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

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?

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