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Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Sun City Community News Letter

Community Newsletter One of the joys of being a volunteer for the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum has been to come understand that Sun City would not have made it if it wasn’t for the sense of community that evolved during those early years. Click on the adjacent link to read more about the past and how it can be applied to the future.


Go Figure…

Let’s be blunt…Del Webb loved golf (though he didn’t start playing till he turned 34 and at 70 he had a 7 handicap). He owned 52 pair of golf shoes and belonged to 14 country clubs. It was only logical when his people talked him into investing in an age restricted community it had a golf course and homes surrounding it. Golf course lots sold for a premium of $1200, which essentially paid for the course and accompanying land.

It also worked out nicely because Webb didn’t want to run the courses for the long haul; from the beginning the goal was to deed them to the community and get out from under the maintenance and the headaches associated with running them. What better way to get residents feeling like they owned more than a house than by “giving them” the amenities? It all made perfect sense.

Above you see the club house at the North golf course circa 1960. By the time this picture was taken, all 18 holes were open. It should be interesting to note the rates of play: $2.75 on weekdays and $3.50 on weekends. I suspect that made sense given Webb allowed for outsider’s to play in Sun City.

That fact helped sell homes to those living outside the walls who played mostly on Saturday and Sunday and kept the courses busy on weekdays with cheaper rates for Sun City residents. Golf took off, as hordes of retirees took up the game on a regular basis. The south course came along quickly (1962) and residents loved having the options of playing one or the other.

We didn’t see another golf course open till the early 1970’s. With virtually all of the homes south of Grand Ave till the opening of the Lakeview Rec Center in 1970, there was no point. Once Meeker started building across Grand Ave, it was explosive; more than 2000 home sales per year from 1970 till build out in 1978. With the homes came awesome rec centers and golf courses a plenty: Lakes East and Lakes West, followed by Riverview,  Willowbrook and Willowcreek with the final being on the old Webb construction site of Quail Run.

Golf in Sun City was king with 8 courses for Sun City residents and 3 private country clubs all within the walls. Golf course homes were always on potential buyers wish list. The green spaces added an open feel to the lots and non stop fun in watching golfers duff along (just kidding).  For some, golf became a passion and they played as much as 5 days per week. Why not? With 8 courses to choose from and golf cars street legal, the next course was always just minutes away.

Some in the Sun City community have complained about the “sky rocketing” cost to golf. When looking at this old picture at the museum in our sports room, it got me to thinking; how bad is it? I will take the liberty of making the best case scenario by using the most extreme case: Two really avid golfers, 1 from 1960 and the other from 2011. For purposes of this exercise, they will each golf 4 weekdays and 1 weekend day. They will take 2 weeks off a year for vacation and they will golf through the overly comfortable summer heat.

Our neighbor from the 1960’s gets the choice of 1 course, 1 round per day. So you don’t think i’m using fuzzy math, his yearly costs look like this: 200 weekday rounds @ $2.75 comes out to $550.00. Add in the 50 weekend rounds @ $3.50 and you have another $175.00 for a total of $725.00. Exactly 50 years later, our golfer from 2011 would be paying $26.00 a round as a resident. But wait; under our own devices to promote play and lower costs, we have the year-long pass that comes in at a neat $1450.00. To put it into perspective on a per round cost basis it equates to this: 1960; $725.00 divided by 250 rounds equals $2.90 per round. For the 2011 golf fanatic, it would come out to this: $1450.00 divided by the same 250 rounds costs $5.80 per.

Think about that for a minute; in 2011, a golfer can play 8 courses and play as many holes as he/she wants for $5.80. In 1960 our golfing buddy could play 1 course and 1 round per day. Not at all bad for 50 years of inflation and exploding costs for golf across the nation. Perhaps this is why Sun City is the best golfing value in the country eh?

Sun City Lawn Bowling…Green Perfection

Sun City Arizona has a long-standing tradition of having some of the finest greens in all of North America. Bowlers come from far and wide to bowl in our tournaments and almost always leave feeling they got their monies worth (nothing worse than  to spend thousands of dollars to bowl on crappy greens).  Better yet, hundreds of lawn bowlers have purchased homes in Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand and Paradise RV Park just so they can be on or near good quality grass greens. We are a fickle bunch.

