Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

History adventuring and the joy of discovery


In a longish life, I've often wondered why people do the stuff they do, and most of it seems to be an endless task of collecting stuff. Some people collect money, some people collect stamps, and it seems as if they're never satisfied. It's always made me wonder if these people were greedy, always wanting more, but now I realize that it's just the nature of the joy of discovery.

Speaking for myself, I just a huge kick out of discovering new things about historic Phoenix. I've been doing it for a long time, and no matter how much I find, I want to find more. I have a collection of Phoenix photos (all digital, of course) of about 10,000 images and often my biggest challenge is to find the stuff that I've already found. I try to use a logical file system that I learned from a fellow graphic designer who also collects old Phoenix photos, and it's wonderful. I can use the "find" command on my computer and usually "put my finger" on an image in seconds. You can't do that with boxes of ten thousand photos!

I know that every answer I find opens up many more questions, but that's fine. I love doing this kinda stuff. Every once in a while I wonder if it's a healthy addiction, and I try to go outside, and get away from my computer, but I find myself coming back to it, with joy.

But I like to do more than just collect photos, and identify them. I like to immerse myself in them, to synthesize the information until I can feel myself there. And that's what this history adventuring thing is all about. Because when I get enough information, I can feel myself in the time and space of old-time Phoenix, I like to go there.

There are so many more journeys to make, and I'm anxious to start on all of them. Call me greedy.

Image at the top of this post: Looking east on Adams towards Central in 1908, Phoenix, Arizona.

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How to see the famous Paul Coze Phoenix Bird sculpture in modern Phoenix - yes, it's still there


If you're a fan of Phoenix history of the 1960s, you know about the sculpture that artist Paul Coze did of the Phoenix Bird for the Town and Country Shopping Center, at 20th Street and Camelback Road. You may even remember seeing it. And it may surprise you to find that you can still see it, it just takes a little bit of work. Come along with me. As of this writing, March 2018, it's there, on public display, in what I call "hidden in plain sight".

If you're a better driver than I am (and that wouldn't take much!) and keep your eyes on the road, you may have gone past it many times and never seen it. It's now on 21st Street and Camelback Road. Yes, it's there, and if you've never seen it there, really I can't blame you.

I "rediscovered it" about three years ago when I asked the Woman in My Life to help me look for it. At the time she was working right across the street, and had never seen it. I was convinced that it was there, so one day we went to look for it. Sure enough, there it is!

The Paul Coze Phoenix Bird sculpture at Town and Country. Located on Camelback Road and 21st Street in 2015. Difficult to see, but it's there.

No, it's not a conspiracy man. It's simply an unfortunate placement, a design that meant well. I'm a designer myself and I know that all too often designs fail. Luckily for me, I design on a computer where I can scrap it all and try again, but the design at 21st Street and Camelback is set in brick. I'm sure it looked good "on the drawing boards" but in practice the sculpture is nearly invisible from just about any angle.

It's not easy to see from the street, so I advise entering Town and Country at 21st Street, stashing your car, and getting out to see it. Look out for cars!

I'm thrilled that the nice people at Town and Country choose to keep, restore, and display this important piece of Phoenix history. And I love to be able to say, "yes, it's still there."

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Surviving the flu in old-time Phoenix - 1918


As I write this, I'm on my way to surviving the flu season of 2018. I'm trying to do everything right, sitting here at my computer with the humidifier going, sipping Dasani bottled water. I've got my Nyquil handy again for tonight, and if necessary Luden's Cough Drops, and WalMart 'Tussin. Come to think of it, I've surrounded myself with everything I could think of to minimize the pain of living through the flu, and since I had a fever for about two days I had plenty of time to think about how it must have been for the people of old-time Phoenix.

In 1918 there were a lot of people who weren't as lucky as I've been. In fact, 50 million people died from the flu that year worldwide. Yes, 50 million. And as I was freezing and burning with fever a couple of days ago I know that my little brain strayed over into thinking that those who lived were not the lucky ones. Sorry, fever scrambles your brain, I'm OK now.

Of course, I had Tylenol to reduce my fever, and aspirin would have been available in 1918 (it had been invented in 1899). I can't imagine what it would have felt like without a fever medication, but I'm sure a lot of people, especially tough guys, like me, refused any meds and just toughed it out, maybe taking a snort of whiskey. I have no idea. I'm a tough guy, and even with the Tylenol, two days of fever had me mewling and puking like an infant.

Just like today, there were a lot of people who didn't understand how all of this worked. Medical understanding of germs and infections that were from things that were invisible was the latest technology saving lives in World War I, but it didn't mean that the average person understood about infection, and the spread of a virus.

I guess just sitting here now thinking about it makes me glad to be here in the 21st Century, where I can just visit the past, and then go have some NyQuil. I'd like to believe that I would be have been tough enough to survive 100 years ago, but probably not.

Image at the top of this post: Excerpt from https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1918-10-26/ed-1/seq-10.pdf

More about the influenza epidemic of 1918 here https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/records-list.html

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Why Midwesterners get so excited about the "dry heat" of Phoenix


One of the things that I've appreciated about Phoenix ever since I moved there from Minneapolis as a teenager is the dry heat. And it's a phrase that puzzles a lot of people who've never lived in the Midwest.

