Three Arizona historians who approach our state’s history from different perspectives will talk about our past. Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s official state historian, Bob Boze Bell, who bills himself as Arizona’s most outrageous historian, and Marshall Shore, a “hipstorian” join forces to talk about our state’s history.
TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll take a look at Arizona history with three historians who all have their own unique perspective on the state's equally comfortable history. That's next on "Arizona Horizon."
VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Arizona history includes all kinds of folks from scoundrels, swindlers and outlaws to world-famous artists, politicians and innovators, tonight a look at Arizona's past with three historians who offer their own unique perspectives. Arizona's official state historian, the executive editor of true west magazine and an Arizona hip-storrian. Good to have you all year. Thanks for joining us. I'm looking forward to this. We know most of you, we've talked in the past and so we're going to get right into this. What does Arizona mean to you?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: It means open spaces. I love open spaces, people ask me what do you love most about Arizona, and it's always the open space, just a lot of room. 90% of the people live in 2% of the land so that means there's a lot of open space.
TED SIMONS: Arizona, what does it mean to you?
BOB BOZE BELL: Land swindlers, hair dos, and price gouging.
TED SIMONS: All right.
BOB BOZE BELL: That's just from my home town of Kingman.
TED SIMONS: Arizona, what does it mean to you?
MARSHALL SHORE: Like a lot of folks that have come here in the past to reinvent themselves, I mean, it's like you've got jack durant. So all the people who moved here and started this whole new life looking for a new way of life.
TED SIMONS: That was it seems like in the past, that was very much part of Arizona's DNA, come out here, reinvent yourself, had a lot of creative people, people who weren't afraid to take a risk. Still like that?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Back then, it was bad manners to ask where a person was from or too much about them and you could reinvent yourself. Women found there was more freedom out here. It was a great place to come, not just Arizona, but the whole west.
TED SIMONS: Yeah, as far as history now, what got you going in history? I mean, it seems like as your career has progressed, you've become more involved with history. Correct me if I'm wrong.
BOB BOZE BELL: No, no, I have and I want the truth and, of course, that's hard to find in Arizona because there's a lot of smokescreens going on, a lot of corporate double dealing, and so just like in anything, you want to try to get to the bottom. You want to find some truth or find what actually happened because so much of the history is distorted or misportrayed and I'm the guy who stands up in the theater and says they didn't have saddles like that in 1873!
TED SIMONS: And as far as getting involved in history now and you're kind of careful about the offbeat angle.
MARSHALL SHORE: I moved here from New York City as a librarian and moved into south Phoenix where I was working, and there was this rich oral tradition that I found there of that community. And you didn't -- I didn't really find that elsewhere. I heard people kept saying there's no history here and I knew that wasn't true. You would find all these amazing stories of people who had done and people weren't aware of that so it was an opportunity to try to highlight those and connect people to place.
TED SIMONS: Do you hear that a lot that we don't have any history?
BOB BOZE BELL: I'm so tired of hearing that. When I was a young buck working at new times, people would say there's no history here and it is true, part of it's true that if something is 50 years old, people say tear that down and build something else. When you go to Europe and you see a bridge that was built in the 1400s and they're still using it, it really makes somebody from here go wow people actually save stuff? So we have earned that but to say we have no history is absolutely ludicrous.
TED SIMONS: Do you think folks in the rural parts of Arizona adhere to that history a little bit more than the urban folks?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: I grew up in a small town, smaller than even Kingman, although we called Kingman undeveloped west ashfork. There's about 163 towns in Arizona and they've all got stories to tell and I love to hear their stories.
TED SIMONS: Was history always an interest to you?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Mostly when I was a kid, I was mostly interested in World War II, because it had just ended and I was interested in sports, baseball, sports history. So I was well versed in that and I still love to talk about it.
TED SIMONS: Interesting. Bob, Arizona history, does it feel different than other parts of the country?
