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November 12, 2015


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I think I've already written about my father, Dr Kenneth Hall, in this blog. Let it suffice to say he was a character - maddening, charismatic, more than a little megalomaniacal, paranoid, and possessed with one of the worst bedside manners of any physician who ever practiced in Arizona. I believe he was the first doctor in Arizona to have his medical license revoked. If Sunnyslope had a noirish element, he and possibly the Santopietros were leading candidates for the label unsavory (Cal, if you're out there, please double check this feeling of mine, if at all possible).

My very early childhood memories included lots of lurid colors from dirt roads, severe poverty, and malnutrition, to vultures, snakes, scorpions, and coyotes. Sunnyslope - sometimes shortened to Slop by wags to the south - was disastrously poor in some areas with a reputation for being populated by white trash. But it had a genuine main street with even some charm here and there. It wasn't much but nearly everyone I knew from back then misses it. As time went on, it got nicer, too. By the early '60s, it was mostly middle class although deep pockets of poverty and crime remained west of 7th Avenue.

The name itself became a kind of psychological burden, so a few local businessmen in the mid '60s proposed changing the name to something else, say North Phoenix. This touched a nerve among oldtimers in particular, and the idea was quashed. By the 1970s, there was just enough prosperity in and around 'Slope that Gosnell began constructing Pointe Tapatio. My father's striking clinic, North Mountain Hospital, was lost to a spate of malpractice suits (side note: he relinquished the deed to one Jack Cohen, a lieutenant in Meyer Lansky's crime family. Cohen himself was rubbed out soon afterwards). The site of the hospital became a luxury home development. My father's other claim to fame was El Cid Bowling Lanes (now Castle Sports Chalet) on north 19th Ave & Cholla. I used to call it our family's Vietnam since construction started in 1963 and didn't finally see completion until 1980.

By the 1990s, Sunnyslope upward arc bifurcated into two different streams. The foothills continued to attract luxury developments but the flats began worsening. Hundreds of cheap apartments were constructed, and the retail fabric of the town collapsed into the kind of crud you see almost everywhere in Phoenix's expansive linear slums. The charm that Sunnyslope had was lost as a result of that and John C Lincoln Hospital's cancer-like growth. Today, the renewed interest seems like an effort to explain how one area can contain so much income inequality.

I went to a high-school reunion/Homecoming game at Sunnyslope High about three years ago. I saw high school beauty queens managing their age reasonably well in time's relentless crush. I saw current high school students looking much more like Obama's America, with emphasis on inclusion and self-esteem. My cohort was not amused and wondered who the winners really were. And I saw this story of America in its uplifting and glorious arc only to crash land in a present that no one loves. Sunnyslope is not finished and neither is America. But you wish for better days against the evidence before your eyes. It doesn't look that good.

Soleri, that wasn't my side of town (I'm from the side that made Sunnyslope look rich), even though I had a habit of hanging around every high school in the valley except my own) : who were/are the Santopietros? Were they the people who were caught selling all that heroin out of their pizza place years ago?

Pat, I do associate the word "heroin" with the Santopietros, but I'm really fuzzy now if they owned that particular pizza joint. When I was a kid, they owned a corner grocery at Mountain View & Cave Creek Road. Everyone was afraid of them. That's why I wish Cal were here. His memory is much better on that score.

