of the freeways that were built here, or the buildings, unfortunately, you have it backwards. People didn't make the Salt River Valley hot, it's always been that way. It's in the Sonoran Desert, which has been brutally hot since the last Ice Age ended, about 10,000 years ago. People didn't make a desert here, it already was one, people made an oasis. When people get it backwards, it's a disservice to the people who created this oasis, from the Hohokams to the modern engineers.

The first people who did it, hundreds of years ago, we call the Hohokam people. They knew that all they had to do was to catch the water that came crashing through the valley every year, store it, and lead the water to places where they could grow crops. Their engineering was magnificent, traces of their old canals were still very visible up through the 1930s in Phoenix, and were much larger than the modern ones we see now. Why it failed, we will probably never know. It could have been a drought, it could have been massive flooding. The number of people living there may have caused the collapse. While it flourished, the desert was transformed from cactus and dirt to crops which supported a gigantic city, Pueblo Grande, which stretched from where Tempe is nowadays up all through the valley, to where Peoria is now, and much further.

Arizona Canal in 1896


1877-1887

June, 1896

But my fascination with Phoenix history really starts with what is called the "Pioneer Era". It's mostly neglected, as if Phoenix just magically appeared. But if you look at the people who dug the Grand Canal, and the Arizona Canal, you can begin to appreciate how amazing their achievements were. Personally, I wouldn't have invested in Phoenix land in 1870, looking out across miles and miles of desert. But there were people who imagined an oasis, and they made it happen.

Thank you to all of the people who have made this happen, and continue to make living in my favorite city a pleasure! I know that you're out there, keeping the electricity on, keeping the water flowing, keeping the oasis alive.

And for the people who have it all backwards, all I ask is that you look again.


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Why Fess Parker renamed the street in front of his resort in Santa Barbara


If you've ever gone to the Fess Parker Double Tree Hilton in Santa Barbara, you know that it's on Calle Puerta Vallarta. Before it was built, in 1985, the street was called Punta Gorda.

If you speak Spanish, you know that Punta Gorda means "Round Point" (or fat point) in English. Like all of the original names of Santa Barbara, it goes back to the days of old Spain, and "round point" was what, apparently, sailors saw as they approached that area. I've looked on maps and I don't see anything that looks like a round point, but I guess they did.

At the very least, Punta Gorda isn't exactly a romantic name. And even people who don't speak much Spanish know that "gordo" means fat. And the first word is easily confused with a very bad word. Ask your Spanish-speaking friends, I'm not going to write it here.

So Fess pulled some strings and got the name of the street changed. A wise thing to do!

By the way, Fess Parker had to get the approval of the citizens of Santa Barbara to build his resort. Even though he owned the land, Santa Barbara was very fussy about what could be built. And he couldn't do it at all if the citizens rejected it. So, in addition to everything else he did, he would be there, in person, on his property, talking to people who walked by. I remembered him from his TV show "Daniel Boone" - where had an eye like an eagle and was as tall as a mountain. I scoffed at the idea that a big celebrity like him would just be there, hanging around, until one day I heard him say "hello, gentleman" as I was walking by with a friend. It was him! His hair was white, but his voice was exactly the same (very low and rumbling) and he was indeed as tall as a mountain.

Fess Parker as Daniel Boone


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How to find Cactus Way in modern downtown Phoenix


If you lived in Phoenix during territorial times, you knew where Cactus Way was, halfway between Center (now Central Avenue) and Montezuma (now 1st Street).  it was also called Cactus Alley. No, it was never on any maps, but the gigantic scale of Phoenix as platted by William Hancock in 1870 meant that even the alleys were as big as many city city streets at the time. By the way, there was also Wall Street, and Melinda's Alley, also never on maps.

Loring's Bazar in the 1880s. You're looking west on Washington towards Central, at Cactus Way.

