By Joan Fudala
So we didn’t make the list of the Most Literate Cities in the United States this year, but what compiler Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) might not know is Scottsdale’s eclectic literary history. Scores of fiction and nonfiction authors, renowned columnists, poets, playwrights, memoirists, even syndicated cartoonists have called Scottsdale home over the past 12 decades. While Washington, D.C., may have received CCSU’s top honors for 2013, Scottsdale bibliophiles have always relished their residency in this reader haven.
In honor of National Authors Day and Family Literacy Day—both celebrated on Nov. 1—consider these bon mots of Scottsdale’s literary history:
• Helen Scott, wife of Scottsdale namesake and founder Chaplain Winfield Scott, was an accomplished poet. “Half Mast…and Other Poems” is a collection of her poetry. Rose Trumbull, daughter of another early Baptist minister in Scottsdale, was also a resident poet in the 1910s.
• Novelist Sir Gilbert Parker, whom King Edward knighted in 1902 for his service to Canadian literature, enjoyed visits to Scottsdale’s Ingleside Inn so much that he provided testimonials for the luxury resort’s advertising. Members of a St. Louis writers club also stayed at the Ingleside Inn during the winter season.
• Zane Grey, who wrote 30 novels based in Arizona, had relatives in Scottsdale, whom he visited for extended periods during the 1920s. Scottsdale’s first resident artist, Marjorie Thomas, accompanied Grey on one of his treks to Rainbow Bridge and illustrated one of his books.
• During the early 1920s, playwright and author Roy George and his family lived in one of Scottsdale’s first substantial homes—the Adobe House. Built in the 1890s by the Blount family, the Adobe House played several roles in Scottsdale literary history. Alza Blount taught Scottsdale children to read in their home when it was used as the village’s first school until a stand-alone school could be built in September 1896. After the George family moved out in the mid-1920s, it became Mildred Barthelow’s Adobe House guest ranch, where many guests enjoyed reading in hammocks on the porch. In 1955, the Scottsdale Women’s Club opened the all-volunteer Scottsdale Public Library in the Adobe House, where thousands came to read until the library relocated to the Little Red Schoolhouse in 1963. Sadly, the Adobe House burned down in the early 1970s; it was located approximately where the Scottsdale Civic Center Library parking garage is today.
• Before television, the Internet or video games, men and boys eagerly anticipated reading the action adventures, mysteries or Western stories penned by novelist Clarence Budington Kelland. Kelland, on assignment for the Saturday Evening Post, came to Arizona in 1936, fell in love with the desert, and spent the rest of his life in the Scottsdale area. Among his locally written novels were Arizona (1939) and Valley of the Sun (1940), as well as numerous articles for the Saturday Evening Post, Arizona Highways, The Arizona Republic and other publications. He passed his writing talents to the next generation: his son Tom, a Scottsdale resident, served as business editor of The Arizona Republic for many years, and another son, Horace, was a New York-based writer.
• Thanks to the memoirs of Scottsdale residents, we know more about our history from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s: Jesus Corral (“Caro Amigo”), Bill Kimsey (“Recollections of Early Scottsdale”), Albert Lieber (Road to Scottsdale), K.T. Palmer (“For Land’s Sake”) and Paul Messinger (“Scottsdale Memories”). Historian Richard Lynch authored Winfield Scott in 1975, giving us an in-depth appreciation for Scottsdale’s founder and namesake.
• Novelist Glendon Swarthout came to Scottsdale after writing “They Came to Cordura” and “Where the Boys Are,” and produced several more novels while living here. One of his novels—”The Eagle and the Iron Cross”—tells the story of the 1944 escape of World War II German POWs from Camp Papago.
• Reg Manning began his career as an editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republican in 1926. His cartoons-with-a-message were syndicated in 1948, and one earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1951. He and his wife lived in Scottsdale until his death in 1986. According to a 1970s edition of “Who’s Who,” during his first 50 years as a cartoonist, he created an estimated 14,000 drawings.
