Sun Cities Today Blog

Welcome to the communities that changed a nation!

Archive for the month “April, 2011”

Doomsday in Sun City

Gotcha (at least those coming from Newszap looking for an announcement the end is near).

Treasures! The Del Webb Sun Cities Museum is literally a treasure trove of wonderful words and forgotten memories of days gone by. I often sit reading away hours of my life as i wander through the annals and story’s told by common everyday folk who loved Sun City and left a permanent mark by etching it into scrapbooks, journals and oral histories. Fabulous is simply an understatement. The tragedy is all too often they sit buried away in closets and cabinets with nary a visitor enjoying them. Hopefully this blog can help remedy that.

For example the headline on this entry, “Doomsday in Sun City” is straight from the pages of the May-June 1980 issue of the Webb Spinner. As a side note, we have nearly 40 years of the Webb Company monthly news letters all bound and preserved. They are filled with remarkable pictures and pieces of the explosive growth of one of the most innovative men in the construction industry, Del Webb. The one thing that stands out most prominently is the fact that Del wasn’t the end all be all. It was a company that celebrated its successes and recognized the efforts of thousands of employees that contributed to it.

I’ve left you hanging long enough: Debbie Doom was a softball phenom that at the age of 17 came to play for the Sun City Saints. She was 6 ft 1 and a half inches tall at that point and by the time she stopped growing was 6 foot 5. Her records for the Saints pale in comparison to her accomplishments in her later years. In the 1991 Pan Am games she hurled two consecutive no hitters and she won three NCAA Women’s College World Series Championships for the UCLA Bruins. Many of her stats and records still stand today.

But yet again i drift; page 5 of that Web Spinner claims whenever she was slated to pitch for the Saints, the local headlines would read; “It’s Doomsday for Saints Opponents!” Not to be outdone by those fabulous old Webb newsletters, the Museum also has a dozen scrapbooks filled with Sun City Saints history. The first half of them are laid out in quite astounding fashion as they are done in a manner that would make any modern-day scrap booker proud. Our back bedroom has a great collection and layout of those dozen years of the Saints in their prime. It’s fun to see how popular the Sun City Saints were, especially with all those old guys hanging around watching those pretty young things (who also happened to be some of the best players in the country).

The point is, the Museum is well worth the effort to get to. Rather than trying to convince you of that, i’ll close with this paragraph from Jerry Svendsen’s column Running Commentary in the July-August, 1980 issue of the Web Spinner. Mind you, Jerry was a Public Relations guy, an avid runner and quite fit (as he still is today). He says: ” I struck up a conversation with a hefty fellow at a service club meeting. The topic was proper weight and exercise. He said according to his weight he should be 7 ft 10 inches. I was encouraged when he said he was going to do something about it. “i’m going to put lifts in my shoes, ” he announced. Not quite what i had in mind.

Too funny; cool how good life was back in those early days and how we can still have it that way today. Nice!


Stop And Smell The Cactus…(Part 2).

Gorgeous isn’t it? Those of us living in the desert and seeing these cactus bloom for the first time are always awestruck by their beauty. Odd how something so sharp and able to pierce the skin with a slight brush against them can almost take your breath away. Best of all, way too many folks who have never been to the “desert” have no idea what they are missing.

Such a shame too; i think the desert gets a bad rap. There is a misnomer all that exists in Arizona is barren nothingness with cactus and brown scrub brush. Hardly the case with mountains and greenery in large segments of the state. And the desert is a wonderful blooming canvas of multiple colors and living plants of intricate formations that peak the imagination.

As i was driving around taking pictures of cactus in bloom, i also noted the remarkable number of rose bushes; simply majestic. Clearly those buying properties in the early years wanted the familiar beauty of the plants they so enjoyed back home. I’m sure it brought them some sense of serenity to look out their Sun City windows and see the explosion of color in full bloom.

Funny, over the 50 plus years Sun City has been in existence, not much has changed. Moving here each generation has been able to look back and find the attractions that made Sun City a community for people to long for. It can be as simple as the flowers blooming to the unlimited golf on the eight courses to the fact we are self-governed and run ourselves. Or just maybe, it’s all of the above and then way more than that. Nice!