Now calm down here, I love both Phoenix and Minneapolis - they're beautiful cities. But if you've ever spent a summer in Minneapolis where the humidity is so high that you can barely breathe, you know that it's unpleasant, to say the least. And it doesn't really have to be all that hot by Phoenix standards to be horrible - in the 80s with high humidity can have you scratching your hair in tortured agony and wishing that you can worn nothing that day but deodorant. I grew up in Minneapolis, and if you've spent a summer there, you know. If you haven't, I don't recommend it.

I'm not saying Phoenix isn't hot. It gets insanely hot. And I mean "you can fry and egg on the dashboard of your car" hot, but it doesn't get humid and hot. And that means that my air conditioning can handle it with ease. My car's steering wheel may be too hot for me to touch it after sitting in a parking lot, but that low humidity that Phoenix has means that my car will be comfortable in minutes, and I won't be trying to tear my hair out at the roots. And in the early mornings and evenings in Phoenix even temperatures in the 90s beat the heck out of high-humidity temperatures in the 80s back in Minneapolis.

But it's like everything else, it makes no sense if you haven't experienced it. And if you haven't, I envy you, and you're just gonna have to take my word for it. I like Phoenix, it gets hot, but it's a dry heat.

Image at the top of this post: Saguaro Cactus in Paradise Valley in the 1930s, near Phoenix, Arizona.

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How inflation killed the streetcars of Phoenix, Arizona


From the vantage point of the 21st century, it's hard to imagine how much a nickel could buy in 1892 Phoenix, Arizona, when the first electric trolley cars were built. And the Common Council of Phoenix stipulated, among many other things, that the price of the fare of a street car would never exceed five cents, for fifty years.

In 1892, you could get a "shave and a haircut" for two bits, which was twenty-five cents. You could buy lunch at a restaurant for a nickel, and have an extra penny for a tip. By the 1940s, a nickel could buy you a bottle of Pepsi, but not much more. In other words, fifty years of inflation between 1892 and 1942 spelled bad news for the street cars.

Just like the Red Cars of Los Angeles, the street cars fell into disrepair. Everyone was happy with the five cent fare limit, except the people who had to run and maintain the system. They scrambled for money, and in Phoenix, when the fifty year mark was hit, the street cars remained in operation throughout World War II, and then were abandoned.

It's not a conspiracy, man. Back in 1892 a nickel fare sounded like more than enough. And fifty years was so far in the future that no one imagined that it would ever come. But it did. And without the flexibility to increase the fare (which was stipulated by law), the trolley cars became a mess.

If all you've ever seen are the beautifully-restored cars at museums, you need to talk to people who actually had to ride those things in the 1940s. They were harsh, dirty, and definitely with no air conditioning. In Phoenix it must have been awful, and even in Los Angeles I would imagine that people riding street cars cast a wistful eye at the cool comfort of the modern cars and buses going by.

Image at the top of this post: Page 149 of the Ordinances and Resolutions of Phoenix, 1896 edition.

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Why should anybody live 30 miles from where they work? Phoenix and Los Angeles


As someone who has lived in Los Angeles, and now lives in Phoenix, I've seen people do a lot of commuting. And the question arises: "Why would people do that?" It's certainly not something that I ever considered, in fact, it's the main reason I left California and moved back to Phoenix, I wanted to buy a house, and I couldn't afford anything in the greater Los Angeles area. I would have had to have lived in somewhere like Lancaster, which is about 60 miles away from where I worked in Woodland Hills. And I knew a lot of people who did. They commuted every day for over two hours each way in some of the most congested bumper-to-bumper traffic in the country.

It seems kinda crazy to me, but if you're genuinely wondering why people do that, I think I can explain. And it starts with wanting to have "the American dream" - a house, a place that you can call your own, maybe have a little garden, a garage, bedrooms enough for a family. And as I approached my 30th birthday living in Los Angeles, I knew that even with the good job I had there was no way that I was going to be able to afford anything but a one-bedroom condo anywhere near where I worked.

So let's do the numbers - let's say that a house nearby your job is $300,000 and a house that you have to commute to is $100,000. And I mean exactly the same house, same number of bedrooms, same lot size, everything. That makes the house that costs half as much sound pretty appealing, doesn't it? Just the thought of actually qualifying for a house is a nice thought. And the commute just comes under the heading of "doing what you gotta do". Many people are inspired to do some heroic stuff for the good of their family, to know that their children have a decent house to live in, that sort of thing. I've known people like that, and there's something kind of amazing about them, even if their eyes are always puffy and they're always yawning.

When I was 30, I crunched the numbers and evaluated if I could stand the commute, and decided against it. I never went out to look around at Lancaster, but I knew that it was, as compared to LA, in the desert. And I figured that if I was gonna live in the desert, I might as well live in Phoenix, so I moved back there. I bought a house, the one I'm still in, and my commute to downtown was only about 12 miles. And then I got a different job and my commute was about half of that. My next job was within walking distance, at the local Community College, and the thought of spending time in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day has faded away from my mind - I really can't imagine it.