Cactus Way is where George Loring had his place of business, which he called Loring's Bazar (yes, he misspelled it that way). When the Ellingson building was built there, after Loring's building was gone (it was just adobe, anyway), it was the original location of Donofrio's. There used to be a plaque on that building, but when the building was torn down it went into storage, and is now at the Arizona Historical Society in Tempe.

Donofrio's Cactus Candy in the Ellingson Building in 1917. You're looking west on Washington towards Central, at Cactus Way.

1920 ad for Donofrio's Cactus Candy. Note the address: Cactus Way and Washington.

As a place of historical importance in Phoenix, Cactus Way is pretty darned important. Not only was Loring's Bazar the first Post Office, and the first Wells Fargo Station, Donofrio's in the Ellingson Building was pretty cool, too. Unfortunately, it has been mostly forgotten.


No, it's not a conspiracy, man. Phoenix just moves on. Time goes by, and people forget. There's a parking garage there, which is pretty darned useful if you work downtown! People drive past one of the most important historic places in Phoenix all of the time, and they don't know. Putting the plaque back up there would be nice.

Washington between Central and 1st Street. The entrance to the parking garage is exactly where Cactus Way was.

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Going to a movie at the Columbia Theater in 1918, Phoenix, Arizona


It's December 8th, 1918 in Phoenix, Arizona and I feel like going to a movie. I just saw the ad in the paper that said that it was free this afternoon at the Columbia. Come along with me.

The Columbia is on 2nd Avenue and Adams, so it's an easy walk. According to the ad, it's the best ventilating theater in the city, disinfected after each performance. The 1918 flu epidemic is over, but it's still worrisome.

It looks like there are three films that we can see: Fanny Ward (I'm a big fan of hers, aren't you?) in "Innocence", Douglas Fairbanks in "Manhattan Madness", Toto, the Champion Funny Man in "The Movie Dummy" and a short "America's Answer". Hey look, there's even a Mutt and Jeff Cartoon!

Of course the movies are silent, but I know that you're an excellent reader, so you can read the title cards for me. I'm sure that no one in the theater will mind if you read them out loud - I've heard a lot of people do that. Besides, they should be listening to the orchestra!

The Columbia Theater in the 1920s, 2nd Avenue and Adams, Phoenix, Arizona

Luckily, it's December, so it should be pretty comfortable in the theater. I can't imagine how they'll ever get people into these places in the summer! I've heard that there's an invention that magically cools the air, and maybe it will make these places not only smell good, but feel cool. Wow, what an amazing time that we live in - moving pictures and maybe someday magically-cooled air!

Thank you for going to the movies with me.

Columbia ad from the Library of Congress


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Why San Francisco is called "the City"


If you've ever lived in the Bay area, or knew anyone that did, you know that San Francisco is always called "the City". It's never, ever, "Frisco", unless of course you believe that Rice-a-Roni is the most popular dish there.

I'm an old Angelino, and it wasn't until I moved back to Phoenix that I referred to where I lived as "Los Angeles". I lived in the Valley, or Canoga Park, or Winnetka. I worked in Woodland Hills, and one of my co-workers at the time lived in what she called "the City". No, it wasn't San Francisco, it was just a way of describing the original part of an area that had sprawled out so much that it was pointless to say "Los Angeles".

Of course, outsiders still call everything from Santa Monica to practically Palm Springs "Los Angeles". And although I haven't lived there for a long time, I imagine that neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles adopted different names, like Bunker Hill (which isn't a name people used to like to use!). There are probably a lot of names subdividing the different parts of what was originally just called "the City" in Los Angeles (the downtown area).

But it never changed in San Francisco, it's still the City. I listen for it in song lyrics. If you hear "the City" in a song, chances are that it's San Francisco. And even though Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, I know that he actually called it the City.

Image at the top of this post: Mission San Francisco

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The IDS Center in the 1970s, Minneapolis, Minnesota


When the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis was being built, I was young enough to still be kind of a kid, and old enough to be fascinated by architecture, and design.

