Ride A Mile and Smile the While a History of Phoenix Street Railway 1887-1948
Ride A Mile and Smile the While a History of the Phoenix Street Railway 1887-1948 By Lawrence Fleming
Hard Cover with dust jacket (HAS PLASTIC PROTECTIVE COVERING)
Copyright 1977 FIRST Printing
Dust, Adobes & Horse Cars 1887-1893
Electricity, Expansion & Foreclosure 1893-1900
Ostriches, Agriculture & Optimism 1900-1916
Along the Early Lines 1893-1916
War, Recession & Failure 1917-1925
Rebuilding & Municipal Ownership 1925-1930
Depression & Cutback 1930-1941
Twenty-nine years have passed since the CLANG of a street-car was heard on a Phoenix street and Car number 508 made its last trip along Washington Street and vanished into history.
Those born since then have probably never ridden, or, in some cases, even heard of a trolley car. Yet, for sixty-one years, from 1887 to 1948, the street-car was basic transportation for Phoenicians. For work or play, the trolley stood ready to carry residents to their destinations. The smell of fresh cut alfalfa and spring orange blossoms were some of the delights of a trip across the Arizona countryside to Glendale. In Glendale the new sugar beet factory and many ostrich farms stood as evidence of the modern nature of Arizona industry. Picnics at Desert Curve were popular in spite of the large red ants. Those attending the Territorial Fair went to and from the fairgrounds by trolley. Fishing, boating, swimming and ball games were among the varied pastimes offered at Eastlake Park. Everyday places such as the Capitol Building, Indian School, railway station and various residential additions to the city were frequently and conveniently served.
Narrow gauge horse cars, with white mules and tinkling bells, and their successors, the rattling, clanging trolley-cars, belong to a Phoenix of bygone and simpler times. A Phoenix which, with few exceptions, has disappeared from view, swept away by an expanding vital city with too little regard for its past. A few traces of the Phoenix Street Railway remain. Here and there the glint of the warm Arizona sun reflects off a rail peeking above an asphalt street. A few old street-cars pass their declining years under the shady trees of a West Phoenix trailer park. The former Orangewood power sub-station, constructed in 1911, stands as if to defy progress in the middle of an exclusive Northeast Phoenix residential district.
For those who do remember the street-cars, Phoenix of old will once again come to mind. It was a very different place. Not a city at all, but a small town with small town ways. Civic occasions were celebrated with parades, and firecrackers announced the arrival of the Fourth of July. Streets were mostly dirt and summers hot. In winter, a hazy pall from numerous mesquite fires would hang over town, creating an early form of pollution sufficiently intense to outrage any modern environmentalist. Summers were spent not only without refrigeration but without the swamp or evaporative cooler which was to be produced years later at Palmer's Radiator Shop. Summer evenings were passed in neighborly conversation, lemonade drinking and cloud-watching - the latter in hope of a cooling rain. More likely than not, clouds brought only a choking dust storm. The approaching darkness was signaled by illumination of corner street lights, a chore performed by a lamplighter on an individual light basis. While Phoenix was justifiably proud of being one of the first towns in the United States to have a complete electric street light system, lights outside the business district with their round, five-cluster globes were turned on individually. Once lights were on, many residents occupied their time watching neighborhood cats slyly stalking the many and varied bugs attracted by the soft yellow light.
In one form or another, all Phoenix slept out of doors. Screened sleeping porches abounded and army cots dotted back yards from one side of town to the other. Primitive and ingenious methods were invented by sweating residents to cool off. A fan blowing across a fifty pound block of ice set in a galvanized wash tub or a wet sheet placed over the sleeper on his cot were but two. Summer rain would on occasion pour unexpectedly down on the back yard bedrooms, an event that would scatter cot sleepers with bedding flying for the nearest cover. To kids, summer meant a cool dip in the nearest irrigation ditch, the pursuit of ice wagons down city alleys, or a trip to Donofrio's Ice Cream Parlor.
To the modern Phoenician, these conditions may seem harsh and primitive. The Phoenician of that early day, however, was a hardy breed. He took in stride dust, bugs, mud and even an occasional flood and stayed for more.
In many ways, it was a better Phoenix than today. Large shade trees lined the streets and residents not only knew their neighbors, but conversed with them on a regular basis. Hard work prevailed and crime was scarce.
The Phoenix Street Railway was an essential part of this long-vanished scene. Street-cars had their shortcomings for they were noisy, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, sometimes had flat wheels and the ride could be rough. They did, however, run every ten minutes, go anywhere worth going in their day, and for only five cents. To use a slogan painted in gold over the motorman's window on one of the cars, "Ride a Mile and Smile the While 5c", and everyone did. You are invited to turn back the clock, revisit your memories and take a look at the Phoenix of simpler times. I hope you enjoy the ride.
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