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

Growing flowers in old-time Phoenix


As someone who loves flowers, and gardens in general, I've often wondered what Phoenix looked like back in Victorian days. But luckily I can see it anytime I want to, and not just in my imagination, at an historic ranch in my neighborhood.

That's the Sahuaro Ranch in the photo up there, and the rose gardens were originally planted at the turn of the century, as were many of the palm trees. And yes, of course there were crops planted as well, it was a working farm and ranch, after all. But what has always fascinated me the most were the flowers, specifically the rose garden.

Time-travel with me to a time when the word "desert" just meant a horrible place. Nowadays, of course, people admire the beauty of the desert, but in the 1890s, areas surrounding the Sahuaro Ranch were pretty desolate, and what I would call "miles and miles of kitty litter". And so, in addition to growing crops, people surrounded themselves with beauty, with flowers.

It must have been an amazing transformation. From mile after mile of dust, to arriving at the Sahuaro Ranch and seeing the rose garden. And just like today, the flowers were planted for beauty, to enrich the lives of the people who lived there.

No, of course, those aren't the same rose plants from way back then, but you can get a good feel of what they must have looked like. And no, they're weren't planted to be eaten, they were planted for beauty. They helped to create an oasis in the desert.

The Sahuaro Ranch is free and open to the public. It's just north of Glendale Community College, which is at 59th Avenue and Olive in Glendale, Arizona.

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Why there are stop signs in Phoenix, Arizona


If you've ever wondered why there are stop signs in Phoenix, or anywhere for that matter, you must have been an annoying kid, like I was. I guess I still am!

I haven't been back to the neighborhood where I grew up, and learned to drive in, Minneapolis, for a very long time, but I distinctly recall what were called "uncontrolled intersections". That is, there were no stop signs on the neighborhood streets. I was taught that if a car was slightly ahead of me at an intersection that I would yield for it, the same way that I yield for a shopping cart in a grocery store, or let someone step out of an elevator before me. Only the major streets had stop signs and traffic lights.

I moved to Phoenix in 1977, and whether it was a changing of eras, or a changing of location, I don't know, but I saw a LOT of stop signs. And in a long life in the Phoenix area, I've rarely seen uncontrolled intersections. I've even seen stop signs in the parking lots. And since I've always been interested in how cities grow, and I have some idea how expensive stop signs are, it's always intrigued me.

The photo at the top of this post is of the Sun Valley Parkway that I took in 2015. If you had been with me that day, you could have easily strolled out into the intersection of Sun Valley and Bethany Home Road, and sat down there. For as long as you wanted. If a car happened to go by, you could get up, but you'd have to wait a very long time, and you can see for miles in both directions. And, as you can see, it's a T-intersection. And it goes from a smaller road to a larger road. My little "Minneapolis driving" brain laughed at this. Why in the world would there be a stop sign there? But I suppose that it's some kind of law, a requirement.

Stop signs, like traffic lights, are put there for when an area gets so crowded that it becomes difficult for drivers to know when it's their turn to go. And Phoenix was crowded from the first time I saw it. I had never seen such wide roads - even the neighborhood roads were much wider than the ones I learned to drive on in Minneapolis. It just makes sense.

Image at the top of this post: the intersection of the Sun Valley Parkway and Bethany Home Road, west of the White Tank Mountains. You're looking east.

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Being old-timers in old-time Phoenix



Let's go back to old-time Phoenix, and be old-timers. In the 21st Century, we'd be called "senior citizens" or some such polite term, but at the turn of the century, we're just a couple of cranky old guys. Come on!

The first thing we'll need is a place to sit in front of a building. Let's sit in front of the Ford Hotel, at 2nd Avenue and Washington. I'll buy us some coffee. I figure that we can sit there most all day long, no one will mind. If any of those young whipper-snappers say anything, I'll waive my Colt at them! That'll learn 'em!

The Colt? Yeah, here it is. No, I didn't point it at you. Oh sorry. But don't worry, my vision is still as good as it was back in the war. Now those were the days! As I recall, you fought on the Confederate side, right? I was Union, but it doesn't matter. Those were the days when duty called, you answered! Not like today, with those cowardly rapscallions everywhere. What's this darn country coming to, anyway?