Six years back or so, the Recreation Centers of Sun City (RCSC) started to work towards replacing one of our original rec centers. It opened in 1961 under the name of Town Hall (becoming Fairway near the turn of the decade) and by mid 2005 had become very dated. The bowling green was there from the start and the club house was old and worn (but that pretty well described the center in its entirety). It was a by-product of the 1960’s thinking led by LC Jacobson where being frugal in both amenities and housing was what nearly led to Sun City’s downfall. Most folks who know our history also know LC along with Tom Breen and Joe Ashton were replaced in early 1965 by John Meeker. His thinking could not have been more different.

Bigger and more extravagant was the order of the day under John as he changed the philosophical approach to a more pleasing construct, Sun City exploded in sales and popularity. By the build out of Sun City in 1978, there was little that didn’t carry Meeker’s footprint of a larger more attractive community with outstanding amenities. It was perfectly logical for the board to follow in his footsteps and remove the tired and tarnished Fairway center for something a bit more pleasing to the eye. In an earlier blog i reported on its opening.

During the construction process of Phase 1 and Phase 2 (of the new Fairway center) a backdoor attempt was made to remove the green (even though commitments were for every club to be there) and we had to fight to get it reinstated into the plans. How or why is insignificant at this point, suffice to say with last week’s opening of the new Fairway green it was worth every effort we had to make.

I’ve rolled on the new artificial green and it is nothing short of spectacular. I’ve played on artificial surfaces before and to say i was unimpressed would be an act of kindness. This one was an absolute delight. The draw was true (hence perhaps the name True Draw) and the speed was a very comfortable 14 seconds. Simply lovely to see a bowl go exactly where you rolled it (assuming you rolled it properly). As i packed up my bowls and loaded up my golf car (they are street legal here), i could not have been more pleased.

There is no question, with the opening of the artificial green at Fairway, we will be ushering in a whole new future for the game of lawn bowls in Sun City. If the surface holds up like Graeme Clark says it will, we will have lowered maintenance costs and brought a new standard of bowling to one of the best lawn bowling communities in the country. Seems like a win/win proposition to me and its only a matter of time before the rest of the greens follow suit.

I have to believe John Meeker is smiling down at us and saying “job well done gang.”

Garage sale heaven…

Garage sale anyone?

It’s easy to tell the summer is over in Sun City; aside from the 100 plus degree heat going away, garage sale signs have tripled in number from those dog days of summer. Not that we don’t have them in Sun City year round, but during June, July and August pickings get pretty slim.  Of course the good news during the dreadful heat is you don’t usually have to fight people off to get that one really special piece you stumble across.

A few week back i was working at the museum when we had a visitor from Sun City Grand. She asked if we allowed garage sale signs in Sun City. I couldn’t help but laugh as i told her we have more garage sale signs than people living here Seems the covenants in Grand don’t allow for signs placed on corners, they have a giant community sale where residents can bring their junk (oops, highly collectible stuff).

One of the sources for constant consternation in the community is when folks attach their sale signs to lamp posts or stop signs. If you are going to do it, get it right.  Get the ever-present box and the heavy rock to hold it place with notice on the side of said box. Sometimes people use too light a rock, the wind comes up an no one knows you are even open. The real pro’s though use the small sandwich board from the good old days when they were a realtor and got stuck buying those home for sale signs they put on every corner to tell of an open house.

Another sure sign it’s garage sale season is cars are parked every which way. I mean literally, some of these really desperate bargain seekers can’t be bothered to park on the right side of the street. They just pull up in front of the driveway going the wrong direction, leap from their car and race into the house. Mercifully most remember to put it in park. I ride my bike to the ones i stop at and you should see the dirty looks i get because of the primo spot i get in  the driveway. My only concern is someone buys/sells it while i check out the used books.

The real dilemma is which ones to go to. Nothing worse than being on your bike, following a sign and then find it 4 blocks over. Invariably they are the ones with three racks of used clothing, 4 really ugly hand-made pottery pieces and a great collection of grandma’s doilies. The real test for a true garage sale’r is if they still stop on Saturdays. With most starting on Thursday, you’ve got to know all the good stuff will be gone by the weekend. And you’ve got to love the guy who stops on Wednesday before they are even set up because his wife needs to go to the hospital for an emergency operation the next day. Best of all are the people pounding on the garage door at 6:30 am, when the sale starts at 7 am.

