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

Phoenix, Arizona in the 1940s


Since most of the people that I talk to about Phoenix were born after World War II (the generation that was originally called "the Baby Boom", now called Boomers), they can't possibly have much in the way of memories of Phoenix in the 1940s, other than the fact that they were kids. In fact, I was once told, a few years ago, that Phoenix didn't really begin until the 1940s (by someone who was born in the 1940s). And I can understand that point of view. Phoenix didn't really begin for me until the 1980s, when I moved there as a teenager.  Everything that I've learned about Phoenix before that time comes from old photos, from what I've read, and what people have told me. And Phoenix definitely was there before me. In fact, it goes all of the way back to 1870. And even photos from the 1940s seem to be so different from the Phoenix that I know that it kinda freaks me out.

Since Phoenix changes so quickly, it can be difficult to imagine what it was like in the past. Trying to understand this is my hobby, and my passion. I'm not pining away for the "good old days" before a cure for Polio was found, or before schools were desegregated. I understand that the world has gotten much better, especially air conditioning, since "the old days". But it enriches my life to learn more, and I'm particularly fascinated by Phoenix in the 1940s. Let's go visit.

The Alhambra Garage in the 1940s, Grand Avenue and Thomas, Alhambra, Arizona. This was very far away from the city limits of Phoenix, back when Alhambra was its own town.

Actually, we have to start with the 1930s, which was the time of the Depression, when times were hard. The "roaring 20s" had been a time of plenty, and it all came crashing down with the Stock Market crash of '29. So the thirties were a tough time for all Americans. And then America entered World War II in 1941, and until September 2nd of 1945, when the war finally ended, the United States was still a place where there was scarcity - the attitude of the Depression continued on through the mid-1940s, an attitude of doing without, of making do with what was available. So half of the 1940s had a feeling more like the Depression Era, and then everything changes after the war, and in 1945, the 1950s begins.

And by 1950s, I mean a time of plenty which the United States hadn't seen for decades. Suddenly the economy was booming, there was money everywhere. Houses were built, cars got gigantic and developed fins. And Phoenix went into an era of growth which, even for a city that had grown quickly in the past, was spectacular.

Image at the top of this post: Looking north at 16th Street from Camelback Road in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona.


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The return of human scale to downtown Phoenix - Ways


To my amazement, human scale is returning to downtown Phoenix. And by that, I mean places that people can walk to, places where people can sit outside, places with trees. And it's being done by creating what I'm calling "Ways". Well, that's the best term that I can think of, because they're streets, but not the wide multi-lane streets that Phoenix has developed in the 20th Century, but streets designed for humans.

When Phoenix was first laid out, in 1870, the streets were just as wide as they are now, which meant that they were absolutely gigantic. The thought may have been to keep the streets from getting crowded, like the narrow streets back east, or it may have been to allow a wagon to turn around, I really don't know. What I do know is that the scale of the streets started out as being way too big for humans. So the city divided itself into what were called "Ways" or "Alleys". There were a lot of them, like Melinda's Alley, which divided Monroe and Adams, or Cactus Way, which divided Central and 1st Street. Not to mention Gold's Alley, and Wall Street. These were never on maps, but it's how people adapted a city that was laid out incorrectly into a human scale. There were houses along these places, and businesses.

After cars took over the city, these little places faded away. And by the time I got to Phoenix, it was a place that had very few pedestrians, and a LOT of cars. The cars ruled, the people were marginalized.

To my surprise, the idea of a "Way" or an "Alley" that's mostly for humans, is on its way back in downtown Phoenix. And what I have my eyes on now is Adams between Central and 1st Street, in front of the Renaissance Hotel. And by front, I mean the human front, not the side that faces Central, or 1st Street, the side that faces Adams. Yes, cars will be allowed there, but cars won't be the most important thing, humans will be. Humans walking on wide sidewalks and not having to dodge buses, cars, or taxis. Humans walking under trees. It's an old-fashioned idea, but I'd like to see it return.

