Sun Cities Today Blog

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Archive for the month “September, 2011”

Irony…

The sweet irony of life is always so fascinating to me. Sometimes i think i’m paddling a canoe upstream while all the others are simply going with the current. It’s always easier to accept one’s fate rather than to try to change it. I know, now where the heck is he off to? Just seems when i start to write my mind becomes a bit abstract and pieces of that jig saw puzzle always fit more easily if i can just try to round of some of the corners before squeezing them unto the board. The trouble is it invariably leaves a funny looking picture. Hence, you now know why i don’t attempt to work on jig saw puzzles.

I’ve said this before, i’ll say it again; one of the reasons we moved to Sun City is because we are self-governed. I loved the idea we ran ourselves; if the community was messed up, we had no one to blame but the face laughing back at us in the mirror. We couldn’t blame the guy in the White House, the dysfunctional senate or house of representatives or even the state and local politicians. While almost everyone else can find a mayor or city council to blame, we don’t even have them as fall guys. It’s all on us. Nice.

Another words, we have to be both accountable and responsible. Tha’s a good thing (at least in my humble opinion). The end of 2009, i got in a fairly heated exchange with a board member regarding the change in what constituted having a  quorum for the quarterly membership meeting. Previously it was 100 members, while today it is 1250. At one point they said we needed 3600 (to comply with the 10% requirements in the state law), but even the biggest zealot had a hard time supporting that number.  Following the discussion the board member went stalking off by simply telling me if i didn’t like it, run for the board and change it: Thanks, i am.

That’s not the irony though. That came today at the board of director’s meeting when i was sifting through documents passed out for the meeting. There was a resolution they are considering changing regarding rec cards. Essentially they want to go back to the old system where they were more liberal in giving rec cards out to Sun City underage residents who were/are on the deed (and in some trust situations, additional cards as well). All in all an excellent change that will help Sun City look more progressive and more community oriented. The board president announced they wanted input from the residents regarding this matter. Refreshing.

What i found ironic was a copy of the minutes from the last quarterly membership meeting held in Sun City in the pile they were distributing. It was dated August of 2009 (more than two years ago). What should be noted is when we only needed 100 members to make up a quorum, we often had enough numbers for residents to have a much larger voice/stake in the community. Now that has changed 12+fold, we not only don’t have a quarterly meeting, we see crowds growing smaller and smaller. Can anyone say “cause and effect?”

Throw that whole speech into the mix about “getting resident input” and we quickly see how saying one thing while doing the other can have a chilling impact. Positions and communications by organizations need to be clear and concise. We need find a direction and then plow straight ahead with it. If we want membership involvement, we need to do things that consistently encourage and nurture it. It can’t be we want some this day and others tell them they just don’t matter.

Personally i think the board is doing a better job. That said, we need to rethink the actions by the board regarding the quorum issue. We need create communications that bring people in, not push them away. We need a wholly new look regarding the community’s values and how and why we are different from other age restricted places seniors look to in retirement. We have the best value for the least money and it is time to make that statement loud and proud. Lastly we need create that sense of urgency in people to want what we have to offer. Easy…no. Doable…absolutely!

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Mea culpa

Perhaps there is no better example of the dichotomy of then and now than you will read in today’s blog. Recently lawn bowlers received a tersely worded email from a resident overseeing the project telling us to stay the heck away from the Fairway bowls green. They are about to start laying the artificial carpet and many of us are interested in how it is applied. We were reminded this is a “construction zone” and if we needed to see it, we should get clearance from Jim Wellman. Interesting only in that the opening of Fairway has been long-awaited (and at one point well ahead of schedule).

To get back on track. let me just say these mea culpa’s are without doubt some lingering after effect of having grown up Catholic, where guilt was a given and begging forgiveness was a way of life: Though i must admit that confession thing was pretty cool to be able to go sin like crazy and then get it all washed away with a few Our Fathers and a couple of Hail Mary’s.

The other day i did a blog titled Awesome. The whole premise was wrapped around a picture from Sept of 1959 and was an aerial from our archives. I questioned whether it was dated correctly; it just didn’t seem possible that the Del E Webb Developement Corp (DEVCO) could complete all of the buildings for Sun City’s opening in four short months. I guess i was thinking in terms of todays building pace; kind of akin to the Fairway effort. Perhaps times were easier back then ( i know they were), yet it would seem to me the pace today should become more Webbesque; especially given the improvements in construction techniques and tools.

In any event, the pictures below are to die for (too dramatic?). The sequential photo’s are an awesome story of a job well done; almost like a slow motion recapture of a time and place where doing the job “perfectly” was to be expected. What happened along the way that we lost that expectation from those we hire?

