Saturday, June 16, 2012

Winslow, Arizona. That was then, this is now.

"Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona.  Such a fine sight to see!  It's a girl my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me."  ~Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey

In my travels, and professional and personal interactions with people throughout my life, when the topic of my early years in Winslow comes up, there's almost always a reference to the Eagles song.  It's just our humanity trying to connect and find commonality.  I don't particularly tire of it.  I do resist the temptation myself when meeting somebody from a place immortalized in song or named after a classic rock song- "Hi, my name is Rhiannon"  "Oh, like the Fleetwood Mac song..." or "Hi, my name is Lorelei."  "Oh like the Styx song..." I try to ask something that they haven't probably heard before to engage them and ignore the obvious.  I always entertain the Winslow/Eagles conversations that follow, with their insights and connections, but I haven't heard anybody say anything new on the subject for almost 3 decades now.  It's not clear if songwriter Jackson Browne or Glenn Frey of the Eagles ever really stood there at any time, (probably not) but after this long, they owe me personally all other Winslow citizens past and present a proper Eagles concert. 

I paid a visit to Winslow, my hometown, this weekend. Somebody from High School connected with me on Facebook a couple of years ago and then about 8 months ago, I got a call that she always loves to see my professional DJ adventures on Facebook and that she sees that my customers seem to love me and I seem to have some technical expertise as an entertainer and that it's clear that I also love what I do and that her daughter was getting married and (deep breath) would I come to Winslow and play for the wedding?
 

Let me declare at the outset that this will be the longest post in the history of the world. It's heavy on the pictures too. I often think that some people must live their whole lives through the viewfinder on their camera. I try to keep that in check in the age of camera phones and social media and I even lean towards less pictures. My memory of people and places is so much more three-dimensional and emotional and "other-sensory" than pictures can capture in any case. Pictures of my dad don't smell like "Old Spice" cologne... This topic required a lot of pictures for me.  I travelled up a day early and you should know that in taking all of these pictures, I actually stopped down and had two moments at each place- one through the viewfinder, and then the other with my eyes, ears, nose, skin, taste buds, mind and heart. 

Further, for my Christian friends and family and other conservative types, this posting will be rather candid. Not profane at all, but just raw and uncensored. You'll learn some things about me you didn't know before and it may be shocking.  I've left out names but even if you think you see yourself, just know that I love you for the lessons I learned from you. 

In English, we would say,"I'm from Winslow." In Spanish, that would be expressed more like, "The place where I spent my primary years is Winslow" I think that's actually rather profound since my primary years in Winslow made really did make me who I am- for better or for worse.  As I am maturing as a man, I'm mellowing and finding myself hugging people hello more often and allowing people their humanity in a more loving way, I look back and see that so much of the good and bad that is in me started being good or bad IN Winslow Arizona.  Of late, I'm just trying to enhance the good and throw as much of the bad over the edge that I can.

Arizona is such a beautiful state!  My experience in the Boy Scouts of America and being the son of fellow outdoor lover, Vance Whipple, gave me a great love for this place and I have spent still more time and miles hiking, mountain biking and driving around exploring it.  Most people who drive through Arizona may do so on Interstate 10, The Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway, through the low desert, or on Interstate 40, largely through the high desert country and they miss the center of the state which is high-elevation, mountainous forest country.  It's a nice and green drive to Winslow from the Phoenix area through national forest lands.
Winslow was originally settled by Mormon colonists sent specifically by Brigham Young to farm in the Little Colorado River Valley.  They had fled the  United States because of religious persecution and settled in Salt Lake- in Mexico.  They were sent to the Little Colorado Valley from Salt Lake by a rather solemn (among Mormons) assignment but they returned to Utah after one season and called it a God-forsaken wilderness and the journals recorded that Brigham Young 'thundered' at them to get back down there and settle and farm in that valley.  The community was called "Brigham City" but when the Santa Fe railroad came through 3 or 4 miles south a few years later, Brigham City died as Winslow was born and named after a railroad executive at the time.  Currently, a Winslow resident/citizen is driving to refurbish and preserve the remains of that original Mormon settlement.


I snapped this pic out the window of the van of the high desert terrain up there. 
I imagine a cowboy on horseback or some settlers with wagon loads of supplies would be completely flummoxed by a canyon such as Jack's Canyon (below) outside of Winslow that runs for several miles in either direction and that is undetectable on the horizon until you get right on top of it.  There are stories of Mormon Pioneers who had to spend several days disassembling wagons and moving them across such things and reassembling them on the other side or using complicated winch systems to lower larger pieces down and then hoisting them back up the other side.  The other option was to send a scout several miles in either direction to find a more suitable crossing.  Ether way, a simple geological feature of the landscape such as this would take several days to conquer.  I drove over a bridge and it took probably 1 1/2 seconds at 65 MPH and my cold air conditioning and cold drink were sure nice.  
The rest of these pictures are in no particular order but they will be the thread to guide you through my thoughts. 

Here we go!

This is the La Posada Hotel and train depot.  It was the La Posada when it was built.  It closed and the Santa Fe Railroad used it for offices in the 70s and 80s and then they abandoned it.  It was to be torn down but some preservationists and other historians arranged to have it restored and it operates as the La Posada Hotel again and caters to Route 66 enthusiasts and other travellers to Winslow. There are over 100 freight trains daily travelling through Winslow and two Amtrak stops daily- an eastbound and a westbound. 
My grandfather loved Navajo and Hopi culture and sold sewing machines on the Navajo Reservation in the 1940s and by the 1950s, his endeavors had become a dress shop in Winslow, which is a border town, of sorts, to the Navajo Nation. In the 1960s the shop was becoming a department store.  He was also the Mayor of Winslow from 1950 to 1953.  He resigned 2 months shy of his term of office, surprising the city council with his announcement that cited health concerns and pressures of running the growing Whipple's store.  I'm unaware of what, if any, health issues he had.  He lived another 25 years. 