I've been lucky. Things have worked out for me. I didn't have to do the things that I've seen a lot of people do. And I've seen people do some really crazy things in order to make their life better, and the lives of the people in their family better. These are amazing people, and more than just a little bit crazy!

Image at the top of this post: Anthem, Arizona. From their website http://www.onlineatanthem.com/visitors/our_community/index.php

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Exploring a neighborhood like a kid on a bicycle


Even though many years have gone by for me, I've never outgrown my enjoyment of exploring a neighborhood the way I did when I was a kid on a bicycle. And that leaves most grownups puzzled when I say that I know a particular neighborhood well.

Grownups see the restaurants, the parking spots, the lowest price for gas. They know the quickest way to the freeway, the fastest way to drive to downtown, and about a million other things that are meaningless to kids, and to me.

I first started doing this in my neighborhood in Minneapolis, where I grew up. I left there at age 19 and the people that I talk to can hardly believe that I lived there. I don't know any of things they know - you know, the restaurants, the parking spots, the lowest price for gas, the quickest way to the freeway. But I knew that neighborhood in the intimate way that only a kid would know it. When I moved away, to Phoenix, I did the same thing. I knew the neighborhood by Lopers just that way, I knew the neighborhood in Tempe like that, the same with Santa Barbara, and Canoga Park, and now Glendale. I can also give tours of Calabasas, California, and Apache Junction, Arizona.

I don't know why I don't feel comfortable in a place until I've explored, that's just the way I am. If someone starts talking about the restaurants, or the parking spots, or the lowest price for gas, or which is the quickest way to get to the freeway, I tune out. I know how important that is for grownups, and I've done enough to get by as an adult, but it doesn't fascinate me. I'm sorry if that's rude, but I'm going to wander off. Walk with me.

There are some really interesting trees not far from here. I'm not exactly sure what they are, but I'm working on learning the names. It's where the road curves around by the little park. You know, the one that floods after a rain. I've gone there many times, and when I do I carry a sketchbook, or take out my camera, because that's what adults are supposed to do - they have to be accomplishing something. Kids don't need to do that, and really neither do I.

I've been with people who will say "There's nothing to see!" when my eyes are filling with wonder of what's all around me. And that makes me sad. I know the look when I point out something that fascinates me, and doesn't really resonate with grownups.

I see the world with the eyes of a child, and it's filled with wonder, and magic. You could do it at one point in your life, and if you've lost it for a while, don't worry, it will come back.

Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: A eucalyptus tree in Glendale, Arizona

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A wandering day in Arizona


Yesterday I went to the Biosphere 2, which is near Tucson, Arizona, south of Phoenix. And yes, I loved seeing it, and was amazed at it, and I could go on and on, but I won't. I recommend that you go see it. It's open to the public, it costs about twenty bucks admission, and there are regular tours through it all of the time, so you can just stop in. And while I'm glad to have seen it, when I look back at yesterday, it was only a part of it. Yesterday was a wandering day.

I learned the phrase "A wandering day" from my friend who drove. Like most of the people I've known all of my life, he's very busy with the new job, and repairs to the house, and a thousand other things. And while we've talked about going to the Biosphere 2 for years (we're both "plant guys"), it just seemed as if it was always being put off "until tomorrow".

But we finally made it happen. On Friday we went to Apache Junction and stayed with a friend who owns a spectacular place there, drank some beers on his patio under the stars, and in the morning headed south.

The Biosphere 2 really isn't all that far from Apache Junction, and the road we took to it, Arizona State Route 79, is much more interesting than the freeway. But the trip back was even better. We wandered.

We put the San Pedro River on our left. The San Pedro is riparian, like all "rivers" in Phoenix (I grew up next to the Mississippi River, so to me rivers are things that always have water in them), and while you really can't see "the river", you know it's there as all along it there are cottonwoods, amazingly green showing the way.

We wandered through Mammoth, Dudleyville (although I think I blinked and missed that one), then to Winkelman, and Kearny. We stopped to read historic markers. In Kearny we stopped for a burger and onion rings at Buzzy's Drive In (you gotta know where it is, the sign is old and faded). Then up near Ray, Arizona we stopped to look at the mine. There's a visitor's entrance with a lookout, and it's just amazing to see. After wandering through Superior, which was having a big event, we turned west, and then stopped for coffee at Queen Valley. And we wandered.

Eventually I was back home in Glendale, and this morning I'm playing back in my mind all of the places that I saw in the last two days. These are the places that I've always wanted to see, for no apparent reason. And those are the memories that make me a wealthy soul.

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Phoenix Northgate, 21st Avenue and Bell Road, empty since 1988


Phoenix has a lot of empty lots. Personally, I've always liked them, as it means less congestion, less traffic, and better views of the mountains. Of course, I'm not an investor, and I'm sure they look at them differently.

