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

The good, and bad of flaky people in California, and Arizona


If you're from a place that's energetic, such as Minnesota, like I am, the slow and often flaky behavior of people in California and Arizona can come as a surprise. I was born and raised in Minneapolis, and respectable people always had the snow shoveled from their sidewalks by 9 am, and the grass was always mowed. In fact, that's part of the reason I left Minnesota, the attitude is more than just energetic, it's kinda crazy!

I moved to Phoenix when I was 19 and immediately fell in love with the more relaxed attitude. The manager of the apartment where I lived, who was also from the midwest, hated it, and called it a "mañana attitude". And that meant that whenever he tried to get something done by someone, they would not show up, and insisted that they would be there tomorrow (which is technically what mañana means, but in reality it means "maybe sometime in the future, maybe not"). And now waitaminute, if you think I'm picking on Hispanic people, think again. This leisurely attitude towards doing things in a timely manner wasn't confined to a particular group, it seemed like everyone did it. Everyone, of course, except the Midwestern people, who were idiot enough to be out in 100 degree weather mowing their lawns.

And then I moved to California and I really, really got to see what "laid back" meant. I lived in Santa Barbara for about three years and maybe it's the beautiful weather, or something, but the people there hardly seemed to be moving at all. I really enjoyed it, and it reminded me of the song "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffet. And it started to worry me. I liked Santa Barbara, but I saw too many people who were just wasting away their lives. I didn't want to be a grey-haired surfer dude working four jobs and living in a broom closet of an apartment. So I moved to Los Angeles.

I gotta tell you that LA made me nervous. It's so big, and so crowded. Luckily, it's also laid back, so if you actually show up, and do the work, you'll be fine. There were six hundred (600) people who applied for the job I got at Blue Cross in the Marketing Department. I can't say that I was all that qualified, but I had a college degree, and I showed up for the job interview, wearing a clean shirt and a tie. My midwestern work ethic had calmed down quite a bit, but I still remember seeing people who seemed as if they were hardly moving at all. Often I would want to go take a pulse of someone, to see if they were actually alive.

Today I find that I can be energetic, and get the work done, and I can also be laid back. I like the compromise that living in Minnesota, Arizona, and California has taught me.


Image at the top of this post, relaxing in Santa Barbara, California in the 1980s

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The difference between calling and phoning in old-time Phoenix


I collect old photos of Phoenix, including ads, and I get a big kick out of how things change. Buildings change, streets change, and the way we use the language changes. A good example is the difference between what is meant by "calling" and "phoning" when telephones were new.

Nowadays, of course, to call means to pick up the phone and, well, call someone. I've lived a long life and I've never heard the word used any other way. But when telephones were new, there was a difference between "call" and "phone" - call meant to visit in person, phone mean to, uh, call on a phone. Confusing!

Of course, it's like any new technology. I've seen it all of my life. The young people take it for granted, and the old-timers are usually hesitant to adopt to it. Phoenix has been around since 1870, so it originally had no electricity, and no telephones. If you wanted to talk to someone, dag-nab it (as the old-timers would say), you had to call on them. If you were a society person, you carried your calling card, and left it if the person you called on wasn't at home.

1912 ad that includes the phrase "Call or Phone"

So you'd see ads that say "call or phone", which to our modern eyes looks ridiculous. They meant you could call in person, or you could use that new-fangled device, the telephone.

Thank you for time-traveling with me!


Image at the top of this post: Telephone linemen in Phoenix in 1919. I don't have an exact address for this alley, but the guy on the left up on the pole is named Charles.

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The really, really terrible parking problems of old-time Phoenix


I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on a Facebook page, and it often comes as a surprise when people see how awful the parking was back in old-time Phoenix.

Maybe it's because when we look back with nostalgia at the "old days" we usually see advertising that shows someone driving along with no traffic, or in a movie the hero always parks his car right in front of the building. I lived in California, and for my friends that know what really, really terrible parking is like, we just laugh. If you've never driven around for blocks and blocks, desperately looking for a parking spot, it can be hard to imagine. And it started in Phoenix just about right after cars were invented.

If you didn't drive before the 1950s in Phoenix (and very few people who are reading this did), you would have no idea how really, really bad the parking situation was in downtown Phoenix. Attempts were made to alleviate the problem, including the Luhrs Parking garage (which is still there, and still gets plenty of use, on Madison and 1st Avenue), but by the 1960s people of Phoenix were fed up, and instead of going downtown, they went to places that had plenty of free and convenient parking, including Uptown Plaza, Park Central, and Christown.

I have a brother who lives in the San Francisco area, and every time he visits me in Phoenix he is always talking about the great parking. We'll sit at a restaurant and he'll look out the window and say "Wow, I can see my car from here!" He has told me stories of attempts to go to parties, that he never got to go to, in spite of his dropping of his wife, and driving around for a while, and then having her drive around for a while, and then finally having to go home. Speaking for myself, when I lived in an apartment in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, I had one (1) parking spot, and if a car was parked in it, I had to drive around the neighborhood, for quite a while, and walk back to my apartment, for several blocks. Not having good parking sucks.