I was born in Burlingame California- in the bay area.  My dad brought us to Winslow to join his father's business "Whipple's of Winslow", when I was about 3.  My mother was already very sick and she died of cancer in Winslow that year and her grave is there.  We kinda regrouped as a family in Winslow and that's the story of how I came to call Winslow "home". 
 
My maternal grandmother took care of me most immediately after the funeral but everybody had to get back to their lives and so I had a nanny during the day- an African-American woman named Ruby Williams (Jackson) from Roxie Mississippi that taught me how to count, got me potty trained, taught me the alphabet and she took me fishing for catfish in Clear Creek south of town about 5 miles with her boyfriend RJ when he got off work at the sawmill in the afternoons- and she loved me. I saw Ruby last year, but she wasn't around this time.  I would have liked to give her another hug. This was the house we lived in at first.
My dad remarried when I was about 7.  We had a "Brady Bunch" family with 9 kids and we moved to this house on Gilmore St.  Boys downstairs and girls upstairs.  
This is where I went to Sunday School as a little boy.  They had a basement with a cozy fireplace for the kids program.  Somebody has since purchased it and is using it as a home.  Probably the biggest home in town.  In my life's travels, a rather random personal contact, upon hearing that I was from Winslow, handed me a program from the dedication service of this building in the early 50s, which I still have in my possession. They also handed me a yearbook from Winslow High School dated 1928, which I think was the first graduating class from the new building which you'll see here later.  They were not from Winslow or even Arizona and didn't remember how those two things came into their possession but they were happy to pass it on to me.   
This is where I went to church from about age 9 and up.  I broke my left arm on that grass out front, goofing off after a Boy Scout activity at age 13.  I got tackled and my arm got tucked under the weight of my body and the weight of a couple of other boys and it cracked both the radius and the ulna about halfway through and then split them upwards toward my elbow as if they were green tree branches.  It ended my violin career (thankfully) (violin players in Winslow High School were not cool and I lacked in any other coolness factors anyway- the violin wasn't helping)  Even after 35 years the injury impedes any proficiency on the guitar.  
This is Highway 87 that runs north from Winslow to the Navajo Nation and south from Winslow to Payson, Mesa and Tucson.  I don't know why, but when we were kids, Dad would always honk the horn going through this tunnel under the Santa Fe railroad.  All of the kids would scream at the top of our lungs.  Who am I to mess with tradition?  I honked and shouted in 2012 at age 46.    
When I was in high school, this was Leemon's Appliances which happened to also have a small selection of vinyl records and 8-track tapes. I'm happy to report that I was the first kid in Winslow Arizona to own Styx's Cornerstone album.  My step mother worked at Leemon's for a couple of years while I was in high school.  I would go down once a week or so after school and study the Billboard magazine and make recommendations based on what I saw on the music charts as to what she should purchase for the store that could be sold.  I remember exclaiming once- "Ahhh!  Van Halen has a new album coming out next week."  She replied "Oh, is he good?"  ummmmmm  "Yeah mom, he's really good. I'd say 4 or 5 copies of that one."  I'm not even going to explain why that's so funny.  Van Morrison is pretty good too.  I still play some of his good stuff as a DJ.  It appears to be a Tuxedo rental place now. Winslow is just not a tuxedo kind of a town. I wish them success in this tough economy, but I fear it will be an uphill battle.
This used to be "Whipple Park" named after my Grampa Whipple, probably in honor of his service as Mayor. It used to have some playgound equipment and picnic tables and barbecue pits.  It appears to be something that the firefighters use to practice their skills now.  There's big pile of wooden pallets behind the building that further make my case for my suspicion as to its purpose.  
There was an artist in the 70s that supposedly went to each state and carved something like this to honor each states' place in the republic on the occasion of the bicentennial.  I don't know why Winslow was chosen for the Arizona installation but I have always liked what the guy did.  He spent about a week on this with a chainsaw.  I rode my bike out to watch him a few times. It was located out by I-40 originally on a big mound of dirt but it always looked out of place and not as grand as its intent.  The city has moved it to the south end of town near some of the Route 66 tourist stuff and it looks more at home now.    
