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December 06, 2017


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I'm an old man but I only barely remember some of these stores. The one I remember best is not listed here: JC Penney's at 2nd & Washington. It built a new store in the early 1950s. It left in the early '70s after building a new and much larger structure at Park Central. The City of Phoenix took the building for offices, which was eventually demolished for the Collier assemblage downtown.

It used to bother me that downtown Phoenix lost its department stores, which seemed to condemn it to a kind of limbo. But this seems increasingly like almost every city's fate. Denver, for example, had five major department stores in the 1970s when I lived there. By the early '80s, they had all moved to Cherry Creek, about three miles away. Downtown Denver continued to prosper but its sidewalks are not nearly as lively as they used to be.

Here in Portland, Macy's closed its downtown store earlier this year. There's still a Nordstrom's, some large discounters like Ross, and many clothing boutiques but the absence is noticeable. It had been, like almost everywhere in the nation, a local department store back in the day: Meier & Frank. When these proud totems of local economies were absorbed by national chains, cities lost more than a little of their local color. I felt some sadness when Marshall Fields closed - its flagship store on State St in Chicago was magnificent. Macy's - the winner in this national demolition derby - occupies this space today, a pale imitation of its previous glory.

I'll confess here to joining Amazon Prime a few weeks ago. I did it for a couple of items that struck me as too overpriced here. I was struck how much cheaper they were and how easy Amazon makes it to get them. So, is this our fate, shopping online? If so, cities will lose much of their allure and excitement. There will always be restaurants, brew pubs, coffee shops, and nightclubs, of course. But something vital will be lost once real-world retail departs. Cities evolve, needless to say, and this may be something we can mourn consciously without resorting to the toxic nostalgia that informs the right.

I remember from childhood how wonderful downtown Phoenix was. To young eyes the neon, peopled sidewalks, and variety of stores were pure magic. There's still some of that in Portland but it's not quite the same. People want to be around other people. All the money you save on Amazon can't fill that void.

OT, my instincts from years as an investigative journalist tell me the Trent Franks resignation is being done to cloak something much larger.

I vividly recall the excitement of shopping in downtown Phoenix with my grandmother. Thank goodness Seattle still has a vibrant downtown shopping district, including the flagship Nordstrom and Macy’s. Hope it can survive the online challenge.

Downtown: Phoenix as a desert Oasis, once upon a time was a good thing. Phoenix as a town I recall, starting in 1950 was Walkable and friendly. It had good shops and good movie theaters. And it had Tom's Tavern.
I recall old timers talking about how the winter freeze had likely killed off Black Widow eggs. I recall selling scorpions to ASC's Dr. Stahnke. And desert tortoises being fed wet lettuce in folks back yards. And how I envied Soleri's house with the inside and outside fish pond.
Today Phoenix is a huge ugly quagmire of tall buildings engulfed in some of the planets worst air. As I travel the streets its obvious like most "evolving" cities Phoenix is unable to keep up with infrastructure demands. So its citizens continue to sink into the deepening piles of shit that accumulates from the sedentary types that squat down there. Currently I live on the edge of the valley closer to the desert and during the holidays will travel further into the desert and nearer to Mexico to seek out another place for my home on wheels (white man's tepee). I yearn to be more involved the coyotes and other like characters. I seek to observe a Horn Toad again as the Valley of the Sun has virtually genocided such great creatures.

May the new year see the rise of hunter gathers not machines.

Donald Trump appears almost sane along side the likes of AZ pols Franks and Ward. Must have been the CHEM trails go to him.

Excellent article and just another reminder of the important role, that immigrants played in founding our cities. A very common thread is that in many of our big cities, you will find it was the Jewish immigrants who laid the foundations for their successful commerce and business districts. An example is New York City's garment district and jewelry industry. It's interesting (and sad) to be able to walk in downtown Phoenix and see where many of these businesses used to be, and what has come of it since.

