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

Why the Burbank Airport is now called the Hollywood-Burbank Airport


If you're like me, familiar with the Los Angeles area, you know where Burbank is. It's actually where a lot of what we consider "Hollywood" to be, such as it's where Disney studios is, major TV studios, that sort of thing.

And there was a time, many decades ago, when Burbank gained some fame, in the 1960s, with the TV show "Laugh-In", and in the 1970s when Johnny Carson would joke about "beautiful downtown Burbank" on the Tonight Show. But really, the name Burbank doesn't have the recognition value that Hollywood does. Admit it.

To most people, Los Angels is Hollywood. Of course the reality is that Hollywood is a community in Los Angeles, south of the San Fernando Valley and west of downtown. And the name has become synonymous with movies. Angelino locals will argue that the movies were actually filmed all over the Los Angeles area, like Culver City, or the San Fernando Valley, and that's not, geographically Hollywood. But it's Hollywood to most of the world.

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Of course, like renaming anything, most old-timers will hate it. My interest in history makes me wonder about the old-timers who disliked it when Pig's Eye became St. Paul, Minnesota, or when people stopped calling the Phoenix Settlement Pumpkinville. Names are precious, and changing them can upset people.

But it's time that the name Hollywood became part of the name of the Bob Hope Airport, which is a name that never really stuck for the Burbank Airport. Hollywood is a name recognized all over the world, and it's associated with one of the things that the U.S. still does better than another other country - movies.

Speaking for myself, I like the new name, and the new logo. And I'll be buying an overpriced souvenir tomorrow, I know! Maybe a coffee cup?

The prettiest girl in Phoenix Union High School in 1927


One of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) lent me some interesting old books a few days ago, and one of my favorites to look through is the 1927 yearbook for Phoenix Union High School.

I scanned in a few things, including 1927 Beauty Queen Millie Bruce, pictured at the top of this post. I shared the photo on my Phoenix Historical Images page, and she got plenty of likes. She was also described as a "beauty" (of course!) and a "hottie".

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And now I'm thinking about slang terms for pretty girls. Speaking for myself, in High School in the 1970s, the greatest compliment that we could give a pretty girl would have been to call her a "fox". In the 1920s she would have been "the bee's knees" or the "cat's meow". You might have said that she had "it", which meant that she had sex appeal.

If you called her a "Home Girl" or a "chick" she would have had no idea what you were talking about. You could have called her a babe, of course, but you might have gotten your face slapped.

Her hair, by the way, was short in a manner that was called "bobbed". Short hair for women became popular in the 1920s, and the term "bob" came from how horse's tails were shortened, and it was initially meant as derogatory, but soon the term caught on, and bobbed hair became all the rage.

The 1920s were a very important era for women, and it became acceptable for the first time for them to smoke, to show their legs (not just their ankles) in public. Women got the vote in 1920, with an amendment to the United States constitution. This was the era of thoroughly modern women, and the 1927 Phoenix Union High School beauty queen was a thoroughly modern Millie!

She's the bee's knees, wouldn't you say?

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Smoking in old-time Phoenix


As someone who has never smoked, and dislikes the smell of tobacco smoke, I often think that I'm lucky to be living in the time and place that I do. And when I imagine visiting old-time Phoenix, I do realize that there's going to be a LOT of smoking.

The use of tobacco products became common worldwide after Europeans discovered it in the "New World" in the 1500s. It was like tomatoes, hard to imagine the world without it, but it was a relatively new discovery for the human race, and it became wildly popular right away. Up until the 1970s there was virtually no restriction on the use of it in public places, except hospitals. People smoked on airplanes, they smoked in restaurants. The fancier restaurants restricted cigar smoke, but that was about it. When smoking sections of restaurants began to appear, there was no physical barrier, just distance. The smoking areas were much larger, and non-smokers got jammed back where they could fit. I used to go to "Kiss the Cook" in Glendale, and always had to sit way in the back. I never got to sit up front until the entire restaurant became non-smoking. And if I ate at Parsons I could barely breathe, and felt as if I needed to go burn my clothes to get the stink out of them after just an hour in there.

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Speaking for myself, as someone who was born in the 1950s, I know that my mother smoked during her pregnancy with me. She often told me that the doctor recommended that she "continue her regular habits". Convincing medical evidence linking tobacco with various types of cancers, including lung cancer, wasn't widespread until the 1960s, and in places like Arizona smoking was allowed in public buildings through the 1980s, and only until very recently in bars.

So old-time Phoenix would have been a hazy, smoky place wherever you went, and for someone like me it would have had an awful stink, and I would barely be able to breathe. And I often wonder if I would be choking and gasping? And if I could time-travel, I probably would. But if I lived there at the time I probably wouldn't. I would have probably been a smoker, and no one would have thought about it at all, the same way that no one condemns me now for drinking a beer, or drinking coffee. Future generations may wonder what we were thinking?