I had a great Sunday School teacher when I was 12 and 13 who lived right here.  She gave me a great love for the Bible and gave me a working knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which built the foundation for my relationship with Him now.  She was a lover of people and of learning and of teaching and a true model of what Christianity should be.  It wasn't just dry talking- trying to get through the lesson, she was trying to get the lesson through us.  In addition to bringing the scriptures to life, she introduced me to books by Zig Zigler and others who seemed to know how to apply Christian principles to life and find success and happiness.  I've thanked her personally on multiple occasions.  
This was and is the post office in Winslow AZ- 86047.  I don't have anything to say about this other than the fact that the ZIP code has stuck in my memory for all of these years.  I also remember my phone number back then.  It was 289-4884 but you only had to dial the 9 and the 4 digits.  I've lived at four addresses in the LA area, two addresses in north central Washington state, two addresses in Minneapolis and one in St Paul and I can't remember any of those ZIP codes.  I've had several phone numbers over the years and I can't remember any of those either. 
This store front used to be the office and printing shop for "The Reminder" a throwaway advertising rag that came out on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights.  When I was 9 years old, I started delivering to 125 homes on Apache Avenue.  We'd pick them up around 7 or 8PM (some nights as late as 10PM if they were extra busy or had extra pages from lots of ads or had a printer break down)  We would get paid a fractional percentage per page- it came to $5 or $6/wk and also on Tuesday nights it would be "Nickel Night".  We would knock on doors for tips instead of just leaving the papers on the doorstep.  When the homeowner opened the door, we would say "Nickel Night" and get a nickel.  If everybody on your route was home, and answered the door and gave a gratuity, it would add up to another $6. Most of us delivery boys got smart and realized that the term "Nickel Night" limited the tip to a nickel.  The term "Reminder Night" was much more open ended and a conscientious delivery boy who always got the papers right on the porch or tucked under the mat could get a quarter or even two quarters.     
When I was 11, I added The Winslow Mail- a more traditional local weekly newspaper on Thursday afternoons.  I think my route had about 150 homes on it.  I got paid strictly by the paper from subscriptions but it was not uncommon to get $5, $10 or even a $20 in a card for Christmas if you got the paper on the porch consistently.  Notice that both buildings are vacant.  They still kinda exist loosely in an online format, but the Winslow Mail folded in 2008.  Although it is closed, it is still the longest running and oldest newspaper in Arizona.  The mighty Arizona Republic still has 4 years to go to catch up and beat them. 
When I was 13, I added the Arizona Republic to my deliveries.  7 days a week, 365 days a year, 165 homes, rain or shine or sleet or snow, at 430AM.  The papers would be flown in to Winslow airport at about 330 each morning and then dropped at several neighborhood drop spots for local carriers.  This was my Uncle Tom's house and my cousins Tommy, Rory and Burke.  About 6 boys knelt in this driveway every morning, folding and slipping a rubber band on to each paper.  We had canvas bags that fit on the handlebars of our bikes and with some practice, you could really learn how to make those papers fly and land just where you want them.  I have a defective sports gene and I'm rather clumsy when it comes to basketballs and baseballs, but I had a knack for flinging a newspaper.  More often than not, I could get it not only on the doorstep but leaning up against the door so that when the homeowner opened, the paper would fall inside their house! 
I was invited to the wedding rehearsal dinner for the family that I went to Winslow to work for this week and I had the pleasure of sitting with the grandmother of the groom.  She's 84 and sharp as a tack.  When she oriented herself as to who I was (by identifying my father and grandfather) she was most complimentary about our family's contribution to Winslow and further, she said that I had been her paper boy and that, after me, she has never again had decent delivery service.  That's a lot of years to suffer with crappy service and still bother with the paper that could be had in an online format.
Here's a pic of the Little League fields.  I never played baseball owing to my defective sports gene but I always hung around with the other townsfolk for a game in the evening.  They had a concession stand that had snow cones and a newfangled snack at the time called "nachos" and it was deeeeee-LISH!  There was a masonry block restroom that may be the most disgusting bathroom I've ever encountered in my 46 years.  That one still holds a place in disgustingdom.  I'm a man and half the time, I don't have to sit down to do my business but it was really that bad.  The option was to ride my bicycle 5 blocks home and go and then 5 blocks back but I might have missed some of the action.