Paul Ryan apparently told Franks to resign. If he was genuinely only interested in finding a surrogate, he could have used an agency that specializes in that area. This story suggests Franks went beyond the pale in some significant way. His CD will still have a culture-warrior zealot once he's gone, of course. The tragedy isn't that a mediocre holy roller got in over his head. It's that Arizona and the nation elect such blowhards in the first place.

Any clues as to where Franks got his hands on the $5 million he offered the "surrogate"?

Ayn Rand named him in her will.

Okay, AZCentral reported Frank's net worth as $33 million. I forgot he had an oil drilling business.

Trent Franks, you sick pup
Burn in hell, twisted hair lip
Eighth district hates you

Kim, physical deformative comment not necessary!!

RC-just watched Ben Bradlee movie and assume your instincts are same as his.Every politician is lying to you.:>)

Wasn't the Boston Stores still open after Diamonds opened?Since my first wife was an assistant buyer with Diamond's,anything about them catches my attention.

Mike, I believe all the Boston Stores became Diamond's in 1947. Friend of the blog, the late Jim Hamblin, was a Diamond's executive and I'm sorry he can't provide his perspective.

As for "The Post," Bradlee is right. I met him at a party at the Post back in the 1990s. My axiom is that everyone who wants to be in the paper shouldn't be, and everyone who doesn't want to be in the paper should be.

Cal, all is fair in love and haiku, even if a little off-colour or rude. Doesn't it say so in the constitution?

IMHO, physical deformities are off limits.
As are mental deficiencies unless you are the leader of the planets most dangerous country.

Cal is right. I have to affinity for Franks' single issue politics or holier-than-thou attitude, but don't make light of his lip. He apparently was born with a cleft palate - not his fault.

Thanks Jack!
How a home environment grows a mental dangerous psychotic mind.
and will lead to this: https://www.truthdig.com/articles/coming-constitutional-crisis/

Cal, I read your two links, which was not easy given the high jargon-to-content ratio in both of them. I have no way of knowing whether there's feasible left-wing politics in this nation because I have yet to see any examples of it outside a few city councils in small college towns. I think if there's a left-wing renaissance in this country, it will result from having mastered plain-speaking communications since I can't imagine many citizens comprehending what the hell it's talking about in the essays to which you linked.

To a certain extent, Bernie Sanders understood this problem and he generated a great deal of enthusiasm with his direct style. Still, there's always going to be a problem when one person is deemed to have all the answers. Religion can get away with this conceit much better than political movements. There are untold numbers of stubborn voters in this nation who will resist unto death the moralistic prescriptions of other people. Fuzzy messaging is a necessity for this reason. I know this drives ideologues crazy but not everyone is on the same page.

We have had two national catastrophes in the past 17 years. The first was George W Bush's selection in 2000 and the second was Russia successfully installing a reality-TV troll as president in 2016. In both cases, the razor-thin margins pointed out how critical it is that the progressive coalition coheres given the huge structural advantages Republicans have in our constitutional framework. You know the story.

It mystifies me that a rump group of maybe 5% of the population excuses right-wing authoritarianism as preferable to "neoliberalism", and that they'll vote third party or not at all because their "revolution" can't wait. I'm not a hipster, so I don't really share that faith. I'm fairly sure this nation won't transcend grubby reality any time soon. In the meantime, I suggest voting as if the lives of other people matter - children, women, immigrants, the sick, the homeless, and our dusky-hued brothers and sisters. The sanctimonious left won't suffer that much under Republican rule but those people will.

I been in Phoenix for most of my life and well remember downtown Phoenix in the late fifties. I so enjoyed the article about the stores in downtown and the history associated with it. Thank you for the trip down memory lane!
What I do not understand is how in the world the article went from history of downtown to Trent Franks and all of the other political jabber that was included???? We hear enough political garbage every minute of the day. I do like me to stay informed, However I was researching early downtown history, not who likes Republicans and who likes Democrats.

Correction: I HAVE been in Phoenix. Don't wish to be criticized like poor Trent Franks was. cheezzzz what is this world coming to?

I'm one of those old timers....I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in 1952 and I recall going with my folks downtown to do ALL of our shopping....I was one of those neighborhood kids that sold scorpions and desert reptiles to Dr. Stanke (he lived on the corner of Cambridge just one block away from our house in Sherwood Heights-circa 1960's)...thanks to Cal Lash for the memories.......

I just came upon this reflection of department stores in downtown Phoenix. Wow! It inspired a flood of memories from being born in Phoenix and living there for most of my life. My Grandma Ross used to take me shopping with her. We'd ride the bus from 24th Street and Thomas to Downtown. It seemed like a cross country trip at the time. She let me put 'the collection' in the coin slots and I was fascinated by the driver's coin changer. We would have lunch at a drugstore counter and window shop at Korrick's and Goldwater's. Her real destination was the Home Silk Shop where she'd pore through bolts of fabric and eye skeins of yarn and crochet thread. I'd sit on a stool and check out the McCall's and Simplicity Patterns. A few years later my mom and I went to Korrick's to purchase my Girl Scout Uniform. I wore it proudly to the 'fly up' ceremony at Encanto Park where I promptly lost my only two medals in the lagoon. Moving to St. Louis in the early sixties introduced me to a whole different kind of downtown, grand buildings such as Stix, Baer, and Fuller and Famous-Barr seemed like skyscrapers compared to Phoenix downtown. There were also incredible animated Christmas displays at these stores. While the stores are long gone most of the buildings remain in downtown St. Louis. I believe the National Blues Museum is housed in the old Stix building. The early 70s brought me and my midwest raised spousal unit back to Phoenix. Change! Crazy city growth and malls in every corner of the Valley. Still drawn to the 'old school' Phoenix I found professional wear at Switzer's in Park Central and Thomas Mall. Before PETA guilted me I purchased a lovely fox jacket at Switzer's which now lives in my niece's closet. After a 40+ year stint in Phoenix (forever my native home) we have transplanted ourselves to Portland, Oregon. As mentioned - the downtown Macy's in Portland has closed, but the downtown area continues to be a vibrant spot. Pioneer Place is a lovely venue. There are specialty stores on the city streets: an old time haberdashery, jewelry stores, a block of food carts, myriad restaurants, and a fine cultural district flanked by Portland State University. I miss the Phoenix that used to be, the one where I explored vacant lots and petted the horses on the next block; the one where we raised our children with the support of excellent schools, teachers, extended family. and our faith community. But, I love Portland, too. I don't miss the unbearable heat or the political craziness. I enjoy the rain, the rivers that flow with water, and the progressive fell of Portland. Again, thanks for the memories. Thanks for sharing.

how nice it is to remember those old stores in downtown Phoenix. My mother used to drag me downtown with her to shop at Lerner's where i would stand outside and see neighbors and school friends and walk east a little bit and look at myself in the cobalt blue mirrors in front of the Russell Stover candy store. The movie houses we had back then, in the 1940s were grand palaces of entertainment, and there were so many of them...the Fox, Rialto, Strand, Studio, Azteca, Palms....I loved going to the Azteca with my Mexican friends. Even though my Spanish was limited Antonio Aguilar was just as exciting as Hopalong Cassidy and Lash Larue, and Maria Felix was as pretty as any Hollywood actress. Having a few cents to go to the Penny Arcade (where I wasn't supposed to go) was a special thrill. Ah, the memories those places conjure up. Thank you Cal Lash for bringing them back to me...

My parents and I are Arizona natives. My maternal grandmother was the Clerk of Superior Court in Phoenix.
When I was 15, I was a store model for Korricks, Diamonds and Goldwaters. In 1955. I loved downtown Phoenix.

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