So downtown Phoenix has been keeping an eye on convenient parking. Nowadays I see a lot of parking garages in downtown Phoenix, and I've never had a problem finding a parking meter (which uses debit cards, which I think is way cool). Of course the Light Rail is the best option for most people, and it means that the parking lots can be spread out over the valley (Park and Rides) and cars don't have to jam into downtown.

Phoenix solved its parking problems so well, and so long ago, that most people have no idea how bad it was. I've often ridden along with people who grew up in Phoenix, and in parking lots where there are a dozen empty spots I hear "There's nowhere to park!" (which means there isn't a parking spot right up by the door). When I hear this I know that they never had to deal with really, really bad parking. Must be nice.

I like Phoenix, it's hot in the summer, but you can find a parking spot!

Image at the top of this post: a double-parked car in the 1930s on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, next to a sign that says, "Double Parking Not Permitted".

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The very, very, very slow rebirth of downtown Phoenix


If you're familiar with downtown Phoenix over the past forty years, you would be amazed at what has happened to it in the last decade. At the risk of sounding like the Chamber of Commerce, it's been reborn. There's much going on there nowadays, like ASU, the Light Rail, I could go on and on. And it's been a process of rebirth that has taken a LONG time.

As near as I can figure, downtown Phoenix started to slide into, uh, less-than-desirable status at about the same time that places like Uptown Plaza, Park Central, and Christown were built, that is the late 1950s and early '60s. I collect old photos of Phoenix and downtown was a happening place right up through that time. People shopped there, and the sidewalks were crowded. Traffic must have been terrible, and I suppose that not being able to find a parking spot drove people away from shopping downtown. If you look at photos of Uptown Plaza, the first thing you see is a GIGANTIC parking lot (nothing impressive by today's standards, but it must have been wonderful to see back then). And in my opinion, the name "Park Central" included the word "park" for a reason - if you've ever driven around looking for a parking spot (I used to live in California) and then worried about a parking meter expiring, you know how nice it is to have free and convenient parking. And, by the way, Christown was a completely enclosed air conditioned mall. That had to be a little slice of heaven to people in Phoenix in the 1960s.

I actually visited downtown Phoenix in 1978. I had moved from Minneapolis, where downtown was a place to go, and I was appalled. If you want to get a feel for how run-down downtown Phoenix was by the 1970s, just watch the 1977 movie "the Gauntlet". The director needed a background that was as terrible-looking and seedy as possible, and instead of building an expensive set in Hollywood, it was just shot in downtown Phoenix.

When I started working for Bank One in 1993 in what is now called Chase Tower, downtown Phoenix was still a pretty scary place. Yes, some new buildings had been built, but mostly downtown was empty at night. I left there at the end of the work day and drove back here to suburbia. I do remember seeing a building named "Renaissance" and I knew that there were people who hoped to bring downtown Phoenix back.

If you haven't been to downtown Phoenix in the last few years, be prepared to be impressed. Yeah, I know that I sound like one of those old-time "boosters" for a town. And I've always liked downtown Phoenix, even when I had to hang my head a bit about stuff. But now I couldn't be prouder.


Image at the top of this post: the Sheraton Grand Hotel in 2017, Van Buren and 3rd Street, Phoenix, Arizona

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How to show respect for locals in California, and Arizona


Unlike most of the kids I grew up with in the old neighborhood in Minneapolis, I left. To me, it didn't really matter where I went, I just wanted to get away. I could drive, I could read a map, so I left, and moved to Phoenix, Arizona.

If that's you, then you know that you can never really fit in "back home", and you'll never really be a local where you live. I use the term local, but you can also call people who grew up somewhere, and stayed put, as "natives". And they can be kinda cool, and often more than a little bit frightening.

When I lived in California, I remember that the locals would guard the best surfing areas (although I never surfed), and their bumper stickers said, "Save California! When you leave, take someone with you!". Well, not all of them. I got to know a lot of locals, who showed me the best places in town, the best beaches, the best places to get tacos. I didn't want to be seen as an outsider, or a tourist, so I became a "born again local". I did the same thing in Phoenix.

Every individual is unique, of course, but there tends to be a pattern for people who grew up somewhere, and have stayed there all of their lives. Unless they're living somewhere where the population declined, they remember when it wasn't so crowded. They remember less traffic, less waiting in line. So, if you see things from their point of view, it makes sense that they would wish for less people. They don't hate people, they hate crowds.

I understand. And while it's not possible to be one less another person, it is possible to act with respect. In California I didn't act like an obnoxious tourist, I didn't park my car where it blocked everyone else. I learned to eat the local food (although I can't eat fish and seafood, which seems an awful shame). I learned to speak a little Spanish, I learned how to pronounce the names of the streets - which is especially tricky in California, where the locals have a particular way of mispronouncing things, like Sanna Monica, or Sah-pul-va-dah (Sepulveda). By the way, the city where ASU is is called Temp-EE, not TEMP-e. Locals get it right.

