This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Being a kid in old-time Phoenix


I didn't grow up in Phoenix. I was 19 by the time I got to Phoenix. And and one of things I've always wondered about was what it must have been like to have been a kid there. When I ask people how they did it, surviving the high temperatures, they just shrug their shoulders and say, "we were kids!"

My childhood, which was in Minneapolis, Minnesota had the usual difficulties of walking uphill in the snow (both ways!) to school and that sort of thing, but to me the most glorious time I can remember was summer. Summer in Minneapolis is incredible - the snow goes away, the trees bloom, the girls wear shorts. My memories of summer as a kid are wonderful. But kids in Phoenix just have to get through the summer, and do the best they can. Even the most cheerful of Phoenix natives admit that summers in Phoenix were pretty awful when they were a kid. Yeah, maybe a little cooler, because of more open spaces back in the day, but still hot! The lucky ones got to go to California for the summer.

If you grew up in Phoenix, you understand better than I ever could. And from what I've been told, kids just dealt with it. Summer vacation was summer vacation. You played outside, you rode your bike. And you tried to spend as much time as possible in water.

When people who grew up in Phoenix talk about being kids, they talk about being in the water as much as they could. They talk about pools, even playing in the irrigation water. My guess is that a lot of parents had to deal with muddy kids!

I have no reason to doubt what people tell me, but I've been told of being a kid in Phoenix and wearing no shoes. Outside! In the summer! And swimming in the canals.

Image at the top of this post: Swimming in a lateral of Grand Canal in the 1920s, Phoenix, Arizona.


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