By Joan Fudala
Despite Scottsdale’s reputation as an upscale community that boasts multimillion-dollar mansions, it has been a place for those wanting a simpler — and even mobile — lifestyle.
Campsites, trailers, mobile home parks, RV parking areas and business on wheels have had roles in Scottsdale’s history.
Hook up to these bits of Scottsdale’s mobile heritage:
• As far back as 8,000 years ago, the nomadic Archaic people camped in northern Scottsdale, hunting and gathering food and supplies to sustain their families. Archaeologists discovered their seasonal presence — projectile points and other artifacts — when surveying northern Scottsdale shortly after the city annexed the area in the early 1980s.
• During the 1920s to 1940s’ heyday of cattle drives from Brown’s/DC Ranch to the stockyards near today’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the ranch hands and their “auxiliary” drovers (men and boys from Scottsdale) camped with the cattle at an informal way station near today’s Loop 101 and Shea Boulevard intersection.
• The Walter Livingston’s operated a trailer park and store (in a trailer) at Curry’s Corner, the intersection of Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak roads in the 1940s. Curry’s Corner Store was destroyed by fire in May 1953. Livingston’s was popular with Canadian winter visitors. The site later housed Rawhide Western Town from 1971 to 2005, and is now Silverstone (Appaloosa Library, Vi and Sprouts shopping center).
• World War II veterans using their GI Bill benefits to return to college stayed at the Victory Village trailer park in Tempe. Many of the veterans took a bus to the former Thunderbird II Airfield (now Scottsdale Airport and Thunderbird Academy) to take technical trade courses offered there by Arizona State College.
• The Floyd Payne’s opened the J Bar S Trailer Court in November 1948 “in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale at 113-115 N. Brown Avenue,” according to its ad in the Scottsdale Progress. The six-unit court offered private shower and toilet with all utilities furnished, and later added a gift shop and café. In 1949, it was featured in Trailer Topics magazine and received an honor certificate from the Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association for its cleanliness and amenities.
• Wildlife artist Walter Bohl and his writer wife, Ann, lived in a trailer at the base of Pinnacle Peak, starting in the 1950s (and later built a home on the site). They wintered here and summered in Wisconsin, driving their trailer across country. They drew inspiration from the variety of Sonoran Desert birds that lived around their mobile home. He did many commissions for branches of Valley National Bank and was the featured artist at the first Scottsdale Arts Festival in 1971.
• “Big Jim” Matthews opened Oasis Mobile Home Park on East Thomas Road in 1957 on the former Hearne Ranch property. The Scottsdale Progress (August 17, 1956) reported, “The park will cater to adult guests only, and will have a large recreation area consisting of a 55-foot swimming pool, shuffleboard courts, croquet courts, plus a 100-foot clubroom where square dances will be held twice weekly, also pot luck dinners and many other festivities, which will round out the social life of a new era in living, which is sweeping the nation in today’s luxury mobile home parks.” Oasis won the Woodhall Mobile Home raging bureau’s top award in the United States in 1959. In January 1959, Oasis was featured on the “Queen for a Day” TV show when Matthews and his wife hosted the winning Queen’s visit during Parada del Sol. It is still a thriving community.
• The 10-acre Wheel Inn Ranch at 7010 E. Continental opened in 1958 and continued to attract residents until closing in 2015.
• For six months in late 1958/early 1959, the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce was housed in a 50-foot trailer at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street. The temporary facility was provided by Oasis owner Matthews on property owned by Mike Fennell. The charming quarters were featured in an edition of Trailer Life magazine.
• Riviera Scottsdale mobile home park opened on Hayden Road near Green Acres Mortuary and Cemetery in June 1963.
• During the 1960s, Scottsdale Trailerville operated at 2700 N. Scottsdale Road, changing its name to Mountain View Mobile Home Park in 1969.
• Eldorado Park became Scottsdale’s first community park in 1967. A few years later, the park debuted the nation’s first urban campground, where many youth groups camped and held retreats. Overnight camping is no longer available at Eldorado.
• The Scottsdale Charros used a trailer at the old, wooden Scottsdale ballpark as their office during 1960s/1970s Spring Training. It is where the Charros’ “ladron,” or treasurer, would count the all-cash ticket revenue during each game, then turn the Cubs’ percentage over to the team secretary by the fourth inning so that the game could proceed.
• The Scottsdale Roadrunner Lake Resort, a 628-space mobile home park, opened in October 1970 on 92nd Street, approximately two blocks south of McDowell Road.
• Pueblo Sereno mobile home community opened in 1972 at 8350 E. McKellips Road just east of Hayden Road. Its ads in the Scottsdale Progress described free country club facilities, including a putting green and fishing lake with electric boats.
• A devastating flood of the Indian Bend Wash in 1972 claimed several families’ homes. The city of Scottsdale rented 24 trailers to house them in the Vista del Camino area. The families lived in the trailers until their HUD development program homes were completed later that year.
• With Scottsdale growing due to annexations and new residential areas, the city enacted its first mobile home zoning ordinance in 1970.
• Shadow Mountain Village, a 567-space mobile home park, opened in early 1973 at 8780 E. McKellips Road.
• By 2020, only a couple of mobile home or RV parks remained in the Scottsdale area; most are in the East or West valleys.
• During the 1960s/1970s, “going mobile” was a way to bring recreation to underserved areas of Scottsdale. Parks and recreation operated a FunMobile (city recreation services on wheels), the Scottsdale Public Library brought the BookMobile to areas far from the Civic Center Library, and the YMCA had a PoolMobile that brought a swimming pool on a flatbed truck to neighborhoods to teach kids how to swim.
• Since its opening in the mid-1980s as Horseman’s Park, WestWorld offers 398 RV spaces in eight lots, all with water and electricity. It is particularly popular during the annual All Arabian Horse Show.
• The Scottsdale Trailer Corral at 3202 N. Scottsdale Road is a hidden gem for RVers just south of Old Town Scottsdale.
• Tent campers can find spots at the county’s McDowell Mountain Regional Park and at several campgrounds in the Tonto National Forest.
• During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reported that many local medical personnel rented RVs to park in their driveways to shower and change clothes before entering their own family homes. RVs became a popular way to vacation during the pandemic, particularly when restaurants and accommodations were closed or had very limited services.
• Today, one of the city’s most popular “mobile” businesses is the food truck. Entire events are created around a gathering of gourmet grub on wheels.
• One more bit of trivia: On October 23, 1975, the opening night of the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Roger Miller was the featured performer. His most memorable hit was “Trailer for sale or rent…”
See you on the road or at the RV park!