Wednesday, December 18, 2019


A vintage Stearman PT-17 Trainer biplane aircraft arrived in Scottsdale in May of 2017 and eventually became a display piece hanging from the ceiling of the Thunderbird Field II Plaza and Memorial at the Scottsdale Aviation Business Center.  The plane’s flight originated in Cotter, Arkansas and made several stops on its way to Scottsdale.

You may be wondering what the Stearman aircraft was.  As a member of the U. S. Air Force in the 1960’s I must confess that I never heard of it until this year when I read a great book called “Flight of Passage” written by a guy named Rinker Buck.  In that book, Mr. Buck recounts a trip he and his brother Kern made as teenagers in 1966 from New Jersey to California flying in a small unadorned Piper Cub aircraft.

Rinker and Kern’s father was an old time stunt pilot who flew many different planes including Stearmans in an earlier era and had been highly impressed with the crop duster pilots of the mid-west who he referred to as the “Stearmen men of the west.” 

As far as the Stearman PT-17 Trainer, the company had quite a history after being founded by Lloyd Stearman in 1927 as the Stearman Aircraft Corporation.  Their factory was built in Wichita, Kansas and by 1934 the company was bought out by Boeing.  The PT-17 was a tough little plane and was usually the first aircraft a pilot in training would fly when becoming a U. S. Naval Aviator or Army Air Corps Cadet.

Although the U. S. Army Air Corps needed new bi-plane trainers by the mid 1930’s they were hampered by a lack of funds needed for purchasing them.  Fortunately, after the Navy’s purchase of some Stearmans in 1935, the Army was able to follow in 1936 with a purchase of 26 of their own.  By 1940, 3,519 Stearman trainers were delivered mostly because of the threat of World War II.  It was a popular plane as it was rugged, easy to fly, and very forgiving of new pilots which takes us back to the previously mentioned “Stearmen men of the west.”

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


This column originally posted on December 7, 2011

  (The New Pearl Harbor Museum Opened on 12-7-2010)

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan."

With that statement describing the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this nation was thrust into World War II. The first wave of Japanese aircraft attacked at 7:53 a.m. and by the end of the second wave at 9:45 a.m., the U.S. had suffered casualties of 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, while 1,178 were wounded.

Of the dead, 1,177 were men stationed on the USS Arizona, which was destroyed when a bomb hit the forward magazine, starting a series of explosions. Eight Arizona residents were listed among the dead on the battleship, which was moored near Ford Island on that dreadful morning 65 years ago.

Today the remains of the Arizona still lie in the same shallow water where she sat helpless during the attack. In 1962, the ship was declared a national shrine and a memorial was built across her remains. A room within the shrine lists the names of the dead crew members, and regular memorial services are performed to respect their memory. A new U.S. flag is raised each day above the site, and at the end of the day is folded and given to various dignitaries.

Time has taken its toll on the memorial and in September, 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano toured the site and pledged Arizona’s help in raising $34 million to build a new visitors’s center. ("Napolitano to help raise $34 million for USS Arizona," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 20, 2005).

"It’s Arizona’s battleship," she said in the article. "When it was commissioned (1916), they broke not just a bottle of champagne over its bow, but a bottle of water that had just come from the newly created Roosevelt Dam. We’ve always had a close connection with the USS Arizona."

Napolitano also declared 2006 as the "Year of the USS Arizona Memorial."

Many of the dead from the Arizona are still entombed within its hulk. Oil still seeps from the wreckage after 65 years and is sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona." Each year the number of survivors decreases and many of them have made arrangements to be cremated with their ashes placed by their fallen shipmates at the site. Many of these men believe that the oil will continue to leak until the last survivor dies

Sunday, November 19, 2017


If you drive north on Scottsdale Road, you will notice the Summit Shopping Center located on the east side of the road just before you reach Carefree Highway. It’s a high-volume center that contains a Safeway and a Target surrounded by many other businesses, including three Starbucks. There is nothing unique about that, but the land where the center was built has a story that may not be familiar except to those who have lived in the area for the last 40 years or more.

The Summit was built in 2000 on 47 acres that used to be part of Carefree Studios, a movie and television production company. It was originally called the Fred Graham Studios when built in 1968, as it was established by Graham, a movie stuntman and actor who appeared in almost all of John Wayne’s films. By 1970, Graham had recruited Dick Van Dyke to do a new sitcom series at his property. It was a good fit as Van Dyke was living in nearby Cave Creek and didn’t want to make the weekly trip to Hollywood for taping.