The locals also have a tendency to give directions based on what used to be there, such as "turn left where the old barn used to be", so I would learn where the old barn was. It was about respect.

I'm aware that my Minneapolis accent, and midwestern upbringing, gives me away when I try to be a local in Arizona, or California. So I'll admit it, I'm not really a local, but I want to be one.


Image at the top of this post: La Cucaracha Mexican Food, 7th Street and Indian School Road, the first place I discovered how HOT hot sauce can be!

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How to be a senior citizen in Phoenix, Arizona


When I turned fifty, I decided that I would call myself "middle-aged" until I was 100. But now that I'm knocking on the door of sixty, I've decided to go ahead and call myself a senior citizen. I've earned it, simply by staying alive this long. I'm eligible for senior discounts based on my age, not what I've done, or who I am. I'm a senior citizen in Phoenix, Arizona.

I've always been fascinated by senior citizens in Phoenix. I live in Glendale, which is not far from one of the the most famous retirement communities in the world: Sun City. I used to go over to Sun City, and I would wonder what it would be like to be a senior citizen. Over the years I've determined that there are many ways to do it. I'm still figuring it out, and it looks like I'll have a lot more time to do it. Here are some options:

• Being a grumpy old man. I learned how to do this from comedian Dana Carvey in the 1990s. His character on Saturday Night Live was "Grumpy Old Man", and he would rant about how things were better "in his day", including not having seat belts. He would say that when he was a kid he had nothing to play with except broken glass, and "he liked it!" (that was the tag line). You can Google more of his comedy, and it's kind of amazing how easily a person "of age", who means well, and is just talking about how it used to be, can become a ridiculous grumpy old man.

• Being a frightened old person. Yes, there are a lot of things to be scared about in Phoenix. I see it all of the time, and it just makes me sad. I believe that many times fear can just be common sense combined with information, which young people don't seem to have. In my quiet little suburban neighborhood I know people who are horrified about things, maybe stranger danger, or things that I never think about. My next-door neighbor, an elderly widow, was horrified on the night of December 31st, 1999 - and I really don't know what she expected. I walked over to her house and knocked on the door that night, just said that I was next door. Of course I knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything about planes falling from the sky, or the Second Coming, but I let her know that I would be right there.

• Being a person who is empowered by age. This is what I wanted to grow up to be. When I was a kid, and when I was a young man, I imagined that life would teach me things, and show me things, which would make me the man I wanted to grow up to be. I wanted to grow up to be Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird". I wanted to be a man who understood how the world worked, who stood for something, someone people could turn to. I wanted to sit on the porch and talk to the DA, I wanted to know the mayor by the first name. I wanted to take what life had taught me and make the world a better place.

I can still hear my dad saying that "there's no fool like an old fool". And I've had a lot of time to think about it. Yeah, getting old sucks, and life is difficult, but there's no reason to be a fool. I refuse to be a fool, but I embrace being a senior citizen.


Image at the top of this post: Article for Old Folks Day in Mesa, Arizona in 1920. Not a term that's used much anymore, but there are still plenty of these people, who have lived a long time.

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September 11th, 2001 in Glendale, Arizona


I was over at the Glendale Community College Fitness Center recently, and while standing by the check-in desk, the subject of what happened on September 11th, 2001 came up with someone who is about my age, that is someone who remembers it vividly, as if it were yesterday.

I'm not very good at math, but I wondered if the young person sitting there at the counter remembered it. As of this writing, it was sixteen years ago, so most college students now were kids, some as young as three. Of course, it wasn't something that just happened one day in the news, so most young people know about it, even if they don't remember that morning.

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I remember that morning. I live in Glendale, near GCC, and I got an early morning call from a friend who told me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. I was barely awake, and the conversation was brief, and I recall being slightly annoyed at being woken up by the phone (this was back before you could set "do not disturb" on a cell phone).

Like everyone else, I followed the news all day, and was I remember just feeling numb. I had a class to teach that night, at 6, so I went over to the school and started talking about HTML (web design). I know that some of the teachers were talking about what happened in the news, but I had no idea what to do except to just forge ahead and talk about how to make lettering Bold (<B>) on the web. It was a sparse class, and all of us just seemed to just be staring at each other in confusion. I didn't take role, I was glad to see anyone there. I was doing the best I could, but I knew that I was just going through the motions.

What I remember the most was the silence after that. There were no planes in the air, there was no sound from the Air Force Base just west of me. Day after day it was just quiet. Nothing in the air but clouds. Arizona seemed so far away from the rest of the world otherwise, but this brought it home to me.

Before 9/11, the sounds of the jets warming up over at Luke Air Force Base was an annoyance to me. And I grew up right by the Minneapolis airport, so I had been glad to get away from the sound of planes going overhead. Now I like the sound. Sometimes suburbia can get too quiet.

