Arizona Memories from the ’60s

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–  Eight, Arizona PBS Revisits a Decade of Explosive Growth

WWII veterans, entrepreneurs and families on the move changed Phoenix from a quiet community of 65,000 into a thriving city during the 1950s.   But that was just a warm-up for the ' 60s when growth was the engine that drove Arizona and the Valley of the Sun. Arizona Memories from the ' 60s – airing Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 at 7 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS – looks back at that remarkable decade.

“The exciting thing about making this show was that we did something new,” said Eight, Arizona PBS producer Don Hopfer. “We asked viewers – via the Eight, Arizona PBS Web site and on air –   to send us their memories:   home movies, photographs, any kind of memorabilia.   More than 150 people contacted us.   A dozen are in the show.   This production could not have happened without their involvement.”

For developers in the '60s, no gimmick was too bizarre as they carved new towns out of the desert. A 100-foot fountain that gushed on the hour lured potential buyers to Fountain Hills. Developers of Lake Havasu City bought, imported and reassembled London Bridge in their Colorado River town.   Del Webb's army of salespeople pitched Sun City, a new adults-only community, to retirees across the country. Capitalizing on the popularity of TV Westerns, Scottsdale promoted itself as “The West's Most Western Town,” riding high on resorts and tourism. And in Tempe, Frank Lloyd Wright designed Grady Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University.

“Wright adapted the design from one he had created for the Baghdad Opera House,” Hopfer explains. “It was supposed to be part of Iraq's university complex that was never completed.” Though it's hard to imagine the ASU campus without Gammage Auditorium today, Hopfer says Wright's design was so controversial that it almost didn't get built. 

It was during the ' 60s that newcomer Jerry Colangelo brought the Phoenix Suns, Arizona's first major league franchise, into a sports market dominated by ASU football and Coach Frank Kush. When Hazel, the Phoenix Zoo's gorilla, pined for a mate, “swinging” bachelor Baltimore Jack was flown to Phoenix on Hugh Hefner's Playboy jet. Across the road from the zoo, amusement park rides and games made Legend City a popular family destination.

Teenagers found their fun at drive-in movies and cruising Central Avenue. The Wallace & Ladmo Show spun off a surprise hit rock group, Hub Kapp & the Wheels, that made it to “The Steve Allen Show.” Young Duane Eddy found his twangy guitar sound in a Phoenix recording studio and Alice Cooper launched his career in a Phoenix that wasn't quite ready for him.

Nationally, the state's image was enhanced when Vonda Kay Van Dyke was crowned Miss America, Stewart Udall was appointed to the Cabinet, Frank Borman joined the elite astronaut corps and Barry Goldwater ran for president.

In 1960, director Alfred Hitchcock sent a film crew to Phoenix to shoot the opening scene of his horror-classic, “Psycho.”   The footage immortalized the city's skyline in all its low-profile splendor.   Hitchcock's camera captures a 180-degree tour of downtown Phoenix including one of KTAR's two original towers, the Luhrs office buildings, Hotel Adams, Westward Ho hotel, Korricks department store and a grand monument to art deco, the Fox Theater building on Washington.   Viewers join Janet Leigh in her now infamous drive down Central Avenue – and discover that anything can happen.

And Eight, Arizona PBS began broadcasting from the campus of Arizona State University in 1961 with a hand-me-down transmitter that barely covered Maricopa County.

Arizona Memories from the ' 60s combines highlights of a dynamic decade with remarkable photographs and archival film as well as personal recollections from people who were part of it, including Pat McMahon, who hosts the program; Jerry Colangelo, Karl Eller and Congressman John Shadegg. Viewers who are new to Arizona will discover insights into the history of the area. Long-time residents will enjoy a nostalgic trip down memory lane.   

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