Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Remembering - Eddie Basha, Jr.

     We are so sorry to learn of the passing of Eddie Basha.  For those of us who were public school educators during the 1980s-90s, Eddie Basha was our hero.  He was a leading voice in trying to move Arizona toward positive educational reform but was also a voice in support of the parents and educational staffs who worked in the schools for the children of Arizona.  He was one very special man.
    Eddie also loved Arizona and at the Basha's corporate headquarters in Chandler, he put together one of the greatest museum of Western American & Native American art found anywhere.  We wrote a story about the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery a few years ago and share it here in honor of Eddie. Hopefully the Basha Corporation will continue to open this wonderful museum for the enjoyment and education of all the people of Arizona.  This museum is well worth the drive to Chandler, Arizona.
    Rest in peace, Eddie Basha.  God just recalled one of his best earthly angels.  Thank you for all you did for us and the kids and the people of Arizona.  We will all miss you!  With the greatest of admiration and respect - "you did great, brother!"

Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher

    Basha Corporation gave us permission to use the following photos in our 2008 IN&Out Magazine article.  We share them again here.

     It is quite possible that Arizona’s best Western art museum is found in the most unique location for a museum in all of Arizona.  The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American & Native American Art is housed at the cooperate headquarters of Bashas’ Supermarkets in Chandler, Arizona.  The words spectacular, beautiful and amazing are understatements for the quality and quantity of western art found in this visitor friendly museum.
    The Basha family entered the Arizona grocery when brothers Ike and Eddie, Sr. opened their first store in 1932.  Today the 153 Basha stores, some of which are called AJ’s Fine Food and Food City, serve communities throughout Arizona, New Mexico and California.  Cooperate growth over the last 40 years has been under the leadership of Eddie Basha, Jr., one of the real good guys in the Arizona story.
    Eddie Basha, Jr. graduated from Stanford University with a degree in history but came back to Arizona in the early 1960s to rejoin his father’s grocery business.  Aunt Zelma Basha had cared for Eddie, Jr as a child and had involved him in those early years in her artwork and the works of other artists.  She now encouraged Eddie, Jr. to get a hobby that would involve him more deeply with his community and that would support the arts.
     With his interest in history, especially Western History and his aunt’s influence for the arts, Eddie Basha, Jr. purchased his first artistic piece in 1971.   He hasn’t stopped his buying yet and how lucky we all are for that fact.
     Over the past 40 years Eddie Basha, Jr. was a major supporter of schools and schoolteachers throughout Arizona.  He served as the chairman of the Arizona Board of Education and ran for Governor of Arizona in 1994.  During all those years, he kept adding to his art collection and what a treasure that collection has now become.
     The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery opened its doors to the public in 1992.  Within two years the first expansion doubled the size. Additional expansions occurred in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2005 until today the museum occupies over 4000 square feet with 1500+ pieces of Western and Native American art displayed.
     Within the museum one will find a spectacular “Cowboy Artist of America” collection featuring founding members Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen.  Other paintings from artists John Clymer, James Reynolds, Melvin Warren, etc., etc., etc. cover wall after wall after wall of this mind boggling Western Art display.
     But the museum visitor has only just begun this odyssey.  There is what must be the largest and most spectacular display of Hopi Katsinas as well as Native American pottery, jewelry and fetishes.  These pieces are the works of artists named Yazzie, Calnimptewa, Begay and so many more.
    A whole room is dedicated to Native American baskets of the late 1880s – early 1900s.  One after another after another after another greet the visitor with their beautiful designs and their exquisite handwork.
    So, what has this special man, Eddie Basha, Jr. done with his amazing art collection?  In true Eddie fashion, he has made it available to the people of Arizona.  At what cost to enter such an amazing museum, you ask?   Well, for all of us who have known him through the years, it is no surprise that the charge to enter Eddie Basha’s Jr.’s museum is, well, just FREE!  “Eddie, get involved with your community and support the arts” – he did Aunt Zelma, oh, he did!  You did well, brother, you did very well!   