• Another popular cartoonist from the 1940s and 1950s, Dale Messick, lived and worked here. Her long-running “Brenda Starr, Reporter” cartoon strip was groundbreaking, putting her in the previously “man’s world” of comic strip creation. The Dec. 17, 1950, edition of The Arizona Republic said: “Glamour and style are combined in that popular comic strip, ‘Brenda Starr, Reporter,’ read by millions of teenage and adult enthusiasts. Equally attractive is Brenda’s creator, Dale Messick, vivacious resident of Scottsdale. Dale, in real life, Mrs. Everett G. Soltmann, lives with her husband and daughter, Starr, in Paradise Valley.”
• Co-author of the classic “Cheaper By the Dozen,” Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, who also authored “Belles On Their Toes” and other books, lived in the Scottsdale area for many years. She said in a 1960s interview in the Scottsdale Progress that she often taped material until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and transcribed it later. “I have always been a diary keeper and rat packer. Nothing gets lost—it’s all in the compost pile. All of a sudden you remember the time you came home with a firecracker—and weren’t supposed to have it. Or when Bill [her brother and co-author] was caught under the table and was hauled out by the hair.”
• Elliott Roosevelt, son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor, wrote a series of mysteries (“Murder in the Rose Garden,” “Murder in the East Wing,” etc.), mixing fact with fiction and starring his famous mother as First Lady detective. He also wrote several nonfiction books about his parents and family. Although written under his name, it is said that he worked with a ghostwriter, who continued to publish the White House mystery series for 10 years after Elliott’s death in 1990. Elliott lived in the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley area in the 1950s, and again in the 1980s until his death, and was active in the March of Dimes local campaigns, fighting against polio, the disease that had afflicted his father.
• Margaret Roosevelt Kent, cousin to both Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, settled in Scottsdale after World War II and lived here until her death. She helped start the all-volunteer Scottsdale Public Library, and also authored a book about her wartime experiences in Italy, “In Another Country.”
• Poet Patricia Benton lived and worked here in the 1950s and 1960s. She helped write the script for the Miracle of the Roses pageant, produced annually by Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Among her books of poetry is her 1952 “Signature in Sand,” which was illustrated by Scottsdale artist Paul Coze.
• Bettina Rubicam, wife of advertising mogul Ray Rubicam, served as the national president of the Reading Reform Foundation in the 1970s, and was an ardent proponent of the phonetic approach to teaching children how to read. She and her husband lived in Paradise Valley from the 1940s until their deaths; he in 1978; she in 1997.
• Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ 1969 landmark book, “On Death and Dying,” launched the international hospice-care movement. She published more than 20 books, and lived in Scottsdale until her death in 2004.
• Walter Farley, author of the “Black Stallion” series, spent time at Ed and Ruth Tweed’s BruSally Arabian Horse Ranch in Scottsdale, seeking inspiration and authenticity for his equine novels.
• Beloved humorist Erma Bombeck lived and worked in Paradise Valley for many years before her death in 1996. In addition to her books of laughable everyday life, her legacy is an annual event, The Friends of Erma Bombeck Authors Luncheon, benefitting the Arizona Women’s Board Supporting Kidney Health, is set this year on Sat., Nov. 9; see https://authorsluncheonaz.org.
• With so many famously interesting residents, Scottsdale readers have many memoirs to read: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (“The Lazy B”), Hugh Downs (“Yours Truly, Hugh Downs”), Joe Garagiola (“Just Play Ball”), Frank Lloyd Wright (“An Autobiography;” “Shining Brow”), Olgivanna Wright (“Our House”), Barry Goldwater (“Goldwater;” “Conscience of a Conservative”), John C. Lincoln, Tom Chauncey, Jack Stewart (“We Met at Camelback”), RADM Connie Mariano (“The White House Doctor”), just to name a few.
• Scottsdale readers can meet their favorite local and international authors at events such as the Friends of the Scottsdale Public Library’s Authors and Appetizers (this year on Fri., Nov. 1) and at Scottsdale bookstores like the Poisoned Pen, Guidon Books and Barnes & Noble.
• Today many great authors and writers call the Scottsdale area home—certainly Clive Cussler and Stephanie Meyer would top the list for volume of book sales and universal popularity.
So celebrate Scottsdale’s literary history by firing up your Kindle, cracking open a book, listening to a book on CD, or reading aloud to your children or someone with visual impairment. Let’s make next year’s Most Literate City list—we deserve it! n
Joan Fudala is a Scottsdale-based community historian and author. Contact: email@example.com.