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September 06, 2011


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When I worked as a video writer/producer for SRP I produced a slide show (before video projection) for the 50th anniversary of Sky Harbor. The fun part was finding and discovering photos and memorablia that represented the 50 years. In those days our "history" was not particularly appreciated - so few people had saved or collected all this stuff. It was a wonderful experience. Lots
of digging around, such as interviewing the woman who taught Barry Goldwater how to fly, plus lots of photos that had never been officially collected until then. The 50th event was held in what was then Charlie Keating's hangar. But that's another story.

BTW, Cal is back, with a priceless Jeremiad on the elections open thread post...

PS, Phoenix without Sky harbor would be like Mexico without the illegal drug trade.
As the arch enemy of the Thunder bolt kid I deliver this message. Bill Bryson was and is a boring dude. If Iowa was such a great place for the Thunderbolt Kid why did he move to the dankness of England? Maybe to escape from the religious whackos? I may have been born upon the dark soil of a Iowa river bank but life was never like the Thunderbolt kids tale of happy bland mediocrity. For me it was cold, hungry and deadly until I landed in the great Sonoran desert of Sunnyslope. Home of horned toads and recovering tubercular’s. A place where the only green things were Mexican spotted lizards and Saguaros. The water quit north of the Arizona Canal.
The valley of the Sun was a great little spread out berg of less than 200,000 folks and if you fired your rifle no one noticed. The Slope still had mountain lions and deer, plenty of Jack rabbits and a ton of Chuckwallas. Selling tortoises, lizards, scorpions to locals and dough nut holes at the Walbash trailer court along with a paper route brought in more money than my dad was making working at a small grocery store.
Summer brought the lettuce fields, grapes and then the sweet potato sheds in the winter. If you were not sixteen you could not get a social security number but you could be 10 and work for cash. Puberty at twelve brought to ones attention the chicitas tan lindas swabbed in long colorful clothing under the grape vines and bent over in the lettuce fields. And at the end of the day we would jump fully clothed into the canal to cool off and make wet love. (Only pendejuo gringos didn’t cover their skin (500 skin cancers and counting at 71). Hitchhiking to Central and Jefferson or riding a bicycle got you to downtown Phoenix for the movies or to hang around the duce and watch a fight or two. Phoenix was a nice town in the 50’s. NO MAS.
Which brings me to today, the age of Urbanization, where to qualify as a real city the population must exceed 10 million? I will pass on being a slum dog millionaire living in a dung heap of bodies piled on top of each other 20 or more dizzy stories high. I would rather survive on the edge of the Mohave Desert as a hermit than congregate with the arm pit sweaty bodies that inhabit the downtown art walk. I have seen more outstanding “eye candy” in a lettuce field on a hot summer day than I have ever seen in downtown Phoenix art scene. Male field workers had great bodies before firemen existed. But if you are into pimpled up, tattooed under the influence weirdo’s the Roosevelt sidewalks is a go.
Consequently I have decided to pass on the “Urbanization” dialogue and spend my time reading (like a real man. Whatever that might be?) the diatribes of folks like Ed Abbey and Chuck Bowden. And when available toss in a Talton publication. (I also recommend eearth)
Mas Tarde, The Horned toad kid from a small hole in a large Sahuaro.

Jon-Jeremaid? U have me confused with Soleri? A jeremiad is a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society's imminent downfall.

It's true that Jeremiah didn't have a "sahuaro." ;-)

Jeremaid? didn't Robert Redford play him in a movie?

Random memories:

There was sharp pushback when Skip Rimza wanted to rename Sky Harbor after Barry Goldwater. It must have taken him by surprise because he gave it up after a few days. Say what you will, we like that name.

There's never been a mass-casualty accident at or near Sky Harbor.

The old control tower in the picture was, according to local boosters, the largest stainless steel structure in the world when it was new.

In the 1950s, you could fly American Airlines to Bisbee/Douglas.

In the 1980s, the push to build a new airport between Phoenix and Tucson was spearheaded by John McCain. He had received significant campaign contributions from landowners where the airport would go. McCain's behavior during this period was, as some still recall, obnoxious.

