How the Phoenix Area Nabbed the “Valley of the Sun” Nickname

Midtown Phoenix Closeup

Q: Everybody refers to this area as the Valley. What exactly is the Valley the valley of?

A: This is a deeply troubling question because it actually required some work to nail down the answer.

The easy part first: This is the Valley of the Sun.

Of course it isn’t really the Valley of the Sun. The ancient Hohokam Indians did not say to their relatives, “Hey, you should come down to the Valley of the Sun for the winter.”

Valley of the Sun was a name cooked up in the 1930s to boost tourism. As these sorts of things go, it’s not bad — short, snappy, descriptive.

The Fall (and Rise?) of Notorious Train Robber Burt Alvord

Burt Alvord

Burt Alvord was a big, strapping, swarthy-looking char­acter with a bald pate and an I.Q. that was said to be considerably less than his age, which was about 30. Alvord did have a few positive attributes. He was usually cheerful, had a sense of humor and was a mighty popular fellow in Cochise County during the 1890s. He’d been a deputy for county sheriff John Slaughter, who’d pronounced him abso­lutely fearless.

Burt was also pretty good with a six-shooter. Old timers said he demonstrated his prowess at beer bottles hung from a tree limb by a string. He’d shoot the string with his right hand, then draw with the left and break the bottle before it hit the ground.

His major interests seem to have been poker, pool, horses, guns and practical jokes.

The Fourth Goes Bang in Taylor

Firing the Anvil, Taylor

TAYLOR — The people who reside in this community don’t have to worry about getting a wake-up call to make sure they don’t miss the Independence Day festivities. The Taylor Fire Department takes care of that.

Starting at 4 a.m. every July 4, the department conducts an annual ritual known as “firing the anvil.” It’s a simple procedure — get an anvil and some gunpowder, stuff a bunch of gunpowder under the anvil, light the fuse and stand back. (The warning of “do not try this at home” should be obvious). The ensuing blast not only wakes up everyone within hearing distance, it also catapults the anvil several feet into the air.

Do Valley Homes Have Fewer Basements?

Basement

Q:My wife says there are no basements here because there are no tornadoes, so we don’t need a place to hide. I say it’s because the ground is too hard. Who’s right?

A: First of all, your question is flawed by asserting there are no basements around here. Granted, there aren’t many, but there are some, especially in older homes. They’re relatively plentiful in the Encanto neighborhood of Phoenix and in some scattered pockets of pre-World War II homes around the Valley.

They’re not the pine-paneled rumpus-room basements you recall from your split level back in Moline, Ill., but they’re basements nonetheless.

And, as we shall see, basements have made somewhat of a comeback in recent years in upper-end new housing.

But the vast majority of Phoenix-area houses are squatting on concrete slabs, meaning that if we ever really did have a tornado, your best bet would be a merciful God.

History, Theories Surrounding the Lost Dutchman Mine

Superstition Mountains

Arizona’s most notorious lost treasure story for both believers and otherwise takes place in the mysterious Superstition Mountains.

The rugged range of mountains east of the Salt River Valley encom­passes some of the most breathtaking, untouched wilderness recesses in America. There is also an aura of mystical beauty that can possess the soul. They are regarded as religious shrines by both the Pimas and Apaches. They provided the setting for much bloody violence between those warring tribes before the coming of the white man. During the latter part of the 19th century, the mountains became a formidable sanctuary and one of the last vestiges of the Apaches who refused to become reservation Indians. They used the twisting canyons and impenetrable maze of rocks, defying sustained efforts by the military, for over twenty years.