My very first trip to the White Mountains came in the early 1950’s when Wagner Family only numbered five. This is the first family vacation I remember and it was spent in Lakeside, Arizona. I remember the trip there took forever. After leaving Phoenix, it seemed like we drove for a half a day through the desert when Dad said announced •well there’s Mesa”. After Mesa we had another long ride but I don’t remember the detai Is. I must not have been looking out the window. It was hot and we didn’t have air conditioning back then.
I do remember when we went through the tunnel at Queen Creek. It must have been the start of the •blowing of the horn” tradition that carved this experience into my memory. The only part of this inaugural trip to the White Mountains was the construction of the road going through the massive Salt River Canyon. This must have been when they were widening the road from two skinny lanes to two a little larger than skinny lands or maybe just adding guard rails. All I knew is that the traffic was backed up for what seemed like hours. That is when heard our first “Rickyism”. •Dad, why are we going so slowly? I can go faster on my tricyclel” or something like that. But we finally arrive. I wasn’t sure what country we were in, but it was green, cool and a neat place to be with tall trees.
Dad and Mom rented a little cabin which was one of four lined up perpendicular to the main road. It was a common arrangement of motel cabinets. This one had a small creek behind the property with several small pools providing a wet, great recreational playground for us kids. (I don’t think we knew it back then, but this was Billy Creek. Billy Creek is crossed every time you turn off of Buck Springs Road, which is the road heading back to Pine Top Lakes, to get to Sky Hi Road. The water going under the first culverts is Billy Creek). We didn’t spend much time inside this cabin so I don’t recall much detail. It may have only been a two room structure with one room being the bathroom and the other a kitchen/dinning/ living/ bedroom combination.
Everyday all the kids in the area met early at the ponds edge and played all day long. Swimming, some of the time on purposed, catching pollywogs and frogs and some half pollywogs and half frog combination.
I don’t remember food, sleeping, and all of the other activities associated with vacationing. I don’t even remember having activities with the whole family or what Mom & Dad did all day. I don’t remember if Dad even went fishing. All I remember is going to the creek, playing there all day with a lot of kids and then going back to the cabin because it was dark. Life was pretty good!
Going home was less exciting than the trip to the mountains. There were two highlights on the return trip. Seeing Tee Pee Motels in a secluded little town called Tempe and going over the saddle of twin mountains on McDowell Road called Papago Buttes and seeing the City Lights of Phoenix for the first time from that advantage point. They were glowing in the night sky but still ten miles away. We didn’t go down Thomas or Indian School roads back then because they were still dirt.