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Scottsdale, Arizona December 28

Postmark: December 29, 1950

“Many thanks for lovely cards which arrived right on time and I could see were not free like this one, which I got last Saturday, when some friends from Berkeley dropped in on their way to Tucson and took us to lunch at the Camelback Inn, not far from here. It was all very swanky and delicious but not worth the price in my opinion. We feel more at home here. Had a very nice Christmas – 12 for dinner and everyone cheerful and friendly. Love from us both. C. M. S. “

The writer’s “other cards” appear to have been post cards, since this card was “free” and those received were not. This card is not as high quality as many other of this time frame, so that all makes sense.

We are back to the Camelback Inn, for lunch. However, of more interest to me is the Gold Digger’s Ball, which took place for more than a decade in February of each year.

For years, the Camelback Inn held a costume ball, themed around gold – not Gold Diggers – as in women in search of wealthy husbands, rather, the actual gold diggers of Arizona. The Inn sent guests out with a guide to the Superstition Mountains to find actual gold, and according the newspaper of the time, dug for surface gold at an abandoned strike. Entrance to the ball was a small bit of gold. Costumes were cowboys, miners, workers of the time and place. Awards were given for best costumes or best miner costumer among other awards for general silliness.

These balls seem to have started around 10PM and continued well into the morning, with breakfast served at 4AM, to mark the end of the ball. So, I am thinking – these people REALLY knew how to have a total, immersive vacation. The newspapers covered this ball and attendees like current media covers the Royal Family. There are grand marches, costume descriptions, lists of guests, noting their home cities. Lists of dances danced and music played. I discovered a waltz I’ve never heard about called the Varsoviana, which was a highly stylized waltz. Square dances were mixed with contemporary music, cocktails and menus described. Details included hay bales, sawdust, singers, bands, tablecloths and more. Oh to have been a guest at the Gold Digger’s Ball!

The motto of the Camelback Inn, which is “Where Time Stands Still”, greets visitors today. Mummy Mountain, which is situated to the north of Camelback Mountain is in the background. Guests engaged in all the 1950’s appropriate activity populate the photo. Biking, lounging, badminton, shuffleboard and sun worshipping are all taking place under bright umbrellas. The famous Camelback Inn Casitas compose mid ground of the photo.

And, so our writer, who was not a fan of lunch, was a fan of purchased postcards, sends her holiday wishes and brief recap of a “cheerful and friendly” family dinner. I presume this is a woman writing, is writing to a Mrs. Strauch in Oakland, California. Paradise Valley, which is where the Camelback Inn is located must have seemed like a foreign land.

My last comment about this card is about the holidays in the desert. Specifically, holiday lights in the desert. Phoenix, as compared to Los Angeles is DARK. Lovely, small, white lights illuminate and outline cactus, palm trees, palo verde and other trees. Luminarias line sidewalks and driveways. All of these lights are vivid against the backdrop of mountains, or the velvet sky on a cloudless, moonless night. Viewing the quiet lights is one of my favorite experiences of the year.

Luminarias translate to Festival of Light. I love that, in the depth of winter, the world celebrates the end of the year and the weeks preceding that end with light – whether little white lights, the candles of Hannukah or of the luminarias.

To illumination in the desert!

Best, Sherry

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