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May 13, 2019


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Jon thank you for the photos and history.
I recall a lot of this including me in my
59 Chevy on 7th Street at Rose Lane. I dont recall if I was headed to downtown Phoenix or back to the Slope?

Trees in the desert.
What Teddy Roosevelt and Salt Cedars have in common.

In support of trees. A good read!

Thanks for another nice history post with pictures. Were you a history major? I was and I think it is a discipline that endeavors to teach its students to be investigative and deliberative, as well as to engage in respectful but serious debate. To what extent I achieved these aims is not for me to say, but I believe in the approach.

The past is gone forever but I think the best honor we can give it is to continue to remember it, research it, preserve it and present it to our children as something to value.

I do like greenery and trees, as my water bill would tell you, but I have a feeling the Valley and state will end up going more the Las Vegas path (incentivized Xeriscaping) when water shortages may occur because that seems like an easy path of low resistance.

Times surely have changed. This is a gigantic metro area now, rather than a pastoral collection of farm towns and small cities. Instead of a wild, riparian environment controlled by seasonal rivers and floods, we have controlled the waters with dams and a man-made lake in Tempe surrounded by a fast-growing high-density urban environment of office and residential towers and complexes. It's all very modern in appearance and seems almost entirely bereft of greenery whatsoever -- kind of a stark sea of shiny surfaces (water, glass and steel).

I know higher-density living is the favored solution of many but I don't think even that is going to bring back any greenery.

Market forces seem to dictate that it's cheaper to go with concrete and gravel than trees (which cost money) and water (which costs money), and that mentality seems to show no signs of abating in any development I've seen, from the way I'm seeing all types of development be landscaped, from single-family custom homes to mass suburban developments to the infill developments in DT Phoenix as other Valley cities.

I look forward to seeing what arborization efforts may take shape going forward and would definitely consider supporting them.

Cal, thank you for the Salt Cedar article, I enjoyed reading it.

Bachelors and masters in history.

Great piece, pictures and comment from Mark in Scottsdale. Thank you.

I live in Uptown Phoenix. I have lived here since the early 80's when my parents and I moved here from a far away land across the 'pond'. It's the only place I have ever lived in the United States. And, since I have moved here it has improved, a lot. There is no comparison to the small cowboy town that it was with discrimination against everyone not from here, even if one was white. I realize there are tradeoffs, but at least now Phoenix is a vibrant city with so many interesting people, building businesses: many of whom are taking action to improve the city.

I looked at your photos above and what I mostly see is palm trees. These are not native and provide little value to the city, even less than "skeleton trees".

When I ride my bike or walk the streets, I feel safer and more secure than decades ago. I see historic home and apartments being restored with care. I see people planting trees and restoring the green oasis.

It may not be what you knew of Phoenix 50-60 years ago, but it's certainly better than 40-30 or even 20 years ago.

I used to despise this city and I tried so hard to get out of here. I still want to. I so long for the vibrant tight squares of old world Central Europe, but Phoenix can't be that. To some extent, I'm stuck, but by choice. I really like what is happening to Central Phoenix - sans the traffic and kitschy architecture and occasional, abdominal, destruction of its history.

What I remember best about Phoenix was its paradox: both the stunning beauty of the desert on its fringe and the farms and orchards within. Nature was all around even if the agricultural oasis was a green artifice. When I was a child there were two Phoenixes. One was the historic farm economy. The other was the new and more prosperous manufacturing economy.

The parts of Phoenix that looked poor were usually aspects of the farm economy. On the other hand, Sunnyslope, except for the nearby John Jacobs fields, was poor in a way we can barely fathom today. There were children who were clearly malnourished. Some wore tattered clothing. The large Mennonite community was not poor but they looked like they stepped out of a Grant Wood painting. Others were lower middle-class. They weren't poor but their lives reflected forced frugality.