Watching the Cave Creek flood in Phoenix in 1943


When most people think of Phoenix, they don't think of flooding. I know that I didn't when I moved there in my teens. Phoenix is a desert city after all, how could it flood? But if you've lived in Phoenix you know that there are torrential thunderstorms in the summer, and the snow melt in the spring brings a lot of water into the valley from the surrounding mountains. That's the water that fills the reservoirs on the Salt River, and it's the reason why such a large city can exist in the desert. The greatest challenge that Phoenix has faced historically hasn't been a lack of water, it's having too much of it, suddenly flooding.

It's 1943 and we're watching Cave Creek flood again. It's been doing it for so long that it's just an outrage that nothing has been done about it. And since it's been under complete control since 1994, most people who live in Phoenix after that time have no idea how terrible it was.

1921 article showing the Cave Creek floodplain.

The first thing you need to do is to find Cave Creek. No, I don't mean the town of Cave Creek, or Cave Creek Road. I mean the creek, which is a dry wash that flows west of Shaw Butte. If you've ever played the Cave Creek Golf Course you've seen Cave Creek, it flows right through it, between Greenway and Thunderbird and 19th Avenue and 26th Avenue. Take a look on Google Satellite View and you can see it clearly.

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The creek flows south, and when it hits the Arizona Canal, just east of the I-17 freeway north of Dunlap, you're looking at what was called the Cave Creek break. And when the Arizona Canal overflowed its banks there, it caused a massive flood that flowed all of the way south to the Salt River, at about where the State Capitol Building is.

1921 article about the Cave Creek floods

Maricopa County created the Flood Control District in the 1950s, and over the next forty years finally controlled the Cave Creek Floods. And they did such a good job on it that most people living in Phoenix now have no idea how terrible it was, how much damage it did, and how long it lasted, going back to territorial days.

So let's watch the water flood in 1943. It's quite a mess! You know, they oughta do something about that!

Being Chinese in old-time Phoenix - 1899


While I was in the Arizona Room of the Burton Barr Library a few days ago, I came across a wonderful publication from 1899 called "Arizona Graphics". I love looking through old documents, and touching the paper that people in 1899 Phoenix had touched. I dislike history books, which repeat things, often with mistakes that get printed and reprinted again and again. And I know that there's no guarantee that original documents won't have mistakes, all humans make mistakes, typos, that kind of thing, but just knowing that gives me a level of comfort to walk into the past when I see original documents.

What really caught my eye was an article about the Winter Carnival, which was held every December in Phoenix. It included a Carnival Queen, and various events, and of course a parade. There were a lot of photos and one of them was the one at the top of this post, which was captioned "Chinese Division in Parade". And today I'd like to go back to Phoenix in 1899, and imagine that I'm Chinese, and that I'm in that parade.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no expert on the history of China, or of the Chinese in America. I'm sure you'll find a lot of information on that. But I've been a young man, and I've had the heart of a young man, and the feelings of a young man. So let's walk in the parade as young Chinese men in old-time Phoenix and see if we can feel it.

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I will call myself Tom. It's not my actual name, but it's something that the non-Chinese people around me can pronounce, and remember. And as we walk along Washington Street, carrying the American flag, I feel a connection. I don't know what it is, but I'll tell you a secret: I like it here. And no, I mean no disrespect to the Celestial Empire where I was born, but I would like to stay here, if I could. I like the smell of the desert, I like the wide-open spaces. I've grown strong here, and I think I could put that strength to use. I know that I don't speak English, but even so I know that I'm good with horses, and I could be a good hand.

1893 article about Chinese in Phoenix celebrating. Montezuma Street is now 1st Street. The Chinese neighborhood was near 1st Street and Monroe.

Yesterday I caught a runaway horse on Montezuma Street. I brought it back to the man who smiled and seemed impressed with my ability. He thanked me, and gave me a penny. Tomorrow I will go to his ranch and pick up a rake, or a shovel, and show him my strength, and I believe that he will give me payment for that. I believe that I can do that. And maybe I'll learn some English, stay here in Arizona if they will have me, maybe someday raise a family. I know that everyone dreams of going home, but I believe that I have found my home, right here.


Image at the top of this post: The Chinese Division of the Winter Carnival Parade in 1899, Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona.

Walking from Sonora, Mexico to San Francisco in 1775


Walk with me. It's 1775 and we're in New Spain, in what is now the country of Mexico. We will be walking with Captain Juan Bautista and his soldiers up to what is now San Francisco. I will use modern terms, but really, we're just walking across the desert, and then along the ocean. Lets walk...

Of course we're speaking Spanish, because we're from Spain. Bautista is guiding people like us to colonize the area called Alta California, which now is usually just called California. It's a long walk, so let's get started.

Yes, we have carts, and horses and mules, but we'll walking. In movies, people rode in wagons, but the reality is that the wagons carried things, and people carried themselves, even the women and children. And our route will take us from places where we can get water, and cross rivers. Bautista says he knows the way, and all we have to do is follow him.

