Today, 40 years ago, I arrived at Phoenix airport from my last domicile Frankfurt, Germany. My heavy winter clothes was very quickly exchanged with a summer outfit. The temperature was 86 degrees.
I spent several nights at the Motel 6, a “landmark” in Scottsdale, then found a flat just across the street from what was then called “La Esplanada”, later renamed to “Orchid Tree”, on the site where Scottsdale City Planners allowed the monstrous ‘Optima’ rental apartments. Across from us was a large orchard with Orange Trees. I will never forget the wonderful scent when these trees bloomed in Spring. That orchard gave way to a housing complex as so many others.
Scottsdale was VERY VERY DIFFERENT THEN. It looked more like a lovely small country town.
How this all has changed in every way – for the better? That depends on one’s perception.
The rent for my 1-bedroom apartment was $ 290 per month, at the time the highest rent in Scottsdale for something like that, also because of the location Camelback and 68th Street. My first American car was a huge “tank’, at least for German standards. Luckily, the price of gasoline was 49 cents, otherwise I would not have been able to afford this old Buick.
My grocery bill for the week was probably in the area of $ 20 – 30.
I found people extremely friendly, all curious where I came from and what I was doing here.
I remember, since I had moved into a vacant apartment, I needed to shop. My first trip was to Bullocks’ Department store at Fashion Square, where now Dillards is located. First came the essential, a bed/mattress. I convinced a nice young sales man, that I had nothing to sleep on and needed the mattress now, this same day. He did agree to deliver it . From the many friends I made at La Esplanade, many have passed away. The few left do recall with a smile- Sigrid together with a young guy carrying a matters across the pool area. The pool area was “Payton Place”, a gathering point for residents, who gossiped and new everything about everybody. We had great times there, got together on weekends and had barbecues. I loved the sun and was in it every day.
By Christmas, I was pretty well established in my home due to my daily shopping and making things. One of my first purchases was a sewing machine. At home, my mother always sewed something, so I spent many nights sewing covers, curtains, pillow cases, table clothes etc.
Also important to me was understanding American English. In my German school the English taught was an Oxford English. So I purchased a radio and a television that I left on all day and listened to the sound of American spoken English.
I loved driving down Scottsdale Road, which beyond Shea Blvd. had literally no buildings anymore, just Scottsdale Airport. Past Bell Road beautiful horses were grazing on the Arabian horse farms, the open desert with Saguaros and other cacti, Rawhide, wheat the end of Scottsdale Road the boulders of Carefree came into sight.
Happy Valley Road would take you to the marvelous Pinnacle Peak area with Pinnacle Peak Patio and Greasewood Flat. I would always make a point of taking tourists to this Northern area of the Valley where we would walk into the Desert and watch the sunsets.
I remember the first big flood in the winter before the installation of a bridge that crossed over normally dry riverbed of the Salt River. We went to the hill close to the Zoo to watch the unusual site of a river flowing through the Valley of the Sun, across from Tempe, often completely cut off from the North. The Hayden Mill in Tempe was a reminder of the times, when the Hayden family ran a ferry across the Salt River during flood times. The ASU campus was quite small and traffic here was hardly existent.
America, Arizona and the Valley of the Sun have tremendously changed. I like many things of nowadays, but I am sad about those that are gone. I find that the mayors and City Council of Scottsdale have, in some ways, not done very well in allowing an over abundance in settlements (condos and apartments) in proper Scottsdale and around. They always seemed to put the wagon before the horse, meaning they permitted housing first and roads second. I don’t think that this has greatly changed. Many Scottsdale residents were cut off from our beautiful views of Camelback Mountain, entertainment areas were approved in the middle of a very dense populated, old established area without any regard to the residential impact. AND THEY ARE STILL GOING ON.
I do love Scottsdale as it is. Beautiful additions like the settlements along the canals and the improved Old Scottsdale areas are an asset. BUT I also loved the more quiet sleepy town of Scottsdale, where people left their doors open and the world seemed to be whole.
But this is progress and will never be stopped. Certainly, our lives are much easier than our parents’ and, I find that especially true as a German, who spent her first 38 years in Germany and some other European countries.
America has been good to me and I do not think that I would have had the same live, had I stayed in Germany. I started my own travel business with no obstruction by governments or anybody else, paid my taxes and worked toward retirement. I have always made my own money, never used government subsidies and am now living comfortably with my husband STILL in the same general area of Scottsdale.
One sadness I will always have is for the close friends that have passed already.
Luckily, we joined the Phoenix Ski Club in 1995 , which connected us with a great number of all ages, with whom we made lifelong friends and who enjoyed the same out door activities, skiing etc.
So, thank you America for 40 wonderful years. This is the best country in the world and I wished many American born, who really do not realize this and don’t seem to appreciate America, would take a good look at other countries.