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mystery Castle

     Spring is in full bloom in the deserts of Arizona, so many are looking for places to visit and enjoy.  One such place is found in  South Phoenix and is known as Mystery Castle.  When we wrote this story in 2007, Mary Lou Gulley as still living; sadly she died in 2010, but her castle is still open for all of us to visit and enjoy.  Hope you like out story…

Here is a link for Mystery Castle too -

     Tuberculosis was a dreaded disease 100 years ago and much of Arizona’s history at the beginning of the 20th Century has ties to this terrible disease.  Entire communities were started to care for those tuberculin patients whose doctors had sent them to the dry Sonoran Desert climate to enhance their chance for life.  Tuberculin patients from around the world came to Arizona and built homes, lodges and even castles.  Such is the story of Mystery Castle in Phoenix that makes it a perfect adventure to get out and visit today. 
    Boyce Luther Gulley was one such man who was told by his doctor in Seattle, Washington that he was sick with consumption and if he wanted to live, he had to move from the damp, northwest climate.  With such a death sentence, he left the doctors office and without returning to his Seattle home, disappeared from the lives of his wife and the young daughter who he had once promised to someday build a castle.
    In the early 1930s he reappeared in the small farming community of Phoenix and claimed a piece of land on the north slope of South Mountain near the town dump.  He began to build himself a shelter, using many of the materials that he pulled out of that nearby dump as well as rocks and boulders found in and around South Mountain. 
    The dry desert climate was good for Boyce’s health and he continued to live year after year always remembering the promise he had made to his daughter.   With time on his hands, he continued to add room after room onto his now most unique home using the newly discarded materials from the other citizens of Phoenix.
    When completed Boyce’s castle consisted of 18 rooms with 13 fireplaces.  Boyce’s use of salvaged materials, auto parts, junk and other southwest and Mexican artifacts made his home a one-of-a-kind palace.  As it grew in size on the southern edge of Phoenix, locals began to donate items to Boyce to be added to his desert castle.  Original Frank Lloyd Wright furniture found its way into the living area, items from John Wayne found their way into the bar and Barry Goldwater himself gave Boyce some furniture for the unique and eccentric project.
    Before he died in 1945, Boyce was quoted to say that the varieties of materials found in his Mystery Castle were “held together by a combination of mortar, cement, calcium and goat milk.”  Boyce’s castle contained rooms that served as a chapel, cantina and a dungeon.
In the 15 years that he spent in Phoenix, Boyce had never contacted his wife and daughter to tell them where he was living.  So upon his death, his Phoenix attorney traveled to Seattle to make the death notification to the widow and to tell his daughter, Mary Lou Gulley, that her father had indeed kept his promise and had built her a castle.  Since Boyce was now dead, the castle belonged to her and her mother.
     In 1946  Mary Lou Gulley and her mother traveled to Phoenix to see for the first time their castle.  They liked what they saw and moved in!  The January 26, 1948 cover story of Life Magazine read “Life Visits a Mystery Castle: A Young Girl Rules over the Strange Secrets of a Fairy Tale Dream House in the Arizona Desert.”  That same year, Mary Lou and her mother began offering tours of their castle home to the public.
     Mary Lou’s mother died in 1970 but Mary Lou still lives in her Mystery Castle today (note, Mary Lou died on November 3, 2010).  Now a Phoenix Point of Pride, the castle is open for public tours Thursdays – Sundays.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Roadtrip - The Apache Trail

     Their is no better time than springtime to travel the historic Apache Trail.  And after a winter of rains, the wildflowers along the Apache Trail are going to be spectacular. 

      The Apache Trail is one of the most historic roads in Arizona.  It is also one of the most scenic adventures especially now that the wild flowers have painted the towering canyon walls and desert vistas with the colors of the rainbow!

       The Apache Trail, Arizona Route 88, was originally built beginning in 1903 as a supply route for the construction of Roosevelt Dam.  A goodly part of the trail has had little upgrade since that original construction. 

       It is easy to envision even today wagons full of supplies and being pulled by teams of horses and/or mules slowly making their way along the steep cliffs and canyons that the winding, narrow road follows.  President Theodore Roosevelt made this same journey in an open roadster in March 1911 to dedicate the completion of Roosevelt Dam.  Little of the natural environment and in some places, even the road, has changed since his daylong journey.

       From Apache Junction, the Apache Trail snakes its way for 44 miles to Roosevelt Dam.  The first 22 miles are paved and passes by beautiful Canyon Lake and tourist friendly Tortilla Flats.  Just north of Tortilla Flats, the road turns into a 22 miles dirt adventure that takes visitors into the stark beauty of the Superstition Mountain Wilderness.  This is not a trip for the faint of heart nor is the road wide enough for RVs.  Any car or SUV of normal size can traverse the entire 44 miles without difficulty.

