Scottsdale’s global connections wind through history
By Joan Fudala
Most of us have been globally connected via the World Wide Web for over 20 years. We pretty much take for granted that we can reach new customers in China or old relatives in Warsaw, 24/7, from our desk top or mobile device. How did Scottsdale residents and businesses connect to the far corners of the world before this amazing and affordable technology? What were some of our earliest encounters and exchanges with people and cultures beyond the United States?
It goes without saying that Scottsdale has had a long history of cross-border links with Mexico, and that many in our population can trace their ancestry to Spain, Mexico and the native peoples of our neighboring country to the south. Scottsdale farmers and ranchers, like E.O. Brown, sponsored families from Mexico to immigrate to our town circa 1919 to work in the agriculture industry that was our pre-World War II economic engine. Scottsdale churches supported mission work in Mexico. In 1969, the city of Alamos in Sonora Mexico became Scottsdale’s first Sister City, and that relationship thrives today through student and cultural exchanges.
Beyond our steadfast friendship with Mexico, what are some of our historic ties to other lands and cultures, resulting from immigrants-turned-residents, visits, exchanges, missionary work and people-to-people programs?
Here are just a few of our historic global connections:
- During the Spanish American War (1898), students at Scottsdale’s original, one-room wooden schoolhouse took up a collection to provide relief to the starving people of Cuba.
- Jew Chew Song and his family were likely the first Chinese immigrants to settle in Scottsdale. They bought Johnny Rose’s pool hall on the northeast corner of Brown Avenue and Main Street in 1928 and converted it into a grocery store. Descendants of the family still own and operate the business, converted to Mexican Imports in the 1950s.
- World War II Italian Prisoners of War were the first to be housed in the Papago POW Camp on Scottsdale’s southwestern border, where many Scottsdale residents worked. POWs from German submarine crews replaced the Italians, and were interned there until the war ended in 1945. POWs helped dredge canals of the Salt River Valley Water Users Association and harvested crops at area farms while local men were away and serving in the military. Some of the German POWs enjoyed the local climate so much that they returned to the Scottsdale area to live after being repatriated to Germany. Several POW/Camp Papago staff reunions were held in Scottsdale. Members of a local organization (the Papago Trackers) formed lifelong friendships with the former German POWs, traveling to Germany to visit their friends and reminisce.
- Former ambassador to Italy, Clare Booth Luce, was a frequent visitor to Scottsdale during the late-1940s/1950s. A talented artist, The Honorable Mrs. Luce created a mosaic of the Virgin of Guadalupe to be used in the Miracle of the Roses pageant staged by the Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish. The greater Scottsdale area has had at least two other U.S. ambassadors: Coronado High School graduate Kathleen Stephens, who served as Ambassador to South Korea, 2008-2011, and Barbara Barrett, who served as Ambassador to Finland, 2008-2009.
- We’ve had several visits by European royalty. Circa 1958, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII of England and Wallis Simpson) dined at Lulu Belle’s on Main Street in Scottsdale while they were staying at the Arizona Biltmore and visiting Clare Booth and Henry Luce. In the 1950s, the Prince of Liechtenstein, Franz Joseph II, attended a performance of the Scottsdale Community Players at Scottsdale High School. Countess Elena owned and operated a beauty salon in 1960s downtown Scottsdale. King Michael of Romania and his family traveled to Scottsdale for the wedding of their daughter Irina in 1983; their wedding photo had a giant saguaro as backdrop. Prince Ranier of Monaco played golf at Desert Highlands Golf Course in 1988.
- Svetlana Stalin, daughter of Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, was married to Taliesin architect Wesley Peters and lived at Taliesin West/the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Scottsdale during the 1970s.
- Among the artists who immigrated to the Scottsdale area in the first half of the 20th century were Jesus Corral, Mexico; Paul Coze, France; and Paolo Soleri, Italy. They joined dozens of other artists, craft artisans and fashion designers that comprised our midcentury art-and-crafts industry. Native American craftsmen Lloyd Kiva and Charles Loloma each exhibited their work in shows and salons in Paris, bringing Scottsdale’s 1950s fashions to the epicenter of the fashion trade.
- Duncan McDonald, who built homes in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley in the 1930s and 1940s, was a Scotsman. McDonald drive is named in his honor; he named local streets where he built homes, such as Invergordon, after his native land.
- Brusally Arabians ranch owners Ed and Ruth Tweed established ties with Poland in the 1960s when they began importing prized Arabian horses from the country that was then within the Soviet Union sphere of influence. The Tweeds had previously imported Ayrshire cattle from Canada to their Scottsdale ranch. The Tweeds were among the originators of the internationally renowned Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in the mid-1950s, bringing fame and visitors to our community ever since.
- Austrian Irwin Securniac became Scottsdale’s first American Field Service (AFS) exchange student in 1958; he visited Scottsdale in 1974 to reconnect with the friends he made at Scottsdale High during his year here. In the 1960s, when AFS was in its heyday of student exchanges, Scottsdale area high schools and local host families learned about other countries and cultures through exchange students from Peru, Brazil, Kuwait, Denmark, Argentina and other countries. Several Scottsdale high school students spent a year abroad as AFS students, furthering the city’s international ties.
- For 18 years, Alamos, Mexico, was Scottsdale’s only sister city. During the mid-1980s, the city and the nonprofit Scottsdale Sister Cities Association (SSCA) sought additional global friendships. In 1987, Cairns, Australia, became Scottsdale’s second sister city, followed by Kingston, Ontario, Canada, in 1994; Interlaken, Switzerland, in 1998; Haikou, China, in 2010; and Marrakech, Morocco, in 2011-2012. Sitting mayors and members of the City Council made official visits to each new sister city; their mayors have also come to Scottsdale with diverse delegations. According to SSCA’s 2nd- quarter 2013 report, at least one other city is under consideration to become Scottsdale’s seventh sister city. Throughout the year, SSCA hosts groups from our sister cities, and sends students and adults to our sister destinations. SSCA also organizes exchanges that result in art exhibits, business relationships, tourism and medical connections.
- In 1975, thousands of South Vietnamese fled their country when it was overtaken by the North Vietnamese, most immigrating to the United States. In July 1975, St. Daniel’s Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church of the Holy Cross welcomed the first two Vietnamese families to Scottsdale, providing homes, furnishings and job assistance to help them resettle.
- The McCormick Stillman Railroad Park contains several monuments to Scottsdale’s international friendships. Thanks to the leadership of the late Zina Kuhn, a Russian/Polish immigrant and civic leader, Arizona’s Gratitude Train Car was moved to the park, refurbished, and dedicated on Veterans Day 1989. The car was one of 49 boxcars full of gifts sent to the United States in 1949 by the people of France in appreciation for our people-to-people relief efforts following World War II. Another historic train car at the park celebrates an international alliance: the Roald Amundsen Pullman car. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister McKenzie King signed the Ogdensburg Treaty in the car (which FDR used as his traveling White House), pledging mutual defense of the United States and Canada (the forerunner of the North American Air Defense Command). Also at the railroad park is a gazebo that replicates the bandstand in the public plaza of Alamos, Mexico, dedicated to our sister city relationship; as well as a clock from Interlaken, Switzerland, and a tree dedicated in honor of Cairns, Australia.
- Scottsdale has hosted numerous world athletic events, ranging from international baseball games at Scottsdale Stadium, to the Andersen World Championship of Golf at then-new Grayhawk Golf Course in 1995-1997, to polo matches at the former ABC Ranch in the 1960s,to an initial round of World Cup Soccer games in the mid-1990s. All these events attracted international athletes, coaches, sports media and fans.
- Years before the ease of Internet global connections, the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau began targeting potential visitors from Japan, France, Germany and Italy by translating brochures and visitor guides in their languages and participating in tradeshows in those countries and others, particularly in England and Japan.
- In 2000 the U.S. Customs Service began offering services at Scottsdale Airport for flights arriving from other nations. Today, the US-VISIT biometric-based service is available on both a scheduled and appointment basis for arriving flights.
- There is likely not a week that passes in Scottsdale that one of its congregations or faith organizations is not visiting a mission overseas, or bringing members of an overseas mission to Scottsdale. From Haiti to Kenya, and to the scenes of natural disasters, Scottsdale’s faith community continually provides relief supplies, educational materials, volunteer labor and medical supplies to countless third-world countries. These bonds of interfaith friendship are often forged without the benefit of technology.
Making international connections used to require much of effort and expense. Today, thanks to technology and a worldly mindset, Scottsdale’s global connections are a vital part of our economy, lifestyle and cultural mosaic.
Joan Fudala is a Scottsdale-based community historian and author. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.