Image above: construction during the redesign of Adams between Central and 1st Street, as seen from the Renaissance Hotel, January 2017. Wide spaces for people, narrow spaces for cars. Cars have their own entrance, on the side of the building, not the front.


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Controlling the floodplain of the Agua Fria River


Even though Phoenix is in the desert, to really understand it you have to follow the water. And I don't mean lack of it, I mean too much of it. That is, flooding.

If you don't live in Phoenix, or if you're new to Phoenix, it may seem strange that a desert city would be in a constant battle with flooding. But it's been the story of Phoenix since the 1860s, and it continues to this day. Let's take a look at the Agua Fria River.

As of this writing (January of 2017) there is no flood control on the Agua Fria River. Other rivers in the Phoenix area, such as the Salt River, and the Verde, have been controlled for a long time. Washes that periodically did catastrophic flood damage to Phoenix have been controlled, such as Cave Creek. The Arizona Canal has a Diversion Channel next to it that protects the city of Phoenix all of the way to Peoria from flooding that would be caused by an overflow of the Canal (the water flows south). And there are a LOT of other flood control projects that have been created by the Maricopa County Flood Control District, which began in the 1950s. But not the Agua Fria.

Take a look at a map of the west valley. The Agua Fria River (which is actually a riparian wash, which means that's usually dry) flows parallel to the 101, going north to south. If you take a look at the 1964 map at the top of this post, you can see that it flows between El Mirage and Sun City. And if you're wondering if the engineers have controlled the Agua Fria, the answer is no.

It's been a very long time since a catastrophic flood hit that part of the valley. When it did, in the 1930s, the Agua Fria Project was wiped out, and the land sat mostly empty until an Air Force Base was built there in the 1940s (Luke Air Force Base, which is along the Agua Fria Floodplain at about Northern Avenue).

The project to control the Agua Fria River will be the next gigantic engineering project in the Phoenix area, and so far I've never heard anyone even talking about it. I sometimes wonder if I'll live long enough to see it? But once it's done, it will be like all of the other flood control projects in the valley, it will work so well that no one will really ever have to think about it again, and people will say, "there used to be flooding there?"


Cave Creek flooding in 1921



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Going to the Biltmore Hotel in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona


Let's go stay at the Biltmore Hotel in the 1940s. It's waaaayyyy outside of the city limits, at 24th Street and Camelback Road. It's quite a place, and very expensive, so it's lucky we're rich.

Actually we're rich and famous, and we want to go somewhere where we can relax and be far away from the crowds, the photographers, the press, and all of that. Got your sunglasses? Let's go!

The 1930s have been a rough time, because of the Depression, and the years of World War II weren't very pleasant, either, but now that all of that is behind us, let's go enjoy life a bit. It's January, and I understand that the weather in Phoenix is just gorgeous at this time of year.

Sky Harbor in the 1930s

We're flying into Sky Harbor. Not much to see, just a landing strip and a few buildings nearby the railroad tracks. It sure is beautiful here in the desert - the air is so fresh and clean. I feel like I'm breathing easier already, even though I'm smoking a cigar that puts out more fumes than one of my factories in Pittsburg. It's good to be rich!

Flying over the Biltmore in the 1940s, the entrance is at lower left, at 24th Street and Camelback Road.

The drive up to the Biltmore is due north on 24th Street, which is right where the airport is. How convenient! Look at that Mountain over there, it looks just like a camel lying down. I wonder what they call that mountain?

Looking east at Camelback Mountain in the 1940s from about 24th Street

We're at 24th Street and Camelback Road (oh, that must be the name of the mountain!) and there's a long drive going past a golf course on our right leading up to the Biltmore. Look! A canal! We're crossing the bridge now.

The Biltmore Hotel in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona.

The place looks great. Kind of a Frank Lloyd Wright feeling, although I'm told that he didn't design it. It was built way back in '29, but it still looks nice. Wow, we're way out in the country - the only other house I see is that big one up on the hill, built on the fortune made on chewing gum, which I think is funny.