Last but no least, let’s not forget the pecking order of importance. Here’s my list, but for those of you who take this seriously, feel free to adjust mine (least to most):

1). Yard sale.

2). Patio sale.

3). Garage sale.

4). Moving sale.

5). Estate sale.

6). Every thing half off sale.

Don’t get me started on estate sales. I just can’t bring myself to buy into the logic of being number 122 in line to get into the old homestead the kids are liquidating so they can take the world cruise. In the end, happy hunting to all of you who have turned this into an art form. Seriously, there are days we may well have more garage sale aficionado’s than we have golfers. It’s become that popular a sport.


I liked it so much, i bought the company…

Pictured left are  barefoot runners or sometimes called “toe shoes,” and no i didn’t buy the company. Before i get to that, do you ever have a slogan or phrase bouncing around in your head and you can’t quite put a name with a face, or in this case, even the product? I just hate that thing when it’s stuck on the tip of your tongue and you can’t quite pluck it off. Worse part is, the older i get, the more it happens. In this case, i’m putting you to the test, who was the originator of the slogan in the header and what was the product he/she was endorsing? (stick around till the end of the blog for the answer if you can’t get it on your own).

As i have been wearing these awesome shoes the past weeks, i’ve gotten lots of stares, plenty of questions and even some looks like maybe i should be committed. Mind you, my wife feels that way often, but the shoes (and the odd-looking quasi-mohawk i’m sporting) has added to that sentiment. I think as we age, we tend to begin sporting an air of freedom from the trappings of how it has to or how it should be. That’s a good thing; and often as i celebrate the joys of no cell phone, no watch, no jewelry of any kind, i feel totally liberated of that old 8 to 5 mentality. Nice.

Back to the question at hand, no, not the ad, the barefoot runners (so does that make it the question at foot?) Don’t mind my ramblings, i’ll get to it. I was scouring the internet a few weeks back and came across a couple of articles on these cool looking toe shoes. They peaked my curiosity and everything i read from personal testimonials made them sound like a solution for a guy with the most ugly beat up feet you can find. From hammer toes that have been sliced and diced to broken toes, my feet give me problems, always have.

That sent me looking for a deal on this odd-looking footwear. I came across the Big 5 ad in my email box and lo and behold there were a pair of black Fila’s on sale and like most good Sun City shoppers, i had a coupon. My wife and i went to the store and found a pair that looked and felt even stranger once i had them in my hand. The first thing you notice is how light they are, and of course then you wonder if there is any support? The most daunting is, will i ever figure out how to get my toes in all the right slots?

The Fila’s were a good starter because the little toe and the one next to it are combined, and darned if those two toes on me look like one anyway. They slipped on with a bit of prompting and i was blown away…i mean literally, love at first sight (or in this case first fitting). Bought then along with an over priced pair of toe socks and went home and took the girls (our two standard poodles) for a walk. It felt like i was floating on air (which is pretty darn impressive for a guy whose wife calls him the bull). In reality, they have a hard faced sole and when i walked it wasn’t silent by any means.

It was painless, more comfortable than i could imagine and just an overall delight. I’m a bit compulsive, so i came home, logged on to the net and started researching more. I found barefoot runners that people actually ran marathons in. That answered the question on support. I began in earnest to find the best price on the net along with some that had color. RnJ Sports had the best prices with free shipping over $65 and i ordered two pair; one in yellow and one in orange. Delivery was not as quick as i would like (i could have got it overnight for a price, but i’m working on developing patience  so i stuck with the free, slower mail service).

They came in about a week and i was excited to slip into them. Both these Vibram 5 Fingers has solo toe slots and i’ll be darned if it wasn’t a challenge getting into them. It took a little bit to find where each toe went (duh) but in the end, awesome. They are without doubt, my shoe of choice. Best of all, there wasn’t that initial break in period like with most shoes. I slip in and out of them easily as they almost mold to your individual foot. People always ask, do you need socks? Yes and no. If i’m just in them for a couple of hours or less, barefoot is fine; for longer periods, i have bought some great toe socks (be sure and shop around, they are expensive) that make them even more comfy.

Finally, for those who couldn’t remember, it was Victor Kiam and he coined the slogan;” I liked the shaver so much, i bought the company.” Brilliant.  They were Remington shavers and that handful of simple words will go down in history as one of the most memorable ads of all time.