But the desert on the periphery was stunning. I wish there were more pictures of Sunnyslope from that period, say the two-lane Cave Creek Rd that dipped and wended its way toward Paradise Valley. Here and there were miner hovels built of schist looking more pathetic than a starving coyote. A few houses had horse corrals, and there even encampments of Native Americans who when they came to town rode horses and wore beautiful satin shirts. The wildlife was profuse, from porcupines, foxes, and cougars but few visible rabbits. Too many people depended on that ration for rabbits to show themselves much.

Other memories: the beauty of Central Avenue overbowered by huge ash trees and fronted by lovely ranches with imposing haciendas.

Or downtown with its coherent building stock and genuine urbanism. Today it's is much larger, shinier, and infinitely weaker.

Or Papago Park before it was mugged by nondescript office buildings, golf courses, zoos, and their vast parking lots.

With time, Phoenix became very prosperous. By the '60s, it looked like Southern California, with gleaming new shopping centers and movie theaters. Houses and cars got bigger, the roads wider, and its soul more remote. That Phoenix still seems like a paradise by comparison to our current reality. As a child I was enchanted but how was I to know it was all doomed? I tend to think like a fatalist now, that anything that happened was probably ordained. In that regard, it's pointless to denounce modernity as an expulsion from the garden of our ineffable love. Everything changes. Earth itself appears poised to expel our species, so our moth-eaten memories may be the least of our losses.

Soleri said a lot I agree with as he and I were both Slopers. I was the poor one, hustling doughnuts to the Tubercular's at the Wabash Trailer court and Scorpions to Doctor Stahnke at ASC. And sellng tortoises for 10 bucks and Chuckawallas for whatever. And a dresser drawer containing snakes to scare my mom where we lived at 9822 N Third Street.
I belong and have a brick at the Sunnyslope Historical society and you all can go their web site at http://sunnyslopehistoricalsociety.org/

But one should note not much was green in Sunnyslope, north and up hill of the Grand and Arizona Canal's

And a couple of quotes from Charles Bowden in Blue Desert.

“Here the land always makes promises of aching beauty and the people always fail the land… The Southwest is a place where almost everyone slips their moorings and just drifts.” — Blue Desert

“Until the Second World War, the Southwest was a failure on all the economic maps drawn up by the nation… the region is a sacrifice area, a place to bomb, shoot, poison, radiate, bulldoze…” —Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America

I am happy for Farion but must agree Phoenix in the Great Sonoran Desert will (thank dog) never be like the sick density of Europe.

“We know from our recent history that English did not come to replace U.S. Indian languages merely because English sounded musical to Indians' ears. Instead, the replacement entailed English-speaking immigrants' killing most Indians by war, murder, and introduced diseases, and the surviving Indians' being pressured into adopting English, the new majority language.”
― Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

“It's striking that Native Americans evolved no devastating epidemic diseases to give to Europeans in return for the many devastating epidemic diseases that Indians received from the Old World.”
― Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

First Where Soleri lived with a fish pond that was both inside and outside the house and then where I lived in 900 Square feet with 4 other folks.


Cal, I had very mixed feelings about growing up in that house. My father, a Dr Doolittle/Donald Trump combo plate, made his dream castle as incomprehensible as his psyche. He wanted, above all, to be the King of Sunnyslope. That is, he wanted to stun people with his success and, if necessary, body slam them with it. I knew the people like you living nearby had better lives and something was clearly off when they called me "lucky" or something like that. They smiled and laughed while I cowered and hid. Nothing fails like success as my father then and Trump now prove. The best you can say is that characters like them make life unnecessarily interesting.

What you dreamers of the 60's and 70's seem to have forgotten is the air/smog that you could cut with a knife. At times you couldn't see the downtown skyline from a handful of blocks away. You could "smell" Phoenix as you approached the city from as far away as Casa Grande south and Morristown north. Ah, the memories.

So let me get this straight, “Pete”: Air quality improved because we added 4 million people in sprawl and threw down gravel? Phoenix still has among the worst air quality in the nation. What improvement came because of national legislation and rules.

