Another Arizona location which will appear in an upcoming FSF Publication is Sahuaro (Saguaro) Ranch Park.
This large piece of land situated between a public library and a community college was, as the name would suggest, a ranch at the turn of the 20th century. Instead of tearing it all out to build a suburban neighborhood (which was the fate of many ranches in the Phoenix area including one that will play a major role in a new book coming out by our own Kira Shay), this one was preserved as a park.
When I was a kid, the playground equipment was pretty lame. It was a lot of concrete tubes and broken swings. However, you came as a kid for list of other reasons.
1) Peacocks. Those beautiful bastards were (and still are) all over the park. They run it, like a long feathered mafia that likes to poop on everything. And they were just too gorgeous not to stare at. It was also fun to watch them peck at the idiot children who got too close.
2) The trees. Holy crap! There were trees! Trees that grew things like oranges and pecans and were perfect for climbing which we all tried to do despite the very clear signs and stern security guards.
3) Snow cones. There was always a dude selling snow cones from a wheeled cart. I’m sure there still is.
4) Crashing a stranger’s wedding. The park is a popular location for weddings due to it’s well-tended rose garden and old fashioned atmosphere. The park was usually pretty good as keeping us kids away from the festivities, but that didn’t mean we didn’t try to take a peak. Interestingly, I would be the maid of honor in a wedding at that park in my adult life, probably being spied on by some kid I didn’t know.
5) The Houses. About 1/3 of the park is made up of the original buildings from the ranch, protected by historical laws. There are two fantastic Victorian style homes, a more common style ranch house, many shed/storage buildings, and an outhouse. I had been in these houses once or twice in my childhood back when tours were rare (now they are a pretty common part of the park’s income). When I was nine or ten, I met a woman who had lived in the house as a little girl. I remember her be a twig, wrinkled and a little bent, ancient to my eyes. She was standing in a room staged to look like that of a little girl and wore a beaded flapper dress. Despite her frail appearance, she snatched my arm and held me in place in order to whisper in my ear, “When I was your age, I had a pony.”
Other than being touched, which was one of my least-favorite things at that age, this somewhat un-nerving meeting made me happy because I was convinced the houses were haunted. Creep little old ladies were perfect for my own imagined ideas of the ranch. My friends and I would run around the houses in circles, peering in windows and marveling at shadows on the floors. I wanted so desperately to see a ghost in those hallways that I even once tried mashing pecans into oranges which had fallen off the trees (you weren’t allowed to pick anything) and left them at offerings. Yeah… I don’t get it either. I was a kid. I think I just assumed that pecans and oranges were a sign of good faith or something.
Honestly, and a little regrettably, I no longer think the park’s historic buildings are haunted. Every few Octobers, the local news will print something about volunteers seeing a man in a suit walking through the orchard or the proverbial “woman in white”. However, considering that they only peddle theses tales when they are good for business, I find them highly suspect. Sorry, nine year old me.
If Arizona or WWII history interests you, order your copy of Fair to Middling by Kira Shay here.