Time-traveling with maps


I have a fascination with maps. Maybe it's because I'm a visual person, they just seem to make more sense to me than if someone says, turn left, turn right. If someone gives me directions, I grab a piece of paper and draw a map. If someone wants directions from me, I sketch out a quick map. I know that this isn't how most people feel about maps, but it's what I see in a map, and if you see it, too, let's face it, you're kinda weird.

Maps do more than guide me, they help me to time-travel. When I look at a map of Phoenix before any freeways were built, I'm transported back to that time. When I see "city limits" on a map in an area that is now considered the middle of Phoenix, I can imagine what the streets looked like, and felt like, at that time.

I like pictures of things. When I can't find pictures, I like maps. If someone starts talking about stuff, I zone out. I didn't realize just how weird I was until I started listening to GPS devices, which said things like "in two-and-a-half miles, turn left, then turn right". I've ridden with people who drive all over the place listening to a voice in their car, and it doesn't seem to bother them. But I want to look at a map!


1895 map of the Glendale and Peoria area


Map of downtown Phoenix in the 1950s


Map of the Salt River Valley in 1892



Image at the top of this post: map of Phoenix, Arizona in 1956. Note the city limits were just north of the Indian School, south of Camelback Road.


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An old-timer's rant in old-time Phoenix


One thing that old-timers really like to do is rant. This is natural, as they know what is what, and have been around a while. They know how things should be, and are outraged when they're not. Let's time travel back to Phoenix after the turn of the century (let's say 1907) and I'll do an old-timer's rant.

"First of all, what's with all of the bicycles? They're everywhere, zooming past you, hardly watching where they're going. Maniacs! Some of those darned things don't even have any brakes, and they just have to keep going until they run into something, like my horse.

Speaking of which, what's with all of the horses? A few years ago there was a reasonable amount, now they're everywhere, making messes, and stinking up the town. And those young folk don't know the first thing about caring for horses - look at that mare tied up over there. Disgraceful!

And don't get me started on those &!#@ horseless carriages! There oughta be a law - those darn things are so noisy, and smelly, and always backfiring. Spooked my horse yesterday while I was having a few at the Central Hotel, and I had to spend half the day looking for her. The next time I see a horseless carriage, well, there's no telling what I'll do!

And electricity! That's the most foolish thing I've ever seen. What's wrong with candles? Do we need to light up Phoenix at night as if it were the middle of the day? Decent folk should be home when it gets dark, not carryin' on by electrical light! Those darned electrical poles and wires are everywhere nowadays - darned foolish things, and dangerous, too. Kilt a horse the other day, I heard. Not sure if that's true. I'll bet the Adams Hotel will burn down one day!

It didn't used to be like this. When I was a young 'un, things were so much better. Kids found their own fun, and showed respect to their elders. There was no electricity, and no horseless carriages, and no bicycles. I miss the old days!"


Image at the top of this post: Washington in 1907, just west of Central Avenue, which used to be called Center.

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How people in old-time Phoenix dealt with the summer heat


I collect photos of old Phoenix, and post them on a Facebook group page, and one of the most common comments I see deals with thoughts of the summer heat. It's usually something like this, "Wow, that photo must have been taken in the winter - they're wearing jackets", or "they have long sleeves!" It's something that I don't notice, because I never had to deal with the heat of Phoenix summers, not really.

I grew up in Minneapolis, and my career in Phoenix has been one of comfort and ease. I always went from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned office. I never had to walk to school in the heat, I never had to work outside. My mind boggles about people who do! And of course my first thought is about what people in old-time Phoenix did before air conditioning.

If you're young, that is, born after the 1920s, you probably wouldn't be able to imagine what the heat must have been like in old-time Phoenix. No, I'm not saying that it was hotter "back in the day", but flip-of-a-switch A/C of the type we know about, really has only been in around since the 1950s. Before that, of course, there were fans, and fans that blew over pads that were saturated with water (called Swamp Coolers), but before that the best you could do was to sleep outside and hang wet sheets and hope for some kind of a breeze. Well, not exactly. I've found out what people did in the summer in Phoenix - they left.

Now waitaminute, I'm not saying the town completely emptied out, but for many months the people left behind were pretty lonely. Anyone who could afford it went to the mountains, or to California.

As a man "of age" now, I can relate to how this worked. When I was in my early thirties, I found that I could pretty much have the golf courses to myself in the summer (and the rates were much lower!). I scoffed at the "wimps" who couldn't take it. And then as I got older and wiser I stopped doing that. Nowadays the thought of going out onto a golf course when it's over 100 degrees is unthinkable. So the people who stayed in old-time Phoenix were, for the most part, young men.

Of course, Phoenix had the kinds of things that helped young men get through the summer. There was electricity by the 1890s, which meant fans were available, and of course ice. And there was beer, and whiskey. If you're a history buff you know that alcohol wasn't just "for partying", it was seen as medicinal, and I gotta admit that I'd probably be quaffing a few if I had to live through a summer in Phoenix without air conditioning.


Image at the top of this post: 1909 ad promoting getting away from Phoenix in the summer. Prescott sounds nice!

