The Story Behind Cudia Neighborhood in Phoenix
Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published January 20, 2000.)
Q: I recently moved to the area of 40th Street and Camelback Road and my new neighbors tell me it’s the Cudia neighborhood, but I can’t seem to find out the origin of the name. Can you help?
A: Here at the gleaming research laboratories of Valley 101, teams of white-coated technicians pored over your question night and day for weeks before reaching the conclusion that maybe we should just ask somebody else.
So we asked the estimable Gus Walker, a Republic artist and student of Valley history, who soon produced a tattered copy of The Golden Days of Theaters in Phoenix by one Jerry Reynolds in which we found the answer to your question.
The book is a little fuzzy on the dates, but at some time in the late 1930s or early ’40s, Salvatore Cudia, “a longtime showman in Europe and Los Angeles,” built Cudia City, the Valley’s first motion picture studio, near Camelback and 40th Street.
Cudia City turned out such film classics as Phantom Pinto, Buzzie Rides the Range, Let Freedom Ring and Trail City. After World War II, the Red Ryder movies, starring Wild Bill Elliot, were filmed there.
According to Reynolds, “filming at Cudia City reached its zenith with 26Men, a Western series for television. But when cars, planes and utility poles of the city’s growth reached the studios, they prohibited outdoor shooting.”
Cudia City became a tourist attraction, restaurant and theater before it was torn down to make way for residential development.
Was fortunate to be in the “26 Men” TV series back in 1956 to 1958.
I had several “Small,non speaking” parts in four episodes and was in the Last episode.Refuge at Broken Arrow”in 1958.
I remember Cudia City in the early 1950’s.as well.
Our local Magic Club,the “Mystic 13” met there once a month.
To bad WWII stopped filming at Cudia,as maybe Phoenix could have been into the movie scene for the future,but progress took its toll on Cudia City.
Lots of fond memories there.
Rich Oliver…AKA Oliver Twist & Company
WOW Richard Oliver and memories of Cudia City and Mystic 13. Have not heard those names used in the same sentence for many, many years. My name is Paul Estes last sponsor of the now long retired Rabbits In Our Hat Junior Magic Club. I used to attend the Mystic 13 meetings at Cudia City back in the late 50’s when I was a teenager (was I ever actually a teenager) and have many memories or Bert Easley, Danny Dew, Don Seth (founder of the Rabbits In Our Hat Junior Magic Club) and Ed Keener, Robert Gurtler, Carl Langdon, Reverend Dana Panky, and so many more. For us, it was a magical time, in a magical place, with magical people. It was the “Golden” era of magic in Phoenix. Ah, such memories.
I was a member of Rabbits in Our Hat from probably the beginning until around 1962. I, too, remember a lot of the folks you mentioned, including of course Don Seth, who, as I recall, played the piano for our shows enthusiastically, if not well. And I remember you, too, Paul. When I visited Phoenix in the 90’s I was saddened to learn that Jack Sutherland had been murdered. He was a very nice guy. When I knew him he worked at Bert Easley’s Fun Shop. When I was last at Easley’s the magic section had been reduced to a tiny little area with a few inexpensive tricks, quite different from the magic section in the 50’s and early 60’s, where I spent many a Saturday.
My mother Carmen, was Mr. Cudia’s secretary. I was about four years old. On many occasions my mother would take me to work with her and with that, Cudia City was my playground. The town, soundstage, resturant, and that incredible pool (cracked my head open on the edge of that one afternoon). I only had to clear out when they were ready to shoot a scene for 26 Men. The canal behind the waterfall was like a small river then. The whole place was an adventure every day. That area was way out of town, then the city spread out. It was a sad time when the waterfall burned down, and much more sad when Mr. Cudia closed it all and developed Cudia Estates. He also deserves credit for building the bridge across the canal at 40th street. He couldn’t get the city to do it, so he stood up and took care of it. He kept the neighborhood as his residence, and although I missed the old Cudia City, I still got to spend some time with Mr. Cudia. Part of Mr. Cudia’s new place was a pool room. Willie Mosconi was a friend and would come into town to hang out and shoot pool (billiards) with Mr. Cudia . I was all grown up by now, got to meet Mr. Mosconi, and always had an open invitation to go over and shoot a game of pool. Mr. Cudia was an artist and collecter of art and always would show me the collection in the studio. I still have a painting from the collection. A real nice guy, a very interesting man, paisano.
Hello Dino, I read the story you have about Cudia. I wanted to tell you about what happened to Salvatore Cudia. He passed away 42 years ago. He was a US Army veteran who served in WWI. Unfortionatly when he passed away his remains were never claimed by his family. His ashes had been sitting on a shelf for the last 42 years. Yesterday on February 27th 2013 we laid his ashes to rest along with 27 other Veterans who had not been claimed.
The longest one sitting on a shelf unclaimed was 58 years. If you would like to get a copy of the “order of the services” you can contact the Missing in America Project at (480) 606-8331.
Jesse & Dino, I was able to be in the audience of the MIAP Ceremony on the 27th and it was awesome. What a wonderful service to these special heroes. Marshall Trimble’s tribute to Mr. Cudia was awesome and it is great to read above about the restaurant and movie ‘set,’ too. I will be glad to attend future services until all of our ‘missing in America’ are found and given that long-overdue proper interment.
My father Don Paulson Actor/Stuntman/Horse and animal trainer, worked on “26 Men, Paladin, Wanted Dead or Alive” here as well as other locations from Campverde to Apacheland Studios. Kelo Henderson Co-star of “26 Men” can tell you a lot about Cudia City. He is alive in a care facility doing well other than having to use a wheel chair, at Bella Sera Home Care Facility in Ridgecrest California and would love to share stories with anyone interested in his experiences and adventures…
I remember Cudia City as the folm set, it was also where Camelback dead ended at 40th St. My grandparents lived at 40th & Montecito so we would take walks up to it. There were big timber gates at the entrance. The 26 Men actors and crew also hung out at the Outpost, a small place in Scottsdale (also gone) where my Dad sometimes tended bar so we got to meet some and get pictures.
My Grandfather Joe Alessi worked at Cudia City .. at the restaurant . ( Does anyone remember him ? ).. We would see Mr. Cudia eating alone at Roma Restaurant on occasion in the 60’s.. he was always impeccably dressed and had a huge Caddie or some 50’s car parked outside. People would whisper.. ( that’s Mr. Cudia .. ) He was very respected.
I guess I moved to the valley too late (1989) to absorb such cool history! It seems to be the case with everywhere I’ve lived, i.e., the most interesting people and history closed or vanished just before I arrived!
I have several DVDs of the TV series “26 Men” and enjoy it a great deal, even more once I found this great history! If only Cudia City were still standing, I’d be there working on the shows and films, as I did in Cali. back in the day,
Thanks for the great history lessons and stories!
I recently acquired a very large Architectural Rendering of “Cudia City’s Civic Center, 1938”. The piece is a true work of art! Although it never came to look the way it was illustrated I am fascinated by history as I live just one block from 40th St. and Camelback! I am taking it upon myself to piece together and preserve the history of Cudia City. I would love to connect with anyone who might have more information or would like to see the Painting I have. I would even propose petitioning the city to make an homage to this unique piece history.
Please reach out if you have any interesting information to share
I have information that might interesting to you regarding Cudia City. I will check for your response.