       We recommend that you travel from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Dam and not come down the trail from Roosevelt Dam.  The white-knuckle trip down famous Fish Creek Hill will be more “enjoyable” if you are hugging the mountain rather than on the edge of the narrow, dirt road while other cars are passing.

       It will take about 2 hours to travel the 44 miles of the Apache Trail as some twisting sections have speed limits as low as 10 mph.  There are numerous places to pull off the trail and fill up the memory chip of your digital camera with the jaw-dropping natural beauty found all along the way.

       You will pass beautiful Canyon and Apache Lakes and will end your Apache Trail journey at Roosevelt Lake.  Gas and food are available at the marinas of both Canyon and Apache Lakes.

       The winter rains have resulted in a spectacular wildflower season that is happening right now along the Apache Trail so there is no better time to get out and enjoy the natural spectacular now on display.  This is one Arizona road trip you will never forget!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wupatki National Monument - Arizona's Tall House

     Wupatki National Monument, northeast of Flagstaff, is one great reason to spend some time exploring the whole Flagstaff area.  If you have never visited Wupatki.  Spring 2013 is an ideal time to discover this wonderful Native American ruin.

     The saying “location, location, location has meaning to all modern Arizonans as we try to buy our homes in the most ideal and valuable of places. But 900 years ago the ancient people who made their homes in today’s Wupatki National Monument also choose their home sites because of an ideal, high desert location.
    Wupatki Pueblo, located 40 miles northeast of Flagstaff, was the largest, tallest, richest and most influential pueblo of its time. For us today, it is one of the best and most enjoyable ancient pueblo ruins in all of Arizona to get out and visit. 
    When Sunset Crater erupted in 1064-1065, it blanketed the surrounding area with a rich layer of volcanic ash that greatly increased the soil’s ability to hold and maintain moisture.  Archeological evidence shows that a major immigration of perhaps 2000 people came to this land within a century after the volcanic eruption.  Here they created a rich culture based on corn and squash and built the pueblo structures we find today at Wupatki National Monument.
    The name Wupatki is a Hopi word that translates to mean “Tall House.”  Over 800 ruins have been identified within the boundary of the national monument.  Five of the largest ruins are close to the main road and thus easy to visit.
    Wupatki Pueblo sets on a high desert plateau some 2000 feet lower in elevation than Sunset Crater.  It is the largest of the pueblo ruins and once was home for 300 people.  This 3-story high structure, made of 240 million year old Moencopi sandstone, has an unobstructed eastward view of the Painted Desert and Little Colorado River.  An ancient ball court is found here which surely ties these people in some way to the Hohokam People of southern Arizona and the major cultures of Meso-America.
    The Visitor Center for Wupatki National Monument is also located at this site.  A leisurely stroll to the end the paved walkway brings one to a natural blowhole, which is a vent an underground cavern of some unknown depth.
    Nalakihu Pueblo (house alone) was restored in 1933 by the staff of the Museum of Northern Arizona. Nearby Citadel Ruin (known as Teuwalanki by the Hopi) is so named because it reminded early westerners of a castle or fortress. Both ruins are a short drive from Wupatki.
    Lomaki Pueblo (pretty house) is found some 7 miles northwest of Wupatki.  It is a nine-room pueblo and was two stories tall in some places. Wukoki Pueblo (big house) was built atop a massive boulder some 3 miles east of Wupatki. It may have been the ancestral home of the Hopi Snake Clan.
The Anasazi and Sinagua People occupied these pueblos in the 12th and 13th Centuries.   By the middle of the 13th Century the pueblos were abandoned.  It is believe that the people moved further to the east and are the ancestors of the modern Hopi.
Members of the Hopi Bear, Sand, Lizard, Rattlesnake, Water, Snow and Katsina Clans are still return to Wupatki to learn of and enrich their understanding of their clans’ origin and history.  Stories of Wupatki are also passed along through generations of the Zuni and Navajo people.
The pueblos of Wupatki National Monument all set at a crossroad of trade and cultures.  New materials, crops, pottery styles and ideas all moved in and out of these communities.  With cultural ties to the modern Hopi, Zuni and Navajo, Wupatki today is still remembered and cared for by Arizona’s Native American People; it has never been abandoned.