BOB BOZE BELL: Well, we have a unique, rich history. This was the collision of three cultures that were -- one is the native Americans, the toughest on the planet and they still are basically. And then you have the Spanish, coming up from the south and the Anglos from the north and they collided here in such a dramatic way, and I think that's unique to this area more so than other areas.
TED SIMONS: Do you think that that collision is still reverberating?
MARSHALL SHORE: Still is, same stories, you just change the names, and it's the same history. I wanted to go back to rural versus urban in history.
TED SIMONS: Please.
BOB BOZE BELL: And I don't think there is a difference. I think -- I think it's the 80-20 rule that 80% of the people don't care in the city or in the rural, they don't care and of the 20, you have 10 who think they know everything and then the other 10 who really do but don't say anything. That's my experience.
MARSHALL SHORE: It's like everyone's at their own side of the story and I want it's like, I keep hearing well, you know, my aunt worked with her at the mental hospital and knew this and said this, and then you knew the woman who was in her 90s actually stayed with her when they were here. And so there's all this mythos around stories that you know but there's all these other layers about it.
TED SIMONS: Do you get that, too? Have you heard the same story told in a few different ways?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Oh, yeah yeah, quite often, especially something like the pleasant valley war.
TED SIMONS: What was the pleasant valley war?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: This was the feud in the 1880s and early 1890s up in Gary around young. Let's see that would be just below the rim east of Payson.
TED SIMONS: There you go.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: And it was a pretty famous -- it was probably the deadliest, bloodiest feud in American history.
TED SIMONS: How come more folks don't know about it?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: That's a good question. The feudists lived by the rule of they don't talk. And so they didn't get the story. There's a tight-lipped thing about a feudist and neither side would really say much about it. So it's not as well known and that's one of the reasons.
BOB BOZE BELL: Well, the other reason is that it's the -- [ Indiscernible ] [ Laughter ]
TED SIMONS: Well, again and Bob, you're such an aficionado of tombstone and you have seen that story told how many different ways?
BOB BOZE BELL: You can tell that story till the cows come home and you'll never get to the real probable version. But even in town there, one time I went into a circle K. and there were five historians and that guy Marshall was there, Gary Roberts was there, some really big dogs there and the woman says well if you want to know how the cowboys got down, they rode the train in. We're going well the train didn't come to tomb stone until 1937. She just kept going on and on and on and she said do you want to know why I know so much? We stifled a laugh and said yes, we do and she said I married a local! That was the answer.
TED SIMONS: That was the answer and do they know you in tombstone?
BOB BOZE BELL: They hate me in tombstone. One time I was there filming for the westerns channel and we wrote an article about how tombstone is going to lose its historic designation and we were presenting both sides of it and you need to wake up and spot painting buildings purple, that's what we were basically saying so I'm on the street getting ready to film at 6:00 in the morning and the mayor comes down the street, they're putting sand on the street and I'm sitting there getting ready for my take and he walks by and recognizes me and he says tell the truth!
ALL: All right. [ Laughter ]
Now that you said that.
TED SIMONS: I'm guessing you're more recent vintage, more of your concern, the stuff that these guys are talking about from feuds to the O.K. corral, does it seep into what you're involved with?
MARSHALL SHORE: I look at Arizona once the car gets here. That's when I think a lot of fun starts happening. People start traveling around, people started moving and having different experiences and so that's when you really had this other explosion within Phoenix and when you look at the 30s, that boom of Phoenix.
TED SIMONS: So when you present in front of folks and you do whatever you do to present history, how do you compartmentalize it? Do you start with the car and move forward?
MARSHALL SHORE: Basically, just in my own mind I start with the car and move forward. But really it's more story based what I'm doing. So a lot of times, because what's great is there's people around who remember it and so I can actually sit down and talk to somebody who went through and use what they've told me, use my skills as a librarian to find more information as well as verify. Sometimes, people's memories are a little...