We're heading north towards Tucson, Arizona, which was just established that year, and we're headed for the Pima Villages, so once we get past Picacho Peak, we start to head northwest.

The Pima Villages are at what is now the city of Maricopa, which is south of Phoenix. The Pima people are not nomadic, or warring, they're agricultural. They've been living along the Gila River for hundreds of years, and without them, we wouldn't have had a chance to make it even this far. Some day the Pima people will help with the establishment of Phoenix, but that would be up in the Salt River Valley, which is a war zone, protected by the Apaches, so we don't go there. We need to cross the Colorado River, so we need to follow the Gila River going southwest.

The only crossing of the Colorado River is at what is now called Yuma. It was quite nice along the Gila river, which gave us some fresh water, even though it was muddy. Now that we've crossed the Colorado River we are walking now across the desert heading due west for what will someday be San Diego. I understand the weather there is nice, so I'm anxious to get there!

Once we get to San Diego, we need to go north along the coast. Missions will be established every thirty miles or so, starting with San Diego. The Pacific Ocean is so beautiful! Spain has been sailing along this coast for about a hundred years, so from this point on we really do know where we're going. We just need to stay along the coast, on what will someday be called El Camino Real - the King's Highway, and the Pacific Coast Highway, California Route 1. If we just keep the Pacific Ocean on our left we'll be fine.

Modern view of Southern California, near Calabasas. This about what it would have looked in 1775, but the trail wouldn't have been as clearly marked.

Our journey takes us past what will someday be Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Monterey. Our final destination is a great bay, which some day will be where the city of San Francisco is.

Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Founded in 1776, it's still there. Photo by Roger Hall, used with permission.

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Crime and Punishment in old-time Phoenix


Obeying the law can be a tricky thing to do for anyone, even people who consider themselves "law abiding". Speaking for myself, I was on such a tight budget while I was going to ASU that one of things I did was to be absolutely sure of the laws regarding driving in Arizona (I had grown up in Minnesota). My budget couldn't even stand a parking ticket, let alone a moving violation, so I kept the Driver's Manual after I got my license in Arizona, and studied it as carefully as I studied any other book that I had in college. Even then, it made me nervous, and obeying the law still does, to this day. My favorite joke with friends is when they park in front of a sign that says, "2 hour parking", and we're only there for one hour and fifty-nine minutes. Let's take a look at crime and punishment in old-time Phoenix...

Crime and punishment is something that puzzles a lot of people, and not only in Arizona. Since it never really applied to me, I can't say that I've studied the punishment of bigger crimes, like robbing liquor stores, or killing people. That wasn't going to be something that I did in ignorance of the law, like parking the wrong way on the street (which, by the way, makes you liable for two tickets, both parking the wrong way, and driving the wrong way down the street - bet'cha didn't know that!). So I really have no idea how many liquor stores you need to rob before you go to jail, but my best guess is one.

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Arizona has historically been a bad place to be a criminal. From its earliest days there were lawman who "shot first and asked questions later". Phoenix grew up because of the gold in Wickenburg, and Phoenix had a lot of banks, and still does. And that kind of thing attracts criminals. As the famous bank robber, John Dillinger once said, "It's where the money is".

Unlike a lot of "wide-open" Western towns, Phoenix prided itself on being a safe place. There were, of course, the usual drunken brawls, and cowboys were known to shoot at the the decorative statue on top of the Capitol building, to make it spin around, but mostly Phoenix was a bad place to be a bad guy. So if you came into town intending to rob banks and make trouble, there were some tough lawmen that you had to deal with, including Sheriff Carl Hayden (pictured above).

Phoenix City Hall in 1888, Washington between 1st and 2nd Streets. You're looking east. 

If you committed a crime in the 1880s, you would have had to face Henry Garfias. And the punishment would probably be a bullet, as he was an excellent shot, and did not hesitate to shoot. When the City Hall was built, on Washington between 1st and 2nd Streets, there was a tiny jail in the basement, if you were lucky enough to not get shot. Of course, when the new County Court House and City Hall was built (now historic City Hall) on 1st Avenue and Washington, you could stay at the jail there for committing a crime. Accommodations for people who have committed crimes have grown in Phoenix.

Historic City Hall, which is on Washington between 1st Avenue and where 2nd Avenue (now closed to traffic).

So, here's my suggestion, don't commit crimes. Yeah, I know that no one is perfect, and sometimes the tiny details can make criminals of us all. And it's true that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, but you really don't have to be a mastermind to know that if you rob a bank, they're gonna come after you, and you're going to jail.


Image at the top of this post: Sheriff Carl Hayden in 1915, Phoenix, Arizona.

How to live in expensive parts of California on a low income


If you've ever been tempted to live by the beach, in California, but figured that only rich people can do it, nah, don't worry, you can do it. I've done it, and I've never been rich. It just takes some creativity.

Of course, if you're a multimillionaire, it will make living in places like Santa Barbara much easier, but I'm assuming that's not you, or you wouldn't be reading this.

