Sunday, December 20, 2009

When the World Gives You Tumbleweeds . . .

make a Tumbleweed Tree (to paraphrase what to do with lemons). But more on this philosophical aphorism in a bit.

We would not expect that traveling from our RV Park just north of Phoenix to Chandler, AZ, just south of Phoenix, would mean covering a distance of 60+ miles, but we’re learning that there are very few short trips in this area.

In 1891, Dr. Alexander John Chandler, the first veterinary surgeon for the territory of Arizona, bought 80 acres of land from the federal government south of Mesa in the Salt River Valley. By the turn of the century, he owned an 18,000 acre ranch. After Dr. Chandler subdivided his ranch, he drew up a townsite map. He then advertised nationally the sale of Chandler Ranch sites.

He envisioned a landscaped central park that would be surrounded by businesses. The walkways in front of the buildings would be covered by a trellis-like roof, supported by colonnades.

Today, the results of that vision are still present in the historic downtown of Chandler (pop. 250,000+). Desert Flower VII, a metal and mirror sculpture by Arizona artist Gary Slater, is at one corner of the A. J. Chandler Park.

Just across the street to the west of the Slater sculpture is the former Chandler Hotel.

The Hotel and the other buildings along this street still reflect Chandler's vision for the covered walkways with colonnades.

All buildings have housed a variety of businesses between 1912 and the present. One of the buildings is known as the Monroe Building. The first floor of the two-story building (in the photo on the left) housed the Monroe Hardware Company, Chandler’s first hardware company. In 1915, the top floor space was converted into Chandler’s first movie theater, where silent pictures were shown.

Over the years, some of the tenants were attorneys and the Pay-N-Takit and Piggly-Wiggly grocery stores. It was a recreation center for servicemen. Then, another movie theater. Today it is the home of El Zocalo Mexican Grille.

These tables and table settings outside the Kokopelli Winery and Bistro (the former First National Bank building, built in 1920) caught our attention, but only briefly.

We returned to A. J. Chandler Park to see the bronze sculpture entitled "The Rosales Family--Pioneer Fountain" by Emanuel Martinez. It commemorate one of the city's pioneering Hispanic families who settled in Chandler before 1910. The intent was to have water flowing from the container (left side of the photo, right), but rust became a problem, so the water was discontinued.

Then we saw the Park's main attraction. Since 1957, Chandler has had a lighted Tumbleweed Tree as its Christmas Tree. This year nearly 2000 tumbleweeds have been secured to form a 35-foot tree. Some 25 gallons of white paint have been sprayed on the tumbleweeds, along with 20 gallons of fire retardant chemicals and 65 pounds of glitter. Then 1200 lights are added.

Seeing all these tumbleweeds made me think of the song "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" sung by the Sons of the Pioneers. One of the original members of the group, formed in the 1930's was Leonard Slye.

The Sons sang in some Gene Autry movies and Slye had played some minor roles in some of these movies. So when Autry was suspended by the studio over some contractual matters, Slye auditioned for his replacement in a movie.

So when this former gravel truck driver turned fruit picker for Del Monte in California’s Central Valley and member of the Sons of the Pioneers won the part,
Leonard Slye was given a new name for his first starring film: Roy Rogers.

Pretty interesting.

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