Monday, March 8, 2010

Apache Junction Landmarks

March 8, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The other day someone asked me about old landmarks in Apache Junction. At first I responded with landmarks such as the Apache Junction Zoo, Superstition Mountain Shell Station, Cowboy Service Station, and the Apache Junction Inn. All of these services had disappeared by 1958 and very few people remember them.

Then I thought about more contemporary landmarks that many people might recall. These included Superstition Ho Hotel, The Lucky Nugget, Traynor's Texaco, Blakely's Service Station, Yucca Cafe, Hacienda Cafe, The Superstition Skies, Pappy Russell's Garage, Slim Fogle's Moonlight Ranch, Norman Teason's Palo Verde Lodge, George's Steak House, Jordan's Chevron, Henry's Tasty Freeze, Arnold's Auto Center, Bill Bemo's Plaza Barber Shop, C.L. King Towing, Lake Realty, Copper State Bank, Ray's Western Wear and many, many more.

Someone else asked are these the only landmarks in Apache Junction and I replied, "By no means." I thought for a moment and talked to a couple of old friends. This talk resulted in old names such as the fire station on Ocotillo Drive, Vineyard Road, Wilson Road, Mouer Road, and of course the legendary Rattlesnake Drive.

It is stories like the following that have always gathered my attention. Thirty years ago an old lady called from Texas was inquiring about a road or street in Apache Junction called Rattlesnake or Sidewinder Lane. She had a bizarre story to tell, but didn't know exactly how to begin. She said her father once lived in the desert near Apache Junction on a roadcalled Rattlesnake Lane. She believed her father named the road because of all the rattlesnakes in the area. She remembered her father mentioning that Barney Barnard didn't live to far from her, but she also said you drove east of the Junction "Y" about a mile or so. That is all she could remember about her father and mother's abode in the desert. Her father had emphysema and he found living in the desert better for his health.

She continued her story and talked about how her father did not trust banks. He was a "Depression Era" man. He also placed his entire savings in gold coins and kept it buried in a small steel box on his property. She said she had seen her father's gold coins on several occasions over the years. Most of the coins were twenty dollar double eagles, but he also had a large selection of five and ten dollar gold pieces.

She claimed his coins would have filled two or maybe three quart jars. Her father had been gathering gold coinage since 1890. She also mentioned that her father had ignored the Gold Act in 1933 that limited the amount of gold to five ounces an American citizen could hold. She estimated her father may have had 200 or more ounces of gold coinage. Not knowing where Rattlesnake Lane was or anything about it created quite a mystery. I inquired with local old timers if they had ever heard of a Rattlesnake Lane. Several said no and a couple said yes, but they didn't recall where it was located exactly. The road could have been a dirt trail he named on private property to his abode.

For several months the search for Rattlesnake Lane was one of my research projects. The more I inquired about Rattle-snake Lane the more stories I heard. These stories ranged from; I don't know if that was ever an officially names street in Apache Junction; Well, I knew there were no officially named streets in Apache Junction prior to 1975.

This is an August 2007 photo of the Lost Dutchman Monument after the Grand Hotel was demolished. The clear view of Superstition Mountain is in the background, and it was almost 50 years since you could get a shot like this.
I believe Clay Worst chaired a street naming committee just prior to incorporation of Apache Junction in November of 1978. As far as I know Clay Worst or Jeannette Lake didn't know of any Rattlesnake Lane in Apache Junction. Many early property owners in Apache Junction had 1.5 to 5 acres of land in the late 1960s. Many of these properties were part of the old Veteran's Homestead Act of the early 1950's. Many of these property owners named small road tracks on their private property that did not have a public easement. It is for this reason I believe Rattlesnake Lane has become lost and gone the way of the Dodo bird. Locating Rattlesnake Lane today is an impossible task. However, there is always the possibility someone might come forward with the precise location of Rattlesnake Lane one of these days.

Many of the old landmarks around Apache Junction are gone and few people today remember them. These landmarks were often colorful and different, but for some it is probably better that they have vanished.

I remember the old Lost Dutchman Cafe, McKinney's, Yucca Cafe, Sand Tanks Cafe, The Rib Eye, and of course Elvira's Cafe on Apache Trail which is still there today. I recall the old fire station and sheriff's office on Ocotillo Street. Yes, Apache Junction has really changed. Many old timers fought a valiant battle to preserve old Apache Junction, but progress became reality. There is nothing more evident concerning change then the rise and fall of the Superstition Ho Hotel (later named the Grand Hotel) in the center of Apache Junction at the "Y" between 1959- 2008.

A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus once said something like this, "There will always be change."