Stop and smell the cactus (Part 1)

Blooming cactus Flaming workaholic i was; if i wasn’t juggling 8 balls in the air at once i felt like i was sitting still (something else i never did very well…sitting still). It was so bad the guy who was the secretary-treasurer left and went to another local union up north. He said it best; “You never stop to smell the roses; to enjoy what we accomplish.” He was right.

To make matters worse, when i retired, the new president took the entire staff on a retreat to decompress and let them know a new era was upon them. I guess in essence he was telling them the craziness was over and they could work like normal people. I had learned the old push/pull to an exact science and never let up. I often wondered as i raced to the ripe old age of 55 if i could maintain the pace without imploding.

As i was leaving, people who knew me said i would never survive in retirement. They predicted i would be back working within 6 months. Hah, i showed them. We had bought our house in Sun City at the age of 51 and knew exactly what we were moving into. Some people have recurring dreams of falling from a mountaintop; mine was of not getting to Sun City and becoming one of those “old farts” walking about in madras’ shorts, a white belt, black socks and sneakers. We longed for the day.

So i’m pulling your leg a bit; i have no madras’ shorts and i never wear black socks. Heck, i very seldom pull on a pair of pants with real legs in them. Yup, i love a life where the dress code of the day is casual; casual as in t-shirts and shorts of various styles and colors. Throw on a pair of sandals (or if i’m feeling really dressy) a scruffy old pair of tennis shoes and life is good.

The point here should be obvious…then and now can be something wholly different. We are conditioned to behave in ways that become our SOP (for those of you acronymally challenged standard operating procedure), but we don’t have to be that way forever. Don’t get me wrong, i still push harder than most, but i never have to have nor want to have more than one ball in the air at once. Life is better (at least for me) when there is some balance and pace that allows me the freedom to do what i want when i want.

That might be the biggest difference for many of us living within these white walls and those outside of them. Everything slows down inside Sun City. That’s a good thing. Don’t get wrong; you can stay active from morning till night if you please, but why would you want to when doing things as you choose is so darn nice? For those of you racing about, don’t you sometimes wonder if there is something better out there?

I want to tell you, there is. As one who knows just how good it was to be busy and days filled with a million things to get done, this is better. I’ve never looked back, wondered if i left too soon. Never longed for the “importance” of being somebody getting things done. I used to think work defined me, now i understand, i define me. Work was just something i did and frankly it was way over rated.

If there is anything i could tell those of you classic A type personalities out there stuck in the world of self-importance; we really aren’t all that important. There’s so much more to life if we are just willing to try to find it. The picture at the top of the blog says it all; since moving to Sun City, as i walk my standard poodle early in the morning, i find remarkable solace in seeing the beauty in something as simple as a cactus. The colors are more vivid, the smells more fragrant and the simplicity of it all is a joy to behold.

Part 2 to follow.

Sundial Saved

Okay, so it’s yesterdays news, but it is a great segue into preserving the history of Sun City and Sun City West. Two months back the Rec Centers of Sun City (RCSC) announced they were considering taking down the massive Sundial sitting in front of the Sundial recreation center. The center had just gotten a fresh coat of paint and a unamed someone found there was deterioration at the base of the old structure. Acting quickly, they said it would be taken down; seems it was cheaper than repairing it.

The proverbial stuff hit the fan with that announcement; as well it should. Residents in the community spoke out loudly and proudly about the historic significance of that piece. Within seconds of the moaning and groaning the RCSC said they didn’t know what they were going to do with it. Suggestions were made, before they even thought about hauling it off to the dump, they ought to get some bids to repair it. Logical eh?

The storm that followed opened some eyes on the board and within weeks a decision was made to repair it. Oddly, there were residents in the community that felt removing it was a good thing. I suspect those weren’t the folks who shop for antiques. Funny thing is, i don’t buy old stuff, but i was up in arms over removing a piece of our history.