OK folks I get the message. Nice timely piece Jon.
Slope Kings and Queens.
The slope was a nice quiet place until the sixties and the hostile take over by Phoenix. Old folks at the Wabash trailer court just trying to to take a few last gulps of dry air while eating the doughnut holes I sold them while reading the Arizona Republican newspaper. Prior to the sixties there were a few bad apples in the area but not so most folks noticed. One could hang out at the wooden barracks Desert Mission free library and later the Sunnyslope swimming pool at 1st street and Olive (now Dunlap). Rumor had it one could score some Morphine in the slope but so could you at 18 street and Broadway (Pats town). The grocery store at 7st and Mountain View was a 5 block walk from my second house in the Slope at 9822 N 3rd Street. I had no issues with the owners as long as i had money and didnt try and slip a few extra candies into my back pocket. Regarding poor Pat, at least he had Sarges Cowtown and Riverside Ballroom along with the worlds largest city park. Also there were some good Jazz places in Pats town, Slope was just where old sick folks and the very poor came to live and die. Most the history from the sixties on has been posted here previously. Like when my police partner shot and killed one of Soleri 's fathers monkeys. The Banditos came to town in 69 and threatened to kill me but left after Bandito president Johnny Gamble killed his lieutenant Peter Henry Smith in front of a bar at about 1100 W Hatcher. Johnny had a badge sewn to his vest, on his left chest area that he explained to me as being similar to my badge. Half a Tampax with a tooth mark. Later the Vietnamese moved into the area of 15th and Hatcher and Mountain view and were subjected to gang violence by their own young gangsters. A number of old slope places linger own but if its a history you're looking for go the Sunnyslope Historical Society located at 737 E Hatcher. I have laid a brick there for all of you.

I went on many memorable ambulance calls in the Slope in the 1970s. Sometimes I worked out of the station on Alice. Shootings and stabbings at biker bars. Once when two cops running silent Code 3 (no sirens) in a parallel pursuit slammed into each other in an intersection, then the momentum carried at least one cruiser into a house; one officer was killed. Before the city rammed Seventh Street through the mountains and built the Tapatio resort, Sunnyslope kept its own vibe.

Well the Slope and the Valley of the Sun was once upon a time a good place to be
but now,

For further info click on Deconstructing The Manifest on the Roughish Links. Thanks Petro.

I used to live in Sunnyslope. Rent was $175 a month for a duplex. Evap cooler. Kitchen, living room I bath, I br. Yeah, it was sketchy. But I loved going into the Phoenix Mountains. I could walk to a Circle K with a backpack, buy Rainier beer and walk home. I could walk to Blondin's Gold Bug and stagger home. I could buy fun stuff from a friend a couple of blocks away. It wasn't noisy and it for sure didn't feel like the rest of Phoenix in the mid-1970s, which still had farm land and some politicians who weren't totally crazy. But they were on the rise. I got OUT of there. Though I do miss trips to Flagstaff in winter, Prescott in the fall, Mogollon Rim in springtime. Ah, well.

Great read. I lived in the 'Slope from the early 70s until leaving in '86 for the Army. I saw the brilliance of the slums in the form of punk rock, future business types running their game in grams and ounces, Hells Angels, and many a hallucinogenic party. A beautiful cess pool with a super keen personality, always there to lend a hand. Or a vice.

Moved back to Phoenix in '98, buying a small house in Sunnyslope. Finding home again was not in the stars, the city grew older without me, I was still the same, yet changed.

It definitely has a distinct vibe. Seems to me a lot more businesses are coming in. And I LOVE Karl's bakery, especially on Saturday morning when all the regulars gather. Best (non-greasy) apple fritter in town. And the seasonal cronuts--swoon. Not to mention the chocolate-dipped almond horns...

My aunt Louise Humphrey had a trailer court at 5th St./Purdue. I used to visit there in the summer time in the early 50's from Phoenix. There was a park just east of 7th St. that was really rough. We had a good friend that sold realestate (Miller) and she lived in the rock house around 16th Street just north of Northern. The old brick house is still there today. Seems like there was a Ben Franklin or a Woolworth at about 3rd St and Dunlap, and the Purple Cow At Purdue and 7th Street. My father was in a rest home in the 50"s also curing from T.B. which Sunnyslope was know for..

yes an a Brookshires Restrant on corner of 3d.Where hospital parking lot is now.Across the street on Dunlap was a family owned hardware place,They carried eVEry thing there even it being smaller then Home depot.Cant speell it well."Debars" hardware.He was run out of business becuause of a big developer wanted to build a shopping center there.so the own Mr Debare retired,because they didnt give him enought moneys to open another place.Sad isnt it.even then sheating people out of there land.There were lots of small businesses there to that had to go.care repares an parts stores etc.

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