It was around that time that the property’s name was changed to Carefree Studios. The 160-acre complex featured three state-of-the-art sound stages, edit bays, a 35-mm screening room, a make-up department, production facilities, a “Western” street and a back lot. One of Orson Welles’ last films, “The Other Side of the Wind” (1972) was done there, as was Bob Hope’s last feature film, “Cancel My Reservation” (1972). Scenes were shot there for Paul Newman’s “Pocket Money” (1972) and Bill Cosby’s feature debut, “Man and Boy” (1971), which was filmed mainly on the Western street.

Fred Graham died in 1979 at age 71. After the Van Dyke show completed its run in the early 1970s and the aforementioned films and others were completed, the studio didn’t have much activity. In the 1980s, a local broadcaster led a group trying to establish more business at the site, and its name was briefly changed to Southwestern Studios, but it didn’t last long. State Farm Insurance took over the property, and stories have it that the company would allow use of the studios only for family-rated and general-audience type of pictures. By 1999, State Farm decided to sell it, and that is when the Summit developers stepped in. In August of 1999, the Phoenix Business Journal reported that the buildings of Carefree Studios had been demolished the month before to make room for the Summit Center. There were many complaints initially, especially from homeowners associations, about the building of a Target. Many thought it was inappropriate for an exclusive area that included Terravita, Whisper Rock and Winfield. However, the Summit was built and has been quite successful. Unfortunately, today there is no trace of the excitement that Fred Graham’s Carefree Studios once produced. It’s as though it never existed.  

As far as “Zabriskie Point,” there are some scenes from it that were filmed at Carefree in 1970.  It was a counter culture filof the type that was popular at that time.  Unfortunately for Director Michelangelo Antonioni, the story meant little to Americans and never became very popular.  However, it did have an exciting finish with a dramatic scene that includes the blowing up of a facsimile of a fancy house that was modeled after a home on Black Mountain in Carefree.  (Click orange print to see)
Today, the location of that scene is still very noticeable if one looks north from the ungated intersection of Ashler Hills Drive and 74th Way which is located behind the Summit Center. The distant area is now a gated community but the boulders shown in the film and in the below photos as part of the property still look as in tact as they did in 1970. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017


By Dave Wells
(Dave Wells is a former resident of Scottsdale who is a prolific writer and golf enthusiast.  Dave recently wrote the following tribute for "The Peak" in Scottsdale to honor the late great golfer Arnold Palmer.  Dave is a former resident of Scottsdale now living in Tennessee where he plays golf as much as possible.  Thanks to Dave for permission to re-print this story and thanks to Les Conklin for his fine work publishing "The Peak." J. Mc.)
A reporter once asked actor Kirk Douglas, “Of the famous people you have known. who possessed the most personal magnetism?” The reporter then reeled off a list of celebrities that included John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and Frank Sinatra.
The reporter, obviously not a golf enthusiast, was taken aback when Douglas instantly responded, “Arnold Palmer.”
Many have said that Palmer brought the game of golf to the masses. His personal magnetism, charisma and respect for fans were a big part of that success. It’s truly impressive that Palmer, despite his celebrity and grueling schedule, patiently responded to every autograph request with a legible signature.

Memorable Quotes

Arnie Palmer died a year ago this month on September 25, 2016. He left behind a reputation as one of golf’s best players, many friends and numerous memorable quotes. On the anniversary of his passing, here are some of my favorite Arnie Palmer quotes.
“Golf is a way of testing ourselves while enjoying ourselves.”
“The more I practice the luckier I get.”
“As a friendly side bet, and if you make par without hitting the fairway, you’ve won yourself an Arnie.”
“I think the average intelligent person can learn to fly an airplane, but not necessarily become a competent putter.”
“Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.”
The quote of all Arnie quotes probably is from the very contentious preliminary meeting that was held at Palmer’s Bay Hill Club to discuss the idea of establishing a television channel devoted to golf. Different opinions were expressed and tempers flared. However, the room became quiet when Palmer spoke. He said, “Guys, if I had not hit the golf ball through the trees a few times in my life, none of us would be here today.” The participants settled down and focused on the challenge before them. The result was the founding of the Golf Channel in 1995.

“The 10 Commandments for Golf Etiquette”

Golf Digest once asked Palmer to list his “Ten Commandments” for golf course manners. Arnie’s list included, “Turn off your cell phone.” “Always look your best.” “Repair the ground you play on.” And, “Be a silent partner.”
What was Arnie’s first commandment? “Don’t be the slowest player.”