The Wrigley Mansion in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona.

Lend me a dime, I want to tip the porter. Yeah, I want to be lavish, maybe you should make it a quarter! We have a lot of bags for them to carry. While they're putting our bags away, let's go wander around the grounds. I understand the pool has a high dive, and I'm looking forward to seeing if I can still do the flips that I used to do back in my younger days!


Swimming pool at the Biltmore in the 1940s. You're walking towards the high dive.

Now that we're settled in, I just want to sit here, and drink all of this in. Yes, I know that you want to ride up into the foothills, I'm be along in a minute, find me a gentle horse.

The Biltmore Hotel in the 1940s, in the foothills of Squaw Peak (now called Piestewa Peak).


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/PhoenixHistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Walking with the People of the Stone Hoe - the Hohokams, in Phoenix, Arizona


Today I feel like walking with the Hohokams. Walk with me. If you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area you won't have to walk very far. I'll be walking into my backyard in suburban Glendale.

Hohokam is a name that was given to the people who lived in the Salt River Valley (which is where Phoenix is) long before the arrival of the modern people, like the Pimas (Akimel O'odham) or the Apaches. And the word Hohokam simply means "those who have gone". No one really knows anything about them, except that they were here, and that they built gigantic adobe structures, and dug gigantic canals. It must have been amazing to see the ruins, which were a common sight through the 1930s, all over the Phoenix area.

If you want to learn more about the Hohokams, I recommend reading the essays of Omar Turney, who was kinda their number one fan. He lived in Phoenix before just about every trace of what they had built was covered up by a modern city. A tiny bit of it is preserved at the Pueblo Grande Museum, at 44th Street and Washington. But don't call them "Hohokam" to Omar Turney - he disliked the term. To him, it was degrading that this magnificent culture should be reduced to a word that just meant that they were, like, former tenants. Instead, he liked to focus on the fact that these people did all of this with stone tools. They dug canals that are bigger than the modern ones nowadays, by hand, they built with stone tools, they farmed with stone tools. He called them "The People of the Stone Hoe".

If you're like a lot of people who had to go visit Pueblo Grande on a school field trip and came away wondering why anyone would preserve a bunch of dirt and mud buildings, I understand. I've been there too, and it really doesn't look like much. So I recommend that you step away from the museum, turn around and look at the valley. The Hohokams lived from Tempe to Peoria, and much more, and that's what I call Pueblo Grande - the Big Town. The People of the Stone Hoe didn't just live at 44th Street and Washington, they were everywhere. Their bare feet walked just about every square inch of the Salt River Valley, including where I live, and where you live, too.

And if you're wondering why more of it wasn't preserved, it's because the city of Phoenix is on top of it. And no one really knows why they left. It may have gotten too hot, it may have gotten too cold. There may have been a drought, there may have been floods. But there was a city there, and when a new city was built on top of it, it was called Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Image at the top of this post: The People of the Stone Ho at Pueblo Grande, 44th Street and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking east towards Tempe, with the Salt River and South Mountain at right.

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Living in Phoenix, past present and future


As someone who is fascinated with Phoenix history, I am often saddened by people who look back on "the good old days" and give up on today and tomorrow. I'm not one of those people who wishes that he could "turn back the clock", or "wave a magic wand". I'm interested in being part of the history of Phoenix, and I mean right here, right now, and into the future.

Like the pioneers of Phoenix, in the 1860s, I'm "unreasonably optimistic" about the future. When I look back at people like Jack Swilling, or Dwight Heard, I have to wonder what were these guys thinking? Who would live in a place like this? Who would invest? Can you imagine looking out over miles and miles of desert and investing in the Arizona Canal in the 1880s? And how in the world did a gigantic dam get built in 1911?

