Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Humble Pride

navajo code talkers, hopi code talkersMore than a decade after America honored its Navajo code talkers, Arizona’s Hopi code talkers are finally getting their due. But would they have wanted it?

Delores Yaiva never knew her father had been a code talker in World War II. Not until about six years ago, when she saw him featured in a documentary by an Arizona filmmaker that premiered at the Hopi Health Care Center in Polacca.

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Beyond the Map

PHM0814LASTL01It appears to be an entirely different place, a green countryside in the Midwest, perhaps. With open roads not crammed with cars, no chic coffee stop on every corner and not a single high-rise, the 1885 visage of farmland-Phoenix pictured on this map certainly looks nothing like Phoenix today.

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Whoa, Nellie!

From piloting to politics, the “Admiral of Arizona’s Navy” charted new waters in just about every state sector.

Even though she told the Arizona Republic in 1936 that roller skating “scares the life out of me,” Nellie T. Bush didn’t think twice when Arizona’s governor declared martial law and asked her to ferry armed National Guard troops across the Colorado River in 1934 to stop California workers from completing the controversial Parker Dam project. She probably didn’t even blink when her boat somehow got stuck in the water and her modest fleet had to be rescued by the Californians, in one of the more comical snapshots from Arizona’s long battle for Colorado River water. Despite the muddled mission being one of the most well-known aspects of her life, there’s way more to Bush’s story than that.

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Grave Matters

PHMPF34Mesa Cemetery, a manicured oasis for mourners and sightseers, reflects the community’s growth from Mormon outpost to cosmopolitan city.

Sneakers, shorts and spandex are the new black for visitors at historical Mesa Cemetery. Those strolling the landscaped, tranquil turf topped by stately Italian cypress trees are just as likely to exercise or picnic as they are to pay their respects to the departed. And since the launch last year of annual cemetery tours every spring, Mesa Cemetery is also a place for visitors to unearth some of the city’s colorful history. “I started here as a landscaper,” Mesa Cemetery coordinator Rick Fifield says. “It took me forever to mow because I was reading all the headstones.”

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Outlaw at Rest

Outlaw in State

Flowers. Coins. Unopened whiskey bottles. Bags of Baken-ets Hot ‘N Spicy pork rinds. These are just a few of the glut of gifts regularly left at the Mesa Cemetery grave site of famed country singer Waylon Jennings. Such presents are regularly removed per cemetery policy, but for all the adulation shown the late country crooner, his headstone is simple but dignified, marking the final resting place of “A vagabond dreamer, a rhymer and singer of songs.”

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Diamond Dames

PHM0714Flash-1-8They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But for some girls, this is only true if the diamond in question is the one you circle after smashing a hanging curveball into the cheap seats.

Formed in the early 1930s, Phoenix’s bygone semi-pro softball teams represented an era of surging wartime popularity for women’s sports in America as male athletes fought abroad. The Queens, along with their hometown rivals, the Ramblers, helped Phoenix become the unofficial softball capital of the world in the mid-20th century by winning multiple national championships in packed ballparks, according to a 2010 Arizona Republic article.

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O Brothers, Where Art Thou?

0614PHMPF25Back in the early ‘60s, the recently razed Mountain Shadows Resort hosted a hokey – and now hugely obscure – syndicated detective show..

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But in 1960 and 1961, what happened in the resort playground of Paradise Valley aired on syndicated TV.  

At least that was the case when the recently razed Mountain Shadows Resort was used as the background for a short-lived – and now virtually forgotten – syndicated TV crime drama called The Brothers Brannagan, about a pair of sibling private eyes who ran around the luxurious property keeping the guests and citizens safe. Filmed on location in the Valley and featuring the Mountain Shadows Resort sign in every episode, the show was a Dragnet-era Simon & Simon, with Phoenix standing in for San Diego.

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