I was riding on a swing set adjacent to the ball park (near the offending restroom) at about age 8 or 9 and I took a high-speed and high arching foul ball right in the lower gut on an upswing- my body was positioned just right to get hit squarely and solidly.  It knocked me off the swing which landed me flat on my back on the ground and stunned my diaphragm (knocked the wind out of me) so that I couldn't breathe for a minute or so.
 

That park also represented the first time I saw pornography of any kind as a little boy.  There were some discarded playing cards with nude women in various poses. I was innocent and not ready for that and certainly didn't seek it out, but it was as if I had been exposed to a virus.  There was a time later in my life when pornography would dominate life and my thinking.  I've often thought of the story in the New Testament where some men were trying to get under Jesus' skin by asking, "Who did sin?  this man or his parents?  that he was born blind even from his birth?"  Jesus replied, "Nobody sinned, he was just born blind.  That's all.  It just IS.  He was born blind so that a miracle of God could be manifest in his life."  (I'm paraphrasing there- Jesus was always very frank but not that casual.) The chance exposure to porn was not a sin that I committed, but it was just a circumstance in my life.  A circumstance such, that a miracle of God could be manifest as I broke free.  Frankly, I give gratitude to God for it because without it, I may have never come to know the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in such a profound and personal way.
  

Here's what used to be the Rialto Theater.  One family owned both this movie theater and the local drive-in theater.  They would show one movie per week, drive in open during the summer months, indoor theater open during the winter months.  I don't know if you are picking up a pattern here, The Reminder- gone, Winslow Mail- gone, the Rialto- gone...  I can't remember any specific films that I saw here, I vaguely remember "War of the Worlds" but I do know that I saw Jaws at the drive-in theater when I was 8.  I think I was asleep and my head was on my step mom's lap.  I woke up just at the scene where the shark is on the back of the boat tipping it upwards and the crusty old fisherman/sailor slides down into its mouth to be chewed to death.  Not a good time to wake up as an 8 yr old.  That movie so frightened me that I STILL- 38 years later- I STILL am frightened of water.  I'm not non functional, but I do freak out once in awhile in the ocean and in even in lakes and rivers.  Well-played Spielberg, well-played indeed! 
Here's a couple of pictures of Clear Creek out south of town- previously described catfishing expeditions happened here.  Great swimming hole for high school kids.  I was a bit of a nerd in high school but I had just enough moxie to be able to hang here at times.  It was always great for jumping off rocks and barbecuing and for others- drinking and carousing with the opposite sex, speeding and other dangerous driving on the road to and from and perhaps a few other unnamed nefarious activities for teenagers. 
I saw my first, real, live breast here.  A girl had jumped in the water and it popped the top of her swim suit off and she was jumping around and still playing in the water unawares that she had been exposed.  A girlfriend alerted her a bit too soon for the boys' taste.  My only regret, at age 14, was that it was THAT (unnamed) girl that was a bit homely and not a model of female beauty and physicality.  Why couldn't it have been that other (also unnamed) girl that I liked who occupied my teenage dreams or that other (unnamed) one on the cheerleading squad?  But alas, for a 14 yr old boy, it was a bit of a landmark moment.
This is Jefferson Elementary school.  Mrs. Walton for Kindergarten- loved her.  Mrs. Allen for 1st grade.  Mrs. Murray for 2nd grade- hated her.  I remember getting my knuckles whacked with a ruler on more than one occasion for seemingly minor infractions.  I also remember this insight at age 7:  it was a warm spring morning and we were doing a rather menial exercise that I had already advanced beyond.  Mrs. Murray had handed out a worksheet and I remember lifting the top edge of the sheet up and acting like I was reading it but all the while I was scanning my classmates in disbelief, "Is this it?  THIS is school for THE NEXT 10 YEARS?!?!"  Mrs. Murray had a heart attack that summer and passed away.  I was secretly glad.  I hadn't wished it on her but she had clearly passed her effectiveness as a teacher.  She was cranky and she didn't inspire us to learn.  Looking back as a man, I was right.  Only a handful of teachers ever challenged me intellectually.  That sounds arrogant or cocky for me to speak it, but it comes from a place of confidence in saying such a thing, plus, it's my blog.
Mrs. Ceballos for 3rd grade. Miss Orr for 4th grade. Mr McNeil for 5th grade- loved/hated him.  He was a bit of a leftover hippie and, looking back as an adult, he was probably a marijuana user- just a hunch.  We'd sing folk songs with his guitar for a few minutes each morning...  Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Hollies, Joan Baez, etc.  He had a small farm just on the outskirts of the city and there were a couple of lambs born one night and we all took a walk the next morning, after the song time, about a mile out to his house to see the new life.  No permission slips, just going and learning about the world.  Try doing that today!  Lawyers would have a conniption fit! 

I was competing in a 5th grade spelling bee and I know spelling pretty well.  Even in 5th grade, I had a very good grasp on the English language.  My word was "balcony."  Mr McNeil pronounced it as "belcony."  I had him repeat it twice, per the rules, and each time, he repeated "belcony."  I fought my instinct that he was wrong and resigned myself to the thought that that maybe there was a word that I didn't know.  I spelled it B E L C O N Y and was eliminated.  I've always remembered that and have always regretted not trusting my instincts and I curse him for possibly altering the course of my life!  If I had just won that spelling bee, my whole life would have been different. 
I had Mr. Cardon for 6th grade and didn't love or hate him.  When it came time for the 6th grade boys to field a basketball team to represent our school he indicated that all the boys would be playing.  In spite of my defective sports gene, I dutifully ran up and down the court trying to not ever come into contact with the ball.  In spite of my negative contribution, our team went on to compete against other local teams and when we got to the pinnacle of our success, leading up to an important game, Mr. Cardon had the nerve to instruct the team not to throw the ball to me because I was a butterfingers.  I took great offense!  I would have been happy to sit on the bench and read a book. You force me to be on the team and then complain about my abilities that you knew about going in?!??


