Here is our second story about finding a wonderful piece of Americana in Arizona. It is always fun to travel to Bisbee and staying at the Shady Dell is one great retro experience! Hope you too make that journey to the Arizona town that was once known as the "Queen of the Copper Camps."
“We have been through a time warp and don’t want to go back!” - words written by a recent happy guest of the Shady Dell RV Park in Bisbee, Arizona.
Here on the outskirts of the Queen of the Copper Camps, modern Arizonans can escape back to the time of “Happy Days” and relive once again the romantic and mystique of 1950s Americana.
The Shady Dell RV Park is the longest continuously operating trailer park in Arizona getting its start in 1927 when Bisbee was a roaring copper camp. Under the shady cottonwood trees miners and their families lived in few trailers and small cottages then found on the site. Evening family entertainment was provided by the miners’ band that would play on the park’s cool, common green.
“Thanks for the hospitality and the retro night.”
Bisbee, like all copper mining towns fell on hard times and so too did this little trailer park until 1974. It was in that year that Ed Smith and Rita Personette took ownership of the property and accidentally began the process of creating the Shady Dell RV Park that visitors enjoy today.
“My favorite part was listening to records on the record player.”
Ed and Rita’s dream was to have a little piece of land and enjoy collecting some of the historic “ships of the highway” that they enjoyed in their youth. So onto their newly acquired site they brought their first five travel trailers.
“It was a great insight into a romantic bye-gone age – retrotastic!”
As folks drove by the newly created RV park on historic Highway 80 they would see the ancient caravans and stop to ask if they just might pay for the fun of spending a night in one of the historic trailers. The Shady Dell RV Park that we know today was officially born!
Ed & Rita were soon collecting and bringing more of the historic trailers onto their park. They found a 1949 Airstream, a 1950 Spartan Manor, and 1954 Crown, a 1951 Royal Mansion and a 1957 Airfloat Flagship. Into their park they also brought a 1947 Tiki Bus and a 1947, 38 foot Chris Craft Yacht, affectionately named the “Rita D”. All eleven trailers/bus/boat overnight venues were refurbished and decorated with the most authentic of furniture and charm from their mid-century heydays.
“It was everything we imagined and more than we expected!”
So too did Ed & Rita find and bring to the Shady Dell an authentic 1957 diner that once sat on the corner of Ventura & Topanga Canyon Blvd in Los Angeles. Dot’s Diner was one of a series of California diners and today serves Shady Dell guests with hamburgers, fries and shakes from the day when Rock & Roll was just being born. Even a few classic sodas, such as Bubble Up, NuGrape Soda and Cheerwine can be enjoyed while sitting at the 10-stool diner counter.
“The Shady Dell paid attention to every last detail.”
The Shady Dell again changed hands in 2007 and owners Jen, Justin and Annette now greet park guests. These two young folks from Scottsdale continue to add to the charm and nostalgia that has now made the Shady Dell world famous. White picket fences, a bandstand gazebo and even a few Don Featherstone pink flamingo’s just makes for more and more Americana charm.
“…thinking back when times were so much simpler. Living large at the Shady Dell.”
And with young folks with young ideas and some modern, iPod technology, the Shady Dell now continuously broadcasts on AM 1650 the music of the 1950s on the radios found in each trailer. These oldie tunes are interrupted only for original 1950s commercials and public safety announcements such as the infamous “duck & cover” atomic bomb drills that an older generation remembers as a unique part of their youth.
Now RV parks are probably not for just everybody, but if you are looking for an interesting and fun trip back in time, the Shady Dell should certainly be at the top of your list. Whether it is a night spent in the Airfloat Flagship, or the Tiki Bus or on the Rita D., a good time and great memories are guaranteed by the folks of the Shady Dell who are working hard to preserve this small part of Arizona’s history.
*Note: some accommodations do not have in-trailers bathrooms and guests share a modern, clean bathroom facility.
N 31° 25.000807’
W 109° 53.530’