I collect old photos of Phoenix and I know that it often makes people think that I'm one of those people who wishes that Phoenix was the way it used to be, maybe in the 1950s, or the 1870s. But I'm not. I love the growth of Phoenix, and it fascinates me as if it were watching the growth of a child, going through stages, stumbling along the way, unsure of the future.

I started posting old photos of Phoenix back when the internet was brand new, on web pages, just for fun (I'm a Graphic Designer). When Google+ was invented, I started posting there, and now I'm posting on a Facebook page. And I do it for the same reason that I stop and watch a construction site, because I'm just a kid. And what I see takes me to places and times that excite my imagination. What would it have been like to walk with the Hohokams? How would I have felt when the city of Phoenix was reinvented in the 1920s, and most of the old territorial buildings were knocked down?

A couple of years ago I created this blog so that I could explore these places in more depth. I wanted to go back there, but I wanted to be able to return to the 21st Century, to my air conditioned car, to my Smart Phone. I love getting unstuck in time, but I always want to come home. And Phoenix is my home, not a place that I wish that it used to be. Right now, and for the future, as long as I can stay here, which I hope is forever.

Image at the top of this post: Relaxing poolside at the Adams Hotel in the 1950s, Central Avenue and Adams, Phoenix, Arizona. Where the Renaissance Hotel is nowadays. It's gone, but the Professional Building, at left (which is now the Hilton Garden Inn), and the Phoenix Mountains back there, are still there.



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How to make Phoenix a cooler and shadier place - plant a tree, and care for it


I love Phoenix, but it has one serious drawback - it's hot. And I mean crazy hot, like "can't touch your steering wheel if your car has been outside in the sun" hot. It's not quite enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk (I once tried), but it's close. My California friends will visit in the winter, and in the meantime they just offer their sympathy to me for having to live somewhere that gets so hot. Of course, for my friends in Minnesota I explain that it's like the cold there, except that you don't have to shovel heat, like snow. Luckily, there's air conditioning, and shade.

Unfortunately, Phoenix is in the Sonoran Desert, which has been dangerously hot since the end of the last Ice Age. But Phoenix has actually been getting hotter since the 1970s, when the trees went away.

By the time I got to Phoenix, in 1979, I had no idea that Phoenix had once been a city of trees. I never saw the trees, I've just seen photos of them, and I've talked to people who remember the trees. It really wasn't that long ago that they trees went away. My research shows that the pioneers of Phoenix started planting trees in the 1860s, and for generation after generation Phoenix was a place of shady trees. Yeah, still hot, but it had trees.

Nowadays I see a lot of people who are unhappy about this. And they rant on Facebook, or get angry at their city council for not planting trees, or forward emails. But so many people fail to do the one thing that would make all of the difference - plant a tree, and care for it.

I'm not talking about planting a random tree somewhere in an abandoned lot. Trees need care. As saplings, they need extra water until they're established, even desert adapted trees, like mesquite. And if you plant a desert-adapted tree, keep in mind that it will grow, maybe a little too well, and need to be trimmed, and the leaves will need to be cleaned up every once in a while. I let the leaves from my trees fall into my garden, where they become mulch. If you've designed an outdoor space that needs to be kept completely clean of leaves all of the time, redesign it. Take all of that money, and water, from a pool or a large lawn of grass, and invest it in a tree.

Image at the top of this post: the Evans House in 1904, 11th Avenue and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona. Under the shade of the trees.


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Canals, laterals, and storm drains in Phoenix, Arizona


To really understand Phoenix, you have to find the canals. The canals bring water into Phoenix for agriculture, irrigation, and for the daily needs of everyone who takes a shower, or makes a cup of coffee. I'm enjoying some coffee right now, brewed with genuine Salt River water, with a bit of the Verde River added in, for taste.

I've known people who've lived in Phoenix all of their lives, or for a very long time, and have no idea what, or where, the canals are. They're water from the Salt and Verde Rivers, which begins as snow melt, is dammed, and then gently released all over the valley. I like to call them the "gentle rivers of Phoenix" and they're always flowing, and have been since the 1800s. And yes, there are fish in them.