TED SIMONS: Like the lady at tombstone.
MARSHALL SHORE: Right.
TED SIMONS: Marshall, you are the Arizona official historian. What's that mean?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Well -- [ Laughs ] It means I've been working pro bono for about 19 years now for the state, on call at all time. No, it means it was a group of fourth grade teachers who went to the governor in 1995 and began to lobby, I guess. I told them good luck with it but they lobbied and one day I got a call from the governor's office, so I've been doing it ever since, reappointed by all the governors.
TED SIMONS: So much of your presentation involves singing, at least it has in the past. Does that connect you in different ways than otherwise, writing or story telling?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: When I walk into a classroom of fourth graders, I visit a lot of schools, if I go in there just like this, I'm just another old geezer but if I go in with a guitar strapped on, something is going to happen. I still use it and bob and I worked at cartwright in the Arizona history series.
BOB BOZE BELL: Nobody does Beyonce like him.
You turn away and you go that's Beyonce. [ Laughter ]
TED SIMONS: When you sing, when you sing as opposed to speak or write, I wonder does it envelope -- do you see history in a different way?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: The thing I always liked about folk music was it has a story to tell and I loved the stories and the songs, most of the songs I do written by local song writers and they tell an Arizona story. But that really -- that really makes me -- I get into the story, and then I have a song, it breaks up a lecture. I guess that's what it does.
TED SIMONS: And you draw. You illustrate history. Again, when you're sitting there in front of -- do you -- do you find yourself -- are you there? Are you there?
BOB BOZE BELL: Well, it can channel. I don't know if you guys have this but when I'm drawing you get in the zone and when you're in the zone and if you're trying to capture that feeling sometimes, you can just kind of levitate into that place and you can kind of feel what it was like. So yeah.
TED SIMONS: It's got to be different than talking or writing. You're deciding what they look like.
BOB BOZE BELL: Yes. And that's hard because so much of our image from that time is from the movies so it's hard to shut that off because you don't want that because that's what everybody tends to go to and the real old west was much different than the way Hollywood portrays it.
TED SIMONS: Exactly.
BOB BOZE BELL: In tombstone they had wine bars and they had coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and 26 imported wines from Europe, they had imported oysters that were brought in. It was very, very cosmo but you don't see that in the movies. And they had telephones that connected the mines to the tombstone stock exchange.
TED SIMONS: You never see that.
BOB BOZE BELL: So when you're drawing, you don't want to draw Ms. kitty in the long branch. That's just a no, no. You want to see what it really looked like so you end up at the historical society trying to find the real photos.
TED SIMONS: When you talk about Phoenix, the latter day Phoenix, if you will, do you have -- how do you get involved, knowing that a lot of people you're talking to, they know what you're talking about. They were here, they had their relatives. Do you present that kind of information?
MARSHALL SHORE: A lot of times what I'll do, I'll actually say there's this story, and then there's also this additional piece from someone else. And this piece from someone else. So it really kind of becomes part of that culture of that story, that it's not just -- there's not just one true here's exactly what happened.
TED SIMONS: And it's interesting, though, because we're talking about O.K. corral, feuds south of the 260 now, pleasant valley. But latter day history, you've got don bowls, you've got bob crane, even winnie, but when they're closer, they just don't seem quite as palatable.
MARSHALL SHORE: Well, and I mean there are things I don't touch on, like the murders at the Buddhist temple. That's still too recent and too severe and I haven't found any angle of that that's any element of entertainment. But even like when you talk about the mural that used to be up, I have people who told me I saw it torn down when the building was torn down and you know that's not the case so that's part of it is everyone thinks they saw something and that's not really what happened. But it's just part of that story. And just adds to that whole mystery and allure of here's what happened and here's kind of what we think happened but we don't know.
