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Camelback Mountain – 1911

This postcard is Camelback Mountain 1911. First, I noticed the cows. The second thing I noticed, is that Camelback is two words – Camel Back. The postcard is captioned “Salt River Valley”, which is where the valley is located. By the 1930’s the name had been changed to The Valley of the Sun, after several attempts at a Chamber of Commerce name. More about that in a future blog. Lots of names were proposed (mainly unappealing), but Valley of the Sun made sense.

Technically, Phoenix IS part of the Salt River Valley, but the Salt River watershed is MUCH larger than the valley that Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and all the other communities call home.

The writer says, “My dear Corrine:  I am out of a job now as my mother has come home again. We are having more rain – or hard shower nearly every day.  Yours, Carol”

And, there is our post. Does this mean that she had a job in a family business, mom was out of town somewhere, returned and now Corrine has no place in the family business? Does it mean that mom is back from a hospital? Perhaps was recovering and Carol is taking care of her, so cannot work at whatever job she had? Or perhaps Mom was gone, Corrine was taking care of the family and now isn’t? Or?

This card is postmarked August 23, 1911, the monsoon season in the Valley of the Sun. Much of Arizona receives half its annual rainfall during the monsoon, which lasts from mid-June to late September. Next to spring in Arizona, this was always my favorite time of the year. My memories are of blowing wind, followed by rain. There is something about the smell of rain in a desert. The first drops hit, and for a few moments, those rain drops bring dust into the air. It is so dry, the water drop hits and the edges of the drops cause the dust at the edge to fly into the air. It is a peculiar characteristic of rain on desert. The next drops release the scent of desert – sage, palo verde, rocks, sand, blending with the ozone of lightning. If I could bottle that, I would. There is nothing quite as fresh as that combination of scents, so ephemeral, so full of life.

The card shows dairy cows, which I recognize from my early childhood in Wisconsin. Camelback in the background. Roosevelt Dam had been dedicated just a few months earlier, in May, 1911. Water in Arizona is life. Early settlers found the ancient canals built by the Hohokam, used them, dug, expanded, changed them. With the advent of modern dams, water could be moved into the valley and the explosion of growth began.

When I look at these cards, I try to figure out where they were taken. Changes to the foothills of Camelback are stunning. My family lived at the foot of Camelback, where 1950’s ranch houses were built. I believe this card is that area at the foot of Camelback. The trees in the background appear to be orange trees. I am basing this on the shape and color of the trees. Maps of the time show a Murphy Co., Ltd., as the owner of a tract of land in the general area. Indeed, the Murphy Co., planted orange trees. A mere 20 years later, this area being developed with large, homes on spacious lots and the first resorts were being built.

I can’t imagine the changes to this area that Carol would have seen in the course of her life. There are more postcards to come, that show the changes from the cows, to the groves, to the resorts.

I wonder what Carol would think today?

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