In 1987, a Northwest flight from Detroit to Phoenix crashed after takeoff killing all on board except for a small girl. Among the casualties, Phoenix Suns center Nick Vanos, a player who was just starting to impress locals with his steadily improving skills.

There's only one flight from Sky Harbor to someplace outside North America (not counting Hawaii): British Airways daily flight to London-Heathrow. America West had nonstop service to Nagoya Japan back in the late '80s, early '90s. And Lufthansa flew nonstop to Frankfurt in the '90s.

Paul Coze, the artist who created the spectacular mural in Terminal 2 also designed the large Phoenix bird sculpture at Town and Country Shopping Center.

In the late 1980s, America West Airlines unsuccessfully petitioned the federal government to fly non-stop to Sydney.

In October 1960, JFK flew to Phoenix, arriving at 1:00 am in the morning. He gave a short campaign to an enthusiastic crowd at the old terminal. I remember standing next to Stewart Udall and Wade Church.

The Sky Chef restaurant at the old terminal was, during the late 50s, one of Phoenix's most popular. Air travel was sexy and exciting. Even if you didn't have a flight, the airport was definitely the place to go to.

Being a latter day "lung-er", I'm interested in the well-hidden air pollution effects of Sky Harbor and will see what the ADEQ will share.

Having it plunked down in the middle of Phoenix is both good news and bad news. After 40 years of navigating the place, I now feel pretty much out of place.
PS: I love Denver International vs the bungled-up eyesore that Stapleton became. But then, Denver understands transit.

"From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language"

I know to stay away when an author is described as such (in this case Bryson). Welcome back, Cal!

I remember Terminal 1 fondly. It and Terminal 2 are reminders, for me anyway, of what air travel used to be - exciting, formal, polite, efficient, trusting.

You have to admit, there is something just "not right" that two airports like Sky Harbor and SF International are "under construction" for going on 50+ years. At some point you have to stick your finger in it and say, it's done, time to move on.

Back in the old days, getting on a plane in July in SF at 55 degrees and getting off the plane on the tarmac at Phoenix at 115 degrees, made you rethink your choice of the place you called home.

I used to fly to Denver from Phoenix regularly. One trip took me 14 hours. I believe it takes 12 hours to drive there.

Thanks to Gestapo Janet, I plan to never fly in an airplane again. My wife flies on business occasionally and I really enjoy dropping her off at the airport and then driving away without subjecting myself to the flying cattle business.

If God had meant for man to fly, he would have never created Southwest Airlines.

FYI: Michael Chertoff and the former head of Homeland Security (french-cuffed, effete, Tom Ridge) pretty well created the pat-you-down gestapo. Nappy is blamed for stuff that was hatched and implemented before her.

Denver Airport is the best looking.

Except for the extraordinary waste of time and fuel to get there from downtown.

Some cabbies call it Nebraska International.

Paul Coze was honorary French consul and hosted an annual Bastille day party where I had my first taste of serious wine (and under age at that.) I went out to see JFK there. I think that he was due for a stay in Phoenix but John-John was being born so he stopped over. His team devoted a lot of time to the west as part of the nomination strategy. Am proud to have gotten a handshake at the westward ho.

"The Goldwater Terminal looks like a massive jail." - Rogue

The "Terminal" reminds me more of the euthanasia center (read, "Terminal") in Soylent Green.

Only in Arizona would the largest nuclear power plant in the nation be situated upwind of downtown and at the end of a runway.

One of the scariest nuclear situations sits 40 miles up the Hudson from NYC.

Most of Sky Harbor is ugly. The nicest area of the airport is the "train station" design in Terminal 4 (interior of the concourse). http://v7.cache7.c.bigcache.googleapis.com/static.panoramio.com/photos/original/47792501.jpg?redirect_counter=2

I am fond of the glass walkways that are visible from Sky Harbor Blvd but am unimpressed with the concrete walls in terminals 2, and 3. The soaring guideways for SkyTrain are awesome and if the "Super Terminal" gets built we will no longer have T2 and T3 will be incorporated into the new design. I hope they use more of the glass and train station elements from T4.

I don't have anything to add to this post and great thread contributions, this spectacular detail and information, only...