By the way, I know that a lot of people tend to call anything with water in it a canal. And I know what they mean. Of course there are very few canals - north of the Salt River the two main ones are the Arizona Canal and Grand Canal. The water that you see flowing, for example, along Central Avenue isn't a canal, it's a lateral. That means that it takes water from the canal, and brings it where it's needed. When I lived in Tempe, back in the '80s, there was an open lateral in front of the place where I lived, running parallel to Wildermuth. It's been covered up now, but it's still there.

There are also storm drains, most of which in the valley are the old abandoned canals, like the old Cross-Cut Canal, which is along 48th Street, or Swilling's Ditch, which is over by the Circle K on Van Buren and 32nd Street. When the canals stopped being used to bring water in, they were converted into drains that take rain water away.

So if you call everything from canals to laterals to storm drains "canals", that's OK, I know what you mean. I'm glad that you see them, because to really understand Phoenix, you have to follow the water.

Image at the top of this post: the Arizona Canal in the 1890s, Phoenix, Arizona. Back in those days there were very few bridges over it, so it was a problem to cross. Now there are so many bridges over it that few people even realize that it's there.

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The awkward years of Phoenix, Arizona - the 1970s through the 1990s


As much as I love Phoenix, I have to admit that the Phoenix that I knew was actually pretty awful. I first saw it in 1979, and by that time it had already become one of the worst air quality cities in the United States, and the downtown area looked like it had been hit with a tornado, there were so many empty lots. But it wasn't until I started collecting old photos of Phoenix that I realized that I had seen Phoenix during its "awkward years".

Phoenix is much older than I had ever imagined, going back to 1870. When I first started collecting photos, I would categorize the oldest ones as just "territorial" - but that spanned a big chunk of time, up to 1912. And in that time the Phoenix was transformed from a bare desert to an oasis. And after 1912, it really got started, because of the new dam, Roosevelt, which had been built in 1911. The canals had been built by the pioneers as early as the 1860s (following the path of the abandoned Hohokam Canals), but the dam helped protect them from the terrible floods that hit every summer.

The Phoenix that I moved to had no light rail. The trolley lines had been abandoned in 1949, after being a part of the city for over sixty years. They're back now, but for decades there was no other way to get around Phoenix than by car, or the bus, or by walking.

What really caught my eye in the old photos were the trees. The Phoenix that I knew had been mostly stripped bare of trees. Like a lot of people my age, we just figured that Phoenix never had any trees, because it was a desert. Not true. Phoenix had a LOT of trees. There may not have been air conditioning for many generations, but there was shade. It was everywhere, and it's coming back. I see a lot of trees being planted nowadays.

Phoenix street in the 1920s

Phoenix street in the 1890s

Future generations will look back on the "awkward years" of Phoenix and wonder why? I wonder why myself, and I wonder what went wrong. But mostly I like to focus on what went right, and what's happening now. And Phoenix is growing out of its awkward era. It was just a stage that hopefully will be just considered a bad time, not what Phoenix has been, or is.


Image at the top of this post: Looking southeast over Heritage Square in the 1980s, 7th Street and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona.

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Return to human scale in downtown Phoenix


I finally got to walk around CityScape in downtown Phoenix yesterday. It covers two blocks, with a second story skyway between them, from 1st Street to 1st Avenue. The skyway crosses Central Avenue. I'll try to get back there and take more photos, maybe on a Sunday when there aren't so many people around. Taking photos when people are walking by is a creepy thing to do, and although I'm interested in the architecture, it doesn't look like that. Personally, I prefer that people not take photos where there are a lot of people, and so I try to follow my own advice.

And that's the whole point! People! Lots of them, walking around. CityScape has created something that didn't exist when I worked downtown in the '90s, human scale. Safe places to walk. Well, I nearly got creamed by someone on a bicycle, but it's certainly safer than I remember.

