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Down And Over The Mogollon Rim
[Small Town America] US 60 Part 13
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2010-01-11 14:40 (KST)   
Not many places were open when we were ready to leave Springerville, Arizona. There were lights on in the real estate office across the street from the motel so I went over to see if it was open. It was, and broker Gracie Becker was already at work, but stopped to talk.

Gracie said the town is pretty small, less than 2,000, and the economic base is fishing, hunting and camping. Then there's Casa Malpais (House of the Badlands), a nationally recognized archeological site whose name was given by early Basque sheepherders who referred to the surrounding volcanic lava field as "badlands." And people find work at the Salt-River Project's coal-fired generating plant owned by Tucson Electric Power or at the prison located between Springerville and St. John's.

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I said I'd noticed quite a few shops, not just closed for the day, but permanently. Gracie said that part of it was due to it being off-season and besides there was one place, Joe and Heather's, that was doing well enough to be upgrading to a full restaurant right next door. Right at that moment in walked Joe, who had some business to discuss with Gracie but said a few words about how they were going to open almost immediately.

There was also somebody who had a few words to say but didn셳 want to be identified: "It seems to me that Obama is immature, childish, throwing money at problems hoping things will get better. While controversy can be good when it leads to a solution, right now controversy is only leading to controversy. Just a waste of time."

When Gracie asked me what I thought, having traveled all those miles and talked to so many people, I said, "I셶e heard a lot of people say something similar, but this was the most concise statement of somebody's opinion."

NOT MUCH OF ANYTHING BETWEEN SPRINGERVILLE AND SHOW LOW, which sits on the edge of the Mogollon Rim, an escarpment that runs across Arizona for approximately 200 miles (320 km) to the border with New Mexico. The top of the rim is at 6,400 feet (1,950 m), the bottom at 3,500 feet (1,070 m).

Show Low's main street is named "Deuce of Clubs" because the city got its name in a poker game where two men agreed to let the cards decide who had to pick up and leave town. One man said, "If you can show low, you win." The other turned up the deuce of clubs (the lowest possible card) and replied, "Show low it is."

While the main street had a great name, it wasn't that great looking; just an ordinary strip town with the usual jumble of shops, shopping malls and whatever. The Chamber of Commerce & Tourist Information Center was first class though. After hearing what we were doing, Ken Utt, the director of the Information Center, said we should talk with Gordon Kearl, the executive director of the Chamber.

Gordon Kearl, Show Low, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

After hearing our story about how we were traveling to get a slice of small town America and how people were doing during these hard times, Gordon gave us an impromptu oral biography of what his life had been like before coming to Show Low. In short, he'd been a teacher, then had a career in the USAF, and then had gotten into financial work. This meant he and his wife had moved place to place and when it was finally time to more or less retire he said, "I gave my wife the last pick, and she picked Show Low."

Gordon went on to say that once the move to Show Low had been completed, he became active in various forms of public service. His idea for the Chamber is to bring together what he calls, "Community Benefit Organizations," whether they're nonprofit or not. Previous to coming on board the Chamber he'd been a member of five such organizations. While the name may be new, he said the idea has been around since the beginning as the heritage/legacy families have always been community minded thus volunteerism has always been an aspect of the area and quality of life purposes rule over economic purposes.

What's important about Show Low is the population may well swell from it's current 11,000 to more than 35,000 as people living in the Phoenix area and come up to not just Show Low itself, but the area around Show Low, the meeting point of five highways. Their desires include healthcare, places to socialize, access to forests, a fire department and, perhaps most of all, no drug traffic. US 60 is one of the main routes for drugs coming out of Mexico, through the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix and surrounding towns), and through Show Low to points further north.

In addition to all this, there are cultural differences as both the Apache Indian Reservation and the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation begin just south of Show Low and extend approximately 100 miles to the south with a combined area of 5,500 square miles (15,300 km2) and a combined population of 20,000.

Last, or maybe it should be first, Gordon talked about the tax structure. Show Low has no city property tax but does have a city sales tax (along with the state and county sales tax) while but the county has a property tax. While property tax remains fairly stable, the city sales tax fluctuates, depending on the amount of goods and services. How much income will be coming from taxes will effect how much can actually be accomplished according to the redevelopment plan to revitalize Show Low셲 main street and the downtown commercial district.

NEXT, WE HEADED DOWN OVER THE MOGOLLON RIM, past the Apache Indian Reservation, and down into the Salt River Canyon.

