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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Phoenix in the 1940s

(L) Members of Phoenix's A-1 beer women's softball team receive their new uniforms in the late 1940s (R) The control tower at Sky Harbor Airport in the 1940s

If you love Phoenix but missed the December, 2008 edition of Phoenix magazine, you missed a powerful 31 page picture laden edition prepared by Susie Steckner devoted to life in Phoenix during the 1940s. It’s worth your time to call the magazine and try to obtain a copy.

In 1940, Phoenix was an "agricultural community and a service center with retail and wholesale operations." However, tourism was making a move toward the Southwest and when WWII broke out in 1941, air bases like Luke in Phoenix and Williams in Mesa combined with defense plants being built, brought growth and new employment to the area.

It was a time of population boom with its obligatory housing boom, the addition of spring training baseball, and the emergence of some good leaders that guided the city’s growth in the 1945 post war era. Three of those leaders were Attorney Frank Snell, Valley Bank president Walter Bimson (as a former VB employee, reader Don is familiar with him), and publisher of The Arizona Republic, Eugene Pulliam.

In 1949, Barry Goldwater was elected to the Phoenix City Council where he served until his election in 1952 to the U.S. Senate. By 1950, the population of Phoenix had grown to 107,000, almost double the population of 1940. The boom was on.

From Phoenix magazine, here are some highlights of the 1940's: By 1940, passenger airline service was becoming popular at Sky Harbor. The airport proudly mentioned an observation deck that offered the "thrill of watching planes land and take off."

Jacque Joy Mercer of Phoenix won the Miss America contest in 1949. Also in 1949, KPHO signed on as the first TV station in Phoenix and was located in the Westward Ho Hotel. It was the only TV station between El Paso and San Diego.

The Boston Store had been a retail leader in downtown Phoenix for 50 years but in 1947 became Diamond’s which many years later became Dillard’s. In 1947, Diamond’s, Korrick’s, and Goldwater’s ruled the retail scene in Phoenix.

The December issue of Phoenix magazine is a collector’s issue for anyone who cares about the history of Phoenix. The cover is appropriate as it depicts Rosie the Riveter, a true hero of WWII and the 1940s.

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