Contact: Rich Kurz   Page content last updated September 1, 2021


The Modern West

The Vacations: 1959-1960

My Father had a close set of friends from high school who stayed close friends afterwards. So he and my mother and one of those friends went to Phoenix for a vacation out west. You have to realize that for someone from back east of, say, Missouri, the West looked completely different... everywhere - and there was so much, it even got monotonous. When would it change? To be in the West was to be truly somewhere else. They fell in love with all they saw in Phoenix in those days.
Vacations back then were a little different. They were not physically active. Instead, one stayed at a destination motel, did sightseeing, and basically vegged-out. But the trip sparked a desire in my parents (Mom especially) to actually live there. So their sightseeing was tinged with this idea of what it would be like to actually move there. As a result, they looked at neighborhoods and churches and shopping centers and how to get around the Valley. When they returned and showed the slides to us boys, we wanted to go there, too. And so my parents did something we never did again. . . they returned to Phoenix again for a vacation the very next year, and this time with us boys.


I only remember staying at the Motel that second year, mostly spending as much time as I could at the pool. I learned to swim there that summer. I also remember buying the rubber horned toads, scorpions, and snakes they sold at the motel office for souvenirs. Surely I got a real cowboy hat - one made of sisel instead of the usual felt ones! I remember the building architecture of that pseudo-adobe, squished mortal bricks and the timber trim in the rooms. I also remember watching "77 Sunset Strip" on the TV in the evenings. Hey! That was in L.A., just a day's drive away! So close!
I remember a dust storm so dusty that my dad had to literally wash the dust off his '51 Caddy - it would not wipe off. And I remember some of the trip on Route 66. It took us three long days in the back seat to get there. I remember us boys going to a Frontier Town in Oklahoma (Tulsa?) one night with my dad. It was an amusement park of sorts. And I remember feeling very special back in Ohio because I had actually been in the West in Arizona in Phoenix. But of course, none of my friends or classmates knew just how to respond to that boast. But I wanted to go back.

Living There: Jan.- June, 1961

To my great excitement, I learned we were going to Arizona after Christmas of '60! Texas took two days to cross. Appropriately, we made Tucson on New Years Eve of '61. A new home in a new year! On to Scottsdale!
We stayed two weeks with a college friend of Dad. It was tight with two families on top of each other. They lived across from the new Coronado High School being built. My Dad had a job and soon we had a house and I entered 3rd grade at Tonalea Elementary. Much happened there. I tried little league (got beaned too many times and quit), was bit by the neighbor's Weimaraner, went to the hospital for five days for asthma (first of more to come), learned to ride a bike (I was finally tall enough to ride a 15-incher), went to Disneyland for my 9th birthday (two families in one '52 Fleetwood), and enjoyed being a kid in perpetual summer. But my Dad was laid off and decided to move us back to Ohio. I did not want to leave and for the next year in Ohio I wore my cowboy shirts and bolo.
But all that was "back then," in what is now another time. Only 10,000 lived in Scottsdale then, and now, a quarter-million? I went back in '83 thinking I would live there, but the town I remembered no longer existed. It was one big suburb, like back east - only hotter, and with all the same allergens. So I left.

Snapshots: 1959

Salt River Valley in 1959 from the South Mountain Park. There was still much agriculture and open space.

A defining sculpture - the Phoenix by Paul Coze. It stood next to orchards in the Camelback Town & Country Village shopping center.

A close-up of the sculpture

The saquaros were fascinating for us Midwesterners - ya had to stop and get your picture with one. This was the West!


A main street going into downtown. The Heard Museum is near it now.

A view of the state Capitol

The Mesa Arizona Temple

Still desert - undeveloped land in the Valley

And farms still flourished from the Salt River Project

Paradise Valley & Scottsdale

The Paradise Valley golf club - note the swimming pool on the left.

I think it is Barry Goldwater's home in Paradise Valley.

The Valley National Bank in Scottsdale

I am guessing this is near or in Scottsdale.

The Pima Plaza with Squaw Mtn. as a backdrop

The Camelback Town & Country Village shopping center. It never seemed like anyone ever shopped there.

Housing in the Valley

Quite the modern high-rise on the way in to downtown. Again, the Heard Museum is nearby now.

A new development going in right next to the Papago Mtns.

A brand-new neighborhood of model homes. Does anyone know where?

The squished mortar style seemed very Southwestern, recalling adobe walls - very popular!

An established neighborhood at 32nd and Georgia St.

A Mid-century Modern (MCM) home outside of Scottsdale

Churches: 1959

I am pretty sure this is an Episcopal Church.

I cannot identify these churches.

Western Village Motel: 1959


I loved this motel! It is what I think they should all be like.

My parents stayed here in '59. That's my mom on the 2nd floor.

My mother loved the Southwest and the colors of the sky, especially after a storm. They returned with us kids in 1960.

I learned to swim in this pool. I don't remember us going anywhere else during that vacation.

Mountain Shadows and Valley Ho: 1961


The neatest hotel was Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley with its Olympic-size pool. Very cool and modern.

There was even a TV show shot there - "The Brothers Brannigan", a detective show.

It was a huge treat to visit our grandparents or our friends staying there.

The Valley Ho just was not as special, although just as exclusive. And the pool was small and chilly cold.

That's my Dad, Mom, me, and my Grandmother playing putt-putt in the background.

Along Rte.66: 1959


Of course, you first had to get there. On Route 66, no less. Here is a gas station stop in Albuquerque.

Looking back (east) at Albuquerque from Rte.66. This is one of the few four-lane sections of the road.

Going west you encounter the bluffs and mesas. You knew you were at last in the real West.

The Painted Desert was jarring for its colors and its desolation.

The Grand Canyon: 1959


And of course, you had to see the Grand Canyon.

The slides are not this colorful, but gray-looking.

These have been "color-corrected" and saturation-enhanced to restore the colors.

North to Sedona: 1959

The Sinagua cliff dwelling/Montezuma Castle

On the return trip, my parents took in Sedona. The shapes and the red color were a stark contrast to anything back east.

The juxtaposion of the rock and the forest caught the eye.

The original example of R-G-B

Tucson: 1959

They also visited Tucson. Here is the Sonoran Museum of the Desert

St. Xavier was this sparkling church in the middle of nowhere with no one around.

I am pretty sure this is a road into Tucson from the Desert Museum and Old Tucson. Is this West Gates Pass Road?

A view of downtown Tucson

Somewhere between Phoenix and Tucson, they went by this. Maybe it's the Pima boneyard?

Scottsdale: 1961

6879 E. Vernon, my room was next to the living room.
Today, the house is a nine-bed senior home with two wings added out the back.

I was impressed by the carport. In Ohio we needed garages.

The scraggly grass backyard was unlike Ohio, too. The Croquet and Badmitten stripes are cloth sheet strips.

My grandfather in the back yard.

Here is a middle class living room, circa 1961.

The den, behind the carport, modeled by my Mother and Grandmother.

And the kitchen+dining room plus my Grandmother. The three rooms were in a T-shape layout.


The neighborhood looking east

And the neighborhood looking north towards Camelback

Me in my "real" Arizona cowboy hat, shirt, boots, and bolo.