My second flight was from Sky Harbor in the early '80's (the first was from Louisiana to NJ when I was unceremoniously booted from the military). Thus began nearly 2 decades of business travel to cities all around the US to-and-fro that hub (I recall 3 international trips as well, one a magical trip to Bombay - as it was spelled back then).

azrebel, thanks for mentioning that wall of heat when debarking from, well, just about anywhere else. I was in love with Phoenix in those years, and that blast furnace in my face was like a recurring Baptism, and is seared in my memory.

The evolution of Sky Harbor that Jon and others here detail, at least in the window that I experienced, oddly mirrored my growing disenchantment with a "professional" life. In the latter years I would find it shifting from a familiar place to an alien one and back again, depending on my mood. It holds some of my fondest memories, along with some darkest.

(One anecdote for cal: I once dipped my toe into a dating service and hooked up with a promising lady, only having to fly to Hawaii the next day. I became engaged to a local on that maiden visit to the islands.

My new friend was there to pick me up on arrival, only to angrily and silently stalk away and abandon me at the baggage pickup, after I sheepishly answered her query, "How was your trip?" One of those bittersweet memories - I shudder to think of what an evil cad I was in those days.)

I will never fly again. Partly carbon footprint, partly Security State - yet I remain wistful of those years of excess.

Pardon the disjointed memory and multiple posts, but my 1st impression of Sky Harbor Terminal One was December 1968 when sent to Phoenix for an "evaluation" trip on a soon-to-be corporate transfer. So, I've flown in/out of here for 44 years and the experiences were all downhill after the late 80's when customer service wound up in the porcelain fixture. Best commute was the 747 route between Phoenix and Chicago . . and even TWA business class to NYC. At a well-fed 6'3, I now need a shoe horn to fit. No bueno por ca ca!

I used to work doing airport transfers (Sky Harbor to local resorts by a van and vica versa) and it was enjoyable watching the reactions of new arrivals walking out of the airconditioned terminal into the blast furnace.

On the security state, even the cop wanna-bes are getting into the action:


Electicdog, that would qualify as the funniest article I've read in a while if it weren't true! WTF...straight out of a conspiracy theorist novel.

Paul Blart, Mall Homeland Security
Special assistant to Mr. Jan Nappy Napolitano

Unload 130 passengers off a jet with two staircases,front and back - time 5 minutes.

Unload 130 passengers off a jet with one jetway - time 15 to 20 minutes.


Help! Explosives missing:

"The explosives — two half-pound orange-colored tubes set inside a blue, soft-sided Igloo container — were taken by an "unknown individual" Friday afternoon from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Police had placed the container in the public area of at the airport's Terminal 4 to train police dogs."

The fake real bombs are back, picked up on a sidewalk 8 miles away.

Wrote "eclecticdog":

" 'From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language'
I know to stay away when an author is described as such (in this case Bryson)."

Good thinking: that way you also know to stay away from Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and, for that matter, anyone whose sales volume is sufficiently beyond the tepid to permit marketing hyperbole. (I believe Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" has sold more copies than Bryson's memoir of Cold War Des Moines; certainly enough to be described in such terms, should an enterprising publisher wish to do so.)

For those with a sense of humor who also want something informative about many of the subjects Mr. Talton favors -- postwar urbanization; how cars changed American cityscapes and habits at work and play; the Cold War and the nuclear arms race; demographics, race-relations, and social change; and baby-boomer nostalgia (tempered by the wry wit and realism of an educated perspective) -- I can recommend Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid".

Bryson's memoir about growing up in 1950s and '60s Des Moines is marred in places by gratuitous vulgarity and certain other problems, but on balance should be quite entertaining to the aforementioned audience. The particular locale involve is used as a narrative microcosm of a broader world, reflections from which will surely resonate with and amuse many readers.

That the American born and bred Bryson is fairly widely traveled, having moved back and forth (twice now) between America and England, visited Europe and Australia, etc., doesn't strike me as being of critical relevance; but then, perhaps I lack the acute judgment of one who plans to spend his declining years in a cabbage patch outside Yuma, ogling fieldhands and endlessly rereading a narrow and ever diminishing circle of approved titles. (A word to the wise: there is nothing more appealing to the traditional, largely Roman Catholic subculture of migrant field laborers than the homosexual attentions of an elderly White man. You're a class act, sir: I salute you.)

