Scottsdale’s 1969 milestones rehashed

Scottsdale’s 1969 milestones rehashed

By Joan Fudala

This summer brings back a flurry of 50-year-old memories, from the first moon landing (July 20), to the Stonewall Raid (June 28), Chappaquiddick (July 18), the Manson family killing spree (August 9 to August 10), Woodstock (August 15 to August 17) and the conviction of Lt. William Calley for the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. 

Richard M. Nixon was in his first year as U.S. president, with Spiro T. Agnew as his vice president. The Vietnam War was creating protests around the country while thousands of U.S. armed forces bravely served. The “hippie culture” was thriving, creating a so-called “generation gap.” We took vacations flying Pan Am, TWA, Eastern, Western, Ozark and Allegheny Airlines. We loved muscle cars and VW bugs, listed to 45 rpm singles on our stereos and hoped the TV antenna on our roof got great reception on the three available networks.

So, what was happening in the Scottsdale area 50 years ago?

Who’s who: Jack Williams was governor of Arizona. Bud Tims was Scottsdale’s mayor, with Heinz Hink, Bill Jenkins, Leonard Johnson, Robert Jones, Ken Murray and John Senini on the Scottsdale City Council; Bill Donaldson was city manager, Walter Nemetz was police chief. E.G. Burnkrandt was superintendent of the Scottsdale Unified School District. Howard Ryan was president of the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce. Paul Messinger was the 1969-70 patron of the Scottsdale Charros.

Stats: According to the 1970 U.S. Census, Scottsdale’s population was 67,823 with a municipal size of 62.20 square miles. This can be compared to 2019, when the population is 242.700 (2017 estimate) on 184.5 square miles.

The year began with residents and visitors enjoying Scottsdale’s signature events. Scottsdale Jaycee member Herb Drinkwater was the 1969 Parada Del Sol boss. Scottsdale-based actress Amanda Blake (Mrs. Frank Gilbert), a.k.a. “Miss Kitty” of the television series “Gunsmoke,” rode in the Parada del Sol parade February 1 and appeared at the weekend rodeo. The Phoenix Open played at the Arizona Country Club in February; Gene Littler won, claiming the top prize of $30,000. The 14th annual All Arabian Horse Show took place at Desert Farms on Bell Road in February. And the Chicago Cubs played their third Spring Training season at the old, wooden Scottsdale ballpark.

A Doubletree Inn opened north of Scottsdale Fashion Square in early January. The former Paradise Valley Racquet Club became John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch (now The Sanctuary).

In February, a contingent of city officials and residents visited Alamos and Cuernavaca, Mexico, to evaluate which would become Scottsdale’s first Sister City. Alamos was selected, becoming an official Sister City in December 1969.

More than 100 residents attended a day-long Town Hall Meeting of the Arts to discuss the state of the arts and make recommendations for enhancements to Scottsdale’s Fine Arts Commission. Until the Scottsdale Center for the Arts opened in 1975, the Civic Center Library hosted exhibitions of local and national artists on its mezzanine level, and concerts were held in the Kiva at City Hall.

After years of lobbying by Scottsdale Town Enrichment Program committee members, the Maricopa County Community College District governing board approved establishing Scottsdale Community College as the fifth in its system of junior colleges. SCC’s first nine faculty members were hired in March and Dr. Marion G. Donaldson was appointed executive dean in May. SCC began evening classes in space leased at Scottsdale High School and North Scottsdale Baptist Church in September 1969, the same month that leaders of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community agreed to lease 160 acres to the college district for construction of the SCC campus.

Anne (Potter Stillman) McCormick died at age 89 on May 26. Her husband Fowler McCormick was president/chief executive officer of International Harvester at the time of her death. Within a year, their 4,200-acre McCormick Ranch was sold to Kaiser-Aetna for development as Scottsdale’s first master-planning community. During Mrs. McCormick’s life, she was a significant patron of Scottsdale art and artists, co-founded the All Arabian Horse Show and hosted the annual show on their ranch, and, with her husband Fowler and son Guy Stillman, donated land for the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (donated in 1967; park opened in 1975).

The community celebrated the Fourth of July with a children’s parade downtown and fireworks at Scottsdale Stadium.

City Council, developers and residents debated zoning for high-rise buildings in Scottsdale. They also deliberated purchasing a tape- versus disc-type computer system for the city.

