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Category Archives: Local

Housing Developments

Funny stuff: the Phoenix New Times‘ Robrt L. Pela begins a new column, Surreal Estate, with a piece on the new faux-Italian apartment complex bordering the busy I-17 freeway. This reminds me of when I went apartment hunting back in 1994. Looking for places in the East Valley (Tempe/Chandler/Mesa), I used the Arizona Republic listings as a guide. Bad decision. Back then they used to run a weekly writeup on a local apartment complex — and week after week it was always some snooty high-end place in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley being profiled. Even worse was the fact that the profiles had the feel of superficial, relentlessly upbeat puffery (which describes just about everything the Republic publishes). Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading about whatever Pela can come up with for his column.

Related: Derrick Bostrom’s vintage Phoenix postcard collection.

Concrete Reasoning

Last weekend we caught a photography show called Midcentury Modern Buildngs in Phoenix at the local library. The Phoenix metro area doesn’t have a whole lot of eccentric midcentury architecture, but what we do have is something to be cherished. I’m glad to see a gallery of prints celebrating this stuff before short-sighted developers destroy or remodel it out of existence. A special favorite is the Uptown concrete and steel fantasia officially known as The Financial Center (seen in a vintage postcard view below), which we call “The Computer Punchcard Building”. The high-rise building in this spacey complex was completed in 1972. Inside, the offices are tiny and cramped and the whole place seems like a fire trap — but the outside sure is neat. A selection of images from the show can be seen at photographer Michael Lundgren’s site.

Financial Center, Phoenix

Sugar Sugar

Last week me and Christopher (both natives of the Phoenix area) got to talking about the fondly remembered local businesses that we used to enjoy as kids. One of the first places that came up was Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours. I used to love going the location in Tempe, which back in the ’70s was surrounded by nothing but dusty vacant lots. The decor was of the “lots of crazy crap on the walls” variety with a slightly Gay ’90s twist. I remember they also had one of those Love Grip machines. Usually my family would order a concoction called “The Zoo” so that the staff would bring it out with bells ringing and horns blowing. The Zoo came in a huge bowl with cool plastic animals perched on the many scoops of ice cream. I came across a tribute site to Farrell’s only to learn that it wasn’t a local establishment at all — more of a Southwest U.S. chain, in fact. Surprisingly, a few Farrell’s remain open for business.

By the way, the other places we talked about were Yellow Front (rustic shop to get jeans and camping equipment), UTotem (convenience stores), the Hostess Bakery Outlet my mom used to drive in from another town for, and Gemco (general purpose department store).

Let’s All Go to the Mall

Keith Milford of the terrific Malls of America shares a short video of Phoenix’s Metrocenter circa 1990 (you can tell when it was videotaped because that lame-o “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird” song is playing in one of the shots). I visited Metrocenter only once as a child, but it was amazingly clean, white and big. Some of that amazingness has been preserved in the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. My favorite part of the video is the shot of Goldwater’s with its textured gold brick wall on the mall’s entranceway. Goldwater’s was a mainstay on the Phoenix shopping scene, a swanky destination which unfortunately got bought out by Macy’s in the ’80s. I loved those gold bricks.