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What downtown Phoenix was like in 1993



Let's go to downtown Phoenix in 1993. That was the last year for Valley National Bank, and the first year for Bank One (which is now Chase). Walk with me.

We're employees of Bank One, and the future looks bright. The 1980s were a bad time for Arizona, and even Valley National Bank, which had celebrated its 90th year, was in terrible financial trouble. Bank One had been buying up banks all over the country, in anticipation of national banking, which became legal in 1996 (that is, banking over state lines, which had been illegal since the Stock Market Crash of 1929).

Although the photo at the top of this post shows me eating a meal at the San Carlos Hotel, I never really did that. It was a photo that was used to promote the bank, in flyers that went out with statements. I would normally brown-bag it, eat my lunch quickly and then walk around downtown.

The Bank One Building (now called Chase Tower) is like a space ship. You really don't need to leave the building, and you don't even have to walk outside - there's an tunnel from the parking garage to the building. It's 1993, and there are several businesses in lower level of the building, including a cafeteria, a florist, a dry cleaners, and a place to mail letters, and get stamps. Most of the people that I work with never leave the building.

Outside of the building it's kinda scary. Downtown Phoenix has no nightlife, unless you count the people sleeping on the sidewalks. There's no Light Rail, and no one even dreams that ASU would someday move into the buildings downtown. Across from the Bank One Building is a bar and a flophouse, called Newman's, and next to it is a building that has been abandoned and is all boarded up, which is now the Hilton Garden Inn.

I like walking around and looking at the old buildings. I squint my eyes and try to picture what Phoenix looked like before it had been pretty much abandoned. I'm from California, so it doesn't really bother me much that there are people begging for money just about everywhere I go. I learned to say, "No thank you" and keep going when I lived in Santa Barbara, where these people line the sidewalks and often get very aggressive.

I'm fascinated by the wall around the Bank One Building. It was designed specifically to discourage people from sitting on it, and every once in a while I try it. I'm pretty athletic, but the angle is just right to make it impossible. Clever design!

As I look around at the buildings I wonder if downtown Phoenix will ever be a place filled with restaurants and stores, and the hustle and bustle of life that I'm sure that it once had. The only people I see on the sidewalks, aside from people begging for money, are clumps of corporate people, talking amongst themselves and keeping their eyes front, going to the few restaurants. When I get back to the safety of the "space ship", people ask me where I was, what I was looking at.

Thank you for visiting downtown Phoenix in 1993 with me.


Image at the top of this post: In the restaurant at the San Carlos Hotel in 1993, Central Avenue and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. From a publicity photo for Bank One Arizona.

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How to tell stories of Phoenix "back in the day"


I'm fascinated with the history of Phoenix, and I'm overjoyed when someone tells a story of "back in the day". It's actually a very difficult thing to do, and it's been my privilege to listen to people who are very good at it. I plan on living a very long life, and I'm hoping that I will be able to talk to people about what Phoenix was like before, well, whatever they're doing out there right now.

If you've been tempted to talk about what you remember about Phoenix, I encourage you. If, however you are boring and opinionated, you may find that people would prefer you to keep quiet. You may be surprised to find that it isn't the subject that people don't want to hear, it's you.

As an old Marketing guy, and a teacher, I now know tempting it is to "sell the sizzle, not the steak". That is, to tell people how wonderful, or how terrible, something was - to draw conclusions for your listeners, without really ever sharing information. A good example would be if someone asks you about a restaurant, and you said "it's great!" or "it's awful" instead of "try the roast beef sandwich, I've been enjoying it since 1974". Yes, by all means say how wonderful it is, but describe it. The best stories paint pictures in the mind, they're not just rants. Nobody wants to listen to an angry rant.

That being said, I know that it's human nature to rant. I have a tendency to rant about trees, so if I start doing that, you can tell me to shut up, and get back to the subject. Rants are so common, and pretty much all say the same thing: things used to be better, children minded their parents, etc., etc.

I've always asked old people to talk about what they remember. I used to ask my grandma, and she would talk about days before stuff that I just took for granted was even dreamed of, like television.

I like to time-travel. I like to visit Phoenix in my imagination when the city limits were Bell Road. I like to know how people lived, the cars they drove, just ordinary stuff. I want to know how it felt to hear the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I want to know how people managed to get around before the freeways were built. There's so much I want to know, and I'm not the only one who does. And if you're interested in sharing, just for the pure joy of it, there are people who will listen.


Image at the top of this post: At the Saguaro Apartments in 1979, Phoenix, Arizona. 9th Street south of Devonshire, just north of Lopers. I remember it well, and I remember the roar of the engines at Lopers. I wonder if I still have that shirt?

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/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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What the Phoenix metro area looked like before people started building dams


If you like Phoenix history, like I do, you've probably wondered what the area looked like in its virgin condition, before people started building dams. You know, before the Starbucks, and the freeways, and all of the stuff we look at all of the time. Luckily, it's easy to see.

Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, Arizona. Saddle Mountain, near Tonopah.

