Who Knew?: Quirky bits of Scottsdale history that still fascinate

Who Knew?: Quirky bits of Scottsdale history that still fascinate

By Joan Fudala

Some threads of Scottsdale history are monumental — 1888 founding, agricultural era, World War II impact, 1951 incorporation — while others are just plain fascinating.

For old timers, these are the triggers for pleasant memories. For newcomers, they might be head scratchers or links to recollections of their own hometown. For anyone, they are too good to be forgotten.

Who knew that:

ν Scottsdale was nearly named Orangedale (for its citrus groves) or Utleyville (after a major landowner Albert Utley). However, townsfolk decided that honoring founder and leading citizen Chaplain Winfield Scott might be most appropriate. In early listings, it was spelled with a hyphen, “Scotts-dale.”

ν As most early settlers in Scottsdale were teetotalers, they were ardent supporters of the temperance movement. Anti-Saloon League rallies were held here. Some property owners put restrictions on their deeds, declaring that liquor would never be sold or consumed here. After nationwide prohibition was repealed in the 1930s, the first taverns and cafes serving alcohol opened in Scottsdale. Further signs of change — one of the first five town councilmen, Jack Sweeney, owned the Saguaro Inn Tavern; three-term Mayor Herb Drinkwater owned a liquor store. Today, Scottsdale is known for its vibrant nightlife and has a wine trail throughout Old Town Scottsdale.

ν In 1917-18, Scottsdale Grammar School children collected peach and apricot pits in a drive to provide filter material for gas masks used in the Great War (World War I).

ν Cotton growing was Scottsdale’s main economic engine beginning in the 1910s. A cotton gin opened on the south side of Second Street at Brown Avenue in the early 1920s and operated through the 1950s. The building was repurposed in the 1980s as a farmers market and trolley barn, in the 1990s as The Works nightclub, and torn down for expansion of the then-Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn campus.

ν Members of Scottsdale’s art colony, led by Garnet Davy Grosse and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, originated National Art Week here in 1922.

ν Facilities used to house World War II German prisoners of war were converted into a temporary veterans hospital in Papago Park. The hospital served vets from 1946 until the permanent VA Hospital opened in 1951 in Phoenix.

ν During the late 1940s, the Treasure Island Amusement Park offered “thrilling rides, swell games and loads of fun,” per an August 4 ad in the Arizona Republic. It was located three-quarters of a mile off East Van Buren on Scottsdale Road near the Welfare Sanatorium.

ν The Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce opened the town’s winter tourist season with a dinner that “featured a 4-square-foot chicken pie” and “entertainment included hillbilly music and square dancing,” according to a blurb in the December 12, 1949, Arizona Republic.

ν During the Cold War years of the 1950s, Scottsdale farmers and ranchers like Mike Dominguez had their specialized equipment logged by Maricopa County Civil Defense officials — trucks, tractors and trailers, “which might be brought into play in case of a mass evacuation” or other disaster, according to the April 5, 1951, Scottsdale Progress. There were air raid warning klaxons at Motorola and Kaibab Elementary School, which were tested regularly. O’Malley Lumber Co. sold do-it-yourself fallout shelter kits at its Scottsdale location.

ν In 1954, George Bergstrom moved his La Solana Pottery ovenware business from Southern California to a plant on Second Street in Scottsdale. One of two small factories on Second Street in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale, Bergstrom’s pastel-colored Solanaware was a popular wedding gift and was given away as an incentive at gas stations throughout the United States.

ν From the December 12, 1956, Arizona Republic: “Dancing, presently forbidden within the town city limits here (in Scottsdale), will be allowed on special occasions at the nearly completed Hotel Valley Ho, the city council (sic: it was then a town council) decided last night.”

ν During the 1950s there were proposals to build a Muslim temple and a motocross track at Curry’s Corner, the intersection of Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak roads.

ν The Parada del Sol parade has lots of quirky legends and lore. At least five times in the 1950s and 1960s, the winner on the “Queen for a Day” TV show was gifted a trip to Scottsdale, often attending Parada. A highlight of the run-up to Parada for Scottsdale men was the Remington-sponsored “Whiskerino” contest. Prizes were given for the best and worst beards, which had been grown over a three-month period.

ν In February 1962, residents of South Scottsdale turned up in force wearing gas masks to protest the stench emanating from Scottsdale’s Sewage Treatment Plant.

The American Heritage Wax Museum, an affiliate of Madame Tussaud’s of London, operated from 1961 to 1971 on Stetson Drive (today the approximate location of the Marshall Way bridge and Southbridge). Museum tour guides were high school coeds dressed in cowgirl costumes.

ν Billie Jean King, who won the 1967 Phoenix Thunderbird Tennis Tournament, was named the Female Athlete of the Year 1968.

ν The August 12, 1968, issue of the Scottsdale Progress reported that “when the new Scottsdale civic center complex opens in October it will have something for everyone — even the kids. Plans now call for the installation of a ‘spider monkey’ island in a large pond on the grounds. The uncaged monkeys will be allowed to cavort on poles and swings placed on the island.” The front-page article further stated that peacocks and African brush chickens would also be allowed to wander around the grounds. None of it happened — yet. But there were swans.

ν Fossilized bones were discovered by a heavy equipment operator in 1971 during excavation for a lake on the McCormick Ranch master-planned community. ASU geologists tentatively identified the bones as those of a giant mammoth, prehistoric horses, tortoises and ground sloth.

ν During the 1980s, several Scottsdale-based members of the Hashknife Pony Express took a detour and rode their horses up the city hall stairs to visit Drinkwater.

ν In 1990 there were discussions to locate a UFO (unidentified flying object) center in Scottsdale. The former Loloma School was one of the sites considered. It didn’t happen. In the mid-1990s there was talk of locating a space museum here which, among other things, would feature the art of Scottsdale area resident Robert McCall. That didn’t happen either.

People, places, projects and proposals — some mainstream, some quirky — continue to give us a rich history and plenty of reasons for nostalgia.

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