A few years ago I started entertaining myself by doing what I called "history adventuring". I live in the Phoenix, Arizona area and love to collect old photos of Phoenix, and began just picturing in my imagination what it would have been like to have lived there "back in the day". I would look at old photos and see horses, and street cars, and wonder how it would feel? Of course, it would have been wildly uncomfortable back then, before the days of air conditioning, but it was just a journey of imagination. And then I started putting my feet on the ground.
I really don't like history, but I like to time-travel. And I've discovered that wherever you live, you can retrace footsteps. I like to walk where the pioneers of Phoenix walked, going back to 1868. Sometimes I walk where the Hohokam people walked, hundreds of years before that. I walk where the Apaches were, back when they resented any trespassers in the Salt River Valley, when it was an empty place, and essentially a war zone, before the 1860s.
|Three friends standing and talking on the corner of Washington and 1st Avenue in 1901, Phoenix, Arizona. All of the buildings have changed, but the fire hydrant is still in the same place.|
Sometimes I'll find an old photo of a building in Phoenix that has long since been gone, and I just want to go stand there. I find that a couple of things tend to stay the same - mountains, and fire hydrants. Well, the mountains are the same, and while fire hydrants are regularly replaced, the spot where they've been for over 100 years in the Phoenix area hasn't changed. And why should they? There's no particular reason for a city to just up and say "let's move the fire hydrants!", so sometimes I'm just trying to figure out exactly where a location is based on the shape of the mountains, and the position of a fire hydrant. If you see what I'm seeing, it's magical, if not I can imagine that it would seem very weird, and pointless. So I try to explain what I'm doing in this blog.
I started my collection of old Phoenix photos, which is nearly 10,000 by now, over twenty years ago. I don't collect paper, they're all digital. I'm an old Photoshop guy, and I know how to optimize jpegs, use a naming convention that helps me find the files again, and since I have a website with unlimited storage, and a computer that pretty much seems that way (I'm no good at math, but it has about a bazillion mega-whatevers of storage space), I really don't see any limit as to how big my collection can get.
So this is what I'm doing nowadays: I have a Facebook group where I post images, and with the help of friends there try to identify the where and when as precisely as possible, and then I wander over here to my blog and write what it would feel like actually being there, in space and time. And when I can, I get out IRL (In Real Life) to put my feet on the ground, and get that wonderful feeling of seeing the same place as if I were looking at the Phoenix area in, for example, 1915, when the population was less than 20,000 people.
In addition to this, I have a Patreon page that allows people to help me on this journey if they can't do it IRL (In Real Life). That is, people can help offset my expenses by subscribing at a basic level at a dollar a month, and at what I call the PhD level at five dollars a month, with a discount for seniors, veterans, and students. Good grief, no, Patreon isn't the reason why I'm doing this, as I have no interest in becoming rich and famous, but this journey costs me real money, even if it's not a lot. When my friends drive on a history adventure, I try to sneak a few bucks for gas money in the glove compartment, and that comes from Patreon funds. My Patreon page is https://www.patreon.com/PhoenixHistoryAdventuring and yes, even a small amount means the world to me. I've been on there for two years, and I like them, and I subscribe to some Patreon creators myself, mostly at the dollar-a-month level.
So this is my new life, which I've been building slowly for many years now. And this is what I want to do, hopefully for a very long time. I'm still young - barely middle-aged, as I plan on living into my 120s, at least! Thank you for walking with me.
Image at the top of this post: Flying over Phoenix, Arizona in 1915, when the population was less than 20,000. From what I can figure, this was probably taken from a balloon, so I'll stay on the ground, I get airsick, sorry.
If you liked this article, and would like to see more, please consider subscribing to history adventuring on Patreon. If you're already a subscriber, thank you! You make this happen!
Click here to become a Patron!
History adventuring posts are shared there daily. The basic tier is a dollar a month, and the PhD tier, which includes "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos, is five dollars a month, and is discounted for seniors, veterans, and students.