1896 Street Tax in Phoenix, Arizona.

I think I'm going to move upwind, since you decided to light one of those cigars of yours. I understand they get a good price for them, which is surprising. What? Taxes? Don't get me started! I just heard tell that the City is going to impose a tax to keep up the streets. Bunch of darn foolishness if you ask me, I think they're just lining their pockets. Streets look OK to me. Dusty, but what do you expect? If they want a dollar from me I'll just show them the Colt. Although I doubt the tax collector even knows where I live.

Hattie Mosher

Let's see, where was I? Anyway, taxes. I'd say that the only person who gets it right is Hattie Mosher. She refuses to pay a penny in taxes. Smart girl! And that's why she's so rich, she doesn't squander her money. Good eye for business, that girl. I believe that's her on that bicycle over there. Darned bicycles, always in the way. There oughta be a law! In my day, you rode a horse, not some darned contraption with wheels.

Automobiles? You mean horseless carriages, don't 'cha? I hope they never allow them in Phoenix, it would ruin the whole town!

Image at the top of this post: Looking west on Washington towards 1st Avenue in the 1890s, Phoenix, Arizona. The Ford Hotel is at far left.

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Seeing Goliath the giraffe in Phoenix in 1916


It's 1916, we're in Phoenix, and I want to go see Goliath the Giraffe. He's part of Barnum and Bailey's Circus and I've heard that he's really, really tall.

No, I've never seen a giraffe. And I really don't believe that you have, either. Yes, I'll bet a hundred million billion dollars! I just saw an article in the paper, and I'm looking forward to seeing this magnificent beast. I go to the circus every year.

A friend of mine says that he saw Goliath walking in the circus parade on Washington when they got to town, but I don't believe him. I think since Goliath is such a big attraction, they're going to keep him hidden so that you'll have to buy a ticket to see him.

No, I don't have any money for a ticket, but don't worry. I give the bearded lady some plugs of my dad's chewing tobacco whenever she's in town. We'll get in as a honored guests! Yes, you'll have to kiss her.

Let's go see Goliath!

Article at the top of this post is from the Library of Congress https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1916-09-19/ed-1/seq-10.pdf

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Trouble in old-time Phoenix, the pool hall


Let's time-travel back to Phoenix in 1909, where there's trouble. And I mean with a capitol T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool! Yes, there's a pool hall in town. It's in the cigar store run by Lewis Baswitz.

And no, I don't mean billiards, which is a respectable game, played by gentlemen. Let me see if I can explain about pool.

Why sure, I'm a billiard player, mighty proud to say it. I consider that the hours I spend with a cue in my hand are golden. Help you cultivate horse sense, and a cool head and a keen eye. Ever take and try to give an iron-clad leave to yourself from a three-rail billiard shot? But anyone can take and shove a ball in a pocket!

This pool hall is at 43 E. Washington Street, right there in the middle of town where anyone can go. I've seen children peeking into the windows. But I say that the presence of a pool table in Phoenix means trouble.

Now I know that you folks are the right kind of parents, and I'm going to be perfectly frank. Would you like to know what kind of conversation goes on while they're loafing around that hall? They'll be trying out Bevo, trying out cubebs, tryin' out tailor mades like cigarette fiends! And bragging all about how they're gonna cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen.

And the next thing you know, your son is playing for money in a pinch-back suit! And listening to some big out-of-town Jasper, hearing him tell about horse-race gambling. Not a wholesome trotting race, no, but a race where they sit down right on the horse! Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sitting on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say.

Friends, let me tell you what I mean. You've got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table. Pockets that mark the difference between a gentlemen and a bum, with a capital "B," and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!

If this sounds familiar, it's the basis of the play, and movie, "The Music Man", written by Meredith Wilson in 1957, based on the book that he and Franklin Lacey wrote. They were poking fun at how much times had changed!

https://www.amazon.com/Music-Man-Special-Robert-Preston/dp/B00000F14B

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Drinking coffee in old-time Phoenix


It's 1899, we're in Phoenix, and I'd really like some coffee. Jump into the back of the buckboard and let's go to Coffee Al's, which is on Washington just west of Center Street (Central Avenue).

Yes, I know we had coffee at the boarding house this morning - if you can call it that! The brown muck that Mrs. Stick-in-the-Mud, or whatever her name is, serves there ought to be against the law. I poured mine out onto a cactus and I hope it didn't kill it!

Here we are at Coffee Al's. Yes, it's also a lunch counter, so maybe I'll get some sandwiches that we can eat later. Give me a dime - that should be more than enough, I'll bring back your change. You stay here with Efron and Wilhelmina, they seem to be a little nervous this morning, it must be all of the traffic on Washington. This town gets more crowded all of the time! I'll be right back.


Here you are, I got us each a cup of coffee, and a sandwich that we can share. It was a little bit more expensive than I had thought, sorry. Here's your change.

I mixed in a little honey in our coffee. Isn't it wonderful! Yeah, I think the beehives are over by the town ditch, I'm not sure. It sure is better than that boarding house coffee, don't you think?

1900 ad for Coffee Al's, Phoenix, Arizona.

It's been a busy day, what do you say about stopping at Coffee Al's on the way back? No, don't worry, we don't have to turn the buckboard around, there's a counter on both sides of Washington. People in Phoenix love their coffee!

Thank you for drinking coffee with me!

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Eating hamburgers and weinnies in old-time Phoenix


It's 1920, we're on our way to the Arizona State Fair, and I'm looking forward to eating a hamburger, and some weinnes there.

What? You've never heard of them? They're all the rage. They're ground-up meat served in a roll. I understand that the Arizona Packing Company here in Phoenix makes them. No, you don't need to sit down with a knife and fork, you just pick it up and eat them with your hands.

Very funny - yes, I know that joke - yes, you can eat your hands separately. Sure, I've eaten them before. Where? Up in the City, in California. But they're better here in Arizona. We have lots of cows and pigs here. Yes, a hamburger is made from beef. No, not ham. I'm not really sure why they call it that, I think it has to do with a city in Germany?

The Arizona Packing Company in 1920. You're looking south from what is now called Van Buren on the Tempe Road, which was between Phoenix and Tempe.

Here we are at the fair, at a concession stand. Just go up there and ask. Get a whole bunch of weinnies. And yes, I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

The Arizona State Fair letterhead in 1914

That was delicious. No, I don't want any more. My stomach feels funny. Excuse me for a minute.

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Eating at Henry Sing's restaurant in 1924 - Sing High


It's 1924 and there's a new restaurant here in Phoenix called Sing High. It's at 138 S. 2nd Street and is run by Henry Sing. Let's go!

I just saw this ad in the paper, and the hours seem a little strange, but it's Saturday, so they'll be open from noon to four, and I think we should go there.

OK, there it is! I see that there's a long line, so it must be good. Phoenix has a lot of good Chinese restaurants, but we could always use another one. I wonder how long this one will last? Until the 21st Century, do you think?

That must be the owner there, Mr. Sing. No, I don't think Henry is his real name, I'm sure that he goes by that name so that people like us can pronounce it. I'm going to walk over and shake his hand. I want to let him know that Arizona is a friendly place. What? Oh, sure, I'll bow, too.

Sing High in the 1970s, 3rd Street and Madison, Phoenix, Arizona.

That was delicious. I'm glad we tried the chop suey. No, I have no idea what it is, I just know that it was delicious. I think we should go back often, help Mr Sing keep his place in business.

Sing High in 2017, 27 W. Madison, Phoenix, Arizona. From Yelp. 

Ad at the top of this post is from the Library of Congress

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Enjoying chocolate in old-time Phoenix


I like chocolate. I was introduced to dark chocolate, the really good kind, a few years ago by the Woman in my Life. Since then I've become kinda fussy about chocolate. Nowadays I usually get Ghirardelli dark chocolate, which is from San Francisco, and you can get at just about any grocery store, or if I'm in downtown Glendale I'll go to Cerreta's. I just got a gift box today from one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) from Scharffen Berger - which I'd never heard of, and am enjoying it immensely. So naturally I'm thinking about people in old-time Phoenix, and whether they enjoyed chocolate.

Of course they did. I see ads for Ghirardelli chocolate in the paper all of the time. And I know what you're thinking - could they eat it in the summer, before the invention of refrigeration? Yes, it came in powdered form.

The more I learn about old-time Phoenix the more I'm amazed at how civilized it was, even over 100 years ago. Luxury goods were supplied through San Francisco, including fish, oysters, champagne, you name it. And although there wasn't refrigeration, ice was manufactured, so you could get cold beer. Very important!

So if you time-travel back to 1913 Phoenix, don't worry that you'll have to go without your Ghirardelli chocolate, you can have as much as you want. If you go back to 1852, however, you'll have to go to San Francisco.

Image at the top of this post: 1913 ad for Ghirardelli chocolate in the Phoenix newspaper. From the Library of Congress

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Visiting George Loring's store in old-time Phoenix


It's 1888, and we're in Phoenix, Arizona. Let's go visit George Loring's store, which is on the south side of Washington at Cactus Alley, a half block east of Center Street [Central Avenue].

There's no air conditioning in Phoenix, but luckily there are a LOT of trees. Let's walk in the shade. My dad has sent me to Loring's place to buy a newspaper, but I think I'll look around while I'm there, maybe talk to George.

Here's the place. He calls it "Loring's Bazar". What? No, I have no idea why he spells it that way. I've been told the correct spelling is "bazaar", but maybe he can't spell so good, or maybe the sign painter charged for each letter?

What's that noise? Even though it's early in the morning I can hear loud laughter at the Palace Saloon next door. Yes, those were gunshots, but don't worry, they usually just shoot through the roof there. I hear that they have some mighty fine whiskey there, and I'd like to try it some day instead of that rot-gut that I steal from my dad every once in a while.

The rugged face of Phoenix pioneer George Loring

There's George Loring. I'm going to walk over and say hi to him. No, I'm not going to ask him why he misspelled "Bazaar". He looks like a pretty tough hombre, and I understand he's from Boston. I'm not sure where that is, but I imagine that everyone from there is pretty tough!

Give me a penny, I want to buy that paper for my dad. I wonder if George will throw in a peppermint stick? And while we're here, let's look around, they have a lot of interesting things here. Maybe if we stay here long enough we'll see the Wells Fargo stage! I've always hoped that some day, if I was good enough at expressing myself, I'd be on the stage.

It's nice and cool in the building, because it's made out of adobe. Nowadays a lot of buildings are being made from bricks, now that the railroad is here, but I like adobe. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like that modern stuff.

OK, let's go home. It was fun visiting Loring's Bazar, and I suppose we can come back tomorrow, I don't have anything else planned. It's starting to get warm, so let's go walk under the cottonwood trees, and kick up some dust.

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Getting swindled and cheated in old-time Phoenix


As a man who is now entering his "golden years", and spends a lot of time on the internet, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the constant attempts to swindle, and cheat me. Every day my email inbox is crowded with junk mail, which promises all kinds of things that I know can't possibly be true. And then there's the outright asking me to send money to someone who apparently is a prince in some country I've never heard of. The list goes on and on, and it makes me sad to think that there are people out there who apparently think nothing of cheating, lying, stealing, and swindling. And of course since I'm a time-traveler I thought about how it was done in old-time Phoenix.

Let's go back to a time with very few of the regulations that we take for granted nowadays. No Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), no laws protecting investors, no restrictions on what could be promised in advertising. It was pretty darned easy to be cheated and swindled in those days!

My first thoughts go to shares of a mine that doesn't actually exist. Or maybe an oil well. Or some desert land. It really doesn't matter what it would be, because the only thing that I would see would be a piece of paper. Of course, there were actual mines, and projects, and land that would have been a great investment at the turn of the century, but they were also sold as shares, which are pieces of paper.

Taking people's money, and giving them nothing in return, is a dangerous profession. In old-time Phoenix it had to be done face-to-face, and when the "mark" (the name for a person who is swindled) finds out they've been cheated, it's wise for the con man (short for confidence man) to be as far away as possible. The recourse for being cheated was much more limited in those days, and it tended to be dealt with in a violent way. That is, to put it bluntly, these people could be shot.

The solution for honest citizens, then and now, was to deal with people in the community who were trusted. Of course, that's not an absolute guarantee, but reputations are still the very best thing to have if you want to be trusted. Phoenix has had a lot of trustworthy people, including Dwight Heard, who sold land. There were also trusted names in the Christy family, including the mayor Lloyd, his brother Shirley, and their father William, the cashier at Valley National Bank.

There's a fine line between a con man and someone who can be trusted. In old-time Phoenix, as today, it was important to know who to trust, and reputation meant everything.

Image at the top of this post: The Arizona Canal in 1896. It was privately funded by William Murphy's company. The land around it, which is now metropolitan Phoenix, would have been a good investment.

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Getting a loan from the First National Bank of Arizona in old-time Phoenix


It's 1915, and I need to go get a loan. The president of the First National Bank of Arizona, Emil Ganz, is a friend of my father's and I've been told that since I seem to be a respectable young man that I should go there, and talk to him.

The First National Bank of Arizona in 1912, southeast corner of Central and Washington, Phoenix, Arizona.

What? Yes, I know where the bank is. It's been on the southeast corner of Central and Washington since the 1890s. Yes, it's the new building, which has been there for three years. Do you mind coming along with me? Just the thought of going into that office makes me nervous.

Here we are. And there's Emil. He seems like a pretty cheerful old guy. I think that maybe he and my dad knew each other when they were kids, or something. I'm not sure. Well, at least they know each other. What? Yeah, I know the room smells awful. It must be that cigar! And I don't suppose he ever opens a window. I guess the flowers are there to add a nicer smell, and look.

I'm planning on starting my own business, so I'll be looking for a pretty sizable loan, at least $100, maybe $200. I wonder how all of this works? I suppose that I'll have to sign something. I'm sure I'll need to shake his hand.

There. I'm glad it's over, and I've got the money. I'll pay back every dime, you can count on that! And thank you for coming along with me. And I especially appreciate that you didn't mention his toupee!

Emil Ganz, president of the First National Bank of Arizona in 1913

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Getting fit at the YMCA in old-time Phoenix


It's 1911, and I'm noticing that now that since we're getting older, we should do a little bit of those modern exercises that everyone is talking about. Let's go to the YMCA, the Young Men's Christian Association. Most people just call it the YMCA. Sure, you could call it the Y!

Since I'm thirteen, and you're only eleven, I'll lead the way. It's over in the Federal Park, on Monroe just east of 2nd Avenue. Sure, let's run!

The Federal Park, between 1st and 2nd Avenues and Van Buren and Monroe. You're looking north. The YMCA is on the left.

It's a beautiful spring day in Phoenix so we'll be up on the roof. We may be able to catch a cool breeze! No, you don't need shoes. Only old people wear shoes.

Here you go: these are called "dumbbells". No, you don't ring them, you hold them and move them around. Yes, they're kind of like bells except that don't make any noise, that's why they're called "dumb". They're all the rage nowadays, like Indian Clubs. You just hold onto them and swing them around. They'll build up your muscles!

OK, here we are up on the roof. Nice view from up here! Do you have your YMCA tee-shirt? Good. Let's get started. One, and two, and three, and four...

1912 ad for the YMCA, Phoenix, Arizona.


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A secret place in historic Glendale, Arizona - Catlin Court


As an old marketing guy, I suppose that the nice people of the Glendale, Arizona Chamber of Commerce really wouldn't appreciate my calling Catlin Court a "secret place". I'm sure that they promote it, and advertise it, but it's not really all that easy to see. But if you want to do a little bit of time-traveling, I recommend going there.

Catlin Court is a series of old houses that have been lovingly converted into small businesses that sell antiques, and uh, other stuff. I really don't know. I know that you can get ice cream, though! It's really just a handful of houses east of 59th Avenue and a couple of blocks north of Glendale Avenue.

Now, don't get carried away and imagine that you're going to enter some magical place that will make you think that you've been transported to Disneyland, or somewhere like that. They've done a lot with the area in the last few years, but to be fair, much of the surrounding area is, uh, less-than-fashionable. This is still a serious working-class neighborhood. No, I've never seen homeless people wandering around, or anything like that, but you would be wise to stay in the Catlin Court area, and don't wander off.

I've gone to the Catlin Court area many times and I've never seen it all that crowded. There's a great big parking garage nearby but I've never seen a use for it. I recommend that you park at 58th Avenue just north of Palmaire. Every once in a while they have special events, which I used to go to when I drew caricatures, many years ago. You know the kind of thing where they close off streets and people walk around eating cotton candy.

But you can go there anytime you want to, and time-travel. Most of the homes there are from the 1920s, and have a wonderful "small town picket fence" feeling. If you have time, I recommend getting an ice cream cone at Papa Ed's Ice Cream. It's behind 7646 N. 58th Avenue, in what had originally been a garage built in the 1950s. I like to sit back there, listen to the birds, and sometimes hear the whistle of a train going by. There's something of a "secret garden" feeling back there, just away from everything.

So there you go. I've gone to places like this ever since I started getting the "L.A. Hee-Bee-Jee-Bees" in my twenties in California, where everything seemed to be so big, so crowded, so overwhelming. Of course now I know it was always just me, but these secret places are the best medicine for my nervous anxiety. Highly recommended. And get the rocky road in a waffle cone, and bring me along!

Photo by Susan Romley Moranz. Used with permission.

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How to go urban camping


I hate camping. It's never been my idea of fun, going way back to when I was a kid in Minnesota, being attacked by mosquitos. And to this day if someone suggests that I sleep in a tent out somewhere, I politely, but firmly, say no. No. No.

I do, however do urban camping. And there is a relationship to camping. And I've learned a lot in the past few years from my serious "huntin' fishin' campin'" friends. And it comes down to accepting a tiny bit of discomfort, or inconvenience, in order to get away and see some cool stuff.

Urban campers are like real campers, they bring stuff. They don't just head out the door and hope that there will be room service, or a restaurant next door, or that someone will wait on them. On my recent visit to a friend in an undisclosed location near Apache Junction, I really enjoyed urban camping. I brought beer, which is just polite, and I also brought a suitcase with more clothes than I would have needed for a trip twice as long, and enough snacks to feed an army.

One of my advantages to doing urban camping is that I like dogs, and they like me. I've been around dogs all of my adult life, and I understand that they're dogs. A lot of people don't get that, and expect dogs to be, well, something else. They're dogs. And it starts with respect that they're animals.

Dogs love to hang around. And a large percentage of my urban camping includes just hanging around. I can sit with dogs for hours. There's no need for conversation, just the occasional sigh is more than enough. Dogs will come over to me as I'm eating a piece of cheese, but I don't give them food. I also wouldn't feed the bears (not that I would ever be in a situation where I would be able to!).

My friends that I urban camp with have "houses that are clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy". I can't urban camp somewhere that's so filthy it makes me ill, but I also can't urban camp somewhere that's so neat and tidy that I'm afraid to touch anything. As you may have noticed on my sweatpants, this environment includes dogs that shed. I'm OK with that, and it makes me relax, and feel happy.

So that's urban camping. It's a concept that I know eludes a lot of people, who turn traveling into a tangle of complex etiquette and checking their watches to be sure that the schedule is adhered to. But what I like is just hanging around, with dogs.

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Getting a VIP tour of the new plants at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, Arizona


If you live in the Phoenix area, and you like trees and plants, you really do need to go visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, which is near Superior, Arizona, east of the greater Phoenix area. If you've been there, you already know.

An arboretum is a garden of trees, and there's none better around Phoenix than the Boyce Thompson. In case you're wondering, it's been there since 1930, and is down in a canyon, and the water is supplied by wells. You can Google more about, and I recommend that you do. Better still, go visit it, and bring me along!

Potted cycads at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Yesterday I got to go along on a VIP tour to see the new plants that are being installed. Of course, I'm not a VIP myself, but I have friends who are, who donate plants, and who are members. So I got to tag along.

To put it as briefly as I can, there was a gigantic garden in north Scottsdale that recently donated all of its plants when the owner of the property died. I'm told that the garden really couldn't be opened to the public up in this exclusive area, as the neighbors wouldn't much appreciate the traffic, so the plants had to be moved. And as someone who takes several hours to do the simplest tasks in my garden, it's amazing to see what can be done by the pros, which heavy equipment, and incredible knowledge.

Staging area "behind the scenes" at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. One of many.

I got to see the "behind the scenes" stuff which is beyond amazing. I tried to take a couple of photos, but really it's impossible to photograph and show it the way I saw it in real life. Imagine the biggest nursery you've ever been to, with the biggest boxed plants imaginable, and then picture an area that seems to go on forever, and ever. And most of the plants are in a staging area, waiting to be planted.

I also got to see the new garden area with some of the plants in place. There's no nice path yet, no fancy labels, but it should be complete by this time next year (I'm writing this on April 8th of 2018). I'm hoping to get back and see it all in place. I will have a new appreciation for what they do!

I've been going to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum since the 1980s, when I was a student at ASU in Tempe. I liked the drive out there, and I would pack a sandwich and then go walk under the trees. I've always been a nervous, anxious person, and walking under trees, and being in gardens is the best thing for my high blood pressure. Highly recommended!

Image at the top of this post: a boxed crested saguaro in the staging area of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum yesterday.

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is located at #37615 Arboretum Way, Superior, AZ, 85173, near Highway 60 Milepost #223 as you approach the historic copper mining town of Superior, about one hour's drive due east of Phoenix on the Superstition Freeway. Admission is $12.50.  https://cals.arizona.edu/bta/index.html

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How California and Arizona can make you a kinder, gentler, more patient person


As someone who grew up in the midwest, and who lives in Arizona now, I'm fascinated by the different attitudes there towards work and leisure. In Minneapolis, I call it the "midwestern work ethic" and in California and Arizona I call it "being laid back".

Whether these attitudes are good or bad depends on what you value. Growing up in Minneapolis, I was taught to value the kind of hard work that made me deliver newspapers in the snow. I was taught at an early age to save money, to value this type of accomplishment. I did well in school, I got good grades, and at the age of 18 was fully immersed in this way of thinking.

And then I moved to Arizona, and my transition began to becoming kinder, gentler, and more patient. I met people for whom writing down little marks in a ledger wasn't the whole meaning of life. I met people who valued time with family, with friends. Yes, I'm still anxious, and "twitchy" but I've seen what life can be like away from the "midwestern work ethic".

Now don't get me wrong here. If you have that strong drive to "do it now" and know how escrow works, I'm happy for you. I still have so much of my old midwestern work ethic left in me now that I can manage myself, and my finances, quite nicely. I always wear a watch, I can tell you what day it is, I know what I'll be doing next week. I consider that part of being a responsible adult.

And then I moved to Santa Barbara, California, and I really got a chance to see what "laid back" means. If you've lived there, you know. There's just about no sense of time at all there. Whether it's spring or fall, or morning or afternoon, it's all the same. I often say that I "wasted three years of my life" there, but what I saw began my transformation. I started becoming a Californian, and it worried my friends back east.

For the first time in my life I just sat on the beach and watched ocean waves. At first I would carry a sketch book (because you're always supposed to be accomplishing something, you know) and then I would just go there. I would borrow a neighbor's dog and walk.

To this day I struggle with making a balance between my "midwestern work ethic" and taking the time to enjoy this beautiful world. And I'd like to believe that the balance for me has tipped. I have lost my interest in the types of work-work-work accomplishments that some people value, and I've seen things that I know that they won't see, or even look at.

No one who knows me would describe me mostly as kind, gentle, and patient, but when people do, I'm flattered.

Image at the top of this post: Me in Santa Barbara in 1983. The tee shirt says "Goodbye Minnesota, hello California." This was a young man who was learning to "chill out".

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Using marketing techniques just for the love of Phoenix


I'm an old marketing guy, a graphic designer, and my hobby for a long time has been collecting old photos of Phoenix, Arizona. And, as you'd expect, I'm comfortable with scanning, with Photoshop, with pixels, with resolution, all that kind of stuff. I have a website where I can upload an unlimited amount of images (thanks to the nice people at BlueHost!), and so I'm very comfortable in the world of cyberspace.

I've also been around advertising, promotion, and marketing all of my life. I know the techniques of getting the word out for a product or service. I've worked for a lot of fine companies in both Arizona and California. Yes, there are companies out there that are stinkers, and scammers, but I never worked for them. I'm proud of the places I've worked, such as Blue Cross of California, and Bank One Arizona, just to mention two.

I started posting old photos of Phoenix on the web when I first started doing web pages, and teaching web design, back in the early 2000s. I like old photos of Phoenix, and I liked to create projects for myself to help me understand HTML, then CSS. Like most of my students, I learn best by doing, not reading about something in a book.

In addition to web design, I did consulting for SEO, which is Search Engine Optimization. That's the process of doing everything right so that your product or service can be found in a Google search. There are a million little things that you can do, and every little bit helps with getting your business to rank higher in a Google search. By the way, no matter how badly you do things, you will be in a Google search, but only on page 1,347 or something. No one looks beyond the first couple of pages. So if you're not there, you're invisible. If you found me in a web search, I did something right.

Anyway, I've applied everything I know to optimizing my stuff about Phoenix, even though I'm not "commercializing it". This blog, by the way, has a domain name of .com, which technically means commercial, although it's not. It's just that most people will remember a dot com name more than a dot net name, or something else. It's just a trick.

This past year I looked back on all of the things I've done over the years and got to wondering what my goal was? Did I want to get rich? No, not really. I wanted to enrich my life, which is what's happening. And I do it for the love of Phoenix, my home. Is there a better reason?

Image at the top of this post: Camelback Mountain behind the Papago Buttes in the 1940s

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Creating a better future for Phoenix, by understanding its past


As someone who collects old photos of Phoenix, and posts them on the web, I most often see people who wish that the past would return. And unfortunately that's all they do. They say stuff like "I wish that Phoenix would be the way it was when I was a kid!", and they're done. Other than a occasional rant about how much better it was before a particular road was built, or before a building was built, they never lift a finger. This makes me sad, as I know that these people could be the most important people to make the future of Phoenix better.

So instead I focus on the people who are actually doing something. Yes, it's a tiny percentage, but they're taking the lessons learned from the past and doing things with the future in mind. I call these people "unrealistically optimistic" and those are the people who have built my city, and continue to do so. They remember a gentler, kinder Phoenix, with more trees, and more room for human beings and they're doing something about it, right now.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong about dreaming about the old days. I do it all of the time here in my imagination. But seeing photos of old Phoenix doesn't make me despair, or want to rant, it inspires me.

A theme that I come back to over and over is how the trees of Phoenix all seemed to disappear after the 1960s. By the time I got to Phoenix, in the late 1970s, it was a very tree-less place, and I thought that it had always been, since it was a desert. But Phoenix is an oasis, and if you look at old photos you'll see the trees everywhere. Long before there was air conditioning, there was shade.

There are a LOT of people in Phoenix, and it grows every day. And those people can make it better, or they can make it worse - it's their decision. I'd like to believe that I make Phoenix, and the world, better, by being here. Mine is an attitude of stewardship, Phoenix is my garden, not my trash can.

If you believe that "everybody" is making a mess of Phoenix, then I recommend that you keep looking. People made Phoenix an oasis, beginning in 1868, and it can be that way again. It's in your hands.

Image at the top of this post: Looking north on Central Avenue from Washington in the 1930s, Phoenix, Arizona.

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Caring for your health in old-time Phoenix - take your medicine!


As someone who enjoys researching information about the old photos of Phoenix I collect, I spend a lot of time looking at old newspapers. And then, as now, there's a lot of ads. And many of them deal with the kind of stuff we deal with now, such as caring for your health.

Of course, from the vantage point of the 21st Century, most of them look absolutely ridiculous. The ad at the top of this post, for Per-ru-na, is typical of a "patent medicine". And patent medicines were wildly popular at the time. People wanted to believe that something in a bottle would cure everything.

I understand. As someone who suffers from chronic pain, I know the benefits of belief. If I lived in old-time Phoenix, I would probably have my trusty bottle of Per-ru-na handy, and I'm sure that friends would buy me some bottles, too. And long after it was proven to be nothing more than alcohol, flavoring, and coloring (which most patent medicines were), I would stick to it, and take it. That's the power of the mind, and the power of belief. Sometimes hope can be a wonderful thing.

Of course, 100 years from now whatever we consider "state of the art" will seem primitive to future generations. That's just the way it works. It's possible that NyQuil will be linked with insanity (I'd say I make a good case for that today!). I don't know.

Of course the best way to care for your health is to exercise and have a healthy diet. People in old-time Phoenix got a lot more exercise than people get nowadays (even the ones who drive to the gym), but whether their food was anything I'd eat is hard to say. I'm used to my food and water being clean and fresh, and chances are slim in Phoenix in 1913 there was a lot of that around. Yes, they did their best, but you gotta admit that things are better now. When the nice people at Sparkletts deliver my water I never give a thought that there might be something swimming around in it, from a questionable well in my backyard.

It's time like this that I like the idea of visiting old-time Phoenix in my mind, but then returning to the modern world.

Image at the top of this post: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1913-02-09/ed-1/seq-2.pdf

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