This is Washington Elementary.  I didn't attend there but this place was built when I was in high school to replace an older version of itself, if I remember correctly.  I'm not sure why, but this picture made me remember a bully I had in my life.  I had been teased regularly and assaulted more than a dozen times over the course of the years that I had to cross paths with him.  I've had a hard time searching my memory, I'm not sure if he moved away by high school or not, but when I put up this picture of the dome, I remembered hearing that he (the bully), was playing around on a construction site during the night- perhaps this one- or perhaps on a construction site in the place he had moved to (I really don't remember) and he fell to his death. (Post script- a reader indicated that there was, in fact, a death on this construction site and named him to me.  He was not the bully. Chalk that up to a couple of stories combined in my memory.)
This was and is Winslow Junior High.  My short-lived violin career reached its peak here.  Our orchestra travelled to a couple of neighboring cities for festival competitions and we scored "A"s at every stop.  I've forgotten the music directors name but she was passionate about music and it was a pleasure to perform with her at the helm.  Also had a great Science teacher in Mr. Essary and a great Industrial Arts (shop class) with Mr. Gonzalez. 
This was Winslow High School.  This was built in 1925.  It's boarded up now while the rest of the campus seems intact.  I'm not sure what other purpose it could serve but as a school.
Here's the new main building about a block away.  Very POSH!
This used to be the tennis courts.  That's the gymnasium and the weight training center across the way there.  When we played tennis as part of the P.E. curriculum, I could never and still can't get the hang of how to score a tennis match.  I think my first paying DJ job took place in that gymnasium.  I had no idea that it would become a career, so record keeping in those first few years is practically nonexistent.  One of the school clubs was having a fundraiser dance and sent a couple of cheerleaders to ask me nicely to do the dance for cheap- maybe a plate of cookies.  I didn't need a plate of cookies but who could resist the attention of a couple of cheerleaders when you are 16 years old?  If any customers are reading this and think that such tactics will still work... OK, go ahead and send some cheerleaders... I''ve always been fond of the Laker Girls-just so you know. 
This was and is the Winslow High School football stadium.  It's been renamed Emil Nasser Stadium after a beloved coach and P.E. teacher who made 98 lb weaklings like me into men.  He was a good and decent Egyptian man who expected excellence and taught people the skills to get there.  (Post script- a reader indicated to me that Coach Nasser may have been a Syrian man.  He could have been from Antarctica but that doesn't change that he was a good man.)
This was and is still the racquetball courts. I don't have anything to say about this.
The indoor swimming pool.  Nothing to say about this either.
This was the Business Education building as part of the high school campus.  I learned to type in there.  Remember what I was saying about my realization in 2nd grade about not being challenged?  I wouldn't call my typing teacher a challenging instructor, but what a blessing it has been to know how to type quickly and accurately when the world has since gone the way of computers.  Looking back, it was my English teacher, Mr. Howell, who gave me a love for the English language and the gift of communication in both speaking and writing and how beautiful it can be. I had him as a freshman and hated him (but still learned) I had him again as a senior and loved LOVED him.  He challenged me and I rose to the occasion.  Wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, mechanical drawing/drafting and typing, along with music and English were the things that have blessed my life.  Sadly, I came out of high school ill-prepared for life in so many other ways.  I didn't know what insurance was, I didn't know how to balance a checkbook, etc.  I wasn't until 25 years later that I had a brilliant instructor at University of Phoenix here at the Mesa campus that I 'got' Algebra.
Here's the Root Beer Stand.  I had my paper routes until I was almost 15 and then I started working here through the rest of my high school years.  This was my first wage-earning job.  I would get out of class at 11:55 and run down there and work through lunch,  then at 12:50, the boss would cook up something for me, I'd alternate between a nice cheeseburger or a taco tangle or a deep fried burrito and eat it on the walk back to school two blocks away.  I'd be back at 1:00.  School would let out at 3P and I'd work again until they closed at 8P.  We'd mop the floors and get the place cleaned up and ready for the next day and be out of there at about 830. It was called the A&W Root Beer Stand back then.  It's called Darrell's Root Beer Stand now, even though Darrell isn't there anymore.  His son Roland runs the place and Roland's young son is running around helping out just like Roland did when he was a boy and I was working there.  I had a Taco Tangle this week and a helping of chili fries with cheese and a couple of large root beers.  They haven't changed the chili recipe in all these years.  I went right back to my youth when I tasted it.  I've posted on my Facebook page a few things about Winslow on occasion and the commentary almost always mentions the Root Beer stand.  If they ever changed the recipe, I'm confident that it would blow a gigantic hole in the space/time continuum.
My Junior Prom was here.  This is Bonnie Brennan Elementary School and this gymnasium was brand spanking new at the time.  Owing to my nerdiness in high school, I hadn't intended to go to the prom but I thought that if I didn't, it would further prove my nerdiness so I asked a girl that I knew that would say yes even though I didnt' want to go.  I had a miserable time because I didn't want to be there.  I think I've got a photo buried somewhere that proves that I was miserable.
Here's a pic of the Elks Lodge in Winslow.  My Senior Prom was held here.  I'm a fast learner and I thought that I would have a better time at my Senior Prom if I had the hottest girl in the place, even though I didn't want to go.  I asked a girl from the next town that I had met at a church activity.  She would be an unknown and mysterious date, she was very good looking, and since she lived in the next town- she was unaware of my nerdiness.  I arrived here at the Elks lodge and my arrival had the desired effect, she dropped some jaws, but she also undermined my self-confidence in every other way and I had a miserable time.  I was even on a DOUBLE date to take the pressure off, but dating was not my gift and it would not become something that I was any good at for a number of years. 
Here's what I did at the Elks Lodge for this wedding I was hired to play for.  It was sure good to come back to my home town with the professional guns blazing.  There were lots of people who even seemed intimidated by me.  They wanted to say hello but felt the need to ask somebody else to ask me... that's so high school! 
My first rock band was kinda born inside this house.  It was me with an electric piano and a friend with an electric guitar and we played for several weeks just getting some bugs worked out. 

