From Saloon to Salvation

Written by Bryce Bozadjian Category: History Issue: November 2015
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When William McIntyre made the trek to Arizona in 1893, little did he know he would end up converting an old saloon into Salvation Army barracks. Sent to scout expansion options for the SA, the San Francisco district officer rented a room in The Road to Ruin saloon, positioned in the hooking and hustling district of Phoenix. The saloon was later renamed “The Road to Heaven” and became Phoenix’s first Salvation Army corps.

It was the beginning of a tradition of social and financial assistance in Arizona that has spanned every war and natural disaster of the last century. During WWII, the Salvation Army operated the sanctuary pictured in the photo above – a “rest and reading room” for armed service members awaiting or returning from deployment. Purportedly, General George S. Patton stopped by one day for a visit. Through its Valley branches, SA also spearheaded outreach to disadvantaged and marginalized communities. In the photo below, a pair of Army officers pose for a photo op with Arizona Senator Cloves Campbell Sr. – the first African-American to hold such an office in Arizona – and other prominent members of the Valley’s black community at a 1960s-era awards banquet. The Army continues to engage the Valley with annual philanthropic events. “Our largest event of the year is Christmas dinner, where we serve 7,500 sit-down meals at the Phoenix Convention Center,” says SA Major John Brackenbury, The Valley of The Sun Program coordinator.   

The Army began in 1852, when Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine wandered the streets of London, preaching to thieves, gamblers, drunkards and prostitutes. Many of these people heard their gospel, converted, and became “soldiers of Christ.” In the decades that followed, the evangelical movement spread to other countries and continents. There are currently 3.5 million Army volunteers worldwide.

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