This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of 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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