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

The difference between the valley of Phoenix and the Valley of Los Angeles


If you live in the Phoenix area, it's often casually referred to as the valley. Advertisers called it the Valley of the Sun, and old-time maps show it as the Salt River Valley. Of course, nowadays it refers to more than just that valley, and for most people it includes Paradise Valley, and Tempe (named after the Vale of Tempe), among many other places.

In Los Angeles, where there are also a lot of valleys, there's only one "the Valley" - that's the San Fernando Valley, which although is technically a part of the City of Los Angeles, most people there make a distinction between it and the Basin (which is where Hollywood is, etc. - that area isn't a valley because it opens out on the Pacific ocean, and you need mountains all of the way around you to be a valley. The Valley is where Van Nuys is, and Sherman Oaks, and became famous because of Valley Girls, who said goofy things in the 1980s, such as "Gag me with a spoon!"

I've lived in the valley (I'm talking about Phoenix now) since 1989, and when I talk about going back to visit friends, I usually say "Los Angeles". But none of my friends are really in what Angeleno locals would call Los Angeles, they're in different valleys - the Conejo Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, and the Valley (San Fernando). If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and say that you lived in Los Angeles, most people will assume that you live downtown. When I worked in Warner Center, in the west Valley, I had a co-worker who lived in downtown LA, and always called it "the City", which I thought was quaint. The Valley wasn't exactly out in the country, even in the 1980s, but I liked the distinction.

The reason that I'm thinking of this this morning is a comment that I wrote on Facebook yesterday that I wasn't living in the valley in 1987. And then I thought, well of course I was, I was living in the Valley (Canoga Park to be precise). And that's how people refer to places that they know, they do it without really having to think about it.


Image at the top of this post: 1950s ad for the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix, Arizona. Not to be confused with the Valley, in Los Angeles.

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