TED SIMONS: Speaking of stories, we got you guys here, let's start telling some stories around the campfire. Give us a story that you think represents Arizona, one you like to tell.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: All right, well, I've got a million of them but one of my favorite tombstone stories is I was down there on a film shoot and I was standing on the corner waiting around for them to get ready again and a fella has his family with him and he says say, do you know anything about this place? And he said well the gun fights don't start again for 45 minutes, what can I do to entertain my family before the next gun fight? And I said there's a great underground mining tour here, and it's really, really educational. And he looked at me like -- and then he said they had mining here?
TED SIMONS: Oh, my goodness.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: And I felt like no they just had a gun fight here.
TED SIMONS: Give us a story!
BOB BOZE BELL: I'm investigating the payroll robbery and I'm a firm believer you have to go out to the site and walk where they walked. That's one of my things. I have to do that. I talked to a couple of historians, I might have talked to you Marshall and I went out there, Pima, Arizona, which is next to thatcher, and I drove up in the mountains and I got up there and then the payroll robbery happened because the army was delivering the payroll from fort grant over the mountainside of Mt. Graham over to fort Thomas to pay the soldiers there. And so I don't know if you've been down there lately but there's a circle K. there, a little bit of a circle K. So I'm up there and there's still the forts that they built for the bad guys who were in the government at Pima, Arizona. So they were robbing the payroll so that they could land a government job at the fort that they were robbing. So it's all in Arizona. And they got away with it. And so anyway, so I'm up there and I'm looking, the forts are still there. And so I look down and there's a cowboy pickup next to mine. And I go uh-oh, I hate this, he's wondering why I'm here and I'm getting excited. So I run down there and I say I'm trying to establish myself, I said I'm from true west magazine and he goes I've heard of that my whole life. What's that about? I said it was they robbed the payroll going to fort Thomas to pay the soldiers, and he looks at me and says he lived here 70 years and he goes there was a fort at fort Thomas? [ Laughter ]
TED SIMONS: And we got two stories here of general ignorance. What's going on?
BOB BOZE BELL: It's 80%, 80% don't care, they've lived the their whole life and they don't want to know and if you're going to tell them the truth, you better make them laugh otherwise they'll kill you.
TED SIMONS: All right. Give us a story here.
MARSHALL SHORE: So one day I'm going through albums and I find knockers up by rusty warren, recorded live at the pomp room in Phoenix, Arizona.
TED SIMONS: Risque for Phoenix.
BOB BOZE BELL: I love that show.
MARSHALL SHORE: So I was like of course, I bought it, ran home and started researching and found rusty warren's website. I contacted him. And so we started developing this friendship of actually talking on the phone, she actually -- she was a comedian in the '50s and '60s and she hit it big in the early '60s with the song called knockers up. She was renting in the central Phoenix. She didn't move to paradise valley. She calls it the house that knockers built. And she's very much a broad. And that great sense of the term. And she's in palm springs right now, writing her paperwork for the Library of Congress being billed as the mother of the sex revolution for that song.
TED SIMONS: Isn't that interesting?
MARSHALL SHORE: And that happened right here in Phoenix. And that's just one piece of Americana that Arizona has given to the rest of the country that nobody knows about.
TED SIMONS: And a lot of music, art, has happened. Everything from Wayne Newton to Duane Eddie to the meat puppets.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Wailin' jennys.
TED SIMONS: Yeah, talk about jackson pollack. [ Overlapping Speakers ]
BOB BOZE BELL: People don't even realize he was here.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Grammar school not far from where we sit. And, of course, and I think where you're here for a short time or a long time, the impact of being here whether you hated it or loved it, it gets into your blood and it comes out through art and music.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: And Alice Cooper.
TED SIMONS: Exactly.
TED SIMONS: So there is that offbeat feel to it isn't there?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: Yeah, he was on the cutting edge in the '50s with lee hazelwood and people like that, Ramsey studio right over here, and jim Miller was recording all those. And it was on the cutting edge of a whole new -- they called it the Phoenix sound and Jim west is working on a book on that now. It was kind of hillbilly but our own unique sound.
