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September 22, 2020

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I just read Bill Bryson't Thunderbolt Kid, which is a very funny memoir about growing up in Des Moines. Bryson was born in 1951, so he got to see the "transformation" that many of us saw here in Phoenix did. The final chapter is an elegy to the old Des Moines that was permanently lost as the nation quickly became an alien automotive culture with throwaway buildings replacing grand movie palaces, imposing department stores, and unique restaurants. This same story was written in virtually every city and town in America. These losses are still mourned as our rootless nation wrestles with its own anger and self-pity about communities we no longer truly love. When every city looks more or less the same, who are we? The sad truth is that our built environment was a crucial element supporting a meaningful and rewarding community life. Today, we use artificial stimulants like pro sports teams to fill that void, but it's not the same.

One thing that keeps me in Portland, which has been severely taxing my sanity this year, is the sheer number of old buildings and houses that evoke this golden era of American civilization. Today I can think of certain enhancements like street trees and the rule of law that might serve to make downtowns more livable. That's mostly wishful thinking. Barring a miracle, we can only manage the damage. Right now, I don't see any solution to what appears to be our irrevocable decline as a nation. Economic "justice" may be a good thing in and of itself but it's not what ours souls crave. We want one another and the visual evidence of that belonging in shared public spaces. What we have now is a starvation diet for the soul.

This is amazing! I see things I remember from my early childhood and I love seeing how the city streets looked whe my grandparents would stroll on Sunday afternoon in the 40s. Thank you so much!

The quality of the photos are superb.

It still bothers me. In the same chapter of the book Soleri mentioned ("Farewell" in Thunderbolt Kid), Bryson wrote:

"Recently I returned to the [Register & Tribune] looking for illustrations for this book, and discovered to my astonishment that the picture library today occupies a very small room at the back of the building and that nearly all the old pictures were thrown out some years ago.

"'They needed the space,' the present librarian told me with a slightly apologetic look.

"I found this a little hard to take in. 'They didn't give them to the state historical society?' I asked.

"She shook her head.

"'Or the city library? Or a university?'

"She shook her head twice more. 'They were recycled for the silver in the paper,' she told me.

"So now not only are the places mostly gone, but there is no record of them either."

I just posted a friend in the "simple" Ozarks that I was glad I left those folks in Iowa behind as I lived the first ten years of my life and a couple of teen years in Iowa.

Bryson is not someone I can read. I just go to sleep.

For Historical Iowa still intact buildings here's a photo of my grade school minus the horse barn but still with one of two outhouses. It's now a community center.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoosier_Row_School

I thought A.L. Moore was still in operation in the mid 70's. I recall arranging for my cremation.

First Herb and Dorothy McLaughlin and then ASU Library deserve credit for saving this archive. The McLaughlins bought the McCulloch photography business in the 1940’s and retained their job logs and negatives including a quantity of glass plates and nitrate films. The logs provided many of the essential descriptions. ASU made a number of efforts to preserve the decaying negatives and finally digitized all that survived. Elizabeth Dunham compiled and edited the descriptions and Neil Millican and Matt Trobaugh scanned their eyes out over several years. I found the surviving descendant of the McLaughlins in Alaska many years after the McLaughlins donated this and their own work to ASU, and acquired the rights to the photographs that enable ASU to give these away for public use. These are not trivial things, especially when compared with what is happening to so many newspaper photo morgues as noted above. While digitization does help prolong the life of the images it is not preservation without a continuing commitment on the part of ASU. Even then, nothing is certain. So enjoy them while you have them available and thanks to the rogue columnist for curating such a nice selection of these photographs!

Thanks for sharing these great photos. I recognize a few of these buildings, since they are still standing.

Several years ago, I bought a claw foot table for my kitchen in an antique store that was located on that corner of 7th Avenue and McDowell. That was when I was a twentysomething hipster living in the Country Club Park Historic District.

Isn't the Professional Building a Hilton now? I wonder if they have preserved the majestic lobby.

The name of the old filling station, "Richfield," caught my attention. Growing up on the westside, that was our nickname for Litchfield Park...

...and El Mirage was Elmer's Garage.

Many folks here will surely know the unfortunate nickname for my childhood stomping ground of Maryvale.

"Sting-Ray Afternoons" is another terrific read about what's been lost. It's set a decade later in MN and Indiana.

Soleri, the Politico piece about Portland in today's links is truly discouraging, what the hell is going on??

Doggie, the problem in Portland is "wokeness" as a cognitive style. Untold thousands of Millenials fervently believe their wishful thinking that all problems can be explained by rubrics like "white privilege" and "structural racism". It's not that there isn't an element of truth in them but that they oversimplify by ignoring whole swaths of non-conforming reality. Therefore, when Antifa decided to hijack the George Floyd killing, Millenials simply substituted a fairy tale where all cops, all authority, and most white people were complicit thereby validating the anarchists' Burn It All Down response. If you can't stand up for your community against thugs, you are either an irresponsible citizen or living in a daydream of your own moral superiority, a plague that has infected virtually the entire American left.

I tell friends here that each "action" that the anarchists undertake usually after midnight might as well be a pro-Trump rally. Two thirds of Portlands polled want the mayor (who is also the police commissioner) to put a stop to the violence. Ted Wheeler won't because he's up for reelection (he's running against a loon who proudly proclaims herself to be part of Antifa). The Millenials may be in the minority but they're also strong public influencers. Their power lies in naming and shaming anyone who dares to disagree with them. It's Orwellian but it's useless to tell them this since they're mostly unread and incurious.

Step into the the Time Machine, my friends...
Jon, thanks for posting the high-resolutions versions of these images. There's so much detail in those large-format negatives.

As a 4th generation Arizonian and 3rd generation Phoenician, I loved seeing these photos! I will definitely be purchasing your book! Thank you!

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