No, you can't see it where the dams are. But you can see it anywhere else in the Sonoran Desert where dams were never built. It's just called the desert, and the areas where water flows are called washes. If you see a wash going through an area that has canyon walls on each side of it, there you go. That's what the Salt River looked like before it was dammed. Or you can pick any dammed river you want and go where a dam wasn't built, and see what it looked like for the past ten thousand years (after the end of the ice age). One of my favorite places to go is Saddle Mountain, near Tonopah.

Except for beavers (and I'm no expert on wildlife!), people are the only animals that dam up rivers. They do it so that they can have water for agriculture, or just so that they can have water stored up when it gets hot and dry. And it gets hot and dry in the Phoenix metro area!

Time-travel with me to the days of the Hohokams. No one really knows exactly when they started damming up the Salt River, and building canals, but it was many hundreds of years ago. When the Phoenix pioneers first started thinking about living in the Salt River Valley, in the 1860s, the gigantic canals of "Those Who Have Gone" (the Hohokams) were there, dry and empty. Their dams had long since failed, but there was clear evidence of the hand of man.

I can see the desert before people arrived. I see it all of the time, and I'm already getting anxious to get back out there and see it again. I spend too much time on my computer! If you want to see it, don't worry, there's plenty. Just get on any Arizona highway.


Image at the top of this post: Pueblo Grande, one of the places that the Hohokam lived, and farmed. They dammed the Salt River and built canals. You're looking southeast towards where Tempe is nowadays. On the right is South Mountain.

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/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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How, and why to do history adventuring


I like history adventuring, both in my imagination and in real life. And to me, those two things aren't really so far apart. I've always been this way, even when I was a little kid, and I'm hoping to continue doing it until my old bones are too brittle to risk walking out of the house.

If you're wondering where you should go, and when you should do it, the answer is here and now. If you think that you could only have an adventure during a week of vacation, or you have to travel to somewhere miles away, you're missing the point. And you're missing out on adventures.

As a little kid, I wandered around my grandma's little town, just looking at stuff. She would ask me where I went, and I would say that I went to the park to swing on the swings. And maybe I didn't and maybe I didn't. The point was that grownups need to know where you're going, and why. I could have said "My final destination is right back here, grandma, and I'm just gonna look at stuff, like dirt and weeds", but that's no way to talk to your grandma.

If you're a grownup, I understand that you need reasons to do stuff. My reasons are ultimately that I'm a nervous person who likes to go to quiet places as often as possible to see if I can calm down my jangled nerves. Yes, I had jangled nerves as a kid.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I got what I called the "LA Hee-Bee-Jee-Bees". Everything was so crowded there, and noisy, and complicated. I sought out quiet places. My motto was "find out what everyone else is doing, and then don't do it". I didn't sit in traffic jams on the freeway, I didn't squash in with crowds at sporting events. By the way, I did go to one Dodger game (it was free hat day), and I remember eating a Dodger dog and walking around the stadium, looking out at Chavez Ravine. Whether the Dodgers won or not, or who they played, I have no idea. But if someone had asked me what I did that day I could say, "I went to a baseball game".

Nowadays I call what I do "history adventuring". And I report back here on things like my recent visit to see the construction at Castle Hot Springs, or going downtown to get a better view of the Gooding Building. But I'm just wandering around looking at stuff because it makes me feel better.

If you want to do this, I encourage you. Remember that your final destination is right back where you started, so consider it a loop. Take a look at a map, find a friend, pack a lunch. If you're not sure where to go, just head "thataway". Adventure isn't really that hard to find.

Image at the top of this post, Castle Hot Springs 2017 construction. Castle Hot Springs Road, near Morristown, northwest of 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/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Appreciating Phoenix before your time


I love learning about old-time Phoenix, and one of the most common things that I hear is that young people can't appreciate anything that happened before their time. The old-timers talk about stuff that happened before the young people were born, and the young people just roll their eyes.

This makes sense. As a teacher, I call it a "reference point". It's a determination of whether something is interesting to someone based on how it makes some type of attachment to their experience. It's the reason that otherwise thrilling stories about the history of, for example, Cincinnati (which I don't know anything about, and have no connection to) leave me cold. But if you mention Phoenix, I'm interested. If you tell me more about something that I know a little about, that's the best.

Since Phoenix has existed since 1870, if you're reading this, you're too young to remember most of its history. It's before your time. Sorry, you're just too young. And if your only interest is in Phoenix during your lifetime, you're probably going to roll your eyes at anything that was before your time. I understand. In Phoenix, I call it the "Wallace and Ladmo Effect", as if nothing happened of interest in Phoenix before the 1950s. Don't get me wrong, those guys are great, but it's just a tiny bit of what makes Phoenix history so fascinating.

I invite you to time-travel with me and explore Phoenix before your time. And I recommend that you find a reference point that matters to you. Personally, I'm fascinated with the mountains. I live in Glendale, and I see the White Tanks and the Estrellas all of the time. That's my reference point. Those mountains were there before my time, and they're here right now. When I look at old photos I strain my eyes trying to recognize "my" mountains. When I look at them I can imagine the gold being shipped in wagon trains from the Vulture Mine under the eyes of the Apaches. I can see the failed Agua Fria Project from the 1930s. In the Estrellas I can see the face of Montezuma.