My fascination with architecture started at a very young age, when I would assemble the models of buildings that were meant to go with a train set, except that I had no interest in trains. I liked buildings, and I still do. No, I never even considered being an architect (I can't do the math!) but that never stopped me from being fascinated by all types of buildings, especially "skyscrapers".

If you lived in Minneapolis in the 1970s, you know that there was a lot going on downtown. Instead of turning its back on the downtown area, Minneapolis revitalized it. A nice long stretch of Nicollett was closed to cars, and only buses were allowed. And those buses were clean, ran on time, and there were a lot of them. So if you're wondering what someone who was years away from a driver's license was doing there, it was easy to get to (for a quarter!) and safe for pedestrians. And it all centered on the Crystal Court.

The Crystal Court was the name of the main floor of the IDS Center. IDS stood for "Investors Diversified Services", not that it matters. And the Crystal Court was absolutely magical. Certainly it was nothing that I had ever seen before. It was designed to be seen, by humans, from the inside, and for them to say "Oh, ah!" at the way that the glass was designed to look like crystals. And it linked up to a lot of other buildings, on the second floor, through skyways. And that meant that even in the dead of winter, you could take a bus, get off downtown, walk into a skyway, and go to the Crystal Court. And I would meet friends there. We simply had to say "I'll meet you at the Crystal Court".

If you're wondering what my friends and I did there, well, we hung around. Just like hanging around the Southdale Mall. We would walk around and try to look at girls without making eye contact. I don't recall ever buying anything, until I was 18 and I bought an expensive sheepskin-lined leather coat at Berman Buckskin. The next year I moved to Phoenix and left it in Minneapolis. Didn't get much use out of that coat!

In my sheepskin-lined coat from Berman Buckskin, the Crystal Court, IDS Center

I took photos of the IDS Center under construction, from was to that time the tallest building in Minneapolis, the Foshay Tower. I wonder if I still have those photos, I'll look for them! I remember that after the IDS was completed, the architects refused to have antennas stuck on the top, as it would ruin the look of the building. I notice that there are antennas up there now.

The IDS is still the signature building of Minneapolis, and it's still my favorite. I can't imagine a photo of downtown Minneapolis without it. It seems like it's always been there.


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The burned-out light at the top of the Security Building, Phoenix, Arizona


If you're a fan of Phoenix architecture, you know about the Security Building, which is on Central Avenue and Van Buren. It was built in 1928 by Dwight Heard (yes, the Heard Museum guy) and has been in continuous use since then.

The Security Building reflected in Valley Center

I became aware of the Security Building when I worked in the Bank One Tower (now called Chase) in the 1990s. I was particularly fascinated by the penthouse on top. The penthouse, by the way, was added onto the building in 1958 by Walter Bimson, who had been the president of Valley National Bank (which became Bank one, which became Chase).

But it was only a few days ago that one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) pointed out the burned-out light in the steeple on the top. And his idea was to see if the light could be restored. An inspiring idea!

The Security Building in the 1930s, Central Avenue and Van Buren, Phoenix, Arizona. Note the steeple.

Time-travel with me to 1928. The Security Building has just been completed, and is the tallest building in Phoenix. And as impressive as it is, it gets even better. As night falls, the light is switched on. You can see it for miles. It doesn't light up a logo, or anything like that, it is simply a light. It's a light that shows Dwight Heard's attitude of "unrealistic optimism", belief in the future prosperity of Phoenix, and Arizona. It's an important light, and it would be nice to see it shine again.

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From the Adams Hotel(s) to the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown, Phoenix, Arizona


I visited the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel this past weekend, which is on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams, to look around a bit. The place looks great, and there are plans for even more renovation. Even though I describe the building as looking like a "cheese grater", I say it with affection. And the lobby, which includes historical information, looks great, too. I even like the name - The Renaissance.

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But to me, it will always be the Adams Hotel. That was the name it had when it was built in 1975, and what I remember when I worked downtown in the '90s. And it's the third Adams hotel built right there on that spot. Yes, the third one.