If this seems a little snarky, here's some background: some weeks ago I noticed "cal Lash" reacting defensively to criticisms (made by other parties) of his spelling or grammar, then disappearing. In a friendly spirit after the fact, I offered what I imagined to be a personally tailored book recommendation to renew his "sense of inclusion"; and this is the thanks I get: a bizarre and vituperative rant upon his return. I don't appreciate the perverse response.


I'm not even going to look the dang word up.

I'll just assume it means making a strong statement while wearing a black hat, drinking coffee and having a knowing smirk on your face.

Oh, snap!

@Emil, I'm going to bask in the humour of your riposte, and enjoy it in that spirit. My choice.

Oh, man...

Emil, August heat has that effect on people. But, still, I'll read Twain and Abbey. Bryson is not happening.

You ain't kidding eclec. I was out and about this morning and there are a bunch of real cranky folks running around. I normally carry a gun in the truck, but I may need to chamber a round and carry it in my lap. I just hope I don't shoot myself in the frenzy of a Santana song on the radio.

Oh, and since this post is about airports, I would like to add my rememberence that parked at the end of one of the runways is where I got my first opportunity to feel parts of my girlfriend for the first time. I've loved airplanes ever since.

Don't that beat being vitupative on a weekend night in the city? ( : - )

Whoops. Forgot my "git a rope" line. Don't want to waste that one, so here it is:

...That the American born and bred Bryson is fairly widely traveled, having moved back and forth (twice now) between America and England, visited Europe and Australia, etc., doesn't strike me as being of critical relevance (much less cause for yelling "Git a rope!")...

"eclecticdog" wrote:

"But, still, I'll read Twain and Abbey. Bryson is not happening."

Why? Have you read the book in question? Have you ever read Bryson? (Admittedly, not every book he's written is charming and informative, but the same is true for most authors.) What's the source of your bias, other than a kind of knee-jerk iconoclasm based on a publisher's blurb? The ravings of a crazy, shit-kicking coot who bathes in lavender water?

TIME Emil, TIME! And I'm a slow reader compared to the bunch posting here!

azreb. Also witnessed heat-craziness this morning. While waiting for the mechanic to pull my car around I was entertained by a young couple fighting over a cell phone in the 99-Cent parking lot. No punches thrown, but the phone was! My memories of the 40th Street observation post pretty much involve just planes and lunch. IOW, I'm jealous.


planes and LUNCH??

I was there on a dinner date. Loved the menu !!!

When I was a youngster it was really exciting to go to Sky Harbor. To greet or say goodbye to friends or relatives? No way! On the way over my brother and I would beg change from dad, and as soon as we hit SH Jack and I would head to the game room, where we would remain until picked up for the drive home.

Interestingly enough, I just moved into a condo a couple of miles from the airport, and can watch the flight path of jets probably about a half mile away as they descend to land there. I'm still awed that those massive structures can stay up in the air, and I find them fascinating.

Thanks for the memories Jon.

The obstruction of the view of the once "magnificent mural in the East Terminal" pictured in this article is one of the things that irks me the most about the lost Phoenix I was born in but left 20 years ago. Thanks for the photo. My husband finally can see it in all its glory and it helps shed some light on why I cuss like a sailor every year when we arrive at Sky Harbor to visit family.

The poorly conceived and constructed post 9/11 'security office' monstrosity that covers the mural today succinctly sums up the lack of sensitivity that rules my once fair city.

Worked for Airwest/Hughes Airwest/Republic/Northwest at Sky Harbor from 1970 to 2010! Only job I ever had! Received Accounting degree from ASU but never considered other employment besides Customer Service for airline! Airport gets in your blood!!

My best memories of Sky Harbor were from the 60's when my father had to do a bit of business flying. We'd get there early and the special treat was playing the pinball machines!! I loved seeing the Phoenix mural and being able to go up on the observation deck to watch the planes. Good times.

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