The Scottsdale Public Library (there was only one – the new Civic Center Library) set up its Computerized Book Catalog to further inter-library cooperation

A time capsule was deposited on June 24 as the Broadway department store and Los Arcos Mall were under construction. “The dedication ceremony featured Gov. Jack Williams, (Scottsdale) Mayor Bud Tims and a crowd of other politicians. The 23- by 36-inch capsule contains copies of the Scottsdale Progress, photos of Valley cities, government and historical documents, and a film of the capsule ceremony.” It was to have be opened in 100 years, June 24, 2069; however, it was retrieved in 2000 before Los Arcos Mall was town down, according to the September 5, 2004 Scottsdale Tribune. Los Arcos Mall opened in late October/early November, with Broadway and Sears as anchors, and a Harkins movie theater, variety of shops and several restaurants. Its interior was decorated by craftsmen from Guadalajara and Mexico City.

Scottsdale began the world’s first automated garbage pickup service with the debut of a mechanically armed truck nicknamed “Godzilla.”

Jerry and Florence Nelson moved into the abandoned Rancho Vista Bonita Guest Ranch on the southwest corner of Pima and Pinnacle Peak roads, and began development of Pinnacle Peak Village. Several years later, they created Troon and Troon North, and became leaders in Scottsdale’s environmentally sensitive lands and preservation initiatives.

PCS Health Systems was founded in Scottsdale as a prescription benefit management company. After several acquisitions, it remains a major part of Scottsdale’s Cure Corridor on Shea Boulevard, now named CVS CareMark.

Scottsdale-based Motorola Government Electronics Divisions was a significant contractor to NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, providing communications and tracking equipment for the first landing on the moon, July 20, 1969. Scottsdale-area Dickson Electronics and AiResearch were also NASA contractors who contributed to the success of the moon landings in July and November 1969. An article in the July 21 Scottsdale Daily Progress said: “The Scottsdale Public Library will offer more than good reading through Thursday. Because of the great interest in the flight of the Apollo astronauts a TV set will be installed in the library lobby until the end of the mission. Chairs will be brought out for the comfort of viewers, Brad Simon, library director, said.

The Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, then charged with promoting tourism (until 2001, when a separate Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau was formed, now known as Experience Scottsdale), sponsored a promotional film, “Hegira.” Produced by Swarthart Films, it featured resorts, restaurants, attractions and desert scenes around Scottsdale and Arizona. “Hegira,” which roughly translates as “desert oasis, mesa, all things good,” premiered at a gala evening at Mountain Shadows Resort in November 1969.

The Scottsdale Charros sponsored the second annual National P.G.A. Club Professional Championship, held November 11 to November 16 at Scottsdale’s Roadrunner Golf Course (formerly Indian Bend Country Club and later named Pima/Pavilion Lakes, closed to make way for Salt River Fields ballpark in the 2000s) and San Marcos Golf Course in Chandler. Charro Don Chambers was the golf chairman for the Scottsdale Charros. Local female golfers, pros’ wives and Charro wives served as scorekeepers. In a tourism coup, the Professional Golfers’ Association convened in Scottsdale the week after the tournament for its annual meeting.

Multirestaurant owner/host Dale Anderson opened The Other Place restaurant on Lincoln Drive and continued to operate it until closing in 2007.

The City Parks Department introduced its Funmobile, the state’s first recreation center on wheels.

The first Scottsdale All Indian Days was held on Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, with participants encamped near Scottsdale Stadium. By its second year, more than 15,000 Valley residents and visitors attended the shows and exhibits staged by more than 300 Native Americans representing 53 different tribes.

On December 1, 1969, Scottsdale men gathered in front of their televisions for the national draft lottery, finding out how likely they were to be drafted, based on their birth date. Sen. Barry Goldwater and Arizona Republic columnist Don Dedera made a December trip to Vietnam to visit Arizona troops stationed in the war zone, including those from Scottsdale. The Camelback Inn hosted several members of the armed forces serving in Vietnam for a holiday “rest & recuperation” vacation with their families.

Scottsdale Baptist Hospital (now HonorHealth Osborn) had opened the first two floors of its West Tower in 1968. Construction on four additional floors commenced in 1969, with the new floors opened in early 1970.

The Howdy Dudettes – coeds selected from among Scottsdale High School students – served as the official welcoming group for the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce.  A hot student issue was the enforcement of strict dress codes.

The Indian Bend Wash continued to flood, stranding motorists, students, businesses and residents. Although a proposal was floated for the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt Flood Control Project, it wouldn’t be completed until 1985.

A year after moving into a newly constructed Stagebrush Theater at Second Street and Marshall Way, the former Stagebrush Theater on the grounds of the 1897-vintage Adobe House, burned down.

Future Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane graduated from high school in New Jersey.

So what do you remember about 1969?