The Adams Hotel in the 1890s, northeast corner of Central and Adams, Phoenix, Arizona

The Adams Hotel fire in 1910

The first one was built in 1896, and burned down in 1910. It was quite a place - four stories tall and made mostly of wood. The next one was built in 1911, expanded in the 1920s, and demolished in 1973. The third Adams Hotel, the one that I call "the cheese grater" building, is the one that is there now (image at the top of this post - from the 1970s).

Adams Hotel in 1911, demolished in 1973

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The Professional Building - from Valley National Bank to Hilton Garden Inn


Yesterday I visited the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Phoenix to see my sign. It's the original sign from the building, from 1931, and I'm glad to see it finally make its way home.

My fascination for this building started in 1992 when I worked for Bank One in what is now the Chase Tower on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Monroe. Our department, on the 31st floor, looked out over a very interesting old building, which I asked about, and very few people knew anything about. It was all boarded up, abandoned, and dirty, and since it was Art Deco, and I'd always had interest in art and architecture, I started asking around.

Valley Center (now Chase Tower) under construction in 1972 Central Avenue and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. The Professional Building is at right

There were still a few people around who remembered it, and even remembered working in it, when it was called "the Annex". It was the original headquarters for Valley National Bank, which became Bank One, and is now Chase. But it 1973, when Valley Center (Chase Tower) was built, it became just another old building. From what I understand, it was still being used by Valley Bank, a little, through the 1980s.

I'm a Graphic Designer, and a frustrated architect (I couldn't do the math), so I spent a lot of time wandering around downtown Phoenix looking at all of the buildings, both old and new. And by far my favorite is what I learned was originally called the Professional Building, built in 1931.




If you lived in Phoenix anytime between 1958 and 1973, you will remember a giant rotating neon sign that said "Valley National Bank". I have a lot of photos that show that, but I don't have anything that shows where the little sign that I had, which says "the Professional Building" was. Presumably it was inside, but I have found very few photos of the inside of the building. I'm still looking!

The Professional Building in the 1960s, headquarters of Valley National Bank. This was the largest rotating neon sign in the world, in the Guinness Book of World Records, and in 1973 it was dismantled and junked.

The Valley Bank sign being removed from the Professional Building in 1973.


The Professional Building sign

The Professional Building sign came into my possession because of one of the printing sales reps who visited our department regularly. He had been working for Valley Bank for decades before I met him, and he saw the old building being abandoned. He told me all about it, and that when the beautiful art deco interior was torn out, everything was just dumped to be hauled away. So he asked if he could load some stuff in his truck and take it home. He took what he could, including an art deco clock that he often spoke of, and two Professional Building signs. In 1994, he gave me one of them.

I've watched several failed attempts to restore the Professional Building. Each time I've offered the sign, with the promise that it remain on public display. In 2014, I handed it over, and watched again. After a couple of years I decided that I would see if it had gotten lost, so I went through my old emails and contacted people who referred me to people who referred me to people, and I thought that it was gone forever. It seems a shame for it get lost in the confusion of another failed attempt to restore the building!

But this time the restoration has not been a failure. The Hilton Garden Inn opened this year (2016) and the finishing touches included putting the sign up in the area by the elevators. I'm glad to see the building being restored and used again, and I'm glad to see the sign come home again.




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Watching the Adams Hotel burn down in 1910, Phoenix, Arizona


The important thing is that no one got hurt in the fire. It's 1910, and we're watching the Adams Hotel burn to the ground. Stand behind the blanket with me, you can feel the heat way over here. Luckily, the fire is contained, and isn't spreading over to Dwight Heard's building there across the street. I don't suppose that the buildings on Melinda's Alley, just north of it, will be so lucky!


Looking northeast from the Adams Hotel towards Camelback Mountain over Melinda's Alley before the fire, Phoenix, Arizona.

It was quite a place, and Phoenix will never be the same. I'm sure that old George Luhrs would argue the point, but I'd say that it was the finest hotel in town.