The reality is, this isn’t a battle over old versus new; modern compared to well-aged. It’s simply about knowing where we came from and why we have succeeded. There’s only one place you will find that and it is in the history that we have preserved at the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum. We have volumes almost no one has seen. The materials collected in the past 20+ years is staggering. As we begin to unveil it, folks are coming to the museum in record numbers.

We haven’t yet scratched the surface. Yesterday at the museum’s monthly board meeting we discussed the future and how we expand beyond those walking through our doors. While our website is good, there is so much more we could do. The simple fact is, Sun City and Sun City West were the first of their kind. They changed a nation and we need to shout that from the mountaintop. Our potential is only limited by our inability to dream bigger, and that has never been a problem for me.

Thank God they even considered taking down the Sundial, it helped people understand just how important that history is.

“If God had offices, they would be situated in Sun City.”

It’s just one of hundreds of great quotes from magazine stories we have buried in our files. Pastor Gayle Bealand was the inspiration for this remark and i found it in a French magazine article about Sun City done in the 90’s. There’s an entire drawer full of early magazines and every time i pull one out and start reading it, smiles adorn my face. They are that good.

The wealth of materials we have that haven’t seen the light of day since they were buried away is staggering. The fact they aren’t available is tragic; the beauty is our long-term goal is take all of these gems and show them to the world. Eventually we will scan them and store them on our Past Perfect software and let those interested read to their heart’s content.

I’ve written it before, the depth of our treasures inspire me to keep pushing. Admittedly, i love words and i love Sun City; since our inception, there has been a cacophony of carefully crafted comments by those looking to explain and rationalize why it was so darn good. I doubt anyone understood that years after they were published, someone in the year 2011 would be finding such pure pleasure from what they had to say.

I want to share the love affair with everyone interested in why, how and who made this unique one of a kind community so darn good. Clearly it was a collective effort by so many that to begin to identify them all only insures i fail. In the coming months i’ll take snippets of those old digests, dust them off and open them up for all who want to see.

The French magazine article was titled: “La Ville Ou Les Vieux Font La Loi.” The translation is “The City Where The Elderly Make The Law.” Too bad, because there are so many other lovely French phrases that would have been far more appropriate for this remarkable community located in the valley of the sun.

Stay tuned, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Hammering Hank Aaron and Sun City.

If you look close you will see none other than Hammering Hank Aaron in the photo. But this one wasn’t taken in Milwaukee, Wisconsin or Atlanta, Georgia. Nope, this photo is from right here in good old Sun City, Arizona.

I should probably have been more timely given the Cactus League is just about to end, but here is a bit of trivia for you. We’ve had visitors on either side of Sun City for the past month; both Peoria nd Surprise are home to Cactus League teams and both of the stadiums are relatively new. In fact, both venues are an absolute joy to visit and watch games. At the Peoria Sports Complex you can see the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners and in Surprise you can catch the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers.

Plenty of Sun City residents go to games, but 30 years ago life was far simpler. The Cactus League was literally in their own backyard. In 1971 Del Webb built a stadium in Sun City on the corner of 111th Ave and Grand. The two level structure was quite the place and the San Francisco Giants played a handful of games there in 1972; bringing in superstars like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal.

They drew standing room crowds and the next season, 1973, the Milwaukee Brewers called Sun City their home for the Cactus League season. This quaint little stadium was perhaps most remembered by the fact golf carts could ring the upper deck behind home plate and up and down the lines and watch from the comfort of those old three wheelers.

Old timers still recant the stories of the days of the Kings Inn and how the baseball players would stay there and visitors and guests could mingle with them as they drank in the bar or ate in the restaurant. It was quite a time in Sun City and the shame is the field was sold of by the Webb organization in the mid 80’s. High interest rates caused home sales to plummet and the company divested itself of assets to better focus on building homes. 1985 was the last year the Brewers played in Sun City.

Great memories and how nice would it be to still have the Cactus League games here as we lounged in our golf carts high above the field?

Post Navigation