We added another guitarist and a bass player and there was a kid in our school who had some drums and lived in this house which is now a bed and breakfast.  We kinda auditioned him because he had a cool drum set and his parents seemed supportive and they had money.  It wasn't a good fit. Plus, the house creeped me out.  I think it was and still is haunted.  My cousin Tommy eventually filled the slot on drums for a summer that got us up and running.  Of the 6 people that eventually played in that rock band, 4 are still employed professionally in music.  2 performing and 2 in behind-the-scenes technical areas.  The one guy that I would have thought would still be in music, the one with the most guitar talent and natural good looks and great hair is a dry waller.  He has 10 kids!
Vargas field where the high school varsity baseball team plays and I think the men's city league plays here as well. 
There's a geological formation about 4 miles northwest of town called Monkey Rock.  I don't know why it's called Monkey Rock other than the fact that people go out there to monkey around. I don't and never have used alcohol, but I know that, of my Winslow contemporaries who do, they probably had their first beer out here. 
I stopped for fuel at this Shell station.  I-40 came through Winslow in the mid 70s and just like in the Pixar film "Cars" it decimated the local economy.  Nobody had to stop on Route 66 anymore.  This was one of the first business to move out to service the freeway traffic.  One of the largest drug busts in Arizona history took place right here.  An alert Winslow police officer saw a wanted man getting fuel and affected an arrest.  Sadly, that officer was later shamed for taking prisoners home to do his yard work or even soliciting sexual favors from young female traffic offenders.  I heard he served 15 years in prison. 
I think that the last time I bought fuel there, the price was less than $1!
Safeway was one of the tenants of a strip mall that opened up to service the freeway traffic on the north end of town.  It's still there.
If you turn the camera left, you'd see this.  The Whipple's store also moved from Route 66 to this new mall.  It occupied the Family Dollar and the vacant space next to it. The space in the corner further to the left was the corporate office.  The last time I was in Winslow a couple of years ago, the railroad had offices in the vacant space that is now for lease.  My career in entertainment was kinda born in this parking lot at a big retail promotion. 
This Circle K store was at the end of my Reminder paper route and I pissed away huge amounts of my earned money on candy and comic books from here.  That candy wreaked havoc on my teeth and I just spent $2900 on dental work earlier this year to finally deal with the last of the fall-out from that stupidity.
This Subway sandwich shop used to be home to a video arcade.  Any monies not claimed by the Circle K were wasted here.  I mentioned addictive tendencies earlier- looking back with some maturity, I was addicted to those early video games too.  Video games have come a long way since Pong, but at their core, they can still be addictive waste of money to a teenager. If I had saved $2000/yr from my paper routes, mowing neighborhood lawns in the summer, and my money from the Root Beer Stand, I would have never had to save again!
This place is still a barber shop.  It has been since the 60s I think.  It was the Smith Brothers when I was a kid.  Two old-school barbers that would shave men's faces with a hot towel and a straight edge razor and they'd stretch your skin out and do it so well that you wouldn't have to shave again for three days.  (I wasn't yet shaving)  I think hair cuts were about $2 or $3.  They did one style of haircut and everybody in town got the same one. 
This was part of the National Guard Armory out by the airport when I was a kid.  It's a broken down hangar now and it looks like the Forest Service is using it to store junk parts for fire fighting aircraft.  Several windows are broken out so I don't think it's anything important going on in there.  The airport is now named "Winslow-Lindbergh" after Charles Lindbergh who designed it.  When it was built, and for several decades, it was the only all-weather airport between Albuquerque and Los Angeles. 
My first kiss was in this house.  It was a dance party for about 15-20 teenagers when I was 15 or so.  We had 7 of those 45rpm 7" single records that we played over and over in a rotation and it seemed to work.  One of them was Commodores "Sail on" which I still play sometimes in my piano set.  I was dancing with a girl that I had the warmies for and we turned our heads in for a kiss and I'm not sure I even got her lips but when you are 15, it still counts.  I have 35,000 songs on my DJ hard-drive now. The question is, do I have the right 90 songs for THIS event?
Here are a couple of shots of the older Whipple's of Winslow store on Route 66.  The sign is still there but I don't think there have been any panels in it for years and years.  The panel in the middle with the male and female icons doing some shopping have a very 60s/Mad Men-esque quality to them. 
 
This place used to be a Coca Cola bottling plant.  In the early 80s, the Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving was considering a new printing plant to print paper money and Winslow was among a half dozen contenders in the West. The Whipple's stores had just gone out of business and my dad had been hired as the City Administrator.  He got a committee together to wine and dine the advance team that was coming to check Winslow out.  Part of the festivities included tour of the city, including this closed plant that could house the printing operations, and a reception/barbecue in our back yard (house pictured earlier.) He hired a local bar band with the instruction that they needed to know The Eagles' "Take it Easy"    The band dutifully played it as the lunch was winding down and they did a great job as I remember. Then my dad got up to speak and espouse the beauties of Winslow, Arizona and to invite them to bring their operation here. As part of his remarks, he talked about a song as if it was ancient history- the song was about 7 years old at the time- "The kids used to sing a song about 'standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona' and the song was about taking it easy"  I never told him that the song is not actually complimentary.  Ultimately, the government not only chose not to come to Winslow, but not to add a printing plant at all.  This building still sits vacant more than 30 years later.  
There were some monument signs placed out at the freeway ramps at the time also that said "Take it Easy in Winslow Arizona!"   Those are gone too. 

Well, for better or for worse, I stood on a corner in Winslow Arizona.  Nobody in a flat bed ford slowed down to take a look at me- girl or otherwise.  Whether anybody from the Eagles ever actually stood on any corner anywhere in Winslow is kinda irrelevant, they were making the point that they were down and out.  It could be any number of places that could make that point in a song, but you gotta admit, Winslow, Arizona does kinda fit the bill.  I was never one to wait around for someone to save me.  I left Winslow at 4AM on the morning after high school graduation when I was 17 years old.  I left Winslow and all things Winslow behind.  I regret not nurturing and protecting friendships and family relationships that I should have nurtured and protected.  It sounds shocking now as a grown man saying so, but I didn't know that I was supposed to.  Thank heavens for Facebook getting me reconnected with people who blessed my life in the past.  I'd like to hope that my contribution will bless their lives going forward.  A friend of mine from California actually took this next shot of me on a previous Winslow visit. Note what a great job the artist did depicting a flat bed ford reflected in the window. There's an eagle perched on the window above and two lovers embracing in the window on the right- it's just a painting on a wall!
Here's one of hundreds of tourists who stand on this corner in Winslow and take pictures like the one you see above. Note that a tourist or other enthusiast has parked a Ford on the curb there... in the left of the shot?  
I mentioned my Sunday School teacher from all those years ago.  I didn't see her on this trip, but I saw her a couple of years ago when I was up there for a funeral.  I asked what it was that kept people living in such a tough place.  Everything that those Mormon settlers said about it all those years ago is still true.  It can seem so God-forsaken sometimes.  She said that Winslow is a seed bed.  There is fertile soil there (good people) and it grows good strong people who then go and do the things that the world needs done.  Some of them stay, some come back, some of them go and do those great things in other places. 