The Adams Hotel, northeast corner of Central and Adams, in the 1890s.

Still, it was made of wood. And whether you blame the electrical wires strung all over the place, or old-timers putting out their cigars on the floor, at some point it seemed like it was going to burn. I hear that nowadays buildings like this can be made of poured concrete, that's probably what they'll build the next one out of. You know, to make it fireproof.

Newspaper article from 1910 about the Adams Hotel fire

The day after the fire at the Adams Hotel, Central Avenue and Adams, Phoenix, Arizona.

Nothing is left the next morning but the parts made of brick. I imagine that the bricks will be salvaged and used in other buildings. What a shame, it was such a beautiful building. I'm looking forward to seeing them get started on the new one!

Note: A new Adams Hotel was built in 1911, and it was made of poured concrete, which made it absolutely fireproof. It lasted until it was demolished in 1973, and a third Adams Hotel was built on the same spot, the building that is still there today, called the Phoenix Renaissance Downtown.

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Walking along Washington at 3rd Avenue in 1908, Phoenix, Arizona


I feel like taking a walk. Come along with me. It's 1908 in Phoenix, Arizona, and I'm staying at the Vendome, which is on 3rd Avenue and Washington. It's a quiet day, so I thought I'd look around.


The Vendome, 3rd Avenue and Washington


Everybody's Tailor H. Hamburger, 3rd Avenue and Washington

My first stop is to H. Hamburger, which is right next door to the Vendome. I have a special occasion coming up, so I'm buying a new suit. It will need to be dark, because I will be going to a funeral, and I'll get a bowler hat, which I can wear instead of the Stetson I usually wear.

3rd Avenue and Washington in 1908, Phoenix, Arizona

Across Washington is the Dorris Opera House. Maybe I'll stop in and see the show tonight. I've heard good things about "The Cow-Puncher". I see some pipes lying on the ground. I wonder if there's going to be some road construction? Phoenix floods every year, so it would be wise for them to have some type of storm drain. I've read in the paper that the paving of the streets will start in a few years, and that will help, as it becomes a muddy mess.

Here we are, this is where I needed to go today. It's the display yard for the Salt River Valley Monument Company. Their offices are over there, next to the Phoenix Trunk Factory, but this where they cut the granite. Nice-looking work! I'll choose the one I want and then walk over to the office and make the arrangements.

The cemetery is about ten blocks west, in the direction of the Arizona Territorial Capitol Building, which I can see there at the end of the car line, then I have to walk down to Jefferson. I wonder how often the trolley goes by? I see by the wires above that it's electric.

Looking west towards the Capitol Building on Washington from 3rd Avenue in 1908, Phoenix, Arizona

The streets are muddy and dirty, but there's a nice sidewalk here, so I guess I'll just keep walking. Thank you for walking with me.

Note: The Dorris Opera House, which became the Elks Opera House, and later the Phoenix Theater, ended its days in the 1980s. The original Capitol Building is still there at 17th Avenue and Washington, and is now a museum. The cemetery referred to is the Pioneer Military and Memorial Park, which is between 13th and 15th Avenue south of Jefferson, behind the Smurthwaite House.

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The truth about Phoenix history


Personally, I find the truth about Phoenix history to be fascinating. Like all true history, it's wildly complex, with millions of details. Real history isn't squeaky-clean and simplified. And it takes a lot of work to begin to understand it, which I am just beginning to.

I don't trust easy answers, short misleading headlines, sound bites. Whenever I see that, I am immediately suspicious that someone is trying to sell me something, or put a particular spin on things. And I really can't blame them. Real history is just a long series of events happening. There is no plot, no planned drama. Things just happen. But for me, it's fascinating to learn about.

The Phoenix history that I am most interested in is the stuff that people alive today can't possibly remember, that is, the history before World War II. And even the best PhD (Phoenix History Detective) that I know can only remember, first hand, back to the 1930s. And really, I don't like history books. Nor do I like fictionalized accounts, or second-hand memories. So the best I can do is to look at original documents, which I do a lot of.