Enjoy:

September 1, 1959 – Sun City construction photo

DEVCO Job 3442, September 1, 1959

Aerial view of what was to become Sun City

October 5, 1959 – Sun City construction photo

DEVCO Job 3442 - Photo 5 - October 5, 1959

November 6, 1959 – Sun City construction photo

DEVCO Job 3442 - Photo 5 - Taken November 6, 1959

December 4, 1959 – Sun City Construction photo

DEVCO Job 3442 - Photo 6 - taken 12-4-1959

Awesome

Aerial view of what was to become Sun City

Finally, we’re starting to get a break in the weather and the temps aren’t quite as high during the days and absolutely brilliant over night. Of course with that, we start to notice almost at a pace on par with those temperature drops an increase in traffic. Funny, i’m beginning to think there is a connection to those two events.

The picture above caught my eye and for reasons beyond what many of you may see as pertinent. It’s pretty obvious by the lack of cars (or almost anything else for that matter), there wasn’t much going on (other than Youngtown in the far background). This is an aerial from 1959 and the thing that stood out to me was the date (click on the photo and you will see what i mean). It claims to have been shot by the DEVCO people 9/1/59. I don’t believe it, because if that was the case, it would have meant all of Sun City was built from September to the end of December. This picture is the corner of 107th and Grand Ave (you can see the front nine holes of the North Course were at least scraped clean).

We know from their printed materials they began in July of 59. Six months would seem about right to build the shopping center, gas station, five model homes, Community Center (now Oakmont) and the Hi-Way House Motor Inn and restaurant (which became the Kings Inn in 1963). Even that seems like a blistering pace; especially given it took us five months just to get County approval and a new sign constructed out front of the museum in 2009. Is it possible they did it all in those three short months?

One of our projects we are working on is trying to convert all of these aerial shots to a format where people can get a good visual experience of the growth of Sun City and Sun City West. We have hundreds of them and when they are dated, we can place them sequentially so viewers can follow along, much like Mitch Miller’s bouncing ball over the words…don’t try signing along though; thank you very much.

The point(s) here is it’s really nice to see the temperatures begin to break, great to have the museum back open and running Monday through Friday (1pm-3pm) and for us to keep being able to bring more of those golden oldies buried in our vault of remarkable collectibles to your attention. we had a visitor just yesterday who said, “every time i come in the place has changed (gotten better) than the time before.” Thanks, we think so too.

And, a hearty welcome back to our winter visitor’s and summer escapee’s. Just try not to slow things down to much in line at Fry’s, you know how cranky some of these old folks get when they have to wait a few minutes longer. Guess we know by now we have to take the good (cooler temps) with the bad (more traffic).

Help

Perhaps no other word in the English language is more underused than this one. I used to think it was a guy thing, but both men and women tend to fall into that trap of hating to admit we can’t do something ourselves. To compound the problem, the more we are classic A type personalities, the more we want to prove I can do it alone. Foolishness really, but tell that to your ego and see how far it gets you.

That’s where the beauty of a collective (like Sun City) can be so powerful. It isn’t and should never become about the singular. Understanding collectivism is a challenge for many; there are just too many other “isms” that create an idea of something evil and over powering. Thrown into the mix are those who have spent their entire lives stopping the spread of “isms” and we quickly see why any effort to embrace collectivism is quickly shunned.

I find that interesting, especially given some of those reacting the loudest have chosen to live in a collective like Sun City or Sun City West. Sweet irony eh? But alas, i once again deviate from the topic at hand, reveal one of my fundamental weaknesses, and become philosophical to a fault (and with no interest in the political side of this debate…really).

The Del Webb Sun Cities Museum was “open by appointment” for the three summer months (June, July and August). We could have continued on that path for the month of September and October, but our board felt that would be a poor choice. In 2010, with regular Monday to Friday hours and a handful of special events we put more people through the museum than we did the three prior years. We came to understand “regular hours” was a key ingredient to our success. The first four months of 2011 brought us wonderful results in attendance, thus reinforcing our point.

So here’s my dilemma: I think i can do anything (though my wife will quickly tell you nothing could be further from the truth; she’s seen me try to put a knock down entertainment center together…it wasn’t pretty). The difference is i know what is within my limits and the stuff i suck at, i just don’t do. Straying again aren’t i? Here’s the problem: We simply don’t have enough guides (docent as they used to be called) back from the summer break. I have said i would (and will) cover any shift where there isn’t a guide volunteering to serve. We want two of them on duty per day, though i work by myself if need be.

Bluntly put, i need your help to keep the museum running. Of course i am stretching the fabric a bit to make it fit my needs, but realistically speaking, our long-term future is really contained in getting more volunteers interested in our history; both preserving and presenting it. I will be leaving the end of the year, and the best outcome as i move on is to have a solid core of volunteers carrying on. We have a great board, but we need more of the day-to-day hands on people.

Our winter schedule is Monday through Friday 1 am to 3 pm. We can train you quickly and you can select two-hour shifts that are convenient for you. Virtually all of our exhibits are self-explanatory and as you take visitors through you will find yourself becoming an “expert” just by osmosis (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but you will be surprised how fast you absorb things). Many of our volunteers have told us how much they enjoy it here because they find information most Sun City residents will never see or know.