People live in expensive places like this all of the time, and it just takes maybe adjusting your point of view a bit. I grew up in a middle-class home in Minneapolis, and my expectations of how I lived were influenced by that. We weren't rich, but we were never poor.

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I lived in Santa Barbara for couple of years in my twenties, and when I tell people that, they wonder if I had struck gold, or inherited millions. No, I was just living the way the poor folk do, squeezed into crowded conditions that most people like me will never see.

In my twenties, I can honestly say that it didn't matter to me that I lived in a converted house in a tiny space about the size of a broom closet. There was no furniture, and only room for a single bed. It had its own bathroom, and a miniature stove/oven refrigerator unit. There was no heat, but luckily the space was so small that I could heat it by just leaving the oven door open (yes, it was electric!).

I made the decision that this wasn't how I wanted to live after I got to be over 30. I wanted more space, maybe a house, at least furniture. I saw how people were living in my neighborhood. My next-door neighbor worked three jobs (including a night watchman's job, so he didn't even sleep in his house). I have no idea how many people were living in that house, but there were plenty, along with lots more people living in the garage. That's how people with low incomes pay the rent, they earn what they can, and share space. They don't go to restaurants, they collect aluminum.

California has lots of places like that. In spite of laws that try to limit the crowding, rooms are always available to rent, even if they have no heat. You can call this "micro-living" if you want to. And for many people just owning a toothbrush and a surfboard, and being able to walk to the ocean, makes them happy. I've seen this, but it's not for me.

So don't tell me that you can't afford to live by the beach, you can. Yeah, it would be nice if you were rich, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from doing it. They just do what they need to do.

How people dealt with the summer heat in old-time Phoenix - 1899


I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the web, and one of the most common questions I get is "how did people deal with the summer heat in Phoenix before air conditioning?". The answer surprises most people, because it's simply that most didn't. Most people got out of Phoenix in the summer, it became a virtual ghost town in Territorial days from May to September. Anyone who could got away, either to the mountains, or if they could afford it, to California. Let's go to old-time Phoenix in the summer...

So the fancy ladies with the nice frilly dresses and the dapper dudes with the bowties would have never, ever, seen a Phoenix summer. But there were people who did stay there all summer. They stayed because they had no choice, either they were too poor, or they had to stay to keep an eye on things. And it was miserable.

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In case you're wondering if Phoenix is hotter now in the 21st Century than it was in 1899, it is. The heat island effect has increased the average temperature by as much as ten degrees. In 1899, 120 degree temperatures were unknown. But 110 was common, as was 100, and without air conditioning, even 90 can be terrible.

Cartoon woman wearing a shift in 1909 Phoenix. The kid is wearing one, too!

So, put aside any thoughts that well-dressed people were walking around 1899 Phoenix, they weren't. The people who stayed in Phoenix all summer were just doing the best they could, they weren't concerned with fashion. The women didn't wear the long frilly dresses that you see in photos in newspapers, they wore simple simple shifts, long enough for modesty, but worn as loosely as possible. And the men wore the same type of clothing that you see men wear who are out working in the summer heat of Phoenix today, blue jeans, long sleeved shirts, and wide-brimmed hats. Children generally went barefoot, which they did up until through the 1950s. And the kids could jump into the canals, which they did quite often, and they had no use for bathing suits (if you understand what I mean).

Speaking for myself, I find it hard to imagine. My life in Phoenix has always been with air conditioning. I worked in air conditioned offices, I drove an air conditioned car. I've talked with people who have to be out in the heat, and of course it's possible. Phoenix wouldn't function if there weren't people who could be out in the terrible heat, fixing cable lines, or making road repairs. When I drive past these guys, in my air conditioned car, I wonder how they can do it. I've been told that it's just a question of getting used to the heat. I have never been that tough!

So there you go, tough people lived through the summers of Phoenix from the time the city first began, in the 1870s, until air conditioning became common, in the 1950s. Some people still live with the awful heat. I wish I could show you more photos of these people, but then, as now, they really don't get their pictures taken, and published in newspapers. But they keep Phoenix running, and without these tough desert rats, Phoenix wouldn't exist.

The Phoenix Carnival Queen and her Attendants in 1899. This photo was taken in December, when Phoenix is cool enough to wear this type of clothing, and definitely not in the summer! These refined ladies probably never saw a Phoenix summer in their lives.

Image at the top of this post: An ingenious "Phoenix Summer Bedroom" in 1899.

Going to the Rialto Theater in old-time Phoenix - 1944


Let's go watch a movie. It's 1944, we're in Phoenix, Arizona, and I want to go to the Rialto Theater, which is at 37 W. Washington (Washington between Central and 1st Avenue).

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They're showing "Sherlock Holmes vs. Charlie Chan" so it looks like it will be pretty good. That Basil Rathbone is pretty good as Sherlock Holmes, I wonder if anyone else will play the part in the movies, or on TV? I'm not really a big fan of Charlie Chan, but I'm sure it'll be fine.

At the Rialto Theater in the 1940s, 37 W. Washington, Phoenix, Arizona

Besides, it really doesn't matter to me. I've got my eye on one of the cute girl ushers. See the pretty one? No, not that one, the one next to her. Yeah, right. I watch a movie every time a new one comes to the Rialto, and I think she's starting to notice me. I even comb my hair sometimes!


OK, here I am, over by Otto Schmeider Jeweler's. I can see you standing over there by Marie's Sandwich Shop. Over here! Pay attention! And where did you get that hat?

Auto racing in old-time Phoenix - 1919


Let's go racing! It's 1919 and we're in Phoenix, Arizona. Let's drive the Chevrolet Twins from Bert O. Brown, which is at 3rd Street and Washington.

The race track is at the Arizona State Fairgrounds You know, near six points on Christy Road (McDowell) and 19th Avenue. Racing has always been very popular there, and I understand there's still horse racing, but it's racing of automobiles that everyone is talking about! During the fair there's always a special Street Car out there, but we'll be driving there in style - in racing cars!

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Before the invention of the automobile, the fastest thing I ever saw was a train, or a galloping horse. These machines are amazing.

Safe? Of course not. That's part of the reason that people love to watch, just because it's so dangerous. I suppose some day there will be helmets, or seat belts, or roll cages. Right now you just take your chances and hope for the best. I hear that when these machines catch on fire, that's what's really dangerous. My girl just gave me a kiss for luck, and that's all I need.

Auto racing at the Arizona State Fairgrounds

OK, here we are at the race track. Looks like there's a good crowd. Let's give them a good show! Listen to those engines roar!

California when it was a cheap place to live


When I think of places like San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the first thought that pops into my head is how terribly expensive these places are to live in. And lately I've been wondering about what California was like when it was a cheap place to live.

I just finished reading "Two Years Before the Mast", which was about a young man's adventures on a ship that sailed from Boston to the California coast in 1935-36. Back then California was pretty much empty, populated by a few Mexican towns (yes, it was part of Mexico back then) such as San Diego, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco. The author's descriptions are of a place that was on "the edge of nowhere", where people like him visited only when they had to, and where all it would have taken to live in Santa Barbara would have been to make yourself an adobe home, like the rest of them were. The author revisits the California coast in 1859, and by that time San Francisco was getting to be a real city, but the other places mentioned were still sleepy little towns, now part of the United States, but you'd have hardly seen any difference. So you could have lived pretty cheaply in San Francisco, compared to, say, Boston in 1859, and anywhere in Southern California for virtually nothing, other than the labor of maybe doing some odd jobs for the ships that visited, working to collect hides, that sort of thing.

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On a more modern note, I'm reminded of the 1971 Neil Diamond song "I am, I said". In the lyrics of the song, which compares New York to Los Angeles, Neil mentions that "palm trees grow and rents are low". Of course, he was comparing rents to New York, which have always been higher than average for the country, but just the mention of rents being low in Los Angeles now strikes me as kinda strange. When I lived there, in the late 1980s, the cost of housing, including renting, meant that people were crowding into spaces. In the apartment complex where I lived, I was the only person who was living alone in an apartment, which were all studios, about 500 square feet. Most of them had families. During that time, the city of Los Angeles passed a law limiting the number of people allowed to live in a one-bedroom apartment. The limit was 12. Twelve. That's what people have to do when rents are high, and their income is low. There were eight young men living in the apartment next-door to me, and they slept on the floor, in shifts. And this was in a less-than-fashionable part of town, Canoga Park.

When I drive along Topanga Canyon, I'm reminded of an old 1950s movie with Bob Hope where he played the father of a daughter who was dating some poor low-life young man, who lived in Topanga Canyon. Even in the 1960s Topanga Canyon was a cheap place to live, filled with hippies. Nowadays it's such an expensive address it's hard to imagine.

Yes, California used to be a cheap place to live, but those days after over. When you go there, bring a LOT of money, and be prepared to spend it.


Image at the top of this post: Las Virgenes Canyon near Calabasas, California, north of Malibu.

Working out at the YMCA in old-time Phoenix - 1911


As someone who enjoys weight training, and working out, I have trained at many gyms in my day, including the YMCA. To me, the YMCA is pretty much the same as any other gym. There's a weight room, a pool, that sort of thing. I have found Ys to be a good value, and family friendly. And other than that, and the song "YMCA" from the 1970s, that's about all it means to me. But there's more to the story than that. Let's go back to Phoenix in 1911, and work out at the YMCA.

The YMCA, or Young Men's Christian Association, in 1911 Phoenix was just for men. Women had their own place, the YWCA. These places were designed to help young men and women who may have, as the saying goes, "lost their way", and needed a place to go. These weren't just gyms, and swimming pools, they were places to stay.

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So, in my imagination, we're a couple of young men who have wandered into town, looking for a place to stay in Phoenix in 1911. We know that it's a cold, cruel world out there, and young people can be tempted into many terrible things, what we had always heard as "the road to perdition". So we're pleased to see the YMCA building.

The Federal Park in Phoenix. You're looking northwest from 1st Avenue and Monroe. The YMCA is the building on the left.

The YMCA is on the block called the Federal Park. There are three buildings there, including the Federal Building, and the Water Users Building. The block is between Van Buren and Monroe and 1st and 2nd Avenues. Let's go take a look, I know that our clothes are dirty and stained from travel, but we present well, and that's what this place is for. Take off your hat, and let's go inside.

The YMCA gives us a place to stay, a place to eat. We are reminded of the Christian values that we grew up with. We will not be spending time in saloons, we will be reading the Bible, and exercising. This is a good place for us to be. As we learned in school, mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

YMCA Christmas Dinner in 1913, Phoenix, Arizona

The prostitutes of old-time Phoenix - 1890s


Phoenix has always had prostitution, from the days when it was "the Old West" until present day. It is, of course, a taboo subject, and it's something that seems to be the oldest profession, and it probably always be around, in some shape or form, whether it's called "The Red Light District" or "Street Walkers", "Ladies of the Evening" or "Escorts". I'm sure that you can think of many more names, but for the purposes of time traveling to 1890s, Phoenix, I will use the term "prostitute".

In the 1890s, the prostitutes were mostly in the area around 1st Street south of Monroe, along what was called Melinda's Alley. It went past the Adams Hotel, where presumably some of the clientele stayed, and was just south of Millionaire's Row. The Rosson House, by the way, which is on Monroe and 6th Street, was at the eastern edge of Millionaire's Row. In the 1890s that stretch from Central Avenue to 7th Street, is where the big mansions were, where the rich people lived.

You can still see Melinda's Alley, which is just an alley now between Monroe and Adams. Back in the 1890s, while it wasn't actually a Phoenix street, but there were houses and businesses on it. And prostitutes, lots of prostitutes. Nowadays there's a bar with the name "Melinda's Alley" in the back of the Renaissance Hotel, with a red light showing where the door is. That's a smile and a wink to the original Melinda's Alley, the original Red Light District of Phoenix, which is where the prostitutes were.

After the 1950s, the prostitutes moved up to east Van Buren, and for most of the people who have lived in Phoenix since then "Van Buren" is virtually synonymous with "Prostitutes". A kid might insult another kid by simply saying that their mother worked on Van Buren. In the 1890s, it was Melinda's Alley.

Image at the top of this post: Looking northeast from the Adams Hotel along Melinda's Alley. The building there that spans from Monroe to the alley is where the girls lived. Camelback Mountain is in the background.

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Drinking whiskey in old-time Phoenix - 1911


I'm not much of a drinking man. I like to quaff a beer or two with friends, I've been known to drink gin-and-tonics, and I've even had some whiskey, my preference being the stuff from Tennessee - I forget what it's called. And when I go history adventuring, I often think about how much whiskey people drank back in old-time Phoenix. And it was quite a lot!

Let's go back to Phoenix in 1911 and drink some whiskey. Of course, it's been popular in America for a long time, being the alcoholic beverage of choice, made from corn. America has a LOT of corn, and always has, so it's been the cheapest way to make this type of beverage. In other countries, the beverage of choice may be made out of rice, or potatoes, or agaves, or just about anything, but in the United States of America, it was corn.

Whiskey jug from Melczer Brothers, Phoenix, Arizona.

Since it's 1911, and intoxicating beverages are still legal, we can just walk into Hans Herlick's on Washington just east of Central and buy some whiskey. In fact, whiskey is sold just about everywhere. It will become illegal in Arizona in 1918, and in the United States in 1920, and won't be legal to buy again until 1933. Not that making alcohol illegal during that time (called "Prohibition") did much to cut down on drinking.

I just saw an ad in the paper that mentioned that Physicians often prescribe a brand called Sunny Brook, so let's go try some. Based on the ad, it kinda looks as if Washington D.C. recommends it, too. I wonder if that's true? Here, I have the paper here, I'll read the ad to you: "Physicians Often Prescribe pure old whiskey as an efficient tonic and stimulant. For fifty years it has been an established fact that Sunny Brook, the pure food Whiskey, is an ideal invigorator, possessing all the wholesome qualities that can only come from scientific distillation and careful ageing. Every bottle is sealed with the Government "Green Stamp" assuring full age, proof, and quantity. All First Class Dealers Sell it."

OK, here we are at Herlick's. What? Do I need to prove I'm 21? Of course not, this is 1911, anyone can buy whiskey.

Attitudes about whiskey have changed in modern days. It's still popular, but laws have changed, including restrictions on age, and advertising. Back in the day, it was used as a popular medicine for everything from toothache to gunshot wounds, but times have changed. If you choose to drink whiskey, please drink responsibly, and don't drink and drive, not even on a horse.