Author with Arnie Palmer. Courtesy Dave Wells.
I played golf with Palmer at Bay Hill on a beautiful sunny day in February 1989. It was the first time that I met him. On that day, golf’s “King,” as he was respectfully known, taught me the meaning of the word friendship.
Playing the game well had a very high priority with me. But Arnie wanted to know more about me as a person than about my game. He mentioned that he had made many, many friends while playing golf.
He was a listener. He wanted to hear your thoughts and interests before he spoke about his golfing life and accomplishments. Then, as the round continued, he would provide tips and make some remarks – some humorous and some serious about friendship. Here are four examples.
“You want two strokes a side; all you get today is a friendship.”
“The best gift you will ever receive is a friendship.”
“A very important part of the game of golf is who you meet on the golf course.”
“Be competitive, but always have fun on the golf course.”

The 19th Hole

Palmer amd Special Friend, Mulligan. Courtesy Dave Wells.
He was and is “The King” in the golfing world. Arnold Palmer will not only be remembered as a great golfer, but also as a friend to many. In 2000, he received the first Annual Payne Stewart Award. The award was based on three qualities, character, charity, and sportsmanship.
Palmer, who taught so many, learned from his father, “Deacon Palmer.” The older Palmer put a set of sawed off golf clubs in his son’s hands at age four and the rest is history. In 1955, Arnold won the Canadian Open, his first PGA victory. And do you remember, Arnie winning the Phoenix Open Invitational three years in a row? He won the tournament at the Arizona Country Club in 1961, at the Phoenix Country Club in 1962, and again at the Arizona Country Club in 1963. Amazing!
The title of Arnie’s book, published the year of his death, says it all, “A Life Well Spent.”

Another Championship. Courtesy Dave Wells.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Can it be?  Today, August 21, 2017, is the 50th anniversary of Barb’s and my marriage.  I guess we are doing something right as it has been a great half century for us.  

We met in 1965 in Cincinnati, Ohio a couple of months after I was discharged from the U. S. Air Force in September of that year.  It was a classic case of me falling for the proverbial “girl next door.”  She didn’t live next door went I went into the service in 1961 but miraculously she had moved in with her family while I was gone.

Since we were both students at the University of Cincinnati, we drove together to school many times and after she got her teaching degree in 1967 we got married and moved to Missouri where she began her teaching career.  At the same time, I completed by bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Missouri which was near the base where I had been stationed in the USAF.

After my graduation in 1969 I spent a career in sales to the grocery store industry in the Kansas City area.  At the same time Barb taught elementary school near our home in Johnson County, Kansas near Kansas City.  By 1989, we retired to Scottsdale, Arizona where we have lived since.  It’s hot in the summer but the winters are great.

We have been fortunate to have a lot of good things fall into place over the years.  Hopefully we will be as fortunate during the next 50 years!

Thanks for reading and leave comments below if you wish!



SCOTTSDALE, AZ, AUGUST 21, 2017 (Yes, that's MY hair!)


Monday, July 17, 2017


I love expressions from the past, especially the ones we see in classic films. These expressions were once applied universally to our lifestyles and the technology of the time but most have become a bit out of date.  For those of a certain age, you will understand them; for the younger crowd, maybe not. Either way I’ll give a short explanation on each:

Asleep at the switch. I still hear this occasionally as a description of someone who is not giving full attention to something. However, it originated from the days when railroads had humans doing a lot of work that is automated now. If a guy didn’t change the tracks for a train going to Chicago and it wound up in Cleveland, he definitely was asleep at the switch.

That and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee. Yes, there was a time when coffee was a nickel a cup. I saw a sign in a diner when I was a kid that read "cup of coffee, cigarette, and a toothpick: 7 cents." Throw a nickel on the counter at Starbucks and see what you get.

Came in over the transom. Does anyone remember transoms? They were windows above the door that many old hotels and houses had to allow for better ventilation.  In some comedy movies with stars like The Three Stooges, you may see them going through the transom.

Put through the wringerIf someone was working too hard, they may have said they were “put through the wringer.” Many years ago the wringer was used to squeeze the water out of washed clothes before they were hung in the backyard to dry on the “line”. The “line” was a piece of rope the clothes were hung on to dry.   The clothes were held on the line by “clothes’ pins”.  Wringers were replaced long ago by the spin cycle in modern washing machines.

Best thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread was quite an invention at one time and anything that was also newly invented and convenient could be referred to being the best thing since sliced bread.

