sherry DEWANE 

Why a Love Letter to Arizona?  And why postcards?  And, PS – why am I doing this?

I was born in rural Wisconsin on a lake in the woods. For real. My family lived there until I was 12. After two Great American Road Trips to California during the 1960’s, my father decided that he was going to buy a hotel, in Phoenix, Arizona. On the second road trip, New Year’s Day, 1967 we stayed at the Stagecoach Inn which my parents would eventually acquire. They bought the hotel months later and we moved that summer. We sold the the property years later. I loved everything about it, the rose gardens, the spacious green lawns, the pool, bright umbrellas and the original section of 1930’s buildings.

When we moved, Phoenix and Arizona were a foreign land to me. Before we left Wisconsin, friends and family told us many things. As is usual with big change, there were naysayers, but there were also funny ideas. Friends at school told me there was nothing but cowboys and Indians. That seemed interesting to me on many levels. Tumbleweeds, six shooters, cactus, hot, no rain.

In fact, when I first saw the city at the age of 8, it was a revelation. I had a sense of elsewhereness, of otherness. It was so very different in every respect from rural Wisconsin. The physical environment, food, music, clothes, people. Other than cars and grass, there was no resemblance to my former life. I was fascinated.

Years went by, ebay was born and family nostalgia grew with our collective aging. I started searching ebay for postcards of the Stagecoach Inn. In the course of that search, I saw postcards from all the other hotels, motels, motor courts, inns and tourist camps of Phoenix. I also found the history of our property. I rediscovered my fascination with the state.

At the same time, I was looking for history and postcards of my great – grandparents hotel in rural Wisconsin. I saw a marked difference between the postcards coming from Arizona and the postcards coming from Wisconsin. Arizona was all about vivid blue skies, desert colors, the rock, the cactus, but it always came back to color. Vivid, striking, amazing, fascinating, enchanting color.

Why a love letter? I haven’t lived in Arizona for many years, but I am a frequent visitor. When I was a child, in Wisconsin, my family would go for drives in the car through the hilly countryside, farms, woods, lakes and rivers. I wondered, what is over that hill, at the end of the road, in the middle of that woods, across that river? Always wondering.

The tradition continued in Arizona and continues to this day. My dad and I explore Arizona on every trip. We drive roads, take turns and have successfully escaped GPS. We go places where cell phones and GPS are useless 21st century devices. We carry topo maps and road atlases. We visit ghost towns, abandoned mines, stagecoach stops and still I wonder. Who lived there, what made them stop here, why did the people who walked here choose this path? The post cards help answer those questions and provide color to my imagination. I have found them so incredibly fascinating that I want to share the stories.

Why the postcards? Why not a story? As I searched for old postcards, which I wanted originally for the pictures, I became intrigued by the postings on the back.  Yes, postings. In this blog I will explain more. People wrote home, to their sweethearts, moms, dads, grandparents and friends. I realized – these were the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter of their day. These postcards are the postings. People were discovering things. They were awed, amazed, startled, lonely, happy, relieved.