The great philosopher Popeye once said, "I am what I am and it's all that I am."  (He also said, "I'm strong to the finish, because I eats my spinach!")  Instead of fighting against it, I just AM.  I'm from Winslow- and that fact damaged me terribly in some ways, but in other ways, I don't think I could have made it through my hard-times without some of the lessons learned there. It's not always people committing evil acts against us.  It's just life happening to us. 

You may not believe this, but the thought actually crossed my mind as I took a day to reflect on my time in Winslow and look at the place of my primary years with more mellow and seasoned eyes- I thought that I could actually live here and make a go of it.

31 comments:

Cynthia said...

If I were to go visit Winslow, I don't think I could even find some of the things you mentioned. I remember an elementary school field trip to the coca cola plant, but I have no idea where it is.
That was quite a stroll down memory lane. It's funny, though, how we all had such different experiences growing up in the same house, same town. And it's funny that you talk about the thought of making a go of it in Winslow. I was there a couple years ago, and I kept thinking, what would it be like to live here again?
I enjoyed the tour and the memories.

Angie V said...

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Curtis, Thanks I really enjoyed that. Something that I never realized was that you and I were in the same class from first grade all the way through sixth grade and if you were in the afternoon Kindergarten class we were in there as well. I enjoyed growing up in Winslow and have some many memories like yours.
Tim

Mighty Quinn Musings said...

It's scary that I can name some of those anonymous people in your blog post. You are a good friend and I enjoyed sharing some of those experiences with you at the time. I also enjoyed hearing your version of them, truthful or not :).

-Rob Cox

{just kidding about the truthful part - the Clear Creek scene was just how I remembered it}

Chidragon said...

Curtis,
I think I was a few years before you. The building you show as the Business Education building was new when I was there. At that time it was the Math/Science building. We had to learn to use slide rules. I, too, had Mr Howell when he first came to Winslow High. I, first loved then hated him. But, I'm female. He did team me up with my best friend in high school. She and I have hooked up on FB and attended our 40th reunion together. Enjoyed the memories. Thanks Wynn

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how I stumbled onto your blog/this post but I found it fascinating. So interesting how one generation to the next experiences similar things. I am from Winslow...about a dozen years or so behind you I think. I had Mr Howell for English....loved him; ate Rootbeer stand just last week when I was visiting; remember the big weeping willow on your cousins' lawn and remember thinking your home was one of the prettiest ones in Winslow; I remember your mom (step mom) visiting me in the hospital when I had my appendix out when I was 5; I remember Whipples store and the library that carried your family's name (so sorry to see it's now just called the "Library"); I remember Mr. G, Mr. Cardon, Bonnie Brennan, etc, etc. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for walk down memory lane....

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about your visit to Winslow. I believe the ford parked on the corner is from the dealership. It was there the last time I was in winslow, about 3 years ago.
Being Born and raised in Winslow, class of '73, I remeber when the town was booming, a fantastic place to live...glad to see it starting to grow again!

Anonymous said...

And me and my family live in the church that is now a home and we love it.It has become our sustainable homestead.

donna said...

Thank you so much for all your hard work. It must have taken a while to do. I lived in Winslow until 1970. I had some of the same teachers you had. I loved Mr. Howell. I had him as a freshman, junior, senior and for speech. He was my speech competition coach too. I still remember some of the things he taught me. Winslow looks sad now. I was there last Oct. Lots of empty buildings, houses for sale or empty. There were wonderful people there when I was growing up. They made a tremendous affect on my life with there love and care. It was a good place to grow up. Donna.

The Essential Perennialist said...

Question for you. How, if at all, are you related to the late Roxanne Whipple, who passed away at age 7 in 1966?

Curtis Whipple said...

Roxanne was my cousin. Her father, Tom, and my father, Vance, were brothers. ~Curtis

Anonymous said...

I was also born and raised in Winslow and left the day after my graduation from high school. Wondering if all these people like you and me,who ralized now what a great small town we were raised actually returned to Winslow to live...it would change the homestead of today significantly. And we could listen for the trains, smell the diesel fuel and eat taco tangos all day long! Stumbled onto your blog and this reading took me way back once again. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

We just opened the winslow movie theater & are loving it! You'll.have to come check.it out!

winslowtheater.com

Anonymous said...

I read your comments about Winslow. The artist you mention who carved "totem-polls" -- his name is Benny Buffano. The movie theaters you speak of belonged to the Harry L. Nace Theatres, Inc. - my family. Thank you for the opportunity to read this. It takes me back!
TNC

Anonymous said...

I went to Winslow once with someone very special. He showed me all his old stomping grounds which meant more to me than he would ever know. I got my picture taken on the corner with the flatbed ford. Priceless. Never to be forgotten this special fleeting moment.

Anonymous said...

Moved are family from PHX to Winslow. We always was told WHY WINSLOW??? Answered back. WHY NOT... We do not regret doing it. Love this town and history.

Anonymous said...

Emil Nasser is of Lebanese ancestry. He was inducted into the national and AZ Hall of Fame for High School Athletics. His son Dan is in Phx and in the Sporting Goods industry with his own company.

Anonymous said...