Salt River Canyon, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

Descending the Mogollon Rim from Show Low to Globe is much more impressive than when you go down from Flagstaff to Phoenix. What's more, you get two views. In the above photo you're looking south and can see the sun glinting off the Salt River far below. The road continues down, down, down, crosses over the river and goes up to roughly the same altitude and then goes down again to Globe at 3,500 feet (1,060 m).

Sueko and I had been in Globe before because it's an easy and scenic way to get to and from Interstate 10 over the border with New Mexico, but we'd never gone up to Show Low. And I'd been in Globe back in the early '60s when I just gotten out of the Air Force and was trying to put myself through college selling waterless cookware. Lots of changes since even five years ago, the first being a bypass that takes you around the historic business district so we found ourselves heading toward Phoenix before we knew it.

The next (unincorporated) town is Miami and people call the area Globe-Miami including the Globe-Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation. We spotted the office just as we realized we'd gone past the business district, turned around, and stopped to talk with the director, Ellen Kretsch.

Ellen Kretsch, Globe, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

Ellen said Globe's economy has been historically dependent on the mining industry, first silver, then copper and while most of the mining has stopped, one of the few operating copper smelters in the United States is in Globe and so "Mining hasn't totally shut down."

For many years Globe remained a kind of frontier town as it was relatively isolated from the rest of Arizona and near the San Carlos Apache reservation (think Geronimo whose band was the last to refuse to acknowledge the U.S. occupation of the American West) which resulted in lynchings, murders, outlaws, stagecoach robberies, and Apache raids.

Things have changed, so when Sueko asked Ellen how multicultural the area was, Ellen said there was a good percentage of Hispanics but no split as there was years ago. People come from all over for hunting, fishing, boating, camping, bird watching and nature study on the San Carlos Reservation. For example, Ellen said that day's visitors were from Australia, Japan, Germany, and Canada.

WITH THAT, WE SAID GOODBYE AND WENT BACK TO GLOBE'S MAIN STREET to have a look at what we'd missed before the sun set. The business district is set on a hill and affords a good view of the surrounding country. Plus, when the setting sun gets low in the sky, it still hits the tops of some of the buildings.

Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, Globe, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

There were a couple of people talking together on the corner as I was shooting the above photo and one of them asked if he could help me. I told him what I was doing and asked what the building was. He said it was the original Gila County Courthouse and Jail built in 1905 - 1909 behind which many people were hung. Today it's the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts.

It turned out that he was the Main Street Director, Kip Culver, who heads up both the Main Street Program and the Center for the Arts. He didn't have a card but I got his e-mail and said I would send him a copy of the photo and the story.

WE CAMPED THAT NIGHT AT WAL-MART and headed for Phoenix the next morning along clearly marked US 60.

However, when you get close to Phoenix, the current alignment melds with the Superstition Freeway, then Interstate 17, and finally exits to Grand Avenue and heads north-west toward Wickenburg along with US 89 thereby taking you around central Phoenix. Great if you have no interest in Phoenix but a friend gave me a copy of a 1933 map of Arizona which showed US 60 running through central Phoenix on Van Buren Street when there wasn't much else to what is now a major U.S. city.

Just for fun, I wanted to see if there were any remnants of US 60 along Van Buren so we backtracked from Grand and went east on Van Buren past Central Avenue -- which is where the numbers for all of Phoenix start -- and kept going east. It wasn't long before we came on two motels, one at 1865 and the other at 2515 East Van Buren.

The one at 1865 is called the Classic Inn Motel (AKA Desert Winds Motel). It's owned and operated by somebody from Bombay, India, who had no idea that Van Buren used to be US 60 and seemed to think I was up to no good so wouldn't say much more.

The other at 2515 is called the Log Cabin Motel and looks the part, especially the sign which looks like it's been there since the beginning of time.

Entrance, Log Cabin Motel, Phoenix, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

The person on duty was cleaning the rooms but knew that VanBuren used to be on US60 as the owner, now living in California, had told her as much and said the motel had been built in 1919 which might have been before Van Buren became US 60. No explanation of why the bright orange signs on the cabins said "No Visitors," but one can guess as the area is mostly industrial and hardly the place for tourists.

Cabins, Log Cabin Motel, Phoenix, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

Perhaps most interesting was the filled-in swimming pool. I would never have known that's what it was without her telling me; it looked kind of like a small sandy park with tables and chairs. But she showed me the marker by the company who made it in 1937.

Original marker for pool, Log Cabin Motel, Phoenix, Ariz.
©2010 D. McLane

I will also be posting this story to Open.Salon a few days after it I've sent it to OMNI and will then send a newsalert containing links to both websites to my mailing list.
©2010 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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