Yes, there are a lot of original documents. And more and more of it is becoming available to read online. The Library of Congress has scanned in (and indexed) newspapers in Phoenix going back to the 1890s. The University of Arizona also has a tremendous treasury of scanned in original documents. And there are original photos.

Most of the people that I know were born in the second half of the twentieth century. So no one can possibly remember the Phoenix of 1915, or 1870. But original documents do. And the more I learn, the less I seem to know, which just fuels my thirst for more.

This journey will not be about simplistic headlines, or misleading memes. If you're looking for the "Cliff Notes" version of Phoenix history, you will be impatient with this adventure. If, however, you are a seeker of knowledge and truth, I believe that you will like what we find together. Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: Phoenix pioneer Jack Swilling, with his adopted son Gavilan. Violent, alcoholic, and from what I'm learning, Jack was more than just a little bit crazy. Crazy enough to think that a great city could rise up out of the ashes of the Hohokam ruins.

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Swimming at the Adams Hotel in 1953, Phoenix, Arizona


Let's go for a swim in the pool of the Adams Hotel in 1953. Put on your bathing cap, the water's fine.

There's a photographer there at the end of the pool, and I'm pretty sure that we're going to be in the picture, maybe on a postcard. The "bathing beauties" have been posing like statues for quite some time. I suppose they're wearing the latest styles, but they aren't doing any swimming. One of the models is even wearing a "Bikini" - how risqué!

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For an old hotel, built in 1911, this isn't bad. Of course they've added a lot of things since then, including this pool. I understand the original Adams Hotel burned down in 1910. It was wood, and this one is concrete, so I feel pretty safe here.

Just north of the hotel is the Professional Building, the headquarters of Valley National Bank. And there's a nice view of the Phoenix Mountains, and Squaw Peak.

Maybe later on we can go drive around Phoenix, which is growing like crazy now that the war is over. The old-timers don't like it much, but the demand for houses is great for the local economy. Might be a good idea to invest in some land way out in the country, like at Bell Road.

Thank you for swimming with me.

Note: The Adams Hotel, which was on the northeast corner of Central and Adams, was demolished in 1973, and the current hotel is called the Renaissance Downtown Phoenix. The Professional Building is still there, and is the Hilton Garden Inn nowadays. And Squaw Peak was renamed to Piestewa Peak after Lori Piestewa, who was the first American woman to die in the Iraq War and first Native American woman soldier to die in U.S. military service in combat on foreign soil.

Going from Phoenix to Los Angeles before self-driving cars


It's 2016, and while self-driving cars have been around for years, they aren't yet available for ordinary people like me. So, to get from Phoenix to Los Angeles, I have two choices: driving a car, or flying.

If you've ever driven a non-self-driving car for about six hours straight, I gotta tell you, it's awful. Just imagine someone putting you in a room, in a chair that you can't get out of, and making you hold onto a wheel in front of you, and never allowing your gaze to stray away from looking in front of you except for a few seconds. You can't watch movies, you can't read a book, you certainly can't sleep. What you see of the scenery is very brief as you need to keep the the little mobile room you're in in-between a series of painted lines. For six hours. Yes, you can stop and "stretch your legs" once, maybe twice in those six hours, but that's it. I've done it many times and no matter how I try to keep myself entertained, with audiobooks, or music, it's just the most awfully boring six hours of being trapped in a tiny space that I can imagine.