A new era was unveiled in Sun City today (11/08/11)with the opening of the gorgeous Fairway Rec Center. The 18.2 million dollar multi-year dual phase project came to an end as residents poured through at 10 am this morning for a tour. The actual use of the walking pool, swimming pool, jacuzzi, walking track and weight room began today at 2 pm.

I was stunned at how nicely the enclosed padded walking track circled the open air pool. Oldies music played softly in the background around the pool area and one could easily visualize sprawled on the lawn chairs sun bathing, snoozing or reading a good book. It’s just a pleasant setting that inspires a sense of tranquility.

Just up a few steps from the track was a magnificent weight room filled with aerobic machines for cardio and fitness equipment to turn you into Jack Lalanne (maybe a bad choice since he recently left us). In any event, most wandering the room were delighted with the outcome.

What makes all of this so spectacular is the center has been built with no debt being incurred. When you throw in the fact yearly rec fees are a mere $432 per property, it is almost beyond belief. By the way, did i mention for that $432, you get 6 other rec centers, 8 golf courses, 2 bowling alleys (you pay extra to play those two sports), and a myriad of other things to fill your days and nights?

So, i know you are asking…who the heck is Diane and what does she have to do with any of this? Simple: Last week i got a phone call at the museum and it was a boomer from Maryland who had been doing her research. She was looking for a place to retire and came across the original Sun City. She had been thorough and she saw us as the best value she could find (at least on paper).

She knew she could buy and remodel, putting her mark on the property was one of her passions. As a graphics designer she saw limitless opportunities, especially when i told her any non load bearing  wall could be removed in a Sun City home.

We chatted on endlessly when she asked the 18. million dollar question…”If i move there and remodel, how do i protect my property value if all the amenities are 40 – 50 years old?” She was stunned when i told her about Fairway (and all of the other improvements we’ve made). It was a match made in heaven as she seemed the perfect fit as Sun City moves into its second 50 years.

Hush, hush sweet Sharlot

Maybe they were just hardier people 100 + years back; at least i suspect they weren’t calling the daily papers complaining about garage sale signs being posted on the stop sign at the corner of your block. For real, that is one of the leading causes of coronary’s in Sun City (okay, so i’m pulling your leg a bit).  The point being we have it a touch easier than those tough old birds that climbed in a covered wagon and traveled for months to cross three state lines. Today we hop on a jet and are there in an hour and a half. I guess there are some similarities; today we get groped by a TSA employee while in the late 1800’s, all they had to worry about was being scalped by a savage pack of wild Indians.

Easy for us to forget those times; other than an occasional western on the TV, we lose sight of the travails those early settlers to the Southwest went through. Yesterday at our Del Webb Sun Cities Museum annual membership meeting we got a glimpse of how harrowing it was. Sun City West resident Barbara Diennes did a reenactment of the Arizona famous Sharlot Hall and it was an eye opener for me. The mere thought of spending 4 or 5 months in a covered wagon traveling from Kansas to Arizona is daunting, but to think about crossing the rugged mountain terrain from November through February is terrifying. Sharlot’s family made the trek in 4 wagons and she was a mere 10 years old. Imagine today asking your 10-year-old to go 4 days without their cell phone or ipod?

She went on to become one the state’s most notable females. She was named the State Historian in 1909, but lost it in 1912 when George P Hunt became governor (he’s the one buried in the pyramid built by Del Webb that sits above the Phoenix Zoo. That should tell you a little about how impressed he was with himself). In 1925 she was selected to be an elector to Washington with the Electoral Vote from Arizona. She was instrumental in collecting and preserving much of  Arizona’s history and the Sharlot Hall Museum stands to this day in Prescott AZ.

Listening to Barbara relive Sharlot’s life helped remind me how we tend to take things for granted. How the littlest inconvenience can throw us into a tizzy. How we feel so stressed out over something as simple as an extra 45 seconds behind a person trying to get those darned nickels and dimes out of the old coin purse or pouch. Dang, rather than carrying around pictures of the kids, spouse or the dog, maybe we should have a wallet sized photo of Sharlot tucked away and every time we want to go off on someone we pull it out and put our lives in perspective.

For those who missed it, sorry for you. It was well worth watching and helped shape my perspective on what really matters and just how trivial so many of our “problems” are miniscule in relation to what life used to be like. It is amazing just how many teachable moments there are if only we are willing to open our eyes and our minds and see just how good we have it. Nice.

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