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Being a dog in old-time Phoenix - 1901


Since I've always loved dogs, I often wonder what their lives would have been like in old-time Phoenix. Let's travel back to 1901 and be dogs.

I'll be Judge Ruppert (pictured above), who lived in Phoenix at that time. He was a big, big, dog. And since this is my story, and my imagination, I get to be the biggest dog in town. You can be anything you like, but maybe not a Chihuahua, or else I might step on you accidentally. No, not a Dachshund either, I suggest that you just be an ordinary dog.

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It's good to be a dog in old-time Phoenix. We can wander all over town, there's no such thing as a "dog park" and no requirement for leashes. If we're lucky we'll get into some good fights in Melinda's Alley. Or maybe we can just chase things. There's a lot of wide-open space in Phoenix in 1901!

Let's go into town, maybe someone will take our picture with one of those new-fangled "Kodaks" that are becoming so popular. I once had my picture taken right there on the sidewalk on Washington between 2nd and 1st Avenues. Yes, you could see the Fleming Building, and the Monihon Building behind me.

Wandering around town is a dog's life. Everyone is happy to see us. Well, almost everyone. I've had a shoe or two thrown at me, but that's OK, I can run! And I love to run!

I suggest that we stay in the alleys, and maybe someone will give us some scraps. You never know!


Sadly, Judge Ruppert was accidentally killed by a fire engine in 1902. As the city got more crowded, things like that were happening, unfortunately. He was a good dog. And a very, very big dog!

Judge and his human, Ed Ruppert, at 9th Avenue and Washington, where they lived.


Sadly, Judge Ruppert was killed by a Fire Engine in 1902

Drinking Coca-Cola in Phoenix, Arizona in 1906


It sure is a hot day, I could use a Coca-Cola. It's 1906 in Phoenix, Arizona, so let's go get some.

Don't worry, Coca-Cola is as common in 1906 Phoenix as it will be in the 21st Century. And yes, it's served cold. Phoenix didn't have refrigeration in 1906, but it had ice. Making ice was a big business in Phoenix, which also kept beer cold, along with other things that needed to be cold, such as food.

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I noticed an ad in the newspaper that says we should watch for a coupon for a free bottle of Coca-Cola, but I don't want to wait. Besides, I think you owe me a dime? That should more than enough to pay for a couple of bottles.

Yeah, I've heard the rumors, that's there's some kind of drug in it, like Cocaine. No, it's not true. It was true when they first started making Coca-Cola in 1886, but not for a long time! They replaced the Cocaine with caffeine, but it's no more than a cup of coffee. It's basically just carbonated sugar water with flavor. And it tastes great!

There are imitations, but real Coca-Cola is easy to recognize. They haven't changed the script lettering for years, and I don't suppose that they ever will. That was great. Now let's go back and get our deposit on the bottle!

By the way, the bottle didn't get the distinctive "hour glass shape" until after the price of sugar went up, during World War I. And although it was just a trick to make the bottle look like it held as much (and it was just as tall), the shape caught on, and became as important to the trademark of Coca-Cola as the name.

The Motels of Phoenix on Van Buren and Grand before the 1970s


For someone like me, who didn't know Phoenix before the 1970s, it's hard to picture the motels on Van Buren, and Grand Avenue as anything but horrible and run-down. By the time I got to Phoenix, in 1977, the days of those motels as anything but crime-infested places, with prostitutes, etc., was over. And since I collect old photos of Phoenix, I'm finding out that these were some awesome places. Let's go visit some motels on Van Buren, and Grand Avenue, before the 1970s.

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It's the 1960s in our imagination, so let's start at the Dunes Motor Hotel, which was at 2935 E. Van Buren. The sign reminds me of classic Las Vegas. Of course the rooms are refrigerated (which meant air conditioning, as opposed to the old-fashioned "swamp coolers" that many places had back in the '40s and '50s). There are also televisions, and phones. And of course a pool - with a slide!


Of course, we could also stay at the Rose Bowl Motor Hotel, at 2645 E. Van Buren. It's also cooled by refrigeration. And we can swim! And there are a lot more places like this on Van Buren. They grew up along what was then the main highway in Phoenix in the 1940s, and flourished after World War II, and the economic boom of the 1950s. From what I can tell, they were still good places for families throughout the 1960s.

But now let's go over to Grand Avenue. That's the route up to Glendale, and it starts at 7th Avenue and Van Buren going northwest. And the first place I see is the Caravan Inn West, at 1501 Grand Avenue.

The Caravan Inn West, 1501 Grand Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

I know it's late, but I want to stay up, and just look at the colors reflected on the pool. There are a lot of places on Grand that have the "Oasis" theme.

The Bali-Hi Motor Hotel, 1515 Grand Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

Right next-door is the Bali-Hi, at 1515 Grand. I'm pretty sure that it was named after that popular song in the play "South Pacific", which I hear they've made into a movie. Now that song is stuck in my head - Baallii- Hiiiii..." OK, I'll stop singing. Let's go get into the pool!