I'm still interested in memories of Phoenix during my time. But I haven't been here long enough to limit my interest to that. There's so much more to see, so much more to learn!

Thank you for exploring with me.

The White Tank Mountains west of Glendale, Arizona.


Image at the top of this post: The White Tank Mountains in 1915.

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/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Learning about life in old-time Phoenix from snapshots - Kodaking


Yesterday I got to look at a whole bunch of photos from around 1915 of places around Phoenix that I'm identifying, and scanning in. They're what most people would call "snapshots", and what was called "Kodaking" back then.

What I enjoy is that everything pretty much has stayed the same since the invention of popular photography - people take pictures of their friends. Nowadays, of course, popular photography is done with Smart Phones, just like Polaroids were used in the 1980s. The photos aren't spectacular images, they're just pictures of friends, a window into ordinary life, which to me is the most precious thing there is.

The friends in the photo at the top of this post, who are unidentified, are just typical college students in 1915. The building you see behind them, the Science Building, which was new in 1909, is still there, on the campus of ASU, next to Old Main, which is east of College Avenue on University Drive.

Although photography had been around then for over fifty years, it wasn't until the Kodak Company made the inexpensive, easy-to-use cameras around the turn of the century that you begin to see "snapshots" (Wow, I sound like a commercial, sorry!). Before then photos had to be taken by pros, which expensive and cumbersome equipment, and people had to stand completely still, usually in a studio. But Kodaking changed all that.

1915 ad for Kodak, Phoenix, Arizona.


1908 ad for Kodak cameras in Phoenix. They had become so wildly popular that it was considered something of an epidemic.


1904 ad for Kodaks, Phoenix, Arizona.

Time-travel with me to 1915. We're on the campus of the Tempe Normal School, which is now ASU. And we're in a group of friends. One of the friends has brought along his Kodak, and all we have to do is to stand still for a few seconds, and the picture is taken. We can take the Kodak to any drugstore, and the prints are ready in just a few days. It must have been amazing.

1915 snapshot on the campus of Tempe Normal School (now ASU). Clothing styles have changeds, especially hats, but these young women are the same ones you see every day on campus. The monument they're leaning on, and the building behind them, the Science Building, are still there.

There are a LOT of these types of photos. Go to any thrift store, or go through your great-grandma's old photo albums and you'll see them. The prints are usually VERY tiny, and they're usually just snapshots of friends. The ones I'm looking at now are mostly just groups of friends smiling. I'm scanning in the ones that I recognize as particular places around Phoenix, but most of them are just random shots of people, that are unidentified, in places that are unidentified. Those shots, while precious to family and friends, are pretty much meaningless to me, as I'm interested in seeing old-time Phoenix. When I look at them, I look for backgrounds, maybe a building that I recognize, or a mountain. When I see something identifiable, I scan it in and share it on Facebook.

Image at the top of this post: a group of friends in 1915 on the campus of Tempe Normal School, Tempe, Arizona. That's the Science Building in the background, which is still there, next to Old Main, which is on University just east of College Avenue.


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/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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How to do some historic preservation for the city you love


If you have an interest in preserving the history of the city you love, you can do something about it. And it may surprise you to find how easy it is.

No, you don't have to sit on a committee to argue about what should or shouldn't be done. There are a lot of people right now, sitting on committees, accomplishing nothing. I have no interest in those committees, although I've been invited to them.

Instead, you can do something. Start small, do what you can. I collect old photos of Phoenix, scan them in and share them on the internet. It's a small thing, but it's what I can do. I love Phoenix, and my hopes are that the photos will inspire people, maybe to not cut down every tree they see, or to bulldoze something because they had no idea what it was.

You can find out how things work. If you didn't pay attention in Civic Class in High School, it's not to late to learn how your local government works. I see a LOT of people, especially on Facebook, proclaiming their ignorance as loudly as they can, saying that they have no idea how all of this works. It makes me kinda sad.

So, as you can tell, I have no patience for people who just sit around and talk. I'm an old corporate guy, and I know that sitting around and talking about things usually accomplishes nothing. I'm a believer in action. I'd rather see someone doing something, however small, instead of just sitting around talking about how bad things are, and that someone else should do something about it.

If you're reading this, that's great. You may be thinking of things that you can do right now for historic preservation of the city you love. If you're not sure, then take a look on Facebook, and see what people are doing. Yes, some of it will make you wonder if people are "just in it for the money". And many people are. But many people do it for the love.

Image at the top of this post: The Title and Trust Building (now called the Orpheum Lofts) under construction in 1930. You're looking west on Adams from Central Avenue.


