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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PHOENIX, GENE AUTRY, AND WATER BAGS ON ROUTE 66


Recently my wife and I decided to stop by a restaurant in north Scottsdale that we have patronized for years.  When the place was built about 15 years ago, it was in a lonely desert setting in the Frank Lloyd Wright and Pima area.  In those days the patio was a nice place to sit and have a drink when the weather was pleasant.  Today, the patio faces an “on” ramp to the 101 and the restaurant has changed names. 

Not much stays the same in the Phoenix area.  I moved to Scottsdale in 1987 and remember when I would turn east on Bell Road off I-17, there was a mileage sign saying “Scottsdale 21 miles”.   That’s not very long ago but there were still Arabian horse farms along Bell Road around 60th Street.  They are long gone and replaced by strip malls and homes.

Scottsdale Road from Camelback Road to Carefree has heavy traffic, shopping areas, car dealerships, the 101, and four to six lanes all the way north but in the early 1960s, there was one traffic light at Lincoln Boulevard before you reached the Gainey and McCormick cattle ranches.  From there it was clear sailing the rest of the way.  The road was two lanes and paved but north of Bell it was like a roller coaster because of the many washes crossing the road.  It remained that way into the 1990s and from my experience, it was not a road you wanted to drive on when it rained.

1964-1970 was a great era to be young and partying in the Valley of the Sun.  It was the time of the “British Invasion” where The Beatles inspired a new wave of music from the UK tailored for the taste of the fickle younger crowd.  Clubs like JD’s and the Red Dog Saloon in Scottsdale did a brisk business.  For the teens it was the Pacesetter Club and the Fifth Estate.  There were even dances in the lobby entrance to Chris-Town Mall.  During this time Alice Cooper and his group The Spiders became a favorite of partiers as they did cover versions of tunes from The Rolling Stones.  Does anyone remember Phil and the Frantics playing at JD’s in those days?

Popular singing cowboy Gene Autry had strong ties to Phoenix.  While stationed at Luke AFB in 1942, he met future communications magnate Tom Chauncey who was a jeweler in downtown Phoenix at that time.  Gene and Tom saw a bright future for “over the air” media in the Phoenix area.  They pooled their resources and bought radio station KOOL which broadcasted Autry’s show “Melody Ranch”.  After his military discharge in 1945 and with television booming, Gene bought more stations and in 1953 expanded KOOL radio into the TV business with the establishment of KOOL-TV, Channel 10 (currently KSAZ).  He also bought KOPO-TV in Tucson (which became KOLD) and invested in several radio stations around Arizona.  Autry saw the future of TV and it made him a lot of money.

My first contact with Arizona was in August of 1959.  I was a wide eyed 18 year old kid with my buddy driving to Los Angeles from Cincinnati via Route 66 in a ’57 Chevy “six banger”.  I remember an attendant at a Whiting Bros. gas station in New Mexico telling me to get a burlap water bag on my bumper before driving across the desert.  The only time I had seen one of those was in the 1951 Kirk Douglas film “Ace in the Hole” where Kirk had one on his DeSoto.

The Whiting Bros. gas stations were a staple on Route 66 from 1926 until 1985 when 66 was decommissioned in favor of the interstates.  A few years later, they were gone leaving behind a lot of memories.  Bobby Troup summed up the old road in Arizona best in his song from 1948, “Route 66”:  “Flagstaff, Arizona.  Don’t forget Winona; Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.”

In 1940, John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” was filmed partly along Route 66.  It was a grim story about a family leaving the mid-west dust bowl during the 1930s Depression in search of a better life in California.  If you travel the backroads today you can still see evidence of the old road from that era.

             Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, and Dorris Bowden in "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)

33 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jack said...

Jim, I brought my dates up from Casa Grande to go dancing at the Red Dog many times. I bought a Pet Rock in Scottsdale for my grandmother about that time as it was the only place I could find one. I don't remember the name of the store but it was on a "ritzy" street there somewhere.
jack

Proud said...

We used to go to JD's, the Red Dog, and because we lived on the West side, we also frequented Mr Lucky's. JD's, like Lucky's, had 2 floors, country band upstairs, and rock in the basement, not sure I recall the Frantics? but I do remember seeing Waylon Jennings upstairs, before he was a star. Also vividly recall that "Scottsdale 21 miles " sign. We used to off load our dirt bikes the N/E corner of Bell & Scottsdale Rds, there was nothing there except a dried up old livestock water hole. The only thing in the area was Tom Chaucey's, he was on the West side of Scotts. Rd. You could rip across the desert until you came upon the original Pinnacle Peak areas, or Raw Hide...

Jim McAllister said...

Jack, That may have been Stetson or one of those streets on the west side of Scottsdale Road where you got the pet rock. What a great con that pet rock was. Some guy was a genius who thought that up.

The Red Dog was before my time here but I have heard a lot about it. Don Williams is my main source for Scottsdale information as he has lived here since '61 and remembers everything from those days.

Proud, I remember Tom Chauncey's Arabian Ranch. That was a beautiful area with the horses and Scottsdale just a two lane road. It';s really a clogged up mess today.

I came down in December of '79 from Kansas City to run in the Fiesta Bowl Marathon and we ran right by there. That run from Dynamite down Scottsdale Rd. was two lanes and crossed by many washes; very primitive compared to now. No 101 then, of course. If you went south it had to be on Pima or Hayden.

sam said...

Moved here in '73 upon retiring from the Navy. But, first passed through in '54 with another Navy guy who graduated Gunners Mate School with me in Bainbridge, MD. His dad was a doctor in Scottsdale, and made sure I hit all the places in town during the 2 days we spent here. Hehe,,,,dont remember the names of any of them, but the places consisted of a few bars, a couple ranches, and Old Town shopping. I dont recall many details, but I do recall not seeing many of the places in '73, but the Arabians were still there, along with much of OLd Town shopping area. Kids constantly begged me to take them to the ice-cream parlor just off 5the street, I believe. And, Pet Rocks were still being sold to the visitors from Mid West and New England.

A Hired Gun said...

Jim: Glad to see you haven't let the Republic destroy what you love doing. I look forward to many more.

CJinPhoenix said...

I was just racking my brain to remember where JD's was. Did it become something else by the time I was old enough to go out? Scene's West? Minderbinder's? I was at both those places sometime in the late 70s. Plus, there was another little hole in the ground that I heard had been there forever & has been gone forever but I don't remember the name. Just that I heard the Tubes played there as the Beans at the time (back when the Tubes were still hot). Plus, I was all over Mr. Lucky's -- upstairs & especially downstairs -- because, although the drinking age was 19 back then, they let 18yo girls in no problem.

You had to delete someone, Jim?

Jim McAllister said...

Note that I didn't capitalize "Boo-boo," for fear you might confuse it with my not-so favorite narcissistic ____________ fill in Montini expletive and add "head!".

We had a discussion re water bags long ago in the AZ Talk forum, you and I did ..... didn't we? They were made of canvas, not burlap. Desert Water Bag. I've still got one hanging out in the back shed somewhere. Hung from the radiator ornament on the front of the rig in front of the radiator where the air would pass through, the combination of wind and evaporation kept the water in the canvas water bag nice and cool.

The use of burlap came in when one took an old gallon glass jug - usually an empty, brown Purex jug - and wrapped it in burlap for insulation to use in place of the canvas water bag. Filled with spring water and left in a tub to soak the burlap overnight, the water in the jug would stay cool all day long. Not only that, but with multiple wraps of burlap bound with baling wire, that cushioned the jug so the glass didn't break.

"Melody Ranch" sure brought back fond memories. Also learned a bit of Autry radio station history I never knew.

Nice job!
"FD"

Jim McAllister said...

Sam, It sounds like when you were here in '73 it was about the same as when I first came in '79. Downtown was pretty much "it" in Scottsdale. Lots of tee shirt places and curios, not the "hoity-toity" place it became. LOL I think the Arabian horses were big then. That was before the tax situation changed on them\ and people started getting out.

AHG, It's been a while! Welcome back. I'm continuing on like I never missed a step. Actually, this blog has always been more fun than Plugged-in because I had such a free rein; no censorship or rules from the paper.

CJ, I don't know where JD'd was but Don Williams would know (ran26385@msn.com). He has lived here since '61 and knows about all those places. I know it didn't become Minderbinder's. It was on McClintock in Tempe.

I didn't delete someone for one of the usual reasons. Jack accidently hit the enter key twice on his entry so I zapped one of them off.

Jim McAllister said...

Fancy, I don't know why I keep getting mixed up on canvas vs. burlap on those water bags. You're right, we did discuss a long while back and you are right: they were CANVAS bags.

It was amazing how cool the water stayed in those bags. Being an Ohio kid, I wasn't used to the AZ heat in '59 and took many a pull off that bag. I was hoping I had a photo of the Chevy with the bag hanging from it but I don't.

Autry was quite a businessman and made a ton of money in broadcasting ownership and acting and singing. He also owned the Los Angeles Angeles baseball team. I still enjoy his old films with Smiley Burnette when the are on Encore.

CJinPhoenix said...

Yeah, the old Minderbinder's is still there. So is Mr. Lucky's. Both are standing empty though.

Good thing that it was just Jack. I was fixin' to go all crazy on somebody. Jack may not get much crazier on these things than hitting the enter key twice, but I sure can ... Just kidding. I think. But promise me you will delete that nasty old so & so if he ever manages to find this blog. Please. You know who I mean, Jim.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Jim,

My dad was a 1st Lt at Willy, and my mom a student at ASu when they got married. Dad bought a "worthless piece of desert" for $50 an acre in 1958. That piece of desert provided for my mom's retirement not too long ago. 4 acres in the Shea/101 area.

Don't know much about Scottsdale back then (I was 4 when we moved back to the Valley in 1965), but I remember when Rural Rd was two lane south of Southern, and dirt not far south of that.

Minderbinders has been Minderbinders as long as I can remember. You also had Dooley's, Willy and Guillermo's, Lundt Ave Marble Club, and a host of other bars in Tempe.

Funny, all I wanted to do was get out of Arizona way back when. Now I cant think of anywhere I'd rather live.

Jim McAllister said...

Note from Larry (duxoup)

Jim
Since I attempt to avoid Google whenever I can I'll respond in this way.

My wife's folks and brother moved to Az from IL back in the 50's. I recall first visiting, the year is fuzzy (1970?), but Pima Rd. pavement ended around Shea then. North of Shea it was dirt.

In late Sept. 1952 Betty and I were married and spent our honeymoon in Monterey, CA. (I was USAF, but assigned to the Language School at the Presidio for training)and when we entered CA on RTE 66 we noticed many of those bags (then they were all hung on the front bumpers)but had no idea what they were for. Since, westbound, we drove all night through the Mojave and went through Tehachapi Pass at night we didn't notice the heat. Found out about that a year later in August '53 when we took US 66 from L.A. back to IL.

fyi, Channel 8 has had several fascinating shows on Scottsdale/Phoenix's history. Can't remember the series name.

Larry Rupp
(dux)

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Larry. I've talked to Joanne Handley of Scottsdale Historical Society and she has related her childhood to me in early Scottsdale. Interesting stuff for sure and Paul Messinger has a great column he writes regularly in the Scottsdale Republic. Both are in the vicinity of 80 and remember the real pioneer days here. I'm a newbie having never been here before 1979 but even then I remember Shea still having farms in the Pima and Shea area.

midnightsstaff said...

Well another discussion about a place I have never been in a time I was living down some rabbit hole I fell in, but believe me the same thing thing has happened everywhere in the west.
For instance I remember going to a beach called hole in the fence which was on PCH between San Clemente and Dana Point. in those days I could just pull over, drop trou and pull on my jams- no sunscreen unfortunately, and after an afternoon at the beach run across the highway to a little taco stand across the highway and buy a pitcher of suds and a couple of fish tacos for less than a fin. came home smelling like beach after a long day at work... haha. she never caught on..
things change.
memories are made everyday Jim... never lose sight of that or you have descended into a place with no return.

Mike Slater said...

Jim, as you know I'm a phoenix native and have seen many changes over the years. I remember Scottsdale and Cave Creek roads being two lanes and were roller coaster roads because of the washes.

If I'm not mistaken Bell rd. from 40th street to Scottsdale road wasn't paved until the middle 70's.

Back in the 70's the Arabian horse ranches on bell and Scottsdale roads were in the area that as a phone company employee I took care of. It was always a treat to go there. After my work was done I'd go watch the horses. They had a great life. Coolers in the barns and a swimming pool to exercise in.

Now as I drive up I-17 from Deer Valley rd. to New River instead of open desert all I see is houses and stores. I guess they call that progress but I miss the old days.

Jim McAllister said...

Kevin, 4 acres at 101 and Shea for $50 an acre?! Brilliant purchase, your dad saw the future. That is one of the busiest corners in Arizona. It was that way before the 101 was even built and the crossroad was Pima. Great investment.

I remember the Lunt Ave. Marble Club on Scottsdale Rd. near McDonald. I know there were a few more around town. We used to eat there pretty much.

I stopped in Minder Binders a few times. they had a small place in back outdoors where I think they did some music.

CJ, Don't worry about that loser. I purposely didn't announce the address of this blog on the old blog so he wouldn't see it. I've had more than enough of that guy for several lifetimes.

Jim McAllister said...

Middy, You're right, memories are made every day. Some good, some bad. That sounds like it was good times in those Dana Point days. That's a great area and I'm sure it was a joy to be young and be there. Most of us are fortunate to have enjoyed our youth. I've always felt sorry for those who couldn't because of illness or other reasons. I never get tired of talking about history.

I wish I would have had more sunscreen in those days. I'm on a first name basis with my dermatologist these days. Oh, well, what the hell, he has to make a living too.

Mike, I remember those roller coaster roads too. That's the way Scottsdale Rd. was from Dynamite on down in 1979 when i did the Fiesta Bowl Marathon.

I remember as late as 1987 when we would turn right on Tatum from Bell going north and it was two lane and went straight into desert after a couple of plant nurseries.

I loved the horse farms on Bell. I especially remember Karho and Kaaba. Karho was the one on the north side of Bell with the white columns and the pool and Kaaba was across the street and west of there. On weekends, there were always a lot of people selling stuff off trucks in that area and especially at FL Wright and Scottsdale Rd.

Rick Kepple said...

A "six banger." Straight six or slant six? Either way, they're good reliable engines. You couldn't run them on unleaded gas unless you made fuel/oil mix or something. The lead in the fuel lubricated the cylinders.

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Rick,

That '57 Chevy was a straight 6 stick shift Bel Air two door sedan. It was that old light blue they had then with a white top. Real nice car; I kept it until '62 and sold it to a guy I was stationed with in the USAF. I think it had about 70,000 on it by then which was about the limit for cars of that era before the troubles stared setting in. It's a lot different from now; I run them to 120,000 these days with no trouble. My 2005 Hyundai XG350 has 85,000 and drives like the day I bought it new. Hell, I don't consider it even broke in good yet!

CJ Phoenix said...

Yeah, new cars do seem to run better longer than back in days of big heavy beasts that ran half on momentum. When new cars do have problems, though, it can cost as much to fix them as it cost to buy a whole new car back in the days.

Jim McAllister said...

CJ, That '57 Chevy cost $2,800 new in October of '57. It was pretty much through by 70,000 miles. I bought my Hyundai in August 2005 for $20,000 and it still runs perfect with no rattles or other problems at 85,000 miles. I paid about 7 times more for the Hyundai but I think in the long run it was a much better deal than the Chevy primarily because cars are built so much better today, last longer, and are so much more dependable.

I still love those old '50s heaps though and the sound of a '57 Chevy or Ford V8 taking it up to about 60 in second gear and letting off the treadle with a couple of glass pack mufflers. It was a great sound that we no longer hear.

I'm reminiscing again! lol

Rick Kepple said...

Modern water bags on Route 66, are sugar babies. I love election years. The economy is improving, they say. Unemployment is dropping, they say. Yet, the newspaper says that meatless meals are trendy. Everyone's broke. Heck, I left my 2003 Jeep out in the weather and put the 1987 Jeep pickup truck in the barn. It's a classic. They only made about 200,000 in four wheel drive.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick, So far all the reports of an improving economy are written by liberal publications like the AZ Republic and Washington Post.

Those figures are phony as can be and even what they print isn't encouraging. The unemployment remained at 8.3 (actual 14.9 when figured correctly)and oil keeps going up which will slow the economy down. Obama is in over his head.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,
Hopefully this comment comes through. Glad you mentioned my boyhood western hero, Gene Autry. And like one other admirer of your column said, glad you didn't allow the shortsightedness of the Republic to wipe out your commentary.
Allen

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Allen, Thanks for getting through on the comments. It's always a pleasure hearing from you.

Autry was a good guy although like many of our western heroes, was of short stature although not as short as another favorite, Bob Steele who was 5' 5" tall. Strangely, when I think of Steele, I always think of his short but enjoyable role as "Canino" in The Big Sleep.

A few months ago Encore Westerns was showing a lot of the old Autry films with Smiley Burnette as his sidekick. Great old western matinee stuff loaded with some of our favorite character actors like the original Alice Kramden, Pert Kelton; Ray Teal, George Cleveland, and Stanley Andrews (The old ranger). Autry made 18 of those films in three years according to IMDB.

As far as the demise of the AZ Republic's Plugged-in blogs, it was an unfortunate thing. We had a nice 5+ year run though and I met a lot of nice people, some of whom are tuning into this current effort on Blogspot. Plugged-in messed up by switching to only accepting comments through Facebook since some of the4 political bloggers were getting a bit out of line with their nasty comments. That was a total failure as many people (including me) had no interest in joining Facebook hence, they have gone to a new system which so far is getting no action at all. I was asked to join it but they were paying some people and not others and wanted us to sign contracts, etc. No thanks!

I have been doing this blog since 2005 and a lot of the entries were from my Republic blog so I have managed to save them.

I publish about every 4 or 5 days so be sure to stop back.

justcallmelater said...

I am paranoid these days. I figured out what's going on in the world and they know that I know. There's an old 1950's memo that explains it all. I can be bought. Then I too can play golf in Phoenix, sit and watch water bags on Route 66 wrapped in burlap to keep them cool. I know who is doing it and why. It's not who you think it is. It's arrrrggghhhhh....

Rick Kepple said...

You should do a blog on spy movies of the Cold War. The Muslim writer is of no concern to me and best left alone. The old spy movies are pretty good, but I still think that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick, Good point. There are some good spy movies. The first one I think of is "The Spy Who Came in From The Cold" from 1965 with Richard Burton and "The Spy Who Loved me" from 1977 with Roger Moore as James Bond. Lots of other good ones too, maybe I'll do a piece on them.

Rick Kepple said...

"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold," is definitely a great film of the secret battles with the Soviets and so much more. It's so realistic, like in 1954, when the CIA and MI6 allegedly formed a partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt, doing this while picking on the Soviets and the Chinese. The MB helped to place Muslim leaders in government, but they failed back then. Author John le Carre did a brilliant job, critics say, of portraying the intelligence community as being inconsistent with American values as commonly accepted by ordinary people. In real life, they'd target family and friends of people who were opposed to the secret plans. There would be a knock at the door and ......... next chapter. These days, the books and movies are just a lot of violence and sex. Today's fiction leaves nothing for the imagination.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick, You're right, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" is a great film. Very dark, depressing as one would figure the lifestyle would be in that profession and location plus black and white production values add to the feeling of the film.

I don't go to many films any more and from attendance figures across the nation, I am not the only one skipping them. Too many special effects; they need to get back to good acting and quit worrying about the French pastry.

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