Writing the history of ordinary people in Phoenix, Arizona
I was talking to a good friend this morning about my passion for Phoenix history, and that I've lately been writing about my own personal history in Phoenix. And he wondered why I was doing that, since I'm not famous. And since I'm an ordinary person, I'm exactly the kind of person that I'm most interested in Phoenix history. If that sounds strange, I'll see if I can explain.
There's a lot of stuff out there on famous people. There are a lot of books, a lot of articles on the internet. I've never studied Arizona history in school, but I'd imagine that there's mostly famous people there. And I understand. And I appreciate famous people, and celebrities, but mostly I want to know how ordinary people lived. In my explorations in my imagination I want to see the ordinary people, the people who get up every morning and go to thankless jobs, who aren't celebrated publicly, but who make places like Phoenix exist, and flourish.
I lent my friend my copy of Frank Barrio's book "Mexicans in Phoenix", and as I was flipping through pages I saw a lot of the kind of faces that I love the most. Sure, there may be some famous people, but mostly they're the people who have been in Phoenix since the 1800s and their stories are rarely told. But I like those stories, and here on the internet there's no limit to the amount of pages I can share, so I plan on doing a lot more of it.
Now don't get me wrong, if you're rich and famous I'm still interested in you. And that's the point - everyone is interesting to me. I want to see everything, and learn everything. I want to know what was like to live in Phoenix before the invention of air conditioning (from the comfort of a 21st Century air conditioner!). I want to squint my eyes against the desert sun when the pioneers searched the edge of the mountains for Apaches. And I want to be an Apache, too! I want to be a kid in 1887, being thrilled about seeing the first train arrive in Phoenix. Of course, I want to be Theodore Roosevelt giving a speech in 1911 for the dam that was named after him. The list is endless, and I'm hoping that my journey will be, too.
Thank you for history adventuring, with ordinary people, with me!
Image at the top of this post: from the cover of the book Mexicans in Phoenix, by Frank Barrios.
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Posted by Brad Hall