Film at 11. That was the tease for TV news in the days long before live reporting.

Beam me up Scotty. "Star Trek" technology from the 60s and an expression you may still hear occasionally.

Let’s get cranking. Popular in the days when cars had cranks to start them; no ignition switches and starters then.

Dial her up. This comes from the days when if you called a girl you liked; it would be on a rotary dial phone. No push buttons in those days.  No caller ID or call waiting either.

Here is one of my favorites.  In the great crime film from 1931, "The Public Enemy", James Cagney is a wise guy crook driving a new stick shift fancy roadster. The stick shift (or synchromesh transmission) was a new item at that time and when a valet goes to park Cagney’s car, he grinds the gears. Cagney shouts, "Hey, stupid, be careful! That thing’s got gears. That ain’t no Ford!"
Cagney was referring to the Model T Fords of that era which, as he said, didn’t have gears.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in "The Apartment" 
Here is a quiz:  In the mid 1930’s, actor Warren William played Erle Stanley Gardner’s lawyer Perry Mason in a series of films.  The Perry of that era was a lot different from the latter day  Raymond Burr series.  William played him as a playboy drunk.  In one film Perry is returning to his office after a night on the town when a friend describes him as “so drunk that as the elevator went up he began doing the rumba to the starter’s castanets.”  Can you explain what his friend meant?  If you know the answer, you are a true classic movie expert.  If you don't know the answer, here it is:  In the old days, buildings that had a lot of elevators usually had a guy guiding people into which car to use. He was called a "starter." and when a car was full of passengers he would click a set of castanets as a signal for the elevator operator to take take his passengers to their various floors.  Needless to say that was a job that became obsolete fairly quickly.

For a look at a "Starter" in action google "The Apartment" (1960) starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine from YouTube and fast forward to the 12:00 mark.  In this scene a starter walks by and clicks his castanets to elevator operator MacLaine to let her know her car is full.

It's a good example of how things were done in the past.  The things we do now are in the present but don't hold your breath thinking they will never change.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Like most cities Scottsdale, Arizona depends on goods and services primarily from the corporate world.  That’s life today but occasionally it’s nice to break the habit and buy something from a local independent entrepreneur.

This was easy many years ago as there were plenty of local businesses like diners and restaurants that cooked hamburgers in a way today’s chain restaurants can only dream about.  Most towns also had the locally owned “malt shop” where kids would meet after school or on a Saturday night.

One place I remember from my youth is the local barber shop.  In our Cincinnati neighborhood it was “Joe the Barber.”  Joe would cut my hair as he thought my mother would like it rather than how I thought it should be.  I will never forget the smell of the Fitch Hair Tonic he would use to plaster down my pre-teen hair.  In retrospect, I guess it was worth the $1 he charged.

Joe never took appointments.  Customers would walk in, sit down, and wait their turn while listening to Joe’s scratchy radio broadcasting Arthur Godfrey or Paul Harvey.  Customers would chat or read magazines while they waited their turn.

Today in Scottsdale, a lot of the old barbershops like Joe’s are gone as their owners either died off or didn’t do enough business to warrant unlocking the door in the morning.  Many have been replaced by chain or franchise styling salons or updated versions of barbershops that are also chains or franchises.

In May, 2010, I decided to check and see if any of the old shops were left.  As I crossed Scottsdale Road going west on Indian School Road, I noticed a barber pole in front of a narrow shop in a small strip center.  I parked and approached the Scottsdale Barber Shop.  I couldn’t think of a name more appropriate than that and as I entered, I wasn’t disappointed.

A lady named Roza owned the place with members of her family, including her husband Raffail, and her son and daughter.  It was the nirvana of old time barber shops as Roza told me that the chairs were 70 years old and the barber pole in front was 90 years old.

The shop has been in business since 1957.  They offer all the amenities  of the old days including a straight razor shave, hot towels, neck and shoulder massage, and, of course, a haircut.  Arthur Godfrey and Paul Harvey are gone but have been replaced by a couple of televisions.

One customer told me he lived at 154th Avenue and Van Buren Street but it was worth the price to visit Roza’s place and get his “ears lowered.”

After a nice visit, I felt the euphoria of feeling like I was 10 again and walking out of Joe’s.  I’m going to Roza’s for my next haircut as long as she promises not to use any Fitch’s Hair Tonic.

Fast  forward to the present.  Roza and her family are still doing business at the same location giving the same quality and service as seven years ago when I wrote the above.  It’s proof that the public knows a good thing when they see it and will return.