BOB BOZE BELL: You know they wanted a guitar song for rebel rouser and these big hits. You go to Europe and he's the biggest thing going and they wanted a big guitar sound and they couldn't get it out of the amp so they went down into the river bottom and they found a water tank, and it was empty and they put a microdown in there and played the guitar through that.
TED SIMONS: That's where it comes from and these guys were thinking out of the box, man.
They were thinking out of the box. 20, 30, 50, 70 years from now, will they look back on this era of Arizona history and say, innovation, thinking out of the box?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: I hope they think there were some strange characters that were here at that time that really made a difference.
TED SIMONS: But it does make a difference when the state is young and growing to where it's a little bit of a stride.
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: It becomes more homogenized I would say that unique character. Something gets lost and that's why I love the small towns because a lot of those characters are still out there or at least they stand out a whole lot better in those smaller towns, Springerville.
TED SIMONS: Do you think historians of the future will look back on this era and what do you think they will say?
MARSHALL SHORE: You've got a lot of things like Roosevelt, just up the street which in the last few months has gone through a drastic change. So you see a lot of young people who before just used it as a way to get to and from class but they're going it's drastically changing, it's losing the character that I know and love so they're starting to get active in helping preserve that history that they're not necessarily aware of but they kind of feel.
TED SIMONS: Change is history, isn't it?
BOB BOZE BELL: Nothing changes more than the past and I will say -- I'll make a prediction on your show. And that is that there will be very famous people from our area but it won't be who we think it is. When the people came back to tombstone and found out that doc Holliday thought we would remember when they thought it was going to be all the people who were of society, they were shocked. They were like you're telling me that these bums who had a fight in an alley are the famous ones? So I tell you what, look at the police bar, look at the people that you hate, that you think are ruining Arizona. They're going to be remembered. That's why Marshall's at the top of the list. [ Laughter ]
TED SIMONS: All right. All right. We've got a few minutes left here. If you could live in the past, any of Arizona's past, any era, what would it be?
MARSHALL TRIMBLE: I was writing a book about that, 20th century Arizona and I really would have loved to have been a young man about the time of my grandfather, around 1900. I think we had trains then, you could get places a lot easier and the wars were over and it just seemed like a fun time, right up into the roaring '20s but the trail blazers, if you lived then, you would have had to deal with the '30s and World War II.
TED SIMONS: That's true. There was a spot in Arizona's past that you could just go back to with the star trek transponder, what would it be?
MARSHALL SHORE: I would do that post-World War II boom. That gave us -- I mean, the first McDonald's, that gave us bob's big boy, that gave us so much of the flavor. Gave us these amazing neon signs that when you drive down camelback, what's the one thing everybody remembers? The Chevrolet, that big flashy sign.
TED SIMONS: Bob?
BOB BOZE BELL: You know, I'm tempted to say the old west but there's no air conditioning and this is -- I remember growing up when there was not A.C., it was just the air pack coolers and they could not keep up. And they were just in some houses, and then the cars, there was none in cars and we used to sell these window coolers that you would put on and they had a little fan at this time and you pour ice in the top and it would blow cool air and we were on our way to a vacation and my dad said let's try that and it was great until we went to a curve and the water came in on my mom's head and we never used it again.
I tell you what.
A drive-in movie with a girl in the 1950s with no air conditioning and talk about hot weather sticking together!
TED SIMONS: All right, gentlemen -- [ Laughter ] Holy mackerel. No, we've got to stop there, time says your historians, you know all about time, we're out of it. Thank you all for joining us. We do appreciate it, thank you very much. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Support for eight comes from viewers like you and from...
In this segment:
Marshall Trimble: Arizona's Official State Historian, Bob Boze Bell : who bills himself as Arizona's most outrageous historian,Marshall Shore: A "hipstorian"
STAY in touch
Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: