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

Phoenix, Arizona before modern memory


I've always been a time-traveler, fascinated with things beyond my lifespan. And it's puzzled most of the people I've met, in what is becoming a longer life than I had anticipated. And what I'm learning is that the vast majority of people are only aware of the world within modern memory.

I was born in 1958, and I remember all of the way back to the 1960s. But I've always been fascinated with what things were like in the days of my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and so on. So, for me, I don't draw a line at modern memory.

If you were born in, say, 1999, you probably don't have any memories of the 20th Century (unless you were an incredible baby!) and your modern memories would start at about 2003. My earliest memories are of when I was four, that's what I'm basing that on. And if the world seemed to start in 2003, you're going to find a lot of "old-timers", like me, dismayed at how much you're missing. I try not to make a big deal out of it, but I really think you should extend your experience beyond your modern memory. The world was there for quite a while before you started remembering any of it.

And that brings me to the tendency of most people to do that. That is, the world being sort of a big blank until modern memory kicks in for people. Here in Phoenix, I call that "Phoenix began when the mall was built". And that's most of the people that I talk to, who are in their sixties, and their memories of Phoenix can go back to the 1950s, but no further. I've known people in their seventies, and eighties, who can remember Phoenix back to the 1940s, and '30s, but that's still just modern memory.

If you're stuck in modern memory, and can't imagine Phoenix before you were born, I invite you to explore with me. I collect old photos, most of them waaaaaay before I was born, and am learning about them. Phoenix began in 1870, and that means that there's no one walking around right now who remembers it then, or in the 1880s, or 1890s, or 1900s, or 1910s. But just because no one alive today remembers it doesn't mean that it didn't exist. It did. There are old photos, and newspapers, from those times. I look at them all of the time.

So if you're one of those people who can only relate to a place within modern memory, you're gonna find people like me wishing that you would expand your exploration. I find learning about Phoenix before I was born particularly fascinating - what life was like before air conditioning, and malls, and automobiles. No, that doesn't mean that I'm not interested in modern life, it just means that I don't draw a line. I'm unstuck in time.

Thank you for time-traveling with me.

Image at the top of this post: Gardiners Hotel in 1872, northwest corner of Washington and 3rd Street, Phoenix, Arizona. Before modern memory.

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