The wonderful ordinary photos of old-time Phoenix
I collect old photos of Phoenix, and by far my favorites are of ordinary life. That is, ordinary houses, ordinary cars, ordinary people who lived there in the past and have become extraordinary simply because of the passage of time. I mean, come on, look at that '55 Ford! And that's a '64 Chevy Impala in the driveway of that Mid-Century Modern house. What's not to like?
I got this photo from one of my top PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) today, and when I asked if I could share it, the response I got was "Why? It's not worthy." I always ask for permission when posting family photos, even though they're mostly cars and houses, and it strikes me that many people don't treasure these images the way that I do.
Most people, when they hear that I'm interested in the history of Phoenix, point me to some textbook, or a website about some famous person. And don't get me wrong, I like learning about that stuff, too, but what I really like is how people like me, ordinary people, lived. I like to walk there in my imagination. In a photo like the one at the top of this post, I imagine getting into that car, maybe driving down the Black Canyon Highway, and having something like the electricals for the automatic trunk short-circuiting, and catching on fire. Hopefully it would have been nothing serious, and I'd imagine someone would be stopping and grabbing a fire extinguisher from their truck. I like to imagine that it's a rancher who simply tips his hat, grumbles a bit about those modern contraptions, gets back in his pre-war truck, and drives away. Then I wonder how I'll ever get the smoke smell out of my car?
I know that people have many reasons not to share old photos. Some people worry me a bit, as they seem to think that a photo of their house back in the 1950s posted on the internet would compromise them, maybe with the Russians, or something, I don't know. So I don't push it. I ask, and often the answer is just "no". And for those photos, I keep them for my eyes only. If I can share them, I'm delighted, and I know that I'm not the only person who loves to see what was considered ordinary at one time, and is now just wonderful. Definitely worthy.
Thank you for history adventuring with me!
Image at the top of this post: A 1955 Ford parked in front of 3640 W. Lawrence Lane in 1965, Phoenix, Arizona. 36th Avenue south of Dunlap. From the Randolph Family Collection.
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Posted by Brad Hall