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

The wide-open spaces of Phoenix in the 1960s and early 1970s


Since I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the internet, one of the most common comments that I see is when someone asks what an area looked like back in the day. And when I go looking, often all that I find is empty space, dirt, and billboards. Because Phoenix had a LOT of that in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The photo at the top of this post is typical of what I find a lot of on the Duke University site, which is about advertising, and has a lot of billboards from places like Phoenix. If there's a building that I can identify, or anything at all to help me, I can usually pinpoint exactly where the photo was taken. But a lot of Phoenix, and the surrounding area looked like that - open space, dirt, and a billboard.

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I really have no idea where this location is, and it's just a guess that it's even Phoenix. I've looked through a lot of the photos of billboards of Phoenix on the Duke site, and they tend to look like this. There's a particular "feel" to it, and of course all of the billboards in Phoenix at that time were Eller.

I labelled this image "Billboard somewhere in Phoenix 1960s, early 1970s". And I may never know exactly where this was. There were a million places around Phoenix that looked like that, a scattering of buildings, no sidewalks, just open space. This billboard couldn't have been to close to the metro area, as the ones closer into town usually had telephone poles lying around them, to discourage people from parking in the shade of the billboard. People did that a lot, and why not? There are no sidewalks, no curb, and shade has always been at a premium in Phoenix. In some of the photos I find the cars are parked around billboards like cows sleeping in the shade.

So if you're wondering what Phoenix looked like in the 1960s and early 1970s, here ya go. Wide open spaces, dirt, and billboards, usually advertising whiskey, or cigarettes.