At the pool in the 1960s at the Bali-Hi, 1515 Grand Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

The pool at the Bali-Hi in the 1960s, 1515 Grand Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona

How people spoke in old-time Phoenix - 1905


As a time-traveler, I'm fascinated by the small details of life. Today I'd like to look at how people spoke in Phoenix, Arizona in 1905.

You can call this the "Territorial Era" of Arizona, which went from 1863 to 1912, which is a fairly long amount of time, and the language really didn't change all that much. Of course, if you're like me, growing up on Western movies, you may assume that people spoke in a very stiff and stilted way, the way that they do in a lot of old Westerns. You know, not using contractions, such as "Do not give that gun to the Sheriff or he will shoot it I fear", instead of "Don't give that gun to the Sheriff or he'll shoot it, I'm afraid". But really, ordinary people didn't talk in that stiff and formal way. Books were written like that, but people didn't talk like that. I just finished re-reading "Two Years Before the Mast", which was written in 1836, and while it was written by a young man of education, he faithfully recorded the life of the ordinary people to whom he spoke in his travels to such far-away places as California. You can also read novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose characters live in the time frame to which I refer, and don't speak as if they were afraid to use contractions, or slang.

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One of the things you'll hear a lot in 1905 Phoenix is Spanish. There were plenty of Spanish-speaking people around in Arizona, which had originally been part of Mexico. You will also hear Chinese, and of course the languages of the Native Americans. But let's focus on English-speaking people, and how they spoke.

I'm particularly fascinated by the use of the word "pray". No, I don't mean that we're going to church, it's used when asking a question, and being polite. It goes like this: "Where might I buy some whiskey, pray?" So I'd expect to hear a lot of that, at least from the people who were speaking politely.

Of course, there would be a LOT of words that I would have to avoid, that are common in the 21st Century. You know, like Google, and Photoshop, that sort of thing. And if a lovely young lady said that I should call in the afternoon, she meant that she expected me to show up there in person. In spite of the fact that there were telephones at the time, "call" didn't mean the same as "telephone". She would have said, "phone me, pray, in the forenoon", or the afternoon, I suppose. And she wouldn't tell me to "dial her number" - there were no phone dials in 1905 in Phoenix, or anywhere else.

The more I learn about how people lived in Phoenix so many years ago, the more I realize that things really don't change the much. People are people, whether they're riding horses or cars. Or wheels.

1904 ad for Penney & Robinson, 40 N. Center (Central) Street, Phoenix, Arizona. Phone 147.

Flying into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in the 1930s


Let's fly into Phoenix in the 1930s, and land at Sky Harbor Airport.

I haven't a clue how to fly a plane, but I know that you do, and I think I can help find the way. We're heading west, and when we get closer, I'm pretty sure that I can recognize the area.

What a great name: Sky Harbor! And I think that flying will some day be as common as riding on trains. In my imagination I see a time when planes are flying over Phoenix all of the time, day and night, with passengers going all over the country, and the world. My parachute? Yeah, it's right next to me, why do you ask?



Yeah, I know you're kidding, flying is perfectly safe. I understand that Trans World Airlines flies into Sky Harbor. They do a lot of business with the people who want to get married in Phoenix, who just fly in, and the wedding chapel is right there, no waiting.

There's nothing wrong with your plane. It might be kind of small, but at least it's modern, not like the biplanes that you flew in World War I. You were a pilot in the army, right? At least that's what you told me. Maybe I'm thinking of someone else.



OK, we're on the ground. I can't say that it was the smoothest landing ever, but you have to remember that any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing. It's just a short walk over to catch the train, so let's go to downtown Phoenix. Now that Prohibition is over, we can just walk in to anywhere and have a beer.

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Drinking beer in Phoenix in 1901


As an amateur historian, I like to ask the important questions about the past. For example, was there beer in Phoenix in 1901? Yes, there was. Let's time-travel and go get some.

Lount and Sons Ice Plant in 1905.

And, yes, of course it was cold. Phoenix didn't have refrigeration in 1901, but it had ice. Plenty of ice. Manufacturing of ice was a big business, and it made people like Sam Lount (Hattie Mosher's father) very rich. All you need is electricity and know-how to make ice, and Sam had both.

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Tonight I feel like having something that I saw advertised in today's paper called ABC Bohemian. According to what I read, it's appetizing and health-giving. To quote the ad, "Its perfect purity, beautiful color and sparking brilliancy will endear it to the heart of every connoisseur, while its rich hop flavor is indescribably pleasing the palette. The Ideal Family Beer." Looks expensive to me, so I'd expect it would be more than a dime per bottle. Do you have enough money? Could you go borrow some?

That really hit the spot on a hot day. How many did I have? I only had two! Well, three. I know you had two. That Bohemian is good stuff, but strong, and expensive. Here, take the reigns, and you drive, I need to close my eyes for a while. Maybe next time we should try "Budweiser", what do you think?