If you've driven past 21st Avenue and Bell Road since 1988, you've seen an impressive-looking sign that says "Phoenix Northgate", and really nothing else except a chain link fence that goes all around the property. I'll tell you what I know about it, but really it's not much, because all it means is that it was supposed to be a center of a flurry of business, and it never worked out. There, that's about it. It happens all of the time. From what I've read, in addition to car dealerships, there was supposed to be a hotel, restaurants, banks, that sort of thing. It seems like a good location! Back in 1988 it may have been "way out there", but it isn't anymore. Go figure.

The funny thing about this is that most people have no idea that this is how these types of places begin, with a name and a sign and a bunch of open land. I like driving around Phoenix and looking for the names of shopping centers which have long been ignored. I live nearby Peoria Station, at 67th Avenue and Peoria, which was designed to look like a train station when it was built in the '80s, and not far from Ted's Plaza, which is my personal favorite, from the 1970s, at 47th Avenue and Olive. I've known people who've lived in this neighborhood for a long time and would have no idea what you meant if you said that you were going to meet them at "Peoria Station" or "Ted's Plaza".

The reason for these names is simply business, as that before any construction begins, a name is needed. And there's usually some kind of impressive sign. It's the name that is thrown around as "the next big thing", and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Phoenix Northgate really didn't work.

The empty space of Northgate. To me, it's beautiful with the wide vistas and the mountain views. To an investor it's probably not so beautiful!

Speaking for myself, I never gave this area any thought until recently when one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detective) pointed it out to me. I remember the empty roads next to the Lincoln Mercury dealership where I test-drove my Cougar in 2000. That the area had been empty for twelve years previously never occurred me. And those roads curving around nothing are still there, along with the empty sidewalks that were never used. By the way, I just learned that the dealership is part of Northgate, but I don't recall anyone calling it "Northgate Lincoln Mercury".

Like I said, I'm not an investor, but even I have to wonder how much it cost to make that sign at the top of this post, which is actually pretty nice, and considering that it hasn't been touched for over thirty years, pretty solid. And then there's the land - someone has to be paying taxes on it, or maybe the city is losing tax revenue on it, which means it's costing the taxpayers. I don't know?

1988 date stamp at Northgate, 21st Avenue and Bell Road, Phoenix, Arizona.

One of the things that I do is look at the date stamps in sidewalks. Sometimes I see really old ones, like WPA from the 1930s, and it really gives me a sense of time-traveling. I like to think of the moment when that stamp was in fresh concrete, and the people were standing around, imagining the future. And sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.

Roads and sidewalks to nowhere, at Northgate near 21st Avenue and Bell Road, Phoenix, Arizona.

If you know more about this place, its past, its future, please comment. The history of Phoenix is still being written!

All photos by Brian Gotsch. Used with permission.

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The first step to understanding the Biosphere Two - getting the name right


There's a saying that I like that says that to begin understanding something, start by learning what it's called. And while I'm not usually fussy about names, because a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, the best way to begin to understand what most people call "the Biosphere" in Arizona, down near Tucson, is to call it by it's proper name which is Biosphere Two.

And if you're looking around and wondering where the Biosphere One is, you're standing on it, it's earth, also known as the Big Blue Marble. And that's the point of Biosphere Two, to see if something could be man-made that could support life, both plant and animal, out in space. Like earth does, only smaller.

The Biosphere Two was built in the late 1980s, and like most people who live in Arizona, I've never gotten around to visiting it. I plan on seeing it this weekend, and like all of the places I visit "In Real Life" I start with some exploring in cyberspace.

I think I'm going to like it. I've always had a fascination with stories about space travel, and as a kid I followed the moon shots, and landings. I've read a lot of science fiction, and the thought of traveling in space, and what it would look like and feel like, for long periods, fascinates me. And really, the Biosphere One is the same as Biosphere Two, except that it's bigger, and there are whales in the ocean, and it has bigger trees.

Today I will be pondering this as I walk around Biosphere One, looking at the sky, the flora and fauna, and realizing that it's just like Biosphere Two, a bubble of life floating through the cosmos.

The Website of Biosphere Two

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Bringing the midwestern work ethic to the southwest


I've lived in Arizona, and briefly in California, all of my adult life. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have been amazed at how far my "midwestern work ethic" has taken me professionally in the southwest and how much it has harmed my nervous system.

Yeah, I could probably relax a bit. My friends who grew up in Phoenix, or Los Angeles, see me as a bit maniacal. I grew up in a neighborhood where it was expected of every decent person to have their sidewalks shoveled no later than 10 am, that sort of thing. If you've lived in Minneapolis, you know what I mean. In fact, one of the things that I fell in love with in Arizona and California was the more "laid back" approach to life.

I know that my friends back east picture me either with a sombrero, or maybe carrying a surfboard, but I still have a lot of "midwest" in me. And being that way has been a blessing, and a curse, for me living in Arizona and California.

Something that I've seen all of my adult life in California and Arizona is a lack of what I call "follow through". To my little midwestern brain, it's unthinkable that I would fail to get back to someone, or not show up, or to show up late. And while it's been great for my career, it has made me get annoyed very quickly with behavior that's perfectly natural for the "more laid back" people.