Since I collect old photos of Phoenix, a lot of people mistakenly believe that I'm wishing for the "good old days", and that I hate modern architecture. Not true. I like looking at the old photos because I see a time when there were people, not just buildings, parking lots and cars.

Don't get me wrong, I love cars. But once Phoenix started redesigning itself around them, in the 1920s, it created a city that, by the time I saw it, had no room for people. The downtown Phoenix that I walked around in in the '90s was a place with empty sidewalks, except for the strange combination of groups of corporate people walking to a downtown restaurant, hoping that they wouldn't see any, uh, unsociable behavior along the way. Yes, there were people passed out on the sidewalk, and, uh, relieving themselves on the walls. I walked around downtown Phoenix back in those days, all by myself, a full-grown man of about number one size, and it still made me nervous. People asked me why I did it, and I said I liked looking at the buildings. In my imagination I could see a city with people walking around, and I wondered what had gone wrong?

I don't get downtown much these days, but when I do I'm just bouncing around from excitement. There are people there! And that's the Phoenix that I see in the old photos, and that's the Phoenix of the future. How about that?

Image at the top of this post: Looking south at the Luhrs Building from inside of CityScape in January of 2017.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/PhoenixHistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Why you shouldn't take the freeway in Phoenix, or Los Angeles


If you're like most people who live in Phoenix, or Los Angeles, when you want to go somewhere, you immediately head for the nearest freeway. There are a LOT of freeways in Los Angeles, and in the past couple of decades, quite a few have been built in Phoenix.

As someone who's lived in both places, I understand the logic. Freeways are designed to get cars from one place to another with the minimum of obstacles. Surface streets have stoplights, cars turning, that sort of thing. Freeways do one thing - they move forward quickly.

At least that's the theory. When I lived in Los Angeles, over thirty years ago, the freeways looked more like parking lots than anything else. And I understand that it's gotten even more crowded there nowadays! And while the Phoenix freeways certainly aren't as congested as the ones in Los Angeles, they're often jammed down to a crawl, making them an unpleasant experience.

Don't get me wrong - I love freeways, and when they're not crowded, you can get from one place to another much quicker, and they're much safer than taking surface streets. But when traffic jams, getting on a freeway is just delusional - the image of speed is still there, but it's just an image. The reality is that it's a painfully dull way to drive through a city.

Freeways are like elevators - they're fine if you're moving along quickly, and don't spend much time in them, staring at nothing. They aren't designed to be entertaining, they're designed for function, and that function is movement. Staring straight ahead, whether in an elevator or on a freeway, is fine as long as you're moving forward fairly quickly. When you come to a stop, or a crawl, it's a very bad, and boring, place to be.

I'm easily bored, so I rarely take freeways, especially if I know that traffic will be slowing down. There's not much to see on a freeway, other than the taillights of the cars ahead of you, maybe some stray signs telling you that the exit you need is two miles away, some stray palm trees, some freeway landscaping. I'm interested in cars, but most of them are the same ones I see every day. If I'm lucky I'll see a Tesla or something, or maybe be able to read some interesting bumper stickers while I sit in traffic. When I'm with someone who's driving, I can usually count on some ranting, and getting to see that little blood vein on the side of the temple that tends to show when people get stuck in traffic on the freeway.

The best solution that I found for this when I lived in Los Angeles was to avoid the freeways. No, I didn't get anywhere any quicker than anyone else, but I was entertained. I drove along the Cahuenga Pass, on Mulholland, on Sepulveda. I admired the interesting architecture of the classic California neighborhoods, I passed businesses and saw old neon signs. I saw the kind of things that most of the people who live in a city never see.

I avoid freeways in Phoenix, too. If I'm out history adventuring with a friend, and they ask if they should take the freeway, I hesitate. I know that it's the logical thing to do, but it's so boring! Let's take the surface streets, and see something!