This early fall time period is the perfect opportunity to become a guide. Not many people coming through yet and that allows us to break you in gently and for you to get both feet on the ground. Sun City’s history, while short in the tooth, is long on amazing. We have amassed one of the most impressive collections on how this “first active retirement community” began. It is a treasure and you can help it share it with people; how good is that? For more information, call Judy Baerg at (623)-974-2568. If we aren’t here, leave a message and we will get back to you.

Would you go or would you stay?

This is one of my most often cited “stories” and it is absolutely the truth (the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God). The last movie my wife and i saw in a movie theatre was Cocoon. I thought it was back in the mid 70’s, but the film wasn’t released till 1985. The two things we know from this factoid is: i’m a blast to invite to an Oscar party and the movie moguls of the past 25 years haven’t gotten filthy rich at my expense.

But this blog has nothing to do with either Oscar parties or overpaid movie executives. Nope, i’m talking about one of the most incredible syncrosynistic moments in my lifetime. I guess because it was the last time i was in a theatre the images of the gang from Cocoon hanging around the indoor swimming pool is fairly well burned into my mind. Ameche, Brimley, Stapleton et al’s adventure of finding the “fountain of youth” and the lifeforce in those waters, was a a moment in time i will never forget; i just didn’t know it when i saw it.

See, that scene is replayed over and over again (just like Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day) every time i walk into the Sundial Rec Center pool area. In fact, the first time my wife and i stopped there we looked at each other and were astonished to see we both felt it was de ja vu all over again. Been there, done that. Now a dozen plus years after that first encounter, we better understand how closely related those two events are.

We both feel as if we have found the Fountain of Youth. Sun City has that affect on people. There are no pods of alien beings awaiting transportation back to their planet, and we don’t have to submerge ourselves in those waters to rejuvinate our aching joints, we just feel younger living in Sun City. Perhaps it’s the never ending sunshine, or the fact everyone around us is older, but in either case, we both ackowledge getting older isn’t making us feel older. We still feel like kids at the playground, maybe because Sun City is just that.

But i stray, as usual. In the movie, the aliens weren’t able to take the pods back with them. However they did have room on the spaceship for a number of the oldsters and if they wanted to go off with them and return with the Antareans to their homeworld, they would never grow ill, never age, and never die. Interesting concept and more so was the outcome in the movie; all but one of those offered that chance for eternal life opted to take it.

So, here’s the question of the day for this gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Sun City…would you go if offered the chance to never grow old (older), get sick, age or die?

Value & Values? Value or Values?

There’s days i read my headers and wonder if i have the foggiest idea where i am headed. In this case; 100% absolutely. Let’s set the table with a pretty easy to follow diagram that will set the table for where i want this to go. Stay with me because when we are through, i think it will be crystal clear…or at least clearer than mud.

The original Sun City opened Jan 1, 1960. The premise behind it was simple…a new way of life for seniors. They took the prospect of watching the grandkids or sitting in the rocking chair and turned it on its ear. Experts claimed it wouldn’t work and frankly, it was a fairly slow-moving concept when first unveiled. Buy-in was predominantly by retirees from Arizona and California.

The one thing it had going for it, perhaps more so than any other, was the fact it was a great value. With the amenities in place, owners could enjoy a hundred different clubs, organizations and activities that were dirt cheap. During those early years there were countless numbers of residents who claimed having this “country club way of life” was way beyond anything they had expected to be able to afford as they aged.

The second aspect that came to pass and made Sun City so special was the values that sprung forth as the community grew. Because Sun City was on a unincorporated piece of property, we were forced to build our own infrastructure. Our support systems came from within as groups, organizations, churches and others saw it imperative to build a self-sustaining community that would stand the test of time.

Darned if it didn’t work and when we look at Sun City today, we find it is still rich in both value and values. Highly unusual for that in today’s crazy messed up world of business without a conscience. Just to make my point, let me put the spotlight on one of the most successful companies ever. Wal-Mart owns the retail marketplace. They dominate in ways it is hard to believe. They would argue they are successful because of the “value” they bring. Not looking for an argument, but the question then becomes…what about their values? Let me just point to one of their earliest gimic: Buy American. Does anyone remember why that went by the by? Because most of the stuff they sold came from China. Hardly values driven was it.

The point here is quite simple: which is better? Building a company or organization with Value and Values? Or building one with just Value? Or Just Values? Earlier today i posted a link on newszap to a landscaping companies website in Seattle. The company belongs to a good friend’s son-in-law. It is a very successful company and interestingly enough, on his site he runs a blog where he muses over issues of all types. Perhaps the last thing he has time for is to share his thoughts, but in doing so, the values of his company, experiences and business model add to what he is offering potential clients or passerby’s.

I find this truly amazing in today’s work environment. Where the business model is so production/profit driven, it is fascinating to see an owner doing something so forward thinking and yet so simple. It is a model we should all look to emulate; caring about others and taking the time to give back what we have learned is truly the epitome of bringing together both value and values. It is refreshing to see when others are simply trying to crush your nearest competitor or you are an organization who survives in spite of themselves and their actions.

You can cut and paste this link to visit his site: http://nussbaum-group.com/wordpress/ . It is simply brilliant.

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