The alternative is flying. And while it only takes less than an hour to fly from Phoenix to Los Angeles, the entire process is terribly time-consuming. It starts with having to make sure that you have everything packed in a suitcase and a small bag. No, you can't carry anything that isn't absolutely essential, the way you can in the trunk of a car. And it gets worse. In order to get on a plane, you have to buy very expensive tickets about a month in advance. Then, as the time gets closer to your flight, you have to "check in" on a computer or on your phone. And then you have to arrive at a place called an "airport" two hours before the airplane begins its flight. And it just gets worse and worse. To get to the airport, you ride a shuttle van, which means you have to wait around ready to go for at least a half-hour at home. Then, when you get to the airport, you have to stand in a line and give your bag to someone who gives you a piece of paper, and another piece of paper, and then you have to walk to where your airplane is parked. And then you have to stop and take off your shoes (I'm not kidding here), take everything out of your pockets, and walk through an X-Ray machine. Then you keep walking, walking, walking (remember you're carrying a bag, or pulling it behind you, the whole way) until you find another place to stand in line to show a piece of paper, then you stand in another line and show someone else a piece of paper.

Of course, a self-driving car just means that you can pack your stuff in it, tell it the address in Los Angeles, and relax. You can watch a movie, you can eat some snacks. You can enjoy the scenery, take a nap. And you can horrify the "young 'uns" with stories of how difficult it used to be before self-driving cars were invented.

Phoenix superstar Jerry Foster


If you lived in Phoenix in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, you knew Jerry Foster. He was a Phoenix superstar.

If you don't know who Jerry is (yes, he's alive and well!), he flew a helicopter for the local news. And while that may not seem like much of a big thing nowadays, back when he did it, it was. And he did it with style!

Since this is the day of the internet, as I was pondering writing this post, I did some research on Jerry. It told me a lot of things I didn't know, and that really don't matter to me. What matters is how darn cool that guy was, flying that chopper over Phoenix. I can hear his voice, I can see his daring rescues (which they wouldn't allow nowadays).

Flying over Fountain Hills, Arizona

One thing that I did read, which I very much agree with, is that Jerry was a cowboy. And in the very best sense of the word, he was, riding that helicopter like a bucking bronco! If you can't imagine a cowboy in a helicopter, then you don't know Jerry Foster.

Good morning, Arizona!

Image at the top of this post: Jerry Foster (on the left) with Barry Goldwater in 1973.

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The man who named Phoenix, Arizona - Darrell Duppa


Since Jack Swilling is considered the founder of Phoenix, Arizona, because his company dug the first modern canal (in the 1860s - modern as compared to the Hohokams), it's only appropriate to give some credit to someone else who was in that party, Darrell Duppa.

Like Jack, Darrell is a little bit hard to "clean up" and make into a "founding father" type. I like to imagine hanging around with these guys, who probably would have seemed a little "touched", if not downright crazy.

Now waitaminute, I'm not trying to put these guys down. What they accomplished was the founding of an incredible city, Phoenix, Arizona. But if you stand in the Salt River Valley in the 1860s and look around, you really have to wonder about these guys? What were they thinking? I know what they were drinking.

Time-travel with me. It's the late 1860s and an ex-Confederate named Jack Swilling has the idea of digging a canal out in some forsaken desert because he and his friends figured that it would be a good idea. They had seen the gigantic abandoned canals (built by the Hohokam people), and they figured that they could follow along the same path. It's a matter of record that these guys drank a lot of whiskey, and I can believe it.

In my lifetime I've known a lot of people who quaff a few beers and suddenly think that some hair-brained scheme is going to work. And digging a canal through the desolate desert along the Salt River in the 1860s had to be about as hair-brained as can be imagined. That it worked, and nowadays there's indeed a great city there, is just hard for me to comprehend. So, no, I wouldn't haven't invested in it. Not only was it waaaaayyyyy out in the middle of nowhere, there were Apaches, who weren't very happy about trespassers on land that they protected.

From what I've read about Darrell Duppa, that photo up there was about as cleaned-up as he ever was. Mostly living in Arizona he just let his hair grow long (like his friend Jack) and lived a very, uh, rustic life.

But Darrel had read the classics. It was his idea to name the new city "Phoenix", which is a legendary bird that rises from the ashes. He also named Tempe, by the way, which is the valley next to Mount Olympus. He must have had quite an imagination! Phoenix and Tempe were nothing but dirt and mesquite when he named them. But he saw an amazing future. And amazingly, he was right.

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