Pete i recall that mining pollution.
Its coming back as Trump is going to Destroy the Republican signed Clean Air Act. But we all know there are only 5000 humans on the planet. Everything else is a commodity.
If only Teddy had declared the SW a roadless Wilderness.
The Future. Read Cactus Ed Abbey's,
The Good News.

Or read Upheaval by Jared Diamond and The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail.

Very neat pictures.A lot of very well grown grass yards. Honest question: how was grass maintained? No modern sprinkler systems, I assume. A lot of those properties don't look like they had flood irrigation.

I guess I have the same question on trees. It does seem like palms predominated, but there are also a lot of leafy ones in the pictures. What types of deciduous trees will grow in Phoenix without watering? How did they achieve that?


Modern sprinkler systems date to at least the 1930s. But more commonly people used hoses and sprinklers. Phoenix had abundant and cheap water thanks to the reclamation projects of the Newlands Act. Much of the old city already had the trees common to river valleys in the West, and they added more, both native and imported. Cottonwoods, mesquites and ficus, for example, grow with minimal water.

RC-post remind me of legislators who suggested we use large fans to blow smog out of valley in the 60 s.
Where do people suppose the 160 lbs of gas goes when they gas up. If they think about it they will understand global warming a lot better. The vast improvements in smog devices have lulled us into a misbegotten sleep. As the world improves their position they want the same standard of living as we have and it is not going to be pretty telling them they can’t without stringent population control.

Old AZ photos, guy with a lawn mower and bib overalls and lots of historical photos about 90,000.

I suspect since Central and Washington was a ways from the Salt River the landscape in 1600 was probably dirt, mesquite and other desert growth. According to desertmuseum.org
Not trees/

Sonoran Native plants https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/

and "Flood Plain irrigation" used by Indigenous folks in the Great Sonoran desert starting around 300 AD


"The advent of agriculture was the beginning of the decline of man"
Jared Diamond

My only quibble is with the palm trees. I grew up in Mesa. Palm trees were the worst in terms of shade. Replace them with mesquite or cottonwood or sycamore. Those are much more beautiful and provide a thick, cooling canopy.

"With the enormous numbers of newcomers and population churn, people don't even know what has been lost."

Back when metro Phoenix had shade trees with large canopies, I remember neighbors used to sit underneath them in their front yards at dusk in the summer and socialize. The proliferation of xeriscaping has diminished this opportunity for social engagement among residents. Since very few houses in metro Phoenix have front porches, some people who have tidy garages enjoy hanging out in them in a rocking chair waving to passers-by and socializing. Yet, there are grinches in neighborhoods with HOA's who think it's trashy and low class and want to prohibit that behavior.

The transience of residency in metro Phoenix makes it difficult to form bonds with service professionals and contractors. How many times have you used a contractor who moved here recently, only to call a few years later and find the telephone number disconnected?

Collecting pre-1950 postcards of the greater metro area offers the refreshing view of how different times were. Amassing nearly 100 examples of auto courts and motels showed an extensive variety of quarters (low cost to resort finery).

Regarding the above HOA comment: Curmudgeons often defy community standards making it difficult for HOA's to do their work.

Cal, I'm not sure what good man is without civilization, and without agriculture, that would never have happened. You needed a steady food surplus to achieve this along with the economic stratification/priestly castes leading to the development of written languages. Almost everything we are as a species now stems from that momentous development.

I get Diamond's point just the same. We are killing the magnificent garden that is Earth's biosphere because we evolved too fast to allow for longer views about our necessary responsibilities. The notion of stewardship is alien to us even today. It's why most people don't take climate change seriously as an issue. It's literally not in our DNA.

Still, we'll leave some evidence behind of some spectacular achievements although it's very questionable whether any other sentient creatures will ever discover them. We are stranded in a distant outpost of the universe and our artifacts will likely vanish is an eyeblink of geologic time. It's amazing time to be alive seeing this looming threat yet also being powerless collectively to respond to it. If you're like me, you already know what a conversation killer this subject can be.