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/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

What Patreon is http://bradhallart.blogspot.com/2016/03/supporting-creators-on-web-with-patreon.html

Rescuing historic photos of Phoenix from the dumpster


I like old photos of Phoenix. I like to scan them in, ponder them, and wonder about what life was like back "in the day". It appeals to my childish imagination to "time-travel". And I get a lot of enjoyment out of sharing what I find.

I'm not writing a book, I'm not teaching a history class, I'm not connected with any historical museums, I'm just having fun "dumpster diving". Because really all I'm doing is trying to rescue photos from being thrown away.

Now waitaminute, calm down, it's not a conspiracy, man. People aren't sitting around right now, laughing manically about destroying Phoenix history by throwing stuff away. It's just a question of logistics. And luckily, all I need to do is to scan in the photo, save it on my computer, and share it on the internet. I don't have to sit in committees deciding what to do, and select what can and can't be kept. I can do it myself.

I know that it's a race against time. I know that even as I write this, boxes of precious photos are being tossed because there wasn't room somewhere, or houses are sold and old smelly photos aren't the most appealing thing to new owners. But I have a secret weapon - the digital world. I can save photos without taking up any space at all. And I can share them on the internet where there's plenty of room.

Today I will be meeting with a PhD (Phoenix History Detective) who rescued some photos of Territorial Phoenix, and has been wondering what to do with them in order for them to be seen. And yes, they were on the their way to dumpster many years ago, and now they're just sitting in a box. I'm anxious to see them.

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My collection of old photos of Phoenix started with dumpster-diving. Well, I didn't actually dive into a dumpster, I just kept a bunch of old publicity photos of Valley Bank from being tossed in 1992 when they were becoming Bank One. They sat in my garage for years and years until I finally decided that it was time to scan them. Originally I posted them on web pages, and then as social media came around I posted them on Google+ and now they're on Facebook. I have thousands of images, but they're digital. If they weren't I wouldn't have room for my car in my garage!

There are a lot of people like me out there. We see stuff we like, we scan it in, and we share it. Some people sell stuff, but I don't have any interest in turning my hobby into a commercial venture. I do this for fun, and because I enjoy learning, and talking to people who share my interest in Phoenix history. I'm not above being invited to lunch (I celebrate my birthday several times a year!), or having people throw in a few bucks on Patreon, which shows their appreciation, but I'm not selling anything here. I'm just having fun. If you understand, I appreciate it. Please share.

Image at the top of this post: Valley Center (now called Chase Tower) under construction in 1972, Central Avenue and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. From a Valley National Bank publicity photo, rescued from the dumpster.

Digital archiving of historic photos



I just love old photos. I collect photos of Phoenix, but not the paper, just the digital image. I call it "digital archiving", because it's a way of preserving something that would otherwise probably fade away, get lost, get locked up somewhere, get thrown in a dumpster, or be destroyed.

Since my specialty is Graphic Design, and I've been on a computer since my career started, I consider the digital world to be "the real world". I know that a lot of people really don't, but I disagree with them. That is, if something isn't on paper, or written on parchment, or carved in stone, it's not "real" to many people. But I've done a LOT of stuff digitally. The digital world is real to me. I do digital work, and my clients usually pay me with money that is electronically transferred into my account. I haven't had a client hand me pieces of paper with pictures of presidents on it for many years (although I would accept that). I live in a digital world. I've never written a check to my mortgage company, yet I get to stay here. The same with all of my other monthly expenses. Digital stuff goes on out there, and I get internet service, my phone works, I have running water, etc.

And that leads me to digital archiving, which is my hobby. It started many years ago when I started scanning in old photos of my ancestors. The original photos I put away, and the photos on the wall, over my piano, are prints from scans. They will fade over time, and when they start to look unsightly, I'll find the digital file, and print them again. That is, if I want prints. Most of the digital images I have I never print, I just enjoy them on a computer screen, like this nice big Mac I'm on, or my phone or tablet.

I don't really have any fancy equipment here. I have an ordinary HP scanner that I got at Walmart. I set the scan for resolution that's way too high, then I bring the image into Photoshop, optimize it as a jpeg, doing a little gentle digital restoration, and save it with a file name that will help me find it later using the "search" command on my computer. And here is the most important part, I share it on the internet.

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Sharing things on the internet just makes me feel good. I know that there's no guarantee, of course, that anyone will looks at the images, or save them, or share them, but at least they have a chance. When the day comes (very far in the future, I'm sure) when they haul my computer out of here, after I die, I would hate to think that the images would be thrown into the dumpster. I haven't taken a count lately, but I have thousands, all of which I've shared, and I'm hoping to do the same with a lot more in a long life.

Before the internet, the only way to archive images was to handle them carefully with special gloves, maybe keep them safe inside of plastic sleeves, and of course keep them away from light, locked up somewhere. So they would be safe, but unseen. Digital archiving has changed all of that. Once something is scanned in, and shared, it can never be locked up, never needs to be hidden, and you don't need special gloves to handle it. All you need is a computer, or a tablet, or your phone. Please share.


Image at the top of this post: South Mountain Park in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona. Please enjoy, and share. No need to wear special gloves or keep out of the light.