Like a good little midwestern person, I'm always at appointments early, I always call people back, I always reply to my emails quickly. Yeah, I worry a lot. And when I do fail, I really let it bother me a lot. A lot! My California and Arizona friends often describe me as "twitchy".

If you've never lived anywhere except the southwest, this cultural difference would be, of course, invisible to you. If you grew up back east, chances are this kind of stuff makes you crazy. I've seen some funny stuff done by comedians who have moved to Los Angeles and have tried to get things done, because it takes forever. I learned to ask, and set reminders, and remind again, and ask how they're coming along, and over and over. When someone does show up, and does follow through, I embrace them, and they're on my team, getting my business in the future, and my recommendations.

There really is a cultural difference between the midwest and the southwest. Whether it's good or bad depends on your point of view. I like living somewhere that has a more laid back attitude, so I love California and Arizona. As a professional graphic designer, I learned to search out people who would get the job done, and I've kept them. For people who call and say, "uh... sorry, dude, can't make it..." I just smile and let them go. In a way I'm jealous of them - they don't worry so much!

Image at the top of this post: Downtown Phoenix in 1949, a sleepy little town.

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Treating buses as if they were trains in the old days


I like reading old books, and one of the things I've noticed is that people used to know the exact time when trains would leave. That is, a train would leave Paddington Station at 12:04, and people would say, "I have to rush and catch the 12:04!" Or they would be at a country house and know that the train that would get them back to London in time would be 6:17. And they would ask the chauffeur to drive them to station to get there in time for the 6:17, which would get them to London by 8:02. This way of thinking has nothing to do with how I've lived my life, because I've always just jumped in my car and complained of traffic. So today I'll be doing an experiment with the bus - I'll be taking the 1:33 to my dentist. I could, of course, take the 1:03 but that would get me to my destination way too early. If I miss the 1:33, I'll have to wait another half-hour, in which case I would call my dentist to say that I would be running late. People in old books did this all of the time, but I'm sure I'll be fine.

I've lived in this neighborhood for over twenty years, but I've rarely ridden the bus. But there's a regular schedule, which is the same every day, except weekends, and little by little I've been learning my stops. Of course, I have my phone with an app to check on it, but mostly I like the idea of "catching the 1:33"

I used to ride the bus when I was a kid in Minneapolis, and I never looked at a bus schedule. I was a kid, with no particular schedule, and I knew that there would be a city bus along every twenty minutes. In the Phoenix area it's every half hour on the major streets, except weekends, when it's every hour. But as a grownup, I really don't want to just fly completely blind - I can read schedules, I have a Smart Phone, I can use apps.


To do this today, I've set an alarm for 1:20 pm on my phone. It will take me about ten minutes to walk to "the station" (the bus stop).

Riding public transportation takes more preparation than just getting in your car. I'm "pigmentally challenged" (a white guy with pale skin) so I have to wear sunscreen. I probably won't be spending a lot of time out in the sun, but I do it just in case. I buy the Light Rail passes (which are also good on the bus) which I can use all day - they're the green ones, and they cost four dollars. My trip to the dentist would be much more expensive with an Uber, which I can do if I twist my ankle or something, but it's a beautiful day, and I want to do a little bit of walking, so it's perfect. By the way, if I decided to go all of the way out to Mesa and back here to Glendale the same card would do for me all day. That's quite a bargain! Certainly cheaper than if I drove! And with this pass I can get out and go eat, and then catch the next train, or bus.

Since I'm not driving, I won't be inside of an environmentally-controlled bubble. Cars are nice that way, you never have to worry about rain, or cold, or anything. Taking the bus, like riding a train, exposes you to the elements, at least a little bit, so it's good to check the weather. I just did, it's mostly cloudy, but no rain in the forecast, and the high today will be 83 degrees. For that I'll be fine with bluejeans and a tee-shirt. If I were traveling early or late I'd take a light jacket, just to be sure, and I'd probably carry it in a backpack. I won't need a backpack today, and the less I have to carry the better for me. That's also something that people had to do on trains, carry things. You don't have to carry anything in a car!

Doing all of this not only entertains me, it folds into my fitness program. About five years ago I lost a lot of weight, and have kept it off, which isn't easy. So, as I say, everything counts towards my fitness program, even riding the bus!

Image at the top of this post: Trains pulling into the station in 1930s downtown Phoenix. In my imagination today, I'll be on a train. Gotta catch the 1:33! And yes, I've got my fare, and just a trifle to spare!

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Why little neighborhood stores are more expensive


As some who has lived in some really awful neighborhoods in my younger days, I know that food at neighborhood markets is the most expensive way you can buy it. If you've never lived in a neighborhood that's, uh, "less than fashionable", it may come as a shock to you that those little neighborhood market's prices are much higher than, for example a large chain retailer, whose name I won't mention here, but rhymes with "almart"

I've been lucky. My career and my income grew, and I was able to move into a nice suburban neighborhood, where everything is designed for the convenience of people with cars. And even in my "less than fashionable" years, I had a car, and was able mostly to drive away from the neighborhood to a grocery store, or a discount store, or well, anywhere. People in the neighborhoods who weren't as mobile as me didn't have that many choices.

When I lived in Canoga Park, a "less than fashionable" neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, sometimes I would walk. Every day I walked to the "mom and pop" place two blocks away from me and I bought a Coke. I liked walking, and I knew that the price that I was paying was much more than if I went to a grocery store, or a discount store, but at the time I was interested in learning more about how the "less than fashionable" people lived. I would glance at other things for sale, and note the inflated cost of a gallon of milk, that sort of thing.

Now waitaminute, before you jump to conclusions that I'm accusing these tiny business of intentionally gouging poor people, consider their situation. I would see these people working very hard, for long hours, usually with just family members. Whatever their profit margin was, it wasn't big enough to waste things, and sometimes the food would just sit on the shelves for a long time until it was sold. When there's only one Snickers bar for someone who is walking to the store, they can't be fussy about expiration dates, stuff like that.

Like I say, I've been lucky. I've lived a comfortable suburban life since my early thirties. But my experience in "less than fashionable" neighborhoods has allowed me to realize when I'm talking to someone who's never seen it. Because it's not pretty, and I gotta tell you, the people who can afford it the least have to pay the most.

Image at the top of this post: At my apartment in Canoga Park, California in the 1980s. I'm smiling because I knew that someday I'd be able to get out of there.

How to turn errands into history adventuring


I've always like this story: Three men on a construction site are asked what they're doing. The first says, "I'm earning a living", the second says, "I'm laying bricks", and the third says, "I'm building a cathedral!". That taught me everything I needed to know about point of view.

I like asking people what they're doing, and mostly I hear "going to work" and "doing errands". And I often wonder how these people could live in such a drab world. Luckily, I've known people who are adventuring, and I've learned a lot from them.

My favorite role models for this have been James Bond, and my brother who lives in California. They're always adventuring! Yes, they're doing their jobs, and from a certain point of view doing errands, but they're doing with style, and really living. If you can't see it, I'll see if I can explain. I'll start with going to an airport.

Like most people, my first thought about airports is "uggghhh". It's just waiting in line, and more waiting in line. Then you crush into a plane and hope that your luggage isn't lost. But the first time I flew on a plane I was James Bond. And by that I meant that I was adventuring, flying away to an exciting and glamorous place (I think it was Burbank) filled with exotic locales, beautiful women, and vodka martinis (actually I prefer gin-and-tonics). And the first time I went hiking with my brother from California I really saw everything from his point of view. Everything was so beautiful, the sky, the mountains, and I saw my Arizona in a fresh way. Yes, I saw Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon, but even my little suburban neighborhood looked better.

Yes, by all means tell people what they want to hear if they're just looking for "misery loves company". Tell them how much you hate your job, you hate where you live, you hate your life. All my life I've tried to chime in with this conversation, and it's really the vast majority of people in the world. But I've always been a secret adventurer, which I now call "history adventuring" and isn't that much of a secret anymore, because I write about it here. I see an amazing world, even in my own neighborhood. Every errand I run is an adventure, every step I take is in a world that I share with other people who understand, like you.

Thank you for history adventuring with me!

Image at the top of this post: Driving north on the Black Canyon Freeway in the 1960s approaching Camelback Road, Phoenix, Arizona. I see interesting cars, not traffic.

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Protecting Phoenix history by digitizing it and giving it away


I like Phoenix history, and I especially like old photos. Yes, I can read, but I still mostly wanna look at pictures. I'm a "pictures and captions" kinda guy. I like a short explanation and a really nice picture. And since I'm a Photoshop guy, I like to store photos digitally, where I can look at them at my leisure, as up close as I want to, with no limit whatsoever on the amount I have. My career as a graphic designer started with the change from analog (drawing boards) to digital (Macintosh computers) in the 1980s, and I loved digital stuff right away.

But a lot of people of my generation disagree with me. They don't value digital stuff, and it's not real unless it's on paper. And that attitude puts a lot of precious history at risk. I'll see if I can explain.

I was at the Burton Barr (the main library of Phoenix) a week before the flood damage, in the Arizona Room. I had never been in that room before, but I'd been in lots of places with wonderful old documents and every time I had asked in the past if I could take photos of the books I had been told no. Sometimes the no included a look of disbelief, or downright anger. But I still asked, and to my surprise they said "yes" that day. I was so nervous about this that I continued to ask the next librarian who took over the next shift, and they kept assuring me that it was OK. I took a lot of photos, brought them home, optimized them in Photoshop, and shared them on the internet.

A Phoenix summer bedroom in 1899, from the Arizona Graphic

Most of the photos were from a publication there called "the Arizona Graphic" from 1899. Yes, it's still there, and, no, it wasn't damaged in the flood, and none of the material in the Arizona Room was damaged. But if it had been, those probably would have been all that would have been left of that magazine (unless someone else had taken photos from it). Soggy paper never looks the same.

But digitizing is only half of it. In addition to that, the photos need to be distributed. I have a website that will allow me to do unlimited uploads, and I also share on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and other places. I don't write "copyright" all over the images (which I consider desecration) nor do I insist that whoever uses them tips their hat to me. Copyright makes people nervous, and it makes people afraid to share. And the best way for the precious history that people like me are digitizing is to share it. I'd like to think that that photo up there, of the Carnival Queens of Phoenix in 1899 will be shared so many times that there would never be a chance of its ever being lost.

I have now shared over 10,000 Phoenix history images, and I hope to be sharing a whole lot more. If you want to help me do this, then please share. You can donate to me, you can help support me on Patreon, you can just "like" one of my posts. Everything helps.

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Lunch with Jerry Foster, News Helicopter pioneer


If you lived in Phoenix in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, you saw a lot of Jerry Foster and his helicopter. Nowadays news helicopter pilots are nothing special, but Jerry was the first, and he did it in Phoenix, Arizona. I had lunch with him today, and while he was self-effacing and gracious, I knew that he was still a hotshot.

To my surprise, Jerry hadn't realized how much of a local celebrity he was. People on TV news are, of course, in the public eye, but they seem to be pretty much interchangeable. Jerry was one-of-a-kind. I remember Jerry.

Of course, when you meet a celebrity in real life, they tend to be not as tall as you had thought, and they're older. Maybe that's because we expect larger-than-life people to actually be ten feet tall, and to look the same way they looked thirty years ago. But in real life Jerry is every bit as dynamic as I'd imagined, and as for his age, he said it best in response to the statement "there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots", which was "Really?"

Jerry Foster flying over Fountain Hills, Arizona

Jerry was a bold pilot. He took a lot of risks, and I'm sure that there were times when he wondered if he would ever survive long enough to be a senior citizen. He did, and of all the amazing things he talked about today, that's what caught my attention the most today. He wears his age with pride.

If you don't know who he is, you can Google him, or you can read his book. If you do know him, and have fond memories, please make a comment here so he can see it. There was a time in his life when he thought that people had forgotten about him, and I know that was never true.

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Giving the gift of Phoenix history


I'm a believer in giving gifts. I haven't done a lot of it in my life, but it's always been important to me that when I give a gift, it's given "without let or hindrance", freely, to be used however the receiver desires. Absolutely no strings.

The gift I've been giving away in cyberspace for several years is digital images, like the one at the top of this post. I'm delighted when people like them, and I do it because I can. Collecting old photos is my hobby, and I can give them away without losing anything myself - they're not paper, they're digital. I don't do it for money, because frankly there isn't enough money in the world for the amount of work I put into it. I do it because I enjoy the collection, and the gift is just the icing on the cake for me.

Of course, not everyone agrees with what I'm doing. There are a lot of people who resent how someone might use a gift, whether it's displayed correctly, whether they give the gift to someone else (re-gifting), or whether it turns into something that makes money. I don't care. I don't have the energy to follow where my gifts go. If you print out a photo and hang it up in your bathroom, I won't be offended. If you make tee-shirts and sell them, I won't expect a commission, if you display it somewhere and charge admission, that's fine. It's yours to with as you please. And for people who disagree with me, and hold on tightly, I usually ask if they will share. Unfortunately, many of these people are so dedicated to making sure that nothing of theirs is ever used in a way that they would disapprove of, they destroy it.

And there are many ways of destroying precious pieces of Phoenix history. The most common way is to put things in boxes and forget about them, until some day they'll just be part of the landfill. They could be locked up in boxes and stored safely away. I often refer to the last scene of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when I picture things being boxed up and put on shelves. If you've seen that movie, you know what I mean.

I would like to continue giving away digital images, and I see no reason to stop, or even slow down. I'm a graphic designer, a Photoshop guy, and I'm comfortable in cyberspace, and with social media. And yes, structurally all of these things are designed for commercial purposes. But I've found a way to use it to give gifts, and it makes me feel good. And maybe that good feeling is my selfish reward? I suppose so. If that's the case, it's a good deal.

If you see anything here that you like, please use it, without let or hindrance. I know that even as I write this, a lot of precious history of Phoenix is being lost forever, so I'll do what I can, and I hope that you will reshare.

Image at the top of this post: Footbridge over the Arizona Canal in 1902, Camelback Mountain in the background.

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The future of the History Adventuring project


My fascination with old photographs goes way back. I've always enjoyed old movies, old books, old photos. And what I wanted to do was to step into them in my imagination. A few years ago I started calling it "history adventuring" and mostly I did it on my computer. Then I started sharing these old photos on the web, and asking people to join me in my journey of imagination. And then, to my surprise, some people wanted to share this journey IRL (in real life).

As a person with mobility issues because of a medical emergency I survived many years ago (please don't ask), going out into the "real world" is difficult for me. But I've been trying it lately, and I like it, and I would like to do more of it. I don't drive, but I can sight-see with the best of them. When I look out at the mountains surrounding Phoenix I see a time when they were protected by Apaches. I can see the Phoenix of Dwight and Maie Heard, when suburbia was only two miles from downtown Phoenix. When I go to California, I follow the paths of the people who built the missions in Old Spain, I look at the San Fernando Valley and I can see it through the eyes of William Mulholland, who brought water to Los Angeles in 1913.

This year I've decided to expand my history adventuring. I will still spend the majority of my time on my computer, but I'll be getting out more. I will be talking face-to-face with people who share my enthusiasm for history adventuring, both in Phoenix and in Los Angeles.

If you think that I've ever had some great big idea, you flatter me. I just wanted to explore, and to learn, and to enjoy. And I want to continue doing this for as long as my old body can do it, which I figure will be a long time! And my offer still stands, if you need my help on something related to history adventuring, I'm glad to give it. You can write a book, make tee-shirts, makes videos, heck you could even make a movie, and I'll help you. My reward for this is that I can continue to go history adventuring, and maybe get a cheeseburger. My intention isn't to get rich, it's to enrich the life I have, and to me there's nothing more enriching than my history adventuring. I can't get enough.

Like the best things in life, I've stumbled into this. I had no plan other than looking at stuff, and I really still have no plan. I'm a visual person, not an organizer, so I lean heavily on my computer, and on my "left brained" friends to help me. And as this grows, as I'm sure it will, I suppose that people will imagine that I had it all planned, but I didn't. I'm making this up as I go along, which is what I consider the best adventure of all.

Thank you for walking with me. And there is so much more to see!

Image at the top of this post: Looking west on McDowell towards Scottsdale Road in the 1960s, Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Why Mill Avenue curves into Apache Boulevard in Tempe, Arizona


If you've ever driven in Tempe, Arizona, you know that the main road through town is Mill Avenue, and after you've gone past the campus of ASU, while Mill Avenue continues south, the main route curves to the east to become Apache Boulevard.

The reason for this is that most people who are traveling south on Mill Avenue are crossing the river with the intention of continuing on to Mesa, Apache Junction, and all points east.

Personally, I'm fascinated by any road in the Phoenix area that curves at all. The greater Phoenix area is mostly just a big flat expanse of desert, and whenever I see a road curve I wonder why? Back in Minneapolis, where I grew up, roads curved all of the time around lakes (there are a LOT of lakes in Minnesota, and several are right there in town), but in Phoenix unless a road is curving to go around a mountain, it makes me wonder.

Of course, looking at the curve from the opposite direction shows the route people wanted to take if they were coming from Mesa, Apache Junction, and all points east. Most people wanted to cross the river, and so essentially Apache Boulevard ends at the curve, and you turn north on Mill Avenue, which takes you to downtown Phoenix, which is northwest of Tempe.

The photo at the top of this post, which is from 1963, shows the curve during the construction of the Gammage Auditorium. And since this is one of the most beautiful buildings in the greater Phoenix area, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it just seems fitting to have a gentle curve around it, showing off the southwest corner of the campus of Arizona State University.

There really isn't a name for this, I just call it the Mill/Apache curve. Go Sun Devils!

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Searching for the ghosts of Minnie Powers and the Cockney in downtown Phoenix


If you're a ghost hunter, you may want to look for the ghosts of Minnie Powers and William Belcher, alias "the Cockney" (because he was from London, England) in downtown Phoenix.

The article at the top of this post, which is from 1899, is the first mention of ghosts in the house where Rose R. Gregory, known as Minnie Powers, was murdered by William Belcher, who then committed suicide. This house was a house of ill-repute, that is a place of prostitution, which at the time was just outside of the city limits of Phoenix, which was 7th Street.

The sad ending of two lives in 1898, William Belcher and Minnie Powers (Rose Gregory). From the Library of Congress https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94051692/1898-09-24/ed-1/seq-1.pdf

The exact address was 720 Railroad Avenue, which would be 720 E. Jackson Street, just east of where Chase Field is now, east of 7th Street and north of the railroad tracks, which are still there. Of course the old buildings are long since gone, but presumably ghosts don't pay attention to that, and are still doing their haunting there.

1901 Sanborn map showing the exact location. The term "female boarding" was used to indicate houses of prostitution.

The ghost story from 1899, which is a followup to the murder/suicide a year earlier, says "...The house has been unoccupied for a long time, almost ever since the double tragedy. People who pass it at night hear things. So far nobody has seen anything, but almost any night there are noises as if heavy objects were being moved about and as if people walking heavily. ...Residents of the neighborhood have satisfied themselves that nobody of flesh and blood could be in the place. The doors and windows were found to be securely fastened and no signs of inhabitants have been discovered."

If you go there, and listen for sounds late at night, tell me what you find. I'm not going anywhere near there, I'll tell you that!

1898 article about the murder of Minnie Powers and the suicide of William Belcher in Phoenix, Arizona. From the Library of Congress https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1898-09-18/ed-1/seq-4.pdf
According to the records of the Pioneers' Cemetery Association, Rose Gregory (Minnie Powers) and  William Belcher (the Cockney) were buried in the Rosedale section of the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park, at 13th Avenue and Jefferson, Phoenix, Arizona.

More information here https://modenook.com/a-true-arizona-centennial-ghost-story/

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