I dont know if my Way Station will be Why Arizona or the Canary Islands.

When we are gone;

The following historical figures got their start on HOA boards:

Ghanges Kahn
Pol Pot
Vlad the Impaler

So, instead of adopting a couple of kids in his dotage, Diamond and his wife have twins. Hypocrite much?

Even Hypocrites get it right occasionally.
When i learned one cant trust consumer products, i got cut.
Maybe Trump can pardon Jared and while he is at it, Assange.
Your pal cal from the house of mirrors.
My offer to buy U a cup or two of coffee is still out there Dudas.
PS, is that Cactus Eds old pickup parked at your place?

Dudas. "DOTAGE?" Jared was 50.
Charlie Chaplin was still having kids in his 80's.

Trees standing.
Fortunately Phoenix's trees should be ok in the storms about to terrorize the US as opposed to Texas where once again the gods are angry.

Lash - 'dotage' still stands.

I respectively disagree.

10 years ago, Donald J Dotard was still giving to Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton. Now there's a hypocrite some of us here even voted for! But let's decide Diamond is worse because.....well.....he's one of those pointy-headed professors. Just like Al Gore!

Hypocrisy is one of the core values of the modern Republican Party.

In fact, it may be the only consistent value of the modern Republican Party.

Oh, that and ring kissing fealty to the Uber Rich.

regarding the Oasis, Earth!

“We’re not going to stop this train wreck. Wright described an earlier time when the oceans became acidic as they are now, when the planet experienced mass extinction events. They were driven out by ocean acidity, he told me. The Permian mass extinction approximately 252 million years ago], where 90 percent of the species were wiped out, that is what we are looking at now.”
From "The End of Ice" by Dahr Jamail

I grew up in phoenix in the 1980s and 1990s. I was born in 1978 and lived near 31st Ave and Bethany Home rd. I lived there until 1995.

I remember the 80s and 90s well. We used to play in the streets until well after dark when our parents would come out to the driveway edge and call for us. We rode our bikes everywhere. We chased the ice cream truck. We made our spending money as kids by mowing grass or delivering papers. We walked to school and just about everywhere else. We bought ice cream cones (mixed choc & van swirls) at the local grocery stores for 25 cents. We played outside for hours and hours every day.

All of this was possible and even pleasurable because of the "greenery" that Phoenix had. If we got too hot we would just find a shady spot in the grass to sit for a while and cool off, then resume playing. Try doing that today in central Phoenix.

I am sure my generation of youth was the last to experience the non digital internet days. I graduated from Washington High School class of 96' and within 2 years it seemed my whole world changed. My neighborhood was overrun by the City's more Southern residents moving up and almost every person I grew up with including my own parents moved away from that central Phoenix neighborhood, most into the newer stucco and decomposed granite, sunbleached and dead neighborhoods of the "new Phoenix".

Our parents thought it was great things they were doing by uprooting and moving to "better" quarters of the city with finer homes and finer automobiles and finer clothes etc etc. We 18 year olds knew better, we missed our friends, not just the people but the trees and the grass and the old comfortable buildings and neighborhoods that had long held our secrets.

Alas that was 25 years ago or more. As I reminisce this Sunday morning about growing up in Phoenix and learning about life, I wonder where love goes when the memories fade and all the landmarks are gone. Does it become hatred? I love something long gone but not forgotten.

Thanks for the article, even though my own timeline may have been a bit later I still remember the Orange tree groves in West Phoenix and the fields in Gilbert. Unfortunately I think most all of the Southwest US has gone the same way. I live 4 hours South and East of Phoenix now and have for the past 20 years and it is the same here. No grass, no trees, too many people. Too many people.

Yep, Steve its pretty much gone.
The Great Sonoran Desert.
Whats Left of It.
Cal Lash
Washington High School last in my class to graduate in 58.
The classes between 56 and 62 do a reunion almost every year in Phoenix.
If you are interested I'll get you an invite.

I am at, [email protected]

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