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Phoenix and canals are linked in time. Phoenix, Arizona exists because of the canals, but even before there was a place known as Phoenix, people changed the landscape with canals. People have inhabited the area for 9,000 years. But, the Hohokam changed the landscape by controlling water from the Salt River. This valley of the Sun, Salt River Valley was permanently altered by the Hohokam. They figured out and acted upon what they saw and with that ingenuity that belongs only to  humans, dug canals to bring water to fields. As early as 1877, Mormon settlers were using the abandoned Hohokam canals to irrigate their fields. The Hohokam lived in the Valley between 200 and 1400 CE, then left, seemingly abandoned all of their settlements. The year 1400 is a significant year in the history of the entire southwest Indian culture, not just Phoenix. More about this time period in other posts. I have become fascinated with the stories, culture and archeology of that time.

As a child, I found the canals incredibly tempting. I had grown up on a lake, could swim well and had no fear of water. I sorely wanted to jump in, swim, follow the canals to their ends. Barring that, I wanted to put a canoe in the water and do the same. However, being a good mother, my mom, admonished us sternly, as did all the other mothers – stay out of the canals!!! So I stayed out of the water, never once trying to dip a toe. That smooth, cool water flowing through this desert city still inhabits my dreams…

I’ve seen a few post cards that talk about picnics near the canals, on the canals, one about fishing in the canal, one about swimming in the canal. This card simply says, “Grand Canal, Near Phoenix, Arizona.

If you use the magnifier, you can see a car, about 1910 vintage on the far end of the bridge. At the other end are two gentlemen, looking rather formally dressed. Behind the car is a white building. I wonder if there is any way to figure out exactly where this was taken? So many postcards say “near Phoenix”. That “near” is now almost always in the middle of Phoenix and if not, in the incorporated parts or other cities of the Valley of the Sun.

As with most of these postcards, I search for clues and roads to follow. This postcard was published by the A. O. Boeres Company, Phoenix, Arizona. My search led me to a newspaper article wherein Mrs. Boeres is suing her husband for divorce and asking for ½ the business, alimony and custody of their children. I love frontier women and this was indeed frontier in 1920, when the article appears. I am sure there is a biography worthy story here. So many of these women followed their husbands, or were brought with families to settle these areas. Or, they were Harvey Girls, who came to find said husbands and socialize the cowboys, miners, and soldiers of the West. The courage, determination, perseverance and just plain guts astounds me. When I visit Phoenix any time between May and October, I complain and whine about the heat. I imagine this woman, raising a family, running a business (presumably with and without her husband), which I think must have been successful, all while wearing traditional womanly garb of the early 1900’s. I can’t imagine. My hat is off to her and I hope that she lived a wonderful, satisfying life, no matter what happened with her marriage. I also think this speaks to the frontier spirit, the totally new, wild, wild west. I can’t imagine there were too many women suing for divorce in 1920. Even less who ran a business with their husband. The article specifically mentions that the business was community property.

With another look at the card, perhaps she is the lady in the car, being driven across the canal, while the two men watch the car drive away. Perhaps she is on her way to the white building, barely visible behind the trees, or a picnic?

Here’s to walks and bikes along the Phoenix canals, on those paths that have been walked upon for almost two thousand years, by all kinds of people from the Hohokam to the picnickers and fishers and swimmers.


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