Image at the top of this post: the Black Canyon Freeway (I-17) in the 1960s, Phoenix, Arizona.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/PhoenixHistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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How Phoenix fought to not end up like LA


As someone who's lived in Phoenix, and Los Angeles, I understand it when people say that they don't want Phoenix to end up like LA. And by that they meant smog, congestion, jammed freeways, that sort of thing.

Because of that, Phoenix resisted building freeways. When I moved to Phoenix, in 1979, there was only one freeway. One. And Phoenix was already a pretty sizable town, so it was very difficult to drive, for example from Glendale to Scottsdale. The route was to go on Bell Road, as quickly as possible, and stopping every few blocks for the lights. The idea, of course, was that if Phoenix didn't build freeways, it wouldn't get crowded and congested, and have jammed freeways. That was the logic.

Another thing that Phoenix resisted was density. Places like LA were congested, and crowded, and Phoenix was wide-open. To this day Phoenix has an incredible amount of open, empty lots all over. Nowadays people speak of "infill", but this would have sounded too much like "congestion" several decades ago.

Phoenix also resisted the kind of bureaucracy that limited that types of freedoms that made Arizona different from California. Pollution controls were very slow in being enforced, and to this day gas stations don't have pollution controls, which Los Angeles has had for over thirty years. When Los Angeles started tightening up pollution controls for businesses, Phoenix paid no attention.

I don't hear too many people saying that "we don't want to be like LA in Phoenix" nowadays, except the old-timers who remembered how Phoenix had gone from a fairly small-town atmosphere to having a gigantic population almost overnight.

If you remember Los Angeles of thirty years ago, you'll be surprised at how much it's been cleaned up nowadays. The air is so much bluer! As someone who hugs trees, likes blue skies, and cherishes quiet neighborhoods, I would like to see Phoenix become more like LA, with better pollution control enforcement, freeways that take traffic away from surface streets, and of course, more trees.


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Invasion of the Californians in January to Arizona, especially Scottsdale


It's January, and I've been watching the invasion of the Californians at this time of year for over a decade now. They're here for the big car shows in Scottsdale.

I used to live in Los Angeles, and I have a lot of friends in California, so I have a great affection for Californians. They're weird, and the best part is that most of them have no idea how wonderfully weird they are.

If you've never lived in California, you may be puzzled by their behavior when they descend on the Phoenix area in January. They're only here for a few weeks, so you have to enjoy the weirdness while it lasts. Here are some of the things that they do:

• On motorcycles, they split lanes. Yes, it's perfectly legal in California for a motorcycle to pass between cars, between lanes. It's wildly dangerous, and yes, a lot of people get killed doing that. There's really no need to do it in Phoenix, as traffic is rarely as dense as in Los Angeles, but I remember seeing motorcycles splitting the lanes, and moving along quite nicely, way back in the eighties, when the freeways looked more like parking lots than anything else.

• They have a completely different point of view of money. When my California friends visit me, they are happy to pay just about any price for anything in Phoenix, and consider it a bargain. Everything is a bargain in Arizona, including five million-dollar cars. They will often say stuff like, "in LA that would be, like, twenty million". When they take me out to lunch, they're delighted that they their money buys so much. When I tell them what they could buy in the housing market, they just don't believe it.

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• They're thrilled with convenient parking. I've often found that the topic of conversation with my California friends when we go to a restaurant revolves around the fact that they can see their car from there. Phoenix has gigantic parking lots, and lots of free parking, and it's an absolute fantasy to my California friends.

• They don't mind waiting. I've gone to restaurants with my Arizona friends who angrily stomp out of restaurants if there's any kind of a wait, even a few minutes. California people are used to that, they hang around, and talk. I like talking with my California friends.

• They don't complain about traffic. When I lived in Los Angeles, I carried a book in my car whenever I drove on the freeway. When traffic stopped, I put my car in park and read for a while. When traffic started moving, I would put my car in drive, and go. I've never had the opportunity to do that in Phoenix, no matter how much of a "traffic jam" there is. I read most of "the Once and Future King" that way, on LA freeways in the eighties.

I get a big kick out of the invasion of the Californians every January.

Image at the top of this post: at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car auction a few years back. Yes, that's a California vehicle, it even has the vintage black license plate. Ya gotta love the Californians!

What you can do to help preserve the places you love in your town


I love living in the Phoenix area, mostly because of the Chuckbox restaurant in Tempe, which I've been going to, as often as I could, since I was struggling to get my degree at ASU. For years while I lived in California, I dreamed of being able to go get a burger there, and now that I live way on the west side, I don't get there as often as I'd like. It's January, and my California friends will be visiting soon for the big car shows, and I know that it means I'll be going to the Chuckbox, and Gallagher's, and Parsons.

Now waitaminute, I'm not advertising restaurants. I just love these places. And I vote them for stay in the only way that actually makes a difference. No, I don't click "like" or forward emails, I go there, I buy stuff. I vote with the one thing that makes a difference: money. Well, actually my California friends take me there, but you see what I mean.

I've seen a lot of people complain about the places that they love in their neighborhood going away, especially the restaurants that they love. And then I ask when was the last time they were there? And could we go there, like today? The people who make a difference say "Let's go!", the rest just sit around and complain, maybe posting a rant on Facebook or something.

I'm an old Marketing guy, and I know that people vote with their feet, and their money. Signing a petition won't save a business that's at risk of being replaced by some awful chain restaurant. Nor will forwarding emails, or ranting on Facebook. Go there. Open up your wallet and tell them that you want them to stay, and you're willing to invest in it.

I was at my Gallagher's recently and I asked the manager what I could do to help keep the place around, for like, forever. She said, "just keep coming back". Good answer -that's how you do it.

Image at the top of this post: The Chuckbox restaurant in 1972, University and Forest (two blocks east of Mill Avenue), Tempe, Arizona. This was even before my day, and they still have only sold over 278 hamburgers!



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Finding Ichabod, the tree, in downtown 1920s Phoenix


When I read about the end of Ichabod in 1929, I was reminded how important little things are to a city, a community, and to people. Ichabod was just a tree. And it's hard for me to believe that so many people seem to miss these details, which are ultimately the most important things we have, like people, unique and one-of-a-kind.



If you don't know about Ichabod, it was a Eucalyptus tree that was next to the Heard Building in downtown Phoenix, along an alley called "Melinda's Alley", sometimes called "Adams Alley", sometimes "Our Alley". It's between Adams and Monroe on Central Avenue. Ichabod was a big old tree, and the people who worked in the Heard Building were the ones who named it. It was behind the old Occidental Boarding Rooms, which went back to Territorial Days. Whether the tree did or not, I have no idea, but I imagine that it did. It probably saw Arizona become a State in 1912. And in 1929, progress had moved on, and it had to go.

The Occidental Boarding House in 1922, Central Avenue between Adams and Monroe, where the Craig Building is nowadays. Ichabod is not visible, it was behind the building. The Occidental, and Ichabod, were torn down in 1929.

The Craig Building, which is still there, was built in 1929, and they needed the space. Cities always seem to need space, for buildings, for cars, and for everything but what really matters most to people - the details.

I know that a lot of people are saddened when they see progress go plowing through, knocking down everything that mattered to them, even small details like old trees. I guess that's just the way it is. Cities grow and they need the room.

I collect old photos of Phoenix, and I've been looking for Ichabod, and I found him today, in a photo from the McCulloch Photography Collection at ASU. That's him up at the top of this post, on the left, next to the Heard Building, which is still there. The alley is still there, too, but it's just an alley, a place for garbage cans, with no place for trees.

The Phoenix that I've lived in for many decades has precious few trees. And I've watched them get cut down to make room for more buildings, more lanes of traffic, that sort of thing. And I understand. But sometimes I think about Ichabod, and hope that the future of Phoenix will be different.

As read by Mick Welsh, Graphic Artist for The Catholic Sun and the Communications Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix https://dphx.org/mick-welsh/



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