Nicely written. My wife and I plan to spend the night at La Posada and I was searching for something that could get in touch with the soul of this place. Very nice personal stories of an ordinary life in what must be a tough town to grow up in. I moved to Flagstaff in 1974 to go to NAU and have not spent a lot of time in Winslow. I'd love to see a renaissance. Thanks for stories.

Anonymous said...

i got curtis beat ive lived here 38 years . ive been to worse places and always glad to see the entering winslow sign when we get back usually this was coming back from of 12 trips to wisconsin.
i worked for railroad for 13 years then took medical retirement not the greatest way to make living but its a steady income
o the stories i could tell
red from anoymous october 19 2013 danny nasser has his own company glad to here that. i met alot of people from winslow when i was in collegee at northern arizona university and thankful my mom and dad sent me to northern arizona university the same year northland pioneer colled opened (1972) went to work for the railroad in 1977 moved to winslow bought a house the kid a wife and 3 cars in the driveway
all i knew was to go when they called me for overtime. made a bunch of nice friend here during my 38 years

Thomas Weinbeck said...

Thank you for the trip through time. I lived in Winslow for 7 years until 1971 when I graduated and joined the Marine Corps. I plan to attend the 45th class reunion in September. May take a few extra days to visit old friends.. Thank you again..

Anonymous said...

What a delightful romp down memory lane! I, too, spent all my childhood, and into adulthood in Winslow. Thank you for hitting all the great spots and recalling so many of my fond and character building memories! My first job was in the dress shop wrapping Christmas presents. A skill I master to this day! My mom (Bev Cahill) and I were just talking about taco tangles! I still make 'em, but they aren't the same as the ones from the root beer stand! And I remember almost every movie I ever saw at the theater and the drive in. I won't trouble you with the list, but I escaped to the matinees often on a Sat. afternoon and to the Drive-In on those great desert summer nights and was grateful for the respite! Many thanks to you for putting it all in words so eloquently. Proud to be a Winslow girl!

Anonymous said...

My family also lived at 201 E. Mahoney in the 80s for a few years.
Nice article on Winslow, enjoyed reading it very much.
Thanks for posting.

Big Al said...

Curtis, I remember your grandfather Mayor Whipple especially his contributions to the Christmas parades and the Indian band, world famous. I grew up in Winslow in the 1940s and '50s. Probably some twenty years before your heydays but have many memories similar to yours. We Beckwiths also knew Ruby Williams if memory serves. Mother often hired Ruby to help with the kids. Great woman. Herman Shugrue's Walgreen Drug Store hired me as a delivery boy when I was eleven. Used to pick up the daily bake goods for the fountain service from the Bakery in the next block. St. Joseph's School building was not finished so each class met half days allowing mornings for my work. Remember when Route 66 went through town and all of the tourist. It was just two lanes and it seemed almost weekly there would be a fatal car accident and dad (Dr. Beckwith) would be called out to hospital. Can remember when the La Posada was thriving with dining room and coffee shop, tennis courts and all. So, thanks Curtis for sharing yours and for bring back so many of my memories of our hometown!

Jason Crowson said...

The reminder is now called the scoop. And its still open at the same location. Just not the one you pictured.

Big Al said...

Nice to reminence about some of the good times we had growing up in Winslow. My period was about 25 years prior to yours (1940s - 1950s). About 1951, my first job was delivery boy for the Walgreen Drug Store now the site of 'Standing on the Corner.' I was 11. St. Joseph School building was not ready at beginning of school year so half-day classes were held at an auditorium at the Winslow Units west of town. So, for a semester I worked mornings. The city golf course was located south side of the ATSF tracks. No grass fairways and oiled cotton seed greens. The club house was nice built with a WPA project. One could even catch a daily TWA (and later a Frontier airline) flight to Phoenix. Route 66 came right through town on Second Street. There were two movie theaters, Rialto and a Spanish language theater. The La Posada was in full operation with a coffee shop and dining room, tennis courts and beautiful landscaped gardens. The Santa Fe railroad's El Capitan and Super Chief passenger lines made daily stops at the station adjacent to the La Posada. The road to Clear Creek was gravel as were many streets in town. It was not uncommon to see Navajo families travel from the reservation to town in covered wagons with horses. The wagons were equipped with automobile tires. Just some of my memories.

Thanks for bringing back the memories.

Cindy said...

That's such a great article! Thank you.

Cindy said...

Great article. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Class '84 - I enjoyed going through memory lane in Winslow, AZ. I live in Oregon now but I always enjoy visiting a few familiar places in AZ. I'm younger than you but I also had Mr. Howell & Mr. Essary. I enjoyed reading your blog from a male perspective.
You should blog about your best & worst experience as a DJ.
OSWirth

Anonymous said...

Loved your memories of Winslow. I grew up there, leaving after my 8th grade. Coach Nasser taught me to swim in his Red Cross classes, and I spent every summer day at the pool, purchased with a quarter. That and La Posada's gardens were where we went to escape the heat. My Dad, at 97, still had and wore a western cut shirt purchased at Whipples. Anyone remember the Whipple windows at Christmas? Thanks for sharing the memories and your faith. Cool!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember Mr. Lovett, a veteran of the Korean war who returned home minus a leg? Taught math, english and a great story teller..

Anonymous said...

Loved your memories of Winslow. I grew up there, leaving after my 8th grade. Coach Nasser taught me to swim in his Red Cross classes, and I spent every summer day at the pool, purchased with a quarter. That and La Posada's gardens were where we went to escape the heat. My Dad, at 97, still had and wore a western cut shirt purchased at Whipples. Anyone remember the Whipple windows at Christmas? Thanks for sharing the memories and your faith. Cool!